Avoid These 5 Major Mistakes People Make When Hiring a Mover

Moving is stressful. And when you’re busy finding a new place to live, selling your current home, and then packing up your entire life, selecting the crew who will move your stuff is likely last on your to-do list. That’s ironic, because you’ll be entrusting them with all your life’s possessions.

Even if you manage to hook up with The Most Amazing Moving Company Ever, we can’t promise bad stuff won’t happen. But you can prevent some unnecessary duress if you have the right team in place. The process starts by schooling yourself in what not to do.

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Here are five of the top mistakes people make when hiring a mover…

1. Waiting too long

So you’ve wait until the weekend before your move to make those calls to moving companies. Well, if you procrastinated in your search, you won’t leave any time to do adequate research and get estimates. That means you might not get the best rate (spoiler: Moving’s expensive!) and worse – you could get scammed.

Plus, delaying selecting a mover can reduce your options – and unfortunately, unlicensed and unethical operators rely on this aspect of human nature to take advantage of consumers.

Take the time to get three in-home written estimates and, time permitting, visit the moving company in advance of making your final decision.

2. Being a total cheapskate

No, you don’t want to pay more than you have to for a move. But beware of being too budget-conscious.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is going with the cheapest estimate. The cheapest bid typically means that the company uses casual, inexperienced laborers who don’t care a whole lot about your belongings.

Conversely, higher-end estimates almost always assure trained, professional, and experienced crews who will show up, smiles on their faces, and move your stuff safely and efficiently.

In other words: If there is a hiccup, they will figure it out. They’re not leaving your stuff on the front lawn.

Disreputable movers often lure customers with lowball prices and then hit them with unreasonable charges or, in extreme cases, even hold their belongings for ransom.

This actually happened to an educated member of the Patrick Parker Realty team after being displaced by Hurricane Sandy. There weren’t many choices due to so many displacements, but this member of our team did all her research. However, when the movers showed up that day, they turned out to be an outsourced crew by the original moving company she had hired.

So be diligent from the time they arrive at your door. Look for consistencies and inconsistencies, such as license numbers that should appear on the moving truck. Make sure everything that was discussed beforehand, is what is being delivered the day of your move and all paperwork being presented to you before the work begins aligns with all conversation and paperwork you’ve kept during the research process.

3. Not asking the right questions beforehand

A professional mover will be happy to answer any questions you may have, so if they seem uncertain or won’t give you straight answers, that’s probably a mover to avoid. Ask them about the moving process so you understand what they will be doing and when they will be doing it, from start to finish.

Here are some questions we recommend asking before selecting a moving company:

•  Are you licensed and insured?
•  Are you a certified professional mover who meets the standards of the American Moving & Storage Association?
•  Are you a member of your state’s moving association?
•  What price are you willing to put in writing as a “not to exceed” threshold price?
•  What are the dates you can commit to for pickup and delivery for my move?
•  Can you give me some references of people you have recently moved?
•  How are your crews selected?
•  Have you ever done business under another name?
•  What actions do you take to ensure that the people who come into my home are skilled, professional, and safe?

4. Falling for fakes

The internet is awesome. right? Whether you’re looking for comprehensive info on the best mortgage rates, or you simply must know immediately the name of that song that goes; “da-da-da-da-dah-ooh-ooh-yeah”, the web is there for you.

And it’s there for you to find your next mover, too. But we shouldn’t have to tell you that online info can lead you astray. Double check your info by getting moving company referrals from an industry trade association or use a site that verifies and vets moving companies.

Sure, there are sites like Yelp you can rely on, but don’t do yourself a favor thinking that if you use a pay-for site like Angie’s List that the search results are any more credible. Our aforementioned team member, that’s where she first found her mover before she performed her interview and research. When she contacted Angie’s List to make them aware of what happened, she was told that their listings are paid listings and they do not vet the businesses on their site. That is disturbing given what Angie’s List and other site’s like these imply in their ads.

