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.

4 Things That Get Landlords In Trouble

Renting out your property sounded great at first.

All the headlines said rents were on the rise and inventory was scarce. There were a dozen applicants for every rental in some places. A quick online ad and a blank lease, and you figured you were set.

You were until a tenant asked about a security deposit, called the cops when you showed up unannounced to inspect the property, and threatened to sue you for discrimination. Being a landlord is a lot of work, and there’s a lot you don’t know. To keep yourself out of small claims court and make sure you have great (and paying) tenants, take a look at the four most common things that get landlords in trouble.

Not Following Fair Housing Laws

The federal Fair Housing laws are pretty clear. You cannot discriminate against a potential tenant on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, familial status, and physical or mental disability (including alcoholism and past drug addiction). You may already know that, but did you know that discrimination can be more than refusing to rent to someone? Asking questions about when a couple will have children, what church a tenant goes to, and what country they’re from can all potentially be considered violations of the Fair Housing laws.

When you question tenants, only two considerations truly matter. Can they pay their rent and where and how will you find them if they don’t? You have to be careful about the questions you ask that don’t determine either. You also need to remember that whatever questions you ask of one potential tenant, you need to ask of all of them, in order to avoid the perception of discrimination.

Violating the Rights of Your Tenants

The on-going argument of who has more rights – landlords or tenants – will likely never be solved with each side thinking they have less. Regardless of how you feel about the amount of rights a tenant has in the state of Florida, you must know them and abide by them. This includes giving 12 hours’ notice before coming to the property, explaining why you’re coming, and only showing up for specific reasons while notifying the tenants ahead of time.

Any violation of a tenant’s rights could be seen as a violation of the lease. In doing so, you may lose the steady rent of the tenant, the security deposit, and any legal recourse you may have had in your lease. Before you rent, you need to know what you can and can’t do on the property.

Misunderstanding Security Deposits

Nothing is more fraught with angst than security deposits. Tenants want to know when they’ll receive it back, and landlords want to know if you have to give it back. Some landlords don’t understand what they can use a deposit for, either. It all adds up to a big mess for everyone, and sometimes, you wind up in small claims court.

A security deposit is to be used for wear and tear on the property, cleaning the property, and any unpaid rent. If there’s any amount leftover after that, it goes back to the tenant. In Florida, you have a month after the tenant moves to send their security deposit back to them, and you need to be able to show how any portion was spent. What you can’t do is use the security deposit for upgrades, remodels, and any cosmetic changes. Refusing to return the security deposit or taking your time in getting it back to them are not allowed either.

Not Fixing Major Problems

As a landlord it’s your responsibility to maintain the property to meet, at minimum, basic health and safety standards. Your property must be liveable for your tenants. You should also want it to be in good condition so you can continue to ask fair market rent and attract high quality tenants. Keeping a property in good shape isn’t just a legal requirement, it makes good business sense.

Some landlords don’t realize their legal obligation and either ignore tenant reports of problems or delay fixing them. You are required to make important repairs for things like burst pipes or broken heaters in the winter to broken down air conditioners in the summer and everything in between. You also have to deal with environmental hazards that can make the property uninhabitable like mold.

Landlords must also respond when your property becomes a target for or is surrounded by crime. In some cases, tenants who’ve had their home broken into multiple times with no response by the landlord have been awarded damages by the courts to be paid by the landlord. While you’re required to do it for the tenant, remember, you’re also protecting a huge financial asset that you want to continue creating an income for you.

Does it seem a little overwhelming? You might have thought renting your property was as easy as putting out a “For Rent” sign and buying a blank lease from an office supply store. There’s much more to it than that. When you become a landlord, you must follow the law to the letter and do what’s right for your tenants and your property. Managing property can be a full time job, and if you’re unprepared, you can end up in court because you were unaware of a single change in landlord/tenant law.

You don’t have to give up on the dream of renting properties and creating a second income through real estate. What you need is a property management company who understands Florida and federal law, will protect your investment, find the best possible tenants, and always work to keep you and your property in compliance. You need ERA American Real Estate.

You Get What You Pay for in a Property Manager

You’ve heard the rental nightmare stories. Maybe you lived a few.

Midnight phone calls that the tub is overflowing. Tenants who don’t pay the rent, and then leave behind hundreds of dollars in damage. Collecting 100 applications for one vacancy. Accusations of breaking landlord/tenant laws that you don’t even understand.

And this was supposed to be an investment and a source of income? After a while, it probably doesn’t seem worth the hassle.

You hire a property manager to take over for you. In your search, you went with the company who offered the cheapest fees. Since this is all about making money, you don’t want to pay too much.

It sounds like a good plan until you have tenants breaking leases and not paying their rent. When you receive your monthly statement, you barely understand it but no one answers the phone when you call with questions.

You know the saying – you get what you pay for.

Take a look at what you can expect when you choose a high-quality property management company and pay higher fees.

