Monthly Archives: August 2016

Baby Boomers as First Time Landlords

In the last few years, there have been more first-time landlords than ever before, and the majority of them are members of the “Baby Boomer” generation. A recent article examined this new wave of first-time landlords and the upturn in the real estate market for single-family starter homes and how the two were linked.

It turns out that many Baby Boomers are taking advantage of low interest rates, an abundance of homes for sale and a large group of renters (millennials) and getting into real estate investing. They are working hard to supplement their retirement plans and take control of their financials. When done right, real estate investing is a good, dependable source of income and Baby Boomers that are getting close to or have arrived at retirement are taking notice. Since the millennial generation is delaying home ownership in favor of renting, it’s the perfect match-up between the generations.

As first time landlords, many Baby Boomers are far removed from the days when they were renters, with many of them having been home owners for several decades. New landlords will make plenty of mistakes, some that can cost a lot in time, money and worry. As this new wave of first-time landlords gets ready for business, RentPrep has plenty of information and advice on making their real estate business as profitable and stress-free as it can be.

Here are several articles in our archive that are perfect for Baby Boomers as first-time landlords:

Finding the Right Property

Are You Ready To Become A Landlord?

Before taking the plunge, make sure you have what it takes to become a successful landlord here.

Real Estate Requires Active Income First

Take a look at the necessary investment into real estate before the passive income starts pouring in.

How to Make the Most Lucrative Real Estate Investment

See here how making real estate work for you takes a lot of time and effort, but it can be well worth it in the end.

Purchasing Investment Property

Real Estate Investment Analysis: Is Now A Good Time To Buy a House?

Evaluate whether now is a good time for you to take the first step in real estate investing.

Buying Investment Property? Look Around Before You Leap!

Getting the right place at the right time and at the right price is the key to success, so take time to read more on how to do just that.

Low Cost of Living Areas are a Real Estate Investor’s Best Friend

This will help you see that there’s more to choosing investment property than you might think.

5 Tips on Judging Real Estate Investment Locations

Here is even more advice about choosing the right kind of single-family or multi-family property for investment purposes.

17 Tips on Buying Your First Rental Property

There’s so much to consider when buying a rental property for the first time and these tips will really help.

Being a Great Landlord

Good Real Estate Investors Know Tenant Screening is Critical to Success

The best tenants make a landlord’s life so much easier, and these tips will help you with the important task of tenant screening.

How to be a Successful Landlord or Property Manager

Just like any other job, landlords need to educate themselves, learn some key skills and earn plenty of knowledge about how to operate a rental property successfully.

Top 10 Tips to be a Successful Landlord or Property Manager

This article summarizes some of the key habits that successful landlords include in their daily operations.

 

The post Baby Boomers as First Time Landlords appeared first on RentPrep.

Sober Living Homes: How do we balance recovery with residential living?

Recovering addicts, as disabled persons, have the right to seek a supporting living environment, free from discrimination. Residents have the right to quietly enjoy their homes. Recovering addicts often seek out sober living homes (SLHs) to reside with others battling with addiction while attempting to transition back into sobriety. Many are successful. Unfortunately, when attempting to make this transition, some SLH residents may find leaving their former lifestyle difficult. As a result of those finding it difficult, neighbors may experience excessive noise, parking, smoking and trash. In more drastic situations, residents might witness drug or alcohol relapses, overdoses and increased crime.

In California, we have the perfect mix for recovery: sun, surf and beautiful homes. This is also the perfect mix for home ownership and quiet enjoyment. So how do we balance the two?

An SLH is a commercial venture. The companies who run SLHs make quite a bit of money organizing and providing homes where people live while recovering from their addictions. Residents in community associations or Common Interest Developments (CIDs) are often precluded from commercial or non-residential activities by the CC&Rs. With bans on commercial activities, how are so many new SLHs operating in community associations?

A properly run SLH is treated no differently under the law than a large family living under one roof. If recovering addicts live communally, like a family, they cannot be discriminated against based solely on the fact that the residents are unrelated. Further, a CID cannot target an SLH simply because there may be 15 recovering addicts living in an 1800 square foot home. If 15 related people can legally live in that home (based upon local occupancy limits), 15 unrelated people can live there too.

SLHs have made quite a few headlines recently. One interesting story covered the Pacific Shores v. Newport Beach case where the City of Newport Beach attempted to address some of the issues that arise with SLHs. The City spent millions of dollars, ultimately lost the case and had to pay the SLH operator its attorney’s fees. The City was out-of-pocket over $10 million. The intent of their laws was believed to directly address some of the issues surrounding SLHs. While the codes may have been written to apply to everyone equally, comments recorded in the City’s public minutes demonstrated that the City adopted the laws to target SLHs. This type of targeting and discrimination is not allowed.

