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Understanding Florida Rental Laws

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Rental laws are governed at the federal, state, and local city or county level. Each level inherits the statutes set forth from the other. In other words, state laws include federal laws, and county or city laws include both state and federal laws. For the most part, each state sets forth the majority of the statutes governing rent. At the federal level, the majority of statutes govern anti-discrimination laws set forth in the Fair Housing Act. State laws may extend the Fair Housing Act protections to those not specifically named at the federal level and city or county laws can do the same and often do.

Here, we will discuss all the rental laws that are relevant to the State of Florida. You will find information that is relevant to both landlords and tenants. It will hopefully help you successfully resolve disputes that may arise.

> Anti-Discrimination Laws
Selecting the First Qualified Candidate
> Official Laws Relating to Florida Landlord/Tenant Rules and Regulations
> Florida Laws Regarding Security Deposits
> Florida Statues Regarding Rent
> Florida Laws Regarding Leases and Lease Provisions
> Notice of Terminating a Lease with No Fixed End Date
Landlord’s Obligation and Implied Warranty of Habitability under Florida Law
Landlord/Tenant Disputes Under Florida Law
Notice of Entry
Landlord Disclosures
State Associations and Resources

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

The federal government lays out the basic laws governing civil rights when it comes to housing. These can be found in Title VI and VIII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VIII is also called the Fair Housing Act or the Civil Rights Act of 1968. In addition, the Americans with Disabilities Act extends protections to those who have disabilities.

According to the Fair Housing Act, it is unlawful to discriminate against someone on the basis of:

  • Race or color,
  • National origin,
  • Creed or religion,
  • Sex or gender,
  • Familial status,
  • Or disability.

The types of actions these laws prohibit include (but are not limited to):

  • Discriminatory language in rental applications or advertisements,
  • Charging a tenant security deposits on their children,
  • Denying a tenant’s application on the basis of a protected characteristic,
  • Refusing to allow an individual with a disability a reasonable accommodation,
  • Refusing to waive a no-pets policy for a tenant with a service animal,
  • Providing unequal terms of lease conditions on the basis of children or a protected characteristic,
  • Segregating tenants on the basis of a protected characteristic.

In addition, it is unlawful to deny an application or say that a rental unit is taken when it is not in on the basis of a protected characteristic.

No-Pets Policy and Service Animals

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits landlords from denying a rental application or charging a security deposit on the basis of a tenant’s need for a bona fide service animal. “Emotional support” or “therapy” animals are not considered services animals by law. Service animals must perform some specific function. A landlord is entitled to ask for proof that the animal is, in fact, a service animal.

Florida Housing Discrimination Laws

Florida Statutes governing housing discrimination can be found in Fla. Stat. §§ 760.20-760.60.

In some states, protected classes are extended to include sexual orientation and gender nonconformity. Florida does not extend protection specifically based on those characteristics. It is, however, unclear at present whether or not the prohibition on discriminating against someone based on their sex or gender protects the LGBT community by default.

Individual cities like Miami, West Palm Beach, Tampa, and Jacksonville may extend housing discrimination laws to cover the LGBT community and others. Landlords are advised to check with the individual cities and counties in which they own property.

Selecting the First Qualified Candidate

In order to avoid unnecessary lawsuits, landlords are advised to select the first qualified applicant from the pool. By making their decision-making process as transparent as possible, they avoid opening themselves up to lawsuits alleging housing discrimination.

Official Laws Relating to Florida Landlord/Tenant Rules and Regulations

Florida Laws Regarding Security Deposits

Florida laws regarding security deposits can be found in §§ 83.49. Landlords must place the security deposit into a separate account (it does not need to be interest-bearing). If a landlord intends on making a deduction from the security deposit, they must present the tenant with an itemized list of damages.

In addition, landlords have 15 to 60 days after the tenant has vacated the property to return the tenant’s security deposit.

Within 30 days of receiving a security deposit, the landlord must present the tenant with the following information:

  • The kind (interest-bearing or non-interest-bearing) of account the funds will be kept in;
  • The account depository’s name;
  • Interest rate.

Landlords who collect a security deposit must include the language of §§ 83.49(3) in the lease.

Florida Statutes Regarding Rent

The majority of Florida statutes that pertain specifically to rent can be found in §§ 83.46.

According to Florida statutes, rent is payable at the beginning of each rent period, which is the beginning of the month unless otherwise agreed upon in the lease. If the lease does not specify the duration of the agreement, then it will be considered month-to-month if rent is paid monthly and week-to-week if rent is paid weekly and so on.

Other than that, Florida does not have many relevant laws concerning rent. Landlords and tenants are free to agree to their terms in the lease.

Landlords may charge returned check fees based on the following values (68.065):

  • If the value of the check is less than $50, the landlord may charge a fee of $25.
  • If the value of the check is between $50 and $300, the landlord may charge a fee of $30.
  • If the value of the check is over $300, the landlord may charge either 5% of the value of the check or $40, whichever is higher.

Florida Laws Regarding Leases and Lease Provisions

Florida does not go out of its way to say what can be in a lease agreement. It does, however, list provisions (83.47) that may not be in a lease agreement or would be unenforceable under Florida law. These include:

  • The landlord may not require the tenant to “waive rights” or legal remedies allowed by law;
  • The landlord may not absolve himself of liability or other legal remedies available to the tenant.

In addition, the court may void any provision of the lease that it finds to be “unconscionable” (83.45).

Notice for Terminating a Lease with No Fixed End Date

Leases that are signed with no fixed end date require that either party must give notice before terminating the tenancy. According to these statutes (83.56), either party must give 60 days notice if the lease is year-to-year. For a quarter-to-quarter tenancy, either party must give 30 days notice. If the tenancy is month-to-month, either party must give 15 days notice. If the tenancy is week-to-week, either party must give seven days notice.

Landlord’s Obligation and Implied Warranty of Habitability under Florida Law

According to Florida law (83.51), the landlord has an obligation to maintain the premises. This is in contrast to the tenant’s duty to maintain the dwelling unit. By law, the landlord must:

  • Comply with building, housing, and health codes;
  • (Or) where no codes exist, maintain the roof, doors, windows, floors, steps, porches, walls, plumbing, and other components of the house necessary for its use as a dwelling;
  • See to the extermination of rats, insects, wood-destroying insects, bed bugs, or other infestations that are present on the premises;
  • Ensure that there are functioning locks and keys for the doors;
  • Ensure that common areas are both clean and safe;
  • Ensure that there are adequate receptacles for garbage;
  • Ensure that there is adequate heat, water, and hot water;
  • Ensure that there are smoke detectors on the premises.

In the event that the landlord must hire an exterminator, the tenant can be asked to vacate the premises for a period of four days or less. The landlord must give the tenant seven days notice before initiating the extermination. While the landlord is not liable for damages to the tenant, the landlord must abate rent during that period.

