Are Landlords Allowed to Limit Your Right to Bear Arms?

Landlords are allowed to prohibit pets, smoking, and how many guests you have, but are they allowed to ban you from keeping firearms in your home?

Fortunately, or unfortunately—however you look at it—yes they are.

You may think this violates your Second Amendment right to “bear arms.” But the Second Amendment only bars the government from limiting your right to own weapons, not private citizens or businesses. A citizen or business has every right to decide whether or not they will allow firearms on their property—one of the cons of renting.

The second most common retort is that limiting gun ownership is discrimination against gun owners. However, unlike members of a religion, race, gender, ethnicity, and etc, gun owners are not a protected group. However, if a landlord were to target members of a specific race and prohibit them from keeping guns on the property—that would definitely be classified as discrimination. It must be an all or nothing rule, as with any other stipulations in a lease.

If landlords have no problem with renters owning and keeping firearms in their rental properties they should encourage tenants to purchase renters insurance. Firearms and other valuables are often a target of theft.

If a landlord does choose to prohibit firearms on their rental properties, they must wait until a lease expires and include the ban in the new lease. At that time tenants can either chose to comply or find other housing.

However, landlords should be aware that enforcing a ban on firearms is extremely difficult. If you think it’s tricky to catch a tenant with an unwelcome pet, it’s ten times harder to catch a tenant with firearms. If you do have proof of a violation, you can take steps towards an eviction.

Tenants should be sure to read the entire lease to make sure there isn’t a ban on firearms. If you’re a gun enthusiast at all, such a housing situation wouldn’t work for you. Additionally landlords should also double check their state’s law concerning prohibiting firearms. For example Minnesota actually has a law prohibiting landlords from banning tenants from having firearms.

3 Tips to Combating Wear and Tear for Property Managers

As a property manager you’ve learned that wear and tear is just going to happen. But learning to distinguish between wear and tear and damages can be tricky. The hardest part may be accepting that carpet stains, walls get dinged, linoleum scratches, and appliances break. These things happen and you can’t nickel and dime your tenants for every little sign of wear. No rental property no matter how nice and shiny won’t stay nice and shiny forever.

But there are some steps you can take to keep wear and tear to a minimum.

  1. Frequent Inspections: The best way to see how the property is being maintained is by frequently inspecting the apartment. Most property managers inspect at move-in and move-out, but to really stay on top of issues you’ll want to inspect at least twice a year and as much as four times a year. If you frequently inspect and document your visits with photos or video footage, you’ll be able to distinguish normal wear and tear from blatant damage. Inspecting frequently will also help deter tenants from totally trashing the place, because they’ll know they have another inspecting coming up soon.
  1. Preventative maintenance: Schedule routine maintenance for roofs, water heaters, air conditioning—anything that could potentially break causing more expensive repairs. If you invest in ePremium’s IRIS program, the program will remind when you need to schedule these checkups. Also ask your tenants to alert you to any problems quickly, no matter how minor—doing so can help prevent disasters and trains your tenants to watch for problems.
  1. Make maintenance reporting easy: Have an easy-to-use system in place for reporting maintenance issues. Many tenants find online reporting to be the easiest and most convenient way to report a maintenance issue. The easier it is, the faster and more often your tenants will alert you to necessary repairs. Let your tenants know that they will not be charged for normal wear and tear (as defined in lease).

If you quickly attend to maintenance repairs and are understanding about wear and tear, you will have a long and happy relationship with your tenants.

2 Additional Considerations when Renting Out a Foreclosure

The other day we talked about risks a property manager may be taking when buying a foreclosure with the intent to rent the unit out.

What are your thoughts on the matter?

Have you seen this happen?

Two other reasons buying a foreclosure to rent may not be the best idea

Consider the neighborhood: Foreclosures are sometimes clumped together in an area. You may want to avoid purchasing a foreclosure in an area where there is a high concentration of foreclosures. A high concentration will bring down the value of the house and you might not be able to ask for as much rent as you had intended. You can use Realtytrack.com to see where other foreclosures are in your area. Foreclosures also tend to sit unoccupied for a long time; no one wants to rent in an area with empty, uncared for, unmaintained homes that can attract squatters and vandalism.

