Posts Tagged ‘Tenant Screening’

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.

Should you be Required to Accept All Emotional Support Animals?

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Becky Bower

emotional support animals

The term “emotional support animal” has always produced mixed opinions, with some property managers claiming that it’s a loophole term to get applicants’ pets accepted, while others cite federal law concerning tenants with disabilities. Whether your pet policy attracts applicants out of the 79 million households that own cats and dogs or prohibits residents from having their own big red dog, California property managers might be required to allow tenants to have emotional support animals, regardless of their pet policy.

What are the Differences between Service Dogs, Psychiatric Service Dogs, and Emotional Support Animals?

Service animals are animals that are trained to help a specific individual with a disability. Some states, like California, limit service animals to dogs (and in some cases, miniature horses as well). Psychiatric service dogs are individually trained to help a person with a mental disability. Both of these service animals are trained to aid someone with a disability, whether it be pulling a wheelchair or responding to the owner’s panic attack. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, can be any type of animal and are not trained to perform a specific act that relates to an individual’s disability. These types of animals give their owners emotional relief, rather than physical relief, and unlike most service dogs, they do not need to wear any form of identification (like a vest or harness).

emotional-support-animal-quote

In compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Fair Housing Act (FHA) requires housing providers to provide reasonable accommodation to tenants with disabilities, allowing them to “request a reasonable accommodation for any assistance animal, including an emotional support animal.” Federally funded housing (like Section 8 housing) is required to accept emotional support animals without proof.  That being said, legally, you may not request to show proof that the animal has any specialized training. This means, if a resident with a disability requests for reasonable accommodation and provides a letter legitimatizing the need for an emotional support animal, under the FHA, you legally must provide reasonable accommodation for their support animal regardless of your rental policy on pets. If you deny their request for reasonable accommodation, the resident can file a discrimination complaint with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

Potential Legislation could require the Admittance of All Emotional Support Animals in California

Currently, it is within a property owner’s right to disallow pets on the property, and deny applicants (who are not covered under the ADA) based off of those written rental requirements. However, according to Ron Kingston of East Bay’s Rental Housing Association, that might change. Their online magazine, Rental Housing (issue Dec. 2016, page 22), illuminates that California’s Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) is currently proposing “broad new regulations requiring rental property owners to allow tenants to have ‘emotional support animals’ of all breeds and types to live with them in their units.” While (as said above) federal regulations require residents to request reasonable accommodations for support animals, Ron Kingston argues that the DFEH’s proposal is too broad and gives property managers limited authority to “deny a support animal request when the animal poses a threat to health and safety of other tenants, and to the property.”

As the transportation industry has enabled service and emotional support animals to fly on airlines for free and an increase in emotional support animals on airlines has been present, the validity of emotional support animals has come into question. Brian Skewis, California State Board of Guide Dogs for the Blind executive officer, has previously stated that he has found a “misuse” of the service dog law in airports. While Sacramento International Airport spokesman, Mark Haneke, has said that he is not aware of a false service dog problem, it puts into question whether or not significant misuse could be present in rentals.

Big cities like Los Angeles (which has the highest percentage of renters) have been facing a pet-housing shortage for a long time. Early last year, the City of Los Angeles even stated that they’ll start creating pet-friendly housing legislation to combat the 22.6% of dogs and 18.6% of cats that are surrendered to animal shelters due to pet restrictions. While no legislation has been passed since this statement, with misuse, the DFEH’s proposition could inadvertently cause rentals to become pet-friendly to avoid a discrimination case.

Although the California proposition has yet to be released in full detail (be sure to subscribe for updates), its broad nature would limit Californian property owner’s rights. While it might positively affect the pet-housing shortage in large cities, federal regulations already protect the resident’s right to request reasonable accommodation that allows emotional support animals. If these rights are already protected, the big question is what does this law really do?

Regardless of whether your community is pet-friendly or has a strict no-pet policy, make sure your online application has space to provide additional information (like about service animals or pets) and that you perform thorough screening of all your applicants. Just because an applicant doesn’t come with a furry friend in tow, doesn’t mean they’re a perfect fit for your community.

Becky 201509 Becky Bower is a writer for the ApplyConnect® Blog and the communications executive at ApplyConnect®, a consumer initiated tenant screening company.  She has also spent several years in compliance and auditing.  Becky holds a degree in English with a focus in creative writing from CSU Channel Islands and is a published writer.

Four Easy Steps to Safeguard Resident Information

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

secure dataProtecting your business from hackers is a hot topic these days. Property management companies are particularly fearful of becoming the next Target, and rightfully so. With all the data residents need to provide on lease applications, property management databases are full of sensitive information like credit cards, Social Security numbers, previous address information, and date of birth. It’s a gold mine for identity thieves.

With so much buzz over data security, we recently hosted a webinar for property management professionals titled, “Safeguard your Business – Strategies to Improve Data Security and Protect Resident Information”. In case you missed it, here are some of the tips PayLease’s security experts discussed with the audience.

