The Ring Reminds Landlords To Not Leave Anything Behind

by sandy.linczer 31, October 2013 06:25

The Ring was a hit horror movie in 2002 starring Naomi Watts, Daveigh Chase, and Martin Henderson.  The movie is a remake of the 1998 Japanese film, Ringu, which involves a cursed video tape that kills anyone who watches it.  The string of terrors begin when two victims visit a cabin and find the video tape.  Out of curiosity they watch the video and that’s when the trouble begins.


If the property owner had removed all of his possessions before the tenant rented out the place, this string of deaths could have easily been avoided.  A deathly video tape is just one example of why property owners should remove all possessions from their house before a tenant moves in.  


For example, Ashoka Lion is currently dealing with a homeowner that left multiple power tools and a motorcycle in his garage.  If a kid happened upon any of these items, the results could be disastrous.  Another example that Ashoka Lion has dealt with is a client leaving multiple garden gnomes in her yard.  These gnomes had sentimental value to her and yet she wanted to risk leaving them there and chance a tenant or landscaper accidentally weed whacking one of her gnomes.  After much convincing, the client agreed to remove her gnomes from the yard and put them in storage.  

In addition to protecting your belongings, removing all belongings from the rental property is also the courteous thing to do.  But most importantly, it protects landlords from any liability if a tenant gets hurt tripping on an old lamp, playing with power tools, or you know, watching a cursed video tape and getting killed a week later.  

Happy Halloween from the Ashoka Lion Property Management Team.





Tragedy at College Station reminds landlords that evictions are a hostile process

by Mirania 28, November 2012 17:12

Recently , we all heard about the tragic shooting incident at College Station. I came across an article about it on Chron.com.

The tragedy was a shootout incident at College Station that killed three people including a constable leaving a Houston woman seriously injured amongst the wounded. This unfortunate incident seems to have happened because of an eviction notice. This noxious incident has rocked College Station and its neighboring areas including the extended Aggie network.

Brazos County Constable Brian Bachman brought an eviction notice for Alton Caffall, and as a result of being served the notice a confrontation took place between both of them. The heated argument between the two sparked a gunfire exchange killing and injuring people. Both of them were later pronounced dead at a hospital. Bachmann who was killed in the shootout was a law enforcement officer for about two decades. He took the office as a constable last year in January 2011. According to sources, deceased tenant and shooter, Caffall had relocated to College Station early last year.  As a landlord, this incident will hopefully remind landlords to protect themselves and their property by following these steps.

Landlords should consider that this tragedy would have been difficult to predict, but it does not mean a landlord should not make to find the best tenant possible. 

Things to consider:

Screen your tenant:  Before renting out a property, you should conduct a thorough tenant screening. Besides checking the credit history of the tenant, it is equally essential to review for criminal history or history with previous landlords. There are not always signs that these kinds of tragedies will happen, but any clues that a tenant may not be a positive prospect should be considered before making a decision to rent to them.

Keep correspondence professional and clear: Finally, please remember that you should conduct your activity as a landlord in a fair and consistent manner with the lease. Keep correspondence polite, concise, and clear. Try to avoid increasing the hostility by increasing the emotional nature of the situation.

Document Incidences and Consult Legal Help: As soon as you get enough evidence about the violent activities or criminal activities of a tenant, you may be required to send an eviction notice or an official warming  to state no tolerance of violence or illegal activities. However, if it comes to an eviction for these reasons, then this process should be conducted with the help of an attorney.  The landlord tenant law has processes and procedures that must be followed for a legal eviction, and if you fail to follow those rules then you as the landlord could also be facing fines and punitive damages for an illegal eviction.  Landlords have to cognizant of fair housing rules, Americans with Disabilities rules, landlord and tenant law, etc; so navigating those waters with legal counsel maybe appropriate.

Tragedies like what happened at Texas A&M are a rare occurrence, but it does provide an important reminder that being a landlord can have momements where you will face a confrontational moment (late rent, tenant  damaged the home, etc). It is important for landlords in Houston, Dallas, or anywhere to conduct themselves in a professional manner consistent with the law.