Another word of caution: Beware of blindly trusting that the company you’re hiring is who it says it is… another scheme; some disreputable movers try to lure customers in by using names that are similar to reputable companies. Check the reputable company’s website to make sure the local agent is affiliated with the brand name it is claiming.

In addition, disreputable movers are often changing their name to escape consumer groups and bad reviews. Be cognizant of where your Mover is located on Google Maps and if there was ever another moving company located at that address, it a red flag. Sometimes you’ll find, as our team member did, there’s not even an office located at that address.

According to the American Moving & Storage Association, the lack of a physical, local address is a telltale sign of a fake mover. Here are other red flags:

•  No federal motor carrier number, which shows the mover is registered with the federal government for a state-to-state move
•  Movers who refuses to visit your home to provide a written estimate for an interstate move… Responsible moving companies will provide in-home estimates and explain why the pricing is the way it is
•  Movers who seem uncertain or unresponsive, especially when asked about their claims process if something gets damaged or lost

Ultimately, add this to one of the many reasons you should never buy or sell without a Real Estate Agent. Your Agent has a huge network of trusted professionals that handle every aspect of the buying/selling/moving process. Do not hesitate to ask your Agent for a Moving Company referral.

RELATED: Why You Should Never Buy or Sell Without A Real Estate Agent

5. Agreeing to pay a deposit or pay in cash

If you’re moving across town, this one’s a huge red flag.

Typically, you should not be required to pay a deposit to have your items moved, most companies request payment at the time of delivery.

If you’re moving out of state, your moving company could request a deposit. But make sure it’s reasonable.

A reasonable down payment should be in the hundreds of dollars toward your state-to-state move, rarely exceeding 20%.

Similarly, avoid movers that demand cash instead of allowing payment by credit card.

YOUR TURN

We hope you don’t, but do you have moving horror stories to share? What tips would you add to our list? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page. You can also visit our Twitter, LinkedIn or Instagram feeds. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.

 

When Is a Good Time to Rent? Not Now.

People often ask if now is a good time to buy a home. No one ever asks when a good time to rent is. However, we want to make certain that everyone understands that today is NOT a good time to rent.

The Census Bureau recently released their 2016 median rent numbers. Here is a graph showing rent increases from 1988 until today:

rental-rates-jersey-shore

As you can see, rents have steadily increased and are showing no signs of slowing down. If you are faced with the decision of whether you should renew your lease or not, you might be pleasantly surprised at your ability to buy a home of your own instead.

Bottom Line

One way to protect yourself from rising rents is to lock in your housing expense by buying a home. If you are ready and willing to buy, meet with a local real estate professional who can help determine if you are able to today!

YOUR TURN

What are your experiences when it comes to buying vs. renting? Sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn feeds. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICE email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

 

5 Reasons Why Homeownership Is a Good Financial Investment

According to a recent report by Trulia, “buying is cheaper than renting in 100 of the largest metro areas by an average of 37.7%.”

That may have some thinking about buying a home instead of signing another lease extension, but does that make sense from a financial perspective?

buying-a-home-investment

In the report, Ralph McLaughlin, Trulia’s Chief Economist explains:

“Owning a home is one of the most common ways households build long-term wealth, as it acts like a forced savings account. Instead of paying your landlord, you can pay yourself in the long run through paying down a mortgage on a house.”

The report listed five reasons why owning a home makes financial sense:

1.  Mortgage payments can be fixed while rents go up.

2.  Equity in your home can be a financial resource later.

3.  You can build wealth without paying capital gains.

4.  A mortgage can act as a forced savings account.

5.  Overall, homeowners can enjoy greater wealth growth than renters.

RELATED: The Ultimate Guide to Buyer A Home

YOUR TURN

Are you a first-time home-buyer reaping the rewards of homeownership? Or are you a renter looking to better understand your options surrounding homeownership? What questions or concerns do you have? We want to hear from you!