Current Tenants: Tenant leases do not break when a house forecloses, so you may end up with a rental that already has tenants. This can be either a good or bad thing, it entirely depends on how good of tenants they’ve been. But, either way you’ll be stuck with them until their lease runs out or they violate the lease in some way –allowing you to evict. But starting out with renters you aren’t happy with is not a good way to start. If the home has current tenants, you may want to pass.

Based on these considerations, you’ll have to revisit how much money the foreclosure will actually cost you with repairs, decreased value, and closing costs in consideration. If it looks like it will still be a good investment, then don’t hesitate to go forward. And if you happen to find a foreclosure in good condition and in a good neighborhood, you’ll know it’s a hidden gem that’ll want to snatch up.

But do make sure you consider the four factors suggested.

Two of Four Important Things to Consider When Buying a Foreclosure as a Rental Property

Some landlords are eager to purchase foreclosed homes for the natural purpose of taking advantage of a low price and hoping to turn a large profit by renting out the home.

But there are several factors you should consider before you jump the gun. Unfortunately, just because a home is a foreclosure and listed at a low price, does not mean it is a good investment.

Dealing with a bank verses a homeowner: When buying a foreclosure, you must realize that the buying process will be different. Instead of dealing with a motivated seller who is willing to negotiate, you’ll be dealing with a company who has no reason to neither negotiate nor resolve things quickly. You’ll rarely talk with the same person twice, drawing out the process even longer. A bank will also not likely pay for closing costs, whereas with a homeowner you can usually get them to pay all or part of the closing costs. So when you consider a foreclosure you’ll need to take these costs and delays into account.

The condition of the home: Foreclosures are sold “as is.” Meaning, that the bank will not make any repairs or changes to the home, no matter what problems an inspection turns up. When purchasing from an individual seller, you can often negotiate for a new carpet allowance, necessary repairs fixed, and even a lower price based on what the inspection turns up. Also remember, that foreclosures are often in a consider state of disrepair. When an owner realizes that they’ll lose the house, they often lose their desire to maintain the property and may even blatantly damage it out of spite. So, chances are you’ll need to make major repairs such as replacing carpets, refinishing food floors, replacing appliances, painting the whole house, etc. Not to mention, foreclosures are often harder to insure. Take these added repairs into account. Based on your time and resources, you may not want to even venture down this path.

Read our next post to find out more.

Why It’s an Ideal Time to Rent out Your Properties

It may have taken some time, but the real estate market has started to recover from the 2008 Recession. Most states reported a rise in home prices in 2013. According to the REALTORS Confidence Index Report, the U.S. can expect to see an overall price increase of approximately 4%.

People, overall are starting to recover from their own personal loses and have started to buy houses again. This sudden increase in potential buyers has driven up the prices because there are not enough houses on the market for the number of buyers. First time home buyers are finding that they are in stiff competition. And the demand is only going to further increase prices.

What does the increase mean for renters and landlords?

It means that would-be buyers are opting to rent instead, driving up rent prices as well. This means it is an ideal time for homeowners to enter the real estate world. Homeowners who have outgrow their homes and are looking to purchase something larger and nicer, have the opportunity to rent their current home instead of selling it. Their homes have increased in value, meaning they can ask for a higher rent, but are still paying a lower mortgage. If it is financially feasible for you and your family, it is certainly something to look into. Owning rental properties is a great way to save for retirement and to create an independent income. (If you’re new to renting out properties, you’ll need to look into switching out your home owner’s insurance for commercial property insurance.)

This is also a great thing for current landlords, they can increase rent as renters move out, creating a larger bottom line. The one downside is that is more expensive to buy properties, but that doesn’t mean that renting isn’t a great source of income. But it is definitely the most beneficial for those who already own real estate.

4 Security Deposit Tips for Property Managers

Security deposits are known for causing the most contention between property managers and tenants. They cause contention for numerous reasons, but following these steps will help eliminate errors on your side.

