Consumer Rights Under the FCRA

Posted by on June 27, 2006 under FCRA Issues | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

A Summary of Your Rights Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) was designed by the federal government to ensure every ‘consumer reporting agency’ (CRA) adheres to the principles of promoting accuracy, fairness and privacy of information in its files. A large number of CRAs are credit bureaus in the business of collecting and selling information about people, such as, whether they pay their bills on time, or if they have ever filed for bankruptcy, etc. to creditors, employers, landlords, and other businesses. If you are interested, the complete text of the FCRA, 15 U.S.C. 1681-1681u can be found at the Federal Trade Commission’s web site – The FCRA guarantees the public specific rights outlined below. In addition, the public also has additional rights under state law that can be learnt about by contacting a state or local consumer protection agency or a state attorney general.

  1. You have the right to know if the information in your file has been used against you. If anyone uses information from a CRA against you, such as, denying an application for credit, insurance, or employment, they must inform you, and give the name, address, and phone number of the CRA responsible for providing that consumer report.
  2. You have the right to access information on your file. You are allowed to access the information on your file, including a list of everyone who has requested it recently, after making a minimal payment of $8 to the CRA. There will be no charges for the report, if action has been taken against you, as a result of information supplied by the CRA, and as long as, you request the report within 60-days of receiving the notice of action. As well, on request, you are entitled to a free report, once every twelve months, if you certify you are unemployed and will seek employment within 60-days, or if you are on welfare, or if your report is inaccurate due to fraud.
  3. Inaccurate information can be disputed with the CRA. If your file with a CRA contains inaccurate information, the CRA is required to investigate the inaccuracies (usually within 30-days) by presenting all relevant evidence submitted by you to its information source. The source must in turn review evidence provided and report its findings to the CRA, including advising national CRAs to whom it has provided inaccurate data, of the errors. It must give a written report of the investigation, as well as, a copy of your report with changes, and in case, a CRA investigation does not resolve the dispute, you are permitted to add a brief statement to your file. All future reports given out by the CRA must include a summary of your statement. If items are deleted or dispute statements filed, you may ask the CRA to notify everyone in recent receipt of your report of the changes.
  4. Correction and deletion of inaccurate information a must. CRAs are required to remove or correct inaccurate or unverified information from files, usually within 30-days of your disputing it. However, the CRA is not required to remove accurate data from your file, unless it is outdated or cannot be verified. If changes are made to your report as a result of your dispute, the CRA cannot reinsert a disputed item into your file, unless the information source verifies its accuracy and completeness. As well, the CRA is required to issue you a written notice informing you of the reinsertion of the item. The notice issued must include the name, address and phone number of the information source.
  5. Inaccurate items can be disputed with the source of information. If you tell anyone, such as, a creditor reporting to a CRA that you dispute an item, they cannot report the information to a CRA, without including a notice of your dispute. As well, once you have notified the information source of the error in writing, it may not continue to report the information if it is, in fact, an error.
  6. A CRA is not allowed to report outdated information. In most cases, negative information more than 7-years old or 10-years for bankruptcies cannot be reported by CRAs.
  7. Limited access files. Credit files have limited access and CRAs are only allowed to provide information about you to people, whose need is recognized by the FCRA, usually, in the case of credit applications to a creditor, insurer, employer, landlord, or other business.
  8. Your consent is required for providing reports to employers, or reports containing medical information. A CRA is not permitted to give out information about you to your employer, or prospective employer, without written consent from you. Neither, is it allowed to report medical information to creditors, insurers, or employers without your permission.
  9. The option to exclude your name from CRA lists for unsolicited credit and insurance offers is yours. Creditors and insurers may use filed information to send unsolicited offers of credit or insurance. These offers must include a toll-free phone number for you to call, if you want your name and address removed from future lists. In case, you call them, they are responsible for keeping your name off the lists for a minimum of two years, as well, requesting, completing, and returning the CRA form provided for this purpose ensures you are taken off the lists, indefinitely.
  10. Violaters can be sued for damage. A CRA or a user or a provider of CRA data found violating the FCRA can be sued in a state or federal court.

