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LEGAL NEWS

Vol. 11 Issue 1


TIME TO MAKE SOME CHANGES?

We are at a pretty good time in the rental housing business. Occupancy is high, and rents are rising. We can all sit back and just cruise along, right?  I don’t think so!  New construction will soon put a damper on occupancy rates, and the large investment groups who have purchased thousands of homes in Florida are poised to get involved with third party management: your new highly funded competition! THIS is the time to evaluate your business, update your policies and procedures, invest in your career, reduce inefficiencies, and get the education you need to be the absolute best property manager you can be.

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WHAT IS EVICT.COM?

Our website is not pretty, it is not perfect, it is not fun, it is not colorful, and to the casual observer, would be a complete bore. We don’t care. Evict.com is by far the largest collection of Florida specific information for the residential property manager ever compiled. There are literally hundreds of legal articles that deal with issues the residential property managers face each day. Property management is an odd profession. There is not one book that will get you from A-Z, but www.evict.com can really help fill in a lot of the blanks.

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THE CURABLE NONCOMPLIANCE - PART 2

The vast majority of noncompliances with which a property manager must deal are termed “curable”.  Residents either need to start doing something they are supposed to be doing under the lease or law, or stop doing something they are not supposed to be doing under the lease or law.  Each noncompliance is unique it its own way, requiring the proper wording on the Seven-Day Notice of Noncompliance with Opportunity to Cure.  If not cured, the landlord will need proper proof to proceed to termination and a possible eviction action.  This is Part 2, where we examine three more specific, curable noncompliances in depth, notices, proof issues, and the action plan for the property manager.
 

Click here  for Part 2 - 3 Curable Noncompliances.

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SERVICEMEMBERS TERMINATING LEASES

A resident on active duty with the Navy that recently moved into your apartment community e-mailed you last week. He informed you that he wished to terminate his lease in 30 days, because he became eligible for government housing and will be moving to his base.  His lease is not going to expire for another ten months! You responded back that he will be responsible for the rent as it comes due until the end of the lease. Today you received an nasty e-mail from an attorney who claims that you are violating Florida law, and that the servicemember need not pay rent after 30 days from the date notice was given to terminate the lease. What in the world is going on here?

 

Click here  to learn how to properly handle servicemembers who terminate their leases.

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SAFETY SURVEYS

Your landscaping looks awesome, but is it creating hiding places for a robber? Your maintenance tech goes home each day by 4 p.m. while it is still light out.  Did he know that two flood lights were out behind Building 7 for the last three weeks? How about those emergency exit light bulbs? What about the loose railing or broken stair tread that occurred from a recent resident’s move-out? How about the hole in the fence that the kids use to cut through the property? It is important that safety and security surveys are done on a regular basis on your property. Sit down with your maintenance tech, and develop a plan of action for 2014. The verdicts in some cases involving crimes on apartment communities have been extreme, and sometimes they could have been avoided.

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YOU TRUSTED A LAWYER FOR WHAT?

Some licensed property managers of single family homes work under real estate brokers who do not want to maintain escrow accounts. The broker often uses a title company to hold the sales escrow funds for real estate closings, thus avoiding having to reconcile the escrow account or deal with FREC audits. Some attorneys have offered to serve as the escrow agent for property managers for a small fee. Sounds great, right? Sure, until that attorney decides to go off the deep end and steal the funds. Do you have any protection? Not much at all. We saw a property management company lose millions of dollars in security deposit escrow funds, when its trusted Florida attorney ran off with the money. Tempted to use an attorney to hold deposits? Think again.

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BACK TO BASICS? – ABANDONED ITEMS

We all know that residents leave little unwanted “gifts” behind for the property manager.  Well, sometimes a lot of “gifts”.  Can you just throw them out? Do you need to store them? Suppose they are valuable? In order to know what you can do with these items, the manager must fully know the law and the circumstances surrounding the situation. A slip-up could result in a civil theft suit for 3 times the alleged value of the items, or even jail!  Do you know how to deal with all this safely? You will have to sometime; that is a certainty.
 

Click here for a Back to Basics on Abandoned Items.

