Tag Archives: Law

Civil Unrest and You: A Renter’s Guide

Hey Renters, Ranters, Landlords and Property Owners. These are turbulent times we live in. One has to look no further than the front page of any newspaper to see that all across the globe, conflicts are raging and people are leaving their houses, apartments, condos and duplexes, and taking to the streets. Some of these protests and demonstrations are peaceful, while others can turn into full-scale riots. Luckily, the Hometown Rant has the guide to helping you protect yourself and your rental property during all demonstrations, riots and uprisings.

The first question you should ask yourself when facing potential cases of civil unrest is, what is the cause that’s being supported or protested? If you’re appropriately for or against said cause, you may want to consider joining the movement. Civil disobedience is one of the most powerful aspects of the democratic system, and exercising your rights is your obligation as a good citizen. There’s a difference between peacefully protesting police shootings, and trying to loot yourself a new pair of running shoes during the confusion. Don’t be the latter. Those people are the reason the cops carry guns in the first place.

As a renter, If you do plan on taking to the streets in a peaceful and organized manner, you’re going to want to make sure that your house, apartment or condo is locked and the lights are off, so as not to attract any unwanted attention. If your rental property is situated within the area of unrest, you may want to leave a note on your door or a sign in your yard so that fellow protesters know that you’re one of them. Don’t leave any valuables in your car, and if your local team has just won the world series, don’t park your car on the street at all.

If you don’t agree with the cause, or things are getting too crazy, you probably don’t want to leave the house, apartment or condo at all, but you still should probably lock your doors and turn your lights off anyways. Or you could make sandwiches and offer them to anyone who breaks in, simultaneously catching them completely off guard and hopefully restoring their faith in basic human morality. If that doesn’t work, you might have to give up your flatscreen.

As a landlord or property owner, keep your eye on the news for any mentions of civil unrest near a rental property that you own or manage, and let your tenants know if any marches or demonstrations are being held in the vicinity of the property, though they will probably already be aware. If things turn nasty though, be prepared for possible damage to your rental property inflicted by unruly civilians, over which the tenants may have no control. While unfortunate in the short-term as property costs take a dip, if you can invest prudently you might be able to snatch up a few more rental properties while the market price is low. It may seem a bit shrewd, but trust us, it’s the American way.

Whoever you are and whatever you decide to do when civil unrest comes knocking at the door of your rental property, make sure that you stay safe and compassionate in protecting yourself and others, your property, and the values that you hold true.

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Let us know: Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

Ask The Rant #1

Here at the Hometown Rant, there’s nothing we love more than giving custom-tailored advice to landlords and renters like you, which is why this week we’re digging through our giant sack of emails to bring you the very first edition of Ask The Rant.

Coleen writes:

Hi, I was living with a woman for 3 months. Our agreement was that I drive her and her kids around because she lost her license, which I did daily. She had to have an interlock device installed in her vehicle. The driver (me) had to blow in before the vehicle would start. I have COPD, so sometimes I can blow in and other times I can’t. So she would and we got to start the vehicle. She got a job and decided to have a neighbor drive her to and from work. She didn’t pay for the gas or rides. The neighbor was bored anyways and offered to do so. So one day I asked if the neighbor wouldn’t mind grabbing the kids on the way back home, so I wouldn’t have to.

Next thing I know I’m being told the locks were changed and to get my sh*t out that night or the next day after she got out of work. Well needless to say I had to call the cops and wait hours for them. Could only get as much as I could get out of the apartment in ten min. Now I lived there for 3 months and my question is can she legally do that? And my cat was locked in my bedroom for 3 days before I got to get him! It was a total nightmare. And I never ended up getting my belongings out of her house. The cops are no help at all. The story goes on and on.

And the girl is selling my things on craigslist. Last time cops went with me she said she put my stuff outside and called me, as per the landlord’s orders. It never happened! Can I sue her and get money for the things I had in that apartment? The story goes on and on! But I can’t deal with writing it all down… very upset.. thanks,

Coleen

Well Coleen, this does sound like a horrible situation for everyone involved. If you’re serious about taking legal action, consult an attorney who is familiar with property law in your area. Ideally, that would be a last resort, but it sounds like you’ve already exhausted most of your options in terms of talking it out.

