Service Animals and Small Business: What You Need to Know

1Businesses from airlines to restaurants to taxis are finding themselves in hot water due to their lack of understanding the rules governing service and emotional support animals.

It’s important that organizations – and especially, small businesses – know when and how to accommodate people with service animals to ensure that everyone has the safest and most pleasant experience with your company as possible.

According to the Department of Justice, service animals are classified, as a dog – and vary rarely, a miniature horse – that has been “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability. The work task(s) performed by the dog must be directly related to the person’s disability.” A service dog can be trained to assist an owner with a disability with any number of task from helping someone who is blind navigate walking streets to picking up items for someone with acute arthritis to activating a life-alert button for someone who has epilepsy.

Service animals are not required to wear any type of vest or carry certification, so they may not always be easy to identify by just looking at them. Businesses can ask if a dog is a service animal and what work task they have been trained to perform, if it is not obvious. However, they are not allowed to demand any verification for the dog or inquire about their handler’s disability.

Service dogs are also protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act(ADA) and can accompany their handler to any public place – including office buildings, coffee shops and airplanes, provided they are under control and not a threat to others. Under the ADA, businesses must make “reasonable modifications” of their policies to accommodate trained service dogs. Companies can be fined for violating the rights of people with service animals.

A good way for businesses to think about service animals is as an extension of their owners. The dogs are trained to help their handlers with tasks they may be unable to perform alone. As such, businesses are not allowed to subject service dogs to any fees or restrictions that might apply to regular pets – such as cleaning or transportation fees. Hotels must also allow service dogs and their owners to stay in any room, not just “pet-only” rooms. Essentially, if a human is allowed somewhere, service animals are likely allowed there, too.

The rules become a bit more challenging around emotional support animals – also known as therapy animals. Emotional support and service animals are not one in the same. The role of an emotional support animal is to provide comfort to its owner and it is not trained to do any specific task. Any animal from a dog to cat or a bird or guinea pig can be considered an emotional support animal and are not covered under the ADA. These animals are considered effective in helping those who suffer from anxiety, depression or even PTSD.

To qualify, owners must receive an approval letter from a mental health professional that the animal provides a therapeutic benefit, and be able to provide that letter if a business requests it. Emotional support animals are allowed in the cabins of airlines at no extra charge and in any rental that falls under the Fair Housing Act, but that is the extent of what federal law requires.

Local laws vary for therapy animals, so it is best to check on the rules in your area before establishing your company policy. For instance, California has more extensive legislation protecting emotional support animals, but New York City isn’t so generous. For instance, in New York employers and landlords must make reasonable accommodations for support animals if you have proper documentation, but they can reject the animal if it poses a threat to the health or safety of others, or if the animal poses a danger of substantial property damage.

California creates three types of support animals with separate rules. The definition of a service dog and an emotional support animal are the same. But a psychiatric service dog is a dog trained to help a person with a mental disability. The tasks it is trained to do is waking someone with clinical depression and making them get out of bed, responding to a panic attack, or alerting an owner to erratic behavior if someone has a bipolar disorder. The protections for this level match those of a regular service dog.

If you do ever encounter a service dog or emotional support animal that is out of control – barking loudly, misbehaving or endangering the safety of other customers – it is perfectly acceptable to ask its owner to bring the animal under control. It is also acceptable to ask them to remove the animal if they are unable to control it. Just as you wouldn’t be expected to allow a human to behave erratically in your place of business, you are not expected to allow a service dog or therapy animal to act that way, either.

Source: businessnewsdaily.com

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Is an Evicted Tenant Still Liable for Rent on the Remaining Months of a Lease?

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:

Thank you Mr Reno for taking my question. Once an eviction takes place, what is the status of the Lease Agreement as it pertains to lost rent? Is the evicted tenant still liable for lost rent for the remaining months of the Lease?
Charles, California.

A: Yes, yes, yes, the tenant is liable for the remaining months- but there’s a catch: Once you re-rent, you no longer can claim damages for lost rent. So you have to wait until you re-rent so you know how much to sue for.

