South Dakota Law Alters How Landlords Handle Support Animals

1SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — New South Dakota legislation will allow landlords to evict or fine tenants who fake a disability or provide false documentation to keep a pet in their rental unit.

 

Gov. Dennis Daugaard signed into law this month a bill intended to prevent tenants from lying about medical conditions and claiming they have an emotional support animal. The law takes effect July 1, the Argus Leader reported.

 

A loophole in current law allows tenants to keep miniature horses, snakes and chickens as support animals, said Amy Miller, president of Charisma Property Management.

“It’s a huge problem,” Miller said. “Nobody wants to get sued so nobody’s pressing it.”

The federal Americans with Disabilities Act describes trained animals but not specifically therapy or emotional support animals. The language means that landlords can’t deny tenants from living with the animals.

 

But state law didn’t distinguish service or therapy animals either, so landlords often choose to allow them in order to avoid lawsuits.

 

“It goes unquestioned because (the law is) so ambiguous that unfortunately, I think landlords get taken advantage of,” said Paul Gourley, chair of the South Dakota Multi-Housing Association. “There’s a loophole in the system that needs to be corrected.”

The new law says landlords can request that tenants whose disability or health condition isn’t “readily apparent” provide a doctor’s note affirming their need for the service or emotional support animal.

 

University of South Dakota student Taiya Bunde has a support cat named Snuggles that she keeps in her off-campus apartment. Bunde’s psychiatrist approved Snuggles as an emotional therapy animal. The 21-year-old said she hopes “that people don’t abuse it and ruin for those that need it.”

 

Source: usnews.com

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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

Traits to Look for in a Potential Tenant

1Finding a good tenant is essential, but it can also be tricky. It requires more than just putting an ad on the internet. To find a great tenant for your rental property, it pays to know what makes a good tenant.

So, we’ve created a list for you. These are 8 traits to look for in a potential tenant.

1. Openness Toward Background Checks It’s important for you as a landlord to know who you are renting to before you rent out your property. This is because you never know when a tenant is going to be reliable and worthwhile or seriously problematic.

A tenant background check is important for the following reasons:
• To find out if they have a criminal record • To choose the best tenants from your pool • To check their work history • To make sure that they will comply with your rules • To confirm your tenant’s rental history • To know which questions to ask during screening • To confirm their identity

2. Reasons for Moving Tenants move for various reasons. For example:
• To change their neighborhood • They had problems with neighbors • A job change/relocation • The need for more space • They had problems with their previous landlord

Contacting their previous landlord isn’t 100% reliable, as some might throw an array of unjust accusations. The only option is to ask them directly. Granted, the tenant may lie but some of the reasons are quite straightforward and oftentimes completely honest answers.

3. Personal Behavior You should call up tenant’s previous landlords to ask how they were personally. Good questions to ask them include:
• Did the previous tenant pay the rent and on time? • Did they do a reasonably good job of taking care of the rental property? • Was the person disruptive towards neighbors? • Was the unit clean and in good order when the tenant left? • Was the tenant evicted?

4. Ability to Pay Rent This is a no-brainer. The prospective tenant should be able to pay rent without struggling. To verify whether they can afford the price of the rent, you need to look at their proof of employment.

Look for a tenant who has good job prospects and a steady, reliable income. A good rule of thumb is that the price of rent shouldn’t exceed 30% of the tenant’s income.

Some red flags to look out for include a person who has long periods of unemployment or if the person changes jobs often.

5. Cleanliness A good tenant maintains cleanliness. It’s every landlord’s dream to get a tenant who will take good care of your property. You obviously wouldn’t want a person who is going to let trash pile up on the patio or leave food remnants building up in the microwave.

You can get a better idea of the way they would maintain your property if you get a glimpse of their car or if they allow you to meet them at their current residence. You could also include a cleaning clause in your lease as well.

6. Subletting When you are a landlord, it’s important to protect yourself against as many potential risks as possible. This is the same reason why you have to do a proper tenant screening before renting out your property in the first place.

But should you allow a tenant to sublet? Subletting happens when an existing tenant lets all or part of their home to someone else.

