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What Kind of Insurance Do You Need as a Landlord?

Many new landlords make a common mistake of believing their homeowner’s insurance policy is good enough for their property after they rent it out to a tenant. If you rent out your home, your homeowner’s insurance isn’t going to cover you. You need very specific insurance as a landlord. If you don’t get it, you could be stuck paying hundreds of thousands of dollars from damage, medical expenses from tenants, and lawsuit settlements.

Hotel and Hospitality Policy

This coverage is what you’ll get if you’re offering short-term rentals in your property. Maybe you have a condo and you want to rent it out during the summer, but live in it during the winter. You’ll have multiple “guests” staying and not all of them will take care of your property. A hotel and hospitality policy will cover property damage and liability if a guest is injured during their stay. Their medical expenses will be paid, and you could be covered if they decide to sue. Some policies even cover loss of income if you can’t rent your property out while it’s being repaired from covered damage.

Landlord Policy

Most landlords need a landlord insurance policy, though. If you’re going to rent out your property over a long period of time, typically six months or longer, get this insurance. Physical damage to the property will be covered. You’ll also have liability protection if your tenant or one of their guests is injured on the property. Loss of income coverage may be available if you can’t collect rent on a property while it’s being repaired or rebuilt from a covered loss. You may also be able to purchase coverage for personal property you leave at the rental for maintenance or for the tenants to use.

Loss Assessment Coverage

If your rental property is located in a condo or homeowner’s association, you need to purchase loss assessment coverage. This policy will protect you financially if the HOA or COA has to levy a special assessment against all its members when the association insurance is not enough to pay for a covered loss. For example, an accident on the property resulted in a $1.5 million claim for the association but the policy limit is $1 million. The $500,000 difference will be split amongst the members to pay the difference.

With loss assessment coverage, you’ll be covered up to your policy amount, typically $5,000. When purchasing this insurance, it’s important to choose a limit that you think will cover you in an emergency assessment. The coverage is only available for purchase if your HOA or COA have good insurance in place with solid limits.

Umbrella Policy

An umbrella policy is a good idea for anyone with insurance, but as a landlord, it’s an added layer of protection for liability. Every insurance has a policy limit. Sometimes, however, a claim may be higher than those limits. Without an umbrella policy, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the difference. But umbrella coverage will pay the difference between your regular insurance claim limit and the total claim amount. It may even help pay for liability losses not covered by your insurance policy.

Require Renter’s Insurance

As the landlord you won’t purchase renter’s insurance, but you can require your tenants to have it as a condition of the lease agreement. The mistake many renters make is thinking that their possessions are covered under your insurance policy. Wrong! Requiring proof of a renter’s policy lets you know that if they lose everything, they will be able to replace their belongings while you repair the property.

Make sure to talk to an insurance agent to find the best insurance policy for you and to ask questions about what exactly is covered by each type of coverage. It may be worth paying a little more for higher limits and added peace of mind. But if you think that your homeowner’s insurance policy will cover your rental, think again. Renting out property comes with plenty of risks. Make sure you’re protected from the worst of those with the right insurance coverage.

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15 Ways to Market Your Rental Property

You’ve finally done it. Instead of selling your old house, you’re going to rent it out. You’ve been reading about the hot rental market and want to get in on it, make a little money, and maybe turn it into a long-term option for a second income.

You’re dreaming of retirement and the extra cash, but first, you need to find a tenant. There are plenty of ways to market a rental, both old school and new. It’s important to add your rental to multiple outlets because you want to find the best possible tenant. Here are 14 ways you can do that.

