Handling Disputes With Billing

The desire of money is the root of all evil, so expect it to mess up a good tenant-landlord relationship. Rudeness will surface, and harsh words shall be exchanged. But thankfully, there’s always a workaround to these things and it can be prevented.

US News & World Report recently produced a very detailed article about handling disputes when it comes to billing. If you’re a tenant, read up, because you’ll get plenty of tips on how to stop yourself from blowing your top.

Your landlord may have been very lovely to you before you handed over the deposit, but remember that they could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you burst out without thinking, it may backfire on you. Also, going to court may be effective but it could take a lot of time and money from your end before you get the results that you may not want. It is much better to communicate first before bringing the big guns out.

It doesn’t matter if you win or lose the dispute; either way, you’d be walking out of your landlord’s property with experience in your arsenal.

Have you ever had any experience with billing disputes with your landlord? How did you handle it and how did they react? Share your experience in the comments!

Should You Turn Your Residence Into a Rental?

When presenting decisions that a landlord should take when asking themselves “Should You Turn Your Residence Into a Rental?“,  Susan Johnston Taylor wrote about MoveIn.Space in U.S. News & World Report.

. . . MoveIn.Space . . . is designed to help landlords and tenants document each property’s condition. While renting units to young professionals, . . . “you definitely get people who are very delicate with the property, but sometimes they can be a little more boisterous,” . . . “It was like that when I moved in’ seems to be the biggest line,”

Letting Ex-Cons Rent: Should you or shouldn’t you?

People with criminal records (ex-cons) become automatically treated as social pariahs once they get out of jail regardless of their offense. Landlords could be extra meticulous with this, or they could be particularly lenient.

The LA Times had an interesting editorial pertaining to helping former inmates secure housing without compromising the safety of landlords and their fellow tenants.

It’s quite a tricky subject, considering that a simple rejection made by a landlord could become grounds for a lawsuit. Yes, ex-convicts have the right to be treated the same as every other citizen, but landlords have a duty to fulfill. They have to protect their property and protect their tenants.

So, is it fair to look into a person’s criminal history before letting them sign the lease? Eh, 50/50. It’s definitely concerning if their offense, for example, is arson. Or maybe they’re a registered sex offender and you’re a landlord who has families as tenants. So, yes. It could be a factor. However, if their offense isn’t as serious as you’d expect, then maybe giving them a chance won’t be too bad.

Again, as a landlord, it’s still your call. If you were faced with the decision, what would you do? Share it with us in the comments below!

 

Walkthrough Inspection: Why It’s Beneficial

The dreaded “inspection”– it’s done before move-in and move-out and causes a ton of headaches for both parties, especially upon the end of a lease. You built a relationship and then things start going downhill just because the inspection revealed a ton of deductions from the security deposit. Is it really that important? Is the extra legwork for doing inspections worth it? Well, here are some things that you should find out about walkthrough inspections.

What exactly is a “walkthrough inspection”?

It’s when both landlord and tenant go around the rental unit to check for any damages or unauthorized modifications. Landlords usually look for damages that are beyond the normal wear and tear of a unit or any changes made to it by the tenant without prior approval, usually involves  painting/decorating the walls. They compare the condition of the unit before move-in day versus the current condition of it.

When do landlords conduct these inspections?

It’s done before move-in and during move-out. There are state laws that determine when these inspections will take place, it could on the exact date of when the tenant is supposed to move out, or could be two or three days after. Regardless, inspections are best done when all of the tenant’s possessions are out of the unit so the damages incurred can be easily seen by the landlord.

For landlords, using websites such as MoveIn.Space can lessen the headache of determining what kind of damages were caused. Some issues may not seem obvious immediately, so it’s best if the landlord has proper documentation of what the unit looked like before the tenant moved in. MoveIn.Space helps keep these things in one convenient place and minimize potential disputes.

What are the benefits of walkthrough inspections?

Even if not all states require landlords to do so, it’s still beneficial for both parties to conduct walkthrough inspections.

For landlords

  • Avoid conflicts with the tenants – If the landlord discovers the damages early on, they can make the tenant aware of the possible deductions that will be made on their security deposits.
  • Prepare for repair fees – Walkthrough inspections lets landlords anticipate the repairs that need to be done and how much they’ll cost.
  • Gives the tenant the chance to fix the unit – If the inspection was conducted before the tenant’s move-out day, the landlord can give them some leeway and fix the damages to keep their security deposit intact.

For tenants

  • Full security deposit – If the tenant manages to leave the place in immaculate condition, then they don’t have to worry about deductions on their security deposits. Alternatively, if they fix the damages noted by the landlord, then they can rest easy knowing that they’ll be getting their money back.
  • Gives them a chance to fix damages – the walkthrough inspection can put focus on damages that they didn’t notice immediately.
  • Avoid getting shorthanded by their landlord – Contrary to popular belief, there are still landlords out there who will pretend you have incurred damages and deduct from your security deposit. By doing the walkthrough inspection together, the tenant can make a dispute if the landlord points out some “damage”.