If any of these conditions are not met, the tenant has certain remedies but they must follow the protocol set forth under Florida law. The tenant must inform the landlord (in writing) that there are repairs that need to be made to the rental unit. They must then give the landlord 20 days to make repairs. If the landlord has not made repairs after 20 days then the tenant is allowed by law to deduct rent (83.201).

There is no statute regarding whether or not a tenant may repair the damage themselves and return the premises to a habitable standard. Tenants are advised to discuss the situation with their landlord before making repairs themselves.

Landlord/Tenant Disputes Under Florida Law

In the event that a dispute breaks out between the landlord and the tenant, the winning party is entitled to collect attorney’s fees. If the tenant breaches the lease agreement and the landlord must initiate an eviction, the landlord has no obligation to attempt to mitigate damages to the tenant. In other words, the landlord does not have to make an effort to re-rent the property for the duration of the lease and the tenant would be on the hook for paying for the amount of money they agreed to pay. On the other hand, the landlord may choose to take possession of the property and re-rent it. The landlord has their choice of remedies in this regard. For more information, see 83.595.

In the event that a tenant has not paid rent, the landlord can give the tenant a 3-day notice to remedy or quit (83.56(3)). If the tenant has violated a term of the lease, the landlord can issue a seven-day notice to remedy or quit (83.56(2)). There are some lease violations for which the landlord is allowed to terminate the lease immediately and demand that the tenant vacate the premises. These include, but are not limited to, destruction of the landlord’s property.

If a tenant is delinquent in rent or has violated some term of the lease, the landlord must initiate an eviction. Landlords may not lock the tenant out of the property, shut off utilities, or use “self-help” remedies to manage the situation. A landlord who uses these means to pressure the tenant off the property may be liable for up to three times the agreed upon rent or the tenant’s actual damages, whichever is greater. For a list of prohibited practices see 83.67.

A landlord is prohibited from retaliating against a tenant for exercising their rights. This includes filing formal complaints against the landlord for habitability problems with the rental property (83.64). If a tenant has recently filed a complaint against a landlord and the landlord initiates an eviction, raises the rent, or revokes privileges, the court will assume retaliation.

Notice of Entry

A landlord is required to give 12 hours notice before entering the rental property (83.53).

Landlord Disclosures

The landlord must provide the tenant with the name and address of either themselves or another who is authorized to receive notices on behalf of the property (83.50).

The landlord is expected to provide the tenant with information concern radon gas (404.056(5)).

A landlord may not deny a tenant the right to proudly display an American flag (83.67(4)).

This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

Understanding New York Rental Laws

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There are three levels on which rent laws are governed. There are federal laws, state laws, and local city and county ordinances. The federal laws are almost completely restricted to civil rights concerns. This includes defining the basis on which landlords can deny a prospective tenant housing. State laws govern much more than that. They lay out tenant and landlord duties, rights, and remedies for disputes.

Here, we will take a look at New York tenant-landlord laws and how they might apply to your situation.

> Anti-Discrimination Laws
How to avoid the Appearance of Discriminatory Selection in Housing
> Official Laws Pertaining to New York State
> New York State Laws Regarding Security Deposits
> New York State Laws Regarding Rent Collection
> New York State Laws Regarding Leases and Lease Provisions
> Implied Warranty of Habitability in New York State
Voluntary Terminating Tenancy
Landlord/Tenant Disputes
Notice of Entry
>
Domestic Violence Protections
> State Associations and Resources for Landlords and Tenants

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

The Fair Housing Act outlines the guidelines that landlords must follow when making decisions on prospective tenants. It is unlawful to deny a tenant application, say that a property is no longer available when it is, or make any other decisions based on what federal law defines as a protected characteristic. Protected characteristics include:

  • Race,
  • Religion or creed,
  • Nation of origin,
  • Sex or gender,
  • Familial status,
  • Or disability.

Actions that are expressly prohibited include:

  • Discriminatory language in applications or advertisements,
  • Charging extra rent or a larger security deposit depending on the number of children,
  • Refusing to allow an individual with a disability a reasonable accommodation,
  • Refusing to waive a no-pets policy on the basis of a service animal,
  • Dismissing an application based on a protected characteristic,
  • Providing unequal terms or conditions,
  • Segregating tenants based on race.

The law on these matters can be found in Title VI and VIII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VIII is also known as the Fair Housing Act or Civil Rights Act of 1968. The Americans with Disabilities Act outlines specific restrictions when dealing with those who have disabilities.

No-Pets Policies and Service Animals

Service animals are not considered pets by law. A landlord who has a tenant who requires a certified service animal must waive a no-pets policy for the tenant. On the other hand, “emotional support animals” which can be cats, dogs, guinea pigs, or anything else, are not considered service animals. They are considered companions or pets. A landlord is under no obligation to waive a no-pets policy for an emotional support animal.

Discrimination Based on Familial Status

Landlords may not deny housing to a mother who is renting alone with her children. In addition, a landlord may not charge an added security deposit based on the presence of children. The only exception to this rule involves 55-and-over housing communities, which can deny housing based on age.

New York State Housing Discrimination Laws

New York State extends the number of protected characteristics that are covered by housing discrimination laws. These include:

  • Sexual orientation,
  • Age,
  • Marital status,
  • And military status.

New York City Housing Discrimination Laws

New York City also extends state anti-discrimination protections. These include:

  • Gender or gender identity,
  • Citizenship status,
  • Partnership status,
  • Lawful occupation,
  • And source of income.

Source of income includes public or housing assistance (Section 8).

Buffalo Housing Discrimination Laws

The city of Buffalo extends housing discrimination protection on the basis of:

  • Gender/gender identity,
  • And source of income.

The language of Buffalo city code law, also specifies that no-pets policies must not include “therapy dogs and cats” (§ 154-17).

Other Housing Discrimination Laws

The State of New York has a number of mid-sized cities. Each of these may extend New York State fair housing protections to source of income and gender nonconformity. Check with your local city website for housing discrimination laws relevant to your city or area.

Exceptions to Housing Discrimination Laws

New York State lists three exceptions to Fair Housing laws. Those are:

  • One or two family owner-occupied buildings,
  • Rooming rentals for individuals of the same sex,
  • Room rentals in owner-occupied buildings.

How to Avoid the Appearance of Discriminatory Selection in Housing

The best way to comply with any and all housing discrimination rules regardless of where you are located is to simply choose the first qualified applicant. There are legitimate reasons for denying an applicant. These include poor credit, prior eviction, or criminal record.

By selecting the first qualified applicant, you ensure that you are in compliance with any possible housing laws.

Official Laws Pertaining to New York State

New York State Laws Regarding Security Deposits

While New York State does not specify how much a security deposit can be, landlords who are operating a rental property that has over five dwellings, must put the security deposit in an interest-bearing account (N.Y. GOL §§ 7-103(2-a)). Whatever interest the account accrues is payable to the tenant. In all circumstances, the landlord must provide the tenant with a receipt of deposit that specifies the name of the banking institution where the money is being kept (N.Y. GOL §§ 7-103(2)),

While there is no regulation as to specifically when a security deposit must be returned, the law states that it must “reasonable” according to the Tenant’s Rights Handbook. Landlords can only withhold money from the security deposit for unpaid rent or damage to the property (p8 & 9).

