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Tenant Trouble & Never Got Deposit

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:

Bottom line is that my renters have had issues from the beginning and I extended their security deposit due date until the second month of their lease (9/1/16). As of this writing, not only have they not paid the security deposit, but they have not paid their entire months rent for September. I sent an email on 9/4 explaining that they would need to pay the entire months rent by 9/5 (as noted in the lease) to avoid a late fee. I then went on to point out that it’s unacceptable to not pay the security deposit. I left it with giving them one last chance to come up with a plan that they can abide by and have since heard nothing. I really don’t want to evict as I would have a hard time maintaining two mortgages for long, but the lack of communication since my last email is cause or concern.
Should I bite the bullet and get a local attorney involved?
Sincerely, Rich N., Aurora, IL

A: Attention Landlords: PLEASE STOP giving possession without security. (Making the tenant agree to pay it later turns logic on its head.) It’s like saying “I need security in case you breach because I don’t trust you. But don’t worry, you can pay it later, because I trust you”. See what I mean?

Legal Disclaimer
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.

Fire Prevention Tips for Landlords

house-on-fire-300x200Protecting your investment from a fire when you aren’t around isn’t easy but there are some simple steps you can take to minimize the chance of it happening, and any damage if it does occur. As a landlord, you can’t control everything that happens on your property. However, you can implement rules, provide advice, and protect yourself by giving your tenants everything they need to be safe and secure. When it comes to preventing house fires, there are a number of things to keep in mind. It’s always important to think about fire safety in the home – especially leading up to winter, when people start using heaters and fireplaces again.

Install and maintain smoke detectors

For optimum protection, fire alarms should be installed in every bedroom, living area and hallway. This will almost certainly be required by the local fire code, but smoke detectors and fire alarms should be checked every time a tenant moves out. Make sure you check it at the start of each tenancy, during routine inspections, and ask your tenants to check them too.

Fire extinguishers

At a minimum, you should have a fire extinguisher located in the kitchen. If you have properties with multiple levels, consider placing one on each floor. Keep a fire extinguisher somewhere visible and easy to locate, but out of reach of children and inform tenants of its location at the start of a tenancy and ensure they know how to operate one. While a fire extinguisher may not be capable of combatting widespread flames, they can quickly control small outbreaks and may prevent large-scale damage. Regularly check your extinguisher works and get it serviced according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Fireplaces, heating and Maintain a strict no-smoking policy

Under no circumstances should you allow your tenants to smoke on your properties, neither indoors or outdoors. Get a professional to clean your fire place at the end of autumn or as the weather starts to cool and have a fireguard and ensure tenants use it on fire places. Regularly have all of your heat sources and gas lines checked, and change filters. Make sure you include very strict language in your lease agreement and follow up on any suspicious activity.

Report issues and document everything

If a problem or issue doesn’t directly bother them, most tenants won’t mention anything to their landlords. However, this can be dangerous on your end if its related to something like an electrical issue or fire hazard. Give your tenants your contact information and encourage them to call you anytime they suspect something is wrong. In addition to potential loss of life and property damage, fires often lead to legal issues. In order to protect yourself from potential lawsuits or penalties, remember to document all the efforts you’ve made to protect your properties and tenants from fire-related harm.

Source: hibusiness.ca

How To Sell A Tenant-Occupied Property

occupancy-solutions-300x247Scenario: You’re ready to give up on the landlord business, or maybe you just want to unload one of your investment properties. You own the apartment in Boston, MA, so you can sell it and move on, right?

It’s not always that easy.

Deciding to sell a house that someone else calls home — a tenant-occupied property — is much different from selling your old guitar online. Although you do own the place, as long as the tenant has paid rent, they have a right to live there.

Some tenants are terrific. They keep the home neat and clean and allow you to show it whenever you like. But others can be problematic, especially if they refuse to let you in or even change the locks on you.

No matter what type of tenant you have, it’s crucial to know where landlord rights begin and renters’ rights end.

If your tenant is on a month-by-month lease

Look up the laws of your state to determine how much notice you’re required to give your tenant to vacate. Usually, it’s 30 or 60 days.

