How to Properly Handle an Unexpectedly Abandoned Rental

handle-unexpectedly-abandoned-rental-property-parkville-maryland-rental-property

Property owners face the risk of an unruly tenant abandoning their property at any time.

Yes, even if your Parkville property management company conducts thorough tenant screenings of all prospective tenants, there is always the chance your tenant may unexpectedly vacate.

Dealing with a tenant that abandons your investment property presents a number of challenges.

First, what constitutes “abandonment?”

Secondly, what are you to do with your tenant’s deserted personal belongings? Moreover, how are you to recoup the losses you are sure to incur if your tenant simply disappears?

These are all very common questions property owners have when they learn a tenant has vacated their rental property without notice. And, while it may be tempting to simply clear out the property and immediately place new tenants in your rental, there are rules and regulations you and your property management company must follow before bringing in new tenants.

Today, we will share with you how to handle the unexpected abandonment of your Parkville rental property, so that if you are faced with this unfortunate situation, you know what you should (and shouldn’t) be doing.

 

What is Considered Abandonment of Your Parkville Rental Property?

signs-rental-property-abandonment-parkville-maryland-property-management

There are times when it is unclear whether your tenant has actually abandoned your property.

In some instances, your tenant may abandon your property, yet leave their personal belongings behind. This complicates things.

To help clarify, here are some indications that your Parkville tenant has vacated your investment property and moved on:

  • Vacant Property. Your property management company should conduct routine inspections of your rental property throughout the tenant’s lease to ensure things are going well. These routine check-ins become particularly important when things are going poorly with your tenant (g. failure to pay rent or communicate). If you notice that your tenant’s personal belongings are gone, and the lease term is not up, then they may have abandoned the property.
  • Failure to Respond. If you have provided your tenant with notices regarding their failure to pay the rent and they have not responded, it is possible that they have abandoned the property. In this situation, check on your property to determine whether the tenant is still residing there.
  • Moving Truck Sightings. One great way to find out whether your tenant may have abandoned your property is to ask the neighbors if they have noticed anyone moving out of the home lately. Chances are if your tenant moved out, someone saw people coming and going with personal belongings.

 

What Should You Do If Your Parkville Tenant Abandons Your Rental Property?

If you have determined that your tenants abandoned your investment property, there are crucial steps you need to take.

Luckily, if you employ Parkville’s top property management company, we will know exactly how to handle this situation for you.

However, for those that self-manage, or are unsure about what to do when an abandoned property becomes an issue, follow these guidelines.

 

1. Keep All Written Notices

Oftentimes an abandoned property, as unexpected as it may seem, is not all that unexpected if you were having recent problems with your tenant. For instance, maybe you provided your tenant with a rent reminder a week earlier. If your tenant had no intention of paying the rent, and ultimately abandoned the property, it is important you keep documentation of the steps you took to remedy the initial problem.

Document all phone calls, written notices, and emails in case your tenant comes back and tries to claim you improperly evicted them from the property. This record keeping strategy serves as a way to protect yourself in the case of a legal dispute.

 

2. Schedule a Thorough Inspection

schedule-thorough-inspection-abandoned-rental-property-parkville-maryland

As with all vacant properties, whether abandoned or properly vacated, a complete move-out inspection is required. This gives you and your property management company a chance to document all damage incurred by the tenant.

The inspection will then allow you to itemize the damage, as is required by law, and keep the security deposit the tenant paid at the time of move-in.

Here are some things to remember:

  • Always document in writing the move-out inspection, especially if the tenant is not there to confirm damages
  • Photograph any damage for use in court, if necessary
  • Follow all security deposit rules, regardless of the tenant’s abandonment

 

3. Change the Locks and Deal with Abandoned Belongings

change-locks-rental-property-abandonment-parville-maryland

After conducting a thorough move-out inspection, immediately change the locks on your property and secure all entryways so that your tenant cannot enter. From here, you can begin to deal with items your tenant left behind.

If your Parkville tenant abandoned not only your property, but their belongings as well, have your property management company or real estate attorney help you draft appropriate notices. These notices will do the following:

  • Inventory the belongings left behind
  • Estimate the value of the belongings
  • Dictate where the tenant may pick up the belongings
  • Determine a time limit for claiming any personal belongings left behind
  • Identify how you will dispose of any unclaimed property

Next, serve the notices according to your state and local laws, and wait for the abandoning tenant to react. If your tenant left a vehicle behind, make sure to report it to the local police and have the car towed.

 

4. Advertise the Property as Vacant and Begin Anew

After following all the proper avenues for dealing with a tenant that has unexpectedly abandoned your rental property, it is time to aggressively advertise your property as vacant. Screen all potential tenants and place a new (and hopefully higher quality) tenant in your rental to avoid additional loss in income.

In the end, dealing with a tenant that has disappeared unexpectedly is a huge hassle.

Once you’ve spent the time to determine whether a tenant has truly abandoned your property, next comes surveying the damage that may have been done by your tenant, followed by the proper handling of any belongings they left behind.

Because this process can be incredibly stressful, having an experienced property management company, such as Bay Management Group, to help handle these serious situations is crucial.

The last thing you want to face is a misstep while handling an abandoned rental home.

By employing Bay Management Group to draft proper notices, conduct inspections, document your every move, and dispose of personal belongings in the proper way, you can alleviate a lot of stress.

In addition, we are better equipped to help you recoup any monetary loss you may have incurred as a result of this unexpected abandonment.

So, contact Bay Management Group today and see how we can help you with your abandoned Parkville property, as well as all other things property related.


You Banned Pets in Your Rental, But What About Service Animals?

service-animal-montgomery-county-rental-propertyAs a Montgomery County rental property owner, you are entitled to implement your own pet policies.  In other words, you get to decide whether to allow your tenants to have pets while residing in your property.

But what if you have decided not to allow pets in your rental property and one of your tenants has a service animal? 

Rather than face charges of housing discrimination, you and your Montgomery County property management company should work to become educated with the federal, state, and local laws regarding service animals in rental homes.

The bottom line is this: the law states that you must allow service animals in your rental home, regardless of how you feel about pets.  Because of this law, today we will look at the different types of service animals and how this “reasonable accommodation” is bound to affect you when it comes to placing a tenant with a service animal in your investment property.

 

What is a Service Animal?

According to the Americans with Disability Act, a true service animal is defined as a dog that has been trained to assist its owner with a disability.  In addition, any tasks the dog performs must be directly related to the person’s disability.  Examples of tasks service animals may perform include:

  • Assisting owners who are blind with navigation
  • Alerting owners that are deaf of people or sounds
  • Providing non-violent protection or rescue work
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Assisting owners during a seizure
  • Retrieving items such as medicine or the phone
  • Alerting owners to allergens
  • Providing owners with physical support and stability

A service animal will have special certification that training has been completed, proper documentation identifying the animal as a service animal, and will typically wear an identification harness or collar.

But What About Companion Animals?

Companion animals, otherwise known as emotional support animals, are animals that simply provide comfort to the person they are assigned to.  And, while studies have shown that companion animals have a positive effect on people suffering from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress, since they have not been trained to perform a specific task, they are not considered “true service animals” under ADA rules and regulations.

However, this does not mean property owners like yourself can prevent companion animals from residing in your property.

 

Disabled Tenants, Service Animals, and the Law

disabled-tenants-montgomery-county-rental-propertyIn addition to the rules outlined in the ADA regarding service animals, the Fair Housing Act and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) treat both service animals and companion animals the same.  Here are the conditions that your tenant must meet in order to require you to allow the companion animal into your investment property:

  • The tenant must have a diagnosed disability that impacts major life activities
  • The tenant must have a disability-related need for the animal and the animal must fulfill those needs

So long as those two conditions are met, you are legally obligated to allow a companion animal into your rental home despite it not being a true service animal.  Even if you have a “no pets allowed” policy in the lease agreement, tenants with companion animals are allowed to have them in your rental.

