Posts Tagged ‘Landlord Law’

Ringing in the New Year with New Laws

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Daniel Bornstein, Esq.

There’s a lot to fall in love with the New Year. A clean slate and a fresh start, the feeling that everything is possible, and of course, the best parties.

For the rental housing industry, however, the exuberance over new beginnings should be tempered with the reality there are a new set of laws to obey.

As we look into the back mirror of an eventful year, one of the highlights has been the defeat of efforts to repeal the Costa Hawkins Rental Housing Act. Our fraternity’s successful outcome in the epic battle against Proposition 10, however, has obscured less prominent initiatives that were successfully passed and we summarize some of them here.

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

by Daniel Bonstein, esq.

Immigration law has become a combustible subject lately and while all politics are local, some are more local than others. The Bay Area has become a microcosm of weighty immigration issues that have recently stirred up a lot of soul searching and widespread national debate.

Our role at Bornstein Law is not to legislate or get mired into policy, but to educate the rental housing industry on legal issues that impact their business and to prepare for any anticipated changes in the law.

With California seemingly hunkering down as the capital of democratic resistance in the Trump era, the state was prophetic in enacting AB 291, or the Immigrant Tenant Protection Act. This law clamps down on unscrupulous rental housing providers who use an individual’s immigration status against tenants. Assemblymember David Chiu spoke to his colleagues on the Assembly floor and made his case for the bill.

Turn It Down Already!

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Loud-noise
For many landlords, noise complaints are all too common.

It is often difficult to monitor noise, and to determine if the particular type or level of noise violates the lease agreement.

Not all noise is from partying or loud music. Other common sources include children, dogs or a TV.

Here are some steps to follow to resolve a noise complaint at your rental property:

Knowledge of local laws is crucial. It’s no coincidence that noise levels often are described in local ordinances. Use those standards as your guide.

But sometimes noise concerns can happen in areas not covered by a noise ordinance. Just because tenants can legally play loud music all hours of the night doesn’t mean your other tenants want to hear it, and unresolved noise complaints will likely have other tenants thinking about how to break the lease and move out.

The next step is to include clear rules regarding noise in your lease agreement. For example, it is a very common practice for landlords to have quiet hours listed, perhaps from 10 p.m to 8 a.m, to avoid late night noise — the most common irritant.

But don’t assume that all tenants work 9-5 day jobs. You might have a tenant who works a graveyard shift and sleeps during the day. For them, quiet hours should look more like 10am-8pm, which is not practical.

Have a policy where tenants can report a problem without forcing tenants to go to one another.  Resolving an issue may not be as easy as just leaving a friendly note on the door. Renters are not always comfortable talking to one another about these situations. Avoid escalating disputes. You should expect to play mediator and investigator.

If you can’t mediate the dispute, then you may have to take the next step: 

You will have to figure out if a tenant’s complaint is warranted, or not. Some tenants might not like the sound of the neighbor’s children running and playing. Complaints involving families are tricky as it might be misconstrued as discrimination if you go after large family gatherings or tenants with children. For this reason, you should be dubious about forbidding tenants from having too many guests, because if the guests are related, it might be discrimination.

Speak to the accused culprit and let them tell their side. Also, talk to other tenants for collaboration. Maybe the complaint comes from someone who expects too much silence for an apartment building. You may have to explain to the complainer that you have done all you can.

If you are receiving complaints routinely, check for yourself how noise-proof your dwellings are.

Do the dwellings need more insulation from the outside noises, as well as in between units?

Many complaints are one-time events, perhaps from a tenant who wasn’t aware of their nocturnal neighbor. It is a good ideal to provide one warning to avoid evicting an otherwise good tenant. But for persistent complaints, you might have to give the offending tenant a “cure or quit notice” informing them that they are in violation of the lease agreement and can be evicted if the problem isn’t fixed.

Then, you have to be ready to make good on your promise and file an eviction. Otherwise, you are never going to hear the end of it!


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

 

Bedbug Lawsuit Costs Landlords, Pest Company $2.5 Million

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Law and money

Residents of an apartment complex in Iowa will be sharing a $2.45 million dollar settlement after a major bedbug outbreak occurred at the building.

According to a report , the class action lawsuit, which involves 300 current and former tenants, has been going through the courts for four years and eventually ended up in the Iowa Supreme Court. After years of legal wrangling, the case was settled before going to trial.

Three different entities will pay out the settlement: $2 million from the previous management company’s insurer, $350,000 from a development group which acquired the property in 2013 (even though the lawsuit was already filed in 2010), and the insurer of a pest control company which serviced the units is expected to pay $100,000. Individual tenants, many of whom were elderly or disabled, will receive from $200 to $6,000 each, according to the report.