  1. Clean the property from top to bottom. You may want to hire a cleaning crew.
  2. Decide if you’re going to stage the home with furniture – a popular and effective option many use for selling homes. Hire a professional stager or bring in furniture yourself and set it up to make the property look it’s best.
  3. Clean up the front yard, landscape, plant flowers, repaint shutters, and increase the general curb appeal. Consider hiring a landscape company to do this for you.
  4. Now that the property looks its absolute best, you need to take pictures of it. You’ll need dozens of pictures taken, and you’ll want to make sure you do it on a bright, sunny day. You can hire a professional photographer to do this for you.
  5. Record video while walking through the home. Video is very effective online. This allows people to get an idea of the layout and size.
  6. Buy an ad in the local paper(s) for your rental.
  7. Buy yard signs to put in the front yard and directional signs to point people to your rental from the main road.
  8. Add your rental to Craigslist. Be prepared for potential tenants to question you heavily – there are a lot of scammers on Craigslist.
  9. Add your rental to Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, Rent.com, and other real estate websites. If you make changes to the price, amenities, or other features, you’ll need to update all of the websites you’re using.
  10. Hold an open house to let potential tenants come see the property.
  11. Talk about it with your friends, family, and business colleagues.
  12. Make flyers and distribute them at local businesses, churches, and other locations with community bulletin boards. You’ll want to remove them once the property is rented or you’ll be taking a lot of unnecessary calls.
  13. Post pictures and the listing information on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites you use.
  14. Create a website for the property and add all the pictures, video, and other property information.
  15. When it comes to marketing your rental property, you want to be in as many places as possible.

It’s a lot, isn’t it? There’s an easier way to get the job done. Work with a property management team who does this for a living. Here at ERA American Real Estate, we have the resources, the knowledge, and the time to effectively market your rental and find the best tenant.

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Landlord Responsibilities: HVAC Maintenance

Part of your legal responsibilities as a landlord is to make sure your property is “fit and habitable” for your tenants. While electrical and plumbing issues, as well as safety, are included in this definition, the one that gives most owners headaches is HVAC maintenance. In the summer, the temperatures rise to unbearable levels, and overheating is a real risk. Once winter hits, rain and cold are new concerns that can make people sick.

Even if the risk to your tenants wasn’t an issue, a property without a well-functioning HVAC system is subject to mold, damage, and other problems that can lower the value of your property. It’s important that you understand what happens if you neglect HVAC maintenance and how to avoid any potential problems.

How to Handle HVAC Maintenance

Because of the health and structural risks of a malfunctioning HVAC system, you will want to be more diligent with your rental property’s heating and air conditioning systems than you probably are with your own home. You don’t live in this property and aren’t there to check for small problems before they become big ones.

Here is a list of what you’ll need to do to maintain a working and efficient HVAC system in your rental property.

Schedule seasonal maintenance in spring and fall. After a summer of working hard, it’s important get the system checked for any wear and tear or potential problems. Once winter is over, especially if it was a cold one, you want to have it serviced again so you catch any problems before the summer heat arrives. This will save you the headache of tenant calls and the cost of repair bills later.

Make timely and full repairs when a problem is found. Putting a “band-aid” on an HVAC system almost guarantees you’ll be faced with a bigger repair bill later. Making your tenants wait for a repair to have a safe and habitable home can lead to legal problems. When your tenants call to report an issue, jump on it, get it fixed, and communicate with your tenants so they know what’s going on.

Replace and upgrade the property’s HVAC system as needed. Ideally, “as needed” won’t be once it dies and you have no choice. Instead, keep track of it’s age and what the service company tells you about it’s performance and when it should be replaced. It’s much better to schedule an upgrade and replacement when you and your tenants can prepare for it instead of being surprised and rushed.

What Happens If You Neglect the HVAC Maintenance?

While you should have every expectation that your tenants will take care of the basic upkeep and day-to-day maintenance of your rental property, you have to take care of your responsibilities as well. This includes making quick repairs and replacing the HVAC in a timely manner when necessary.

If you don’t meet your responsibilities and your tenants are left in an uninhabitable rental, they may have some legal recourse against you.

  • They may be able to move out before the lease is up without having to pay any additional costs for breaking the lease.
  • They could pay for the repair itself and deduct the cost from their rent payment.
  • Your tenants might even withhold the rent until the problem is fixed. In order for this to be legal, they would have to place it in an escrow account and so that the rent is “paid” just not to you.
  • Renters could and may contact local health and safety inspectors who could fine you for that and any other safety and health violations they find.
  • You could be sued.