You can contact one of our expert Buyer’s Agents and sound off on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page or on our Twitter or LinkedIn profiles. And don’t forget to sign up for our monthly HOME ADVICE™ email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

 

Rent or Buy?
Introducing the Rent vs Buy Calculator

 

Should you buy or rent? This is a question most of us will likely face in our lives, whether buying a house makes more financial sense than renting a home. There is a way to understand the financial impact of buying vs. renting. The realtor.com® rent vs. buy calculator can help you calculate the net cost of buying a home versus the cost of renting over time.

Net costs compare the total amount of money you would be spending over time, minus the potential value you might receive if you someday sell the property. View the interactive graph and see what this looks like at different times, and how it compares if you were instead paying rent. From the tool, you’ll see that the amount of time you plan on keeping the home has a major impact. To get more personal, you can customize the advanced options to crunch more specific numbers and evaluate more specific scenarios. But keep in mind that a financial comparison is just one of many factors when deciding whether to rent or buy.

Rent vs Buy Calculator

 

CHECK OUT THIS RENT VS BUY CALCULATOR

This Rent vs Buy calculator compares the total cost over time of renting with the total cost of buying. It includes the most common expenses of buying and renting and takes into account how these expenses are changed over time by applying the rate of inflation, home price and rent appreciation rates, and the rate of return on the investments.

This sample graphic shows how this tool will calculator total net costs and how they change over time. The graph is interactive so you can click on any year in your results to a more detailed breakdown.

rent-vs-buy-new-jersey

It also takes into account something known as lost opportunity costs, which is the return you could have earned by investing your money instead of spending it initially for costs like down payment or yearly. The calculator accounts the lost opportunity costs for all parts of the buying and renting scenarios.

YOUR TURN

Are you a former renter who recently graduated to a buyer? Or are you a renter hesitant to make that jump? Post your stories on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter Feed or on LinkedIn. Plus don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.

Patrick Parker Real Estate experts have hands-on experience working with renters interested in graduating to homeownership. Don’t hesitate to contact us for more information.

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Rental Listing Scams! Read Before You Search

As you begin researching new apartments or homes, please educate yourself on listing scams and online fraud. We urge you to be vigilant in researching the legitimacy of any potential listings and perform all appropriate due diligence.
new-jersey-rentals
How Do Rental Listing Scams Work?
Found a deal that’s too good to turn down? Have the owners moved to another state and can’t show you the property? Is someone asking you to send them money via Western Union or Moneygram? These are possible signs of rental listing scams used to defraud users into wiring money or giving up personal information.

Scammers use a variety of tools and methods to post fraudulent listings on many internet listing sites. One method includes manually listing available properties by copying existing listings and posting them with new prices. They also take existing for-sale properties and post it as a rental listing. In addition, they use listing management tools and syndicate the fraud across many different sites.

Once you’ve contacted a scammer, they usually ask for a few things — information, urgency, money through Western Union or Moneygram. Stop there. (If there is an opportunity to flag the listing – particularly if you are requested to wire money – do so immediately).

RELATED: Download Our Copy of  Truth in Renting

How To Spot and Avoid Rental Scams
Below is a list of best practices on spotting and avoiding scams. Renter beware. Be vigilant in protecting your private information and review these tips:

1. The easiest sign of a rental scam is when someone asks you to wire money via Western Union or Moneygram. Scammers usually ask for a deposit or first month’s rent before you even see the property. Don’t send money for whatever reason.

2. The owner is out of the country on a mission, job opportunity, or military service. Always meet the landlord or agent in-person and at the property. If they can’t meet you there or show you the property, then it’s possibly a scam. Good idea is to always have a friend or family member with you.

3. The listing is significantly less than nearby similar properties. Beware. If it seems too good to be true, then chances are that it’s a scam.

4. Emails from scammers are often littered with grammatical mistakes and typos. If the email is difficult to read, lengthy, or includes a sad story, then it’s possibly a scam.

5. Research the email address and phone number of the landlord or owner on Google. You might find that someone else has already posted a report on this individual.

6. Don’t fill out an application until you’ve seen the property. Some apartment communities will offer legitimate applications via a property’s website, but don’t submit an application with personal information until you’ve verified the property exists.