  1. Know the Law: There are laws dictating where security deposit money should be kept, how much you can charge, how quickly funds need to be deposited in the bank and returned to tenant at the end of the lease, and what should be done with interest earned. Also remember that security deposits must to be discriminatory and must be the same for every tenant. Know the laws in your state; they vary.
  1. Don’t Charge Less than Allowed Just to Attract New Renters: It may seem like a good business move to lower your security deposit to fill vacancies faster. But, be warned, lowering your security deposit will invite financially unreliable tenants to apply. Tenants who can’t afford a high security deposit are more likely to get behind and miss a rent payment. Also you may need that full deposit to cover damage costs after a tenant leaves. If you lower your security deposit, you may be stuck paying for damages out of pocket.
  1. Keep Security Deposits Separate: Create a separate bank account exclusively for security deposit funds. Make sure the bank knows the account is for escrow or trust funds, if you company were to experience legal issues, these funds would be protected. It is important to remember that security deposit money is not your money; it should not be treated as rent money. You are just holding onto the money for your tenants and can only touch it if they forfeit it.
  1. Document Your Properties’ Condition: Perhaps the most contention part of a tenant/property manager relationship concerns whether or not a tenant’s security deposit needs to be used to cover damages. Every tenant wants their security deposit back in full, so unless you have irrefutable proof of damages you may have a long battle ahead of you. The best way to avoid disagreement is to fully document (a video is the best proof) the status of the rental before a tenant moves in, and once again right before the tenant hands over the keys. Full documentation will also help you receive compensation from your insurance company if the damages exceed the security deposit.

Of course there will always be disputes, but taking these precautions will lesson those and help you and your tenants to see eye to eye and keep you in line with the law.

6 Tips for Loading Your Moving Truck from the Experts

Now that you have everything packed in boxes you have the even trickier task of getting those boxes to fit into your moving truck in a complicated game of Tetris.

Unfortunately just getting a larger truck rental won’t always solve your problem. Unless you know how to maximize the truck’s space it may not matter whether you have a 16-cubic or 24-cubic-foot truck rental.

Boxes First or Big Items First?

People may give you differing opinions, but both options can work. If you have more boxes than large bulky items, stack the boxes in first and fit the furniture and big items in last. But if you have more furniture you may want to start with those and fit the boxes in around and under everything else.

Take Apart Bulky Items

Take apart anything that can be condensed. Large items such as dining room tables and cribs take up a lot of space, but can usually be easily taken down and stored on the side of the truck–significantly reducing the space they take up.

Pack Vertically

You’d be surprised how much you can fit if you pack vertically. Even your couches can usually stand on end. You won’t always be able to stack things up to the ceiling, so take advantage of instances where you can. Remember to pack heaviest things on the bottom and lighter thing on top.

Distribute Weight Evenly

It may to seem important to pay attention to where you put all of your heavy items, but you’ll soon realize when you start driving. If you don’t distribute the weight evenly, you may have to drive even slower to maintain control of the truck. This could be a huge inconvenience if you’ve got a long drive ahead of you.

Use Drawers and Shelves in Furniture

Store light things in drawers and shelves in furniture to maximize your space. A bookshelf may seem like a space waster, but bookshelves can be extremely useful to store small boxes and light items—just be sure to secure them.

Pack Tightly & Strap Things Down

Though packing vertically is the best way to maximize space, there’s always the risk that something could fall, so make sure you strap things down and pack tightly. There’s such a thing as too much space, if you rent a truck too large, you’ll have a hard time keeping your things from sliding around. Try to rent a truck that is just big enough so everything fits snuggly. To decide what size will fit your needs read “How to Choose the Right Size Moving Truck” from moving.com.

3 Rules For Lawful Entry For Landlords

Even though as a landlord, you own the property, you cannot just enter your properties anytime you wish, and certainly not without notice. Though this may seem inconvenient, the laws are in place to protect the rights and privacy of your tenants. The specific of the law vary from state to state. So you’ll need to educate yourself on the pertaining state’s law. (Nolo.com provides a chart with requirements to enter state by state.)There are however, some basic guidelines to follow.