Knowing your rights is important for both landlords and tenants as landlords often use consumer reporting agencies or credit bureaus for a background check of prospective clients.

Collecting Rent Owed by a Tenant

Posted by on under Landlord Tenant Lawsuits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

If you have evicted a tenant for not paying rent the law allows you to collect the money owed you. Even years later.

But, before you can claim the rent, you need to get a court order or money judgement that gives you the right to do so. When you filed the tenant eviction case in court, a judgement and order i.e. a document signed by the judge authorising the local sheriff / officer to, if need be forcibly evict your tenant / tenants, had allowed you to regain possession of your rental property.

In order, to get a court to issue a money judgement against the tenant, two things are required:

  1. Court papers must be personally served on the tenant.
  2. The tenant is required to show up in court.

If eviction papers i.e. the court papers and not the notice to pay rent are posted on the door of the unit and/or mailed to the tenant, this generally means you did not get a money judgment from the court.

In this case, can I use Security Deposits by way of unpaid rent?

In case, you took a security deposit from the tenant when he / she moved in, you are legally allowed to apply the amount against anything the tenant owes you for back rent or by way of damages. However, it is necessary for you to comply with state law by notifying the tenant of your intent to use the deposit against the rent owed. And, if you returned the security deposit, despite having done so, legally you are still allowed to sue the tenant for actual rent owed and/or damages incurred to the unit.

In case, the tenant vacated your property before the court hearing, and if you were not able to get a money judgement, you can initiate proceedings against the tenant in the local small claims court for rent owed or damages to your property. A simple process, you can handle it yourself without hiring a lawyer. File the claim before the end of the statute of limitations, which generally ranges from three to six years, depending on the state you live in.

With a money judgment in hand, you can collect rent owed against all non-exempt assets of the debtor. Certain assets, such as retirement accounts are exempt from credit collection. Also, states recognising community property, allow assets of the debtor’s spouse to be attached.

But, the easiest targets for credit collection are bank accounts. A copy of a tenant’s recent cheque allows you to file for a ‘levy of execution’ on their bank accounts through the local sheriff. Note, making copies of tenants’ cheques each month is good practice as you know exactly where they bank.

If the tenant is employed, you can collect wages, but most states limit collection to 25% of the debtor’s wages. Still, a steady pay check allows you to your money back with interest. Getting a judgement transcript recorded in county records will ensure the tenant is not allowed to buy a house in that county without first paying off what is owed you. In case, a tenant owns other real estate in his / her name, the judgement will create a lien on the property, as well.

If you do not know where your tenant has skipped to, start a debtor proceeding in court that will make him / her appear in court to answer questions regarding his / her assets. Failure to comply can result in a warrant for the debtor’s arrest.

As a landlord, it is important for you to know the legalities of handling an eviction and getting rent owed you. If a landlord does not know the correct legal way of handling such eventualities, he / she may end up getting sued by the tenant, instead. Therefore, landlords, property managers, resident managers, etc. must keep themselves abreast of all pertinent landlord / tenant laws of their state.

Self Help Eviction By Landlord or Property Abandonment By Tenant

Posted by on June 22, 2006 under Tenant Screening & Background Checks | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

Legally, self help evictions are prohibited in all states. The locking out of a tenant and / or disposing off his / her property by a landlord, without going through the statutory eviction process is known as self-help eviction. If a landlord wishes to get rid of unwanted tenants using the self-eviction process, not only will he be held liable for actual damages i.e. value of lost items, but also for legal costs.

Then too, the landlord can also be slapped with common law claims for relief in conversion, trespassing and trespassing to chattels. All intentional torts, these according to common law are the basis for a court awarding actual and punitive damages, as well as, legal costs. Courts award punitive damage monetary amounts to impress upon and dissuade landlords from going in for self evictions in the future. Often, if the landlord owns a considerable amount of real estate, the punitive damage amount awarded by the court can be large enough to hurt, so as to ensure he / she does not use the same process again to get rid of tenants.