Send your tenant a letter letting them know when their tenancy ends. Even if you’ve had an unpleasant landlord-tenant relationship and are thinking, “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out,” keep it to yourself! Politely ask your tenant to remove all belongings by move-out day and to leave the keys on the counter.

If your lease agreement allows, you can show the property with your tenant still in it. If not, wait until your tenant has moved out to show the place. “The key to rightful access is to give proper notice (generally 24 hours),” says Lucas Hall, chief “landlordologist” at Cozy.co.

If your tenant is on a fixed-term lease

Unless your lease has an early termination clause that allows you to end the lease early, your tenant gets to live out the lease period, assuming they’re in good standing.

If your tenant failed to pay rent or violated any lease terms, you can terminate the lease.

Otherwise, hold out until the lease is up and your tenant is out to sell the property. Or you can start showing it while your tenant is still there … if your lease terms allow this and if you give proper notice before stopping by.

Sell to an investor

If you want to sell immediately but your tenant still has time on the lease, you could market the property to investors, who would be happy to have a tenant already in. This might be a tougher sale — your market will be limited, and the new owner would need to honor the tenant’s current lease.

Pay your tenant to vacate

Yes, you read that right.

Paying someone to leave your house might be your best option if you need to sell immediately.

But how much do you offer?

Do a quick Trulia search to find the average rent in your area. If typical rents are more than you’ve been charging, offer the difference multiplied by the number of months left on your tenant’s lease. You could also offer to pay any moving costs. If your tenant won’t budge, throw in some extra cash to pay the security deposit for the new place.

In the end, your tenant doesn’t have to accept any cash you offer. You might just have to wait.

Sell the property to your tenant

If your tenant really doesn’t want to leave, ask whether they want to buy the property. If they can’t get a mortgage, consider seller financing. Here, you’re the seller and the lender, letting your tenant make payments to you.

Know how to deal with problem tenants

What if your tenant refuses to let you show the place, even if you’re allowed to per the lease? You can enter anyway. But a hostile tenant probably won’t keep the house exactly show-ready and might even scare away potential buyers. So you may want to tread lightly until this tenant is out.

What if that tenant changes the locks? “Call the police, who can force the tenant to grant you access,” says Lucas Hall. “Or hire a locksmith to re-key the locks at the tenant’s expense.”

Consider incentives

Try sweetening the deal by giving a break on rent if your tenant cooperates, meaning they not only agree to showings, but they also make the bed, contain any pets, and clear the dirty dishes from the sink before prospective buyers come by.

Source: trulia.com

 

10 Ways to Be a Great Landlord

realtor-keys-couple-home-landlord-300x214It is upsetting when we get tenant complaints as a landlord.

It is hard work renting apartments or homes to tenants and it takes people skills and management skills. Many times our goal as a landlord is to simply avoid tenant complaints. But there are principles, if properly used, that can reduce or eliminate tenant complaints. Do you know what it takes to be a great landlord?

By Richard Montgomery

Reader’s Question – What makes a great landlord?

Question: Monty, My husband and I own about 75 units in 25 plus buildings.

He has a good day job and I manage the apartments. We have been expanding slowly for over 20 years. This is not easy work. Over the years we have had tenants occasionally complain about different things but we always shrug it off as sour grapes or “they don’t get it.”

Yesterday we got a complaint letter that several tenants signed, which is upsetting. What makes a good landlord?

Answer – Managing apartments is hard work

Monty’s Answer: Owning and managing apartments is very hard work. The environment and working conditions vary considerably based on location and size of the city. As a portfolio expands the management responsibilities expand as well. Management practices must be tailored to the environment, the clientele and working conditions. That said, there are a number of principles, if properly utilized, can reduce or eliminate complaints. This leads to less turnover, less management intervention and happy employees and occupants.

No. 1 – Treat tenants respectfully

We all know high maintenance people. Whether late with the rent, a sharp tongue or simply unreasonable, being respectful can be difficult. There are many resources to learn more about techniques to employ when dealing with difficult people. Getting More is a book that teaches readers how to negotiate respectfully. The National Association For Community Mediation is a place where you can take classes on dealing with difficult people, and YouTube.com has many videos on the subject.

