Monthly Archives: September 2015

Benefits of Hiring a Property Management Company

Some property owners either know deep inside or find out after several unsuccessful stints with tenants that they are not meant to be hands-on landlords. In other words, they may not have the time, knowledge or desire to do all the tasks that landlords must do in order to get the property to turn a profit. These property owners are the perfect candidates for hiring a property manager to come in and take over the day-to-day essentials of managing one rental or multiple rentals.

What is a Property Management Company?

A property management company is one that handles all tenant activities, from screening to evictions. In return for their services, they are paid by the property owner.

A property management company will generally provide owners with comprehensive services that include:

  • Marketing vacant apartments
  • Turnover tasks
  • Arranging for maintenance and repair
  • Applicant screening
  • Collecting rent and deposits
  • Refunding deposits according to city and state laws
  • Delivering official notices to tenants
  • Eviction process

This is only a short list of all the tasks that a landlord or property management company must perform, and for some landlords, it’s worth the time and money for someone else to do it.

How Can Property Managers Help?

The benefits of hiring a professional property management company include saving property owners a lot of stress, plus quite a bit of time and money. Unless landlords are willing to put in the effort to educate themselves on property management, they are at a higher risk of dealing with bad tenants.

Screening

Smart property owners know that a rental property only produces income when it is occupied by great tenants who pay their rent on time. These tenants must also be considerate enough to take care of the place and not do any damage beyond normal wear and tear. The flip side of this scenario is a bad tenant who doesn’t pay and causes considerable damage. It’s this situation that makes owning and managing a rental property time-consuming, expensive and frustrating.

Screening applicants is one of the most important aspects of ensuring that a property owner gets good tenants and if the owner skips this part of the process, it raises the risk of getting questionable tenants who may not pay the rent or who may not take good care of the property.

Vacancies and Retention

When a rental property is vacant, it can be a real drain on the finances of the property owner. After all, an empty rental doesn’t have anyone paying rent, meaning that the mortgage comes out of the owner’s savings. Sometimes, doing the marketing, turnover and more can take a lot of time for a busy property owner, but a property manager has the experience and expertise to shorten the vacancy time and get the unit ready for new tenants. Tenant retention is another important part of keeping units occupied, and a good property manager will do everything they can to ensure that good tenants stay put.

Lease Agreement

Creating and enforcing a solid lease agreement takes a lot of time and effort, and for many property owners, the idea of confrontation is both unpleasant and time-consuming. A property manager can act on behalf of the owner and spend the time enforcing the lease, such as sending out official notices, tracking paperwork, and fielding angry phone calls. If the tenant does not comply with the notice, the property manager can begin eviction proceedings instead of the property owner.

Legal Issues

Another significant benefit is that a property management company will handle what is probably the scariest aspect of being a landlord–the legal situations that will inevitably arise. Getting up to speed on landlord-tenant laws for each state is a lot of work, and things can vary even from city to city. Property owners who either don’t have time or don’t have the desire can depend on a property manager to make sure that the property and the procedures are all legally compliant. Ignorance is a major cause of landlords ending up at court defending costly lawsuits, so hiring a company that is well-versed in landlord-tenant law can really be a benefit to property owners.

In summary, property owners who own several properties, have little experience being a landlord or who simply don’t have the time or desire to be a good landlord should consider hiring a property management company. The downside is that property owners will also have to include the expense of using such a company to their profit and loss figures. Some companies will do as much or as little of the work as the owner would like, while others are full service only. Also, rates for property management services will differ from area to area. However, for property owners who want the benefits of investing in real estate but don’t want the workload of a landlord, hiring a property management company is a viable option.

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Storage Solutions in a Small Rental Home

Some might argue that one of the biggest downsides to renting an apartment is the lack of space for storage. A house has attics and basements and garages where you can put things like winter clothes and Christmas decorations. Successfully storing such things in a smaller living situation is definitely doable, but requires you to be a little smarter about how you go about it.