Why did the City of Newport Beach target SLHs? Probably because they saw the same issues that community associations see with SLHs. While SLHs are theoretically a great thing and a lofty goal, they often bring with them problems for a community. These problems include but aren’t limited to:

• Smoking / cigarette butts
• Noise from gatherings
• Overabundance of cars and parking issues
• Occupants wandering the community
• Visitors who might still be addicts
• Relapse and/or overdosing
• Building code and zoning violations
• Overuse of common facilities
• Neighborhoods exposed to “bad element”
• Lowering of property values
• Disclosure of nuisance during rental or sale of neighboring homes

How do we balance between our societal desire to help and protect the disabled with our desire to live peacefully and in quiet enjoyment? More importantly, what can or should a community association do before these issues arise or when faced with an SLH causing these issues?

We must remember that an SLH (a property that is not providing medical treatment and is functioning as communal living) is not a commercial or non-residential use and that a community association cannot discriminate against an SLH or the disabled residents living within. Community associations should set up rules and regulations in advance of facing these issues and then take steps to enforce those regulations when issues arise.

At their core, the issues raised above are nuisances. Nuisances can be created by tenants and owners alike. Because of the larger number of people staying in an SLH, the nuisance issues are often exacerbated. Because a community association cannot discriminate against an SLH, however, the rules created must apply to and attempt to address all nuisances equally.

The first step a community association should take is to create strong rules that address potential nuisances. For example, to address people gathering and smoking in the pool area, create a rule that prohibits smoking in common areas. This rule can and should be applied evenly to all residents and should work as a preventative measure before the community is faced with this activity.

Another rule to consider relates to access to common facilities. Remember that an SLH is considered a family for zoning purposes. Generally a family does not need 15 FOBs to access common areas. Again, however, the rules have to be applied evenly and in a non-discriminatory manner.

Community associations can also shore up their architectural rules as modifications are often made to residences to accommodate the high number of residents in an SLH. When updating these rules a community association must remember that it cannot discriminate against an SLH. Any rule adopted should be designed to apply and then be applied evenly against all residents. For example, a rule indicating that a garage cannot be converted or used as a dwelling is not discriminatory.

If a community association is already facing issues caused by an SLH, its first step should be to consult with legal counsel. There are far too many traps for a community association to go it alone. Balance must be made between enforcement of restrictions and providing reasonable accommodations for the disability. Accommodations must be reasonable and there must be a nexus between the request and the disability. The considerations are too numerous to list here but the issue should not be taken lightly.

Community associations should also consider that many of the issues created by an SLH also violate local ordinances. Construction projects may have been performed without permits. The local planning department can often help. Unreasonable noises or other nuisances might violate California laws or local municipal codes. The local police department might be able to help. Unkempt yards, exterior structures or swampy pools might violate local ordinances. Code enforcement can lend a helping hand.

One key to remember when calling a city to ask for help is to not complain “about an SLH.” Neither a city nor a community association can take action against an SLH merely because it is an SLH. Instead, the complaint to the city and the action of a community association should focus entirely on the activity.

If your community has not yet experienced an SLH it may be only a matter of time. Prepare your community beforehand by creating appropriate rules. Work with your legal counsel to address holes in your nuisance and architectural regulations before you are accused of a discriminatory intent. If your community is already facing issues created by an SLH, be aware of all of the pitfalls, tread carefully and see if your local city can help.

With well-reasoned rules and enforcement your community can try to maintain a healthy balance between the desire to help others and the desire to live in quiet enjoyment in our homes.

JRM Headshot 01

James R. McCormick, Jr., Esq., CCAL

 

James R. McCormick, Jr., Esq., CCAL, is a managing partner in the Law Firm of Peters & Freedman, L.L.P. James has been formally trained as a mediator and mediated disputes for the former San Diego Mediation Center, now known as the National Conflict Resolution Center.

James started in the industry in 1996, and since that time has served on various industry committees, has presented at numerous CAI events and has published many industry-related articles. James chaired the San Diego CAI Legislative Support Committee (LSC) of the California Legislative Action Committee (CLAC) for several years and currently serves on the CACM Legislative Affairs Committee, and the CAI Coachella Valley LSC committee. James also co-founded and serves on the CAI Coachella Valley PR Committee.

As a result of his work in the industry, James is one of less than 175 attorneys nationwide to be granted a fellowship in the College of Community Association Lawyers (CCAL).


Banning Criminals

QUESTION: We are concerned about criminals living in our association and serving on our board. Is there anything we can do about it?

ANSWER: You raise a good topic. Several years ago, I drafted language for an association in Beverly Hills to ban felons from residing in their community. The membership passed it with lightning speed because convicted felon and accused murder Robert Durst had moved into their development.