Both the ADA and Fair Housing Act (FHA) have strict rules in place to prevent discrimination against tenants with disabilities that require service animals.

In fact, both statutes together maintain that property owners must provide reasonable accommodations to any tenant requiring a service or companion animal while leasing a rental home.

In order for a tenant to qualify for reasonable accommodations for their disability, including the allowance of a service animal, they must fulfill the following conditions:

  • Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as walking, seeing, working, cleaning, dressing, and so forth)
  • Have a history of such impairments
  • Be regarded as having such impairments

Because you are limited when it comes to the information you can require your tenant to disclose, these rules and regulations become difficult to follow.  Many states have taken further action in protecting those with disabilities to ensure they receive fair housing opportunities.

 

Property Owners and Service Animals

illegal-discrimination-tenants-needing-service-animal-montgomery-county-rental-property.If a prospective tenant has a disability and requires a service or companion animal, you and your Montgomery County property management company are not allowed to discriminate against them.

Take a look at the basic guideline property owners and their property management companies must follow when it comes to allowing service or companion animals into your Montgomery County rental home:

  • Service animals are not considered pets, therefore any “pet policy” in place does not apply
  • Service animals are allowed wherever the disabled person goes, including establishments with restricted animal areas
  • Property owners cannot collect pet deposits or charge additional monthly fees for service animals
  • There are no breed restrictions or weight limits allowed
  • Property owners can request written verification from a tenant’s healthcare provider that they are disabled, but cannot ask for specifics regarding the disability
  • Property owners can request written verification from a tenant’s healthcare provider that the service animal is medically necessary
  • If a service animal is disturbing others, posing a threat, or damaging property, a property owner can write warnings or evict a tenant with a service animal
  • Any damage caused by a service animal is the responsibility of the tenant and can be deducted from the security deposit at the end of the lease term
  • Property owners can request a service animal’s health records to ensure good health and updated vaccinations

Common Problems Property Owners Face with Service Animals

Due to the restrictions in place regarding verification of both disability and service animal necessity, many property owners find themselves confused when it comes to dealing with tenants requesting reasonable accommodations for their service animal.

Below are some of the issues you may be faced with:

  • The ADA has no clear guidelines on the size, breed, or number of service animals that are allowed in rental properties
  • There are no rules regarding how a tenant chooses a service animal
  • Though training and certification is often the norm, there are no requirements surrounding training, socialization, or behavior of service animals
  • Property owners cannot question the level of training a service animal has received
  • Anyone qualified to treat a disability can prescribe a service animal, and receiving written verification is an easy process
  • Property owners cannot suggest other options for treating a specific disability to avoid a pet residing in their property

There are a few instances where you may be able to deny the presence of a service animal in your Montgomery County home.  However, you and your property management company should be very careful to avoid housing discrimination in doing so.

  • The tenant is not legally disabled and cannot prove in writing he or she is
  • The service animal will create an undue burden on the rental
  • The service animal is otherwise illegal to own in the United States or at the local level (g. it is an exotic or dangerous breed)
  • The service animal creates an undue financial burden on the property owner
  • The tenant refuses to take responsibility for the service animal while in the rental

In the end, regardless of your Montgomery County rental property’s “pet policy,” there are instances where you must legally allow pets into your home.  And, while there are some small measures when it comes to verifying the validity behind a disability claim, you must be very careful not to overstep your boundaries and discriminate against tenants with disabilities.

 

In order to avoid getting yourself into legal trouble when it comes to prospective tenants with disabilities requesting to bring a service animal into your rental property, consider employing Maryland’s leading property management company to handle that for you.

Knowledgeable in all rental property rules and regulations, at both the federal and state levels, you can rest assured Bay Management Group will not discriminate against any potential tenants.  In addition, you can feel confident that due diligence will be done in order to fully verify any prospective tenant’s disability and need for a service animal.

And that’s not all!

Bay Management Group is equipped to handle all of your property management needs from tenant placement, to lease drafting, to rent collection and eviction procedures.  Working solely in property management, Bay Management Group has what it takes to handle the daily grind when it comes to your rental property. So, contact us today and see how we can help take some of the burden off you so you can enjoy your life and the benefits of your rental property business, without all the hassle.


What to Do When You Find an Unauthorized Person in Your Rental Property

Discovering an Unauthorized Tenant in Your Rental Property Can Be Quite A Hassle

Discovering that an unauthorized person is living in your Montgomery County rental property can be a very stressful situation.

It is your responsibility, as a rental property owner, to maintain the property that your tenants reside in. It is also your duty to ensure that whomever is living in your investment property is authorized to be living there.

Unfortunately, despite having a rock solid lease agreement in place, there will be times when your tenant’s guest(s) may overstay their welcome, a tenant may sublet your property illegally to other tenants, or you may simply find yourself dealing with a squatter that refuses to leave.

Today we will discuss which steps you should take upon finding out that an unauthorized person is living in your rental property. This way should you or your Maryland rental property management company face an unauthorized person, you will be well equipped to handle the situation efficiently, and most importantly, legally.

 

What Constitutes as Unauthorized Occupant in Your Rental Property?

Defining an unauthorized tenant can be a tricky thing. Some property owners do not care whether their tenants have guests that stay for long periods of time. More so, some property owners do not mind if their tenants take in additional people who pitch in for the monthly rent. The way these types of property owners see it, so long as the rent is paid that’s all that matters.

However, for those of you that do care whether an unauthorized person is staying in your Montgomery County rentals, you must first understand what constitutes someone as “unauthorized.”

Most lease agreements provide that only the tenants on the lease, and no one else, can occupy the rental home. This would mean that any other person residing in the rental for any length of time is technically considered “unauthorized” according to the lease terms.

Nonetheless, there are some more specific ways to label a person as unauthorized in your Montgomery County rental.

 

Long-Term GuestLong-Term Guests Can Be Considered Unauthorized to Reside in Your Rental Property

According to Maryland law, a guest can be a visitor or family member that has taken up residence in your rental home with the permission of your tenant. They may stay for long periods and share in some of the minor expenses, but they do not contribute to the monthly rent.

To add to that, some property owners will consider long-term guests as those who have taken up residence without their permission, even though their tenants invite them to stay. Some of these guests even going so far as to change their mailing address to match that of the property.

In the end, the point is that a long-term guest, often extending their stay past 30 days, is someone who from the outside may look to be an actual tenant.

 

Sublet TenantYour Renter May Have Found Someone to Sublet Your Rental Property

If your tenant has allowed another person not on the original lease agreement to take up residence in your rental property and fulfill the responsibility of paying the rent each month, your rental home has officially become the casualty of a sublease.

 

Squatter

Squatters, also referred to as trespassers, are people who enter your rental property without the permission of property owner. This typically occurs in one of two ways:

Your Rental Has Been Subleased

In this case, your rental home has been subleased to tenants other than the ones who signed the original lease agreement with you. Unfortunately, you might not realize this is happening until you begin eviction proceedings on your original tenant, who in the meantime has been collecting the monthly rent from their sub-tenant and pocketing it.

Your Tenant Refuses to Leave

If your tenant refuses to leave your property under legal circumstances or does not pay rent, they too are considered squatters.

The true definition of a squatter is someone who breaks into your vacant property, has utilities turned on, and begins living there. However, this complex issue involves many federal, state, and local laws. That said, if a Maryland property owner attempts to evict a squatter illegally, or the squatter remains in the property for 20 years with no attempt at concealment, the squatter may retain some rights of their own, making your problems worse.

