Tenants do research

As I landlord I’ve been doing tenant screening for years. Been withhttp://www.tenantver​ification.com for most of it. Researching applicants is just part of the job.  And during all of that time only two applicants have ever request information from me to run their own search.  Research is just as important to do if you’re the renter as it is for the landlord . Check things like tax records, market price for the area and so on. Never western union, always see the apartment first and if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. Also beware of any “landlord” out of state or country, especially if they give you a large amount of personal information and a sad story.


Renting Scam

Tips on avoiding renting scams

  • Never Western Union Money to someone who isn’t family or a close friend
  • If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is
  • Bad Grammar or English is a red flag
  • Out of country or out of state without a property manager is a no no
  • Never give out money or personal information before you’ve seen the apartment
  • Check the internet for other ads for the apartment and make sure the price and contact information match
  • Look at tax records
  • Beware of emails with lots of personal information especially containing information on a tragedy, volunteer work or missionary work.
  • Walk away if “Landlord” doesn’t do basic tenant screening such as a credit check


http://www.tenantverification.com – more information on tenant screening.


Don’t assume landlord’s insurance covers all damage

Posted 03/22/2012 by Janet Portman
Q: I read a recent New York Times article about renters insurance, which quoted an insurance professional who warned that if a tenant’s possessions are damaged, “the landlord’s policy is not going to cover your damages.” But the article says there’s “an exception to that … if the landlord was ‘aware of a prior hazardous condition, failed to correct it in a reasonable time frame, and your property was damaged.'”
I’m confused — as a landlord, am I insuring my tenant’s property if it’s damaged as a result of my carelessness? –Paul B.
A: Your confusion is understandable. In a sense, this insurance professional was right: Tenants in this situation might get some money from the landlord’s carrier. But it’s not correct to conclude that when landlord carelessness is involved, the landlord’s policy will “cover” the tenant. Once you see how these claims work, you’ll see what I mean.
Here’s a typical scenario:
Suppose Sam’s computer, which he left on the kitchen floor while it was recharging, is ruined when the pipes burst under the kitchen sink, causing a flood. Sam’s landlord had supposedly fixed the leak just that day, but a plumber later confirms that the landlord did a shoddy job. It’s pretty clear that the landlord was careless.
Sam’s landlord has property insurance, but that insurance covers only the landlord’s property; it wouldn’t extend to Sam’s computer. The landlord also has liability insurance, which covers the landlord when his carelessness results in damages or injury.
If Sam the tenant has renters insurance …
Here’s how things would play out if Sam has his own policy. Sam takes pictures of the floor and his computer, gets a statement from a computer repair shop and the plumber, and submits the claim to his insurance carrier. The company pays Sam; most companies do not dispute these claims unless they have solid reasons to suspect fraud. Sam buys another computer. (Hopefully, he’s got “replacement value,” not “actual cash value” coverage, which results in enough money to cover the total cost of a new computer.) Sam’s carrier can go after the landlord (known as “subrogation”) to get reimbursed, but because this is a small claim, it probably won’t. Even if it did, Sam wouldn’t be involved.
If Sam has no renters insurance …
In the absence of his own policy, Sam wants the landlord to pay for the results of his shoddy repair. He sends documentation of the damage to the landlord, demanding reimbursement. Sam cannot make a claim on the landlord’s property policy, because that policy did not insure Sam’s stuff.
The landlord then has three options: Pay Sam; refer the claim to his carrier, which will treat it as a claim against the landlord’s liability policy; or ignore Sam. If he doesn’t pay voluntarily but refers the claim, the carrier will get in touch with Sam and probably settle. But if he simply ignores Sam, Sam will have to sue the landlord to get his money. Even then, the landlord is under no obligation to involve his insurance company, and may choose not to in order to keep his record clean.
If Sam wins in small claims court, he will get a judgment that he will have to collect. But if the landlord won’t pay, he can’t just present the judgment to the landlord’s insurance company. Instead, he will have to attach the landlord’s bank account or garnish his wages.
So you see, Sam may eventually get his money from the landlord’s carrier, but only if the landlord chooses to involve the insurance company, and only if they settle or Sam wins in court. That’s a far cry from saying that the landlord’s insurance will “cover” damage to the tenant’s property caused by the landlord’s carelessness. The bottom line: It’s a lot easier to have your own coverage and let the insurance companies sort it out.
Q: The lease I’ve been asked to sign has an odd clause concerning attorney’s fees and costs in case there’s a lawsuit. It says that the loser will pay the winner, but only up to $1,500. Is this legal? –Geoff S.
A: Lawsuits between landlords and tenants can arise over the meaning and implementation of the lease, or over issues that aren’t covered by the lease. A lawsuit over the landlord’s retention of the security deposit is an example of the first kind; a tenant’s claim that the landlord charged her more rent because of her race is an example of the second.
Whether your landlord’s attempt to limit the loser’s liability for court costs and fees will hold up depends on the kind of lawsuit at issue, and on what your state law has to say about the matter. Let’s take a look at each situation.
Lawsuits over the lease
Some landlord-tenant disputes arise when one side claims that the other isn’t abiding by the lease terms, or is implementing them in a way that is contrary to the spirit of the lease. For example, a landlord might claim that a tenant is failing to take reasonable care of the property, in violation of the lease clause that requires such care, and terminate accordingly. The tenant contests the ensuing eviction lawsuit, and one side wins. In this situation, your lease’s cap on the loser’s liability might hold up, as long as there’s no state law or policy that would lead a judge to strike it down.
But suppose the lawsuit is over the tenant’s use of a rent-withholding remedy, which was followed by the landlord’s decision to take away the tenant’s parking privileges. The tenant, claiming unlawful retaliation, sues and wins. Will the cap be applied? That depends on whether the anti-retaliation statute itself requires the loser to pay the winner’s costs. When retaliation is involved, many statutes include this type of provision.
For example, California law specifies, “In any action brought for damages for retaliatory eviction, the court shall award reasonable attorney’s fees to the prevailing party if either party requests attorney’s fees upon the initiation of the action.” (Cal. Civil Code § 1942.5(g).)
The statute in Illinois does not provide for these fees (765 Il. Comp. Stat. § 720/1), but Texas law does (Tx. Prop. Code Ann. § 92.333).
So, if your state’s anti-retaliation statute requires the loser to pay reasonable fees, but the loser’s attorney fees exceed $1,500, will a court uphold the lease’s attempt to vary the statutory rule? It depends. Sometimes, courts allow landlords and tenants to vary the rules, but often they don’t.
For example, courts won’t uphold a lease clause that relieves a landlord of the duty to maintain fit housing.
Lawsuits that arise independently of the lease
Now, suppose you’re dealing with a legal spat that does not have its origin in the lease, such as a discrimination lawsuit. It’s doubtful that a hearing officer or a judge would apply a lease clause that attempted to limit the liability of the losing party. Often, the antidiscrimination statute itself specifies that the loser will pay.
And from a practical point of view, such a limitation would limit the number of cases brought to challenge illegal landlord acts, which is not what state legislators want.
Here’s the problem: Imagine a winning tenant whose attorney has billed for many thousands of dollars, as is common. If the losing landlord is responsible for only $1,500, the balance will have to come from the winning tenant. If the award to the tenant in the lawsuit is modest, the lawyer could end up with most of it. Knowing that this may be how things turn out, tenants may be discouraged from bringing such suits, which is not what legislators intended when they wrote laws proscribing discrimination.
For this reason, a court might refuse to apply a lease clause that limits the loser’s liability for the winner’s fees.
Posted by Kristina Woods at 7:51 AM 