Last year, HBO aired a documentary about him called “The Jinx, the Life and Deaths of Robert Durst.” During the filming, Durst took a break to use the bathroom where he muttered to himself (unaware his lapel mic was still live), “What the hell did I do? Killed them all, of course.”

Durst is believed to have murdered his wife Kathie, his neighbor Morris Black, and his friend Susan Berman. He is currently in jail in New Orleans on a weapons charge awaiting extradition to California for the murder of Susan Berman.

Robert Durst’s existing felony conviction is for evidence tampering, i.e., dismembering the body of Morris Black and throwing the parts into Galveston Bay. When limbs and torso washed ashore, the trail of blood led to Durst. At his trial, Durst described how he used a paring knife, two saws, and an axe to dismember his neighbor.

The Beverly Hills HOA was understandably alarmed and wanted Durst out of their association. In addition to being terrified, would they have to disclose to potential buyers that he lived in the development? If so, property values and sales could plummet.

I used the newly adopted CC&R amendment to force Robert Durst out of the community, so your question about prohibiting criminals is relevant.

Board of Directors. Barring felons from serving on boards is not uncommon (see Felons on Boards). However, a ban on “criminals” living in an association is a different matter. I will start with arrest records and move up from there.

Arrest History. Amending your CC&Rs to ban residents on the basis of their arrest history is too broad. Getting arrested does not make one a criminal. I have no doubt a court would strike down such a restriction as overbroad and unreasonable.

Criminal History. Also too broad is a prohibition of residents with a criminal conviction. It’s a bit unsettling but nearly one-third of the population in the United States has a criminal record of one kind or another. Most of them are misdemeanors. Someone who smoked pot or shoplifted 30 years ago as a teenager should not be barred from buying into an association–he/she does not represent a danger to their neighbors. HUD guidelines specifically address this issue.

HUD Guidelines. In April 2016, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued a guide on how to apply Fair Housing Act standards to the use of criminal histories by housing providers. (HUD – Criminal History.) Although an association is not a housing provider, it is often viewed as such by HUD and the courts. HUD deems denial of housing based on a generic criminal history as a violation of the Fair Housing Act. According to HUD’s Office of General Counsel:

[a] housing provider that imposes a blanket prohibition on any person with any conviction record–no matter when the conviction occurred, what the underlying conduct entailed, or what the convicted person has done since then–will be unable to meet this burden [that the restriction is legitimate and nondiscriminatory].

Felony Conviction. However, a restriction on felons is enforceable if done properly. HUD guidelines provide that:

A housing provider with a more tailored policy or practice that excludes individuals with only certain types of convictions must still prove that its policy is necessary to serve a “substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interest.” To do this, a housing provider must show that its policy accurately distinguishes between criminal conduct that indicates a demonstrable risk to resident safety and/or property and criminal conduct that does not.

That means white collar felons and perjurers present a low risk to resident safety whereas a recently released violent criminal, arsonist, registered sex offender, or drug dealer could be deemed a threat.

Drug Dealers. Section 807(b)(4) of the Fair Housing Act specifically allows for denial of housing to someone convicted of the illegal manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance. The exception requires a conviction, not merely an arrest, and does not apply to other drug-related convictions, such as possession.

RECOMMENDATION. Associations can amend their governing documents to restrict certain types of criminals. If an association wants to amend their documents, boards should work with legal counsel to draft a provision that is narrowly tailored to prohibit those who represent a risk to the safety of residents or the safety of the association’s property.

Thank you to attorney Wayne Louvier in our Orange County office for researching this topic.

ANNUAL EDUCATION
CONFERENCE & MINI-EXPO


I will be a speaker at the Bay Area’s Annual Educational Conference and Mini-Expo put on by the Community Associations Institute. The conference is for board members, managers and homeowners alike.

Speakers. We have a great line-up of speakers, including attorneys Amy Tinetti, Alex Noland, Emily Clark, Andrea O’Toole, Edith Murphy; insurance specialists Don Davis and Terri Guest; management leaders Adrianne Breta, Leanne Anderson-DeMattei and Tom Murphy; reserve specialist Robert Browning; industry leader Robert Riddick; and others. (See Conference Schedule.)

Keynote Speaker. The keynote speaker will be the humorous Beth Ziesenis, a technology expert who speaks around the country about the best free and bargain apps and online resources to release your inner Nerd to become more organized, efficient and awesome at work and home. The conference always has a large turn-out so reserve your spot now. Click Here to Register!

WHEN 
Friday, September 16,2016
WHERE
  San Ramon Marriott
2600 Bishop Drive
San Ramon, CA 94583
FOOD
  Breakfast and lunch are provided!
FEEDBACK


FHA Loans
. Lend is the verb, loan is the noun. -Judge Stirling

RESPONSE: There are two theories to arguing with a judge. I’ve learned that neither works. I had to reread last week’s article to find the error, “banks refuse to loan to…” That must be why banks are called lenders instead of loaners.

