3 Legal Mistakes That Any Californian Landlord Should Avoid

iStock_000015752174_SmallYou’ve studied for more than a decade to become a great accountant, and you’re fairly good at what you do on a daily basis. But nobody has actually prepared you for the challenges that you may have to face as a landlord. Assuming that you are getting ready to rent your property for the first time, what are the main aspects related to your accommodation option and your relationship with your tenants that you should focus on to avoid legal complications? Here are a few mistakes that you should never make as a landlord.

  1. Do Not Ask Discriminating Questions. Sometimes, people don’t know that the questions that they ask can backfire in an unexpected manner. You know what they say: curiosity killed the cat. Don’t let your investigative nature compromise your bond with your new tenants and expose you to penalties and/or a potential lawsuit. Refrain from asking delicate questions that could be interpreted as discriminative (related to gender, color, religion, race, familial status or disability). By asking such questions you would go against the principles set in place by the Fair Housing Act. Your actions could result in a lawsuit or an ample investigation conducted by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
  2. Do Not Rent a Place That Could Be Catalogued As an Unsafe Environment. Clearly, all tenants have the right to live in a house or apartment that represents a perfectly livable environment promoting their wellbeing. Failure to ensure a decent accommodation option meeting the basic needs and demands of your tenants could get you in serious trouble. A landlord has the responsibility to keep his tenants safe at all times and protect them against any type of criminal activity and/or dangerous conditions associated with their rental property. Adequate lighting and locks constitute basic safety measures that renters should implement to minimize risks. If tenants sustain physical injuries on a certain rental property after its landlord identifies the features that compromise its safety, they may be able to drag the renter to court and ask for compensations.
  3. Do Not Forget to Make Disclosures to All Potential Tenants. Did someone actually die on your premises? Did you fail to provide punctual info related to the sexual offender registry? Did you try to hide a mold contamination problem impacting the overall condition and livability of your rental? Your refusal to make disclosures may also have serious repercussions, especially when you stumble across very determined and educated tenants who know their rights. Therefore, play by the book, do you best to build and maintain a solid relationship based on honesty and respect with all your tenants and don’t forget to increase your odds of filling your vacancies by listing your for rent properties with Apartment Hunterz.
Jan 2015

Ways You’re Violating Your Lease and Don’t Even Know It  

signing a leaseThere is a lot to read in your lease — you know it. Most likely you skimmed over the important material, such as when rent is due, when you can end the lease, etc. But, if you are like most renters, you’re violating your lease and you don’t even know it. While most landlords won’t call you on it, if they do, you could risk not only being evicted, but lose out on your security deposit.

Your Cousin Is Staying With You for a Few Weeks

Your lease most likely specifies that any guest that stays for an extended period of time must be placed on your lease. A lot of renters don’t realize that their landlord stipulates what constitutes a guest and what is considered a “tenant”.

You Hung Up Your Photographs

You wanted your rental unit to feel more like home, but any improvements or alterations could reduce your security deposit. Some leases prohibit putting any holes into the walls what-so-ever. That means even a minor change like hanging a picture could mean you’ve just violated your lease.

You Have a Home-Based Business

Perhaps you do freelance art work or you’re a writer. But, make sure your lease doesn’t say “residential” only. Because, running your own business out of your home could be a violation. In most cases, however, if the business is just you and no one else — and clients don’t enter your home — you should be alright. But, you may want to discuss the situation with your landlord to clarify it.

You Display Campaign Signs on Your Windows

You’re political and it is within your right. But, displaying those campaigning signs might violate your lease agreement. Some lease agreements directly prohibit any display on the premises that doesn’t have to do with the apartment complex. So, check your lease before proudly displaying who you will be voting for this year.

You Got a Waterbed or Fish

Most leases have specific clauses regarding waterbeds and fish tanks. They are prohibited due to the amount of damage they can cause if they were to break. Check your lease before you decide to go retro or before you get a fish as a pet.

You Got a New Car and Didn’t Tell the Landlord

If you have assigned parking stalls, it is likely you register your vehicle with the property manager. If you got a new one and didn’t tell them, you could be in violation of that rule. Always let your landlord know when you get a new vehicle, especially if it is parked in assigned parking stalls.

Jun 2014

Is a Month-to-Month Lease Right for You?

Young realtor explain lease agreement or purchase contract withIf you’re the type that likes to move a lot, a month-to-month lease could be the answer. But, before you sign the first month lease you find, you need to know your options. Month-to-month leases are less committal than traditional 12-month and 18-month leases, but they also come with their own strings that could prevent you from moving when you need to. So, it is best to weigh the pros and cons before signing anything.

Month-to-Month Leases are Flexible

The biggest reason people opt for a month-to-month lease is because they plan on moving soon — such as taking a temporary job or renting just until a home sale goes through. These allow you to have a place to live without any long-term commitments. Also, if for some reason you don’t need to move the next month, you can renew — giving you as much time as you need until you’re ready to relocate.