Tenant Screening : free is not the way to go

As a new landlord I have not yet down a lot of tennat screening. I used a free service I found online for my last tenant and now it is kicking me in the butt. It seems that the free version might of missed a rather important issue. the Tenant in question had just recently been evicted from an apartment for causing property damage and it didn’t show up at all.

So as you have no doubt guess my tenant has damaged my property. he backed up into the fence and completely knocked it down. There is also several deep scratches on the floor of the apartment and hole in the wall. I’m in the process of evicting the guy and am keeping the security deposit which should cover all the damages but its such a hassle. Never going to use a “free” service again.

I did some research and found http://www.atenantscreen.com and http://www.tenantverification.com/ on the BBB certified site. Haven’t decide which to go with yet but they both have great reviews and their on BBB so it should be good.

Why landlords frown upon prepaid rent

Interesting article by www.tenantverification.com 

Why landlords frown upon prepaid rent

Posted 05/18/2011 by Janet Portman

Q: We are moving from our home to a rental, the result of a job loss and foreclosure. The landlord, focusing on my unemployment, is concerned that we won’t be able to pay the rent. We have enough savings; so I’ve offered to prepay the rent for several months, but he says he can’t legally accept it. Is there any reason why I shouldn’t be able to prepay the rent? –Walter W.

A: Your landlord’s hesitations are understandable, particularly if your state, like most, limits the amount of security deposit a landlord may require. In many states, any money collected up front (other than the first month’s rent) is legally considered a returnable deposit.

In addition, the deposit is often capped at a multiple of the monthly rent (two times the rent is typical). By accepting several months’ worth of rent, your landlord is afraid that he’d be violating the security deposit law.