*****

Nextdoor #1. Adrian, I am glad you mentioned Nextdoor.com in your newsletter. Some of our members use this site to rant endlessly about the board, the manager, and everything else in our association. They have bullied other members and polarized our community. The site has turned into a toxic dump. -Anonymous

RESPONSE: Last month National Public Radio disabled the “comment” portion of their website. They discovered that “public” input turned out to be only .06% of their listeners. They also discovered that the majority of that tiny fraction consisted mostly of disaffected ranters who were abusive and posted endlessly. In other words, the crazies took over. Whoever runs your Nextdoor site should block the nut jobs that seek to tear apart your community.

Nextdoor #2. In your comments about disciplinary actions in executive session, does that member not have the right to have it held in open session? -Stanley F.

RESPONSE: No, he doesn’t. Members subject to a disciplinary hearing have the right to request executive session, not open. (Civ. Code §5855(b).) Disciplinary hearings in open session are a bad idea.

Nextdoor #3. I read with a grimace your suggestion to amend the bylaws/CC&Rs. You know what a painful, time-consuming and costly process that can be. In the particular case of the disciplinary hearing, I suspect that the alleged violation had to do with the rules & regulations, which are rather easy to amend since the board can do that with proper notice to members. I find that members, not familiar with the governing document hierarchy, usually group them all in one and call them “the CC&Rs,” but would suggest that you, as a professional insider, clearly separate them so as to not confuse the already confused! -Ed V.

RESPONSE: I agree it is difficult to restate documents. Despite its difficulty, most associations are successful. We restate 40 to 50 sets a year. Of those 10 to 12 require judicial approval because the membership cannot reach a supermajority approval requirement. As you mentioned, the restriction discussed last week may have been a rule. Even so, many of those are based on CC&R restrictions. Eliminating a rule is easy but it doesn’t do any good if it reflects a CC&R restriction. If so, the CC&Rs must be amended.

*****

Going Green #1. Your nifty incentive of having members serve on the board if they don’t comply with electronic delivery of documents shows how undesirable serving on a board is…hell’s fire! -Priscilla K.

Going Green #2. As you know, I always enjoy your newsletter. One thing you didn’t mention is the propensity of some managers to practice law without a license. You could also have pointed out that the manager had no business issuing legal opinions about anything and should stick to the business of managing lest he/she be sanctioned for practicing law without a license. Just sayin’. -Susan K.

RESPONSE: I covered this issue a couple of years ago and one reader almost had a stroke when I pointed out that managers are not licensed to practice law and should not be offering legal opinions. The offended manager thought it was self-serving for me to say that only lawyers could practice law. Here is a link to Managers Practicing Law.

Going Green #3. You often raise issues and ideas that make my service to associations much less traumatic. I appreciated the idea of the $10 credit for members to enroll in electronic delivery of documents. This idea of a credit for behavior benefiting the association might help with elections, too. How about enacting a small credit for members who vote? Three cheers. -Henry C.

RESPONSE: Yes, it can be done. See Incentives to Vote.

Going Green #4. Regarding the response about sending required documents electronically, does this mean an HOA is not required to send required documents via regular mail (budget, reserves report, etc.)? Are there any limitations on what cannot be sent electronically? -Wendy C.

RESPONSE: If owners don’t authorize electronic delivery, associations are required to deliver reports and disclosures by cutting down trees. That is precisely the problem boards are trying to avoid. Also, there is no limitation on what can be sent electronically once authorized by an owner.

Going Green #5. Switching to electronic delivery is really not for everyone because there are still people who do not own a computer. You will probably find this mostly with the class of people whom have matured in age. There are still some out there and I can only speak from my experience of having parents whom do not own a computer. The term “old school” might be a better term. -Sharon G.

RESPONSE: Don’t sell old folks short (old folks are anyone older than me). You would be surprised at how many use computers and smart phones. According to a 2015 survey by the Pew Research Centers, 84% of American adults use the internet. Although older adults lag behind, 58% now use the internet. Following is a chart showing that old folks are closing the gap:

To see the full report, go to Americans’ Internet Access: 2000-2015.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.

Adrian J. Adams, Esq.
ADAMS | STIRLING
A Professional Law Corporation

We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or info@AdamsStirling.com.

Subway Tile Makes a Comeback in Kitchens, Baths

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine Glassy subway tile is nothing new, but it’s coming back stronger in kitchens and bathroom remodels in whites or bolder geometric patterns. “It’s classic, and a classic always remains,” says Karen Eubank, an interior designer with Eubank Staging & Design in Dallas. Richard Hoey, president and CEO of Active […]

Does Your Rental Home Have A Criminal History?