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THE INNOCENT REQUEST

Occasionally, a manager in either the single family home or multi-housing context, is asked seemingly innocent questions, or there is a request by the applicant, resident or owner, which seems logical. Sometimes the question or request seems completely reasonable. Some of these requests, if acted upon, can cause serious legal problems or are mines in the “Fair Housing minefield”.  No kids, higher rent if there are kids, occupancy limitations, waiver of liability signed by resident if there is a pool, no residents of a certain national origin, work in exchange for rent, are just some of the many “odd” requests. How do you answer? Should you answer? Should you oblige?
 

Click here to see some of the “innocent requests” you WILL get.

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DOCTORED LEASES – IT IS HAPPENING

In the “old days”, if approved applicants could not be present to sign the lease, it was faxed to them, they signed it and faxed it back, or dropped it off. Today, we e-mail the PDF file to them, they sign it by hand or electronically sign it, and e-mail it back. Looks good to you, and you sign it. The problem is that they may have modified the document, and you have no idea. A clause was slipped in, or one was removed. How does this happen? Easy. Anyone with Adobe PDF Professional can modify a PDF document, and you would not even know it. Other programs are out there that perform the same function.  Watch out for this. We just saw a doozy the other day, when an applicant slipped in a 30-day cancellation clause, the manager subsequently signed the lease, and it would take a major court case to have a judge decide whether fraud was involved.

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PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM THE BANKRUPT RESIDENT

We are constantly asked for clauses to be placed in the lease that will protect the property owner in the event the resident decides to file bankruptcy. It simply can’t be done. If creditors could put clauses in contracts that stated that a bankruptcy of a debtor would not affect them or would exempt them, EVERYONE would do it. It is not called “bankruptcy protection” by accident. It protects the person who files bankruptcy. If an applicant tells you of an intent to file bankruptcy, you need to be scared, very scared. NOTHING can safely protect the owner.

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PREPAID RENT CAUSING A LAWSUIT?

We have been on a mission to discourage property managers from taking prepaid rent. It is so tempting to take that year in advance, but big problems can occur. Commonly the resident needs to break the lease, and yes, the resident wants the prepaid rent back, so now litigation results.  Maybe the resident is hiding money!  A drug dealer or possibly someone who is going to file a bankruptcy decides to stash the money with you in prepaid rent. Right now we have a client who is being sued by a federal bankruptcy trustee for accepting prepaid rent. The resident was hiding money from a bankruptcy proceeding, and the bankruptcy court found out. Avoid the temptation, and find out the pitfalls before you decide to accept that prepaid rent.

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INDUSTRY LEADER OF THE MONTH – MELISSA PRANDI

Melissa Prandi, MPM®, RMP®, President & CEO of PRANDI Property Management, Inc., CRMC® and co-owner of PropertyADVANTAGE in California, has been matching quality tenants with quality homes for over 30 successful years. Past President of NARPM® and author of two industry-related books, The Unofficial Guide to Managing Rental Property and The Idiot’s Guide to: Success as a Property Manager, Melissa proves her passion for excellence by sharing her vast knowledge with everyone she can. Her enthusiasm for the industry has helped transform her into a respected community leader, sought after teacher, and nationwide motivational speaker. Melissa has been asked to speak on behalf of NARPM® (traveling to almost all of Florida’s chapters, and teaching throughout the state), the California Association of REALTORS®, Propertyware (a Real Page Company) and many other organizations. Actively involved and committed to other outreach efforts in the community, she has served on several non-profit boards. Individually, Melissa loves working with her son Matt and traveling as much as she can. She has yet to meet “a stranger,” believes in surrounding herself with other experts (such as great eviction lawyers, CPA’s, and licensed contractors), and looks forward to continuing her efforts to make a difference in the residential property management industry.

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NEW MATERIAL FOR YOUR NEWSLETTER ISSUE 3

Most members of the various local apartment associations are familiar with our Q & A Columns that appear in their monthly or bi-monthly newsletters. We provide one for your local NARPM Chapter, Association, Board of REALTORS or property management group. Feel free to publish the Q & A as you see fit, and we are always open to ideas for questions and topics!
 
Click here  for Issue #3.

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Commercial Law and You

Legal Holiday
in February

Don't forget to exclude this Legal Holiday when preparing your Three Day Notices in February 2014!

02/17 - President's Day

 

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Monthly e-newsletter of the
Law Offices of Heist, Weisse & Wolk, P.A.

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