DOJ Warns Landlords About Conducting Criminal Background Checks on Would-Be Renters

1(CNSNews.com) –  As President Obama commutes the sentences of more and more prisoners, his Justice Department intends to make it harder for landlords to deny affordable housing to ex-convicts.

The Justice Department announced on Tuesday that it is involving itself in a legal case in New York brought by a group that  helps “formerly incarcerated individuals” find housing.

The group complained that a 917-unit complex in Far Rockaway, Queens (N.Y.) had a policy of refusing to rent to individuals with prior convictions for felonies or misdemeanors other than traffic offenses. The plaintiff argues that this policy has an unjustified disparate impact against prospective African-American and Hispanic tenants, in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

Although the Fair Housing Act does not forbid housing providers from considering applicants’ criminal records, the DOJ says “categorical prohibitions that do not consider when the conviction occurred, what the underlying conduct entailed, or what the convicted person has done since then run a substantial risk of having a disparate impact based on race or national origin.”

In other words, if landlords have policies banning ex-convicts in general, they could be in trouble if too many of those ex-cons happen to be black or ethnic minorities. It’s called “disparate impact.”

“This filing demonstrates the Justice Department’s steadfast commitment to removing discriminatory barriers that prevent formerly incarcerated individuals from restarting their lives,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Vanita Gupta, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

“Women and men who served their time and paid their debt to society need a place to live, yet unlawful housing policies can too often prevent successful reentry to their communities. While not all criminal records policies adopted by landlords violate the Fair Housing Act, we will take action when they do.”

Source: cnsnews.com

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How you can make the most of your investment property

1If you own an investment property, you’ll understand how important it is to get everything you can out of it.

But when was the last time you reviewed your investment property?

It turns out, you could be overlooking details that could help give you a greater return.

Here’s three tips that can help you make the most of your investment property.

  1. Hire an agent to manage your rental property 

Managing your own property can take up a lot of your time, and if time is money, then it might be more beneficial for you to pay a real estate agent to manage your rental. Sure, a property manager’s fees could be 5 to 10% of the income from your rental, but for that $20, $30 or even $50 a week you can have somebody that will deal with tenants for you and help you maximize your rental income.

2. Attract and maintain the best tenants you can find

Chances are if your property is attractive and well-maintained, you’re likely to attract more quality tenants. Keeping a quality tenant can save you money in the long run, especially because you won’t have to worry about trying to re-advertise a property when tenants leave. Keeping your tenants happy will make your job easier, they’ll be less likely to complain and they’ll stay longer. If you’ve got loyal tenants, try to keep the rent at a steady level and don’t set unreasonable conditions on them – sure an extra $20 or $50 a week in rent would be good – but it won’t be beneficial if you have a high turnover or vacancy rate in your rental.

3. Claim deductions while you renovate

Renovations can not only boost the value of your investment property and save you money on repairs and maintenance, they can also save you money at tax times. That’s right, renovating your investment property means you can claim valuable deductions on your tax returns. Not only can you claim the depreciation of items such as appliances, carpets and blinds, you can also claim 40 years worth of deductions on any construction costs. According to realestate.com.au if you invest $15,000 in a new kitchen and appliances, you could enjoy up to $5000 worth of deductions in the first five years alone. Before you renovate, it might pay to have a chat with a surveyor or another property expert about what can you can claim and estimate the value of your renovations. Don’t forget there’s also a thing call scrapping deductions, which allow you to claim an instant deduction on the value of household items you throw away while renovating – such as an old kitchen.

Do you have an investment property? Have you tried any of these tips to get the most of your investment?

Source: startsat60.com

How Renters Insurance Can And Can’t Help With Bed Bugs

1Bed bugs are an exceptionally disliked pest and can be hard to get rid of, so renters might be frustrated to learn that their insurance doesn’t cover the insects.

Like cockroaches or rats, bed bugs are considered the responsibility of a tenant. When renters sign almost any lease, they agree to maintain the home they live in and that includes deterring and eliminating pests. This is the case for any type of rental unit, whether it be an apartment or a single-family home.