All of these situations could only happen in very specific circumstances, but if you keep the HVAC system in your rental properties maintained and working as much as possible, this won’t be something you have to worry about.

The easiest way to avoid the worry and hassle is to work with a property management company who understands the legal responsibilities and requirements of being a landlord. They should also have the resources to take care of problems while keeping you informed of what your options are. ERA American Real Estate has the vendor contacts, the legal knowledge, and the ability to help you take care of your rental properties and tenants. Give us a call today!

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What Your Annual Maintenance Checklist Should Look Like

As a landlord, you have a long list of things you’re responsible for and have to think and worry about. Rent payments, marketing a vacant property, talking to tenants, and dealing with potential damage to your properties are all major concerns. One of the things you can do to minimize potential problems is an annual maintenance check.

Once a year, your properties need to be walked through and inspected. This helps you catch any small issues before they become problems and allows you to stay on top of any wear and tear issues. It also gives you the opportunity to plan what improvements, upgrades, or changes you may want or need to make to a rental property – either when your tenants move out or to keep your tenants for the long term at a possibly higher rent.

These inspections are also good if you suspect that your tenant isn’t taking care of the property as outlined in the lease agreement. Your inspection gives you the opportunity to have an objective conversation about what your tenants need to do to take care of the rental property. You can also use this checklist when a tenant vacates to determine whether you’ll return their security deposit or not.

To be consistent with each property and to make sure you don’t forget anything critical, make one checklist that you can print and use for every inspection.

If you haven’t made a maintenance checklist before, make sure to include these things:

1.    Check for mold and damp around doors and windows.

2.    Look for damage to paint and drywall.

3.    Door hinges and locks should work.

4.    Check for cracks in the walls and around ceilings and floors.

5.    Look for stains, dirt, and damage to carpeted floors.

6.    Check for chipped tiles and scratched or scuffed hardwood and laminate floors.

7.    All appliances should work and doors should open and shut properly.

8.    Kitchen counters should be free of major damage including cracks, peeling, or pulling away from the wall.

9.    Cabinets should shut properly.

10.  Check that all light switches and outlets work properly.

11.  Make sure light fixtures – with working bulbs – function.

12.  Check for signs of tampering or damage to wiring and electrical systems.

13.  Windows should open and shut completely. Make sure the locking mechanism works.

14.  If blinds were installed prior to the tenants move-in, they should lift and lower. Check for damage to the blinds or the cords.

15.  Make sure HVAC maintenance is done on schedule.

16.  Check the thermostat and for any leaks around the HVAC unit.

17.  Look for leaks in the kitchen and bathrooms.

18.  Faucets should shut off completely without water dripping.

19.  Check for damage to the sink, tile, and toilets.

20.  Flush the toilet – does it empty and refill properly? Does the handle work?

21.  Make sure the smoke alarms have batteries and are function.

22.  Check the ceiling for stains, holes, and other damage.

23.  All the closet doors should open and close and, if applicable, be on their tracks.

24.  Go up in the attic or crawlspace and look for holes, leaks, or signs of pests.

25.  Outside, look up at the roof. Look for obvious holes, leaks, or loose tiles.

26.  If applicable, check the chimney for loose brick or damage.

27.  Check the gutters for damage and make sure they’re attached properly.

28.  Look for blockages and excessive dirt and leaves.

You won’t be able to fix everything you find, but keep a few tools with you in case something simply needs to be tightened to make a quick fix. Take pictures of the damage and issues you find to document the problems and to show your contractor.

If this sounds overwhelming, you can always work with a good property management company who can handle this for you and make sure nothing gets missed. Best of all, your property manager will go over all the issues with you, let you know what you should fix first, and help you make a plan. When you’re ready to hand over the hard work to the professionals, contact ERA American Real Estate.