Thus, it should be clear that self help evictions can prove terribly expensive for the landlord. As for the tenants, they may find all their rent payment receipts and other important rental documents destroyed, but landlords should bear in mind, courts are sympathetic to proof related problems of tenants, as it was misconduct on the part of the landlord that caused the problem.

Even when a tenant cannot prove his / her damages, a court may award nominal damages to the tenant. And, nominal damages play an important role in the award of punitive damages and legal costs. In case, the landlord wins the case in court, the victory comes at the considerable expenditure of time and money i.e. legal costs.

In the case of abandonment, it is unwise for a landlord to rely on a lease clause that says rental premises will be considered abandoned, if a tenant has not been seen for a couple of weeks. As long as the tenant has paid rent to date, if he / she has personal items still at the rented premises, if items of sentiment or of value remain behind, it is strong evidence that the tenant is simply away and intends to return.

In such a situation where a landlord does not know whether his property has been abandoned or not, the correct legal procedure is to file an eviction in court and get a writ of restitution. Staying within the law, a landlord will not have to face any liabilities if he / she is sued after a properly filed eviction. And, bear in mind, costs of filing an eviction are far less than defending oneself in court if by the tenant for self-eviction. Even if the evidence is that the tenant abandoned your property, it is always a good idea to video tape the premises, so as to be able to prove in court, the condition of your property led you to believe it was abandoned.

It is a wise move on the part of all landlords to make tenants sign a document that verifies the date they left the property and did so voluntarily, and any items remaining behind are not theirs or have been abandoned. As well, preserve all letter / e-mail communications from the tenant stating he / she is leaving and not coming back, including making an inventory of items left behind and storing the valuable ones in a safe place. This should help limit damage charges a tenant asserts against you.

As long as a landlord plays by the rules, he will be charge and it will be difficult to have him sued or taken to court unnecessarily.

Screening Potential Tenants

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As landlord of rental homes or apartment complexes in high demand, you are also required to maintain high standards in order to keep your tenants happy. Therefore, you cannot afford to rent to anyone who has just walked off the street. How can you be sure they won’t have your building raided, because of the herbal – read marijuana – garden they have been growing in their apartment, or because they hold rave parties at their place? To avoid such tenant complications, it is advisable for landlords to screen tenants and ensure the background check performed is extensive.

If your rental units are in high demand, it is only natural you should also have high expectations of tenant applicants. And, while screening tenants don’t shy away from asking questions, ask as many as you like, without fear of being accused as meddlesome and prying. After all, what else is a background check about!

Your application form should ask for current employment information and it is a good idea to request the previous employment information, as well. The current employer may confirm they are great employees, but then if he / she has only been employed there for a few weeks that does not hold out. You should contact his / her previous employer and find out, whether he / she walked out of their job, or whether he / she constantly came late to work, or were he / she fired for inappropriate behaviour?

Similarly, you should contact both current and previous landlords, as current landlords may only sing paeans of praise in case they want to get rid of that particular tenant. It is the previous landlord with nothing to lose, who will give you only the truth and nothing, but the blunt truth. Check on the consistency of rental payments, or if they proved troublesome for other tenants, etc.

Ask prospective tenants what their annual income is to determine what they can afford as rent. Most property managers maintain rent should not be more than 33% of a tenant’s income, doing the requisite math should let you know, whether the tenant can comfortably make rental payments and on time. No matter, it is still important to verify their finances through employers and credit histories to get at the truth.

Then too, you application form should include a question about whether or not he / she plans to move in with pets or acquire them later. Not only do pets, especially large ones in small areas cause expensive damages, they also have your rental unit smelling foul, and it is unfair to cage the animals in small units! And again, if you are an animal lover, you will not want someone who cares so little for living creatures to rent your units.

As well, be sure to include a clause in your rental application form stating your right to perform criminal, personal and financial background checks on prospective tenants. Without this clause in the tenant’s signed application, you have no legal rights to conduct a background check.

If after talking to past employers and landlords, you are okay with the applicant, as a last measure, run a credit report. Since, credit reports can be expensive i.e. $35 to $50/-, do a credit check only on tenants whose screening has proved they are worthy of living in your rental complex or house. Actually, you can add a clause in your application form saying tenants are responsible for paying for their own credit reports.