 

How to Handle an Unauthorized Person in Your Montgomery County Rental

How to Handle an Unauthorized Person Living in Your Rental Property

Now that you have a general idea about unauthorized people in your rental property, let’s look at how to handle this situation should it arise.

Handling a Long-Term Guest

Some property owners build guest restrictions into their lease agreements to prevent over-stayers that are not contributing to the monthly rent. Often termed the “Use of Premises” clause, this might include a 10-day limit on guest stays in any 6-month period. And, should a tenant wish to house a guest for longer than that, the agreement requires written approval from the property owner. In addition, some property owners outline the consequences for “hiding” long-term guests in their home by threatening fines, rent increases, and even eviction.

The reason it is important to incorporate these seemingly strict rules into your lease agreement is because guests are not subject to the terms in your lease agreement. Therefore, you or your Montgomery County property manager cannot hold them accountable for rent or for breaking any of the lease provisions.

This lease provision is necessary because someone, whether it be the original tenant, or the long-term guest, has to be held accountable for the rent each month.

 

Handling a Sublet Property

One of the most surefire ways of avoiding a subleasing nightmare is by strictly forbidding the subleasing of your Montgomery County rental. This way, should your tenant continue to do so anyway, you will have a strong defense in your case.

However, should this scenario play out and you find yourself dealing with an unauthorized tenant, there are some important things to keep in mind while you begin the process of getting the unauthorized tenants out of your rental.

  • Should you allow subleasing as part of the lease agreement, include airtight clauses requiring your permission or that of the property management company. In addition, require all sub-tenants be screened as your original tenants were. Lastly, require all parties sign the newly drafted sublease agreement.
  • Never collect rent from an illegal sub-tenant. Once rent is accepted, there are certain tenant laws that activate protecting the sub-tenant regardless of whether they are legally allowed to be in your property or not.
  • If you do not want to allow subleasing, state so in your lease agreement. Some states will not accept your claims of an unauthorized person if you do not state outright in your lease that subleasing is not allowed.
  • If you are going to evict a sub-tenant, make sure to follow the correct procedures for a legal eviction to avoid getting yourself into trouble as well.

 

Handling a Squatter

If you ask someone to leave your rental property—whether that be an unauthorized guest or a squatter who refuses to leave—and they do not vacate the premises, you are entitled to seek an eviction by filing a “wrongful detainer” action in District Court.

A “wrongful detainer” means someone who holds possession of real property, such as a house, apartment, building, or land, without the right of possession. Keep in mind however, you cannot file a “wrongful detainer” to evict current tenants or those who are holding-over.

Here is an outline of the process should you initiate a “wrongful detainer” action:

  • You will file a complaint in the District Court
  • The court summons the person accused of wrongful possession of your property
  • The person will appear in court and explain why they are not in the wrong
  • If the court sides with you, you will then be granted a warrant of restitution
  • You will then schedule a date with the sheriff to have the person/persons evicted from the property

Again, it is very important you follow exactly the legal regulations for properly evicting an unauthorized person in your Montgomery County investment property.

 

Before you find yourself dealing with an unauthorized person in your Montgomery County rental property, it is a good idea to look into employing a knowledgeable and experienced property management company to help you manage all things property related.

Contact Bay Management Group today and let us take care of business for you.

We can draft airtight and legal lease agreements, handle tenants who don’t pay rent or sublease your property without your permission, and set the ground rules for long-term guests. In addition, we will back you in court should things go that far.

Having a property manager from Bay Management Group will give you the peace of mind any unauthorized persons in your rental will be handled efficiently and legally.

 


Why Landlords Shouldn’t Try to Manage Their Own Properties

Managing Your Own Rental Properties Takes a Great Deal of Organization and Multi-Tasking

Deciding to start your own Montgomery County rental property business is an exciting time. There is so much that goes into investing in your first property, placing your first tenants, and of course, managing your first rental property.

And, if you choose the hands-on approach and decide to manage your own property, you get to take the front line and have an active role in all things management and maintenance when it comes to your rental home.

 

There are plenty of benefits to managing your own property:

  • You have direct control over everything that takes place in your rental
  • You are in constant contact with your tenants
  • You may save a little cash avoiding property management fees

 

However, there are many more benefits to handing over the large responsibility of managing your Maryland rental property to a highly qualified property management company such as Bay Management Group. In fact, you can even be a seasoned property owner and reap the benefits of a property management company caring for your investment properties.

 

Today we will explore the reasons why you should not attempt to manage your own Montgomery County investment property and how handing the reigns over to the experts will save you time, money, and plenty of headaches.

 

The Downsides to Managing Your Properties

The prospect of hiring a property management company to manage your investment properties can be a daunting one. Though it can be appealing to think of someone handling the day-to-day administration of your rental property business, it is not always easy to hand over something as important as managing your rental property.

 

However, with a little due diligence and a lot of research, you will find that employing a quality property management company is typically the best choice. In fact, here are some convincing reasons why you should not consider managing your own Montgomery County rental properties.

 

You Do Not Have the Right Expertise

If You Lack the Expertise, Managing Your Own Rental Properties Will Be Very Difficult, Maybe Impossible

If you want to get into investing in real estate but have no experience in the field of property management, it is wise to leave that up to the professionals. Learning as you go can be highly ineffective and end up costing you a great deal of time and money in the long run. By attempting to manage your own properties you run the risk of:

  • Hiring the wrong vendors to make repairs, which can become costly and time-consuming
  • Using ineffective advertisement that can lead to longer vacancies
  • Violating Fair Housing laws or becoming a victim of alleged discrimination that can land you in court
  • Improperly screening tenants, which makes for trouble tenants
  • Implementing poor rent collection policies that can dig into your bottom line

The truth is, if you have no experience in managing a rental property, you should not start doing so with your own costly investment property.

 

Managing over 1000 units in the Baltimore-Washington D.C area, Bay Management Group has years of in-depth property management experience. Less than 1% of all placed tenants are evicted under the management of BMG. This is because of their strict tenant screening and placement procedures. Plus, being broker-owned and locally operated, Bay Management Group is educated in all things property management and is actively involved with all of their properties.

 

Your Portfolio is Growing

With a Growing Portfolio of Investment Properties, It Will Become Harder to Manage Them On Your Own

As your portfolio of Montgomery County properties increases, so do your responsibilities. Since many people get into the rental property business to make passive income to fund vacations, pay off debt, and even replace their corporate income, they tend to want to increase the amount of properties they own and make them available for lease.

The problem is, the more properties you own, the more tenants, administrative duties, and problems you encounter. Owning multiple properties will never yield a true “passive” income if you choose to manage the properties on your own. Your time commitment will increase significantly the more properties you have and you will end up sacrificing many of the following:

  • Your job. If you are a full-time employee seeking to build a strong rental property business, balancing both by managing your own properties is going to take some serious luck. Either your career or properties will begin to suffer over time, possibly leading to the downfall of one or the other.
  • Your family. If you have a lot of extended family you spend time with or small children at home, managing your own properties is destined to cut into family time. Late night maintenance emergencies, long days at the office dealing with paperwork and tenant placement, and day-to-day communications with tenants can eat into family time.
  • Your social life. Just like your family time, any type of social life you have will likely be interrupted if managing your own properties. Your tenants deserve the best treatment and managing your own properties cannot be performed at your convenience. This means being prepared to bolt out the door at any moment to take care of something property-related.
  • Your free time. Many adults crave the elusive “me time” that seems to dwindle as families grow, careers boom, and life happens. If you are on-call to manage your Maryland properties, you may find what little bit of free time you have for yourself again being taken away due to plumbing issues, non-payment of rent, and property showings, just to name a few.

