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Showing posts from 2014

CALCULATING SECURITY DEPOSIT DEDUCTIONS

It can be a daunting or uncertain task…assessing deductions to a renter’s security deposit.There are security deposit laws specific to each state, so you should check the rules and regulations that pertain to your specific location. In most states, you cannot charge your resident for normal wear and tear, but are able to cover your expenses for damages caused by the resident.

This list contains examples of what would qualify as normal wear and tear, which you, as the property owner, are financially liable to repair:
Faded curtains, carpet, wallpaper or paint due to age or sunlightWear on rugs/carpet (especially in high-traffic areas) due to normal useMinor scuffs on floors or trimBroken plumbing as a result of daily useBroken appliances that are not the result of misuseWarped doors and windows caused by moisture, temperature or ageSmall nicks on walls (especially in corners)A reasonable amount of holes in the walls due to the hanging of picturesBroke…

$80,000 SETTLEMENT IN HOUSING DISCRIMINATION LAWSUIT

The Justice Department recently announced that a settlement was reached with the owners and operators of an apartment community in Fremont, California.

The lawsuit challenged a policy upheld by the complex which prohibited children from playing outside in the common grassy areas. It was argued through this litigation, that the actions of the defendants constituted a pattern or practice of discrimination against families with children residing on the property.
Complaints were filed with the U.S Department of Housing and Urban Development by 5 families who claimed to be negatively impacted by the apartment policy. HUD investigated allegations and then issued a charge of discrimination against those responsible for initiating and maintaining the policy.
“Federal law guarantees families with children the right to equal access to housing, including full access to their homes’ amenities and facilities,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Jocelyn Samuels for the Civil Rights Division. “Se…

EEOC CRITICIZED FOR RECOMMENDATIONS

Guidelines put into effect in 2012 by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have recently come under heavy scrutiny in front of the House Subcommittee on Workforce Protections.

The guidelines are supposed to safeguard employees from workplace discrimination, however, many argue that they are doing a great disservice to employers.Not only has there been significant uncertainty about what is considered to be justified pre-employment screening, but employers are now caught between two bleak options. They either risk EEOC violations by thoroughly screening potential employees, or limit their screening and increase the risk for employing a criminal. Either may have devastating results for their company.
Rep. Tim Walberg, R-Mich., has said that these guidelines not only hinder the employer but could have a negative impact on the overall community: “In certain occupations, a background check of prospective employees is critical to public safety.” These concerns are especially apparent wh…

HUD TO PROVIDE FURTHER GUIDANCE ON DISCRIMINATORY EFFECTS IN RENTAL HOUSING

In February of last year, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a Discriminatory Effects Final Rule to formalize a national standard for determining Fair Housing violations.

“Through the issuance of this Rule, HUD is reaffirming its commitment to enforcing the Fair Housing Act in a consistent and uniform manner,” said HUD secretary Shaun Donovan. The Fair Housing Act prohibits housing practices that result in disparate impact on a group of persons because of race, color, religion, sex, handicap, familial status or national origin.
The practice of running criminal background checks on potential tenants may now be prohibited under the Discriminatory Effects Standard Final Rule.
Many in the rental housing industry have expressed serious concern over the final rule, specifically, the limitations placed on tenant screening. Criminal background checks provide some level of assurance that measures are being taken to uphold resident safety and viability. By restricting…

HOW TO AVOID A HUGE MOVE-IN MISTAKE

The function of a security deposit is to provide some assurance that a tenant will return a rental property to its original state (or pay for any necessary repairs). However, one common mistake will diminish the property owner’s ability to apply deposit deductions.

Let’s say that you have a verbal agreement with a tenant that, as landlord, you will repair a garbage disposal, clean the carpets and apply a fresh coat of paint to the bathroom. The soonest that these repairs can be made is one week after the desired move-in date. Upon occupying the unit, the tenant takes photos which highlight its current state of disrepair. You just lost the ability to collect full reimbursement for damages from the security deposit. When the lease expires the tenant has a justifiable reason to refuse deposit deductions, as they can fairly argue that they returned the unit to its original condition. You may very well have upheld your verbal agreement, and the tenant benefited from the repairs made to the…

CITIES WHERE RENTING IS SMARTER

In some markets it is more logical to rent than to buy a home. Due to the amount of time it would take to break even on a home investment, and considering median home prices as compared to average rent amounts, some cities offer the more affordable option to the renter.

If you do not plan on staying in a given location for at least 2.5 years, you should consider renting…especially if you are living in one of these cities:
-San Jose
-Seattle
-Denver
-San Francisco
-Colorado Springs
-Phoenix
-Mesa
-Minneapolis
-Albuquerque
-New York
-Boston
-Virginia Beach
-WashingtonD.C.
-San Diego
-Honolulu
Information sourced from Zillow. Please visit www.erentalservicesinc.com for more useful rental and property management resources.

U.S. AND THE SMART SEAT

The talk around the table is that Apple and Google are impressed by the future investment possibilities and development of the smart home. Apparently, we will not have to wait long for this addition to our high-tech lifestyle (at least in part) as the smart bathroom has arrived in the U.S.

