Landlord Tenant

Landlord Tenant Resolution Part, What To Expect

A Resolution Part is a courtroom where the landlord and tenant can discuss their differences before a Judge or Court Attorney sees if an agreement can be reached to settle the dispute. You may also be there for a motion or an order to show cause.

A Resolution Part is presided over by a Judge, assisted by two court attorneys, a clerk, and a court officer. The court officer, wearing the uniform, stands in the courtroom to maintain order. The clerk, sitting at a desk at the front of the courtroom, can answer any questions you may have about the calendar or the Judge’s rules. The court attorneys, who are lawyers, assist the Judge. Also, volunteer court representatives are present to assist. The Judge sits on the bench at the front of the Courtroom and hears motions and cases, and reviews stipulations and orders to show cause.

Each Resolution Part has its own rules posted on the wall and can be obtained from the court clerk. You can also view the Judge’s rules at Part Rules. Depending upon the part’s rules, you must either quietly check in with the court clerk or court officer or listen for your case to be called. If you need an interpreter, you should tell the court clerk.

Your case may have been assigned to one of the Housing Courts specialty Parts depending on the subject matter:

City Part

Coop/Condo Part

New York City Housing Authority Part

Housing Part Proceedings (HP) (proceeding to compel repairs)

When a case is called, the landlord and tenant or their attorneys will meet with the judge or court attorney to discuss the case. If you are not the named tenant or the named landlord but are in court on their behalf, you should let the court personnel know. If you are a tenant and your apartment needs repairs, you can ask for an inspection. If you are a landlord and you have completed the repairs, you can ask for an inspection. You may go to Inspection Request to view the civil court form. You will have to come back to Court at a later date if the Judge grants the request for an inspection. You may have an attorney represent you on your case. If you need time to get an attorney, or if you need documents that you do not have with you today, or if you have another reason for not being ready, you can ask to come back at a later date. This is called an adjournment. At the landlord’s request, the Judge can order the tenant to deposit the future rent if the tenant requests two adjournments or if the case has been in court for more than 30 days.

While you are waiting for the case to be called, you must be quiet. Just as you would want other people to be quiet when your case is being heard, others in the courtroom should receive the same courtesy. If you are approached by the other party or the party’s lawyer in your case, you do not have to speak to that person outside the judge or court attorney’s presence. However, you should feel free to step outside the courtroom to speak to the other party or lawyer only if you want to. Every case will be discussed by either the judge or the court attorney before you leave.

There is mediation available in some boroughs as an alternative to having a judge decide your case. In a mediation session, a professionally trained neutral person sits down with the parties. Each party has an opportunity to explain his or her position on the issues in dispute, listen to each other, and work together to reach a mutually acceptable solution. The Court will review any agreement reached through mediation. If you cannot resolve your case through mediation, your case will be sent back to the Resolution Part. Not all cases are appropriate for mediation. If you wish to have a mediator handle your case, either tell the court clerk or say so when you answer the calendar.

When your case is called, the judge or court attorney will discuss the case to see if the case can be settled. If, after discussing the case, the landlord and tenant agree to a settlement of the case, a document called a Stipulation of Settlement would be written up for the landlord and tenant to read and sign. No one can force anyone to settle a case or sign an agreement. No one should agree to settle a case if they do not agree with the settlement terms. The Stipulation of Settlement is a binding agreement between the landlord and tenant. In Settlement’s Stipulation, the landlord and tenant may agree to do certain things by certain dates. If the landlord or tenant fails to follow through on her or his end of the agreement, there may be dire consequences. It is important that you only make an agreement that you know you can keep and that you agree with.

If, after discussing the case, the landlord and tenant cannot reach an agreement, the case will be referred to another part of the Housing Court, called a Trial Part, for trial. Except, cases assigned to the HP Part remain in part for trial and do not go to a different Trial Part. The trial may occur that day, or it may be scheduled for another date depending on the Court’s calendar and on whether the judge determines that the case is ready for trial.

For information on serving legal papers, contact an eviction service, call (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST.  If you found this article helpful, please consider donating.  Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us!  We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.

The 10 Essential Rules Every Lease Agreement Should Cover

By: Matt Faustman

9423763880_16d2ec4d79Across the nation, and due to the past decade’s housing and unemployment crisis and a half, many former homeowners have returned to renting property. Plagued by high unemployment, many college graduates have also bought a home aside and settled in a generation of renters.  Residential demographics from 2012 obtained by the National Multi-Housing Council indicate that renter-occupied households make up 32% of U.S. households. That number changes depending on the region, with cities like New York and Los Angeles having 50% and 42% (respectively) households in rental properties.