No. 2 – Be true to your word as a landlord

As an example, when you say it will be fixed on Tuesday, fix it on Tuesday. This may sound more difficult to deliver on, than it actually is to deliver. This involves work on the part of the landlord to identify a person, or multiple people, who can deliver on fixing the problem right the first time . They have to be organized and talented enough to stay on a schedule. It is creating a mindset to build an organization the right way. Every person involved in that “being true to your word” process must understand it and be trained and supervised to be able to carry it out.

No. 3 – Keep your property in top shape

Preventive maintenance, timely repairs by qualified people and utilizing products best designed for the job will pay dividends. If paint peels, paint it. When an air conditioner breaks down, fix it or replace it. If you have no funds to do this, then something is wrong. Do you have a replacement repair fund you pay into monthly?

No. 4 – Be picky about accepting tenants

It is always tempting to “take a chance” on a prospective tenant as you want the income. On the other hand, if they move in and become a collection problem you have gone backwards. Review your rent-up procedures and alternate background check services. Most landlords will occasionally get stuck. It is part of the business, but if it is happening too often, you can improve. Also stay up on the latest guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

No. 5 –  Run it like a business

Many issues that affect some landlords can be minimized. An example is a move-in/move-out report, using it will be a breath of fresh air. A visit on move-out day can often reduce problems before they happen. If the tenant expects you to be there and understands you are going out of you way to help them get their security deposit back in 3 days instead of 2 weeks, most will appreciate it. Include your house rules as a part of the lease and let them know before they sign a lease that you enforce them.

No. 6 – Train and manage employees and contractors closely

When bringing a new employee or new vendor into a relationship with you and your company, an orientation booklet and specific training to set the desired expectation is vital. It is even better if that conversation takes place as part of the interview process. One of the most common complaints in apartment management is often directed toward a specific employee.

No. 7 – Pay your vendors on time

The old saying “fast pay makes for good friends” is an important part of holding a good team together.

What kind of a message does a contractor or employee receive with slow pay when you really need them?

No. 8 – Stay close to the business

It is your responsibility to know how your buildings are being managed.

Being on the premises regularly and talking to employees, contractors and tenants allows you to keep a pulse on the happenings.

  • Are the neighbors getting along?
  • Did the contractor finish painting the floor as agreed?
  • Did the Jones’ move-in go as planned?

No. 9 –  Be fair, consistent and follow through on what you promise as a landlord

When this principle is in place the tenants, employees and contractors know they can expect this level of treatment in a relationship with you and your company.

It is natural that they will reciprocate in kind.

While the tenant does not have the same motivation as the others, it is your job as the leader to mentor and teach your employees to live the principle.

No. 10 – Think like a steward

A steward is defined as someone who manages another’s property.

The idea is to see yourself as a temporary custodian who will diligently care for the property until such time as it is passed to the next “steward.”

And, you want to pass it on as a better property than when you found it.

The examples provided with each of these 10 ways to be a great landlord tips are just one of many examples that could be applied.

Conclusion

The examples provided with each of the 10 examples of how to be a great landd are just some of the many examples that could be applied. It is not easy, but if a property owner practiced each and every one of the ten principles, it would be extremely out-of-place for a tenant or tenants to find a reason to complain.

Source: rentalhousingjournal.com

How to keep squatters from destroying your investment

55645224_s-300x300Unwanted guests, or squatters, can cause considerable damage to rental properties and leave landlords with large clean-up bills.

Unoccupied rental properties can be targeted by squatters, causing major headaches for landlords.

If a squatter breaks into a vacant rental property and lives there illegally, it can potentially result in damage to the property and subsequent loss of rental income for landlords while the damage is being repaired.

We have seen situations where a squatter has broken doors and windows to force entry into a property, punched holes in walls, ripped up carpet and sprayed graffiti throughout.

Depending on the circumstances, there may be a delay between a squatter leaving the property and the property being fit to re-let, which can result in additional costs for the landlord.

There are a number of preventative measures that can be put in place to reduce the risk of squatters at your rental property:

Increase security

Regardless of whether your property is occupied or not, security should be front of mind.