Here are 5 simple tips and tweaks that can help keep your rental home neat and organized:

1. Under Beds

The space under the beds is an ideal place to store overflow from closets and cupboards. Choose things that you don’t need often and maximize the space by vacuum sealing folded piles of clothing, blankets or sleeping bags. There are also inexpensive totes sold at big box stores that are designed to fit easily in the space. If your home has particularly small bedrooms, you can place each bed on risers that will give you extra inches to easily place boxes for toys, books or other miscellaneous items you need to keep out of the way, but reasonably accessible.

2. Back of the Closet

At first glance, it may seem like your closet is full, but there is a way to further use the tall and narrow storage space that it provides. For instance, place a narrow bookshelf in the back to store things or stack items such as camping gear or wrapping paper. There’s a lot that can be stored behind hanging clothing where it is both discrete and out of the way. Closets that are simply open spaces can be fitted with shelves to allow for more organized vertical space. Don’t forget to utilize the space at the very top of the closet as well, and hang items from hooks or nails as needed.

3. Walls and Doors

Consider using walls as a storage option for smaller things like kitchen tools or toiletries. Hooks and small shelves free up drawer and cabinet space, but check with your landlord before you do anything that is going to damage the walls. He may be happier about the idea if you are able to install your items properly and are willing to leave the additions when you go. There are several products on the market, like over-the-door shoe organizers, that  hang on the backs of doors and provide dozens of pockets for numerous items in the bedroom, bathroom or closet.

4. De-clutter

It doesn’t hurt to assess your possessions every six months to a year in order to decide what you can live without. It’s amazing how much stuff we pick up and store when there is really no need. Cluttered space takes up more room and makes things harder to find. Spend a weekend de-cluttering drawers, closets, and more and you’ll be amazed at the reclaimed space. When it comes to storing something that you rarely use, you may determine that it isn’t an essential part of your life and you can make do without it. Eliminating extra clutter may even simplify your life.

5. Storage Unit

While paying a large monthly fee to a storage unit may not be in your interests financially if you can make use of the living space in your rental home, there are times when it is a good idea. For instance, the vintage furniture passed down from your grandmother may be too bulky for your apartment, but you want to keep it for when you have more space. Or, your prized book collection is too numerous for your existing shelves and must wait in their carefully packed boxes until you have space to accommodate them. Make sure that the acquisition of a unit is worth the expense, whether it involves sentimentality or will offset a future cost. I once rented a small storage unit for some extra furniture that I didn’t have room for, but I knew I would need within a year or so. Even with the rental cost, it was far less than purchasing the furniture again down the road.

Living in a rental home often means learning to be smart and frugal. When you can fit your life into the space you have, you are on the road to becoming and more organized and settled person.

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Add Some Romance to the Master Bedroom, Survey Says

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey It’s time to add more romance into your designs. One-third of home owners say they’re renovating their master bedrooms to create a more romantic or intimate space, according to the 2015 U.S. Houzz Bedroom Trends survey of more than 1,500 home owners. What does that entail? Contemporary finishes, soft neutral color […]

Drones Revisited

I have really smart readers. A few pointed out an error in last week’s newsletter involving drones. This is one of them:

When it comes to drones, there are rules for hobbyists and rules for non-hobby activity. A board member filming the work on a roofing project for the purpose of inspection probably falls outside the boundaries of a hobbyist activity. It likely falls under civil operation and would require a section 333 exemption. -Melanie H.

Hobby Exemption. Melanie is correct. To fly a drone without registering it requires that it be flown strictly for hobby or recreational use. (Public Law 112-95 section 336.) The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has applied model aircraft guidelines to drones, which they classify as “unmanned aircraft systems.” (Interpretation of Special Rule for Model Aircraft.) A board member using a drone to inspect and film the HOA’s roofing company would likely be deemed a “business” purpose not recreational.