If you’re a landlord or property owner, your lease agreement is probably one of the most important documents you use. It is the legal agreement between you and each tenant that occupies the space you own, and therefore, it acts as the rules by which they live in that space and defines the repercussions should the rules be broken.

The lease agreement provides renters and landlords with a legally enforceable contract, and this document must have the necessary elements to provide security to both renter and landlord. A good lease agreement protects your interests and prevents misunderstandings that could potentially lead to litigation.

10 Lease Agreement Terms You Have to Include

The following are the essential terms that should be in every lease agreement:

  1. Parties to the lease – the lease agreement should name the landlords and tenants bound by the agreement.

  2. Description of the property – the lease agreement should describe the property controlled by the lease agreement. It may be as simple as the address and apartment number, but it must be identified, or the agreement cannot be enforced.

  3. Terms of rent – the dollar amount should be in agreement and the day of the month rent is due, where the rent is to be sent, and how it will be accepted (by check, by automatic draft, etc.). The terms for late rent should also be in this portion of the agreement.

  4. Lease dates and termination – the start and end of the lease should be in agreement, as well as the description of how and when the landlord and tenant can end the lease. For example, an apartment lease may be terminated with one month’s notice and a final month’s rent.

  5. Security deposit details – the amount of the security deposit, how it is to be paid, and the terms of its future release should be specified in the lease agreement.

  6. Occupants of the property – the lease agreement should list every person who will regularly occupy the property and what happens if a person stays for more than a certain length of time.

  7. Pet details – the lease agreement should specify whether or not a tenant can have a pet. The limitations on number, size, and species should be listed as well. If there is an additional deposit required for a pet, that amount should be included in the lease agreement.

  8. Repairs and damages- the condition of the property should be noted and the tenant’s and landlord’s responsibilities for repairs and problems with the property. The lease agreement should also describe whether the landlord or tenant is responsible for damages to the property.

  9. Alterations to the property – the lease agreement should describe what, if any, alterations the tenant may make to the property.

  10. Right of entry – the lease should include a clause that allows the landlord to enter and inspect the property with reasonable notice. The terms should define reasonable notice and explain the rights of the tenant.

In addition to the essential terms above, see the following optional terms applicable to your property.

Some Optional Terms You May Want to Add

Depending on your property, the following lease agreement terms may be useful to include in your lease agreement:

  • Right to renew the lease – if the tenant has the right to renew the lease at the end of the lease agreement, those terms should be listed in the lease agreement. Ideally, a new lease agreement will be signed each time the tenant renews.

  • Right to sublet the space – if the tenant has the right to sublet the property to another person, the lease agreement should spell out those terms.

  • Parking restrictions/rules – if the property has parking or offers parking in a designated spot, those terms should be listed in the lease agreement.

  • Possessions – if certain possessions, like water beds or grills, are not allowed on the property, those terms should be listed – along with the consequences of those items cause damage to the property.

  • Property rules – if the property is a multi-unit, the landlord may specify rules that govern behavior on the property, such as avoiding loud noises after 10 p.m. or not doing vehicle repairs in the parking lot.

While many essential and optional lease terms are included in pre-printed, standardized lease forms, those terms may or may not fit your needs as a property owner. However, it’s important to note that standardized agreements don’t always fit the situation, and they may or may not be customized to meet your state and local requirements. When you have questions or want to customize a lease agreement, working with a qualified real estate lawyer is the best way to get the best lease agreement – one you and your tenants can live with comfortably.

For information on serving legal papers, contact  Professional Process Service, call (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST.  If you found this article helpful, please consider donating.  Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us!  We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.

Warning Signs for Property Managers Screening New Tenants

By: Matt Faustman

Man Looking Through BinocularsThe screening of tenants to find those who will pay their rent on time and treat the space you are renting to them with respect is a critical and ongoing part of property management responsibilities. The screening process should begin at your first contact with the prospective tenant because it can take time to show their true colors. Savvy residential property owners know to ask all prospective tenants to fill out a rental application that includes the following basic identifying information:

  • name, social security number and driver’s license number, the current state of employment, income, and references

Then, before choosing a tenant, a property manager will want to check with previous landlords, verify their employment, and obtain a credit report and background check. The credit report is helpful because it indicates whether a potential tenant has trouble paying their rent or utility bills late, for example. It will also tell a property manager details about whether a tenant has gone through bankruptcy or has ever been evicted. The background check will let you know if your tenant is a previous criminal, among other things. To avoid any trouble with fair housing laws, a property manager must be completely transparent and fair in the screening process.