American Standard, which is owned by Japan’s Lixil Corporation, is adding a line of smart toilets. During an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Lixil’s Yoshiaki Fujimori stated that they expect interest in this product to grow quickly and have set aside a $3-5 million ad campaign budget to help push the trend forward.
Smart toilets are already installed in three-quarters of Japanese homes. These high tech thrones boast the ability to sync with the user’s smartphone, play music, warm to desired temperatures, cycle through various cleaning functions, automatically flush and yes, ladies, the seat does put itself down (FINALLY!)
This could be the next big feature to introduced into the rental housing …

TIPS FOR SETTING YOUR RENT AMOUNT

In a perfect world, your rent amount would cover all of your expenses for the property plus allow you to claim anywhere from 1-6% of the rent as profit.

Higher rental prices convey status, but prices that are too high will drive renters away. Similarly, if your rent is set too low, interest will wane due to the assumption that the unit must be unfavorable. The key to successful price-setting is finding that middle ground, ideal for the current rental climate.
Here are some tips to help calculate an appropriate rent for your property:
1.)Know your monthly expenses for the property. This should include any mortgages, loans, the average costs of maintenance or repairs, advertising fees, vacancy costs, screening or legal fees.
2.)Look in local newspapers and online advertising for properties that are similar to your rental property, and within a close geographic area. If you track these ads for several weeks, you will see patterns arise among the properties that rented quickly and those whic…

USING RENTAL CRITERIA TO AVOID FAIR HOUSING VIOLATIONS

The violation of Federal Fair Housing laws can result in the loss of thousands of dollars in both civil and punitive fines, in addition to the repercussive expense of legal fees and the phenomenal expenditure of time and effort that is required of any court process.

Fair housing claims occur commonly as a result of the resident screening process, but that need not be the case. One easy way to avoid Fair Housing violations is to establish clear (written) rental criteria and then to consistently follow those criteria.
TIPS FOR ESTABLISHING RENTAL CRITERIA:
-Occupancy guidelines: In general most follow the 2 people per bedroom or the 2 people per bedroom plus 1 rule. This is not a hard rule, however, and the layout of your property may mean that it is appropriate to allow fewer (or more) occupants.
-Income to rent ratio: The industry standard is that an applicant must make 3 times the asking rent amount. This ratio is considered to offer good assurance that there are enough funds available t…

CHILD INTENTIONALLY SETS HOUSE ON FIRE -LANDLORD ALSO BEING HELD LIABLE

A 5-year-old boy revealed to investigators that he intentionally set fire to his home with a lighter Sunday night. He, his mother, and two other children escaped the blaze but his 2-year-old cousin died of smoke inhalation in an upstairs bedroom.

Children under the age of 10 cannot be prosecuted for homicide in Pennsylvania, but the boy will be evaluated by Children Youth and Families and court proceedings may result in his being removed from the family.

According to Stephen A. Zappala Jr., the Allegheny County district attorney, the landlord had likely violated local ordinance by not maintaining or providing smoke alarms in the rental property. The scene was reported by firemen and neighbors to have been silent, with no alarms sounding at the time of the fire.

Mayor Michael Cherepko said 60 percent of the houses in McKeesport are owned by absentee landlords and that many of those landlords allow their properties to fall into a state of disrepair. His administration is working on a plan …

EVICTION AND THE DISPOSAL OF A RESIDENTS PROPERTY

It may appear that your resident has permanently surrendered possession of your rental unit…they have moved the majority of their belongings and returned the keys. If any personal belongings of sentimental or monetary value have been left behind you should use caution before cleaning out the unit for re-rental. The legal parameters regarding the disposal of personal property can often seem vague and confusing to property owners when applied to real world situations. Here are a few helpful points to bear in mind:

There are regulations in place to protect the rights of the resident (making a “lockout” illegal). The statutes allow for removal of property under certain, specific circumstances, however, the only way to guarantee that there can be no legal claims against you as the landlord is to go through the eviction process and have a writ of restitution executed by a sheriff.

To avoid having to go through the eviction process simply to remove any abandoned belongings, you may get the re…

THE RENTAL INDUSTRY AND LEGALIZED MARIJUANA: CASTING LIGHT ON PROPERTY OWNERS COMMON CONCERNS

Recent changes to Colorado law have created a ripple effect through many local industries. Amendment 64 legalized the recreational use of marijuana and blurred policy boundaries that were once clearly defined in the rental industry. As a result, there is some confusion over how to best install and maintain appropriate rental policy standards.
Here are a few quick facts that are sure to help:
Both Federal and Colorado law give power to the property owner to determine rental property policy.A smoke-free policy is still enforceable and can include prohibiting the use of marijuana.Updating policy documentation to specifically reference use (or non use) of marijuana is recommended.Property owners may still require drug testing as a condition of employment According to Amendment 64, “nothing shall prohibit any person who owns or controls a property from prohibiting or otherwise regulating the possession, consumption, use, or growing of marijuana on that prop…

RSI ROLLS OUT ANOTHER LAYER OF SECURITY

Keeping information secure is vital. We have recently implemented a new layer of defense to our already solid security platform.

Multifactor Authentication (MFA) makes it more difficult for an unauthorized person to enter our system and access sensitive information. This multi-layered approach requires a combination of two independent credentials: a knowledge factor (something that only the authorized user should know) and a possession factor (something that only the user has access to).
If you are not already using MFA…you should be! We will be contacting clients in the coming months to get you on-board with our new authentication system.
What to expect as you begin using the new system…
You will notice a change when accessing our website only during one of the following:
When you login for the first time under the new criteriaWhen you login from a different (unknown) computerWhen your login from a differentIP address When you login from a different internet browse…