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How to Find Good Vendors to Take Care of Your Rental Property

As a landlord, you have choices about how to run your business. Plan ahead or react as problems occur.

You can put together a system of checklists and forms to make sure you’re consistent. You can build a team of vendors – contractors and companies – to help you maintain your property. You can do your best to anticipate the likely hassles and headaches of tenant problems like late payment, legal problems, and more.

Or you can wait for the call that the heat stopped working on the coldest night in December. You can research your legal options after the rent isn’t paid for the third month in a row. You can frantically call around to find an electrician after your tenant says they saw sparks when they plugged in a lamp.

Ideally, you’ll take the first approach and put a plan in place before a big problem occurs. Doing this saves you time, money, and stress. Before you rent out your property, part of your pre-planning should be to put together a list of vendors you know you can call when there’s a problem with your rental. Here’s how you can do that and feel confident you’ve got good companies on your side.

Check Out Companies Online First

Whether you ask friends and family for recommendations or you do a quick Google search, you’ll need to make a list of potential vendors. Before you call the first one, look them up online. Go to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) website to check for complaints. Look up their company on Google or Yelp and read the reviews. Find their website – if they have one – and see what they offer and where they’re located. You’ll knock off a few companies from your list before you start calling.

Interview Contractors and Companies

Once you’ve created a list of potential vendors, you’ll want to schedule interviews. If you call and leave a message, and they don’t get back to you in a timely manner, cross them off the list. You don’t want a company that makes you wait around for them.

Here are some questions to ask potential vendors:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Are you licensed and insured? Ask for the specifics – license number, certifications they have, and their insurance limits.
  • What hours or days are you available? You want to know if this is someone you can call on a weekend or late at night.
  • Will you provide an estimate in writing before beginning work? This is helpful when the job or repair is a big one.
  • How are payments handled? If you write a check, it should be made to a business name. If they offer a payment plan for big jobs, you want to know this.
  • Can you provide business references?

Follow Up on Your Interview

After the interview, you still have a little work to do, even if you really loved a specific company. Check their references and ask about their experiences with this company. Verify their license. If they’re located in Florida, go to myfloridalicense.com to make sure a contractor is working with a valid license. Anyone who gave you false information should be immediately crossed off your list.

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is, but it’s worth it to have a team you can rely on when an emergency comes up at your rental property. You do have another choice, though. You can always work with a property manager that’s already done the hard work and built a team of contractors and vendors who are reliable and excellent at what they do. If this sounds like the way you’d rather go, contact ERA American Real Estate today. We can help you manage your rentals and reduce your stress as a landlord.

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How to Show Tenants You Value Them

You could be forgiven if most your time as a landlord is spent focused on the tenants who cause problems. Non-payment of rent, damaged property, and calls to the police for noise are all some of the realities of less-than-great tenants that all landlords have to deal with from time to time.

Your best tenants, the ones who pay on time and take care of your property, can get lost in the shuffle. Don’t let a good tenant feel unappreciated or forgotten because your bad tenants take up so much of your time. With just a little bit of effort on your part, you can remind your best tenants they’re valued and keep them longer.

Take Their Concerns Seriously

You can’t correct every problem a renter faces. You also shouldn’t let them do anything they want to your property without oversight and the final decision. But when a tenant calls you to talk about a tree that’s covering their car in sap or problem neighbors, listen to them.

When you must make a decision against a request they’ve made, give them a complete answer. Explain your thinking and, ideally, offer alternatives that may alleviate their concerns. People who feel listened to feel valued and all it costs you is a bit of time.

Give Move-In Gifts

You don’t know if a tenant will be a good one on the first day they move in, but you can make them feel valued from the beginning. This will cost you a little bit of cash but it could make all the difference between a good tenant who stays in your rental for years and one who doesn’t. Try one or more of these ideas:

●     One month free internet service

●     Lawn care service for two weeks or a month

●     Newspaper subscriptions for three or six months

●     Coupons to local restaurants

●     Free storage for a month

You’re not giving away the farm, and you may get these offers at little to no cost to you if you work with vendor partners who see the value in giving away a freebie to a new resident, too.

