Category: Renting and Tenant Rights

Renters' Rights With Foreclosures

Foreclosure is the legal method lenders use to get control of or sell a home when the mortgage isn’t being paid. A federal law enacted on May 20, 2009,”Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act,” gives tenants rights when the landlord is facing foreclosure. The laws supersedes state laws concerning tenants’ rights. A tenant living in a home facing foreclosure does not need to proceed immediately.

Leases

A lease is the rental agreement signed by the tenant and owner which specifies the lease terms, like the length and amount of rent due every month. Leases that existed before the property has been foreclosed on can’t be terminated by means of a foreclosure occurring after May 20, 2009, based on NOLO. The tenant can stay in the dwelling until the lease ends, unless whoever purchased the foreclosed property is going to reside at the rental unit. A tenant living in a foreclosed home the new owner intends to use as a main residence has to be given 90-day notice before the lease is terminated.

Monthly Tenancies

Tenants that are month-to-month, meaning there’s no signed lease set up, must be given 90 days notice before having to move. Tenants who don’t proceed after receiving the note can be subject to eviction by the new owner. Eviction is the authorized proceeding utilized by a landlord to remove a tenant from a rental home.

Rental Services

Utility services which were supplied from the foreclosed landlord, for example heating, has to continue while the tenant is legally permitted to occupy the rental unit, as stated by the Home and Economic Rights Advocates (HERA). The new owner must keep the utility providers on, even if that owner is the lender which foreclosed on the property. The new owner is also responsible for repairs, and the tenant has the right to submit requests to the new owner for repair and maintenance problems.

Tenant Lawsuit

A tenant can take legal action against a former landlord that had been foreclosed on if her lease had been terminated, as could occur if the new owner decides to reside in the rental home. Leases typically possess a clause which ensures”silent joy,” or uninterpreted occupancy of this rental unit, for the length of the lease. A lease which ends early because of foreclosure violates the enjoyment clause. The tenant can file a civil suit against the landlord to recover costs related to the breach of the lease, like moving expenses.

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Fair Housing Laws on Tenant Screening

The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the lease, sale or financing of housing on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, familial status and disability. Many regions of the nation are also subject to local and state fair housing laws which could expand upon, but not decrease, the federal statute. Tenant screening, an component of rental home, is subject to all fair housing laws.

History

The Fair Housing Act, signed into law by President Johnson in 1968, is Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act. It had been passed in the midst of the return of Vietnam veterans, many of them minorities, who were being denied mortgages, flats and homes based on their race. Through the years a number of amendments are added to the law, among them the discrimination ban on people with disabilities and families with kids. State and local fair housing legislation came before and after the federal law. New York City passed the local law in 1957. California’s was among the first comprehensive state legislation in 1963.

Application

Requiring different information from other classes of applicants based on some of the protected class categories is illegal. For instance, you can’t require a white candidate to present a copy of a tax return along with a applicant a duplicate of his employer-provided W-2 form. You can’t ask about national origin or religion. In certain states, such as California, you can’t inquire about citizenship or immigration status. You can prohibit pets normally and say this on a program, however if a potential tenant has a letter from a physician saying he needs a companion puppy due to a mental health condition, you can’t deny tenancy or prohibit the puppy. In summary, you can’t base any activity or decision in the screening procedure on any aspect of an applicant’s membership in one of the protected classes.

Complaint Process

Applicants or tenants that believe they’ve been treated unfairly have one year to file a federal fair housing complaint. It’s then investigated by either the Department of Housing and Urban Development or a state or local housing agency. Parties may voluntarily enter a conciliation process—like mediation—to resolve the complaint. If investigators find acceptable cause that discrimination took place, they bring the offending party prior to an administrative law judge for a hearing loss. Penalties and damages can amount to thousands of dollars.

Record-Keeping

Proving you didn’t violate fair housing regulations in a specific instance, perhaps many months prior, is a struggle. The ideal way a landlord can protect himself against these claims—along with rigorous adherence to regulations —would be to record notes and steps taken through the screening procedure and keep tenant screening records for well over a year. A checklist or other paper document that demonstrates consistent screening steps for every single applicant will help.

Disclosure

A landlord isn’t required to divulge his screening procedure to potential tenants during the procedure or give reasons for not choosing a tenant unless the decision was predicated on the results of a credit reportnonetheless, if a fair housing complaint is lodged, he won’t only have to disclose the procedure, but fully document it. To prevent even the appearance of discrimination, a few landlords disclose every step involved in the procedure and follow it .

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Legal Treatments Available for Landlords

Legal remedies available for landlords fall into two primary categories: recovering possession of the rented premises and payment of money damages. The main challenge for a landlord is understanding the specific steps needed to regain possession, which may vary significantly depending upon the type and location of their rental house. Landlord-tenant legislation are somewhat different in each state, and may even differ among counties and cities within the exact same state. Before pursuing any treatment, it’s essential to check the local and state laws in which the property is located (see Resources).

Struggling to Pay Rent

A tenant's failure to pay rent is the toughest scenario for a landlord. The landlord should pursue recovering possession of the premises from the tenant via a court-ordered eviction or unlawful detainer lawsuit. Before this treatment can be chased, appropriate written notice should be given to the tenant. In most scenarios, the notice is a 3-day pay or quit notice; that is, the renter has 3 days to pay the rent due or surrender possession of the premises. However, the mandatory notice period varies in some specific scenarios. For example, in California, in the event the rental housing unit is sold in foreclosure and the tenant wasn’t a party to the foreclosed mortgage, then the notice period is enlarged from 3 days to 60 days.

Breach of Rental Agreement

When the tenant breaches the lease arrangement –other than non-payment of lease –a proper written notice must be served on the tenant before the landlord could regain possession of their premises. In such scenarios, the notice is generally described as a treatment or quit notice that gives the tenant the right to fix whatever condition exists that is the reason for the breach. For example, such breaches include using a pet not permitted under the lease, neglecting to repair tenant-caused property damage or breaking common-area rules. In California, the necessary notice is a 3-day notice to cure or quit. Other jurisdictions may take a longer period or a period of time reasonably sufficient to classify the violation.

Termination Tenancy

A landlord may give a notice to terminate the property to recover ownership of their premises. In this instance, the renter has no choice to take action to conserve the tenancy. This notice is given when a lien is monthly as well as the landlord is permitted to terminate the tenancy by giving a 30- or 60-day note ; however, this is a circumstance where jurisdictions may vary greatly regarding the rules for the notice. Some jurisdictions will permit a landlord to provide such a notice without cause, though other jurisdictions, in particular rent-controlled cities, require a mere reason to evict a tenant. Just cause is generally considered to be egregious conduct, such as being a nuisance or danger to the other tenants. In tenancies involving Section 8 housing assistance, only cause is required for eviction.

Notice of Abandonment

A landlord might be able to recover ownership of the premises without needing to file a suit once the tenant abandons the premises. For example, in California, if the rent is unpaid for 14 consecutive days and the landlord reasonably believes that the tenant has abandoned the premises, the landlord could mail and post a notice to the tenant signaling this belief. If the tenant fails to respond within 18 days after mailing the notice, the rental unit is deemed abandoned.

Civil Suit for Damages

In case the tenant owes the landlord money for any reason—for instance, back rent or property damage—the landlord may file a lawsuit and pursue a money judgment. If the landlord must file a lawsuit to recover ownership, this lawsuit can include a claim for money damages as well. However, in cases where the tenant has vacated the premises but still owes the landlord money, the lawsuit will only find a money judgment. From the best-case situation, the landlord has a sufficient security deposit from the tenant that to cover the money damages.

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