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Disinfecting Premises for New Tenants

I’m getting a number of questions about how much you should do to disinfect premises before a new tenant takes possession. Related questions ask about proof someone is COVID negative, etc.

First, unless your tenant or tenant prospect waives their HIPAA rights, you cannot inquire into health issues.

Second, don’t freak out about COVID. It’s not the Black Death. It’s not chicken pox ripping through the New World. Common sense and good cleaning habits are sufficient. Here is an article about the CDC that provides guidance: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/reopen-guidance.html

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Service Members, Stop Movement Orders, and Leases

The Service Members Civil Relief Act, among other things, lets service members cancel their leases without penalty under certain circumstances. Most often, it is a change in duty station that transfers them to another city, state, or country.

Recently, many service members had transfer orders and, based on those, leased rental properties in what was supposed to be their new city. Then COVID hit, and the military issued Stop Movement orders telling everybody to stay where they were. A recent amendment to the Act protects those service members affected by a Stop Movement order that prevents them from moving to their newly-leased premises. For more information, click HERE.

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Tenant Referral Fees

This article discusses a change from prior advice given to property managers with real estate licenses.

Alabama law says you must have a real estate license to manage rental properties, among other things. There is a specific exception for managers of apartments or complexes. THEY do not need a license.

Other Alabama law says that if you have a real estate license, you can pay commissions or referral fees only to other licensed real estate persons. That includes tenant referral fees. There is no minimum. In other words, even a $10 gift certificate to Burger King is illegal and the licensee can be disciplined for that.

Previous legal department personnel at the Alabama Real Estate Commission indicated they would not file a complaint against a real estate licensee who managed apartments and paid referral fees for those apartment units. That is because, they said, no license at all is required, so it was unfair to put such persons at a competitive disadvantage. They said the exemption indicated a Legislative intent that apartment managers be exempt from such rules, even if the statute did not come out and say exactly that. Their philosophy was called “liberal construction” in order to put into practice the general ideas and philosophy of the legislature.

Now we have a new AREC General Counsel, Starla Van Steenis. She is what we would call a “strict constructionist” in this regard. It is not wrong, it is just a different philosophy from liberal construction. She says that the statute does not exempt licensees from the rule against paying referral fees or commissions to unlicensed persons. Because it is silent in that particular, the regular rules apply. If you have a real estate license and manage apartments or complexes, you cannot pay tenant referral fees. To repeat:

  • You do not need a real estate license to manage apartments or complexes.
  • You must have a real estate license to manage anything smaller, such as SFR, duplex, triplex or fourplex
  • If you do not have a real estate license and manage apartments or complexes, you can pay tenant referral fees for those units
  • If you do have a real estate license and manage apartments or complexes, you CANNOT pay tenant referral fees for those units.

For more information about surprising ways you can get into trouble as property manager (even a self-managing investor) and how to avoid those problems, check out my class on Risk Management for Property Managers.

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CDC Issues Order Halting Evictions

With an effective date of September 4, 2020, and in effect through December 31, 2020, the Center for Disease Control ordered a halt to all residential evictions if tenants meet certain conditions. In my opinion (along with many experts!) the Order is a gross over-reaching disguised as something allowable under a federal regulation dealing with quarantine measures. Industry leaders are shocked at the complete lack of concern for struggling landlords, and by the apparent invitation for tenants to abuse the system. All is not doom and gloom, however. Sign up for one of our upcoming classes, or buy the streaming video, to learn how to protect yourself from people trying to game the system. People have been very complimentary of advice I give on how to successfully block the Fair Housing ESA frauds. So, trust me about the evictions moratorium–you DO have weapons in your arsenal! More information HERE.

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Tenant Repair Requests

You should have a good system for written requests for repairs or maintenance. You can create such a system easily, and FREE, using Google Docs. It solves the following problems:

  • Receiving info by text or phone call and then having to write it down.
  • Making mistakes when you write down the request.
  • A tenant CLAIMING you made a mistake and they asked for two things, but all you wrote down was one thing.
  • A tenant claiming you failed to respond to a repair request, but they never actually contacted you.
  • You having to call or write a repair person and relay the problem and instructions to them.
  • A tenant claiming you entered their dwelling illegally (where you discovered a pet that was not allowed) because “they certainly did NOT request any repairs.” The point is, if they requested repairs, you are automatically allowed to enter, even without giving notice or getting permission.

We have a free downloadable article with step-by-step instructions for creating an online repair request system using the free Google Forms section of Google Docs. You can even provide the ability for tenants to upload photos, as part of the same form.

Once the tenant completes the form, you receive an email notification with everything they entered. The info is also retained in your Google Forms account, online. You can print a copy to keep in the tenant paper file, save it as an image to save in their electronic file, and you can forward it to any required repair persons.

Your life is easier and your fanny is covered. That’s priceless, even though the instructions are free!!!!

Click HERE for the instructions. You will go through a checkout process, but will not be asked for any credit card information.