Are there different kinds of walkthrough inspections?

Yes, there’s actually four different kinds of inspections.

  1. Move-in inspection – Conducted during the process of moving in. For transparency’s sake, it’s best if both the landlord and tenant are present. Why? So that both parties can’t say the old school excuse of, “It was/wasn’t like that when I moved in!” They can take photos of every nook and cranny of the rental unit so they can make comparisons once move-out inspection day rolls in. If there are already pre-existing damages prior to a potential’s tenant move in, it must be noted as well.
  2. Routine inspections for safety and cleanliness – Just a standard inspection made by landlords to ensure that their tenants are living in a habitable environment. It’s usually done every 3-6 months because if a landlord waits for a longer period of time, the condition of the property might deteriorate. As with any other inspections, it should be well documented. If a landlord finds any sort of damage to the unit, they can schedule a follow-up inspection to confirm that a tenant has fixed the issues. Sometimes, these routine inspections can actually cause tenants to get kicked out of a unit.
  3. Drive-by inspections – No, a landlord doesn’t have to be in the unit to conduct this. This is mostly a “discreet” inspection conducted by driving around the perimeter of the property to check for any violations of the rules. A landlord must inform their tenants if they’re planning on conducting one in the future. Usually, unauthorized pets get discovered during these kinds of inspections.
  4. Move-out inspection – The king of all inspections. This determines if a tenant will be walking away with their full deposit or if the landlord is gonna have to shell money out of his or her pocket to fix the damages. To avoid playing the blame game, both parties must be present during the final inspection– no more telling who caused what. As always, technology is your best friend. It’s wise to have a camera handy (with timestamps!) to take photographs of any damages–for what? Well, sometimes tenants get a little too happy when it comes to suing landlords over security deposits… So, make sure that before suing, tenants should be 100% sure that what their landlord did was illegal and in violation of their rights.

Now that the basics of walkthrough inspections have been explained, tell us in the comments how yours were conducted and how the issues were resolved!

To be the renter or the rentee?

Rent is constantly rising, no matter where you go and your landlord’s the only one winning. It’s the right time to rethink your strategy and ask yourself if being a landlord would be more suitable than being a tenant. CNBC made some good points in their article about rising rents and how landlords are making some cold, hard cash from their tenants.

What’s not to like about being a landlord? If you’re a tenant (a renter), you must already know that a good percentage of your paycheck turns into rent money. Imagine being the receiver of a handful of people’s rent money every month. Pretty good, right?

Bills and expenses are starting to be worth so much more than the paycheck of every working-class citizen out there. Millenials aren’t as fearless as their parents and grandparents when it comes to purchasing property, so they’re the ones that are most likely to rent. There’s a surplus of millennials out there– they never seem to run out. Maybe investing and owning some property might be well suited if you’re the type of person that would rather receive rent money than give it.

Then again, if you’re 100% convinced that you should be a landlord instead of a tenant, never ever underestimate the expenses attached to owning a property. There’s always a catch with things that are just too good!

Do you have what it takes to be a landlord?

Well, do you? St. Louis Today has an interesting article up on their website that gives advice to people who want to invest in some property and become a landlord. The piece provides amazing financial advice for those who are keen on making some cash flow on the side. Then again, it also gave a fair warning for those who only think about the gains that they can get, and not the losses that they’d be sure to acquire such as operation expenses and taxes.

See, if you have the disposable money to just get a place and be a landlord, you have to weigh your options. Ask yourself, do you want a windfall profit? Or would you rather have small amounts trickling in every month instead?

If you chose the first one, then you have to spend money to earn money. Flipping houses only works well if the area’s property values are increasing. You better be ready to face unexpected expenses before you can sell it for a profit.

On the other hand, being a landlord may be more suitable for your tastes. But tread carefully! The money doesn’t depend on you alone, but also with the tenants that will rent a unit on your property.

So, what do you prefer? Flipper or landlord?

Tenant Rights: Knowing the Illegal Things That Landlords Do

As a tenant, you usually no longer care about what your landlord has to deal with. You sign a lease, and so long as they let you stay in the property and respect you, you’re good. This is especially true for those newbie renters. However, you have to know your rights as a tenant. Something as harmless as asking a question can be enough to sue a landlord. Are you a landlord? Well, you better read up as well! You never know what could land you in hot water.

Not allowing families in the property

You’re a tenant and you’re in love with your unit. Then suddenly, you decide to start a family and want to stay in said unit. You got married and then finally have a child of your own! All of a sudden, your landlord gives you an eviction notice, saying that families aren’t allowed on his property. Heck, some landlords would try to make it sound nicer by saying that their place isn’t “kid-friendly”. You have to know that that’s not legal.

There’s a federal Fair Housing Act that makes it illegal to discriminate against families with children. Yes, there are exceptions to the rule, such as for retirement communities and occupancy limits for certain units. But contact your lawyer ASAP if you have solid evidence that your landlord is violating your rights to fair housing.