The idea behind limiting the deposit is two-fold: First, by prohibiting very large deposits, it levels the applicant field somewhat. Applicants who may be able to make the rent, but do not have a huge reserve of cash for the deposit, won’t be kept out of the running.

But it also prevents large-scale mischief at the other end of the landlord-tenant relationship. All too frequently, landlords unjustifiably keep all or a portion of a tenant’s deposit, and many tenants don’t fight to get them back. When the deposit is limited in size, the damage done by these unscrupulous landlords is at least lessened.

That said, there are situations when upfront payments of rent that exceed the security deposit limit are in everyone’s interest. Legislators in New Jersey have figured this out, and have proposed amending their security deposit law, which caps the deposit at one-and-one-half times the monthly rent (AB 3236).

The new law would allow tenants to prepay rent, which would not be considered a deposit, and would be held in trust for the tenant and withdrawn by the landlord as rent payments come due. The change is designed to address situations just like yours, when tenants are unemployed but have enough reserves to cover several months’ worth of rent. It’s difficult enough to be out of work, but to be kept out of a rental market simply because you are forbidden from prepaying the rent is doubly hard.

Mind you, leaving the landlord with a large pile of money does have its risks. By describing the money as held “in trust,” the law makes the landlord a custodian of the tenant’s money, with authority to use it only for rent as rent comes due. But legal niceties aside, the landlord will still have access to a sizable sum.

If relations go south — for example, the tenant has to leave the rental for perfectly legitimate reasons, such as the landlord’s failure to maintain its habitability — the tenant will be entitled to get that money back. Unless the landlord repays it voluntarily, this will require a lawsuit.

Tenants should keep this in mind when prepaying for many months’ rent: It’s one thing to walk away from a modest deposit, but it’s another thing entirely to forgo many thousands of dollars.

Q: We own an old house that we’ve been renting out for several years, but now we’re ready to sell and retire. The current tenants, who have lived there four years, want to buy, but they’ve offered too little. They’re claiming that the improvements they put into the property — new floors, fixtures, carpeting — were done in anticipation of purchasing the house someday, and now they want to be reimbursed. We knew about the improvements, but there was no discussion about reimbursement. What should we do? –Cathy and Charles P.

A: When tenants want to make improvements, they should always consult with the landlord first. Most leases and rental agreements require this, and for good reason: The landlord owns the property, not the tenants. And the landlord will want to approve any changes that modify the property rather than simply beautifying it temporarily for the tenants’ enjoyment.

In legalese, changes that modify the property are said to be “affixed” to it, because they become part of the property itself (unlike, for example, a piece of furniture or an area rug that will travel with the tenants). But tenants’ interests are at stake, too, because these structural changes become the property of the landlord unless the owner agrees otherwise.

In other words, despite what tenants might think or consider fair, once that faucet is installed, it no longer belongs to the tenant unless the landlord agrees. Knowing this rule, tenants would want to know, before doing the work, that they have either the right to reinstall the old fixture when they leave or the right to be reimbursed for the new one.

You might think that you would be justified in saying, “Tough luck!” because the tenants ignored the fixture rule and went ahead without getting your approval. That’s not necessarily so. If the tenants were to take you to court and sue for the value of their improvements, a judge would look beyond the letter of the law and consider the whole picture.

The whole picture involves what’s right and what’s fair, not just what the legal rule says. (In England long ago, there were actually separate courts set up to consider matters of fairness, known as courts of equity.)

In the U.S., a judge will take a hard look at whether applying the fixture rule without moderation — in other words, telling the tenants that they blew it and you now own everything they affixed to the property — amounts to “unjust enrichment” for you.

This isn’t a sure winner for you. First, you knew about the improvements, so you can hardly say you had no opportunity to prevent them. (Granted, this doesn’t amount to an agreement to pay for them, but it undercuts your side of the fairness argument a bit.) Second, it sounds as though these improvements were just that: commonsense upgrades that perhaps you, too, would have done in time.

More importantly, they may have increased the value of your property. By contrast, had the tenants installed a fancy wine storage closet or a studio-grade dance floor, you’d be able to say that these were unnecessary and unprofitable additions you never would have made, which might even have harmed your property’s value.

On the other hand, given that you’re going to sell a house you describe as old, you might argue that putting new fixtures in a bathroom that any buyer would remodel anyway is a waste of time and not a sound investment.

How you’ll fare will depend on how the judge weighs these factors. If you’re lucky, the judge will decide that the tenants were simply officious benefactors: people whose actions benefited others, but without the recipients’ desire or agreement.