You’ll Pay More in Rent

Because you’re renewing your lease every month, some property management firms actually charge more for rent on their month-to-month contracts than their annual or longer contracts. This is because a monthly lease means they could have a vacancy soon, which is an expense for them. Also, because you’re renewing every month, the property management team has the opportunity to raise the rent according to market rates every time you renew — while with a yearly lease they can only raise the rent when your year is up.

Being in One Place Can Be Easier

Moving isn’t all that easy. When you stay in an apartment long-term you get to know your property managers, can get terms that are more flexible and you get used to the area. If you’re the type that doesn’t like change, you won’t enjoy a month-to-month contract — because your budget could change significantly depending on the rental market.

Be Wise With Month-to-Month

A month-to-month lease should really only be used if you need a short-term option. If you know you’re going to be relocating in just a few short months, sign a month-to-month, but if it’s up in the air, talk to the property owner about a quarterly lease or even a six-month lease versus the month-to-month. That way you have more stability with your rental payments and have a little time in between moves to figure out what you want to do or where you want to go.

May 2014
POSTED IN Legal Tips

What to Do When You Don’t Get Your Security Deposit

leaseWhen you sign a lease, you hand over your security deposit as part of the agreement process. When the lease is up, you give your notice, pack up your stuff, clean up after you’re done and you’re supposed to get your security deposit back too. But, what happens when that check never comes or the manager tells you you aren’t getting it back?

It’s important to know what you can do if you don’t get your deposit back. While there are times your landlord was just, there are other times you have options to get it back — regardless if the landlord was planning on giving it back or not.

Discuss Your Security Deposit Situation with the Landlord Before You Move Out

When you give your notice, discuss the security deposit with your property manager. Ask about how and when you will get it back, how much you are going to get back, etc. Refer to your rental agreement too and see what it says about you deposit. If your property owner’s response is different, remind them of the terms in the legal document you both signed. He would hold you to the contract, so you can gladly hold him to the terms too.

Follow Up

Sometimes things get lost. If you don’t receive your security deposit, discuss it with your manager after you have moved out. Let them know you haven’t received it and find out the status of that deposit. If they are not giving you clear answers or seem to be giving you the run around, you still have options.

Make Sure You Were in the Right

A lot of renters don’t get their security deposit back and think their property owner broke the law. But, how well did you care for the apartment? Did you follow all of the terms in your lease? Did you leave the place a mess? Did you do a final walkthrough with the manager to make sure that everything was noted properly? If you didn’t do your due diligence, you might not have a chance to fight your property owner in court for your security deposit.

The Law Gives You Options

If you are in the right and a landlord refuses to return your deposit, you have the law on your side. The law protects landlords and tenants alike, especially from property managers stealing their security deposit. Check the laws about security deposits and see how long a landlord has to legally return it or give notice you won’t be receiving it. Then, file a complaint with the housing authority as well as the state attorney general.

May 2014
POSTED IN Legal Tips

You’ve Signed Your Lease, Now What?

a fountain pen and a signature on yellow paper. symbolic photo fYou have already found the perfect apartment and you’ve signed the paperwork. There are still a lot of things you need to consider, and time is most likely not on your side – especially if you’re moving in the next couple of weeks. So, it is time to prioritize and get certain to-do’s off your list before the moving day.

Schedule the Move

This is the first and most important thing on your to-do list. Everything will depend on when you move – utilities, etc. So, set the date and make sure you clear it with your new apartment. Some apartments don’t allow moving on certain days (such as no moving on a Sunday).

Set Up Cable

If you plan on having cable or satellite at the new apartment and it’s not included in the rent, you are going to need to set it up before you move. Some companies have a back log of up to two weeks, so now is the time to schedule. Call and schedule an appointment, but don’t have them come on moving day – the last thing you need to deal with is a cable installation while trying to unload boxes.

Don’t Forget Internet

In most cases you can get internet through your cable TV provider, but if you are doing satellite TV, you might need internet from a different company. Set up the appointment as soon as you can, since some internet providers can take days to bring out the equipment and set up your new account.

Set Up Electricity, Water and Gas

Water might be included in your monthly rent, but if it’s not, you need to call the city and let them know the water should be turned on. This might require you to go down to the city physically to fill out a form (since not all areas use online services). Also, you’ll want to start your natural gas and electricity accounts if they aren’t included in your rent.

Change Your Address

Now that you have utilities set up and out of the way, you need to change your address. Contact the Department of Motor Vehicle and change your address for your driver’s license. Not doing so could result in a fine, so do this right away. Next, contact all of your credit cards and banks to change your address. You may have to go through a verification system to change your address, which could take a few days. Last, change your address with the post office. This will automatically reroute any mail you forgot to your new address.

Moving to a new place is a lot more than just packing some boxes and scheduling a moving van. You need to be prepared for the move and that means take a few days or weeks before to get everything set up. The more you do ahead of time, the less panicked and stressed you’ll be on moving day.

Apr 2014
POSTED IN Legal Tips