When I rented my first apartment, I didn’t consider much beyond living space and monthly rent. It was a tiny basement apartment behind a business that closed at 5 pm, with a parking lot on one side and an empty lot on the other. Six months into my tenancy, I came home to a broken front door and a ransacked home. I didn’t have many belongings worth taking, but the few that I did were gone.

When the local police arrived to take a report, the first thing they said was that they had been to my apartment for several other break-ins with previous tenants. It hadn’t occurred to me to ask the landlord about the safety and criminal history of the unit, but I learned the hard way that the location of my apartment was ideal for a quiet break in, despite the fact that the building was on a busy main street across from a college campus.

I was able to use the situation to get out of my lease early and moved to safer lodgings, but I never again approached a rental situation without carefully considering the location (whether or not the area appeared safe) and doing some research on the criminal history of the place. Feeling secure in your home is one of the most important factors you should consider when looking for a rental and there are ways to assess potential options.

  • If a prospective rental is far below market price, you should be suspicious and do some research on the unit as well as the neighborhood before signing a lease. You might just be very lucky in a depressed housing market, but there could also be a more sinister reason.
  • Be up front and ask your landlord about crime in the area and the criminal history of the unit itself. You can even ask if the rental home has been the focus of any police reports. While not every state requires a landlord to disclose such history, it may help if they are willing to explain a situation that you are likely to discover on your own, especially if it gives them a chance to detail what new measures they have taken to ensure the safety of their tenants. A potential rental might be safer ever because of increased security, but you will not know that if all you read is the criminal report.
  • Assess any prospective rental homes for their break-in or crime potential. For instance, doors with windows set into them can be easily broken and used to access the lock. Basement apartments, rear entries, secluded parking garages and poorly lit hallways may not necessarily knock a place off of your list, but it should also make you consider whether the extra safety precautions you will have to take are worth the smaller rent payment.
  • Start by doing a basic online search for the neighborhood and if nothing pops up immediately, you can delve a little deeper by researching police reports for the specific address or building. There are a variety of websites that will do the research for you if you type in the location in question and pay a small fee. Other sites will also will report whether a death (suspicious or natural) has occurred in a residence for those that are sensitive to such things.
  • If you want a more personal touch, you can approach some of your potential neighbors as a way to get a sense of the safety in the neighborhood or complex. Ask if there have been any recent tragedies or unusual activities in the area lately and make sure that you are friendly and non-judgmental in order to get a good response.
  • Most states require landlords to disclose whether a unit has been previously used as a meth lab as well as showing certified proof that it has been properly cleaned, repaired and is fit for habitation again. You can purchase an inexpensive meth residue kit and test any unit for yourself if you are unsure about it or doubt the landlord’s word about the place’s criminal history.

While no rental home is completely safe, there are certain steps that responsible tenants can take to figure out the criminal history of a place, what the landlord knows or is willing to share, and what can be done to keep both people and possessions as safe as possible.

The post Does Your Rental Home Have A Criminal History? appeared first on RentPrep.

Master Bathroom Remodels Are Going High-Tech

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine Home owners are increasingly investing to create luxurious, modernized master baths, according to the 2016 U.S. Houzz Bathroom Trends Survey of more than 2,100 home owners who are planning or recently completed a bathroom renovation project. Of those surveyed, 20 percent say they are updating the toilet; 12 percent […]

Hey Landlords! Isn’t It Time for a Vacation?

If you are one of those workaholics that doesn’t like to take vacations, then you need to change your mind and quickly. Landlords are especially subject to the stresses and burnout associated with running their own business, and can really suffer because they feel like they have to do it all. Like all entrepreneurs, landlords need to recognize the warning signs that come from never getting time to rejuvenate and recharge.

Why Landlords Need a Vacation

There are plenty of studies that show the benefits of stepping away from work and getting re-energized. According to HealthNet.com, people who vacation only once every two years are more likely to experience stress and depression than those who get away from it all at least twice per year. Overworking can also lead to poor health, as shown in the research by Marshfield Clinic. Vacations can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk for coronary heart disease and much more. In order to remain happy, healthy and able to make good decisions and run the business better, landlords must make time for vacation.

There are several ways that landlords like you can make arrangements to take a vacation. After all, you are responsible for your rental properties, but you aren’t chained to them. There’s some good advice here about when and how landlords can take a vacation without having their business suffer.

Warning Signs That Landlords Need A Break

Here are 5 signs that even you as a landlord need to book a vacation right away.

1. You Are Not Yourself

While everyone goes through stress at different levels, those who avoid taking time off can get more irritable, have trouble concentrating, develop frequent headaches, or insomnia. You might even look in the mirror and see just a shell of who you used to be. If you are no longer feeling like your old self–that smart and capable person you once were, especially when it comes to conducting business–it may be time to leave town and invest in yourself for a change.