Business Purposes. FAA policy specifically excludes the use of unmanned aircraft systems for business purposes. (72 FR at 6690.) Business purposes are not limited to for-profit companies but would apply to non-profit associations as well. I know it seems silly but that means a board member flying his drone to document roof work for the association should get a section 333 exemption. As of September 22, 2015, the FAA had granted 1,658 such exemptions, mostly for aerial photography and surveying.

RECOMMENDATION: Under current FAA guidelines, associations should not use drones for business purposes such as inspecting common areas, monitoring vendors, documenting rules violations, etc. without first getting an exemption from the FAA.

Thank you to attorney Adam Jeffery for researching the regulations related to drones.

ADAM JEFFERY
JOINS ADAMS KESSLER


I am pleased to announce the hiring of attorney Adam Jeffery. Adam will work with our Inland Empire managing attorney Cang Le to service
our growing client base in the Desert Cities, Temecula and Riverside.

Experience. Adam’s background includes real estate, business and contract law. He was recently with a busy litigation firm where he worked on quiet title actions, mortgage disputes, breach of contract and breach of warranty issues.

Dispute Resolution. During law school, Adam conducted court-assigned mediations at the Riverside Superior Court. In his externship, he assisted with mediations and voluntary settlement conferences. He was also on the ADR Competition team in mediation and negotiations. In addition, Adam competed on the Trial Advocacy Competition team.

Education. Adam was on the Dean’s List and earned his Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of California at Riverside. He went on to earn his Juris Doctorate from the University of La Verne College of Law. His team won first place at the College of Law Intramural Negotiation Competition. His honors include CALI Awards for Civil Procedure, Advanced Evidence Practicum and Capital Punishment Seminar.

Contact Us. To learn more about our legal services, contact us.

MORE
ARTIFICIAL TURF


QUESTION: Our HOA is responsible for front yard landscape maintenance and replacement. But owners pay the water bill. Per the new law, would homeowners have the right to install artificial turf even though they don’t control their front yard maintenance?

ANSWER: Nobody knows and ultimately the courts may have to answer your question. Normally, I would say this situation is analogous to townhouse roofs where members own their roofs but maintenance and replacement is controlled by the association. In such cases, owners do not have right to alter their roofs. They can’t, for example, change the roofing material from shingles to tile.

Unclear Principle. The same principle should apply to lawns. Owners do not have the right to change or interfere with landscape materials installed and maintained by the association. Even so, a judge could decide differently because of (i) the drought emergency, (ii) the owner is paying for the water, and (iii) the intent of the legislature to encourage artificial turf.

Too Broad. As noted in an earlier newsletter, the change to the Davis-Stirling Act makes void any architectural or landscape guidelines that prohibit members from installing artificial turf. (Civ. Code §4735(a)(2).) In my opinion, the statute is too broad. In a situation where an owner maintains flower beds per existing architectural guidelines, does the statute give him the power to tear them out and install artificial turf? Doing so would completely change the aesthetics of the development. I hope a judge would say “No” to such nonsense but who knows?

RECOMMENDATION: Associations should establish clear policies on turf specifications (color, quality, base materials, etc.), where it can be installed, and standards requiring replacement when the condition and color of the material drops below a certain standard.

FEEDBACK


Deadlocked #1
.
Good article on deadlocked boards. We had this situation two years ago, and our board honored a homeowners’ petition for a special election. The election itself had one of our highest participation rates ever (close to 80%) and we elected an excellent person to the board. -Norbert K.

Deadlocked #2. Another technique I have seen is that a director resigns effective upon the appointment of their successor. Therefore, the resigning director votes on his/her successor and the deadlock option is avoided. -Donald H.

RESPONSE: Yes, if done properly, a resigning director can participate in the appointment of his/her successor so as to avoid a deadlock. See Director Resignations.


Adrian Adams, Esq.
Adams Kessler PLC

“Much More Than Just a Law Firm!” We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or info@adamskessler.com.