Once you have confirmed everything is kosher about the tenant, go ahead and have him / her sign the lease. There is no doubt that your efforts will have paid off, as your new tenant maintains your property as if it were his / her own, including paying the rent on time!

FAQs: Leases And Rental Agreements

Posted by on June 19, 2006 under Landlord and Tenant FAQs | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

If you are the owner of rental property then it is important you know how to create a fair, legally valid agreement. As well, you need to know what a landlord can expect to happen if he / she or a tenant wishes to break the lease or rental agreement.

Why it is important to have a written lease or rental agreement?

A key document that sets out important issues relating to a tenancy, it is essential to have either a lease or rental agreement for rental properties. Both leases and rental agreements contain the following information

  1. Tenancy duration.
  2. Monthly rental amount.
  3. Names and the number of people allowed to rent the property.
  4. Whether a landlord or tenant is responsible for paying the utilities.
  5. Whether, the property is to be kept pet free or if a tenant is allowed to keep pets.
  6. Whether, sub-letting is permitted.
  7. Landlord’s right of entry or access to the rental property.
  8. Who is responsible for paying legal costs in the event of a law suit.

Although, most states allow for oral agreements, which may be easy and informal, they can often result in nasty disputes. As any landlord who has had his fingers burnt knows, leases and rental agreements should always be in writing. If there is no written agreement and later on the tenant and landlord disagree about, say for example – sub-letting, the entire matter may end up going to court. A particular problem related to long-term leases has led to courts in some states refusing to enforce oral agreements after the passage of one year.

What differentiates a rental agreement from a lease?

The difference between the two lies in the period of occupancy. A rental agreement provides for short-term tenancies e.g. often 30-days, and is automatically renewed at the end of this period, unless the tenant or landlord end it giving due written notice, usually of 30-days. For these month-to-month rentals (rent is paid monthly), a landlord is allowed to change the agreement terms as long as he / she gives proper written notice, subject to any rent control laws. Again, the notice period is usually 30-days, but if the rent is paid weekly or bi-weekly, it can be shorter in some states, or based on what the landlord and tenant agree to.

On the other hand, a written lease gives a tenant the right of occupation of a rental unit for a set term, which can be either for six months, a year, or longer, as long as the tenant pays the rent and complies with other lease provisions. Unlike a rental agreement, the expiry of a lease does not automatically renew it. If a tenant stays on when a lease expires with the landlord’s consent, he / she is considered to be a month-to-month tenant.

As well, a fixed-term lease does not allow the landlord to raise the rent or change other tenancy terms during the lease duration, unless the changes are specifically provided for in the lease, or the tenant agrees.

If a tenant breaks a long-term lease, what happens then?

Generally, tenants are not allowed to break their lease unless and until a landlord violates its terms i.e. fails to make necessary repairs or fails to comply with important health and safety laws. There are a few states that will allow a tenant to break his / her lease due to health problems or a job that requires him / her to permanently relocate.

If a tenant breaks his / her lease without a valid reason, he / she is held responsible for payment of rent under the lease term. However, most states make it the legal duty of a landlord to find a new tenant as soon as is possible, regardless of the tenant’s reason for breaking the lease.

When is a landlord legally allowed to break a lease and end a tenancy?

If a tenant violates the lease terms or the law i.e. late rental payments, keeps pets, thereby violating the No Pets clause of the lease, damages the property or engages in illegal activities on the leased premises, then a landlord has every right to end the lease without getting on the wrong side of the law.

But, before he / she can do so, a written notice has to be sent to the tenant informing him / her that the tenancy has been terminated, with a warning about vacating the premises or eviction proceedings will be initiated against them. Or else, a landlord can ask the tenant to desist from violating the lease terms, and if the tenant complies and does as he / she is told, there is no issue to go to court.

How to Ensure Tenants Look after Your Property

Posted by on June 16, 2006 under Landlord and Tenant FAQs | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

The most troublesome aspect of being a landlord is tenants who damage your property, from complete trashing to total destruction, and even worse. There are plenty of horror stories around about what tenants can to a rental.