7. Never, under any circumstances, send money to anyone without securing a lease and confirming the property manager has legal right to rent the property.

RELATED: Download Our Copy of  Truth in Renting

AN IMPORTANT NOTE
Even if you are going through a reputable broker; there is a chance they have been lied to by the person who hired them.  In addition, it is sad to say, some Agents are less than thorough.  When you are presented with a lease you have a 3 day Attorney Review period.  During these 3 days the rental cannot go to anybody else.  Take advantage of these 3 days to research the name on the lease, ask your Agent to confirm that the name on the lease matches the name on the property tax record.  If not, ask why.  If it is a privately owned rental in a complex with a board or management company; call them.  Ask if there have ever been any issues with the owner.  And if you have access to an Attorney, their expertise is an added plus.  Due all possible due diligence.

RELATED: Download Our Copy of  Truth in Renting

What To Do If You Fall Victim A Rental Scam or Online Fraud
If you believe you were a victim of fraud, please contact your local authorities, the FTC, and the IC3.

If you feel you are the victim of a fraudulent lease having gone through a reputable broker; contact the Real Estate Commission immediately.

7 Rental Rules Worth Breaking (Yes, It’s OK To Paint)

jersey-shore-rentalsFrom swapping out hardware to doing an actual renovation, there are lots of ways to transform your rental.

You scroll through a design blog hyping some miraculous, budget-friendly kitchen renovation, and that’s when it hits you: homeownership envy. While mortgage holders get to decorate with impunity, those of us still in possession of a lease can feel unfairly limited in our design choices.

But while it may seem counter intuitive to put a lot of effort into that apartment for rent in New Jersey, it’s still your home — and there are lots of benefits to loving where you live. So why not do a little work to make it a haven instead of a temporary crash pad?

Contrary to popular lore, there are lots of ways to upgrade your apartment without forfeiting your deposit.

Painting
Yes, it really is OK to paint. Not only OK but also highly recommended — there is no quicker way to personalize a space than to customize your colors. Ideally, you should check in with your landlord first, who will usually sign off as long as your chosen shades aren’t too wacky; sometimes they’ll even pay for the supplies, considering a fresh coat of paint could be a point in their favor.

But many a guerrilla renter has been known to paint without permission, with the plan of returning to the original shade right before they move out. If you’re feeling hesitant about changing up your apartment’s colors, at least consider touching up the trim, which more likely than not is dull and yellowed.

You can also discuss this with your Jersey Shore Rental Agent before signing the lease.  Request an agreement be made with the landlord that you will paint neutral colors and even present the color palette to them for review.  If they approve, this can go into the lease.  Now you have it in writing.  Chances are the landlord is relieved and secretly grateful; they don’t have to paint after their last tenant left and you’ve enhanced their property for the future.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Rental Move-In Condition Checklist

(Removable) wallpaper
No, we don’t suggest permanently papering your kitchen in a custom print that will later take hours to steam and scrape off. But temporary wallpaper has come a long way in the last few years; even CB2 has recently begun offering self-adhesive paper in modern patterns.

Installation takes only a couple of hours; just play it safe and order an extra sheet or two lest you misalign on those first couple of tries. Those leery of their ability to properly DIY can start with an accent wall or opt for a temporary decorative decal. Another, more outré idea: Wallpaper your ceiling.

Light fixtures
Many, many rentals come with those unfortunate flush-mount fixtures. It’s probably impractical to change them all out, but an upgrade in high-traffic rooms is worth the money and effort.

Online pop-up sales are a great way to shop for funky fixtures on the cheap; you can also scour antiques stores and flea markets for chandeliers to strip and repaint. Consider both aesthetics and actual light quality when shopping, and don’t forget to factor in electrician costs to your budget if installation requires rewiring (if there’s a junction box already in place, you might be able to pull it off yourself).

Kitchen hardware
You might be stuck with those honey oak cabinets, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with their original hardware. Swap out those superboring polished nickel pulls for something funkier and even mismatched (antiques stores frequently have drawers full of old knobs). Just stash the original hardware somewhere safe — and easy to remember — so you can replace it all right before your lease ends.