All of this is the standard operating procedure for an experienced property manager. It’s necessary because the effort involved in dealing with a ‘bad tenant’ is time-consuming, expensive, and messy. Avoiding this problem is ideal, and expert property managers know to ask a series of questions to help them suss out those tenants likely to be a problem. How a prospective tenant answers the questions indicates whether they’re likely to be a good tenant or a problematic one.

7 Questions Property Managers should ask Potential Tenants

While most property managers have worked out their own set of favorite questions, the following come highly recommended:

  1. What is your reason for moving?

  2. When is your preferred move-in date?

  3. What is the length of time you need the space?

  4. How many people will be living on the property?

  5. What is your current employment status?

  6. Do you have pets?

  7. Do you smoke?

The prospective tenant answers the first two is especially important because it can reveal whether the tenant is currently in trouble with their employment or current landlord.

Warning Signs to Watch Out for When Screening Tenants

When the prospective tenant answers the questions above, listen carefully for the following warning signs:

  • If they give you a relatively long back story rather than answering the question directly.

  • If they are evasive about answering any of the questions.

  • If they seem desperate or are in a hurry to move (although factor in abuse situations as sometimes people are simply escaping other people).

  • If they view the space with their parents – even worse if the parents are asking all the questions and this is their first time away from home.

  • If they have moved every year for the past several years (although factor in the economic situation), many people have had to move for jobs over the past decade).

  • Suppose they are apparently under the influence of alcohol or drugs when they’re answering the questions. (Yep, this happens all the time.)

All of the above are general warning signs that may not automatically mean they’re likely to be bad tenants. However, discovering that they lied on their application is a definite sign that they’re hiding something from you and likely to be a less-than-desirable tenant.

Whatever you do, as a property manager, you’re required by law to treat everyone equally and fairly. Ask every potential tenant the same questions. Tell every tenant about all the spaces you have available. Let each prospective tenant know you will be checking credit, criminal, and work history.

Landlord-tenancy laws can be quite complex. An inexperienced property manager should work with an experienced real estate attorney to ensure they understand what they can and cannot ask, what they can and cannot do, and so forth. Ideally, it’s best to develop and stick to a process for screening potential tenants to avoid getting into a legal mess later on.

For information on background checks, contact skip trace services, call (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST.  If you found this article helpful, please consider donating.  Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us!  We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.

Landlord Tenant Laws

Landlord/Tenant laws are designed to protect both parties in residency agreements for commercial and residential properties.  They can be quite complex.  These laws vary greatly from state to state; As a general rule, each section will outline the tenant’s rights, restrictions, and expectations and another similar section devoted to the landlord.

Some of the across-the-board regulations include:

•Landlords must give tenants notice before entering rental premises (generally one to two days)

•Tenants must uphold certain maintenance obligations

•Tenants are responsible for the behaviors of any guests they invite to the property

•The agreement can’t be changed without the permission of both parties involved (or failing that the due diligence of one party to meet specified guidelines for amending the agreement)

•Landlords and tenants can terminate a rental agreement for a variety of reasons, but termination must be preceded by verbal or written notice of intent

While these laws were put on the books with the intent of giving both parties a level playing field, landlords generally have access to a larger amount of resources (financial or otherwise) that may aid them in the event of a dispute.

Additionally, many of these laws were written in the 18th century and are still today.  So, as you can imagine, trying to navigate them in modern society can be a bit tricky.  For example, Alabama’s tenant law still allows landlords to place a lien on a tenant’s crops if they fail to come through with the rent.  Additionally, a lien can be placed if a tenant fails to plant a crop in the first place.  That might be okay for rural tenants, but the law is written such that it could be made to apply to tenants living in the heart of urban centers.

Applicable Federal Laws

Certain federal laws trump all local and state-level regulations.  Below you’ll find a brief listing.

Passed as a portion of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Federal Fair Housing Act trumps all state and local level laws on the books.  However, it doesn’t guarantee much in the way of coverage for either party, save for neither party can discriminate based on race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or familial status.

Additionally, the Age Discrimination Act of 1975 states that landlords and real estate agents cannot discriminate based on an individual’s age if the agency or property involved receives federal funds (such as government-subsidized housing).  Similarly, such programs and properties cannot discriminate based on a person’s disabilities because the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 forbids it.