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.

Why Not Sticking to Your Late Fees is Hurting Your Landlording Business

1A grace period is additional time given to the tenant to pay their rent before they will be charged a late fee or given eviction notice. For example, rent may be due on the 1st of every month, but the tenant has until, say, the 5th to make their payment. Grace periods can be anywhere between 2–“X” number of days. They are actually a requirement in some states, and in others they are not, but we have found that they are useful for a couple reasons:

  1. Many tenants are on a fixed, government income and don’t get paid until the 3rd of the month, and
  2. It shows the tenant that the landlord gives them flexibility in when they make their payment. Nice guy.

However, the flexibility is on the landlord’s terms. We always let our tenants know that rent is still due on the 1st, so technically if they take advantage of the grace period, they are considered late, though we won’t initiate eviction notice and penalties until the 6th of the month.

Whatever you do, make sure all your tenants are on the same schedule. Don’t change due dates and grace periods to suit the tenant when they move in (because they will ask). It may work out fine for the first few tenants, but as you continue to acquire more rentals, you will want everyone to be paying at the same time so you can keep track of who has paid and who has not.

Our grace period goes through the 5th of the month. If rent has not been paid by the 5th, they will get a late fee, currently $50. Additionally, we charge them an extra $10 per day after that until they have paid their rent in full. For example, on the 6th they receive a one-time $50 late fee, on the 7th an additional $10 is added to the $50, on the 8th an additional $10 is added to the $60, and so forth. Every day gets a little more expensive.

Stick to Your Late Fees—No Matter What

When your tenant pays late, it is vital that you follow through with the late fees. This bears repeating: It is vital that you follow through with the late fees. Don’t waiver, as the late fee’s sole purpose is to motivate your tenant to pay as quickly as possible. Take away that motivation, and good luck getting your rent—that is, until the tenant gets around to paying it. If there is one simple piece of advice in this entire book that you should listen to it is this: always follow through with late fees.

Let’s be real: The number one reason most tenants are late on their rent is not because of an emergency or some unforeseen necessary expense, but because of priorities. They are late because paying rent on time has not been made a priority. The best way to make timely payments a priority is by following through on the late fees. Tenants, and America in general, usually live above their means. In other words, there’s always more month than money. Therefore, every month requires sacrifice and prioritization of bills: food, clothing, rent, cable, a new TV, a game console, tattoos, medical bills, Starbucks—these are all expenses your tenant is internally trying to prioritize.

Naturally, the bills with the highest penalty for negligence are usually prioritized the highest. Those will be the bills that get paid first. So the question is, is the consequence for paying rent late greater than or less than the consequence of having the cable turned off or having to go without their daily coffee or smoke fix? Despite what tenants think, late fees are not about lining the landlord’s pockets. Late fees are designed to give rent a place of high priority because of the consequence. You may feel bad or think you’re being cruel by charging a late fee, but by following through, you are helping your tenant prioritize the most important bill they have: their housing.

This last month we had a tenant call us a couple days before her grace period was up to let us know that she had some unexpected expenses come up, wouldn’t have the full rent in time, and wanted to know if she could pay the rest at the end of the month. We told her we needed to follow her lease, and the lease says her full rent payment is due the 1st and late after the 5th.

Any rent not paid would trigger both late fees and eviction notice. Guess what? On the 5th her priorities suddenly changed, and she paid her entire rent payment. From past experience, this particular tenant knew that we take non-timely rent payments seriously.

The One Alternative

We do offer our tenants one alternative to the late fee penalty, but it requires their planning ahead and communication. We call it the rent extension, and it is not something we advertise to our tenants. However, if a tenant calls us before the 1st to let us know they will be late on their rent, we will offer them a rent extension up to the 10th for a $20 penalty. If they don’t follow through on the 10th, they are hit with the full late fees and eviction notice. The reason for the rent extension is to reward responsible behavior:

  1. They planned ahead to deal with the problem,
  2. They communicated, and
  3. They initiated the communication, rather than waiting for us to call them once the rent was already late.