New York State Laws Regarding Rent Collection

In most cases, the landlord can dictate terms in the lease and the tenant is free to accept or reject those terms. According to the Tenant’s Rights Handbook, a landlord must give a tenant 15 to 30 days to accept or reject a renewal. This is so that tenants are not subject to auto-renewal clauses unfairly.

In addition, landlords must, by law, provide a tenant with a receipt for receiving rent (N.Y. RPL §§ 235-e). In addition, landlords may not require that the only source of payment is electronic (N.Y. RPL §§ 235-g).

There is no statute concerning late fees or grace periods. Landlords are advised to put any penalties for late rent in the lease. If the tenant bounces a rent check, the landlord may charge the tenant no more than $20 (N.Y. GOL §§ 5-328)

New York State Laws Regarding Leases and Lease Provisions

According to the provisions laid out in General Obligations Law § 5-321 and Real Property Law § 259-c, certain clauses in leases are considered void and unenforceable. These include:

  •   Clauses exempting landlords from liability in the matter of injuries to a person or their property caused by landlord negligence;
  •   Clauses forcing tenants to waive their right to a jury trial;
  •   And clauses that force tenants to pledge their furniture as security for rent.

New York City landlords are required to provide their tenants with a copy of the lease.

Implied Warranty of Habitability in New York State

Rental units are rented under the assumption that they are habitable. In addition, each tenant has a “right to quiet enjoyment.” For landlords, this means providing a space that has running water, working plumbing, sufficient heat, electricity, protection from the weather, and security features like locks and windows. When the rental unit does not supply any of these basic needs, the tenant may be entitled to withhold rent (N.Y. RPL §§ 235-a), or repair the damage themselves and deduct rent (N.Y. RPL §§ 235-b).

If tenants choose to withhold rent, they are advised to keep the money in an escrow account until the situation is sorted out. Tenants who repair and deduct are advised to provide the landlord with any receipts. In addition, there may be a cap on the amount of money they are allowed to withhold.

Lastly, tenants should notify the landlord immediately of any problems with the rental unit. Landlords should be given a reasonable amount of time to respond to the tenant’s request.

Voluntarily Terminating Tenancy

When the lease has a fixed end date, neither party is required to provide notice to quit. If the lease is month-to-month, the landlord is required to give the tenant one month notice (N.Y. RPL §§ 228).

Landlord/Tenant Disputes

In disputes with tenants, landlords may file suit. Whoever wins the decision has the right to recover attorney’s fees (N.Y. RPL §§ 234). If, however, the landlord wins the lawsuit, then he or she must make a reasonable attempt to mitigate damages to the tenant. This includes re-renting the property.

If a tenant is delinquent in payments to the landlord, the landlord may issue a 10-day notice to either remedy the situation or quit the lease (N.Y. RPL §§ 751(1)). In addition, if the tenant has violated some term of the lease, the landlord can issue a 10-day notice to remedy or quit (N.Y. RPL §§ 753(4)).

If the tenant does not comply, the landlord may begin eviction proceedings. Under no circumstances is a landlord allowed to either lock out a tenant or shut off the utilities in an attempt to force them out.

Landlords may not retaliate against tenants for asserting their rights. This includes terminating a lease, initiating an eviction, or refusing to extend a lease. Courts will assume that the landlord has retaliated against the tenant if they terminate a lease within six months of the tenant making a formal complaint. If the landlord attempts to charge a fee to the tenant for filing a legitimate complaint, the landlord with liable for triple the fee (N.Y. RPL §§ 223-b).

Notice of Entry

New York State does not have a specific statute regarding entry. Landlords are recommended to give their tenants 24 hours of notice. Tenants do have the right to their privacy.

Domestic Violence Protections

A tenant may, with the approval of the court, break a lease in the event that they are the victim of domestic violence or related concerns (N.Y. RPL §§ 227-c).

This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

Tips for getting more out of your rental property

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Tips for rental properties
Vacancy. The bane of every landlord and property manager. Every day that your property sits empty means less revenue for you. Here are some tips to help you reduce the amount of time your home or apartment is vacant and get more money from your income property.

Do Your Homework

Before your current tenants prepare to move out you should already have an idea of the current market for rental properties in your area. Chances are if you’ve had a long-term lease in place, you are out of touch with the going rate for similar properties. Keep your eye on local rental listings to see what price neighborhood properties are being advertised for. This will help you set a fair market price for new tenants.
One way to predict future pricing trends is to keep an eye on the local vacancy rate. A lower rate means rentals are in higher demand so prices should trend upward. Conversely, if the rates are high there might be a plethora of properties available at any given time, so demand is low and so are prices. To get a report that breaks down a recommended rent price for you, check out Rentability Reports.

Stay in Contact With Your Current Tenants

One sure way to avoid a vacancy is to keep your current tenants and simply renew your lease with them. Of course, to do this, you need to be on good terms with them and they need to be happy where they are. If they are thinking of leaving at the end of their lease, find out why.
Maybe money is tight. If that’s the case, consider renegotiating their terms if you can afford to. If you’ve done your homework and your market is trending down, calculate how much you could get from new tenants and subtract out the cost of turning over the property (cleaning, repairs, painting, etc.) and the revenue lost to a vacancy. When you have that final number, you might just find that giving your current tenants a break is a better financial decision.

Speed Up the Turn-Around Time

If your tenants are set on leaving, it’s time to plan out what needs to be done to get the property ready for the next ones. Inspect the property as soon as you know the move-out date. Ask your current tenants what little things might need attention and also inform them of things they might need to take care of in order to get their security deposit back when they leave.
Once you have your to-do list and the move-out date, it’s time to determine who’s going to do the work. You might automatically assume you’ll be doing all the work yourself, but sometimes that’s not the the most economical decision. It might be more advantageous to hire professionals to do some or all of the work to get the job done sooner.
Professional painters, carpet cleaners and in-depth house cleaners can probably do the work in a fraction of the time it would take you to do it all yourself. This could mean the difference between having your property unavailable in weeks vs. a month or more.

Advertise Early and Often

When you have an idea of the move-out date, it’s time to start advertising the property. If you have significant repairs to do, you might want to hold off until they are mostly, if not completely finished. If your current lease allows, you can even show the property to potential tenants before your current ones move out.
This means getting the word out that you’ll have a property available as soon as you can. Tell your friends, tell the neighbors, get it on social media and more. The more people that know the better- you never know where your next tenant will hear about the property and time is of the essence if you want to avoid that dreaded word: vacancy.

3 reasons renters insurance is key for landlords

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Even though renters insurance can provide substantial benefits to both renters and landlords, under half of all renters are insured. Without insurance, tenants aren’t covered in case of robbery or damages, leaving both sides at significant financial risk. Landlords can act to ensure both themselves and their renters are covered.