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Landlord & Tenant Disputes in Dallas and Tampa

by Mirania 8, November 2012 15:25

Several landlord and tenant disputes make news every week with incidents covering a broad variety of strong conflicts taking place between landlords and renters. We will discuss some of the most notable incidents of landlord-tenant disputes.

1)  In February 2012, Dallas police had arrested a landlord who had shot a tenant at a condominium in the 5200 block of Bent Tree Forest Drive off the Dallas North Tollway in far north Dallas. According to Dallas police, the landlord Gabriel Abraham, was trying to evict Daniel Sipes, his tenant when there was some sort of argument. Finally, Abraham shot his tenant multiple times leaving the victim in a critical condition. Abraham was arrested by police on the spot. (Click here for the story)

2)   Another incident took place in Florida in September this year when a Tampa resident was stabbed several times following a tussle with his landlord. The landlord was taken into custody by police and the investigation is underway. (Click here for the story)

How to avoid Landlord and Tenant Disputes?

Such incidents of landlord and tenant dispute generally arise due to disagreement over a rent increase, return of security deposit and responsibility for repairs. To avoid such disputes both landlords and tenants should know their rights and responsibilities under federal, state, and local law. Also, the landlord and tenant should ensure that the terms are precisely mentioned in the rental agreement. It is also important to keep copies of each and every correspondence that takes place between the landlord and tenant and make notes of conversations about problems, if any.

A responsible landlord and a good tenant should always follow these tips in order to avoid conflicts with each other and to co-exist better with each other. If a landlord is having a problem with a tenant for nonpayment of rent, then they should refrain from engaging in personal attacks and focus on following the eviction procedures as outlined by the letter of the law in their state and local area.

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The Fly: Another reason to not bring your work home with you

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 3, October 2012 14:37

The Fly is a movie about a scientist who uses a warehouse like space to live and conduct experiments. Unfortunately, his experiment involves teleportation of items, and during one of his experiments a fly is trapped in the teleportation pod. THe unfortunate scientist begins to mutate to a savage cross of insect and man. Now, I know that most people are carry out teleportation or time travel experiments in their homes, but as property managers,we do come across people who try to use their home as a place of business. Our property management company's policy in our Houston and Dallas leases is that a home, duplex , condo, or apartment is used as a residence.

Allowing tenants to run a business out of their home is not a good idea on so many levels. First, the business is probably prohibited by community or homeowner association. Second, the business customer traffic to your home increases the risk that a incident can occur at the home. Third, many homeowner policies do require notice if the home is being used as place of business.  Our stance against home based business is not to be confused with a stance against people who bring their work home or who telecommute into their work.

Therefore, when our property management firm was approached by real estate investors or others who seek to use our homes as group homes, day care business, etc; we politely explain that most of our properties would not be qualified to be used in such a manner. However, in parts of Houston (namely the Heights and Museum District areas), where homes and properties can be used in a mixed use manner. In these scenarios, it is possible to lease to a person in this manner, but it would be important to use a commercial lease and know up front that the tenant's intent is to run a business.

Next time, your tenant backs up a truck filled with large nuclear powered pods, just remember that we warned you.

 

 

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Fort Bend Landlord Sued For Failure to Maintain AC

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 25, April 2011 16:28

A Fort Bend area landlord was named in a lawsuit that alleges his failure to maintain a air conditioning system lead to a disabled man's death in the Third Ward area.  His estate is alleging that the disabled man was hospitalized and eventually died to the heat and humidity in the home due to the broken air conditioning unit. This case brings up several issues that should be addressed:

1) Did his lease require written notice? If so, did the tenant provide the landlord or his property management company this notice?  This is why we tell our Houston and Dallas area tenants if they cannot provide certified mailed letters for the notice that they can provide notice by fax or online through their tenant portal.