 

Enlisting the help of a property management group that is on call 24/7 will diminish this loss of time, leaving you room to build a bigger career, enjoy family holidays, get social with your friends, and even enjoy that book you have been trying to find time to read. Plus, you will reap the rewards Montgomery County properties bring in, all with very little effort on your part.

 

Your Personality Does Not Click With Others

Customer service is a major component that property management companies focus on in order to gain customers and retain tenants. If you are not the type of person that wants to deal with the headaches that come with evictions, complaints, and maintenance requests, you should not manage your own rental properties.

Property managers, like the ones at Bay Management Group, are well-versed in how to deal with even the toughest of tenants. They understand the landlord-tenant laws, can buffer any issues your tenant has with your property, and pride themselves in being able to diffuse any complaints or issues that arise.

 

For Those That Need More Convincing

If you are still not convinced that employing a property management company is the right decision for you, check out these other reasons why managing you own properties may not be your best option:

  • The location of your properties span far and wide, requiring extensive travel commitments
  • The condition of your property is not pristine, which means repair requests may be regular and often-occurring
  • You are unsure how to add extra curb appeal to your properties to attract high-quality tenants
  • You don’t know how to draft legally-compliant lease agreements with the provisions you want

 

Altogether, hiring a property management company such as Bay Management Group to manage your Montgomery County rental properties far outweighs the benefits that come with managing properties on your own. With the lowest monthly management rate in the region, a 12-month tenant warranty in place, and a support staff of over 20 people, you can rest assured you will save money and your property will be well-cared for with Bay Management Group.

 

In addition, services such as tenant screening, vacancy advertisement, lease drafting, an on-the-clock maintenance staff, and in-depth knowledge of the Montgomery County market are what Bay Management Group provides their property owners. Contact us now and see how Bay Management Group can help take a load off your plate and give you the peace of mind you’re looking for with your rental property investment.


Dealing with a Tough Homeowners Association for Your Rental Property

 

What To Do if You Own Property in an HOA (homeowners association) That Is Tough To Deal WithHomeowners associations (HOAs) are gaining popularity all across the state of Maryland and property owners are flocking to purchase property that is part of an HOA.  Take a look at this list to get an idea of just how many HOAs there are in existence right now, with additions consistently being made.

So why the increase in HOAs?

Homeowners associations appeal to many property owners because their aim is to maintain property values, serve the best interests of those in the community, and keep some order amongst a diverse group of people.  And, as a property owner that leases a home, these are great benefits.

You want your home to maintain value.  You want your tenants to have their best interests served.  And of course, you want a peaceful neighborhood so your tenants want to stay.

 

However, HOAs have a reputation for being difficult to deal with.  And unfortunately, this difficulty trickles down to property owners, their property managers, and even their tenants.

Thankfully, we have some great tips for handling a tough HOA that you and your tenants can take advantage of to ensure the best possible leasing experience.  In addition, if you employ Montgomery County’s leading property managers to care for your property and tenants, these tips can pass from manager to tenant easily during the move-in period.

Today we will look at what exactly a homeowners association is and how best to handle one if they are tougher than the norm.

 

What is a Homeowners Association?

A homeowners association, or HOA, is a legal entity created to manage and maintain the common areas of a community.  These common areas include places such as pools, clubhouses, landscaping areas, parks, streets, and roads.

And, as mentioned earlier, they are quite popular.  As of 2012, nearly 60 million Americans live in a community that is regulated by a homeowners association.

HOAs are typically established in communities that include condominiums, single-family homes, or townhouses.  And, as the leaders of the community, HOAs provide rules, called the “Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions” (CC&Rs), regarding what can and cannot occur within the common areas of the community.

Here are some of the key traits of a typical HOA:

  • They are usually non-profit corporations
  • They have the authority to enforce the bylaws within the CC&Rs
  • Membership of the HOA is mandatory for all those living within the community
  • Mandatory dues are collected monthly from property owners
  • There is an elected board of members, most of which are volunteer homeowners of the community
  • Many HOAs hire a property management company to conduct things such as maintenance, bookkeeping, and dues collection

 

In addition, HOAs provide services such as maintenance of common area landscaping, neighborhood security, activity organization for residents, and approvals for exterior home improvements property owners want to make.

 

How to Handle Strict HOA Rules

The Do's and Don'ts of How To Deal With a Tough Homeowner's Association (HOA) in Montgomery County, Maryland

All HOAs expect residents, whether owners or tenants, to abide by the community’s CC&Rs.  However, as a Montgomery County rental property owner, it is your responsibility, or that of your property manager, to ensure your tenants follow the HOA’s regulations.  In fact, here are some things most HOAs will want property owners to provide any tenant that leases their home:

  • A copy of the HOA’s CC&Rs
  • HOA rules and regulations must be a condition in all lease agreements
  • Property owners or their property managers will be held responsible for tenant violations
  • Tenants must communicate with HOAs via the property management company
  • Multiple tenant violations can lead to termination of residency

As you can see, there is a lot of responsibility that falls onto property owners and their property managers when leasing a home that is a part of an HOA.

Here are some ways you can lessen that burden and ensure a smooth tenancy that satisfies both your community’s HOA board members and your tenants.

Know Your HOA Bylaws . . .

. . . and follow them.  It is a good idea as a property owner to read your HOA’s CC&Rs thoroughly.  Your Montgomery County property manager should do the same.  This prevents any unusual violations, such as parking in your driveway, from occurring.  After all, violations result in fines and possibly termination of your tenant’s stay.

Communicate with Your Neighbors

One of the benefits of owning property within an HOA community is that all of your neighbors are in the same HOA as well.  Everyone is following the same rules set forth by the HOA and everyone pays the same monthly dues.

In the case your HOA begins enforcing rules that you feel are unnecessary, or hiking monthly dues beyond that of what is reasonable, reaching out to neighbors you already know to voice your frustrations will be a lot easier.  Plus, you can all band together and make a common complaint against the HOA board.

 

Get Approval for All Changes

Yes, this can be tedious, and often seems unfair.  However, living in an HOA means you must have approval for all exterior changes to your home and landscaping, backyard included.

To make things easier with a tough HOA that enforces every single bylaw perfectly, just get approval first.

Getting approval will protect you from fines, complaints from neighbors, and legal trouble.  In addition, it is important that your property manager enforce this with your tenants as well.

Make sure your tenants are aware they cannot make any changes, even small ones such as adding a pet fence in their backyard, without gaining prior approval.

 

Pay Your Dues on Time

To Avoid Issues, Be Sure to Pay Your HOA (Homeowner's Association) Dues On Time

This seems obvious, but a quick way to get on the wrong side of a tough HOA is not paying your dues.  If you refuse to pay your HOA dues, or even just fall behind, your HOA may have the power to foreclose on your home.  Chances are very slim that late dues would result in the foreclosure of your home, but that hefty price for falling behind on dues is not worth the risk.

 

If You Get Fined, Pay Up

Maybe you have fallen victim to the toughest HOA in the country.  As unfortunate as that is, if you receive a fine and the HOA acted within their power to impose such a fine, the best option is to pay the fine.

However, there are three additional options for dealing with an HOA fine if you adamantly believe you shouldn’t have to pay it:

  • Ask for a variance. This means you or your property manager are requesting the HOA make an exception to the bylaw violation.  If the HOA does not initially agree, they may hold a hearing where other homeowners can come to hear your case and make a decision.
  • Take legal action. If the HOA was in violation of their power, with the help of your property management company, you can file a lawsuit against your HOA in response.
  • Don’t Pay. Although not recommended, you can refuse to pay the fine.  However, if you are dealing with a tough HOA, risking additional fines and a possible foreclosure is simply not worth it.