That means renters cannot file a renters insurance claim for the cost to exterminate bed bugs, damages caused by the insects or medical costs associated with them.

But there are two exceptions. Florida and Maine are the only states with laws mandating landlords and management companies exterminate bed bugs from a tenant’s residence as soon as they are made aware of them. In all other states, tenants are on their own when it comes to the pests because no such mandate exists. Having said that, most states have laws regarding bed bugs and commercial or state-owned properties, such as schools.

If you don’t live in Florida or Maine, there’s little a tenant can do if they think their landlord or company is at fault for them having bed bugs.

Firstly, bed bugs commonly latch onto luggage or clothes and can be easily brought into an apartment by a tenant. It’s highly unlikely a landlord or management company is to blame. But even in some rare cases when they are at fault, renters insurance still might not help you.

For example, a landlord or management company might neglect to keep common areas of an apartment building clear of things that might attract bed bugs. If an infestation ensues as a result and bugs are finding their way into a tenant’s apartment, then the landlord might be to blame. However, a renter probably wouldn’t be able to file a renters insurance claim for related damages or the cost to exterminate the bugs.

To recoup the costs they incur, the tenant might have to sue their landlord or management company – again, something that renters insurance might not cover. Remember, personal property protection doesn’t cover damages due to bed bugs and liability protection only covers expenses related to claims and lawsuits filed against the policyholder.

The best thing a tenant can do is be proactive in deterring bed bugs and, if they find them in their home, getting rid of them as soon as possible.

The easiest thing to do is to keep an eye out for them – bed bugs are brown, flat, oval-shaped insects about the size of an apple seed. They are usually in mattress seams, sheets and other areas near human hosts. But they might be on office chairs, pets or furniture and can latch onto and travel anywhere.

If you happen to find a bed bug, vacuuming and throwing them away in a tightly sealed bag then them washing bed sheets in hot water should get rid of them. In extreme cases, or if they persistently appear, you should call an exterminator.
Source: nasdaq.com

Ask the Attorney – Flood caused by Tenant

ask-the-attorneyThe Landlord Protection Agency®presents John Reno, Esq.,a highly experienced Landlord – Tenant attorney based on Long Island, NY.

Q:  Dear Mr. Reno:

Our tenants contacted us late on a Thursday evening about 11 pm, they told us the pipes had broken and the house was flooded, they said there was water in the office, water in the hallway that they were soaking up with towels but it kept coming. We responded we would get ready and would be over to check the situation out. To which they changed the story then and said it might just be the washing machine, never mind. They would not allow us to come that evening. We then said we would be coming the next morning to which they said no because they had to work. We told them we were coming to check the damage to the house since they indicated it was extensive in their first notice. We checked out the house the next morning, and it was their washing machine. It was pouring out from the bottom. There was almost $10,000 in damages to the house as there was substantial damage down through the subfloor of all surrounding rooms. Renters refuse this is their responsibility to pay for despite contractors and insurance noting that the damage is from their washer. What are we able to go after the renters for payment on? if a claim is filed on the insurance how does that effect what the renters are liable for? In our lease, which we purchased from LPA, it states they must have renters insurance which they did not. The renters asked us to file on our insurance and they would pay the rest. However getting the deductible from them was a fight, and they are now not willing to pay for what the insurance company did not. Can we go after them for the entire bill? And increase the rent since there was a claim on the house which is their fault?
Thank you,
Kristen, IN

A: Assuming the work has been done, they are liable, but only for what wasn’t covered by insurance. But you don’t have to end the relationship. Its a separate (plenary) action. So sue the bastards, any questions?

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The Landlord Protection Agency’s “Ask the Attorney” column is for informational purposes only. The questions answered by Mr. Reno on this site do not constitute an attorney – client relationship and are not to be considered legal advice. Not all questions will be answered and some may appear in the LPA Q&A Forum.
The Landlord Protection Agency recommends that you seek legal advice before using any of the material offered on this web site, and makes no guarantee on the effectiveness, compliance with local laws or success of any of the material offered on this web site. The Landlord Protection Agency is not engaged in rendering legal advice.