- Slides: 26
20 Tips to Avoid Legal Problems with Tenants
Evan L. Loeffler Law Group PLLC 2611 NE 113 th Street, Suite 300 Seattle, WA 98125 -6700 (206) 443 -8678 [email protected] com www. loefflerlaw. com
I. Finding Tenants
1. Advertising � Must not discriminate any protected class ◦ HUD considers a blanket policy against renting to convicted criminals a discriminatory practice ◦ Section 8 tenants are a protected class in Seattle � Indicate whether you accept portable tenant screening
2. Tenant Screening Criteria � Criteria should be in writing and distributed with the application packet ◦ ◦ ◦ Income to rent ratio Good rental history and references Credit rating Confirmed employment Criminal history � Be aware that Section 8 benefits effectively lower the rent
3. Tenant screening � RCW 59. 18. 257 on screening � Always give a receipt for any money from prospective tenant � Give the name and contact information for the tenant screening service � Use the “adverse action notice” provided by statute
II. Forming the Relationship
4. Late fees � Late fees should be reasonable ◦ 10% appears to be the limit ◦ Per diem late fees create issues � Late fees may not be rent anymore � Understand the difference between a due date and a grace period
5. Payment Requirements � Direct deposit vs. checks � Cashier’s checks after NSF � Prohibition against cash
6. Lease Attachments � Security deposit checklist � Lead paint disclosure � Mold information � Summary of landlord-tenant laws (Seattle) � Pet addendum � Parking and storage addenda � Rules and regulations
7. Renters Insurance � If the lease does not say tenants are not beneficiaries of the landlord’s insurance they are � Request proof of insurance � Do not require certain limits or deductibles – it’s the tenant’s policy
8. Deposits � Must have a walk-through condition checklist � Checklist must be signed and dated by the tenant � Money must be in a separate account � Address of bank must be provided
9. Tenant Representatives � RCW 59. 18. 590 provides landlords may request sole occupants to designate a “tenant representative” in the event of the tenant’s death � Designation to be separate from the rental agreement – not necessarily the emergency contact
III. During the Tenancy
10. Written Communications � Give your lawyer a record to work with � E-mail communications for most contact OK ◦ Not acceptable formal communications like changes in terms and notices of default � Keep records of communications � RLTA requires that landlord give receipts
11. Timely Repairs � Law requires landlords to commence repairs within time limits and continuously try to finish in a timely manner � The obligation of good faith trumps the obligation to make repair requests in writing � Even if tenant causes the problem it should be fixed – determine who pays for the repair later
12. Reasonable Accommodations � Tenants requesting reasonable accommodation should be accommodated if possible � It is OK to request verification if a disability is not apparent ◦ E. g. note from a doctor that the tenant is being treated and a dog is a part of the treatment – not requesting what the treatment is for �A reasonable accommodation must not seriously inconvenience landlord or other tenants
13. Inspections and Access � RCW 59. 18. 150 says landlord has the right to access for repairs with at least two days’ notice ◦ Landlord may enter without notice if there is an emergency ◦ Parties may agree to less time ◦ Tenant need not agree ◦ Tenant need not be present ◦ Landlord should not breach the peace ◦ Landlord must not abuse the right to access ◦ After refusing to allow access the landlord may fine the tenant $100
14. Notices of Default � Notices of default (payment of rent, violation in terms) and termination of tenancy must ALL be delivered ◦ In person, or ◦ Both posted and mailed by regular U. S. mail � No e-mail substitutes � Prerequisite to eviction: do it right or do it again
15. Notices of Changes � Probably should be delivered similarly as with other notices � At least 30 days before the beginning of the next rental term � Raising the rent requires 60 days’ notice before the beginning of the next rental term � Includes any change of term including when rent is due, insurance requirements, etc.
16. Renewals � If lease is not renewed its ends � If tenant does not move and landlord accepts rent, tenancy is month-to-month � Offer renewal for a limited time (unless tenancy is already month-to-month) well in advance of lease termination
IV. Ending the Tenancy and Afterwards
17. Terminating Tenancy � Listen to your lawyer � Follow all the rules � Do not accept rent if tenant is supposed to be out � “Out” means tenant has removed all personal property or abandoned it. A tenant planning to come back to pick up personal property is not out.
18. Allowing Early Termination � Tenants requesting reasonable accommodation to move for health reasons � Tenants who are victims of domestic violence � Tenants who are in the military (or dependents) who receive orders to deploy or to relocate
19. Accounting for the Deposit � There is no requirement that the landlord and tenant meet to inspect the unit � Exit inspections or “walk-throughs” an excellent way to guarantee a disagreement � The law changed in 2016: 21 days to account for the deposit ◦ Leases that say 14 may supersede the 21 -day rule � Case law requires landlords to be proactive to provide accounting—don’t wait a week to line up contractors! � Provide estimates and invoices whenever possible.
20. Keep Records � Statute of limitations to sue on failure to comply with a contract is six years. � Recommend keeping records concerning a tenancy for at least seven years.