 

In the end, dealing with an HOA can be difficult at times. However, there are some wonderful benefits in owning property in a Montgomery County HOA that you may feel are worth the potential extra hassle.

If you are looking to take some of the work off your shoulders, and the stress of dealing with a tough HOA does not sit well with you, contact Bay Management Group today.  Working solely in property management and ready to take on the task of managing your property, tenants, and tough HOA, BMG will assure you peace of mind.

Bay Management Group is knowledgeable about how to draft solid lease agreements that include HOA regulation compliance and will protect you should any legal issues arise.

In addition, we are exceptional at taking care of tenant screening and placement, maintenance issues, rent collection, and everything in between that involves your property and tenants.

So, contact us today and start handling that tough HOA in a proactive and beneficial way.


6 Tips to Successfully Show a Rental Property

how-show-maryland-investment-property

Showing a client’s vacant rental property to prospective tenants is one of the principal roles of a property manager.

Though emphasis is often placed on appealing to the right tenant pool, as well as the importance of proper tenant screening, the truth is that the in-person showing of the home to potential renters is just as crucial.

Staging a vacant rental property can be done easily and without a great deal of time.  With a little bit of curb appeal and a nice looking interior, you will have more tenants wanting to lease your client’s rental home than you know what to do with.

But there is more to getting a tenant to sign a lease agreement than just a nice exterior and inviting interior.

Today we will look at the top tips for showing an unoccupied rental property.  If you follow these simple yet effective steps, you will find great success in your showings.

 

6 Tips for Wowing Tenants with Your Rental Property Showing

1. Remember The Basics

Every property manager knows that there are basic staging rules for showing a potential tenant their client’s rental home.  Let’s look at those basics:

  • Do not underestimate the power of curb appeal. Make sure the yard is well maintained, the property is freshly painted, and the all-around feeling is inviting as a tenant pulls up.
  • Clean, clean, clean. Nothing turns a potential tenant away faster than a dirty home interior.  Make sure to inspect the property beforehand to make sure its cleanliness meets you and your client’s standards.
  • Redecorate or upgrade. Install new carpet, paint the walls an appealing and neutral color, fix the window treatments, and make sure all appliances are updated and working.

In the end, these selling points will make a huge difference in whether a tenant is interested in leasing a property from your client.

 

2. Pre-Qualify

prequalify-maryland-renters

As mentioned earlier, tenant screening plays a significant role in the leasing process.

Before you begin showing a property to interested tenants, pre-qualify them.  This will save you time, energy, and money and will ensure you are only showing the property to qualified tenants.

Here are some great topics to ask about when someone calls to set up a property showing:

  • Their credit score
  • Reason for moving
  • Estimated move-in date
  • Whether they have pets
  • Smoker or non-smoker
  • Number of people moving in
  • If they have references
  • Eviction history
  • Estimated income
  • If they have any questions

Keep in mind that pre-qualifying tenants for a property showing cannot violate any of the Fair Housing laws that are in place to protect prospective tenants.  In addition, make sure the pre-qualifying questions are the same for all prospective tenants to avoid discrimination allegations.

 

3. Be Safe

have-emergency-plan-maryland-rental-property

Before showing a rental property, put your safety first.  Every year a number of realtors, property managers, and landlords are injured showing homes to prospective tenants.

If someone calls asking to see a rental home, get his or her full name and conduct a background check on your state’s public record website before agreeing to show the property.

Here are some ways you can protect yourself from potentially harmful situations while showing rental properties:

  • Always show properties during the daytime, never after dark
  • Call your office every hour to let them know where you are
  • Introduce yourself to neighbors so they are familiar with you and your vehicle
  • Have an “escape” plan in place for when something feels “off” (for instance, take an emergency phone call outside or inform the potential tenant another agent is on the way)
  • Always leave all doors unlocked and stand by the doorways while showing the property
  • Park on the curb rather than the driveway for a quick getaway, if necessary

Gathering information ahead of time about potential tenants and being aware of your surroundings will ensure your safety as well as a more successful property showing.

 

4. Make a Good First Impression

Small, seemingly insignificant (yet very effective) things you do before, during, and after a rental property showing will leave a lasting impression on potential tenants that view the home.

There are several ways to convince potential tenants that this property is perfect and that they need to sign a lease right away.  For instance:

  • Call and confirm scheduled showings a few hours beforehand
  • Set the temperatures in the rental to be comfortable upon arrival
  • Turn on all of the property’s lights
  • Dress professionally and check your personal hygiene
  • Smile when you greet tenants, shake their hands, and formally introduce yourself
  • Show them the grounds, both on and off the property (for example the pool, gym area, laundry facility, parking structures, BBQ areas, or roof decks)
  • Have general information about the property on hand so the tenant can remember you later. Include things such as pictures of the property, square footage, monthly rent and deposit amounts, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and any extra amenities
  • Have applications ready for tenants to fill out immediately following the showing

In short, making a tenant feel welcome, at ease, and well informed about the property can go a long way in securing a lease agreement.

 

5. Be Informed

In addition to knowing everything about the property you are showing, it is a good idea to be knowledgeable about the surrounding area.  People often move to certain locations because they like the neighborhood or have heard it is great.

Emphasize the area’s selling points – nearby restaurants, shopping, entertainment, attractions, schools, parks, and roads for commuting.

The more information you can give potential tenants on the spot, without them having to pry, the better equipped and more trustworthy you will seem.  Plus, this information will help them to make a quicker decision and possibly forgo viewing other properties.

 

6. Follow Up

maryland-property-managers-should-have-emergency-plan

Property managers should base their entire showing process around customer service.  Doing so shows potential tenants that you are a reliable company that they can trust and easily contact to work out any issues that may arise with the property, should they decide to lease.

A day or two after showing the property, consider sending a follow-up email or making a call to the potential tenants who saw the property.

Make sure they have no further questions about the property or leasing process and wish them luck in finding their next home.

Although this seems trivial, a little kindness can go a long way when it comes to deciding which property to lease and call home.

In the end, the way you present yourself and your client’s property to potential tenants can make all the difference when it comes to getting a lease agreement signed.

By taking the proper steps before every showing, you ensure that your client will be satisfied with the amount of effort you put into filling their vacant rental.

On top of that, going above and beyond when showing rental properties can help motivate the most qualified tenants to lease your client’s property, making it a win-win situation for everyone.

 


Landlords Beware: How to Avoid Rental Fraud

beware-scam-maryland-property-management-company

Rental fraud: What is it and how can Maryland landlords avoid it?

For those of you who have yet to experience the horror of rental fraud, we are here to explain to you exactly what it is.

Rental fraud is when someone who is not you or your Maryland rental management company claims to own your rental property and proceeds to lease it out to unknowing tenants.

Scary, isn’t it?

Rental fraud can lead to several difficult situations:

  • Security deposit and first/last month rent is collected by the fraud. Then, come move in time, tenants have no way of accessing the actual property. Meanwhile, the fraudulent landlord is already on the run with money in hand.
  • Your property’s locks are changed and tenants actually move into your rental home having no idea that their “landlord” is a fake.
  • You are forced to remove the innocent, although illegally residing, tenants who have been scammed.
  • You are left with the mess of having to prove in a court of law that the property is actually yours.

Though avoiding rental fraud may not be entirely possible, there are some proven strategies that can help reduce the chances of you ever falling victim to this type of scam.

 

Rental Fraud Comes in Many Formsbeware-maryland-rental-fraud

As mentioned above, rental fraud is when someone poses as either the landlord or property management company to illegally lease out your Maryland rental property. However, there are other types of rental fraud as well.