Top 3 Legal Disputes That Involve Landlords

A landlord’s lease language, business policies, and business habits can do much to prevent lawsuits or to end one quickly if a tenant decides to file.  However, landlords can also find themselves pulled into disputes that aren’t against them specifically and that they did not cause.  Keep an eye out for these three common ways a landlord might end up in court:

1. Tenant Violation of Local Codes

A tenant who breaks local codes or ordinances can end up pulling a landlord into a dispute with the town, city, or county – especially if the violations are numerous or repeated.  Noise violations, violating occupancy limits, or parking disputes may all result in a local government citing a landlord instead of or in addition to a tenant.

While you can’t control what a tenant does, you can often control who your tenants are.  Use comprehensive, neutral tenant screening tools and processes in order to find better tenants.  Trust your instinct: if you think you’ll get along well with a tenant, you probably will.  And don’t forget to add a clause to the lease that protects your business in case you must go to court due to a tenant’s code or ordinance violation.  Your attorney can help you draft this section.

2. Non-Payment for Repairs and Improvements

Non-payment of rent remains the number one cause of landlord-tenant disputes nationwide, but fewer landlords are prepared for the moment a technician or contractor knocks on the door to demand payment for services at a rental unit that the landlord did not authorize.  Repairs, pool maintenance, landscaping, gutter cleaning, or plumber assistance that a tenant calls for but does not pay for can all end up causing a cash flow problem for a landlord – not to mention a significant headache.

A lease provision that requires tenants to pay for any maintenance services contracted without the landlord’s express permission can help protect landlords in these instances.  While you’ll still have to contact the tenant to get paid, you’ll also have a solid legal argument if the tenant refuses.

3. Jurisdiction and Procedure

So the tenant has filed a lawsuit against you as landlord.  But did the tenant file it using the right documents, in the right court, in the right amount of time, using the right language? Often, these questions – known as “procedural” issues – must be dealt with before the substance of the tenant’s grievance can be addressed.  Instead of memorizing the minutiae of procedure in every location you own a rental property, work with an attorney who knows each jurisdiction and its courts.  This is one place where a relationship with an experienced lawyer can save you a great deal of time and trouble.

Note: This article is not intended as legal advice and should not be understood as such.  If you have a specific legal question, consult an attorney who is licensed to practice law in your area.

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6 Tips on Emergency Preparedness in a Rental Home

We have all seen on the news when a natural disaster like an earthquake, flood, hurricane or snowstorm throws an area into chaos. Healthy citizens are encouraged to stay in safe residences as much as possible until local authorities can get a handle on the situation. In such cases, you are most likely to experience a loss of power and water with most stores and gas stations out of commission. Are you prepared with what you need to sit the crisis out in your rental safely for several days?

One of the downsides of some rental homes is that apartments and condos have less storage space than a house, which may comes with a garage, basement or attic. If this is your situation, it doesn’t let you off the hook when it comes to maintaining an emergency preparedness plan. The experts at the Centers for Disease Control suggest that you should be ready to keep yourself and your family going for approximately 3 days in the event of a crisis or natural disaster. Despite what you might think, meeting this standard doesn’t necessarily require a lot of extra space if you are smart and efficient.

Here are 6 tips on being prepared for emergencies in a rental property:

  1. Water will be your top concern in the event of an emergency so be prepared with a water supply that you can either easily take with you, or use in your home. You should plan on at least 1 gallon of drinking water per person, per day (including pets). Water needs to be stored in a cool, dry place, and it should be switched out every 6 months or so. Filling water bottles and storing them under beds or in the back of the closet is an ideal and easy option.
    If your home is safe to stay in, you should fill every bathtub in the house as long as you have water because you don’t know if or when the supply will temporarily cut off. If it becomes necessary to drink the bathtub water, make sure you have the means to boil or otherwise purify it. You can also buy a plastic bladder that will fit into most standard square tubs. Just fill it with water through a twist off spout and it remains more sanitary than standing water.
  2. Food is your second priority and the CDC recommends a 3-day supply for each person in the house. Choose foods that you and your family are likely to eat, store well and are easy to prepare. Canned and dry goods are ideal, but don’t forget the can opener and utensils.
  3. Whether you are in your home or a temporary site, you will want a simple way to cook your food and boil your water. Camp stoves and mini grills are an ideal way to do this and they don’t require much room to store, with most fitting under a bed or the top of a closet. Camping supply stores are a great place to find lightweight aluminum pots and multi-use utensils, so you don’t have to plan on storing regular, bulky cooking gear. Remember that water is likely going to be scarce, so a supply of disposable plates and cups might be better than washable.
  4. One of the more unpleasant aspects of being stuck anywhere without a water supply is that you will have to rough it when it comes to bathroom facilities. One way of managing such a situation is to purchase a small, inexpensive camp toilet, which is portable and easily stored.
    If you are able to remain in your home, lining your toilet with a heavy duty plastic bag under the lid will allow your family to use it, and you can control the smell by sprinkling a layer of cat litter in there after each use. When needed, the bag simply lifts out for disposal and is replaced with a new one. While the idea might seem unpleasant, it is far more so to be unprepared.
  5. Consider any special needs of your individual family members in the event that you are unable to get access to familiar services for several days. Does someone in your family need electricity to power a medical or oxygen unit? Consider a small, gas powered generator and remember to keep a supply of gas on hand. Do you have enough necessary medication to get through a week or so before you can access your doctor? Ask for an extra prescription that you can fill and keep on hand.
    Contact solution, diapers, wipes, formula, basic first aid kid, emergency blankets, flashlights, lanterns and fresh batteries are also important components of emergency preparedness.
  6. Emergency supplies need to be somewhat portable in the event of an evacuation. One of the easiest ways to consolidate all of the things you would need in an emergency is to designate a backpack or 10-gallon bucket for each person in the home. Place 3 days of food, water and the specific supplies each person needs in their bag and label it.
    If you are lucky enough to stay in your home during a crisis, you will have everything you need without digging for it and if you must evacuate in a hurry, your supplies are easily transportable. Store these 72-hour kits under a bed, or in the back of a rarely used closet and you will be surprised at how little room is required to be fully prepared for anything.

For more information and complete list of what to collect for emergency preparedness while living in a rental, visit the CDC website.

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Should Landlords Get Personal References From Rental Applicants?

When it comes to a rental application, landlords want to know as much as they can about the person that will be occupying their property. By its nature, the rental application should require all kinds of information about the applicant, including credit, previous rental history, employment information and criminal background. One thing that is commonly found on rental applications is the request for personal, or character, references.

As a landlord, you want to do tenant screening to find out everything you can in order to aid you in the decision-making process of renting your property. You also want to save time and resources pursuing those avenues that will give you real information. So, are personal references worth gathering, calling and evaluating? You might be surprised at the answer.

What Are Personal References?

Personal or character references are the names and phone numbers the rental applicant provides on the application. These people will supposedly deliver a positive recommendation and share more about the applicant’s good qualities and character. The personal or character references are generally not family members, but may be friends, co-workers, business associates or others that the applicant feels would provide a positive reference.

Many landlords and property managers feel that personal references are a waste of time because they realize that the personal references are generally going to be people whom the applicant feels would say the best things about them to a potential landlord. Therefore it may seem like on the surface that checking these references may simply be not worth the time to follow up on. After all, if the applicant has put them down as a personal or character reference, then of course they are going to say good things about the applicant, either genuinely or after being coached by the applicant.

3 Reasons to Check Personal References

So why should landlords bother calling references who are simply going to reinforce what the applicant wants you to think? While skipping the personal references is a good way to save landlords some time during the application process, there are a few things to consider before deciding to scrap the references completely.