Window treatments
Let us guess: hideous plastic vertical blinds with overly long lift cords, right? Change those out immediately for cordless blinds or Roman shades, which look far cleaner and don’t break. If you decide to hang curtains as well, spring for opaque rather than translucent curtains, which tend to look cheap, and install the curtain rod several inches above the window frame for a more dramatic effect.

Showerheads
Hate that 1980s plastic showerhead with the built-in radio? You’re not stuck with it. Upgrading to a high-end fixture — a rainfall showerhead, say, with a filter for hard water — can add instant luxury to an otherwise humdrum bathroom. If you need it, seek out a YouTube video tutorial to walk you through the actual switcheroo. You can make the swap on your own with the help of pliers and a little plumber’s tape.

An actual renovation
It sounds absolutely bonkers, but there are renters out there who have invested in full-blown kitchen and bathroom redos. And it’s not a scenario for those lucky enough to occupy a rent-controlled space.

Here’s the way these negotiations often go down. A renter will offer to spend the time and money to significantly improve the landlord’s property; in turn, the landlord agrees to negotiate a longer lease with reduced rent. It’s the very definition of a win-win: The renters get the apartment of their dreams, and the landlord gets a property upgrade and the peace of mind that comes from not having to find new tenants every year.

Extra win: When that long-term lease eventually ends, the landlord will likely be able to fetch more rent for the improved space.  First-time landlords might be especially open to the idea if they’re struggling to find the money to properly renovate their new property.

RELATED: So You Think You Can Be A Landlord?

Again, if you know you may want to renovate before moving in; consider discussing this with your Rental Agent in advance to get the landlord’s permission so it can go in the lease.  They’ll be no questions at the end of your lease term as to your security deposit when you’ve left the rental better than you found it, albeit different.

RELATED: 7 Things to Know Before You Rent

Your Turn

What apartment decorating and rental rules have you broken? Sound off on our Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox!

So You Think You Can Be a Landlord? 7 Things to Consider…

for-RentFirst-time homebuyers are a declining group. Historically, 40 percent of homebuyers have been first-time buyers, calculated yearly from July to June. But that percentage continues to shrink, even if the true homeownership rate among millennials climbed ever so slightly last year.

If you’re already a homeowner, your wheels might be spinning right about now — if people aren’t buying starter homes, then the rental market has to be booming, right? It is in many areas, particularly where unemployment is low, the population is high, and homes aren’t overpriced.

You might think you’re ready to become a landlord, but learning how to be one by trial and error is not necessarily the best way.

Here are seven tips to consider before you take the plunge:

1. Ideally, you want to live near your rental property
That way, you can check on it periodically (after giving your tenants proper notice), take care of repairs yourself, and show the property when it’s time to re-rent it.

2. Know landlord-tenant law
Most states have specific landlord-tenant provisions that cover issues such as security deposits, what sort of access to your rental property you can expect to have, and how much notice you need to give your tenants when you want them to leave. There also are federal laws you need to know, such as habitability and anti-discrimination laws.

Ron Leshnower, real estate attorney and author of Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals, says that “many landlords gloss over housing discrimination laws because they assume that as long as they’re not racist or sexist, they needn’t worry about fair housing violations.”

But fair housing liability traps can arise in many ways, so it’s important that you fully understand the law and ensure that you aren’t breaking it.

FREE DOWNLOAD: New Jersey Landlord-Tenant Law

3. Make sure you can enforce the rent being paid on time
This seems like a no-brainer, but if you get too friendly with your tenants, you might just let them slide a couple of weeks here and a partial payment there. Before you know it, your tenants are six months behind.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat tenants with respect. Creating rapport shows respect and makes the job of collecting rents and dealing with repair requests that much easier.

4. Screen potential tenants
It’s worth the time to do a background and credit check on all potential tenants. Use an online tenant-screening service for this. Credit score alone is not always a reason to accept or deny an applicant, but it is a useful screening tool. You should also conduct an interview and check their references.