Say Thank You

Send your tenants a thank you card at specific times of the year to let them know you appreciate them. When they renew their lease, drop a thank you card in the mail. If their annual property review comes back great, write a note of thanks. If you drive by and see that they’ve made great improvements to the yard, let them know.

It costs next to nothing to send a thank you card but you grow goodwill with your tenants that you both benefit from. They feel appreciated and valued. You’ve established a relationship that may be able to withstand rent increases over time.

Offer Perks and Incentives

After a great yearly maintenance review or a solid year of on-time payments, send your tenant a thank you gift in that card you’re sending. It can be a gift card to a local grocery store or restaurant or maybe you offer a freebie that usually new tenants receive.

At the holidays, work with local restaurants or stores to offer freebies or discounts to your tenants as a way to say Happy Thanksgiving or Merry Christmas. You never know how much a small gesture like this can help a family at a hectic time. You can “help” and build a positive relationship with your tenants.

You don’t have to discount your rent (although you can if you want to) or give away luxurious gifts to build relationships with your tenants and show the good ones you value them. A quick word of thanks and a small thing to make their life a little easier or let them enjoy a night out can work wonders. In return, you’ll keep your vacancy rates down and find it easier to retain your current tenants when it’s time to raise the rent at lease renewal.

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4 Questions to Ask When Choosing a Property Manager

When you’re ready to move away from the day-to-day hassles of renting your properties yourself, hiring a good property manager is the best option. Certain details shouldn’t be overlooked when you sit down with a management company. Make sure they offer what you need to keep you legal, help you manage your property, and protect your investment.

But that’s not where you search should end, especially if you have a choice between multiple property management companies. There are other factors to consider when hiring a property manager. Consider these before making a decision.

Are They a Good Leader?

What kind of team have they put together? Are they a one-person operation trying to manage dozens of properties as inexpensively as possible or do they have people to assist them – and you? Vendors should be some of the best around. Employees should be energetic and knowledgeable. All points of contact between you and the company should be professional, helpful, and pleasant. These are the qualities of a leader who’s built a solid team ready to do business the right way.

Will They Be Your Partner?

Your property manager should be on top of what’s going on with your rental – non-payment, repairs, and marketing – without reminders from you. They should view your success as their success and work with you, as much or as little as you prefer. A property manager who’s only working for their monthly commission and isn’t actively making your life a little easier isn’t your partner. It’s likely you’ll have to check on them and follow up yourself, instead of the other way around.

Do They Understand Your Financial Investment?

Everyone has a different reason for renting their property. It’s a home you couldn’t sell, the place you want to retire to, or a source of income. There is no right or wrong reason for becoming a landlord, but you need someone who understands what you’re doing and why. A good property manager will guide you through the process of renting until you’re ready to sell or move in. They’ll help you look after your property so it stays in excellent condition. They should be able and willing to make suggestions on how you can improve the value of your property.

Do They Have a Solid Reputation?

With the number of social media platforms and review websites, it’s not difficult to find out what people think of a specific business or person. When you work with a property manager, you want them to have a reputation of fairness, high quality, good customer service, honesty, integrity, and good business sense. Check the Better Business Bureau for complaints. Look them up on the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) website to make sure they’re licensed in Florida. A quick Google search may pull up all kinds of information about what other people think about them.

The services a property management company provides are extremely important. But it’s also good to know you’re working with a company, a team, and a property manager you can depend on to do a good job, work with you, and help you achieve your goals as a landlord. If you’re looking for someone you can rely on and trust to help you manage your properties, contact us at ERA American Real Estate.

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10 People You’ll Need to Hire to Help You Manage Your Properties

You’ve done it, taken a big leap, put your property on the rental market. The house is ready, looks good, and is going for top dollar in the market because it’s worth it. The applications are pouring in, and you’re feeling good about finding a good tenant.