Rules to Follow for Lawful Entry

  1. Reasons to Enter: You can enter your property to make necessary repairs (in some states you can enter just to verify if repairs are actually needed), show the property to prospective tenants, and to conduct scheduled inspections. Of course if the renter gives you permission you can enter without giving advance notice.
  2. Give Notice: When a tenant alerts you to a maintenance issue you should take care of the repairs as soon as possible. But before you gain entry, you need to give your tenants usually 24 hours notice (though in some states vary). When you need to enter to show the property or to conduct an inspection you should also give ample notice. No one’s home is clean all the time, and everyone deserves the chance to tidy up a little bit before someone shows up to look around.
  3. Emergencies: The only exception to giving notice is when there is an immediate emergency such as a fire or severe flooding. And in these instances you won’t be inconveniencing your tenants at all by entering without giving notice.

Following these three rules and know your specific state requirements will keep your out of hot water with your tenants.

Why Renter’s Insurance is Important for University Students Too

School is back in session and university students must adjust to juggling class schedules, homework, papers, part time jobs, budgeting, a social life and apartment living. Whether you’re a newbie freshman or a seasoned senior, it’s a lot to handle. So why take the risk of making your life more difficult? In the craziness of college life a lot of apartment doors are left unlocked and your expensive and vital electronics become easy theft targets. That is just one of the instances that renter’s insurance would come in handy for students.

Unfortunately, renter’s insurance may not be something that you’re even aware that you need to have. A lot of people mistakenly believe that their landlord has their back or that their parent’s home owner’s insurance policy will cover them. But that is not usually the case, especially if you live off-campus. Although your landlord is responsible for anything that came with the apartment, they are in no way responsible for your personal belongings. If a disaster or theft does happen and you haven’t invested in renter’s insurance you’re on your own for replacing your stuff.

At first glance, a renter’s insurance policy may just seem like an added expense that’s not in your budget. But replacing your computer, smart phone, flat screen, etc is really not in your budget. You can get great coverage for much less than any of those items for an entire year’s worth of coverage. You can get your basic policy for roughly $10 a month, or the price of a pizza. Every student can stand to give up a pizza a month to make sure they’re not put in a tight spot should something happen to their belongings.

Last April, students renting a home that went up in smoke due to an electrical short lost everything. If they‘d had renter’s insurance they would have been reimbursed for the value of their belongings. Don’t get caught in this situation, look into a renter’s insurance policy today.

7 Steps to File a Renter’s Insurance Claim

When the unexpected happens be sure to follow these steps for timely compensation from your insurance company.

1. File a police report if applicable: If the reason for your claim is due to theft, vandalism, fire or other incident that puts you at risk, contact the police or fire department immediately. The authorities will document the damage—give them as many details as possible and keep a copy of the report for yourself to use when filing your claim. However, there are many other claims that will not require the aid of police, such as a flooding bathroom.

2. Contact Your landlord/property manager: If you are experiencing an emergency contact your property manager pronto, even if it’s in the middle of the night. Many property managers have a list of go-to contractors, restoration companies, etc that they prefer to use for repairs, so even if the basement is flooding call your property manager first. Renters are responsible for filing a claim if their own belongings were damaged, but if the damaged property belongs to the landlord, that will be their responsibility.

3. Once the incident isn’t pressing, contact your insurance company: There is a time limit for submitting claims. So don’t wait too long to call to report a loss, preferably within 24 hours. When you call, be prepared with details of the incident and your policy number.

4. Document damages: Document everything. Take pictures or even video of damages before cleanup and restoration begins. If you don’t your insurance company could claim that there wasn’t any damage. Ideally, you had an updated home inventory with pictures so you can show before “before” and “after” pictures in your claim.

5. Itemize your Losses: Rather than list losses as one lump sum, itemize the losses. You’ll want to be as exact as possible; this will help the insurance company see the true extent of the damage.

6. File your official claim: Send in your claim form with your documentation as soon as possible. You’ll also probably want to send it certified, so you have proof that the claim reached the insurance company.

7. Ask about the payment schedule: Don’t be shy about asking when you’ll get your money, and continue to be vigilant until you’ve received payment.

Even though it’s no fun to have damages and have to make a claim, the best thing you can do is prepare for it. Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ll need to make an insurance claim. You can prepare by ensuring you’re up to date on repairs, follow basic home safety, have an updated home inventory, and have good renter’s insurance.