2) Did he have a unpaid balance at the time of the written request being submitted? The Texas property codes allows for landlords to not be required to make property repairs if the tenant was not current on their rent.  This is why we provide tenants a portal to check their balances and make their repair request.  

3) Did the owner carry liability insurance coverage? Liability coverage can assist when the owner is found negligent for harm caused by property conditions.  Ashoka Lion recommends that our Houston and Dallas property management clients carry $1,000,000 of coverage, but at minimum max out your coverage (usually in a homeowners policy, $500,000 without any special underwriting required). Additionally, you can obtain a umbrella liability coverage to cover any amounts that are not covered in your primary insurance coverage. If you are not comfortable with determining your needs, you can contact a insurance professional to walk you through this process. Ashoka Lion requires all owners to name the property management company a additional insured on the policy to insure appropriate defense in suits like this.

However, the problem is that this landlord will have to incur cost and time loss due to these kinds of legal actions.   This requires a clear documentation of all actions and communications for homeowner and their property management company. This is why Ashoka Lion  works to transcribes our  notes to histories for our owners, tenants, properties, and vendors. Our goal is to archive all documentation and actions taken to mitigate claims of negligence on behalf of the property management company and the Houston and Dallas property owners that our property management company represents. You cannot prevent someone from suing you, but it is prudent for landlords and their property management companies to take appropriate risk mitigation techniques to reduce impact of charges such as these.

What is normal wear and tear? 6 techniques to reduce down issues with tenants

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 15, March 2011 11:28

I came across a article on the AshokaLion Twitter account, and it got me thinking about "wear and tear" clauses in leases. Every lease has a "wear and tear" clause in it, but it always remains a vague concept. I decided to research what other investors and real estate sights came across, and I found most had the vague notion of the wear and tear clause. I did find one article by Rental Housing Online (http://bit.ly/gklzFl) and they had a pretty good list. It definitely was not exhaustive, but either is our addendum that we provide to tenants at their walk through with our property managers upon moving in.  We have tried to provide a list of common types of damages, explainations what we consider to be "normal", and we try to explain to them what potential charges may be upon them moving out (at least some minimums that we have come across). We know this is not a complete list, but it is impossible to have a complete list due to all the circumstances at the property (including condition of the property at the time of  tenant moving in and age of the items).

I know it is impossible, but we do try to explain that "normal" is based on reasonable standards. For example, we state that scuffing a wall and it needing to be repainted is not "normal".  However, it is "normal" to have a rug steam cleaned with a rug doctor machine. However, if I have to get a commercial cleaner to take out damages to a carpet, then this should be considered "excess" of normal wear and tear".  As a kid growing up in the Houston area, my family lived in a home for over 10 years as kids, and when we moved from that home; our family was able to cleaned our carpet  to make it presentable.  It is not a huge leap of faith to think that our care was not extraoridinary, and this is why our property managers in Houston or Dallas do not understand tenant's claims that it is normal to have punch stains in the floor or bleach on the floor. 

Typical things that we would deduct from the security deposit for include:

  1. Scuff Marks on walls requiring us to paint
  2. Nail Holes in Walls
  3. Damages to windows
  4. Broken Knobs on ovens or stoves
  5. Unreported leaks that cause damage to cabinets or floors
  6. Carpets requiring commercial carpet cleaning
  7. Smoking in the house and it sticking to walls and carpet (we request all tenants if they smoke to smoke outside the house).
  8. Pet Urine requires us to get  a professional cleaning
  9. Lost Keys
  10. Unreturned Garage Remotes
  11. Food left in the refridgerator (if mold is in the refridgerator, then we may just replace refridgerator)
  12. Broken door knobs
  13. Missing Smoke Detectors after it was installed
  14. Blinds damaged
  15. Carpet that burn marks or bleach stains (replacing room carpet)

I know that there are horror stories for tenants about items being charged that they would not consider normal wear and tear. To reduce these confrontations between tenants and landlords or tenants and property management companies in the Houston and Dallas area, I would suggest doing the following:

  1. Fill out the Inventory and Condition Form within the requested time and keeping a copy. Many real estate agents and property managers will give you this form to fill out, so I would strongly urge you to do.
  2. Take Pictures and/or Video.  You, your property manager  and/or real estate agent should take pictures and/or video of the property at the time of the move in. I would make sure to have the correct time stamp on videos and pictures, so you can demonstrate what condition the property is at move in.  As you usually are given a few days to finish documenting this form, it is not hard for tenants to document with video and cameras damages.   I would suggest sharing this with landlords and managers as soon as possible to make them aware of these damages that you find subsequent to the move in walk through, if you want to claim it on your inventory and condition form.
  3. Report damages quickly. Landlords can charge tenants for damages that they fail to report on a timely manner that get worse. For example, if you see a leaking pipe under a kitchen report it, as it may lead to damaging the wood in the cabinets.
  4. Know how to shutoff toliets and cut off water at the main water cutoff. If you see water flowing, know how to cutoff the water at the main water cutoff. This will reduce down damages that remain that could have been prevented.
  5. Do not use items that you know are possibly damaged. If your AC is having problem, shut the AC off to prevent further damage because you used it after it was having problem. The same could go for appliance, disposals, and anything else that you fear may not be working. You should report these items and take the appropriate precautions. These kinds of damages could be grounds to deduct part or all of a repair cost for the matter.
  6. Keep up your preventitive maintenance. If your home has a AC unit, then I would suggest changing the filters to avoid damaging the system. Unpaid repair costs in our leases can be deducted from the security deposit.

I know that some of our real estate investors probably have more examples, so if you do not mind sharing on our Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/dQDvrM) that would be great. We will post a discussion under that tab to collect feedback and input regarding example of what is and is not considered "normal wear and tear", and while you are there; please do not hesitate to "Like" our facebook page.

If anyone has dealt with court cases that involve these issues, then feel free to share this as well in our discussion section. We would love to see how any of our Houston, Dallas, Texas, or any courts around the United States for that matter adjudicate these standards.  

Renting To Tenant with Pets Can Be Tricky!

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 12, March 2011 11:43

Landlords often ask what our pet policy for our property management firm is, and we explain that we have developed our policy to be flexible to allow pet owners to live at properties that we manage. However, we also acknowledge that risks exist when renting to tennat with pets. Many communities are considering breed ban laws, and in fact some states have passed some very strict policies in regards to pet laws (See Maine). In fact on our Facebook page (http://on.fb.me/ibGgSo), our property management team found a article discussing the new law in Maine that now makes landlords at fault in animal attacks regardless of knowledge (this is referred to as strict liability).  While Texas laws regarding landlord negligence for pets at a rental property is not that severe, there is negligence based liability for landlords who rent to pets. What this means is that if the landlord knowingly put a dangerous animal at the property, then they can be found liable if the pet attacks.

What this means is that landlords must weigh the benefits of increasing their potential pool of tenants versus the increased liability. I know some  property management companies do not rent to owners of certain pets, but as our CEO and several members of our property management teams own  pets including a Doberman; we did not want to take that stance with our property management firm. Therefore, we do rent to tenants who have pets, but Ashoka Lion has our own default procedure for pets including:

  1. Enrollment in Pet Damages Program
  2. Renters Insurance is Mandatory with $300,000 of coverage. The policy or insurance agent must acknowledge that the pet liability is included per the policy.
  3. Renters Insurance Policy must name the owner and management company as insured parties
  4. Signed Pet Agreement
  5. Landlord must have $1,000,000 of liability coverage either through their primary home insurance policy or umbrella coverage with our management company named as a insured party.

We believe that this policy addresses the heightened legal risk for renting to tenants with pets in the Houston and Dallas markets, but  it also allows our landlords flexibilty to not turn away good tenants who happen to love animals. Our philosophy is that you can love your animal, but you must realize that it comes with additional responsibility.

 

 

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