The tenants’ attorney, Jeffrey Lipman, who specializes in bedbug lawsuits, says this case puts other landlords on notice that they can’t simply ignore the problem.

According to the report, the apartment complex became infamous due to the bedbug outbreak, and tenants told reporters that they suffered stigma in the community for living there.

This stigma can cause serious financial problems for rental property owners, especially when the information shows up on bedbug reporting websites, and comments or reviews on rental listing sites. Rental candidates may think twice before checking out a building that had bedbugs.

The best way to avoid losses from bedbugs is to be proactive:

Inspect for the pests on a regular basis, even if you haven’t received any complaints. Bedbugs remain dormant for long periods, which can be deceiving. Ask your pest management expert how often you should inspect.

Encourage tenants to report signs of bedbugs. The sooner the infestation is discovered, the better the chances of a full remediation.

Take complaints seriously. Tenants who feel they are getting nowhere with the landlord will look at other options.

Share tips with tenants on ways bedbugs spread — like used furniture, or in suitcases from travel. Teach tenants how to spot the signs so they can report problems.

Work with a professional pest control company. Don’t try to fix the problem on your own.


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website 

Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

Landlord Jailed Over Tenant Crime

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

UnderArrestA Pittsburgh landlord recently was thrown in jail for six months because of his “nuisance” rental.

According to a news report, neighbors and police “suspected” the property was being used as a drug house. Police say they’ve been called to the house dozens of times over the past few years. Officers did find drug paraphernalia on at least one call, and have responded to drug overdoses in the area.

In response to complaints, a judge previously ordered the landlord to evict all of his tenants, pay a $10,000 fine to the city for the nuisance, and repair the house.

However, when the case was reviewed, the court found that the landlord had not fully complied with the order. Now, the landlord will serve a six month jail sentence for contempt of court — unless he complies with the order.

Meanwhile, police have boarded up the building, and city officials are considering demolishing the property, according to the report.

It is unclear in this case whether the tenants were charged with crimes, or if the complaints of neighbors — that tenants were awake and “active” at 5:00 am, or that tenants were “making money” at the property, would have been sufficient evidence to convict each of them of these alleged crimes.

A number of cities across the country have recently enacted similar “nuisance” laws requiring landlords to evict tenants for disruptive behavior or suspected criminal activity. Unfortunately, this can be a daunting task if there is no evidence of an individual tenant’s wrongdoing. Often, police do not charge individuals or issue tickets at the scene, choosing instead to pursue the landlord, who then may have to reconstruct the event and attempt to evict each of the tenants for cause. That places landlords in a no-win situation, especially when fines are being levied daily.

However, there are steps that landlords can take to avoid renting to nuisance tenants:

Be careful who you allow in the property; always screen each adult occupant, including a criminal background check.

Adopt a crime-free lease policy that tracks your local nuisance laws. Make sure you have the ability to evict a tenant who violates the policy, even if you can’t prove they violated the law. Local police may participate in landlord training programs that help reduce crime in the area.

Keep a close eye on the property by performing regular property inspections. If you suspect drugs or other dangerous activities, call the police rather than trying to solve the problem yourself.

Get to the know the neighboring property owners, or at the very least, make sure they have your phone number in case they see something suspicious going on at the rental. You don’t want to be the last to know.


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website 

Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

Should You Require Residents to Have Renters Insurance?

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

RentersInsuranceRequiring residents to carry renters insurance is one of the most valuable property management levers that you have at your disposal. Unfortunately, a recent Insurance Information Institute (III) poll indicates a major discrepancy in the number of homeowners that have insurance at 96 percent compared to an estimated 35 percent of tenants who had renters insurance in 2013.

Inform and Empower Residents by Encouraging Renters Insurance

We all know that most anything can occur anytime – so why is there so much tenant hesitancy to invest in renters insurance? The core of the quandary is likely lack of knowledge on behalf of the tenant, many of whom believe that the contents of their abode are covered by your property insurance policy, which, as property managers know, is not the case.

Here are the facts. Your owner’s policy covers the structure but not renters’ possessions and, if the unit becomes uninhabitable, you aren’t responsible to provide a accommodations. Another simple fact is that renters insurance is actually fairly inexpensive. Arm yourself with accurate and current info, so you know how to approach potential residents about the importance of protecting their interests with proper coverage.

The Cost of Losing Everything

Certainly, those precious keepsakes, photos, and mementos can never truly be replaced, but a little cash replacement value can go a long way when all of a tenant’s belongings are lost due to a fire, windstorm, or other unpredictable act of nature. Furnishings, bedding, and incidentals such as medications and clothing are replaceable through renters policies, but coverage limitations will depend on the policy type the tenant chooses. Print up this handy Renters Insurance Checklist from the III, and offer it to new and potential tenants during the application process, because the cost of losing everything is incalculable.