There are 3 very important reasons to go ahead and make those phone calls:

  1. You may get the ugly truth. There is always a chance that a reference isn’t exactly on board with supporting the applicant and if they are more honest in their recommendations, you’ve gained some valuable information about the applicant. By taking some time and asking open ended questions of the contact person, you’ll make them feel more comfortable and provide them a chance to reveal what they really think.
  2. You get a glimpse of who they associate with. It gives you some insight into what kind of people the applicant associates with, because most personal and character references will represent a cross section of friends and co-workers. Are they all old college buddies that haven’t really talked to the applicant in years? Or are they managers, co-committee members, or longtime friends that give you a snapshot of the applicant’s current life? Getting all the information you can about applicants is valuable in making your overall decision.
  3. You have verified emergency contacts. It’s important to verify that these personal references are real and reachable. Why? In the event that your applicant becomes your tenant and in a worst case scenario, they skip out on you without paying rent. In that unfortunate situation, many landlords regret not getting emergency contacts or personal references up front, before they find themselves scrambling to find anyone who might know where the tenant is. When you are trying to track down a tenant who has abandoned the unit and skipped out on you, having numerous contact people on hand gives you the best chance of reaching them to deliver notices and starting any legal processes.

In summary, listening to what personal references have to say may not make much of a difference in your decision if they are all positive. However, talking to them may surprise you with some less than stellar details, might give you a good idea of what the applicant is like and protect you in the event of a bad situation in the future.

Small Effort May Lead To Big Payoff

Most of the time, contacting an applicant’s personal references may not have much of an impact on your decision-making process. However, the information you gather just might shed some more light on your impression of the applicant and help you go with your gut feeling. Personal or character references sometimes can provide interesting additional information along with prior rental history, employment verification, credit score, income verification, criminal background and so forth.

A good reference from someone doesn’t really mean the person will be a good tenant, and landlords should never base their decision primarily on the quality of personal or character references. Those decisions should be made with measurable, provable information. However, gathering the contact information for personal references, as well as taking the time to communicate with them, may lead to some valuable information and help create a more solid safety net for landlords in the future.

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HGTV Star Shares Chic Solutions for Empty Walls

By Christina El Moussa, HGTV’s “Flip or Flop” When I look at blank walls, I see a fun opportunity to brighten up a room and make it all yours. Of course, if you aren’t super experienced with interior design and décor, you might see a blank wall and think, “Oh my … what am I […]

Deadlocked Board

QUESTION: Upon a resignation, can you tell me how a new director is chosen when the appointment process is tied 3-3 with the remaining board members?

ANSWER: If they can’t agree on a replacement, the board can put the seat up for special election. Only once have I had a board so thoroughly deadlocked that they could not agree on anything. It completely paralyzed operations.

Petition. When that happens, the Corporations Code provides that any director or members holding not less than 33 1/3 percent of the voting power may petition the court appoint a provisional (i.e., temporary) director to break the deadlock. (Corp. Code §7225(a).) The petition is fairly straightforward and is given priority by the courts. If unopposed, the appointment can be done within 30-60 days, depending on the court’s schedule.

Powers & Compensation. A provisional director has all the rights and powers of a director until the deadlock is broken or until removed by an order of the court or by approval of a majority of the membership. The director is entitled to compensation as determined by the court unless otherwise agreed with the association. (Corp. Code §7225(d).) Either way, the association picks up the tab.

RECOMMENDATION: The membership should pressure the board for a special election. It avoids the expense of a provisional director.

HOA DRONES


QUESTION
: One of our board members inspected our roofers with a drone and filmed them. Is it legal to film a contractor without his agreement? Do we need board approval to have a drone flying above the HOA? Can it be published on YouTube? More generally, is it time to replace human walk-thru of properties by movies made by drones?

ANSWER: Yes, you can film a contractor working on your property. You already have the right to inspect your vendor’s work which is normally done by walking the project. Even so, you should let your contractor know your plans so his crew will be on their best behavior and not take a swing at the drone.