Source: biggerpockets.com

FORBES: Eight Reasons You Shouldn’t Manage Your Own Investment Properties

1Purchasing an investment property is an exciting business venture. If your building is in good shape and you find the right tenants, you stand to earn a lot of money from your rental units.

At first it may seem like a good idea to manage your own property and retain full control over costs, tenants and income. However, self-management can often be a headache: When something breaks down or your tenants are late with rent, you bear the sole responsibility to address it.

Hiring a third-party property management company can be worth every penny, especially if you’re looking to grow your investment business over time. Members of Forbes Real Estate Council shared eight common scenarios in which it makes more sense to outsource your property management tasks.

1. If Real Estate Investing Is Your Side Hustle

If an investor has a full-time job and they are investing as a side hustle, I would suggest hiring a property manager from day one. If the investor is fully focused on real estate investing, it makes sense to bring in a third party once they reach 10 units. At that point, their time is better used looking at more deals versus collecting rents or dealing with tenant maintenance issues. – Ali Jamal, Stablegold Hospitality

2. If You Lack Housing Expertise

Investors should not manage their own properties in situations where they are not familiar with the type of housing being managed. For example, with affordable housing, there is much compliance involved and making a mistake can result in fines. In that scenario, property management is best left to third-party companies that specialize in affordable housing. – Nathaniel Kunes, AppFolio Inc.

3. If You Want To Maximize Your Time As A Passive Investor

Your time is valuable, and technology is opening up many outsourcing options by connecting investors with qualified professionals in property management and skilled labor. Take advantage of every opportunity to maximize yourtime. In fact, investment platforms are allowing people to diversify across several properties without ever picking up a hammer. – Nav Athwal, RealtyShares

4. If You Need To Fill In Skill Or Resource Gaps

Each investor’s access to resources and prior skills and knowledge needs to be reviewed before providing this type of recommendation. It needs to be personalized. An investor who is a handyman likely doesn’t need to pay someone to make repairs. Finding the right tenant can make or break success, so evaluating candidates may be the best area to have help, particularly at first. – Michelle Ames, HorsePower Team Texas/Independent Realty

5. If You Don’t Have Time To Learn The Laws And Run It As A Business

Outsourcing will avoid legal liabilities from Fair Housing and Fair Credit Reporting Acts, state landlord-tenant laws and local regulations. Property managers will have resources that can perform services for less. You’ll also be less likely to lose income from tenants who don’t pay their rent or rents that end up being below market. – Alex Hemani, ALNA Companies

6. If Your Properties Are Located In Different Markets

Using third-party management is usually advisable when properties are located in different markets, as well as when owners don’t have the time or skills required to manage the property effectively. While it is tempting to save the 7-8% management fee typically paid to property managers, there are a host of tasks they take care of to keep the property occupied, cash-flowing and maintained. – Gary Beasley, Roofstock

7. If You’re New To Being A Landlord

You should hire a third-party manager if you’re new to being a landlord and don’t completely understand local ordinances and leasing practices, or don’t have all the contacts needed for repairs and maintenance items. A good third-party manager will know all of the above and you will learn them over time. – Lee Kiser, Kiser Group

8. If You Want To Scale Your Investment Business

If you want a large income property portfolio, don’t self-manage beyond one to two years. After that time, you will be better able to understand “a manager’s perspective.” Your highest and best use isn’t faucet repair or replacing bathrooms. It’s researching geographic markets and establishing competent teams. If you self-manage, ask yourself better questions like, “How scalable is this?” – Keith Weinhold, Get Rich Education

Source: forbes.com

How Tenant Screening Changed In 2017

1One of the most important things that property owners and landlords can do to prevent problems with renters is to conduct a thorough tenant screening. The best tenant screening reports cover areas like criminal record, eviction history and credit score. Without it, landlords increase their risk of dealing with tenants that have a history of unpaid rent, costly damages and evictions.