Dispelling the Myth that Renters Insurance is Expensive

Many tenants often don’t want the hassle of one more bill, but renters insurance can be had for less than $200 per year nationwide according to estimates from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Discounts are available for many reasons including renters combining multiple policies, having good credit, being a senior or active military, and for having a long-term relationship with an insurer.

As a property manager and owner, you can do your part to foster insurance discounts for yourself and your tenants by providing:

  • Security Systems
  • Smoke Detectors
  • Deadbolt Locks
  • Ample Exterior Lighting
  • Property Security

Renters Insurance Benefits are Immediate Following a Disaster

Renters policies also provide displaced tenants with funds to cover temporary living arrangements and associated expenses. Today, most reliable insurers can make almost immediate arrangements to offer a stipend for a hotel or temporary housing arrangements for policyholders, which can be a huge burden on any family. Without renters insurance coverage, they may be out on the streets – something many people just don’t have the foresight to consider when opting out of renters insurance.

Don’t make renters insurance optional, – require your tenants to purchase coverage – or at least highly encourage them to do so.


appfolio Appfolio | Company Website | LinkedIn Connect |

AppFolio, Inc. develops Property Management Software that helps businesses improve their workflow so they save time and make more money.  Appfolio submits articles & blogs including topics of Resident Retention, Improved Owner Communication, Time Management, and more.

Crime Training Pays Off for Landlords

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

CrimeFighting_LandlordsLandlords all across the country are fed up with crime in rental properties, and all the associated costs. Many communities are now pushing landlords to adopt crime-free rental policies. Usually, this means landlords would go to training sessions hosted by the local police department, and allow in-depth inspections of their properties.

The goal in mind for landlords is attracting higher quality tenants who will help to maintain a higher quality rental property, which in turn keeps profits up. A crime-free property accomplishes that goal.

Landlords can learn how to prevent and identify crime directly from a crime prevention officer while completing a training session. It is very difficult for the untrained eye to spot signs of serious crimes like drug sales or manufacturing.

Local police departments are eager to assist landlords wishing to help lower crime in the neighborhood. For example the Salem, Oregon police department is actively registering property managers for its annual landlord training in April. This is a two-day intensive class focusing on local rental laws and crime prevention, with topics like drug recognition in and around rental properties. The cost of this two day workshop is about $70 per person.

This demonstrates a growing trend; landlords who care want advice on how to prevent crime in the rentals. Cities strive to provide that training.

The only downside is the fees.

In addition to tuition, property owners may have to pay an annual licensing fee for each unit, and inspection fees on an as-needed basis. It’s possible for a community to adopt a policy that forces all landlords to attend the training sessions, willing or not.

The alternative is self-education. A central focus on crime training is screening tenants. Most seasoned landlords already know the value of properly performed background checks — and how invaluable quality tenant screening can be. Focusing on who you allow into the rental property can greatly reduce the risk of criminal activity.


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website 

Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

Landlords Get Tough on Subletting

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

KeysSeduced by the promise of extra income — a $100 or so a night in many cases — tenants across the country are looking to vacation rental service Airbnb to turn their apartments into profit centers through temporary sublets.

The most active markets are in major cities, including those with rent limits. In some cases, rent-controlled tenants are making more money than the landlord is legally allowed to charge.

Some call it ingenuity. But others, including property owners and managers, say it’s illegal.

As the practice grows in popularity, landlords are fighting back. For instance, in a recent report from San Francisco, a tenant who was earning $185 a night by taking in temporary boarders just got the boot. An eviction attorney says he’s filed about a dozen of these cases in the last few months, according to the report.

In New York, a landlord was slapped with fines when a tenant’s sublet violated the ban on short-term lodging.  The landlord deferred the eviction when the tenant agreed to pay the penalties and to stop renting out the spare bedroom.

Airbnb offers a turnkey service allowing visitors to search online listings for extra rooms or even empty couches in large cities around the world. Sublets in San Francisco alone are estimated in the thousands, according to the report.

Despite negative publicity,  the problem doesn’t seem to be going away.

If a lease agreement prohibits sublets, or short-term rentals violate local law, a landlord may have grounds to file an eviction. However, in some cases there is no built-in remedy for landlords against tenants who are exploiting a lease for profit.

And, some tenants won’t leave quietly. One tenant attorney told reporters that landlords are using the Airbnb situation as a “false pretense” to get rid of rent-controlled tenants. He negotiates lease buy-outs on behalf of tenants in cases where an eviction may be costly and protracted.