And, if you think finding a good tenant depends on luck, you couldn’t be more wrong, or else why don’t you work to ensure luck favours you, at least, in relation to the right choice of tenant. That means taking the following measures to reduce risk concerns that will guarantee the well-being of your rental property.

First, adopt Tenant Screening, which is the magic mantra of all successful, savvy landlords. How many landlords can confirm they carry out a complete tenant screening exercise, when looking for prospective tenants? Not many if gauged from the horror stories that float around about property damage! To get a good tenant, a landlord must be thoroughly professional about the entire tenant screening process, and verifying past landlord references is an essential part of every standard screening process. Call them and question them about prospective tenants.

Second, as an important part of the screening process, visit or at the very least, drive by the property the tenant intends to vacate, in order to assess its physical condition. The odds are your prospective tenant will treat your property in the same manner he / she treats their current rental home.

Third, photograph and videotape as in before and after advertisements, in the presence of the tenant after he / she has finished signing the lease. This evidence will ensure tenants look after your property as if it were their own. After all, if taken to court, the before and after evidence ensures law is on your side, no matter what argument the defendant might put up.

Fourth, before handing over your property prepare a complete Property Condition Report documenting the state of your property. Go over it with the tenant and once he / she has signed the inventory and condition checklist, he / she is on record, and you have another legal document, in addition to the lease.

Fifthly, before handing over possession, take a substantial sum as security deposit including the first month’s rent. With so much at stake, the tenant will ensure he / she looks after your property well.

As long as you follow the above steps, you will be able to find a responsible tenant to take good care of your property.

Evicting Unwanted Tenants

Posted by on June 14, 2006 under Eviction | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

There are innumerable reasons a landlord may wish to evict his / her tenant, factors that range from:

  1. Failure to pay rent.
  2. Breaching or breaking the lease.
  3. Trashing or causing considerable damage to the place, or
  4. Any other reason that gives the landlord “good cause” to evict a tenant.

Each state has its own laws on eviction proceedings, laws which vary widely state to state, and are sometimes called “summary dispossess” or “unlawful detainer” lawsuits. Extremely detailed, eviction laws have to be followed to the T of a landlord is to successfully evict an unwanted tenant. Most if not all states, have special restrictions on eviction that apply to residential leases, and these restrictions have to be met precisely before permission is granted to a landlord to evict his / her tenant.

As a rule, a landlord is required to give his / her tenant a “notice to quit” before he / she can begin eviction proceedings. If rent remains unpaid or else other problems remain unsolved, and the tenant refuses to leave even after notice to quit period has expired, a landlord can then go ahead and file a lawsuit, but normally cannot remove a tenant at the expiration of the notice period.

You can consider a lawsuit as initiated, when legal papers are served to the tenant in the form of a summons and complaint. The court hearing pertaining to the case is held in a relatively short period of time, sometimes as soon as 14-days after the serving of the summons and complaint.

At eviction hearings, tenants usually present various defences, such as, right to deduct rent due to the condition of the premises or a miscalculation in rent accounting. The tenant may also prove that he / she is being evicted in retaliation for certain actions, such as,

  1. Request for repairs to rental accommodation.
  2. Complaints regarding discrimination in housing.
  3. Rallying other tenants against the landlord.
  4. Reporting housing code violations or asking for code inspections.

After the hearing, if the court rules in favour of the landlord, a tenant is allowed a short period of time to move out before the landlord begins proceeding to forcibly evict the tenant. If the tenant does not voluntarily leave, the landlord can request law enforcement officers to assist him in completing the eviction process. As such, an enforcement officer will issue an official notice informing the tenant, the police will arrive at a certain time to physically remove him / her and his / her possessions from the premises.

It is imperative the landlord does not engage in any acts of self-help i.e. changing locks, turning off utilities, removing the tenants belongings or forcibly attempting to remove the tenant, himself. A landlord must bear in mind; self-help in most states is considered a crime and is completely outlawed. As long as you follow the law, there is no reason a landlord will not be allowed to evict an unwanted tenant. Your best bet in eviction cases is to go by the rules, the best and only solution to solve tenant problems!