However, there were two major changes in 2017 that affected the way that landlords get information from tenant screening efforts.

National Consumer Assistance Plan

The National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP) is a joint venture between the three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian and Transunion. The plan stems from a settlement in 2015 between more than 30 state attorneys general and the three major credit bureaus.

The goal of NCAP is to boost the accuracy of the information on the credit report, among other things. One of the ways they plan to do this is by decreasing the reporting of such public records such as tax liens, parking tickets and civil judgments. So how does this affect landlords?

The new reporting changes are especially critical for landlords because evictions are civil judgments and as of July 1, 2017, they disappeared from credit reports of any prospective tenants. If tenant screening companies provide landlords with just a credit report as part of an applicant’s background check, the landlord will have no insight into that person’s rental history.

Landlords need to check with their tenant screening service to ensure that they are now using an alternative source to discover any eviction judgments on an applicant. There are several national companies that do provide information on forcible detainer and unlawful detainer judgements for tenant screening companies. It’s now the only way that landlords can get information on prior evictions.

Because of the extra cost involved in using a national eviction search, many tenant screening companies are increasing their fees and passing the cost on to their clients. Landlords may have to charge more for their application fees (if allowable in their state) to cover their own costs.

Any landlord that wants a thorough background check on an applicant must ensure that the tenant screening service they now use includes this separate eviction search.

Equifax Breach

One of the country’s largest credit reporting companies experienced a data breach that compromised information for more than 145 million customers. The company experienced unauthorized access to data from May through June and key identity information was accessed, including names, birthdays, social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and more.

Because of the massive potential for identity theft, many consumers placed a freeze on their credit report. With a freeze, potential creditors are unable to access someone’s report without the consumer removing it temporarily. This prevents anyone from opening a line of credit with that information, including identity thieves. However, it also prevents landlords from accessing the info they need to get a complete picture of their applicants.

Landlords need to be aware that identity theft and fraud will be on the rise as a result of the data breach, affecting innocent applicants. They should also know that because many people have put a freeze on their report, their tenant screening company may not be able to access anything without consent.

During the application process, landlords can make things go a little more smoothly with any applicants that have set up a freeze. Many tenants don’t think about unlocking their credit report for a background check on a rental home. Landlords can ask applicants or include a reminder on the application about lifting the freeze temporarily. If the applicant can’t or won’t lift the freeze in a timely manner, landlords may have to move to the next applicant.

Despite the freeze on a credit, landlords should never change their tenant screening practices. When looking for the best tenants, landlords need to get a good idea of what kind of renter an applicant will be. Proper tenant screening will always save landlords time, damages and money. However, in 2017, these two factors just made it a little more difficult for landlords and tenant screening companies to get the background information they need.

Source: realtybiznews.com

Ask The Attorney – Screening Question

ask-the-attorney

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

Q:  Dear Mr. Reno:

I have a couple applying for my rental. The gentleman has a good credit history but his girlfriend’s is horrible. If I just have him on the lease and he leaves the rental due to a break-up, do I have a big problem getting her out of my house? What would I have to do? We are in Maryland.. Thanks. Jane W., MD

A: It’s a package deal. You like’em as a couple, or you don’t. Does his responsibility outweigh her lack thereof? That’s your call. Leaving her off the lease doesn’t help you- it only helps her. That would give her the right to occupy the residence as his companion- but no liability for rent. Bad move.

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.

Evicted Tenant Still Owes Money

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:

My tenants were evicted due to non-payment of rent. They did pay a portion but unable to provide full amount due. I want to try and recover the balance owed plus some damages left after moving, cost of not being able to rent due to time it will take for repairs, and cleaning fees. Most, if not all issues, are covered in signed lease. How and where do I go about this? Thank you. Carol – PA.

A: The tenants are no longer in possession so the eviction court has no jurisdiction. It’s a small claims court case now. Twenty dollar filing fee. Good Luck.

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.