Drone Technology. I do not favor a director operating a drone without board knowledge or approval. It is always better to have the board’s support, especially when it comes to controversial issues such as drones. Doing so protects the director. If he takes actions without board approval and something happens, he could find himself exposed to potential liability.

Legislation. An August 27, the Legislature approved a bill authorizing lawsuits against anyone flying a drone lower than 350 feet over private property without the owner’s permission. (SB 142.) Filming a roofing vendor repairing the HOA’s roof is not a problem. However, flying the drone over any balconies, patios or owners’ lots to get to the roof could land the director and his drone into court.

Industry Concerns. Fortunately, Governor Brown vetoed the bill. He was concerned that journalists could be sued if they flew their drones over private property to get to a newsworthy scene. In addition to news organizations, real estate companies are increasingly using them to film a house before it goes on the market. Getting an areal view of the property and the surrounding area helps to attract buyers. The movie industry also had concerns about the bill.

HOAs. For now, your board can use a drone to inspect roofing work. If, however, your director pauses at an owner’s window to peek inside, you’re probably going to get sued.

YouTube. I’m generally cautious about posting things to YouTube. If you can ensure that only members have access, then maybe. If there is nothing controversial about the film and it simply shows the progress of the roofing project, giving members a bird’s eye view shouldn’t be a problem.

RECOMMENDATION: Drones are here to stay and will only increase in numbers and sophistication. Before a board member or manager flies a drone over the development, they should board approval. In addition, associations should establish written guidelines for the use of drones in the event they allow them. If a board decides to ban drones, they should include the restriction in their Rules and Regulations. Boards should get legal counsel involved before making a decision.

ATTORNEY JANE BLASINGHAM
JOINS ADAMS KESSLER


I
am pleased to announce attorney Jane Blasingham joined Adams Kessler. Jane will be working with attorney Wayne Louvier in our Orange County office.

Experience. Jane’s experience includes planning, entitlement, management, budgeting, permitting, and construction of new residential communities for large, national home builders in California.

Formation of HOAs. Jane managed the formation of new communities and oversaw the creation of CC&Rs, bylaws, rules and regulations, and maintenance manuals. She served as a director on four homeowner association boards and held president, vice president, and director positions.

Education. Jane attended Master’s College where she earned a Bachelor of Science degree and graduated cum laude with her department’s highest award. She earned her Juris Doctorate from Western State College of Law where she graduated magna cum laude and valedictorian of her class. As a member of Law Review, Jane served as a technical editor and writer. Her accolades include five Witkin awards for academic excellence, Distinguished Honor Roll, and Dean’s Circle member for academic achievement.

Contact. To congratulate Jane or to learn more about our legal services, contact Jane Blasingham by email or by phone at (800) 464-2817.

HIRING MORE
LAWYERS

We are continuing to expand our team of talented attorneys and are looking for candidates.

The ideal candidate will have experience in community association law.

Contact me by email or at 800-464-2817.

FEEDBACK


Violation Pictures
. You said we should avoid including children in our violation pictures. What if children are the problem? What if they are skateboarding where they shouldn’t or vandalizing something, or tagging walls? -Robert A.

RESPONSE: If a child is the problem, a picture of him/her in the act is appropriate. Some parents have trouble believing their little angels could ever do anything wrong. A photo will help convince them.

Artificial Turf #1. Your link to synthetic turf guidelines is tremendously appreciated! So often people just go with the lowest bid and the artificial turf looks terrible in a couple of years. People need to consider the cooling/oxygenating properties of natural ground cover rather than just going with the first material which looks green (for awhile). The high school a couple of blocks away took out their artificial turf on the playing fields because of the extreme heat (players were getting burned legs when sitting on it) and the chemical issues which are by no means totally resolved. Sometimes money isn’t the most important factor. -Nancy H.