Your Patrick Parker Realty Listing Agent takes care of all of this for you. We run all prospects through tenant-screening after completion of an application. Don’t underestimate the importance of using a Listing Agent when renting.

5. Customize the lease
If you don’t hire an attorney or a property manager, you can use a standard lease form from Nolo, for example, but you should tweak it to fit your situation. For example, if you allow pets, specify how many, what kind, and any rules that apply.

Again, this is where having a Listing Agent will come in handy. They have the lease custom to your state’s laws and applications and will walk both you and your new tenant through any customization should it be needed.

6. Inspect the property regularly
Always do a move-in and move-out inspection. This should go without saying. Take pictures to establish a base line and complete a Rental Property Condition Checklist and suggest your tenant do the same and submit it to you so you’re on the same page from the get-go.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Checklist of Rental Property Condition

Consider having language regarding inspections clearly written in your lease documents. Maybe you want to conduct an inspection at six months. If you find problems, consider issuing a compliance notice and re-inspecting in 30 days. Eventually you’ll find whether or not this will be necessary in the future.

7. Understand this is not a get-rich-quick scheme
Being a landlord is not just sitting around collecting a big wad of cash each month. You’ll need to spend some money to ready the property for tenants, buy landlord insurance, register as a landlord in your town, acquire a C.O. and pay property taxes. If you’re taking out a mortgage, be prepared to fork over at least a 20 percent down payment.

Think of being a landlord as part of your overall investment strategy and realistically aim for getting around a 5 percent return on your investment.

YOUR TURN

Are you a Landlord with tips to share? What lessons have you learned? What lessons have you learned the hard way?  Sound off in Comments, on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.


New Jersey Landlords Need to be Careful with their Accounting Methods

gavelGuest post by Michael D. Mirne

Most American businesses keep track of their charges and receivables using a “first in, first out” method. The central principle of this method, referred to as “FIFO,” is to apply customers’ payments toward their earliest balances first, and then toward their later balances. New Jersey landlords had also accepted the FIFO method of accounting until relatively recently, when the State Supreme Court ordered that eviction complaints follow a specific format, in which tenants’ unpaid charges are specifically set forth in detail.

Using the FIFO method, for example, if a tenant failed to pay rent January and February, the next payments that the tenant did remit would be applied to January and February. That application would certainly create a gap in later months in which the payments were made. In the event that the eviction complaint followed the same methodology, it might appear that the tenant owed rents from March and April (or whatever the most recent months were), when the two missed payments were really from January and February. This method is unfortunately confusing for tenants who may show up to Court with receipts to prove that they paid certain rents, only to find that the receipts that they produced do not refer to the missing payments in question.

Given new requirements of eviction complaints, I often wondered how a Court would rule when faced with a situation where the tenant could demonstrate that he or she had no idea which rents were owed, and therefore, could not prepare an adequate defense for trial. Fortunately, I received my answer a few weeks ago, when I was waiting for one of our matters to be reached for trial. From the gallery, in the rear of the Courtroom, I watched as another attorney struggled to demonstrate to the Judge that the unpaid rents set forth in the Complaint, did not refer to the actual months in which the payments were missed, but rather, they referred to the most recent months. The attorney continued her explanation to the Judge with a futile statement about standard accounting processes.

The Judge responded that he was familiar with standard accounting practices, but remarked that they were not adequate to enable the tenant a fair opportunity to prepare his defense. The Judge, accordingly, dismissed that matter, with an instruction to the attorney that she could refile the matter, if she redrafted the complaint in a way that showed the tenant the specific months in which the payments were missed.

In light of the Court’s decision in that matter, we have also began to examine our own matters to make sure that that the statement of unpaid charges properly coincides with the months in which the tenant failed to make those rent payments. In cases where the ledger has multiple entries of missed payments, it is also advisable to include a copy of the ledger in the eviction complaint.

Patrick Parker Realty rental experts can help you list your property, find you a qualified tenant and guide you through the process.  Contact us at 732.455.5252 to get started!