Landlords are also vulnerable to the types of rental fraud outlined below, and should be aware of their susceptibilities at all times.

 

The Eviction Scam

This type of rental fraud is when a tenant moves into your property with no intention of ever paying rent. As a result, you are forced to evict them.

Unfortunately, the eviction process can sometimes take months to pan out, as well as cost a great deal of money. This leaves the tenant plenty of time to live in your property while lining up another place to scam.

Avoid this scenario: The best way to prevent a tenant who is consistently evicted from every place they occupy is to conduct thorough screenings of each and every tenant you consider placing in your property. This should include a background check, credit check, income verification, and reference follow-up.

Another great tip is to meet each prospective tenant face-to-face, even if your rental management company typically does all the work for you.

Sometimes a first impression will leave you with a gut feeling not to go with a particular tenant, which can be helpful in avoiding scams.

 

The Utility Scammaryland-property-managers-fight-utility-scams

Did you know that many states hold landlords responsible for the water bill despite what the outlined lease agreement states?

Sometimes a tenant will avoid paying the water utility bill because they know that after it goes unpaid for long periods of time, the water company will go after the owner of the property (you) to pay the bill.

To add to this, many tenants are aware that the water company typically does not shut off the water supply to any given residence. This means your tenant is using water on your dime.

Avoid this scenario: The best way to avoid this utility scam is to call your local water company from time to time to make sure your tenant is current on all of their bills.

In addition, it is best to have your property management company draft a detailed lease agreement outlining the responsibilities regarding utility payments. This way, should your tenant neglect their financial obligations, you have a way to prove in court who was responsible for what.

 

The International Scambeware-maryland-international-rental-property-management-scams

This highly popular scam is an unfortunate one that many landlords fall prey to. Also known as the Nigerian 419 scam, this type of fraud involves a prospective tenant from overseas looking to lease your rental property in the near future.

The fraudulent tenant will send you a check for the amount owed at move-in, plus extra “by accident.” This extra money is usually double what you asked for move-in costs.

The fraud will then ask you to wire back the excess money and before you know it, the original check that was sent to you turns out to be fraudulent while the money you have wired back to this person was your real, hard-earned cash.

Avoid this scenario: It is best to not deal with overseas tenants, unless you have a professional helping you with the background checks.

In addition, never accept a certified check from anyone overseas. These checks will usually clear and then bounce weeks later because they are fake.

If by chance you are accepting money from an overseas tenant, only accept money orders through a reputable company, such as Western Union.

 

Monitor Your Vacant Propertiesmonitor-vacant-maryland-rental-properties

In addition to the above-mentioned rental fraud scenarios, there are other ways to avoid getting scammed by sneaky people.

Your Maryland rental property is most vulnerable when it is vacant. The last thing you want is someone breaking into your property and taking up residence with a fake lease agreement.

Should you notice someone squatting in your vacant home, chances are high that the police will have very little authority if the “tenants” have what seems to be a legitimate lease agreement.

The heartbreaking thing is that sometimes these scammers will demand you pay a “ransom” for them to leave your property. This not only costs you money but allows the trespassers a free pass. They never have to take responsibility for their actions and actually make money off of their scam.

And, if you decide against paying the frauds off, this situation will still cost you countless hours and money as you wade through the courts attempting to prove the lease agreement is fake and the “tenants” are indeed trespassers.

Avoid this scenario: Monitor your vacant properties regularly to make sure no one has stepped in and taken up residence.

You may even consider adding an active security system to your Maryland property so that if someone does attempt to break in, the police will have authority to charge him or her appropriately.

 

Watermark Your Photographs

These days, advertising vacant properties online is the norm. And, if you utilize a reputable rental management company, such as Bay Management Group, your rental home is promoted across several platforms to expose your vacant property to the widest pool of prospective tenants.

With any professional rental property ad, images of the home are a necessity. Anyone looking to lease a home wants to have a clear idea what the property looks like before inquiring about it.

The problem is, if someone if posing as you or your rental management company and posting a vacancy online, innocent tenants interested in your property may get scammed or end up living in your home without permission from the true owner (you).

Avoid this scenario: Add a watermark to all images of your property as an extra layer of protection. A watermark makes it more difficult for a fraudulent landlord to steal photos of your property and will likely cause them give up on attempting to scam you.

 

In the end, rental fraud can be a scary situation no matter the type you are involved in. That is why being proactive about your Maryland income properties is absolutely critical to keeping your money out of the hands of scammers and keeping unwanted tenants our of your properties.

If you are looking to safeguard your Maryland rental properties to the fullest extent, contact Bay Management Group.

With knowledgeable staff working solely in property management, Bay Management Group can protect you, your rental property, and your tenants from all types of rental fraud.

Peace of mind is priceless when it comes to your rental property business.

Use Bay Management Group to conduct thorough background checks, draft airtight lease agreements, and inspect your home regularly to make sure everything is in its right place.

 


What to Do When a Tenant Leaves Belongings Behind in Your Property

Once again, a tenant has left your property, and now it’s time to go through the process of finding new tenants all over again. You’ve been through this before though, so it’s not a big deal.

But what happens when you inspect the residence and find that your former tenant left personal items at the property?

Tenant-Left-Belongings-in-Anne-Arundel- County-Rental-Property

This can be a tricky situation for landlords, especially if you want to move forward with the usual steps of finding new occupants. Thankfully, Maryland laws on the issue are clear, and the steps you must take are fairly straightforward. Keep reading to learn what you should do as a Maryland landlord if your tenant leaves their belongings behind in your rental property.

How Landlords Should Handle Tenant Belongings Left in a Property

Maryland Abandoned Property Law

When dealing with your tenants and your rental properties, you always want to be sure you’re following the law in your leasing policies. That way, you never have to deal with costly setbacks.

Anne-Arundel-County-Abandoned-Rental-Property-Law

According to the Code of Maryland’s legal statutes, a property manager in Anne Arundel County needs to know this passage by heart (or at least have it posted in their office for reference):

“A lease may not contain any provision authorizing the landlord to take possession of the leased premises or the tenant’s personal property unless the lease has been terminated and the tenant has abandoned the personal property.”  (Maryland Real Property Code, 8-208)d)(6)).

And that’s it! So, while landlords from other states have lengthy paragraphs of legal jargon to sift through to identify what they should do in such a situation, all Maryland landlords have to remember is that if the lease has been terminated and the tenant has not returned to retrieve their items, you may take possession of them.

However, you may not feel particularly excited about the notion of cleaning out your rental property of a tenant’s possessions and figuring out what to do with them afterward. Don’t worry – there may still be some ways of getting them back to the original tenants.

Steps to Follow With Abandoned Possessions

While the legal outline for when you can and cannot claim a tenant’s possessions is pretty straightforward, you still want to follow some additional guidelines to protect yourself from claims by the tenant who has moved out. That’s because tenant claims could allege that you or someone else unlawfully destroyed or even stole their possessions.

If you want to do as much as possible to get the former tenant’s possessions back in their hands, here are some steps you can take:

  1. Take inventory of everything your former tenant left behind. If there are containers with numerous items inside them, do not open the containers. Instead, just list the unopened container.
  2. Write a notice to the former tenant or any other person you believe may be the owner of some (or all) of the abandoned belongings.
    1. In the notice, provide enough information so that the possible owner can identify it.
    2. Tell the tenant or possible owner the place and time where their property can be claimed.
    3. Give the tenant or other possible owner a deadline after which time the property cannot be claimed.
    4. Tell the tenant or possible owner what your intentions are regarding the property left behind if it is not claimed by the deadline.
  3. Meet with the tenant or other possible owner and give them the opportunity to remove the items themselves or pay for storage costs.