Hire Trustworthy Employees

Responsible and honest employees are crucial to data security. Job hunters are on their best behavior during interviews so it is important to run background checks and call each candidate’s professional references. Prospective employees should have multiple rounds of interviews within your organization, preferably with multiple people within the company.

Train Employees

The people you hire are your first line of defense in protecting resident data. Train employees how to properly handle sensitive resident information like Social Security numbers, credit card information, etc. Limit the number of employees who have access to this data. Furthermore, employees also need to know computer usage policies and email best practices, so make sure that they are not exposing your computers to unnecessary risk.

Invest in Physical Security

Your office doesn’t need to be Ft. Knox, but exercising some simple precautions can go a long way. Keep files locked. Shred any documents containing sensitive data. Either purchase a shredder for the office or hire a 3rd party to destroy these documents. Install security cameras and a key card access system for rooms where sensitive information could be accessed. But before you install cameras, be sure you check the privacy laws in your area. Some state laws require that employees be informed of security cameras.

Digital Security

Strong passwords are the most important aspect of digital security. Passwords should be at least 8 characters and contain an uppercase letter, a lower case letter and a special character. Never write down passwords and make sure you have multiple passwords for various systems.

Install a reputable antivirus software on all employee computers and make sure it runs daily. Research and choose a solution that is effective and fast, so it can run frequently on the computers without getting in the way. It should be easy to deploy and centrally manage.

Your organization should also have an email and internet policy within its employee manual. Also be sure to inform employees of the latest malware to prevent your systems from being infected with viruses.

For more tips on safeguarding resident information, view our recorded webinar, Safeguard your Business – Strategies to Improve Data Security and Protect Resident Information.


paylease logo PayLease | Company Website 

PayLease is a leading payments provider for the property management industry, specifically serving the Residential, Homeowner Association and Commercial markets. We provide property managers the ability to collect rent, dues and lease payments electronically, resulting in less administrative work and improved cash flow and funding time.

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. 

Understanding Tenant Psychology

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

tenant psychologyIf you’re having trouble connecting with your residents, it might be communication error. According to nationally recognized body language expert Jan Hargrave, and many other professionals who study personality and motivational factors, only 7% of all communication is verbal.  It really isn’t the words you say that creates a lasting impression, it is how you say them, your posture and your tone.

Millions of dollars are spent each year on marketing research and efforts to discover what motivates buyers. Residential property research shows that renters want convenience, access to public transportation, open spaces and a safe place that feels like home. One thing that all of those needs have in common is an emotional connection. Understanding how a resident feels about your property (and the world in general) will help you build a stronger relationship with them.

Studying body language reveals some universal clues about individual personalities. While this isn’t an exact science, posture, facial expressions, subtle changes in tone or inflection and gait provide valuable insight to better understand your renters.

Hargrave says that a majority of all communication is non-verbal. Here are a few examples of how you can adjust your body language and interpret what your tenant is trying to tell you when words aren’t enough.

Open and Accepting

A person that stands straight, smiles, makes good eye contact and angles his or her body slightly toward you is generally open to communication and comfortable with the environment. She is more prone to reach out for a handshake. Most people identify this person as friendly and outgoing.  This type of tenant normally says what she means and expects you to do the same.

Shy and Awkward

A shy individual often lacks confidence. He rarely holds direct eye contact, avoids touching – sometimes is uncomfortable shaking hands – and creates barriers by folding arms across the chest, turning slightly away from you or grasping a book or other item in front of him.  You can put this person at ease by encouraging him to tell you what he needs to feel comfortable. Although community gatherings and parties may sound appealing, he will often be more motivated to look for apartments away from the crowd.

Aggressive or Angry

An aggressive personality type is often easy to spot. Avoids eye contact, angles the upper body away from you, generally has a classic “smirk” on the face, and walks with a swagger or extremely heavy foot step. These same clues also indicate an arrogant personality type. Your best strategy for communication with these personalities is to remain calm, let them feel like they are leading the conversation and avoid conflict by restating their needs to confirm you understand before adding new information.

Experts say that 38% of communication is expressed via tone or inflection. Listening for changes in the voice helps differentiate an aggressive personality from arrogant personality.

Personality Profiles Help Build Rapport

Regardless of the personality type involved, most people display common body language in response to stimuli. A slight, sudden lift of the eye-brow indicates heightened interest, biting one’s lip shows hesitation or nervousness, and standing with one foot slightly in front of the other reveals the person is assuming dominance in the situation.

Understanding a tenant’s personality helps build rapport because it improves communication, if you use the right techniques. Watch for subtle clues and respond with appropriate responses. For example, if your shy, awkward resident doesn’t want to renew the lease, it might be where her apartment is located in the complex. Before she walks out the door, discuss other apartments. If you can get her to open up, she might tell you that she really would like to be closer to the action, even if she doesn’t engage very often.