The Top 7 Laws Every Landlord Needs to Study

jersey-shore-rentalsSuccessfully managing a rental is about much more than finding the perfect tenant for the perfect unit. It’s more important to understand the legalities associated with running a rental business. Landlords should be up-to-date on all laws regarding tenant rights and the proper legal proceedings of managing a property. Here are a few of the laws every landlord should know about.

1. State Regulations
Every state has its own regulations regarding housing. These laws govern tenant-landlord interactions, tenant rights, how to terminate leases, how to carry out evictions, and even the size of the security deposit. To learn about the specific laws associated with your state, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

2. Legal Binding Contracts
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to cover. When a tenant and landlord sign a lease agreement, it becomes a legal, binding contract, which can only be broken under certain parameters, as stated in the contract or by federal or state law. Both the tenant and the landlord are legally responsible for any constraints issued in the document.

3. Tenant Privacy and Access Rights
A master key does not grant landlords access whenever they want. Laws may differ from state to state, but in general, landlords are only allowed unannounced access to an apartment in the case of an emergency. They’re also allowed access without the tenant’s permission in order to show the property to a prospective tenant and make repairs, but generally, they are required to inform the tenant at least 24 hours in advance. Otherwise, they must be invited or give proper warning before entering.

FREE DOWNLOAD: rental-condition-checklist
Use this document to grade the condition of your rental property prior to tenant move-in.

4. The Fair Housing Act (FHA)
Under federal law, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects against discrimination on basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. Discrimination is defined as treating one tenant differently than another and varies from setting higher rent to denying a lease for personal reasons. The FHA also prohibits discriminatory or selective advertising.

5. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Landlords are also responsible for securely treating tenant credit information. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates landlord access to tenant credit report histories. The act was designed to protect tenant privacy, and failure to respect the law usually leads to lawsuits and civil penalties.

6. Landlord Liabilities
Almost every state mandates that tenants have the right to live in a dwelling that meets county building and health standards. If the landlord rents out a property that is not fit for habitation by these standards, they are liable for the consequences, unless the current tenant caused the damage. Essentially, this law penalizes any landlord who doesn’t do his or her job.

RELATED: 3 Important Practices Landlords Should Use During the Move-in Inspection

7. Terminating Contracts and Evictions
Since terminating a contract or evicting a tenant breaks the binding contract, there are proper regulations based on the state you live in. If the tenant or landlord is not holding up their end of the contract, it may call for an early termination, resulting in a mutual parting of ways or an eviction. Likewise, there are instances where the tenant will have a legally backed reason for breaking a contract, and the landlord must honor that request.

When this occurs, consult your state regulations for the proper way to handle it. In general, breaking a contract involves giving 30 days’ notice and the proper paperwork.

RELATED: How To Legally Evict A Tenant

It’s also important to note that the landlord is not allowed to change locks, turn off utilities, or use other means of force to evict a tenant. Nor is the landlord allowed to perform an eviction in retaliation to the tenant’s past actions.

The legalities of being a landlord take a considerable amount of research and understanding before you feel comfortable that you’re not breaking the law. Be sure to get a handle on the specifics of your market to stay legal and profitable!

RELATED: Move-In and Move-Out Checklists to Help Every Landlord

Your Turn

What laws would you add to this list? Are you a landlord who have overcome some of these legal hurdles? Are you a renter who wants to sound off about renter’s rights? Tell us in Comments, on Facebook or on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for helpful articles, tips and guides for every kind of homeowner, seller or buyer.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting

for-rent-jersey-shore-rentalsLike entering a new relationship, finding the right apartment requires being a little level-headed. You wouldn’t just run off and elope with the first attractive person you see, right?  No– you’d want to spend some time making sure your values, interests, and goals are a good fit.

The same is true for apartment hunting: There are a few important things you should know before signing a lease agreement, even if you already love the way the place looks. The great news is that we’ve put together a list of 10 questions to ask while visiting apartments to make sure you find the right place for you.

