Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, July 28, 2016
I recently wrote an article entitled, the 3 adjectives for leasing your home, and dedicated to my mother who was an English teacher for 30 years. Today’s blog, regarding legal issues to avoid when leasing your home, is dedicated to my father who is currently an attorney here in Birmingham.
Getting sued stinks. As if you didn’t know that. Since it is best to avoid it, let’s look at some sure fire ways that will land you in court with a disgruntled tenant.
As always, I’m not an attorney – although as many of you know, I did tell my wife I was going to be one when we first met – so please consult competent legal counsel before you make any decisions.
So what will land you in court?
1. Inconsistent underwriting – This first one is more for those of you who own more than a few houses. Inconsistent underwriting could land you in rough waters with Fair Housing Laws – which continue to be reinterpreted today. It is pretty obvious that you can’t discriminate against certain “protected classes” of people. Everybody knows that and works hard to follow that. Heck all we want is someone who will pay the rent on time and take care of the home! But, few people know that you can unintentionally violate a fair housing law and still get into loads of trouble. You can create certain policies (again unintentionally) which discriminate against certain “protected classes” of people; and, thus be in violation of Fair Housing Laws.
2. A poor move-out system – We’ve had tenants who absolutely trashed the home attempt to sue us for their security deposit – plus pain and anguish. Great notes from the move in and the move out, along with some pictures goes a long way towards making your case for keeping the deposit. If you show up in court without those items, then it is your word against the tenant’s. And that is a situation where you will not win. To avoid this type of issue happening, make sure you do a great job of documenting everything before a tenant moves in the home. Then, once the tenant has moved out, make sure you document everything again and meticulously compare it to your pictures and notes from the move in. If you do your job here, it will save you a lot of embarrassment in front of a judge.
3. Follow landlord tenant laws – It is almost silly to say that you need to follow the law to keep yourself from being sued, but we see far too many vigilante landlords who believe when the tenant isn’t paying the rent, they can simply remove the front door. Judges don’t think this is a silly act to get someone out and someone could owe you thousands of dollars and still sue you and win. Hard to believe. It is very important for you to know and abide by your landlord tenant law. I’ve heard judges say, “Not knowing the law, is not an excuse for not following it.”
Finding yourself in court staring up at a judge who thinks you are the problem (not the tenant) is not fun. Make sure you follow these 3 items to keep from landing yourself in court as a result of your rental.