Have you hired everyone you’re going to need to help maintain this property for you? Take a look at this list and make sure you find the best people for the job.

Plumber

When there’s a big leak or a busted pipe, the tenants will call you. You need a professional who can fix the problem and make sure it stays fixed.

Electrician

The lights go out. An outlet or two stopped working. Only a certified electrician should handle that kind of job or you may have to worry about a house fire.

General Contractor

When the roof needs repair, the handrail to the stairs is wobbly, and other parts of the property need fixing, a good general contractor will make sure everything’s fixed and up to code.

HVAC Service Team

The air conditioner/heating system must be serviced twice a year to make sure it continues to work properly. Tenants must have heat in the winter, and any Floridian knows, no air conditioning in the summer is brutal. Plus, if you do need a repair, it’s better to have someone you trust who can take care of the problem.

Lawn and Landscape Crew

Have a certain standard you want your lawn to meet? Did you promise lawn maintenance as an amenity? Start looking around and narrow it down to the best crew you can find at a reasonable price.

Pest Control

Termites, ants, and other bugs can ruin your property and bring down the quality of living in (and value of) your rental. Routine pest control is a must. When there’s an infestation, you’ll be grateful for your pest control company.

Pool Maintenance Crew

The day-to-day cleaning of the pool may be up to your tenants but when the pump breaks or the chemicals need to be adjusted to keep it safe, you’ll need to call the pool company.

Bill Collector

Got a tenant who still won’t pay the rent? Hire a bill collector who will hound them (legally) until you can go through the eviction process.

Accountant

You need an accountant to help you keep up with how much income you’re receiving from your tenants, your expenses for property maintenance, repair, and upkeep, and who’s paid and who hasn’t.

Attorney

Don’t buy a blank lease from an office supply store. Certain clauses may not be included that you really want – no pets, no smoking, etc. Instead, you’ll need an attorney who can write up a lease that fits what you want and stays within the law so that if your tenant violates the lease, you’ve got a leg to stand on in court.

That’s a lot of people to interview, compare, and ultimately hire. It’s also a lot of money to pay each month for their services. If you have more than one rental property, your costs will be higher. Of course, you could always hire a property management team like the one at ERA American Real Estate. We’ve got the contacts and the vendors, and our attorneys have already looked over our lease agreements. You can focus on what matters – growing your investment income.

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How Landlords and Tenants Can Have a Good Relationship

Like any relationship, the one between tenants and landlords has its ups and downs. Everyone is happy when the rent is paid on time, the air conditioner works in the middle of July, and the front yard is kept neat and trimmed. You don’t have to be friends with your tenants or have a personal relationship with them in order for everyone to get along and be friendly. In fact, both landlords and tenants only have to do two things to have a great relationship: Listen and communicate.

Take a look at what both landlords and tenants can do to have a good working relationship.

What Landlords Can Do

  • Call in advance and schedule a time to come over to the property that’s convenient for your tenants. Never show up unannounced.
  • When a repair is called in, follow up with the information you have with your tenants: how long it will take before the service repair company arrives, how long it will take the part to come in, etc. Keep your tenants informed, and they’ll feel like they know what’s going on.
  • If you see a problem on the property, set a time to meet with your tenants to go over it and remind them of their responsibilities as a tenant. Be friendly and polite to keep the tension down. People don’t like to be told they’re doing something wrong, so frame it as a reminder.
  • If a tenant who usually pays on time experiences a personal problem that causes them to pay late, be willing to work with them, but also set your expectations. You may waive the late fee once but no more. You might give them an extra week or two this month but not every month.