The main reason more people don’t have insurance is simply a lack of awareness. There are so many different things to consider when finding an apartment, like whether your rent price is fair for the neighborhood or the kinds of amenities you want your home to have. While you can use tools like a rent calculator or email the realtor to solve these problems, renters insurance often gets pushed to the back burner.

It’s also common for renters to assume that their landlord’s policy will cover their own damages, but that isn’t typically true. They also may not realize that a typical insurance policy costs less than $150 per year. These are some of the top reasons landlords should require renters to acquire insurance as part of their lease.

Insurance Reduces Your Own Liability

In cases where damage to the property occurs due to natural causes, many states require landlords to assist tenants with finding a place to stay temporarily. This requires resources, time, and energy above and beyond assisting them with their property and managing your own losses.

When your tenants have renters insurance, their policy may cover them for all relocation costs, removing you from responsibility. In addition to protecting renters from their own financial losses, renters insurance also provides significant benefits to landlords.

Renters Insurance Covers Your Own Deductible

As a landlord, you likely have your own insurance policy, which will pay out in case of damages to your building. But while this will protect you to a predetermined point, you’ll still be responsible for the costs up to a certain deductible.

If your tenant has their own coverage, their policy will pay out the initial costs depending on the circumstances of the loss, in some cases covering the owner’s insurance deductible. This will make tough circumstances more manageable for both sides, as your tenants will be able to depend on their insurance policy for coverage.

Coverage Will Give You Peace of Mind

More than anything, what you’ll notice when you have insurance coverage is simply that you don’t need to worry about potentially problematic situations. It will help foster a more positive relationship with tenants, who will be less of a  potential source of litigation. This reduces any combative or defensive dynamic from the landlord-tenant relationship and makes things easier for both sides.

You’ll also be able to have a more positive relationship with tenants, who won’t be potential sources of litigation. This removes any combative or defensive dynamic from the landlord-tenant relationship and makes things easier for both sides.

These are just some of the many reasons why landlords should make renters insurance a condition of each lease. For a small cost, tenants are able to receive personal property coverage sometimes up to $50,000 and substantial personal liability. This ensures security for everyone involved and makes your job significantly easier.

6 ways to keep your rental safe

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How to keep your rental property safe.

Keeping your investment safe is a top priority for many landlords. Not only do you want to
protect your investment, but you also need to take precautions when it comes to keeping your
renters safe as well. Making sure that both your property and renters are secure will raise the
level of your property as well as cut down on turnover. Check out these rental safety tips to keep yourself and your tenants protected.

Install Lighting

Illuminating your rental property is one of the easiest ways to keep your property safe. Having
enough adequate lighting that automatically turn on will help keep walkways safe and add
character to your outdoor area. Walk through your rental property at night and look for areas
that need extra light or two. Make sure that there is plenty of light around your home to see all of
the property even if your renters don’t choose to turn on their exterior lights. Floodlights are an
excellent choice for illuminating the sides of a building while pathway lights will help keep
renters safe while walking to their home at night. Check out solar options that will help cut down
your overall electricity cost as well.

Install Sturdy Doors

Whether your rental property is a home or a large apartment complex, the entry doors to the
house should be stable and in good repair. Make sure that any door issues are immediately
addressed and consider replacing damaged doors to make your property safer. Check the
threshold of the doorway, as well as the trim surrounding the door, to make sure the door is a
tight and secure fit. This also should be done for backdoors and any other access point that an
intruder may have to your property from the outside. Also, consider installing peepholes in the
doors for an added measure of security.

Change the Locks

Your renters will feel more secure if they have a deadbolt lock on their exterior doors. Changing
the locks is customary for many rental properties when a renter moves out. If you aren’t already
changing the locks, make this a regular part of your turnover procedures soon. Keys can be
easily copied and given to friends making your property a target. Changing out the locks doesn’t
take too long and can be one your first line of defenses against unwanted visitors.

Mount Cameras

One way to safeguard your backyard and home is to add cameras as part of your security
system. Thanks to current technology, you can find a wide range of cameras available from
those that are motion sensors to those that are taping all of the time. Check out your local home
improvement store for low priced options that will add much security to your property and put
your mind at ease. If cameras are still out of the budget, consider mounting fake cameras in
certain areas of your property to deter unwanted activity.

Secure Windows

Putting proper window locks on your rental property is essential to keeping both renters safely
inside, especially children, while also guarding against those wanting to gain access. Installing
locks on second story windows are necessary to guard against falls, but you may also want to
install locks on lower level windows as well. Installing window locks will help keep secure for
what is easily accessible to intruders. Make sure that all windows are also in good working order
and quickly respond to any maintenance issues about a sticky window or broken lock as those
could become fire safety hazards as well.

Make Exit Points Clear

Keeping the entrance and exit points of your rental property clear is also an excellent way to
safeguard against unwanted visitors. Keep large bushes trimmed that could hide visitors to your
property. Consider placing a camera at each entry and exit point to your property to know who
has arrived and departed if a suspicious activity has occurred. Also making sure that the entry
and exit points are clear allowed emergency personnel to enter quickly and renters easy access
to leave in case of an emergency.

Understanding New Jersey Rental Laws

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Landlord/tenant relationships are governed at the federal and state level. There may also be residential rental laws that apply to individual cities and counties. These laws lay out the regulations under which landlords must operate. They also define their remedies for dispute resolution when dealing with unruly tenants. It is important for landlords to understand these regulations. Violations may result in stiff penalties and expose a property owner to civil action.

The following document outlines the rules and regulations governing New Jersey residential housing leases and landlord/tenant relationships. Here you will find everything you need to know to protect yourself from liability in residential housing matters.

> Anti-Discrimination Laws
How to Avoid Housing Discrimination in New Jersey
> New Jersey Laws that Concern Landlords, Renting, and Leases
> New Jersey Laws Concerning Security Deposits
> New Jersey Laws Regarding Lease Agreements and Rent
> New Jersey and the Implied Warranty of Habitability
> Lease Termination and Eviction
Notice of Entry
Landlord Disclosures
Business Licenses
New Jersey Helpful Links

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

These regulations are laid out in Title VI and VIII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VIII, known as the Fair Housing Act, or the Civil Rights Act of 1968, extends civil rights protections to the housing market. This was in an effort to desegregate neighborhoods. Today, these laws still apply but that does not stop illegal practices from happening. It is unlawful for any landlord to deny housing on the basis of:

  • Race,
  • Religion or creed,
  • Nation of origin,
  • Sex or gender,
  • Familial status,
  • Or disability.

Illegal actions include:

  • Segregating tenants based on race;
  • Limiting access to amenities based on a protected characteristic;
  • Denying an individual with a disability a “reasonable accommodation”;
  • Charging a disabled individual a security deposit based on the presence of a service animal;
  • Charging increased rent or a security deposit based on the presence of children.

The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits landlords from refusing to make “reasonable accommodations” for individuals with disabilities. Landlords must understand that a no-pets policy does not apply to service animals and service animals do more than act as guide dogs. If a tenant can show that their service animal is registered and provide proof from healthcare professionals that the service animal is necessary, the landlord must accommodate the tenant.

