You’ve heard the adage: hope for the best and prepare for the worst. When it comes to investing in rentals, most property owners are great at hoping for the best, but then they forget the rest. If you own rental property without being prepared for the many legal pitfalls associated with your investment, the risks can really cost you. Typical legal fees are over $250 an hour, so a single legal issue can wipe out your entire annual profit. These 10 rules can prepare and protect you.
Americans with Disabilities Act
This law requires that you not discriminate against potential tenants who have disabilities. You also must allow the tenants to install adequate access features. You can require them to put the property back to its original condition. You are also prevented from charging deposits or fees for service animals, so be accommodating.
Fair Housing Act
The Fair Housing Act, as well as common decency, prevents property owners from making housing decisions based on color, sex, national origin, religion, familial status or handicap. States and localities can add additional protected classes and violations are expensive. Make sure you’re fair.
These vary from region to region, and require that your rental property is safe and comfortable. If you neglect things like plumbing, running water, electricity and heat, or you respond slowly and ask tenants to pay, you can end up with lawsuits, disputes and possibly government actions. Protect yourself.
Inexperienced property owners often try to cut costs by making repairs themselves or hiring unlicensed labor. Most states require a license as well as minimum liability and workers compensation insurance. Bad repairs and potential injuries can lead to costly lawsuits. Only hire licensed and insured vendors.
Real Estate Regulations
Many aspects of property management are also regulated. Conducting activities that require a real estate license can lead to costly fines.
It’s important to respond immediately to urgent calls and maintenance requests to avoid liability. Maintain a dedicated 24-hour phone system so emergencies can be handled at all times.
Some of the heftiest fines are charged for improper accounting of the security deposit. This violates trust accounting laws and other regulations and they can cost up to three times the security deposit amount. Be diligent and handle security deposits and tenant funds accurately.
Accurate recordkeeping will protect you from disputes and problems. Keep track of when and how you responded to problems and questions from tenants. This is the primary source of reliable information in litigation, so keep detailed records of everything and be accountable.
As a property owner, you have access to the personal information of your tenants. You are required to keep it secure. Failure to keep this data confidential in what you share and how you store your records can open you up to liability, so be trustworthy.
You must stay current on all federal laws as well as state, local and industry codes and regulations. This will help you avoid litigation, liability and expense. Make sure you remain constantly vigilant and compliant.
Most property owners don’t have the time or interest to stay on top of all these laws. If you need help, contact us at Real Property Management West San Fernando Valley. We can help you reduce your risk.