2. Your Work is Suffering

Even if you are trying hard to stay on top of everything, landlords that are burned out can make some mistakes that are hard to undo. From making errors in financial reports to making bad judgments in the day-to-day operations, when the work suffers, it can be a big red flag that landlords should heed. In a worst case scenario, a mistake at work can land you in legal trouble, so it’s important to stay at your best by vacationing for at least a few days at a time.

3. Your Spirits are Low

While not every person is thrilled about their job every day, landlords should at least feel glad that they are their own bosses, that no two days are the same and have pride of ownership over so many fine properties. When you have low spirits, it’s hard to pull yourself out of that depressed state. You may have trouble concentrating, or you daydream of being anywhere else but where you are. If work brings out more sighs than smiles and you are trudging through the parts of the business that you once liked, it’s definitely a good idea to make plans for some “me” time.

4. Obstacles Seem Larger Than Ever

A big part of being a landlord means that you have to deal with every challenge that is thrown your way. Challenges must be tackled one at a time with everything you’v got, from broken appliances to rowdy tenants. After a while, the same problems that once seemed fairly minor might just be starting to cloud your judgement and take longer to resolve. When those quick decision-making skills you once displayed are no longer around, it is a sure sign that your brain needs a break.

5. Your Health is Suffering

When people need a vacation from work but don’t get it, their short-term health can suffer. If you can’t find time to do those activities that kept you happy and healthy before, like exercise, healthy eating or getting to bed on time, then work is taking over your life way too much. What’s worse is that many people increase their drinking habits or overeat when stressed, which isn’t good for them or their business. When you see the signs of declining healthy habits, put the brakes on it and make plans for a getaway.

The bottom line is that even landlords need a break from their work life, but they may be less likely to take one because they are often a one-person business when it comes to real estate investing. However, nothing is more important than your health and wellness, and you need to make every effort to take some time off and do what you enjoy. It’s in the best interest of every landlord and their business to be the best they can be, and vacation time is a proven practice of highly successful people.

The post Hey Landlords! Isn’t It Time for a Vacation? appeared first on RentPrep.

Keeping Raccoons Away From Rental Properties

While raccoons may seem cuddly and cute, they are significant pests that can wreak havoc on a rental property. Landlords and residents that have been forced to deal with raccoons know that there are no easy solutions in getting rid of them. However, dealing with pesky raccoons immediately is imperative because of the damage they can cause and the diseases they carry. This nuisance animal is responsible for a lot of frustration for landlords and tenants alike.

Raccoon Basics

Raccoons are often considered as clever and harmless when spotted out in the wild, but when they take up residence in or near a rental property, the real problems begin. They have easily adapted to urban habitats and are considered nuisance populations in all but a few cities across the country, even urban areas like Washington, D.C. and Chicago.

Contrary to popular belief, raccoons are not rodents, but are members of the procyonid family, a nocturnal Raccoons are omnivorous and feed on fish, insects, eggs, frogs, mice, snails, and crawfish out in the wild, but when they are in close proximity to humans, they love to get their meals from the garbage, from pet dishes and from local gardens.

Raccoons Are Serious Pests

A raccoon’s intelligence, size and determination make it very difficult to thwart them when they have their mind set on getting into the neighborhood garbage cans, gardens and sheds. As with most animals, when there is a reliable source of food, they take up residence in the best location they can find. Unfortunately, this often means they can turn attics, sheds, basements, crawl spaces and even garages into their dens. These furry creatures will even take up residence in abandoned homes. They won’t hesitate to knock over garbage cans to get at the food inside, and will raid gardens, decorative fish ponds, fruit trees and chicken or pet enclosures to get at food. Their scavenging often attracts other pests like mice, rats and squirrels.

Their size and strength make raccoons some of the most formidable pests out there. They can be responsible for thousands of dollars in damage to property. When looking for a place to live, these animals can tear through the roofing of a home and establish a den in the attic space. While there, they can tear up insulation, chew up duct work, and gnaw on wood. Mother raccoons will give birth to up to five kits and it’s not uncommon for an entire family of raccoons to take over a shed or attic space very quickly. Secondary water damage from holes in the roof, broken pipes and more just add to the cost of cleaning up after a den. Chewed electrical wiring is another common problem with a den inside a house.

The raccoon’s droppings are plentiful because of the animal’s size, but the feces carry a number of diseases and parasites that are very dangerous for humans and pets. For example, a parasite known as raccoon roundworm lives in the intestines of the animals and sends its eggs out with the raccoon’s waste, as high as a million eggs per day. The eggs can survive for several years, and if they are inadvertently swallowed or inhaled by humans, they can cause serious nerve and brain damage and in some cases, death. Raccoons can also carry rabies, leptospirosis, salmonella and other pathogens that are harmful to humans. Ticks and fleas that are brought around by the raccoons can similarly infect pets and humans with disease.