New Jersey Housing Discrimination Laws

New Jersey extends civil rights protections to others. This prohibits discrimination on the basis of:

  • Marital, domestic union, or partnership status;
  • Sexual orientation or affectional orientation;
  • Gender identity or expression;
  • Source of income.

A landlord may not deny housing, refuse to show, or advertise a property that “does not accept section 8” vouchers. While landlords are allowed to ask tenants where their income comes from, or about their credit history, this form must be filled out by all applicants. The forms can not mention any reference to any other protected characteristics.

New Jersey does not specifically list any “exemptions” to this law. However, 55 and over communities are allowed to extend rental offers only to those who are over 55 and over.

How to Avoid Housing Discrimination in New Jersey

Making your selection process as transparent as possible is the key to avoiding housing discrimination in New Jersey. Landlords are advised to select the first qualified applicant. Landlords can reject applications on the basis of poor credit, criminal record, or a prior eviction.

New Jersey Laws that Concern Landlords, Renting, and Leases

The following outlines all the state’s laws concerning landlord/tenant relationships, dispute remedies, and regulations. As you can plainly see they are extensive, difficult to read, and esoteric. The purpose of this guide is not to burden either landlords or tenants with the precise text of the law, but to provide a handy list of guidelines that can be referenced in your dealings.

New Jersey Laws Concerning Security Deposits

New Jersey security deposit laws can be found in N.J. Stat. §§ 46:8-19 – 46:8-2. These laws lay out how much owners can charge for a security deposit and what the procedure is for withholding money from a security deposit. These laws, however, do not apply to owner-occupied rentals with two or less rental units if the tenant has not provided 30-days notice before moving out.

New Jersey law limits the maximum security deposit to one and one-half month’s rent (§§ 46:8-21.2). If a landlord wishes to charge a pet deposit, the total deposit cannot exceed 150% of a month’s rent. There is no statute in New Jersey prohibiting non-refundable fees.

The landlord must confirm receipt of the deposit by notifying the tenant of the name and address of the institution in which it is being held. They must also include the current interest rate. If the landlord chooses to move the deposit, they must likewise inform the tenant of where the deposit is being moved (§§ 46:8-19).

The landlord is required to pay back the security deposit with interest. This also includes rent that was paid in advance. A landlord may, however, credit the interest back to the tenant as part of their rent (§§ 46:8-19).

In addition, a landlord must hold the security deposit in a separate bank or other interest-bearing account. According to the statute, a landlord must separate the account in which the security deposit is held from other personal accounts. Landlords who own 10 or more rental units are required to invest the security deposits in a qualified money-market account. Landlords with less than 10 units can use a savings account or other interest-bearing account (§§ 46:8-19).

A landlord has 30 days to return a security deposit starting from the last day of the lease. The deposit must include any interest accrued over the duration of the lease period. Note that these statutes may change in the case of a fire, flood, or other weather disaster (§§ 46:8-21.1).

In addition, the landlord is allowed to use the deposit for any and all damages caused by the tenant above simple wear and tear. If the landlord seeks to use the deposit to pay for damages to the rental unit, they must present the tenant with an itemized list of the damages for which the deposit will be used. This list must be delivered personally or by certified mail (§§ 46:8-21.1).

Lastly, if the landlord fails to comply with any of these regulations, they can be held liable in the amount of twice the security deposit (§§ 46:8-21.1) plus attorney and court fees.

New Jersey Laws Regarding Lease Agreements and Rent

The lease dictates when the tenant will pay rent. If the landlord seeks to increase rent, they must inform the tenant at least 30 days prior to the increase. The tenant has the option to quit in lieu of paying extra rent (Rent Increase Bulletin). Local rent control ordinances may put further restrictions on rent increases.

Landlords must afford tenants a five-day (business days) grace period for paying rent. Business days exclude Saturday, Sunday, and federal holidays (§§ 2A:42-6.1 and §§ 2A:42-6.3). Landlords may charge late fees, but the Truth in Renting Act demands that they inform tenants in the lease what the penalties are for late rent.

If the tenant bounces a check to the landlord, the landlord can give them a 35-day notice to remedy. If the tenant does not remedy within 35 days, the landlord can append a charge of $100 or three times the amount of the check, whichever is greater. This amount, however, cannot exceed $500 (§§ 2A:32A-1).

New Jersey and the Implied Warranty of Habitability

Landlords are expected to provide habitable dwelling units for their tenants. Rental units that do not provide:

  • Heat,
  • hot water,
  • Functioning plumbing,
  • Functioning locks,
  • Or protection from the weather,

May be considered uninhabitable. When a rental unit is uninhabitable, this triggers a number of tenant’s rights, including the right to:

  • Withhold rent, or 
  • Deduct rent and remedy the issue themselves.

In addition, a landlord may not retaliate or initiate eviction proceedings if the tenant has refused to pay based on a legitimate habitability issue. However, tenants have the burden of proving that the problem they have withheld or deducted rent for is a legitimate habitability issue. These include:

  •   Broken toilets,
  •   Lack of hot water,
  •   Lack of heat or electricity,
  •   Broken windows / damaged locks.

In addition, landlords must maintain a temperature of at least 68℉ between the dates of October 1st and May 1st for every dwelling unit that they own during the hours of 6 am to 11 pm and 65℉ between 11 pm and 6 am.

Landlords must also comply with local building, fire, and safety codes. For more information, please read the New Jersey Habitability Bulletin.

Lease Termination and Eviction

If a landlord must sue a tenant or initiate an eviction, they are allowed to recover court and attorneys fees, but they must mention this in the lease in accord with Truth in Renting Act. A landlord must also make some attempt to mitigate damages to a tenant that they have evicted. This includes attempting to re-rent the property (Sommer v. Kridel).

Tenants and landlords are free to exit lease agreements without providing notice when the lease has a fixed end date.

Eviction laws can be found in N.J.S.A. 2A:18-53 THROUGH 2A:18-84.

If a landlord seeks to terminate a yearly tenancy with no fixed end date, they must give the tenant three-months notice. A landlord must give a tenant one-month notice if he or she is on a month-to-month lease. If the tenant is on a week-to-week lease, the landlord must give the tenant seven days.

A landlord may terminate a lease immediately for non-payment if the landlord has not accepted late payments prior to that date (2A:18-61.2). In that case, the landlord must give the tenant a 30-day notice.

A landlord must also give the tenant a 30-day notice to vacate if the tenant has violated any term of the lease. If the tenant has caused damage to the property or engaged in disorderly conduct, the landlord need only give the tenant three days to vacate (2A:18-61.2).

If the tenant fails to vacate the premises in the allotted time, the landlord may charge the tenant “double rent” or holdover rent for each month the tenant remains in illegal possession of the property (N.J.S.A. 2A:42-5).

A landlord may not, however, engage in “self-help” eviction tactics. These include locking a tenant out of the premises or shutting off the utilities. A landlord who engages in such conduct is not only violating civil statutes but criminal statutes as well (Truth in Renting p26).