If you’ve followed all of these guidelines and the tenant or other owner seems to be intent on abandoning the items, you’ll be forced to decide what to do with them. Here are a few of your options:

  • Sell the items at local auction (in some states, if the total estimated value is above $300, this is required), an online store, or a resale shop.
  • Donate the items to a local shelter or thrift store like the New to You Consignment Shop in Annapolis.
  • Throw the items away, or – if the items are of considerable size – have them hauled way and placed in a local recycling dump, like Maryland Recycle Co Inc. in Glen Burnie.

Anne-Arundel-cardboard-donation-box-with-clothes

While these guidelines aren’t laid out in Maryland law, they’re good practices if you want to avoid your standing as an excellent landlord being tarnished. After all, if word got out in Anne Arundel County that you were a merciless landlord who destroyed or sold people’s personal possessions as soon as they’d terminated their lease with you, your business could suffer!

Exceptions to Abandoned Property Laws

Sometimes, the items left behind by your previous tenants don’t fall under state rules. For instance, if the property is strewn with obvious garbage, there’s no reason to go through all the procedures of notifying your tenant. Just throw it away!

But there are some other exceptions, including:

Fixtures. If there were no provisions in the lease or personal contracts between you and the tenant, anything installed by the tenant is simply counted as part of the premises. This can include bookshelves or light fixtures that are built-into the property itself as permanent additions. These belong to you as the landlord, so you don’t need to take any further steps trying to return them.

Motor vehicles. Sometimes, tenants will leave inoperable automobiles in the parking lot or garage. These fall under a special category of personal property to which state rules don’t apply. You may notify the tenant and ask them to remove it if you’d like, but all you are required to do is call the local police (you’ll need to give them the vehicle’s license plate number, make, and model, and indicate where it’s located). Afterward, it will be towed. If the tenant wants it, they can retrieve it from impoundment.

Abandoned property is definitely one of the more common scenarios Maryland landlords face in their line of work, so it’s important that you understand how to handle the situation properly and what options you have for removing the items.

Of course, one of the best things you can do to prevent abandoned property issues is remind tenants of the importance of removing all of their personal belongings from their residence before they vacate.

Still, it may be difficult to directly oversee every situation in your rental properties. You may find yourself overwhelmed with all there is to accomplish on a daily basis.

That’s where the property management experts from Bay Management Group come in. We can help with advertising, screening tenants, crafting legally compliant lease agreements, 24/7 maintenance, and more. If you are a property owner in Baltimore, Cumberland, Dauphin, Anne Arundel county or nearby Maryland, contact Bay Management Group today for more information, and let’s talk about how we can make your job as a landlord easier.


5 Reasons Why Your Tenant Can (Rightfully) Sue You

Your Howard County rental agreements are just that, legally binding contractual “agreements” between two consenting parties, the landlord and tenant.

It is with this understanding that landlords should be aware that while there are many laws protecting the rights of property owners against broken lease provisions done on behalf of tenants, that tenants have rights offering protection against overbearing, illegally acting landlords as well.

Tearing-Up-Lease-Agreement

 

This means tenants can sue, and in many cases rightfully so.

Today we will take a look at five reasons your Howard County tenant may feel the need to bring a lawsuit against you as their landlord so that you can avoid ever finding yourself facing your tenants in court.

Wrongful Eviction

There are many instances when a landlord is in full compliance with the law when it comes to evicting a problem tenant.  A landlord can seek to evict a tenant from a rental unit for non-payment of rent, failing to move out at the  end  of  a  lease  term,  or  for  breaching  any  of  the agreed to lease provisions.

However, it is important to understand that evicting a tenant is a legal process and must be followed correctly in order to prevent a tenant from later suing you for a wrongful eviction.  Here are some wrongful eviction instances in which a tenant may hold legal grounds to sue you for costs and damages in a court of law:

Taking possession of your Howard County rental property, increasing rent, or decreasing a provided service (such as utilities) to a tenant who has filed a complaint with the Government Authority, has involvement in a Tenant’s Organization, has filed a lawsuit against the landlord for an unrelated issue, or has notified the landlord about potential lead hazards in the property (including the notification that a child with elevated lead blood levels resides at the property) are all considered retaliatory and make great cases for tenants to rightfully sue you.

Eviction-notice

  • Not Following State Eviction Procedures

You do not have the authority to move any of your tenant’s belongings out of your rental property, change the locks, or cut off utilities to the home without a court order from the District Court.  There is paperwork to file and certain guidelines to follow when it comes to proper eviction proceedings.  You cannot simply kick your tenant out on the street, regardless of whether your reasons for eviction are valid or not.

If you wrongfully evict a tenant from your rental property be prepared for them to sue you for incurred damages related to the eviction, court costs, attorney fees, and much more.

Breach of Quiet Enjoyment

According to Maryland law, unless your rental property lease agreement specifies otherwise, there is an implied covenant or warranty that is built into every lease agreement that ensures your tenant “quiet enjoyment” of the premises while leasing the home.  This means that tenants are guaranteed the right to live in peace without privacy violations or harassment from the landlord.

If you commit any of the following types of behaviors towards your tenants, you may find yourself facing a court summons:

  • Interruption of utilities such as electricity or water.
  • Improper entry into your property.
  • Letting others into the residence without due notice or consent.
  • Violation of rights via gossip.
  • Showing up at a tenant’s workplace to discuss landlord/tenant related issues.

Should you breach your tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment of the premises, and your tenant feel compelled to leave the property, you may be held responsible for all expenses related to this “constructive eviction.”  This would include all moving related costs, attorney’s fees, filing fees, and any other monetary compensation awarded your tenant resulting from the legal actions taken against you.

Livability Issues

All states, with the exception of Arkansas, give tenants the opportunity to rightfully sue their landlord should they provide an uninhabitable residence.  Specifically, Maryland law dictates that all lease agreements have a statement guaranteeing the tenant a home that is reasonably safe and is in a habitable condition.  It must also come with a statement disclosing the condition of the property in its entirety, both good and bad.

Conditions that may be deemed serious in nature and uninhabitable for tenant occupation include:

  • Lack of heat, light, electricity or water (not due to tenant’s failure to pay).
  • Lack of sewage disposal.
  • Severe rodent infestation.
  • Lead paint hazards not addressed properly by landlord according to state law.
  • Structural defects posing a serious threat to your tenants’ physical safety.
  • Any condition posing as a serious health or fire risk.

While there are certainly some inconveniences that tenants may wish the landlord to address quickly, such as cosmetic defects or small maintenance repairs, and certainly fixing those issues is good customer service, only in the above mentioned scenarios should you become concerned about a tenant rightfully suing you and winning compensation.

Illegal Use of Tenant’s Credit

If you are a landlord, violating the Federal Fair Credit Reporting Act legislation could mean serious court time for you should your tenant decide to take legal action.  Commonly used as a way to screen potential tenants for your Howard County rental property, consumer reports are also used in other areas of the rental process such as during eviction proceedings.  It is important to note the many violations that can occur while utilizing a tenant’s consumer reports so as to not violate any of their rights:

  • Not reporting tenants to the credit bureau.
  • Denying an application for unwarranted reasons that may later affect the tenant’s ability to lease a home elsewhere.
  • Requiring a co-signer when unnecessary.
  • Filing unnecessary or wrongful eviction actions.
  • Failure to send appropriate rejection letters outlining the reason for an application denial.
  • Requiring a higher deposit amount than is normal for other applicants.

Wrongfully-Report-Credit-Score-Affects-Tenants

Becoming familiar with all federal credit reporting laws is an important step for all landlords hoping to avoid being sued by their tenants.