In summary, there is no scenario where raccoons should be treated in a live-and-let-live manner, because of the dangers to people and the damage to structures. Landlords and tenants need to work together to make a rental property as inhospitable as possible for raccoons so they will not become established in the area.

Preventing Raccoons From Moving In

As with most pests, prevention is the most important step that landlords and tenants can take to prevent a raccoon infestation. The idea is to prevent the raccoons from finding a warm, dry place to live and cut off their food source so they will move on to another area. Here are 4 things that landlords and tenants can do to minimize the odds of these unwanted residents.

1. Secure Garbage Cans

Raccoons will always stick around if food is easy to get, so landlords should provide residents with garbage cans with tight-fitting or locking lids. Lid straps can be purchased that turn any lidded can into a pest-proof one. A heavy-duty garbage cart is often supplied or rented through cities and municipalities and may be enough to deter raccoons. Landlords can also install a fenced enclosure to store garbage cans between pickup days, with a simple door or gate to allow people to access the cans. Tenants must avoid leaving bags of garbage outside and clean up any spilled garbage immediately.

2. Pet Food and Pet Cages

Raccoons will definitely take advantage of outdoor pets, such as rabbits, chickens, cats, dogs and even decorative fish ponds. When pet food is left outside, there’s no way to prevent raccoons from getting at it. Residents must be very strict about never leaving pet dishes outside, and securing any pet doors that lead into the house, as these brash intruders won’t hesitate to go indoors to eat straight from an indoor pet’s dish.

3. Eliminate Possible Den Sites

Raccoons will settle in just about any nook and cranny that they can find. That’s why it is imperative for landlords to take precautions to secure the property against the furry pests. Several times a year, landlords should inspect the property for torn or loose soffits under the eaves, broken fascia boards, broken attic vents or loose roof shingles. Chimneys are another place that raccoons love to nest, so place chimney caps on unused ones. Other easy nesting places include empty sheds, hollow trees, wood piles and abandoned cars. Landlords can also make arrangements to cut back trees at least six feet from the rental property to eliminate easy access to the roof. Without an easy place to set up residence, raccoons are less likely to stick around.

4. Monitor Gardens and Fruit Trees

While there isn’t much that can be done to guard a thriving garden from thieving raccoons, residents and landlords can at least try to minimize the problem by making sure that no rotting fruit is left lying on the ground. Home remedies for keeping raccoons out of the garden are everywhere online, and some may work with varying degrees of effectiveness. Some people install net cages or single strand electric fences around their gardens, or use a battery powered radio tuned into a talk show to keep raccoons at bay.

Getting Rid of Raccoons

Any property owner that has had to deal with roving raccoons knows that they are extremely difficult to get rid of. To further complicate matters, most cities and municipalities have ordinances in place about what residents can or cannot do to raccoons within city limits. It’s important for landlords and tenants to know what kinds of actions are allowed and what is prohibited.

Most areas don’t allow residents to poison or shoot raccoons, so even though these permanent solutions may be effective, they are generally not an option. If landlords discover that raccoons are in or near the property, they and the tenants can start to do all the prevention measures listed above—eliminate source of food, reduce nesting options and take care of outdoor pets.

In addition, landlords and tenants should do everything they can to make the current raccoon den as inhospitable as possible. Some common repellents include flashing lights, loud music, and strong smelling components like coyote urine, cinnamon, peppers, ammonia and more. However, there’s no guarantee that any or all of these methods will be effective against resident raccoons.

Landlords can also call a wildlife professional or the city’s animal control to trap and take away raccoons. If there is extensive damage, a professional service may be needed to clean, disinfect and deodorize the home. Most experts advise against landlords and residents doing the trapping and releasing of raccoons on their own. A professional pest control company or wildlife expert is often the best and most effective solution.

Who Pays for Raccoon Pest Control and Damage?

As in most cases involving pests, landlords should pay for pest control right away, no matter what. Getting an infestation of raccoons out of the rental property as soon as possible is the top priority, especially so there is no more damage done to the property. Landlords shouldn’t waste time arguing back and forth with their tenants on whom to call, when to call and whether they should try some home remedies first. Once the raccoon problem is eliminated, the landlord can work with the tenant on prevention and determining future responsibility.

If raccoons have been a problem in the past, landlords would be smart to put some specialized instructions in the lease agreement or in the lease addendum concerning preventative measures to reduce the risk of a raccoon infestation. Guidelines for prevention should be very clearly reviewed and tenants can then be held accountable for creating situations that attract raccoons, such as not securing the garbage or leaving pet food out.