It may not be of much use to you now, but there are a few points you mention that should raise red flags for problems down the line:

First off, you make it sound like you were not paying rent, but instead had a verbal agreement to provide a service (driving) to pay for your lodging. While maybe not technically illegal, your situation certainly illustrates the problem with making a deal and not explicitly laying out the terms of the agreement in writing. When one party feels the other party hasn’t held up their end, the whole thing devolves into a series of accusations, and it’s virtually impossible to prove who is right or wrong.

Second off, it’s unclear from your story whether or not you had any contact with the landlord, or if the landlord even knew about the arrangement you made with the woman. From what it sounds like, you didn’t sign any form of sublease agreement, meaning that the woman is presumably the only one with her name on the lease. Typically leases contain a clause stating that tenants must be given notice a certain amount of time before an eviction, but if your name isn’t on paper anywhere, then it may come down to your word against hers. As for the stuff of yours that she has or has sold, you should speak to a lawyer if it’s that important to you to get it back, but depending on what it is, it might be cheaper to just cut your losses and not have to deal with a person who is clearly very difficult to communicate with.

For resources available to you at this point, check out the US Department of Housing and Development website, which provides state-by-state information about tenant’s rights, and other resources you can use to get help in your area. If after that you still feel that legal action is your best recourse, talk to a lawyer who specializes in rental law to figure out what you can do. Best of luck, and at the very least know that your story will help other people avoid similar situations.

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Let us know: Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

Be The Beast of the Lease

The beginning of the summer is a hot time to move into a new house or apartment, and along with that comes every every landlord and renter’s favorite thing: signing binding legal contracts! Hooray! In a perfect world we’d be able to just say hey man, I’ll give you some money if you let me stay here for a while, and that would be that, but unfortunately people aren’t always as trustworthy as they claim to be on the internet. Who knew? Luckily, the Hometown Rant is here to help both renters and landlords make sure that renting is the mutually beneficial, almost symbiotic relationship that it should be.

If you’ve been a landlord for a little while, you probably already have a standard lease drawn up that you use with your clients. That’s great! If not, you should probably get on that before you agree to let people live in your house, apartment or loft. The ever-useful wikihow has a nice step-by-step guide for writing your own from scratch, and a quick Google search will yield you more sample leases than anybody could ever sign. Find one that works for you, and if you can’t, edit one until it does.

The bare minimum you need is a document that identifies the names of the parties involved, the location of the house, apartment or loft in question, when rent payments and deposits need to be made and how much they cost, the responsibilities that each party assumes for maintenance and upkeep, and the penalties should either party violate their end of the bargain. Also, a place to sign. But you knew that.

The section where leases tend to differ is the section outlining the responsibilities of both the landlord and the renter, and it’s also the section that tends to be the most often broken by one or both parties. This is the section where you’ll specify who pays for garbage, who’s responsible for calling (and paying) the plumber when the toilet explodes, who is responsible for maintaining the yard, whether or not pets are allowed, and all sorts of other benefits and stipulations that will make or break the deal, so it has to be done right.

Landlords writing leases need to be clear about what they will provide as well as what they expect tenants to do in order to maintain the property. DON’T BE AFRAID TO USE BOLD PRINT IF YOU WANT TO MAKE SURE SOMETHING GETS SEEN! Don’t go overboard though, or you’ll lose the effect. As the owner or manager of the house, apartment, loft or condo, you have the final say about what can or can’t be done there, but remember that you want your rental property to be attractive for potential renters, so don’t get too ridiculous with your rules. If you do have policies that people might not like, maybe provide some services in exchange.

In this day and age, we agree to things all the time without actually reading them, but RENTERS, IF YOU READ ANYTHING EVER, READ YOUR LEASE! IT ACTUALLY MATTERS!  If you don’t, you won’t know what you’re supposed to do, and you won’t get what you deserve! That’s no way to be!