Notices of Entry

New Jersey laws regarding the right of entry for landlords are covered in the Right of Entry Bulletin. Landlords are generally advised to give tenants one day of notice before entering the premises (p2). This includes performing routine maintenance and repairs.

Landlords can request that tenants give them access to the rental unit for the purpose of showing the apartment. But tenants are under no obligation to grant the landlord access to the property (p2).

Landlords may access the property without notice if conditions exist that put the tenants, other tenants, or neighbors in danger (p2).

Landlord Disclosures

In accord with the Landlord Identity Law, landlords must file a certificate of registration with a city or county clerk. This certificate must contain the name and address of the owner of the property or the corporate officers when the owner is a corporation. It must also contain the name and address of a property manager or superintendent and any other individual who is employed for the purpose of providing maintenance to the property. The clerk will make this certificate available to the public. The landlord must provide each of their tenants with a copy of the certificate.

The Truth in Renting Act requires landlords to disclose the tenant and landlord’s rights and responsibilities.

If a tenant is the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking, they have certain rights. These can include terminating the lease or changing the locks. More information can be found on page six of the Truth in Renting Guide. Landlords are allowed to ask for proof of status.

Business Licenses

Landlords are required to file a certificate of registration with their local clerk. This document can be found here. Otherwise, there is no statewide statute requiring landlords to have business licenses. The Bureau of Housing Inspection may conduct inspections every five years of hotels or multi-family dwellings to ensure the general safety of the rental units and ensure that they are up to code.

This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

5 secrets to being a profitable landlord

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online tenant screening
Step one: online tenant screening

Owning rental properties may seem like an easy way to make money. However, being a landlord is anything but easy! From common financial pitfalls to terrible tenants, you aren’t maximizing your profits unless you are minimizing expenses and avoiding costly problems. Here are five landlord secrets that will help you make the most out of your rental property year after year.

1. Check references for all your potential tenants

If you aren’t able to confirm a potential tenant has a good track record, think twice about handing over the key. Even a first-time renter should have some references to provide. It could be a teacher, a past landlord, an employer – anyone who can attest to the fact this person is honest, reliable, and responsible. It’s a good idea to invest in a complete background check, too. There are online tenant screening services you can use to view credit history, eviction records, and any other legal problems to make sure that the person who wants to live in your rental is who they say they are. No matter how well you manage your business, one bad tenant is all it takes to go from making good money to losing a ton of it thanks to legal fees and lost rental income. In many cases, landlords have had to hire private investigators, litigate in court, or forfeit missing rent money just to get rid of a bad or non-paying tenant. Do your due diligence beforehand to avoid costly headaches down the road.

2. Inform yourself about tax benefits

Landlord tax benefits can vary by state so be sure to do your research and check with a certified accountant in your area to get all the details on what is available to you. You may be able to save money every year using the interest on your mortgage as a tax deduction, or by deducting a certain percentage of your rental losses. Some states will also allow you to deduct insurance premiums, maintenance costs or utility fees. You could be saving thousands of dollars annually, increasing your profit margins.

3. Learn how to do repairs yourself

Calling a professional repair service every time something breaks is certainly going to cost you a pretty penny. Depending on the size of your income property or the number of tenants, repairs can be an almost daily issue. If you can learn to repair things on your own, you’ll save thousands of dollars a year in labor fees alone. It’ll cost you less, in the long run, to invest in proper training from a licensed trade school. Plus, as a licensed general contractor, you’ll also gain access to lower pricing from hardware stores in your area.

4. Avoid empty apartments

Every day an apartment sits vacant is a day of money lost. As the property owner, you are still paying the taxes and fees for that property whether it is rented out or not. If a tenant advises you they will be leaving, create an online rental listing right away and get to work on finding a new renter. It will take time to vet someone before they can sign a lease so give yourself as much time as you can. If you don’t have advanced notice of a departure, you can try options like Airbnb for short-term occupancy, or you can consider renting your place out for weeks at a time until you find a long-term tenant to move in.

5. Do your homework before you invest

One of the most common misconceptions of owning a rental property is that it is easy money, requiring little to no effort. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t invest in an income property without crunching actual numbers and informing yourself on all the expenses you can or may face. Speak to other landlords in your area (state apartment associations are a great resource), find a lawyer you trust who is well-versed in landlord-tenant law and ask them how the law protects you and what the usual course of action is when something goes awry. Owning an income property is real work and the only way to maximize your profits is to understand exactly what’s expected of you.

Understanding New Mexico Rental Laws

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Each state has specific laws that govern landlord/tenant relationships. The laws are designed to resolve disputes in a standard way. In addition, the federal government has laws governing civil rights abuses and tenancies. Here, we will go over both federal and state laws affecting residential rental properties.

> Anti-Discrimination Laws
> Exemptions from Fair Housing and Anti-Discrimination Laws
> Avoiding Discrimination Claims
> New Mexico State Rules and Regulations Governing Rent Laws
> New Mexico Rules Regarding Security Deposits
> Deadlines and Withholdings for Security Deposits
> New Mexico Rent Laws
> The Implied Warranty of Habitability
> Lease Termination and Eviction
> Landlord / Tenant Lawsuits
> Notice of Entry
> Landlord Disclosures
> Domestic Violence Situations
> Business Licenses
> State Resources and Other Helpful Information

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

In accord with the Fair Housing Act, which is also known as the Civil Rights Act of 1968, landlords and realtors are prohibited from artificially segregating their tenants. It is therefore unlawful to deny an individual housing on the basis of:

  • Race,
  • Religion or creed,
  • Nation of origin,
  • Sex or gender,
  • Familial status,
  • Or disability.

Specific kinds of prohibited actions include (but are not limited to):

  • Using discriminatory language in rental applications,
  • Charging more rent or raising the security deposit based on a tenant’s children,
  • Denying an individual with a disability a reasonable accommodation (including the presence of service animal),
  • Denying residential privileges to a tenant based on a protected characteristic,
  • Or segregating tenants based on race.

These regulations are laid out in Title VI and VIII of the Civil Rights Act. Title VIII, known as the Fair Housing Act, extends civil rights protections to housing. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits landlords from making reasonable accommodations to disabled tenants. This includes the mandatory waiving of a no-pets policy if a disabled tenant provides reasonable proof that he or she requires a service animal. Service animals are not considered pets by law.

However, “emotional support animals” are not considered service animals. Service animals perform a specific function for their owners. For instance, a seeing eye dog helps a blind person navigate. Emotional support animals provide companionship. They are considered pets.

Tenants who rely on such animals for emotional support are advised to find landlords that accept pets. Landlords need not make any accommodations for such animals.

These laws also prohibit landlords from punishing tenants by hiking the rent, evicting them, or taking any action against tenants who assert their legal rights in a residential property dispute (§ 47-8-39).