State and Local Laws

While it would take far too much time (and space) to cover every applicable state Landlord/Tenant law on the books, below, you’ll find a general overview of what you’ll likely find in everyone.  Keep in mind that many states have based their individual laws on either the Uniform Residential Landlord And Tenant Act (URLTA) or the Model Residential Landlord-Tenant Code.

For your state’s specific legislation, contact your state’s office of the attorney general.  You can find a list of current AGs here.

Tenant Rights

Generally, landlord/tenant laws across the country safeguard a tenant’s private property, their right to inhabit real estate so long as they’re paying rent. So long as they don’t violate clauses specific to any rental agreement.

As such, many state-level laws require that landlords disclose significant information to potential and current tenants.  These disclosures can include the property owner’s name and business address and instructions about where tenants can find information about locally applicable laws.  Additionally, federal regulations require that all tenants be notified before occupancy of lead paint’s presence (or potential presence) in homes/apartments built before 1977.

Security Deposits

Generally, the maximum security deposit that a landlord can hold is half time the monthly rental fee.  This deposit doesn’t include the first or last month’s rent; It doesn’t include any fee that the landlord may charge for redecorating/remodeling the property before the tenant takes residency.

Subletting

Whether or not it’s covered in the tenant/landlord agreement, many states have laws about property subletting.  You must understand your obligations before attempting any subletting—even “unofficial” agreements.

Landlord Liens

All landlord/tenant laws deal with payment for habitation.  As such, every state-specific law will have a section devoted to landlord liens.  If a tenant fails to pay rent, the landlord can place liens against a property.

Additionally, landlords can seek financial compensation from tenants in small claims court (for amounts less than $5,000) or civil court (for amounts over $5,000).

Mobile Homes Versus Permanent Housing

While most landlord/tenant laws apply only to permanent housing, most states have specific landlord/tenant laws applicable to mobile homes.  Generally, these laws mirror each other in most respects except when the mobile home is situated on land not included in the rental agreement (such as in a mobile home park).

Commercial Versus Residential Properties

Landlord/tenant laws are often divided into subsections based on the type of property in question; some states have separate laws for the two types of property.  Generally, residential tenants have more freedom about the property they’re renting than commercial ones.

For information on evictions, contact an eviction service, call (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST.  If you found this article helpful, please consider donating.  Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us!  We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.

3 Eviction Mistakes Landlords and Tenants Make

1. Not evaluating whether you really have a case.

Whether you are the party seeking damages or the party presumed to owe money, you must know:

The ins and outs of your lease agreement

The laws in your state

Does your lease state that you, the tenant, must give notice in writing 30 days before moving out, and you never gave it? Does the lease state that you, the landlord, must do requested repairs in a timely fashion, but you never did? Honestly, evaluate whether you have violated the terms of the contract.

If you didn’t sign a lease, or if the issue is outside the scope of your lease, look into your state’s landlord-tenant laws, as laws vary by state. Not only that but some states, like Florida, are known to be landlord-friendly, while others, like New Jersey, are known to be tenant-friendly. Knowing this may help you decide whether you even want to pursue the matter. Ask yourself if it’s worth the time and money.

Settling the matter out of court is the ideal situation if you do choose to pursue it. If you cannot come to terms with the other party between you, consider arbitration or mediation.

2. Not knowing the difference between a real lawsuit and a mere threat.

Sending a letter is often the first step in cases like these. The party requesting money can write the letter, or better yet, get an attorney to write it. The letter should state the amount of money being sought, what for, and when it is due. Advise that you will take legal action if you do not receive the money by that date.

But a letter is not a lawsuit. If you send such a letter, don’t expect it to work immediately, if at all. If you receive such a letter, don’t be pressured to pay right away. Consider that amount of the opening bid, and discuss the matter further. Ideally, you’ll both reach an agreement, and that will be the end of it.

3. Not getting legal advice.

If the letter isn’t effective, mediation and arbitration have failed, and you are sure you want to pursue this, file a suit in small claims court. Go to your county court and speak to a clerk who can help you file the suit. Limits for claims vary by state, but most are under $10,000. The party being sued should countersue at this time if they believe they are owed money.

Because the amount of money being sought is fairly low in cases like these, an attorney’s hourly price likely not make it worth it you to hire one to represent you (and some states don’t allow attorneys in small claims court anyway). But an hour or two of advice to help you prepare can be worth it. Your attorney will discuss your case with you, give you advice on presenting your side in court, and tell you what documents to bring, among other things.

