Requests for emotional support animals cause the most Fair Housing anxiety among landlords. If the person has a letter saying they have a disability and need an ESA to assist with the disability, then Fair Housing says we must allow it. There are many legitimate claims and needs, but there are also a lot of con artists gaming the system. Some landlords will (incorrectly) say, “I am exempt from the Fair Housing laws. No animals allowed. Period. End Of Discussion.” Which would be good for them, if only they were really exempt!
Watch our YouTube video for an explanation for the exemptions. Yes, there is one for landlords of single family residences. BUT, it is extremely limited and can be lost. Learn the exemptions, and learn how to protect yourself so you don’t accidentally lose them. Click HERE for video.
Service of eviction lawsuit papers on tenants can be accomplished by attempting personal service at the residence and, if nobody is home, leaving a copy posted on the door and also mailing a copy within 24 hours. This is called “post and mail service” or, more colorfully, “nail and mail service.”
The mailed copy can be regular mail. A recent Alabama Court of Civil Appeals Decision threw the process into doubt, and seemed to require evidence regarding the exact efforts the process server took to serve the papers. The court included factors such as time of day, time waited after knocking, and others. That decision has now been overturned by the Alabama Supreme Court.
In a ruling on Friday, August 30, 2019, the Alabama Supreme Court said that such detailed testimony was not required. It reinstated the default judgment against the tenant in the eviction lawsuit, ruling that service was properly made on her. The court noted that the statute’s additional requirement of mailing the lawsuit papers within 24 hours satisfied United States Supreme Court concerns in similar cases that did not include a second method of service. If you want to read the entire decision, the case is Ex parte Trinity Property Consultants, LLC. You can read the decision HERE.
Bottom line: Back to the way you were doing things before the Alabama Civil Appeals decision of Mays v. Trinity Property Consultants, LLC. It’s not that there’s a new sheriff in town. It’s that the old sheriff is back!
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If your lease or your Rules, Regulations & Fee Schedules have this requirement, you can make your tenants self-report property conditions once a month. Why would you want to do that?
- It gives you early warning of problems as tenants go down a checklist of items on your form, and report condition and any observed defects. Your form should also ask about additional occupants on the premises, and any new animals.
- Having to self-report every month tends to make tenants more careful of your property.
- Reports showing no defects or damages prevents the tenant from later claiming something was wrong, usually after they default and are looking for excuses to make it all the landlord’s fault.
- There is a high probability that if the tenant lies on the reports, there is significant tenant-caused damage, and then the tenant later files for bankruptcy, the landlord’s claims for damages will not be discharged in bankruptcy. That is because the tenant engaged in fraud. The claim will still have to be paid.
- Refusal to complete the form is an early warning sign of tenant damage, illegal occupants, or illegal animals. Better to know now, rather than at lease end, isn’t it?
- If you are selling or refinancing your rental property, the monthly reports are a good due diligence item. If you include on the form the beginning and ending date of the lease, the monthly rent, the security deposit being held, and the lack of any claims against landlord, those letters also constitute “tenant estoppel letters.” Most buyers and lenders require such letters, but it is often awkward having to ask for them because landlords don’t want tenants knowing their plans. The information in this paragraph can be included at the end of the form, in an inconspicuous manner.
Self reporting does not take the place of your own inspections. They are merely a supplement–another tool in your arsenal of good property management. Keep your form short. If you want, you can vary the items each month for the less-important matters.
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