Being a landlord or property manager can be challenging; however, individuals who are new to the business can benefit from taking heed to the following information and tips. In order to ensure that things run as smoothly as possible, one of the first steps a landlord should take is to obtain the right type of insurance coverage to protect his or her investment.
Landlords are advised to carry a sufficient amount of liability insurance, as well as other property insurance. Proper insurance coverage helps to protect landlords from tenant lawsuits and property losses caused by things such as burglary and fires.
Once the appropriate insurance coverage has been obtained, a landlord will want to secure well-qualified tenants. While it is understandable that landlords want to get as many people in their properties as quickly as possible, they should never bypass the screening process.
Conducting a proper screening of potential tenants can help landlords avoid various problems in the future, particularly when it comes to making certain that the tenants actually pay their rent regularly and on time.
Additionally, with regard to the screening process, it is important that landlords comply with all Fair Housing laws (laws to prevent discrimination based on a tenant’s membership in a particular protected class [e.g., race, creed, national origin, etc.]) so as to have a balance between screening potential tenants and complying with Fair Housing.
Thus, to ensure that the screening process is done properly, a set of policies should be in place and landlords should rarely, if ever, deviate from these policies.
Further, landlords should be mindful of screening policies that may have a disparate impact. That is, under the Fair Housing Act, a policy may be considered discriminatory if it has a disproportionate “adverse impact” against any group based on race, national origin, color, religion, sex, familial status, or disability when there is no legitimate, non-discriminatory business need for the policy.
Thus, a policy on its face may not discriminate, but implementation of such a policy may result in discrimination regardless of intention. As such, screening policies should be mindful of having a disparate impact as well.
Landlords should also ensure that all lease and/or rental agreements are put in writing. The writing should include all important details with respect to the landlord-tenant relationship, especially details regarding the handling of complaints and repair issues. Additionally, landlords should have a clear and fair system with respect to the receipt and use of security deposits.
In order to avoid disagreements over a security deposit when a tenant moves out, landlords are advised to thoroughly inspect their units prior to tenants moving in.
Tenant safety should always be of importance to landlords. While many new landlords may not be in a position to hire professional security guards to protect their tenants and properties, there are a few things that landlords can and should do to help make their properties a little more secure.
For example, ensuring that adequate lighting exists on the property and ensuring that trees and bushes are properly trimmed, which are inexpensive ways to help keep tenants secure.
Further, if the landlord is aware that the property has environmental hazards, he or she should advise their tenants of such hazards immediately. Environmental hazards, such as mold and/or lead on the premises can pose substantial health risks for tenants and their families. Health issues that are sustained while living on a hazardous premises can lead to substantial lawsuits and litigation costs for landlords.
Landlords should always try to deal with tenant complaints and issues as quickly and peacefully as possible. Avoiding lawsuits, where possible, will be crucial to the longevity of a landlord's business. If the issue involves something that does not call for immediate eviction, the landlord might be well served to simply sit down with the tenant and see if the dispute can be resolved without getting lawyers involved.
If you are a new landlord and/or property manager, and you have questions or concerns about handling your business properly under New York landlord tenant law, contact an attorney at Griffin Alexander, P.C. today.
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