Bring these questions with you while apartment hunting:

1. What Are the Lease Terms?
Ideally you should already be aware of when the lease begins and ends before you even look at a place. But if you aren’t, make sure you know when you’ll be able to move in and how many months the lease is for.

You should also know exactly how much the unit costs per month and what the manager’s late rent policy is– is there a grace period? Finally, ask if there are any other common lease terms you need to know about, like quiet hours or restrictions on painting.

RELATE: 7 Things You Should Know Before You Rent

2. Can You Go Over Any Move-In Fees?
Each property handles moves completely differently, so make sure you know what moving in will look like for you financially while visiting apartments.

For instance, do they require first and last months’ rent up front? Do they need a security deposit? How about any moving or elevator fees? If the move-in expenses are too costly, you may have to find a different apartment.

3. What’s Your Pet Policy?
Whether you own a pet or just think you might want to adopt one within the next year (or however long the lease term extends), you should absolutely ask about the pet policy. Most importantly, are pets allowed?

If not, it’s best to move on– trying to hide a dog or cat could be very costly for you down the road. If they do allow pets, what are the deposits and fees? Pet policies vary widely, but most properties will charge at least a non-refundable pet deposit (this covers deep cleaning after you move out and any damage your pet may cause), if not monthly pet rent.

4. How About Your Guest Policy?
Most leases will mention a guest policy, but some are stricter than others.

For instance, in some places, having a visitor for longer than two weeks is not technically allowed (which means allowing your friend to stay with you for a month this summer may not be an option).

5. Do You Require Renters Insurance?
Renters insurance is another thing to think about while apartment hunting. Renters insurance provides coverage for all of your property in the event of things like a fire, flood, and often even theft.

It may also cover injuries that happen within your apartment. This type of coverage tends to cost very little per month, so it’s a good idea to get it anyway. However, some apartments actually require renters insurance, so it’s important to ask while making visits.

6. What’s Included in the Rent? What Isn’t?
Rent is almost never the only expense you’ll have when living in an apartment, but many property managers roll some utilities and other amenities into the cost of rent. Often, things like water, gas, heat, and cooling are included in rent, for instance.

It’s best to know exactly what is and isn’t included in order to determine the total monthly cost of living there. If an apartment’s rent is cheap, but covers no utilities, cable, Internet, or anything else, it still may be a bit above your budget.

7. How Are Emergency Repairs Taken Care Of?
Even if everything in the apartment appears to be in good working order, make sure you check how emergency repairs are handled. You definitely don’t want to be stuck in an apartment with a broken heater in January for any longer than you have to.

Is maintenance available 24/7? How quickly do they typically respond? Also, ask about non-emergency repairs. Sometimes landlords and property managers will ask tenants to take care of those themselves and subtract the cost from the month’s rent.

8. How Secure Is the Property?
Ask the property manager to cover what security features the apartment has, including a doorman, a buzzer system, and anything else.

RELATED: Important Safety Tips When Apartment Hunting

You may also want to ask about the neighborhood– is it a relatively safe area? Make sure you walk around and scope out the area before you put down a deposit.

9. How Often Does Rent Go Up? By How Much?
Many apartments go up in rent upon a renewal of the lease. These types of charges aren’t always spelled out in the lease, so make sure you know going in how much you can expect to pay if you decide you want to live in the same apartment after your lease term is over.

If you’re looking for a long-term apartment, but the rent goes up by quite a bit each year, this may not be the apartment for you.

10. What Is the Parking Situation?
If you own a car, parking should be high on your priority list. In many neighborhoods– especially in larger cities– street parking can be hard to find and expensive, so finding an apartment with a parking garage or lot may be necessary.

However, a personal parking spot or pass is often an added charge, so ask about the cost as well.

RELATED: Search Rentals

Your Turn

What has you renting experience been like? Have you met with challenges? What might you do differently next time? Do you have tips for future renters? Sound off in Comments, on Facebook or Twitter and don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this one delivered straight to your inbox. And if you have any questions about getting started with renting, a Patrick Parker Realty Agent is here to help! Contact Us today!


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