Making false promises

It’s no surprise that landlords will say anything and everything that will make tenants hand over their deposits immediately.  Those promises made during the walkthrough? Well, they can become binding if the applicants used them as a factor for signing the lease. If a landlord promises that you’ll have your own parking space or that he’ll give you discounts on the rent during the holidays, he has to fulfill it.

If you’re a tenant who feels ripped off because of those unfulfilled promises, it’s within your rights to wiggle out of your lease legally. Alternatively, you can decide to just sue instead for the difference in the value of the promise that your landlord made and what he provided to you.

Wrong questions during tenant screening

You’d think answering questions would be easy, but tenant screening is a whole different monster. Sure, there might be wrong answers coming from your end, but did you know that there are wrong questions from the landlord too? Yep, that’s right. You may think their questions mean well, but they could border into discrimination territory. They’re not allowed to ask about a potential tenant’s disability, sexual orientation, or even marital status.

Security deposits being used for unrelated expenses

Landlords almost always lose cases in small claims court if it involves security deposits. It’s not unheard of for landlords to use the money for cosmetic upgrades to the property or to purchase new appliances for the units. If the money wasn’t used for repairs, cleaning, or unpaid rent, then you have the right to file a case against your landlord. Remember, just because a tenant benefited/will benefit from the improvement doesn’t mean their security deposit should be used.

Not returning security deposits

Since we’re on the subject, landlords will sometimes not only use your security deposit improperly, they also tend to refuse to hand it over to you. Yes, people like that exist, and there are numerous states that impose deadlines on when landlords should give you an itemized list of how your deposit was used and give back your balance. It’s not surprising to find out that security deposits and property damages are common causes of landlord vs. tenant disputes.

Better yet, using services like the ones that MoveIn.Space offers can help determine if your security deposits were indeed used for the right expenses. No more pointing fingers; you have proof of what the place looked like during move-in and move-out day. It could take weeks, sometimes months, for the landlord to deliver what needs to be delivered, but you MUST get your money back, even, at least, some of it.

Landlord didn’t return any money to you? Check your state laws. More often than not, they can get penalized for it and they can get ordered to pay you back two to three times the amount of your security deposit.

Exorbitant late fees

Ah, late fees — the landlord’s secret tool in motivating his tenants to pay on or before the deadline. Sure, they can charge as high as they want, but there’s always a limit. If the fees resemble the actual monetary hit that they take when a tenant pays late, then that fee could get invalidated in court. It’s much better to just find a new place to rent if you think the late fees are a little too extravagant for your liking.

Violating your privacy

You don’t technically own the place, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to your own privacy. Most state laws indicate some very detailed rules when it comes to tenant privacy. Yet still, there are landlords who think they have the right to drop by your unit without notice. They could just be checking things, or showing it off to potential tenants. If they make a habit out of barging in unannounced, or at least, make one HUGE violation of your privacy, you have the right to break your lease.

 

Got other examples of surprisingly illegal things that landlords commit? Or maybe a story of how you brought your landlord to court because of something that they thought they had a right to do but didn’t? We’d love to hear about it!

Making Your Landlord Adore You Sneakily

You either love or hate your landlord, but you should really take the time and give some thought into making sure that they at least like you. Realtor did an article collaboration with Fox News in order to provide tenants some quick tips in how to be sneaky in making sure that your landlord falls in love with you— no, not the romantic kind of love, but something much better.

As mentioned in the article, what you’re basically doing is “sucking up” to your landlord, but hey, we’ll just call it as building an amazing rapport with the person that takes a good chunk out of your paychecks in exchange for a roof over your head. Why do you have to exert effort, though?

Because a happy landlord = happy tenant. Similar to the “happy life, happy wife” philosophy, but less stressful. You just have to do the things that you’re expected to do — you know, the things that people don’t really do anymore because there’s some sort of social stigma against nice people nowadays.

Prepping Your Property For Spring

Spring has finally arrived and aside from the usual case of hay fever, you have to start prepping your rental property to either keep your tenants, or attract new ones. HomeAdvisor and LeafFilter banded together to create a very helpful infographic to serve as a cheat sheet for the things that you should do for your property this season.

Winter isn’t a wonderland for a landlord, because you already know that you’re practically screwed. You got so used to the coziness of the inside, that you’re horrified once you see the outside. There are things that you have to do, obviously, but they’re so easy to overlook! You have to check the roof, check your plants, check your lawnmower, etc. Everything has to be checked, so, there’s that infographic to help make things easier for you.

The buyer wants a release before the home inspection

The buyer wants us to give him a release before he has completed the home inspection. He's under contract and has put down a $500 EMD. The house has been off the market for 2 weeks and we want to keep the EMD since he's trying to get out early (and won't say why). Our realtor is saying for us to give up because he can just do the home inspection himself, but I thought it had to be done by a professional. What do you all think?

submitted by /u/roaminghobo to /r/RealEstate
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Source: Reddit “Home Inspection”