Tying it Together

Offering extraordinary amenities, onsite retail options and community-sponsored events makes your property appealing for residents. Properly maintaining the facilities, upgrading appliances and color schemes and perfectly manicured green spaces add value to your property. Developing a clearer understanding of diverse personalities as part of  relationship building strategies is one more tool that property managers can leverage to generate brand loyalty.


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.

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. 

Criminal Background Checks: 6 Tips for Landlords

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

identity-photo-224x300Running a criminal background check on every adult rental applicant under serious consideration is a must-do for any landlord who wants to protect profits.

Failure to run a criminal check can increase landlord liability, especially if the new tenant hurts others, and increases the chances that an applicant will become a problem tenant.

On the other hand, having a strict crime policy can attract good tenants who place safety at the top of their apartment-hunting wishlist.

To get the most out of your criminal background checks, it’s important to keep these tips in mind:

1. Criminal reports, unlike credit reports, usually are not indexed using specific identifying information like the applicant’s Social Security number. That means you will need to rely on other information to link possible criminal reports to your applicant. Your rental application should include the date of birth, the party’s full legal name and any alias names, as well as previous addresses.

2. Criminal reports are available on both state and national levels. The advantage of the national reports is catching applicants who may be providing incomplete information on the rental application regarding their whereabouts.

3. Tenant screening reports are best when used together. For instance, using the Previous Address Tenant History, you may be able to identify addresses — and possible criminal convictions — in places the tenant has failed to reveal.

4. Criminal reports can be supplemented by leasing policies that discourage those with criminal tendencies from applying. For instance, participating in a Crime Free Multi-Housing program and advertising that policy to applicants can reduce the risk of attracting the wrong ones.

5. Be aware that, in some areas of the country, criminal checks are regulated. Oregon recently passed new restrictions on what landlords can do with the information from criminal background checks. Nonprofit agencies that assist ex-cons with re-entry into communities have lobbied for more tenant-friendly laws across the country. Be sure to stay on top of your local rental laws.

6.  Make sure you require the same level of screening reports from all applicants. If you scrutinize the ones you suspect are most likely to have a criminal background, but let others slide altogether, it will look like discrimination


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. 

Cozy launches Cozy Credit Reports and Experian Collaboration

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

SAN FRANCISCO and PORTLAND, OR – February 4, 2014

Cozy, the company that makes renting easy for everyone, announced Cozy Credit Reports as a result of its collaboration with Experian, the leading global information services company. Cozy Credit Reports marks a true advancement in the the security and privacy of credit reports, as well as how credit data is purchased, controlled and used in the residential rental process by leveraging the Experian ConnectSM platform.

FOR RENTERS

SECURITY, PRIVACY & CONTROL

With Cozy Credit Reports renters never have to share their Social Security Number with a potential landlord again.

THE END OF APPLICATION FEES

Application fees are a thing of the past with Cozy Credit Reports. If a Cozy landlord ever requires a credit report as part of the application, the renter runs their own report, receives the results and can choose to share them with the potential landlord. If a landlord doesn’t require a credit report, there’s nothing to pay. All Cozy landlords are required to verify their identity to see a tenant’s credit report.

FOR LANDLORDS

One of the largest burdens for landlords is handling, storing and disposing of sensitive tenant information during and after the application process. Cozy Credit Reports alleviate that burden and save time, hassle and money.

At the click of a button, a landlord can request a prospective tenant’s credit report. The renter pays for his or her own credit report, is instantly identity verified by Experian , and maintains control of his or her sensitive information. Once the tenant shares the report with the landlord, the credit data the landlord needs for prospective tenants comes directly from Experian in real time , and is the most accurate, up-to-date data in the industry. All Cozy landlords are required to verify their identity before viewing a tenant’s credit report.

Learn more at www.cozy.co/credit-reports.

Collaborating with Experian

Regarding the collaboration, Cozy CEO Gino Zahnd said, “We’ve been working with Experian for 18 months to completely rethink how the rental application process should work. With our design leadership, they have been an incredibly supportive development partner. The Experian Connect team understands the important role credit plays in this industry and is providing a new way to empower both landlords and renters. With Cozy Credit Reports, this is a significant step forward for Cozy and for the Experian Connect platform, which is powering Cozy’s smoother and more efficient process.

Click Below to Preview Sample Reports:

Cozy-Tenant-Report Cozy-Landlord-Report

CozyCo_logo

About Cozy | www.cozy.co
Cozy makes renting easy for both landlords and renters. With elegant products for rent payments, rental applications and tenant screening, Cozy is the best way for small landlords and renters to get things done.

Founded in March 2012 and based in Portland, Oregon, Cozy’s mission is to radically change the rental real estate experience with a focus on beautifully designed products, transparency, privacy, and total control of one’s personal information.

Media contact:  press@cozy.co

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