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Sex Offenders

You can deny housing to sex offenders on the Registry, and not violate the Fair Housing laws, as long as you turn down ALL sex offenders on the Registry. If you are using the Registry as an excuse to turn down somebody who is Hispanic, for example, but White offenders are allowed housing, then you will be in trouble. My authority for this statement comes from the United States Department of Justice information page regarding Fair Housing Act at https://www.justice.gov/crt/fair-housing-act-1

You can also deny housing to anyone who has a criminal conviction for manufacture or distribution of illegal drugs, no matter when the conviction occurred. Same thing as the sex offenders–it can’t be an excuse to turn down some people and rent to others with the same history. My authority for this statement comes from 42 U.S.C. ยง3607(b)(4); See, also Office of General Counsel Guidance on Application of Fair Housing Act Standards to the Use of Criminal Records by Providers of Housing and Real Estate-Related Activities, April 4, 2016, at pg 8.

Aside from that, you are not allowed to have a blanket prohibition against people with convictions within a certain time frame. HUD says you must take into account the type of crime, the age of the person at the time it was committed, how much time has passed, and rehabilitation evidence in the meantime. Wish I could be less vague, but HUD hasn’t provided any more guidance than that. My advice-continue to turn down people convicted of violent crimes or arson, or multiple property crimes such as theft, and don’t worry about drug use offenses more than a year old.

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Renters Insurance

Landlords should insist on renters insurance for their own protection. As a marketing tool, you can often include the insurance as a free bonus to tenants.

Renters insurance can be purchased for around $210 a year for $10,000 replacement cost coverage, $100,000 liability, and a $500 deductible. That quote is for a policy that does not depend on checking credit scores or insurance history. Tenants who suffer a loss are less likely to sue the landlord (for the tornado, the theft, the fire, whatever) if they have insurance they can use. The money has to come from somewhere, right? The liability portion provides a fund in case the landlord has claims against the tenant for being the one who burned the place to the ground, as one example. Another situation would be if your tenant were sued for harming somebody, he would have money available to pay your rent while his renters insurance pays for legal fees and paying off claims.

Tenants often have no idea the insurance is so cheap. They are usually reluctant to spend the time calling for quotes or filling out online forms. Many have been unable to get economically priced insurance for health or auto. Or, they bought insurance in the past and then lost it when they could not keep up the monthly payments. To them, it seems like a waste of time to try to get renters insurance.

In my experience, a landlord who spends $17.50 a month on renters insurance can almost always price their rent $20 a month above the market, if they offer the insurance at no charge! Plus, just offering the insurance gives them a competitive advantage in the market place.

Call your own insurance agent to check out prices, policy limits, deductibles, and underwriting criteria that might cause the premium to be higher. Then have your lawyer help write up the disclaimer language that goes with your marketing, so you don’t get locked into paying higher premiums than you intended. Let us know how it works for you!

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Repair Requests

You don’t need specialized software to have easy online management of repair requests. Spend 20 minutes setting up our system, and you will save LOTS of time later, and always have a paper trail if somebody lies about something. Interested?

It all starts with creating an online form in Google Forms or one of the other services that have free forms, if you don’t have a google account. You are limited in the number of forms and fields, but almost anybody’s free subscription should work for you. JotForm.com is one. There are many others.

The steps for creating forms are very easy and intuitive. These are the fields you need:

  • Tenant name (short text block, click setting to make entry required)
  • Address and unit number, if applicable (short text block, click setting to make entry required)
  • Cell phone number (short text block, make required)
  • How long has this problem been going on? (short text block, make required)
  • Describe the problem (long text block, make required)

The form generator will create the form for you, and assign a url (website address) to your form. Now you have to make it easy for your tenants to get to the place to use the form for a repair request.

The best way to make it easy for your tenants is to create a QR code for the url of your form. For some of you reading this, that sounded like Greek, didn’t it? QR codes are like the one at the left. If you have the free QR code app on your phone, you can open the app, click on the code as if you are taking a picture of it, and your phone will open a specific webpage for you. It can do lots of other things if you want, but for this article we want that code to take your tenant to the place where you have your online form for repair requests. BTW, the QR code at the left will take you to the Gulf Shores, Alabama, beach cam.

Once your tenant clicks on the code, the repair request form will open on their phone. They can complete the fields and then click on “send.” The system will them send you an email with all the information the tenant just entered on the form, plus the date and time. You can forward the email to a repair person, and add your own comments if you want. You can print it out and put it in the tenant’s file or on your stack of “To Do” items. You can do ANYTHING you could do after talking to a tenant or listening to a voice mail message and writing down notes of your conversation.

PLUS you have a paper trail so if a tenant claims it made a repair request (but did not) there is no form to back up his claim. If he claims he asked for something different, the paper trail does not back him up. If she claims she never gave you permission to enter her apartment and did not ask for any repairs, the paper trail saves your fanny. Because, if the tenant asks for repairs, you automatically have permission to enter, under the Alabama Residential Landlord Tenant Act.

How do you create the QR Code? Go to any one of the free QR code generator websites. One that I use is https://www.the-qrcode-generator.com/ Select a static form. Those are usually free. Dynamic codes let you later change what happens when someone clicks on it. You don’t need that feature. When asked, enter the url for the form you created. The website will generate a QR code for you. Download it. Print it out. Put a copy inside one of the kitchen cabinets, with a label saying what it is.

When you sign up a new tenant, make sure they download the QR code app. Write something in your lease saying that repair requests MUST be via the online form. Be sure to mention this during the initial move-in walk-thru and inspection.

Sit back, and watch your life get a lot easier!