Allowing subletting is risky. Some tenants want to sublet as a way to earn extra cash or to avoid paying rent on a vacant apartment. Also, there’s no guarantee that they would pay as much attention to the tenant selection as you did.

It would be counterintuitive to be okay with your tenant getting a couple of tenants of their own.

7. Roommates It’s important to know how many people are going to be living with your renter. The tenant might be planning to move in with their significant other or even their entire family.

Should you allow roommates, here’s how to do it smoothly while protecting your investment:
• Consider updating your occupancy limit • Be prepared to consider a unit switch • Be cautious about creating new lease terms • Require potential roommates to be screened as tenants

8. Plans for residence Your final layer of screening is a simple practicality test. If they have a job nearby, verify that your house is not an impractical distance away. If they have a family, check that there is a room for everyone in the home. If they have a pet, confirm that they are willing to conform to the pet clause in your lease agreement.

Generally, tenants will have an excellent plan for residence, but it never hurts to check.

If your prospective tenant possesses most of these traits, then they are a great candidate for a long-term renter. They will most likely keep the home in good condition, and that they will be responsible and well-behaved.

Source: realtybiznews.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

Abandonment of Rental Property

bill-new-100What to Do if a Tenant Abandons the Property


by Attorney William BronchickLegalwiz.com

Have you ever had a tenant leave in the middle of the night or the middle of an eviction?  Did you ever wonder what to do?

Basically when a tenant abandons the property, you do not need to file an eviction or wait for the sheriff.  You can change the locks.  As for the tenant’s stuff, in most states you can simply toss it.  You should check your state or local law to see what your legal obligation is to store the items for the tenant.

HOWEVER…

If you are not certain whether the tenant has abandoned the property, you should not change the locks.  If you have the keys, you could enter the premises, but KNOCK FIRST.  Whether or not the tenant has abandoned is often a judgment call, looking at a combination of factors, such as:

  • Did the neighbors see them move?
  • Are the utilities shut off?
  • Did the tenant put in a change of address at the post office?
  • Is there any significant furniture left?
  • If you have access, are there sheets on the beds?

In some cases, the tenant has been arrested or is in the hospital, which would explain why he hasn’t been around.  Or, maybe the tenant has moved, but left behind some furniture to pick up later on.  Even if the tenant is not sleeping there, they are still “in possession” if they have their personal belongings in the unit and have not shown an intent to abandon these items.

Some states have specific laws regarding PRESUMPTIONS of abandonment.  For example, Connecticut law states:

Sec. 47a-11b. Abandonment of unit by occupants. Landlord’s remedies.
(a) For the purposes of this section, “abandonment” means the occupants have vacated the premises without notice to the landlord and do not intend to return, which intention may be evidenced by the removal by the occupants or their agent of substantially all of their possessions and personal effects from the premises and either

(1) nonpayment of rent for more than two months or
(2) an express statement by the occupants that they do not intend to occupy the premises after a specified date.

You can find a state by state guide to landlord tenant law by clicking here. If you do intend to claim abandonment, take pictures, gather evidence and cover all bases to prepare for a possible wrongful lockout claim.  If you have ANY doubts, call your landlord-tenant attorney and do the proper legal eviction proceeding.

The Landlord Protection Agency would like to thank William Bronchick for supplying the article above.

About the author…
William Bronchick, Esq. is an author and attorney who regularly presents workshops and do-it-yourself seminars at real estate and landlord associations around the country. He is the president and co-founder of the Colorado Association of Real Estate Investors. Bill specializes in all forms of asset protection and is the author of several great home study courses.

Read more articles by William Bronchick at Legalwiz.com.

Source: The Landlord Protection Agency, Inc.

Ask the Attorney: Replace the carpeting?

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:

If the carpet in my rental home is 10 yrs old but in good condition, do I have the right to demand our tenants to pay for the replacement of the carpet if they allowed their dog for 2 1/2 yrs to urinate all over it throughout the entire house so much that it went through the padding into the sub flooring? Professional carpet cleaning services said it would be impossible to clean it.

Dean Loftis, Mississippi

A: Yes, you can, but why change it if they’re still there?

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.