How to Raise the Rent

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Prices are going up everywhere, at the supermarket, the gas station, for utilities, for the phone connection, as well, real estate tax bills. So why on earth would a landlord not want to raise the rent on his property. It is simply quite amazing how many landlords procrastinate on the issue for simple reasons, such as:

  1. Being shy to confront.
  2. Worried a tenant might vacate.
  3. Because, they are on friendly terms with the tenant and do not wish to damage a good relationship.
  4. Because, they are tenant shy or fear dealing with him / her.
  5. Feel the rent is high enough, already.

But, there comes a time when every landlord is faced with the prospect of increasing the rent. No doubt, rather unpleasant for the tenant, still a landlord must do what he has to must do. Don’t put it off; decide on having regular rent increases keeping the amounts small, so as not to rock the boat. Over time, the tenants will get used to the rent increases without getting offended.

Actually, it would be a good idea to include rental increases in your lease agreement. Schedule a small rent increase every year, and by the end of every year, you should have a tidy sum. A $25/- increase for every rental property you own, works out well, as it is not large enough to pinch the tenant, but an extra $25/- from each of your rental property works out well for you. And, if tenants question the increase, simply remind them of the following:

  1. A raise in taxes.
  2. A higher mortgage monthly payment than the rent charged = negative cash flow.
  3. Escalating cost of living.
  4. Enforce the lease, after all the tenant has agreed to rent increase by signing it.
  5. Quote high property maintenance costs.
  6. A rent increase works well when you want a tenant to leave without serving an eviction notice.
  7. If the tenant is not treating your property well, insist on a rent increase to cover for the wear and tear.

It is recommended landlords draft a Rent Increase Letter, notifying tenants of the increase in rent, when it takes effect, and what the new rental charges will be, from the effective date. Draft a polite notice that reaffirms all terms and notice periods agreed to in the rental lease, and confirm they remain in force.

Serve the notice within the 30 or 60-day period agreed to in the lease, also it would not be a bad idea to serve it early to allow the tenant time to get used to the increase or decide whether he / she wishes to continue renting the place or not. But, check the lease just in case it says rent cannot be increased until Notice of Lease Renewal is being issued. Send a Tenant’s Intention to Vacate Letter along with the rent increase notice, in case the tenant does not agree to the proposed increase in rent, preferring to move out instead. It also sends out the message you are alright with the fact that the tenant might wish to vacate your premises, instead of paying a higher rental sum.

As to the rent increase amount, it all depends on the rental market, quality of the tenant and how much you want him / her to stay on, including availability of new tenants who pass the tenant screening test. For a tenant you wish to retain, keep the amount low, in case of a tenant you would rather get rid of, make the increase a painful one.

Play it by ear, go get what you deserve, but just don’t dilly dally about a simple thing such as increasing the rent! Everyone is doing it and there is no reason you should not get higher returns for your property. After all, like everyone else, you too have bills to pay!

Essential Landlords / Tenants Rules

Posted by on June 13, 2006 under Landlord Tenant Lawsuits | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

If you have invested in real estate as an avenue for extra income or if it is your only means of income, it is best that you familiarise yourself with rental laws that apply to property owners, whether they rent or indulge in sandwich (sub-leasing) leases.

The first law a landlord should get familiar with is the eviction proceeding, usually called a summary proceeding or unlawful detainer proceeding. This involves a lawsuit to obtain a court order to evict an unwanted tenant from your property. Bear in mind, when you remove a tenant physically from your property, you are taking a walk on the wild i.e. wrong side of the law. Regardless of how upset you are, desist from changing locks, shutting off the power or any other means of keeping the tenant out of the property he / she rented from you.

Now, before commencing eviction proceedings, you must terminate the tenancy. This involves serving the tenant with a Notice to Vacate as required by state law. If a tenant has not paid rent even after being served with a notice or has moved out after receiving it, you can commence court proceeding 3 to 5-days later. Usually, the entire process should take anywhere from 10 to 30-days.