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Hit us on the low-low: Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

 

Lingerers!

This week on the Hometown Rant, we’re talking lingerers. You know–boyfriends, girlfriends, and the occasional space-cadet friend with dreadlocks who’s just passin’ through, man. Entertaining guests at your house, apartment or loft is a normal, healthy way to build relationships, but at a certain point lines must be drawn, or renters and landlords alike are going to have a bad time.

When putting a property up for rent, landlords have a responsibility to rent to the correct (and legal) number of people for the house or apartment. Especially near colleges, it’s common practice to turn that study, garage, or  that Harry Potter closet under the stairs into another bedroom to cheapen rent, but having too many people living in the same house can be problematic and even downright dangerous. Overcrowding a house is often against fire safety codes, and if anything does go wrong, you as the landlord might find yourself liable, even if you don’t think you should be.

Likewise, renters who are trying to cram in a few extra bodies without the knowledge or consent of the property manager should expect trouble. Even if you don’t get caught and evicted, do you really want three hairy dudes living in your closet and hogging the shower every morning when you need to go to work? Even if they’re totally down to chip in for rent, dude, it’s probably not worth the dimebag or hand-blown glass marble they’ll try to pay you with at the end of the month. Find yourself some roommates who don’t list their previous occupation as following Phish around on tour.

When it comes to relationships, things always get sticky. Rental-wise. Jeez, get your mind out of the gutter. Everyone wants to spent the night with their lady/manlyfriend, but once you’re outright living together you should probably be renting together. If you can’t handle that level of commitment then maybe it isn’t meant to be. Otherwise you’ll just alienate the roommates by taking up the only parking space at the apartment and leaving dirty dishes in the sink. One of the dread-y dudes might blame you for totally breaking up the band, dude, but come to think of it, it’s probably time he hit the road anyways.

Ultimately, communication is key. Renters, tell your landlords if you’re having problems with overcrowding at the apartment complex. Landlords, make sure your tenants know how many people it’s safe to have living in their house, and make sure they know that guests are welcome until they don’t act like guests anymore.

Do you have rental questions of your own? Comments? Concerns? Love letters? Hate mail? Get at us:  Hometownrant@hometownrent.com

10 Common Rights Tenants Should Know About!

Before you start looking for a place to rent, or at least before you sign the agreement, make an effort and know your rights. The laws may vary from state to state. Here are a few common rights you should know about.

  1. Discrimination is illegal. Landlord cannot deny renting house on the basis of color, race or religion.
  2. The property to be rented should fulfill the housing and health codes.
  3. In some states, law limits the security deposit amount charged by the property owner.
  4. Landlord should get the repairs made in time. If not, the tenants should be allowed to get it fixed themselves and deduct the cost from the rent.
  5. Rental agreement is not above the law. Provisions against the law cannot be enforced in court.
  6. The tenant has the right to break the lease if terms are being violated by the owner.
  7. The landlord cannot deduct from the security deposit for normal wear and tear.
  8. In some states, the law states that the security deposit needs to be refunded in 14 to 30 days, after the premises are vacated.
  9. Landlords can’t change the locks or shut off the tenant’s utilities or force the tenant to leave.
  10.  If the landlord purposely forces tenant to leave the property by making life difficult, the tenant has the right to take legal action.

Are You Aware of Renters’ Right and Laws?

Denying housing to a tenant on the basis of color, race, religion or any other discrimination is illegal in all the states in the US. While most of the tenant laws and rights vary from state to state, there are similar laws that remain the same all over the country.

As a tenant, are you aware of your rights and limitations? Well, you must be. Here are a few common ones you should start with.

  • Landlords are not allowed to make uninformed visits. They must give a notice 24 hours prior to entering the premises.
  • There is a limit to the amount a landlord can charge as security deposit. The amount varies from state to state.
  • A landlord cannot change the locks without permission or notice.
  • A landlord cannot seize any of the tenant’s property in case of non-payment or delay.

There is more. Learn it all at http://realestate.msn.com/article.aspx?cp-documentid=13108370