Airbnb says its policies discourage anyone from breaking the lease, or the law.


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website 

Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

Foreclosure Rescue Scheme Nets Prison Time

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

mortgage-fraud2A mortgage broker, his wife, and their attorney have been sentenced for a fraud scheme involving foreclosed homes.

The Pennsylvania broker will serve five years in prison for the massive mortgage fraud scheme that resulted in at least 35 fraudulent mortgage loans worth more than $10 million, according to prosecutors. His wife was sentenced to home detention. Together, they are ordered to forfeit $400,000.

The couple’s attorney also faces prison.

According to prosecutors, the defendants targeted financially distressed homeowners facing foreclosure, falsely promised them help in saving their homes, engaged in real estate transactions with straw purchasers, and obtained dozens of fraudulent mortgages. The defendants took whatever equity the homeowner had left, funneled it through shell corporations they controlled, used some of it to pay the new mortgages, and put the rest of the equity into their own bank accounts.

The defendants promised financially distressed homeowners that they would find an “investor” who would help them save their home. The defendants would then either purchase the home themselves or arrange for a straw purchaser to obtain a fraudulent mortgage and then transfer title of the homeowner’s residence to the straw purchaser. They obtained the fraudulent mortgages by submitting false documents to mortgage lenders and making false claims about the purchasers’ finances.

The defendants also concealed from the lender the fact that the homeowner was going to continue to reside in the home and that the mortgage payments were going to continue to be made, in part, by the distressed homeowner and funneled through the straw purchaser.

The husband and wife brokers each acted as straw purchasers for 10 homes. They also recruited at least seven other persons to act as straw owners in order to obtain additional fraudulent mortgages.

An attorney was convicted of soliciting and referring distressed homeowners to the couple and using fraudulent bankruptcy filings for some of the distressed homeowners to delay foreclosure until the brokers had obtained an investor and a mortgage. Another defendant handled the closings for the real estate transfers, falsifying the settlement statements and manipulating the information provided to the lender in order to hide the nature of the scheme until after the loan was funded.

Charges came after the case was investigated by the FBI, and the Pennsylvania Department of Banking.


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website 

Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

Apartment Owners Sue Over Tenant Protections

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Law

A lawsuit challenging numerous amendments to New York’s rent stabilization regulations was filed by major real estate organizations representing thousands of residential property owners.

The lawsuit seeks to overturn the amendments, challenging the authority of the new Tenant Protection Unit, created by Governor Cuomo. The apartment owners contend that the status of TPU is in question, since the state’s legislature has rejected the proposed funding of the watchdog agency on two occasions since it was enacted in 2011.

The suit claims there is no legal authority for establishing the TPU, which, despite the lack of any complaint by a tenant, audits individual apartment improvements that owners undertake to improve their properties.

The rental owners also contend that the Governor had no authority to create the TPU in the first place – and even if such authority existed, the TPU, as it currently functions, violates constitutionally protected due process rights of building owners by demanding that they reduce or refund rents without affording them an opportunity to be heard or appeal the TPU’s decisions.

The second component of the lawsuit challenges many of the 27 amendments to
the regulations made by DHCR on the grounds that those amendments either conflict
with the State rent laws or constitute a violation of the separation of powers. For example:

The newly adopted regulations contradict the strict four-year statute of
limitations created by the State Legislature in 1997 relating to rent overcharge claims by tenants and record-keeping obligations for property owners. In fact, the newly adopted regulations now allow rent challenges to be brought at any time, by any tenant, and encompassing any time period throughout the entirety of an apartment’s rental history;

The amendments authorize tenants to stop paying rent, without the approval of any agency or court, if they do not believe that the property owner has properly documented improvements made to their apartments prior to the tenant taking occupancy;

The law creates obstacles which prohibit property owners from collecting legally authorized rent increases for major capital improvements and vacancy increases;

The regulations re-prioritize violations so that minor, even unintentional acts carry the same punishment as more severe actions.

The suit was filed by the Rent Stabilization Association, the Community Housing
Improvement Program, and the Small Property Owners of New York, along with individual property owners. The organizations represent owners and managing agents of thousands of large, medium and small residential apartment buildings throughout the five boroughs that include approximately one million rent stabilized apartments.

RSA President Joseph Strasburg adds, “Property owners will not sit by and watch
as their constitutionally protected property rights are trampled upon by government at the behest of tenant advocates.” RSA Chairman Aaron Sirulnick warns that it is small property owners who are the most vulnerable, and that the regulations will hamper efforts to preserve affordable housing.


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website 

Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

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