It’s wise for landlords and tenants to partner up and do everything they can to keep raccoons as far away from the rental property as possible. Between the damages and the diseases, raccoons are definitely the most unwelcome tenants there are. With the right care and diligent maintenance, a rental property will only be hospitable toward humans and not raccoons.

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5 Kitchen Design Trends to Take From Model Homes

The model homes of builders are known for showcasing the latest interior design trends in trying to appeal to home shoppers. So what’s trending when it comes to the kitchen? PulteGroup’s Interior Designs Team is merchandising about 425 model homes in 2016. The kitchen is a big area that gets a lot of the design […]

Service and Emotional Support Animals: What Does the Law Require?

The following guest post is contributed by Avvo, an online legal services marketplace that offers on-demand, affordable legal advice, especially when it comes to landlord/tenant laws.

As the old adage says, dog is man’s best friend. And the statistics bear that out: roughly 20,000 canines in the United States are designated as much more than just a companion – they serve an essential role as a seeing-eye dog or assistance animal to a disabled owner.

By virtue of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Fair Housing Act, landlords must accommodate service animals – no questions asked. However, the law is a bit murkier when it comes to “emotional support” animals, whose accommodation may or may not be classified as mandatory under the ADA.

So what are the most recent laws with regard to service animal accommodation, and what should landlords consider when potential tenants seek similar acceptance of emotional support animals?

Service Animals Under the ADA

Landlords are unequivocally required to comply with the ADA when it comes to service animals, regardless of any property-wide policy pertaining to pets overall. If the property is already pet-friendly, accommodating service animals of all shapes and sizes requires very little adjustment.

However, for those properties that strictly limit the size or breed of tenants’ pets, be sure to keep the following in mind:

  • A landlord must accept an otherwise qualified tenant as a new renter, even if that renter has a service animal in a no-pets- allowed property.
  • The service animal must meet the definition under the ADA in order to qualify for the accommodation. The ADA defines a service animal as “any dog that has been individually trained to do work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.”
  • The handler – and not the property manager – is responsible for the care and supervision of the service animal; the property is under no additional obligation to provide these accommodations to the tenant and his or her service animal.
  • A landlord cannot discriminate against any particular breed of service animal, including pit bulls, Dobermans, or any other stigmatized breed.

The ADA and the federal Fair Housing Act require reasonable accommodation for service animals in both public and private housing. However, the concept of reasonable is a source of significant debate, and landlords are generally not required to provide accommodation to a service animal if doing so would create an undue burden on the property or would otherwise be considered unreasonable. More specifically, landlords are permitted to pose the following two questions to potential renters seeking accommodation for a service animal under the ADA and/or the Fair Housing Act:

  1. Does the renter suffer from an actual disability? (And yes, the landlord may request documentation of the disability, if it is not obvious.)
  2. Is the service animal necessary to accommodate a symptom or side effect of the disability?

If the answers to the above questions are “yes,” the landlord is required to offer the accommodation. Otherwise, the landlord can lawfully deny the request in most instances.

Emotional Support Animals

An emotional support animal is a wholly separate concept from that of a designated service animal. As mentioned above, a service animal – which must be accepted along with a qualified renter – has been specially trained to assist the handler with his or her precise disability. This specific training can include assisting the sight-impaired, sensing a diabetic’s blood sugar fluctuations, or even anticipating an oncoming seizure in an epileptic person.

By contrast, emotional support animals are not necessarily specially trained to meet the needs of their handlers, and a landlord is generally not required to accept an emotional support animal in an otherwise pet-free unit. However, there are a number of exceptions that a potential tenant may pursue.

First, a landlord may be required to accept an emotional support animal if the tenant has a documented disability for which the support animal provides comfort and assistance with the underlying symptoms. Examples of such disabilities include major depression, anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this case, the landlord is within his or her rights to ask for documentation of the disability, such as a letter from the tenant’s physician or psychiatrist. If the patient suffers from a recognizable disability, and part of his or her treatment plan includes an emotional support animal, the landlord will be required to make a reasonable accommodation for that animal – even if it is not specially trained for the particular disorder.

However, the landlord is permitted to weigh the costs of permitting the emotional support animal and may deny the request for accommodation if the financial or administrative burden will be too great. Likewise, if the animal presents a danger or risk to existing tenants, the landlord may also be permitted to deny the request, provided the denial is considered reasonable and is based on legitimate, factual concerns.

In sum, landlords must take proper precautions prior to denying a tenant the right to his or her support animal. For tenants with specially-trained service companions, a landlord may only deny the request if the animals presence would create a substantial undue burden – a difficult threshold to prove. Emotional support animals are somewhat less favored under the ADA and Fair Housing Act, but the trend is toward requiring accommodation of these companions not only in public and private housing, but also on public transportation and airlines. Landlords should make sure their leases and other documentation takes these factors into account.

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