Avoid Being Sued in the First Place

The simplest way for tenants and landlords to avoid the chance of a lawsuit is always to sign a lease, read the lease closely, and live up to it. Both landlords and tenants need to know their rights as well as responsibilities.

Landlords:

Have renters sign a lease. Make rules clear about subletting and who is responsible for what. The lease should limit your culpability to the amount applicable by law and no more. (Landlords should also get landlord insurance to protect them.)

Maintain the property and make requested repairs on time. Your lease should make provisions that tenants are required to notify you of things that need repair (so that they can’t use that as an excuse to leave without giving proper notice) and that you can enter the apartment with proper notice to make those repairs.

Be nice to tenants! They are more likely to sue if you have a bad personal relationship.

Tenants:

Pay rent on time. If you must pay in cash, get a receipt for your records.

Detail damages before moving in and keep the property in good condition. The security deposit you paid is only to be used for damages, so if you can show that you didn’t cause anything beyond normal wear and tear, you are entitled to receive your security deposit back once you move out.

Notify your landlord of problems in writing and request prompt maintenance. If possible, show that you weren’t responsible for the damages.

Give required notice to vacate in writing. Your lease will state how much time you have – usually 30 or 60 days.

Be nice to your landlord! If you suddenly have to move and you don’t have 30 or 60 days, and you are willing to help find a new renter, then maybe your landlord can work with you and let you off the hook for the remaining rent instead of suing. If your relationship has always been contentious, this will be more difficult.

For information on eviction services call (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST.  If you found this article helpful, please consider donating.  Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us!  We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.

Finding The Right Tenants

 

One way landlords find tenants is by placing an ad for a rental unit in the local newspaper or websites like Craigslist.org and Apartments.com. The ad should include a complete description of the property that details its size, monthly rent, how many bedrooms and bathrooms there are, and which appliances and utilities are included. If the landlord is considering year-long rather than month-to-month leases, he/she should make that clear as well.

By listing all of these details in the ad, neither the landlord nor the potential tenant wastes time discussing or walking through a dwelling that’s wrong for the client’s needs. It’s also recommended that the landlord talks to all potential tenants over the phone before meeting at the rental property. This is another way to double-check that the unit is right for the tenant.

At an appointment to show the apartment, the landlord should come prepared with a rental application. The purpose of the purpose rental application is to have written proof that the tenant has the income and financial stability to pay the rent on time and has a solid rental history with no evictions, legal problems with landlords, or a history of missed payments. Here’s some standard information that should be collected on a rental application:

Personal information: Name, address, phone numbers, and an e-mail address for all applicants and co-applicants, including how many children and pets will be living in the unit.

Background check authorization: The applicant’s written permission to check his/her history. To run the United States Background, the landlord will need the applicant’s Social Security number and a copy of his driver’s license.

Income: Recent pay stubs and bank statements to verify the applicant’s monthly income and bank account holdings.   A good rule of thumb is that the monthly rent should equal no more than one-third of a tenant’s monthly income.

Employment history: A list of recent employers, including how long the applicant stayed at each job.

Code of conduct and rent agreement: The applicant should sign a code of conduct — what behavior is and isn’t acceptable on the property. The agreement should also include the rent amount.

Meeting with tenants and collecting applications is all part of the tenant screening process. The landlord must understand any applicable fair housing laws to avoid discrimination claims during the screening process.

The basic rule of tenant screening is to establish a clear set of criteria against which all applicants will be judged. For example, each applicant must have a minimum amount of monthly income, no prior evictions. It’s a good idea to put that set of criteria in writing and have a lawyer look at it.   All decisions should be based on sound business logic, like using the same standards to evaluate each prospective tenant, not personal impressions. To avoid discrimination, a landlord shouldn’t make exceptions for one applicant if he wouldn’t make those same exceptions for all of them.  Once the landlord has found the right applicant, it’s time to sign the lease.

For information on tenant screening, contact our skip trace service department at  (800) 774-6922. Representatives are available Monday-Friday 8 am – 8 pm EST.  If you found this article helpful, please consider donating.  Thank you for following our blog, A space dedicated to bringing you news on breaking legal developments, interesting articles for law professionals, and educational material for all. We hope that you enjoy your time on our blog and revisit us!  We also invite you to check out our Frequently Asked Questions About Process Servers.