New Mexico Anti-Discrimination Laws

In addition to adopting federal standards regarding discrimination, many states opt to pass their own laws or extend civil rights protections to other classifications or characteristics in their state. New Mexico is one such state. In addition to the characteristics that are protected by the Fair Housing Act, New Mexico extends protections based on:

  • Ancestry,
  • Sexual orientation,
  • Gender identity,
  • Or spousal affiliation.

City Anti-Discrimination Laws

Cities may also pass anti-discrimination laws that affect properties rented out in the city. These generally include restrictions on discriminating against those with Section 8 vouchers or other kinds of payment methods. Landlords may be required to offer two different payment methods that do not involve a bank or cash. Check with your city’s housing webpage to ensure that you are in compliance.

Exemptions from Fair Housing and Anti-Discrimination Laws

There are a few instances in which anti-discrimination laws are waived. Those include

  • Owner-occupied buildings that have four or fewer rental units,
  • Single-family houses sold without the use of a broker,
  • Housing limited to members of a club or interest group.

Avoiding Discrimination Claims

Landlords are advised to make their selection process as transparent as possible. The best way to do that is to select the first qualified applicant. On the other hand, there are legitimate reasons for disqualifying an applicant. Those may include: criminal record, former eviction, or poor credit.

New Mexico State Rules and Regulations Governing Rent Laws

New Mexico laws regarding residential housing can be found in the Uniform Owner-Resident Relations Act: N.M. Stat. Ann. § 47-8-1 – 47-8-52

New Mexico Rules Regarding Security Deposits

Each state has specific rules regarding security deposits. In New Mexico, landlords must demand “reasonable” security deposits. For rental agreements that are for less than one year, the security deposit cannot exceed one month’s rent (§ 47-8-18(A)). Any deposit that requires more than one month’s rent requires interest be paid to the tenant in the amount of the passbook interest that is permitted to lending institutions (§ 47-8-18(A)(1)). Current rates can be found here. The law, however, does not require the landlord to hold the security deposit in a separate savings account.

Deadlines and Withholdings for Security Deposits

Landlords are required to return the security deposit in whole no later than one month after the termination of the tenancy or the day that the tenant has moved out. In this case, the clock begins on whichever date is later. So, if the tenant moves out before the end date on the lease, then the clock would begin on the end date of the lease (§ 47-8-18(D)).

Landlords may only use the security deposit for specific reasons (§ 47-8-18(C)). Those include:

  • To pay unpaid rent,
  • To recover damages to the property.

If the landlord seeks to withhold money from the security deposit, he or she must provide the tenant with an itemized list of damages (§ 47-8-18(D)). Failure to comply with this statute will result in the landlord forfeiting the right:

  • To withhold any money from the deposit,
  • To assert a counterclaim in an action to recover the deposit,
  • To sue for damages to the rental property.

In addition, the landlord becomes liable for the renter’s legal fees and any other costs relating to the recovery of the deposit (§ 47-8-18(D)).

New Mexico Rent Laws

In New Mexico, the landlord can set the terms as far as when rent is due and the tenant is free to accept or reject those terms (§ 47-8-15(B)). However, there are restrictions regarding late fees for unpaid rent. The landlord can charge a late fee if the tenant is made aware of the fee in the lease agreement, but the fee cannot exceed 10% of the payment period (§ 47-8-15(D)). The landlord is also required to give the tenant notice that the late fee has been charged.

In addition, a landlord is allowed to charge the tenant a $25 fee for a bounced check.

Landlords can ask tenants for prepaid rent (§ 47-8-18(B)).

The Implied Warranty of Habitability

Residential rental units are rented under the implied warranty of habitability. This means that the landlord has an obligation to provide the tenant with the basic requirements necessary for habitability. This includes:

  • A functioning roof and protection from the weather,
  • Functioning heat, electricity, water, and plumbing,
  • Garbage disposal receptacles,
  • And a safe, sanitary environment.

A tenant can withhold rent (§ 47-8-27.1, § 47-8-27.2) if a landlord neglects to address habitability problems with the property. The tenant must have written proof that they made the landlord aware of the problem seven days prior. If the unit is uninhabitable, the tenant is allowed to hold 100% of the daily prorated amount of rent. If one or more issues exist with the property that impacts its habitability, the tenant can withhold one-third of the daily prorated cost of rent.

In addition, a landlord is also expected to:

  • Comply with: building, fire, and safety codes,
  • Keep common areas clean and safe.

This includes providing locks to common exits in apartment buildings or complexes.

Lease Termination and Eviction

When the lease specifies a fixed end date, neither the landlord nor the tenant need give any notice to terminate the lease. A month-to-month lease, however, requires 30-days notice in writing before termination (§ 47-8-37(B)) and a week-to-week lease requires a seven-day written notice (§ 47-8-37(B)).

If a tenant is delinquent in rent, a landlord may issue a three-day notice to remedy or quit (§ 47-8-33). In other words, the tenant may pay the outstanding balance in full, or the lease will be terminated.

If a tenant violates any term of the lease, the landlord may issue a seven-day notice to remedy or quit (§ 47-8-33A). However, if this is the second time within the last six months that the tenant has violated the terms of the lease, the landlord is allowed to issue a seven-day notice to quit. In other words, the tenant has violated the lease and now has no other option than to move (§ 47-8-33B). The landlord is required to supply the tenant with a note specifying which lease terms the tenant violated and the dates of those violations. In order to trigger this action, the landlord must warn the tenant that a second breach will result in a termination of the lease.

Under no circumstances may a landlord cut the tenants utilities or lock them out of the rental unit (§ 47-8-36, § 47-8-36(A)(4)).

All of the tenant’s duties as specified under the law can be found here.

Landlord/Tenant Lawsuits

If a lawsuit ensues over a rental dispute, the prevailing party is entitled to collect legal and court fees (§ 47-8-48). The prevailing party must, however, attempt to mitigate damages to the other party. For instance, if a landlord charges a tenant after an eviction, they must make a reasonable attempt to re-rent the property (§ 47-8-6(A)).

Notice of Entry

Tenants do have a right to their privacy. If a landlord seeks to enter the rental unit, they must give the tenants 24 hours before doing unless they are making repairs after a seven-day notice has been issued by the tenant (§ 47-8-24(A)(1) and (2)). The 24-hour rule also applies to all other repairs and showing the rental unit. In a justified emergency, the landlord may enter the property without notice.

Landlord Disclosures

At the beginning of any tenancy, a landlord must disclose specific information about themselves, the property manager, or another who is authorized to receive legal notices on behalf of the property owner (§ 47-8-19). This information includes their name, address, and telephone number.

The landlord is also required to give each tenant a copy of the rental agreement prior to the date that they move in (§ 47-8-20(G)).

In addition, the landlord must disclose the presence of lead on the property. This requires the landlord to append this lead disclosure pamphlet to the lease.

Domestic Violence Situations

A landlord cannot evict a tenant who has proof that he or she was the victim of domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking on the basis of that event. The tenant must show that he or she has a restraining order against the assailant. The tenant can use this is a defense to stop an eviction (§ 47-8-33(J)).