Money Matters

One of the most contended disputes between landlord and tenant in the housing court system are the issues concerning security deposits.  A known and regular procedure for almost all rental agreements, there is much to be said about security deposit best practices.

However, the takeaway point for landlords looking to avoid a court dispute is the Maryland Property Code stating that a landlord must return a tenant’s security deposit within 45 days, less any properly accounted for damages, after the tenancy ends.  If the landlord fails to return said deposit in time, a tenant has the right to sue the landlord for up to 3x the withheld monetary amount plus reasonable court fees.

If you are looking to avoid any of the above situations involving your tenants, a housing court judge, and possible monetary compensation awarded to the opposing party, contact Howard County’s top property management team.

Bay Management Group has offices providing 24/7 support for property management services in Washington DC, Baltimore, and Philadelphia and surrounding counties in PA and MD. Our staff is knowledgeable and up-to-date on all federal and state laws regarding eviction proceedings and security deposits, has years of experience drafting legally compliant rental property lease agreements that include all of MD & PA required lease provisions, and understands that your tenants want a peaceful place to live and you just want peace of mind.

Don’t stress about facing your tenants in court.  Bay Management Group has all of the necessary resources to avoid such situations, and should you be summoned to a court hearing, you can rest assured it is not because you are being rightfully sued by your tenant, rather it is with Bay Management Group backing you and your landlord rights.


Landlord-Tenant Laws to Remember

Important Landlord-Tenant Laws in Montgomery County MD

Laws concerning rental homes are established to protect both the landlord and tenant involved in the lease agreement. While landlords want to make a profit and wish to keep their investment properties safe, tenants want their rights to be respected.

Compliance with federal, state, and local regulations pertaining to rental housing is crucial for landlords. Today we will discuss some of the top landlord-tenant laws to remember while renting out your Montgomery County home.

 

7 Important Legal Requirements for Landlords

1. Avoid Discrimination

Owning an investment home in a diverse town like Silver Spring can make you vulnerable to discrimination. With all walks of life looking to rent homes, you must be aware that you are following two of the most important federal landlord-tenant laws:

Fair Housing Act

This law prohibits landlords from discriminating against potential tenants based on their race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability, or the presence of children. More so, this act applies to advertising as well, meaning you are not allowed to direct advertisement of a rental property to a specific group of people.

In addition, Maryland adds additional protection to potential tenants by preventing discrimination based on marital status, gender identification, or sexual identification.

Fair Credit Reporting Act

This act dictates how a landlord may use a tenant’s credit history. Designed to protect the tenant’s privacy and to assure the most accurate information is being reported, the Fair Credit and Reporting Act has several requirements for landlords when accessing a tenant’s credit history:

  • Permission from the tenant must be given to run a credit report.
  • The credit agency used to run the report must be provided.
  • An “adverse action notice” is required detailing a denial of tenancy.

 

2. Lease Drafting

Montgomery County Property Management Tenant Lease Agreement

Drafting a legally compliant lease agreement can be difficult. It is easy to get caught up in making a profit, especially in places such as Gaithersburg, where a population boom is creating many rental opportunities. Owning multiple properties may cause you to slack in drafting thorough lease agreements. Check out some of the provisions you are required by law to include in each lease agreement you draft:

  • You must offer an initial 2 year lease term.
  • To force a tenant to vacate the premises, a written notice must be provided.
  • Acknowledgment of liability for damage caused by the negligence or violations of applicable laws.
  • Late rent penalties must not exceed 5% of the monthly rental amount and no late charges can apply until the rent is more than 10 days late.

It is just as important to understand some of the things that cannot be included in your lease agreement:

  • Authorization to take possession of the rental property without a court order.
  • Denial of a tenant’s right to a trial by jury.
  • A provision allowing a rent increase more than once in a twelve month period.

It is important to note that these are just some of the many regulations regarding legal lease agreements in Montgomery County and that depending on your particular area within Maryland some of these requirements may differ.

 

3. Required Disclosures

The Consumer Protection Act provides tenants protection from a landlord engaging in any “unfair or deceptive trade practice”. This means there are certain things you must disclose to potential tenants before they sign a lease to rent your property. One such disclosure is whether your property has been exposed to lead paint.

Maryland’s Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing law requires owners of rental properties built before 1978 to register their units, distribute educational materials, and meet specific lead paint risk reduction standards in their homes. More importantly, your tenant may request a copy of your most recent passing lead paint risk reduction inspection certificate on file with the Maryland Department of the Environment.

4. Providing a Safe Home

Local housing codes in Maryland set minimum property maintenance standards for housing that landlords must abide by. A rental property may be deemed unfit for occupancy if it is unsanitary, vermin or rodent infested, contains filth or contamination, or lacks ventilation, illumination, sanitary, or heating facilities.

Keep in mind however that the landlord-tenant laws were intended to protect you as well. Tenants have a certain level of responsibility when it comes to your rental home such as cleanliness, garbage disposal, and vermin extermination after occupancy begins. If these standards are not met by your tenant, they become liable for your property and you will have certain rights under the law to recover from damages should any occur as a result.

5. Repair Responsibilities

Your refusal to make certain repairs to your rental home may be cause for serious legal ramifications.

In Maryland it is your duty to present the rental home at the beginning of tenancy as clean, safe, and sanitary. More specifically you must:

  • Maintain and make required repairs to all electrical, plumbing and other facilities.
  • Supply hot and cold water as required by housing code standards.
  • Keep all areas of the rental property, grounds, and facilities clean, safe, and sanitary.

By law you must make any necessary repairs to keep your rental property in as good a condition as it was at the start of occupancy. However, should you decide to dictate some particular maintenance issues to your tenant, you may do so as long as it is detailed clearly in the lease agreement.

 

6. Security Deposit Rules

Maryland Rental Property Security Deposit Best Practices

A security deposit is any payment of money given to the landlord by a tenant in order to protect the landlord against the tenant’s failure to pay rent, expenses incurred due to a breach of lease, or damage to the rental property. This landlord-tenant law protects you in the sense it helps keep your investment property safe, however, tenants have several rights when it comes to how their security deposit is handled by you.

  • You must provide the tenant with a receipt.
  • Deposits must be placed within 30 days of receipt in a federally insured financial institution that does business in the state of Maryland.
  • The money must remain in the bank the entire lease term and must bear interest.
  • You must provide an itemized list if any of the money is used.

 

7. Eviction Procedures

If you are renting a home to the affluent tenants of Chevy Chase, chances are you will not run into any financial reasons for evicting them. However, it is wise to understand the why and how behind proper tenant evictions just in case.

You may evict a tenant for non-payment of rent, breach of the lease agreement, or failing to vacate after receiving proper notice. You can only evict your tenant by Order of the District Court in the presence of the Sheriff who is responsible for executing that Order.

You may not evict a tenant without proper judicial process, meaning you cannot physically remove your tenant, lock a tenant out of the property, cut off utilities such as water or electricity, or remove windows or doors to force a tenant out of the home. It is essential you follow the proper court proceedings to avoid criminal prosecution or civil liability. Lastly, if a tenant feels the eviction was unjustified, they have the right to a court hearing to solve the issue.

 

Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that landlord-tenant laws are in place to protect both parties involved in a rental agreement and are meant to be taken seriously. Landlord-tenant laws change frequently and keeping up with them can be a struggle. Enlisting you favorite Montgomery County property management group to handle your rental property is a safe way to avoid any legal issues regarding landlord-tenant laws. With a knowledgeable staff up to date on all rental property laws, including ones specific to the Montgomery County area, you will never have to worry about discrimination during the screening process, non-compliant lease agreements, mishandling of security deposits, or improper evictions.