Install deadlocks on external doors and fit security screens to accessible windows, as they can deter unwanted guests from breaking in.

Having an active local or back-to-base alarm system in place can also help keep your property secure while it is vacant.

Visit the property regularly

Landlords should formally conduct a final property inspection when a tenant leaves the property.

Outgoing condition reports with supporting photos and videos can be used as evidence if there are any further outstanding issues once the tenant has vacated the property.

If the property is vacant for an extended period of time, make it a priority to visit regularly to ensure it remains in good condition.

Consider hiring a gardener to maintain the exterior of the property. Uncut grass, leaves covering pathways and overgrown foliage can make it obvious that the property is unoccupied, and may make it an easy target for squatters.

Make the property look lived-in

Unwanted guests may scope out properties that appear empty.

If your property is vacant, it’s best to give the impression that it is being lived in to keep squatters at bay.

Installing automatic motion sensors or timed lighting systems is good idea as they will give the impression that someone is home when the lights turn on.

Clearing old newspapers from the front yard/driveway and removing uncollected mail are simple ways of making the home look occupied.

Landlords may also want to tell a trusted neighbour that the property is vacant. Neighbours can keep an eye on the property and alert you to any suspicious behaviour.

Appropriate landlord and building insurance

A good landlord insurance policy should protect landlords against malicious damage to the property, such as damage to carpets or blinds.

However, damage to the building itself may be at the landlord’s expense unless they have a suitable building insurance policy in place.

Building insurance may offer protection of a landlord’s rental income if the property is damaged and can’t be tenanted for a period of one to 52 weeks.

If you’re concerned there’s a squatter living in your rental property, contact the police immediately.

Source: rpmonline.com

Will Landlords Have to Answer for Awful Neighbors?

27915554_s-300x199The Obama administration is close to issuing a rule that could give tenants grounds to sue their landlords for discriminatory conduct by their neighbors.

Last year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development proposed a controversial rule that would establish liability under the Fair Housing Act for housing providers that fail to address discrimination against their tenants by third parties — including other tenants. The Fair Housing Act prohibits refusing to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

The Office of Management and Budget concluded its review of the proposal earlier this month, one of the final steps before a rule becomes final, according to the agency’s website. Often rules become final within 30 days of clearing the OMB review.

There’s no guarantee the liability provision will make the final rule, especially in light of objections from public housing authorities and landlords. A HUD spokesman confirmed the rule was forthcoming but declined to comment on its final contents.

The rest of the proposal establishes standards for HUD officials and judges to use when considering complaints of hostile-environment and “quid pro quo” discrimination, which occurs, for example, when a landlord conditions continued housing on sexual favors from a tenant.

Under the proposed rule on liability, “a management company, homeowner’s association, condominium association, or cooperative” could be in violation of the Fair Housing Act if the housing provider “knew or should have known that a resident was harassing another resident, and yet did not take prompt action to correct and end it.”

A housing provider could take a range of corrective actions, including written warnings, moving or evicting a harassing tenant or reporting him or her to police, the proposal says.

The National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials, which represents the managers of more than 80% of the nation’s public housing, said in a December letter to HUD that housing providers lack the resources and reach to police their tenants’ interactions, leaving them vulnerable to lawsuits under such a rule.

“There is a great concern that this rule will make [public housing authorities] mediators between neighbors who are having disagreements,” a policy analyst for the group wrote.

The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities argued in a separate letterthat a landlord can’t be held liable under the Fair Housing Act absent an intent to discriminate, saying the proposal “improperly expands the reach of the FHA beyond the scope authorized by Congress.”

“Scenarios where tenants may potentially harass other tenants on topics that are not related to the terms of tenancy or where the harassment may not take place on the property are particularly worrisome,” the letter says.

The National Low Income Housing Coalition, which advocates for people who receive or are in need of federal housing assistance, said the rule proposal was in keeping with the duty of housing providers to ensure “habitability.”

“Any suggestion that this rule will unduly burden housing providers is exaggerated,” the group said in a letter last year to HUD.

Source: The Wall Street Journal