Artificial Turf #2. As I read the new statute regarding artificial turf, if a homeowners’ association does nothing at all the law has not been violated. Civil Code §4735(a)(2) prohibits any requirement that artificial turf not be installed in common areas. If the association takes no action with regard to artificial turf and remains silent on the issue, all is well. Or am I reading this incorrectly? -Don B

RESPONSE: If the HOA does nothing, it’s not in violation. However, if you don’t adopt guidelines, what are you going to do when owners replace their front lawns with green indoor-outdoor carpet? It says you can’t prohibit artificial turf “or any other synthetic surface that resembles grass.” If you want to avoid things that “resemble” grass or cheap turf that turns gray in a couple of years, strong guidelines are important.


Adrian Adams, Esq.
Adams Kessler PLC

“Much More Than Just a Law Firm!” We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or info@adamskessler.com.

Tips For Renters: How To Improve Your Credit Score

In the application for one of my first apartments, I recall being asked to provide the landlady with a credit report. Being very young and new to the rental scene, I was annoyed and felt like it was a strange and intrusive request. While I knew that my credit score would factor into things like interest rates and loan applications, I didn’t see what it had to do with where I wanted to live.

Since then, I have learned that landlords are well within their rights to ask for a credit report from potential renters and there is almost no other piece of information that can as easily demonstrate what kind of a tenant you will be. Whether you pay bills on time, have regular financial hardships or have extended yourself when it comes to your debt to income ratio are all things that can help a landlord decide whether you are a good risk.

Your credit can impact most of the areas of your life; even potential employers will sometimes use it as a tool to vet prospective employees. So, it is worth the time and the diligence to make sure that your score remains high. If you think yours could use a boost, or you simply want to stay on top of the game, here are some ways that you can improve or repair your credit.

Check Your Credit Report

The first step is always to check your actual credit report, so you can see what you are working with. By law, you are allowed one free credit report per year (any other copies will cost you). Beware of the many companies offering a free credit report in exchange for a service of some kind. In most cases, you do not need what they are offering and it can be difficult to cancel before you are charged. The only federally authorized website with no strings attached is www.annualcreditreport.com.

Check your report thoroughly to see what areas need help while looking carefully for mistakes, like a late payment that was mistakenly reported. There is a simple dispute process available online for anything that doesn’t look quite right. I once found and disputed a mistake and my score increased significantly, so it is worth it. It is a good idea to make a habit of accessing your credit reports once a year, even if your credit is where you want it to be. I find that it is easiest to remember to print mine around tax season.

Make Payments On Time

While this might seem like a no-brainer, it is easier said than done for those living paycheck to paycheck. Even a day past the due date will put a ding on your report. Whenever possible, place minimum payments on auto-deduct. You can always pay more if you want to be aggressive about your debt, but at least it will always be on time.

Making regular, on-time payments is one of the best things you can do to improve your credit. While negative marks will remain on your report for seven years, they matter less and less to your overall score as the years go by, especially if you are replacing them with a better record.

Reduce Your Debt

The amount of money you report as earnings each year, compared to the amount of credit you have, is called a ‘debt to income ratio’ and it factors highly into your credit score. For instance, having five credit accounts that are maxed out, even if you are making regular minimum payments, will harm you. Be as diligent as you can about reducing the amount of debt in your name in order to make some space between your debt and the credit limit.

No New Accounts

That financial booth at the local fair might give you a free t-shirt for filling out the information for a new account, or your favorite clothing store is offering a discount if you apply for a card, but keep in mind that each new line of credit (or even an attempt) can hurt your overall score. Get your existing accounts under control and think carefully whether or not you actually need any new potential debt before you apply for it.

Raising your credit scores does take some time and dedication, but I can promise you that your efforts could ultimately save you thousands of dollars in the long run. It can also make a big impact on what kind of rental property you will be approved for. There aren’t many landlords nowadays that don’t look at an applicant’s credit report, so do everytying you can to make yours shine.

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