Once the court rules in your favour by way of judgement or order, a warrant (writ) is issued. It is a legal document that directs a sheriff, marshal, constable or other local official to forcibly remove the tenant from your premises. Actually, not many tenants are physically thrown out; the official simply changes locks and removes the tenant’s personal belongings.

It would be wise for any landlord to learn about landlord / tenant laws of the state their rental property resides in. Not difficult to understand, still it is recommended a lawyer be hired when filing court proceedings, since the process is a very technical one. Minor paperwork flaws can result in the case being thrown out and having to start all over, again. On the subject of hiring a lawyer, do ensure you hire an experienced person, who also specialises in landlord / tenant practice.

As legal proceedings can prove to be expensive, the other way of getting rid of an unwanted tenant without taking the matter to court, is by bribing him / her to leave. For a landlord time is money, and the longer a rent defaulting tenant remains in possession of your rental property, the more you stand to lose. Talk to your tenant and tell him / her you are prepared to waive the rent owed and will also sweeten the deal with some cash if he / she leaves immediately. But, not before he / she has vacated, swept and cleaned the unit, handed over the keys and signed a written release of liability or general release against you.

Other laws a landlord should be aware of is security deposit reconciliation. This is one aspect of rental property that has to be dealt with whether a tenant leaves voluntarily or by legal force. State laws insist security deposit funds are to be returned within 30-days, and if not, a certified letter has to be sent to the tenant stating why it is being retained by you. You may be within your rights to keep it, but failure to comply with proper procedure can result in a lawsuit for improper withholding. Though a landlord can sue a tenant in the small claims court for rent owed and damages to property, he is not entitled to withhold the security deposit without following the rules.

As well, a landlord has to comply with State & Federal Disclosure laws. Often, lease / option gurus miss out on a minor detail, when they fail to mention if a tenant sub-leases his / her rented accommodation, in effect he / she becomes the landlord, and as such has to follow state and federal disclosure requirements. According to federal disclosure requirements, existence of lead-based paint hazards are to be disclosed and an EPA pamphlet provided to the tenant. As for, state law disclosures, they vary greatly, from radon gas to disclosure of known sex offenders in the area.

It would be worth your while to check with the state and county housing authority for required disclosures. As well, bear in mind some states consider a lease/option to be a sale for the purposes of disclosure. Thus, landlords are required to disclose the same items on a lease/option that they would on a sale.

Now that you have been primed about landlord / tenant laws, you can safeguard your property by adhering to the rules, without unwittingly breaking them.

What To Do When A Tenant Moves Out Leaving Junk Behind

Posted by on June 9, 2006 under Landlord and Tenant FAQs | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

As every landlord knows, when the tenant moves out they are obligated to return the landlord’s rental property in the same condition it was rented out to them i.e. clean and undamaged. It is mandatory for tenants to remove all their belongings, and clearing the place of all junk and debris.

But, as anyone who is or was a landlord knows that is not what happens most of the time. There are very few tenants who honour their commitments by cleaning out the place when they move out. A mess or discarded items left behind in the rental is absolutely not acceptable. In such a situation, all a landlord can do is to bill the clean-up and junk removal charges to the tenant, either by adding the sum with any rent balance owed or adding it to the Security Settlement Statement and deducting the amount from the tenant’s security deposit.

Often, this can lead to heated arguments between tenant and landlord; therefore, to avoid any unpleasantries, it is a good idea to send a pre-move out letter a few weeks before the tenant is scheduled to vacate your rental property. The letter should warn the tenant that you expect him / her to leave your place clean and debris free; otherwise the cleaning expenses will be deducted from their security deposit.

The move out / clean up / debris removal letter serves as a reminder not to leave garbage or debris removal for the last day of their tenancy. It also drives home the point that all unwanted items should be gotten rid of, instead of being left behind. And, the reminder if you are stuck with repair or cleaning expenses, their security deposit amount will be that much smaller; will no doubt get them to clean up their act and your rental property.

As a landlord, you have to be firm and ensure that tenants do not take you for a ride. After all, you do not want to have to end up paying for damage to your property or charges for clearing up the mess left behind by rude, ill mannered tenants, who have not been taught any better.