Business Licenses

The State of New Mexico does not require landlords to have business licenses. However, individual municipalities at the city level might. You will need to check with the governing authority in the territory in which you rent property.

6 ways to maximize profit on your rental property

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maximize-rental-profits
6 ways to maximize your rental profits
If you’re considering making the leap to do-it-yourself (DIY) property management, rental market conditions have almost never been better. Ninety-one percent of the largest US cities have seen rent increases in the last twelve months and rental rates are also at 50-year highs, with nearly 37 percent of households renting.
While the demand for properties is definitely in your favor, there are some important factors to keep in mind before listing a property or preparing a lease. To maximize profit on your rental property, first-time landlords should approach the process with a business mindset.

1. Perform Preventative Maintenance

It’s wise to invest in professional deep-cleaning and fresh paint before listing a property. “‘Rent ready’ means the property has been cleaned, repaired, or remodeled and that it’s in rentable condition for new tenants,” says realtor Tony Sena. While presenting a property in the best possible condition can help you attract quality tenants, maintenance efforts shouldn’t stop once the lease is signed.
While it’s critical to follow applicable tenant privacy laws, commit to regularly inspecting and proactively servicing the plumbing, paint, and HVAC. Preventative maintenance is the best safeguard against costly repairs.

2. Set Competitive Pricing

Establishing fair pricing for your rental is protection against lost profits. Overpriced rent can lead to costly vacancies, while undercharging means you’re leaving potential profit on the table. To establish a price for your rental which is fair, utilize a variety of resources to understand your competition:
  • Research rental listings online to determine pricing in your neighborhood
  • Investigate the condition and amenities of competitive rentals
  • Evaluate local real estate market data to understand supply and demand
  • Consider creating a pricing strategy based on lease duration
  • Calculate the monthly financial impact of a vacant rental property

To get all the information about how to price your rental in one place, Rentler offers custom Rentability Reports that give you insights into similar listings, market saturation, vacancy rates, and trends for your area.

3. Screen Tenants

Carefully screening prospective tenants is among the most effective tools to minimize risks of property damage and unpaid rent. “When you’re choosing tenants for your rental property, you have to be careful about gathering all the necessary information and verifying everything that you find on the application,” says broker Anne McCawley.
Set clear criteria in accordance with Fair Housing Laws to find the right fit based on prospective tenant’s criminal history, credit score, income, and rental references. Criteria to consider and include in your listing can include:
  • Sufficient household income, generally three times the monthly rent
  • Consistent employment history
  • Strong landlord references and stable rental history
  • No prior criminal convictions
  • A healthy credit score

4. Follow Fair Housing Laws

As a first-time landlord, it’s imperative to educate yourself thoroughly on all applicable laws at the Federal, State, and City level. In addition to the Fair Housing Act, property managers are subject to state and local mandates which dictate screening, inspections, tenant privacy, evictions, and other key activities. Civil penalties can cost $19,787 for first-time Fair Housing violations. To make sure you’re following all the rules, check out these state law guides.

5. Make it Easy to Pay Rent

Being able to pay rent online is a good way to ensure that you get paid on time. Make sure you’re using a secure online service to collect rent. An online payment portal for bank, debit, and credit card payments is convenient for users, especially when online portals allow tenants to split rent among roommates. Online payments protect profit by allowing you to send tenant reminders and assess late fees. Plus, it helps make your rental more valuable by offering credit reporting that can help build your tenant’s credit.

6. Keep Effective Records

Adopt a method of record-keeping for your rental property, and use it consistently. Careful records can maximize your deductions when tax time rolls around, and protect you in case of an audit. Track money invested into your business, profits, and legal documents. It also helps to track any maintenance requests to make sure that you’re staying on top of it- plus you have a record when it comes time to return a deposit.
Managing your own rental property can optimize the profitability potential of your investment…if you do it right. Preparing a home for listing requires much more than deep-cleaning and renovations. Approaching your business with a practical mindset and utilizing digital tools for screening and collecting rent can help minimize rental risks and make sure your cash flow stays positive.

How to stay on top of maintenance requests

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How to stay on top of maintenance requests.
If you own rental property, maintenance requests from tenants are inevitable, even if you’re diligent about regular upkeep. Things wear out over time, and you may have to replace or make repairs to a variety of items. Whether you have one rental property or several, staying on top of maintenance requests demands organizational skills. Fortunately, these skills are easy to learn (and there are tools to help you out along the way).

Keeping Records

The need for documentation at every step of the maintenance request process cannot be understated. Time-stamped records from the moment a tenant notifies you of an issue through its complete resolution ensure that facts can be backed up in case of a dispute down the line. If tenants call you with an issue, ask them to put it in writing so the paper trail can begin.
Keep all communications regarding the issue. Memories get fuzzy, and tenants might not remember breaking something when it was clearly their fault. You might even forget how much a repair costs when it comes time deduct it from the security deposit. Easily accessible records, including receipts for materials and vendor invoices, will provide the information you need.

Updating Tenants

Tenants want to know that you’re handling their request in a timely manner. If they don’t hear from you after submitting a request, they may become anxious or frustrated. Don’t go radio silent. For example, if you’re waiting for a part to come in, let them know. If the part doesn’t show up when you’re expecting it, let them know. If you can’t get an appointment with a repairman until two weeks from Sunday, let them know. Keeping your tenants in the loop won’t leave them wondering whether you’re blowing them off and will go a long way in curbing any frustrations they have.
Again, whatever the update, do it in writing. Proof of your good-faith communications could come in handy if there are any problems later on.

Outsourcing Maintenance

Be ready to outsource when difficult maintenance problems come up. You may not be able to handle every maintenance request yourself. Even if you’re handy, you simply may not have the time.
Be proactive and put together a list of service people you can call before you even need to call them. Researching professionals in the area, reading reviews, and checking credentials can take considerable time. The last thing you want to be is scrambling to find a plumber when a pipe has burst. You’re probably going to want that guy on speed dial.

Simplifying the Process With Digital Maintenance Requests

If you really want to make things easy on yourself, you can use an online tool that not only keeps your records safe and in one place but also allows your tenants to submit repair requests. Tenants may also upload pictures so you can determine the magnitude of a given issue.
You’ll receive the notifications in real time and be able to track the progress of each request. You just upload your documentation (receipts, invoices, emails, etc.) so there’s a digital paper trail—every piece of it time-stamped and easy to retrieve.

Additional Tips

  • Be sure to give your tenants proper written notice whenever you or a service person will be entering the property. The required notice varies by state.
  • Make it clear to any vendors you use that they should perform only the specific maintenance requested by you. This avoids added expense in the event that your tenants ask them to do something else while they’re on the property.
  • Follow up with your tenants after the fact. You don’t want to pay a repairman and find out months later he never showed up or did a poor job. Knowing the issue has been resolved can prevent future disputes, as well as the additional expense of fixing an unsolved issue that has grown bigger over time. And yes, just like everything else, do this in writing.