Good Tenants

Without tenants in your home, you’re not making any money. When you have a string of bad tenants who don’t pay or damage your property, you’re losing money. A good property management company will do more than the bare minimum to put the right tenant in your home.

Cheap fees get you a rental history which can easily be faked and maybe a credit check. After years in recession, credit checks are no longer the best indicator of whether a tenant can or will pay. Instead you want someone who will look at a tenant’s employment history, their income-to-rent ratio, and their reason for renting as well as rental and credit history.

Fewer Vacancies

No property management company can guarantee you’ll never have a vacancy. With competitive pricing, aggressive marketing, and a thorough and consistent screening process, tenants stay in a property longer. An empty property doesn’t make any money, but it doesn’t pay to put just anyone in your rental.

The cheap property manager may not have the funds to advertise as well as they could. You already know they might not have the most thorough screening process. If they’re a portfolio property manager, they certainly don’t have time to devote to your property. Ultimately, you’re the one who suffers with vacancies that last for months at a time.

Repair Costs that Make Sense

When it comes to making repairs to your property, you want a company that will treat your rental like their own property while understanding that budgets are important. A cheap company will likely go in one of two directions. Either they hire the same contractor for every maintenance job, racking up hundreds of dollars in fees for the most basic repairs or they hire a cheap handyman who may not do the repair well.

What you need is a company that has established relationships with vendors around the area: plumbers, electricians, appliance repairmen, and handyman services. When a repair is needed, the right company for the job with competitive rates will be the one called. If you work with the property management team at ERA American Real Estate, you have the option of doing repairs yourself or allowing us to handle them for you. We communicate with you the entire time so there are no surprises.

Easy Communication

You should expect to receive a monthly statement from your property manager to show you the income and expenses for each of your properties. If you have questions, you should be able to pick up the phone or send a quick email and get answers. When something isn’t correct, you have every right to expect it will be taken care of immediately.

Unfortunately, too often with cheap fees comes little, if any, communication. It’s almost impossible to get someone on the phone, and when you do, they don’t have time to answer all your questions. You may not even receive a monthly statement or when you do, it may not have all the information you need or want.

Fair Housing Law Knowledge

Anyone you hire to manage your property should have a basic knowledge of fair housing laws. They should be able to tell you what the protected classes are and know how to keep up with the different changes that occur nearly every year. They should know that you can refuse to allow pets in your rental but not service animals.

Why does this matter? If a tenant makes the accusation that their legal rights are violated, it’s not your property manager that pays. As the owner, it’s ultimately your responsibility. After you consider the quality of tenants or the amount of rent a property manager promises they can get for your property, you need to make sure they are on top of fair housing laws to keep everyone out of trouble.

The instinct to choose the property manager offering the cheapest fees makes sense. You’re in the rental business to make money. You don’t want to pay more than you have to for anything. We understand that need. However, the amount of time and money you’ll spend in expensive repairs, evictions, unnecessary vacancies, and legal fees for violations of the law will far outweigh any savings you see with the cheap company.

Here at ERA American Real Estate, we aren’t the cheapest in the area, and we don’t want to be. What we want to be is the best. In order to offer you valuable service, peace of mind, and help in achieving your financial goals, we set high standards for everyone we work with – tenants, vendors, and our employees. You pay a higher fee, but you get what you pay for and more.

25 Services You Should Expect from Your Property Manager

You’ve had enough. Tenants that don’t pay, midnight calls for repairs, showings on your property at all times of the day – it’s enough to make you give up on the idea of renting your property. The stress is too much, and you’re working too hard.

Instead of selling and giving up on the dream of a second income and a more secure future for you and your family, you may just need a property manager to take over for you.

Before you hire the first company or agent with the cheapest fees, take a look at our list of the services you should expect from your property manager. Even if you don’t need everything they provide, make sure the property management company you work with can give you plenty of options and handle all the details for you.

  1. Marketing your property across the internet
  2. Adding your rental to the MLS
  3. Scheduling and showing your property
  4. Taking calls from potential tenants
  5. Screening tenants
  6. Performing extensive background checks – criminal, employment, and more
  7. Explaining lease agreements to tenants
  8. Offer attorney-approved leases that protect you and your property
  9. Taking maintenance calls
  10. Scheduling maintenance and emergency repairs
  11. Maintaining relationships with good, reasonably priced local vendors
  12. Keeping up with fair housing laws
  13. Performing evictions
  14. Accepting security deposits
  15. Online rent payments to make rent collection easier
  16. Paying vendors for services
  17. Management of utility accounts
  18. Monthly financial statements for owners
  19. Answering questions from owners and tenants
  20. Move out inspections
  21. Regular home inspections – at least every six months
  22. Automatic lease renewals
  23. Annual property reviews
  24. Knowledgeable staff
  25. Plenty of options to communicate – email, phone, online portals, etc

When you start interviewing property managers, ask to see a list of all the services they provide. Find out what you’ll get for your monthly fee. If it doesn’t come close to this list, keep looking. Your investment, your peace of mind, and your financial stability are worth it.