Month: July 2016

3 Ways to Avoid Being Sued When Renting Your Home

Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, July 28, 2016

gkhouses in shock

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.

Spring Scavenger Hunt

Spencer Sutton - Friday, July 22, 2016


Culture is a big deal here at gkhouses.

We believe the success of our company is closely aligned with the health and spread of that culture. Two of the core values that make up our culture are disciplined hard work and excellence.

This means that everyone on our team not only works hard, but that we’re not satisfied with average hard work. We want it to be great.

From accounting and leasing to sales and operations…we all hold each other accountable to a very high standard and enjoy being challenged to bring our ‘A Game’ to work each day.

We also believe it’s important that we blow off steam every once in awhile. When you work hard together, it’s important that you play together as well.

This past spring we decided to have a big scavenger hunt around Birmingham based on teams picked school yard style…and three of us agreed to stay at the office to handle any owner or tenant visits/calls.

The following pictures chronicle some of the fun from Teams #1 & #2…unfortunately Team #3 lost all of their photos!


Each team was charged with meeting someone famous in Birmingham. Team #1 hunted down Coby Lake, owner of Avondale Brewing Company and the person who led the early revitalization of Avondale. We have also managed rental property for Coby and is a friend of gkhouses!


Team #2 found Ben Tamburello who was an Auburn offensive linemen and had a stint in the NFL with the Eagles. He now lives in Birmingham and is a successful RE/MAX agent.

Another challenge in the scavenger hunt was to find and get your picture taken with a local entrepreneur that you admire. Team #2 chose Stephanie Whitaker who owns Engaged in Homewood. What’s interesting about Stephanie is that she’s happens to be the wife of gkhouses owner, Matthew Whitaker. Not sure if we penalized them enough for kissing up to the boss….


Of course teams had to get their picture taken by a Birmingham icon…and Team #2 chose one of the best – Vulcan.

Not really sure what Mat is trying to do here with Vulcan…while Morgan and Frankie aren’t sure why they’re jumping in the air!


Team #1 found a famous Birmingham invention for some good points…did you know that Mary Anderson invented windshield wipers and that she was from Birmingham? We didn’t either!


And as the scavenger hunt winded down, each team was asked to visit one of Birmingham’s great local breweries and have a beer if they wanted. Team #1 made their way to Good People Brewing Company down near Regions Park.


All in all, the first annual gk Scavenger Hunt was a huge success. All three teams did fantastic and we had a picture party when they all came back to the office. The stories were priceless and it was a great way to have fun before the busy summer season started.

If you want to join a team that knows how to work hard and have fun…then we may be a good fit!

The 3 Adjectives Of Leasing Your Home

Matthew Whitaker - Thursday, July 21, 2016

Paper cut of family with house and car on green grass

The 3 Objectives of Leasing Your Home

My mom was an english teacher for almost 30 years. If I had a dollar for every time she corrected the way I spoke or the way I wrote, I could feed a small 3rd world country. That is why it is so funny that the idea for this article hit me recently. So Mom, this one’s for you . . .

Leasing your home is by far the most important responsibility you have as a manager or a homeowner. Much like getting a business to make money, getting the right tenant on the bus makes the experience so much more enjoyable.

That is why, I was wondering, what does it take to lease to a great tenant? I came up with three adjectives that should help you.

1. The first adjective is availability. If you are leasing a home, tenant prospects have very little patience for not being able to get someone on the phone and see the house. I always say, if I’m selling a house and you called me to potentially buy it, and I didn’t get back with you by the end of the day, chances are you haven’t purchased a home yet. Not that way with leasing homes. There is a great chance if you don’t get someone to see the home THAT day, then they will find another one that suites their needs. Why?

For a tenant to lease a home, they are typically looking for a few important boxes to check. Things like neighborhood, proximity to work, number of bedrooms or bathrooms and perhaps a school district. Once they check all these boxes, typically they go ahead and rent. The number of boxes to buy a home is a much more lengthy list. Thus, tenants will lease before buyers will buy.

2. The second adjective is patience. If you are in the business of leasing houses, you better be a patient person. You are going to get a million phone calls and emails and every single one of them is going to be asking the same questions! How many bedrooms is it? What are your qualifications? What school does it go to? Same questions . . . every time.

In fact, we got so tired of answering the same 5 or 6 questions, we decided to have voice recording tell the prospects the answers PRIOR to talking to a live voice. You know what was funny? They STILL asked the questions. Bottom line is you better be willing to answer the same questions over and over again to find the right tenant. The last thing you want is for the right tenant to call and you to be so tired of answering those questions you don’t answer or you don’t sound very nice on the phone.

3. The last adjective is disciplined. Why do I say that? If you’ve taken a million phone calls, talked to a million people, shown the home a million times and taken a million bad applications, you need to stay disciplined to you underwriting criteria to find the right person.

One house we leased a number of years back, we showed over 100 times and received over 30 applications! It’s hard to keep showing up at the same house that many times to find the right tenant.

Discipline is also very special to me because it is one of our core values that we believe so strongly in. The ability to stay disciplined when finding the right tenant will pay off, but you have to keep reminding yourself through the process. Finding the right tenant for your rental home is the most important accomplishment you will have as a manager or homeowner. Make sure you remember my English teacher mom and stay true to these adjectives.

Mom, if you’re reading this, it is already posted and making changes now wouldn’t help.