What Tenants Can Do

  • Contact your landlord immediately if there’s a problem with your rental. Don’t wait to report a leaky pipe, broken appliance, or other problem. The longer it’s left unfixed, the more expensive it becomes.
  • Accommodate your landlord as best as you can when they need to come to the property to fix something or if they want to set a meeting to talk to you. Everyone, including your landlord, has a busy schedule to keep.
  • Be upfront if you’re struggling to pay the rent due to job loss, illness, or a recent death in the family. If you normally pay on time, your landlord may be understanding. Not communicating (and not paying) causes tension that might dissipate if they knew the reason.
  • Make sure you understand your responsibilities under the lease agreement. If you don’t, ask and get clarification.
  • Take care of your home and when you move out, leave it better than you found it. Keep it clean and neat, report damage immediately, and talk to your landlord about upgrades or changes before you do anything.

Landlords aren’t awful people and neither are tenants. If you’ve had a bad relationship in the past, the problem may have been in how well you communicated with each other. Instead of assuming the worst about your landlord or your tenant, keep an open mind and be willing to listen to each other. As long as you talk to each other, you can have a good relationship.

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4 Things You Don’t Have to Let a Tenant Do and 3 Things You Do

As a landlord, you have duties and responsibilities to follow for your properties and your tenants. You’re required to provide safe housing, give notice before you come to the property, and follow eviction requirements.

It’s common to focus on all the things you have to do, but there are certain things you don’t have to let your tenants do.

What You Can Say No To

No smoking allowed. Put it in the lease agreement and make sure your tenants understand that smoking isn’t allowed in your property. You may allow it outside the home or within a certain distance from the front door – 25 feet or so. If you catch your tenants smoking in your rental, it could be a violation of the lease agreement.

No pets allowed. State it clearly and upfront and make sure it’s in the lease if you won’t allow pets. If you decide to change your mind, stay fair and make the change for all tenants, even if you require an additional pet deposit or monthly pet fee.

No illegal drugs. Legalized marijuana hasn’t arrived in Florida yet like in Colorado. When it does, you may have to make changes based on what’s legal, but for right now, you can clearly state no illegal drugs. Catching your tenant violating this rule is cause for terminating the lease.

No roommates. When you say “no roommates” what you want to do is require that all adults living in the property be listed on the lease agreement and go through the application process. “No roommates” usually means that no one is allowed to move in after the lease has been signed without a new credit application and application fee.

What You Have to Allow

Most of the things you’re required to allow your tenants to do or have are required under Fair Housing laws, especially accessibility requirements for tenants with disabilities. Make sure you know what tenants are allowed to do before you find yourself on the wrong side of the law.

You must allow service animals. Even if you have a strict “no pet” policy, you must allow tenants with disabilities to bring their service animals into the rental. You cannot charge a pet deposit or higher monthly fee for the animal. You can, however, request written verification that the tenant needs a service animal and the animal’s medical records. A tenant is still liable for any damage their service animal does to your property.

You can allow changes to the property. Ramps for tenants in wheelchairs are most common, but if a tenant has a disability and requests a change to make their home more accessible, you must allow it or allow the tenant to break the lease with no penalty (this doesn’t include any security deposit restrictions for potential damage). You can oversee the changes yourself or allow the tenant to take care of it with your final approval of contractor or cost. Either way, the changes must be made in a timely manner.

You may have to allow live-in aides. If a tenant requires a live-in aide for their disability, this aide will not fall under any “no roommate” rule you have in place. This is another accommodation your tenant needs. Damages caused by the aide will still be the tenant’s responsibility as it is with a service animal.

As a landlord it is your responsibility to know and keep up with Fair Housing laws, accessibility requirements, and your duties and responsibilities under the law. It may seem like you have to allow a tenant to do anything they want, but this isn’t true. You are, however, not allowed to discriminate against disabled tenants who need reasonable accommodations because they’re entitled to safe housing just like anyone else.

If trying to remember what’s allowed and what isn’t gives you a headache or keeps you up at night, you need to work with a property management team who can do the worrying for you. Here at ERA American Real Estate, we’re trained to know the requirements for landlords and tenants, we keep up with changes to local, state, and federal laws, and we will make sure that you stay on the right side of the law no matter who rents your property.