By Kari Negri, Chief Executive Officer, Sky Properties, Inc.
Dear Kari, I recently purchased my first rental property, a 6-unit apartment building. What are some helpful tips you can give me? Dad always told me that “small mistakes can become catastrophic” and I want to avoid any sort of trouble down the road.
Becoming a rental housing provider is an extremely complicated endeavor. You must be aware of and keep up to date on landlord-tenant laws to avoid any unexpected problems. A minor incident in your rental property that occurs due to negligence can escalate into a catastrophic situation. Making even the smallest mistakes can wreak havoc if you do not take them seriously.
Here are some helpful suggestions that you should follow:
· Avoid Discriminating Questions
Most states have strict laws, but none are not as strict as California’s laws. If you turn down a prospect’s application to rent for what could be considered discriminatory reasons this may not only cost you a lot of money, but it could hurt your reputation. Avoid answering these types of questions: How many children are in the building? Are there emotional support animals in the building? How many old people have moved into the building in the last year? All these questions are none of their business. If you are unsure how to answer, sign up for a Fair Housing class through the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles – they are offered frequently throughout the year.
· Negligent Property Maintenance
A rental agreement specifies the responsibility of each party to maintain and repair damages to the property. Make sure everything is in good, habitable condition before renting to a tenant. A rental unit should have clean water, electricity, gas, plumbing, structurally safe flooring, and a roof that does not leak. You should have good pictures of the apartment at the time the tenant takes possession, and they should sign off at move-in that they agree it is in this condition. If you fail to provide necessary repairs after a tenant’s resonable request, you could face a lawsuit.
· Negligence in Providing Safe Environment
Negligence is an umbrella term. It holds owners accountable for unintentional harm caused to renters. To prove negligence, a renter merely needs to prove the Housing Provider has breached his or her duty. In addition, the renter must prove that the Housing Provider did not maintain the safety measures and standard of care stipulated in the law. If a renter is injured due to an owner’s failure to provide reasonable care, the owner is responsible for the injuries. An example that is often used by a friend of mine that owns an insurance company is that if a property owner has several tenants that have their cars broken into and does not disclose this or make it known to those that live in the building then the housing provider could be held responsible for any injuries that occur out of a known problem or hazard.
· Physical Injury
Look out for things like loose handrails, stairs lacking non-skid materials, trip hazards without a warning sign, carports with oil accumulation, poor lighting, etc. As rental housing providers, we always want to provide and keep our properties as safe a living environment as possible. Always address pool lights, parking lot and building lights that are out immediately. Fix broken gates as soon as possible. Apartment units should have working deadbolts. Always make sure all windows can be secured from entry from the outside and that they open and close easily. Security bars should release from the inside and so on. These small items are just a sample of potential problems that if not addressed, can have dire consequences for both you and your tenant.
· The Bottom Line
Always be pro-active and take care of the small things so they do not become major liabilities. If it is too much to handle, consider retaining property management services to ease your burden.
Kari Negri is the Chief Executive Officer of Sky Property Management and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. Do you have a question for me? Please send your questions and comments to me at Kari@SKYprop.LA.