This Might Be the Biggest Financial Disaster That Has Ever Hit a Landlord

This Might Be the Biggest Financial Disaster That Has Ever Hit a Landlord

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A landlord in Oakland was fined for nearly four million dollars for the housing conditions they provided for their tenants. Sure, it was Oakland – a place known for some more ludicrous housing fines. Unfortunately, there are similar fines across the country, so the best we can do is try and protect ourselves from getting such fines in the first place.

A landlord in Oakland was fined for nearly four million dollars for the housing conditions they provided for their tenants. Sure, it was Oakland – a place known for some more ludicrous housing fines. Unfortunately, there are similar fines across the country, so the best we can do is try and protect ourselves from getting such fines in the first place.

What Happened in Oakland

Let’s get the story straight. In Oakland, a landlord was fined 3.9 million dollars for the “hazardous” conditions the tenants were living in. The landlord couple had over one hundred and thirty properties, some of which weren’t for family tenancy. Those that were being rented for residential purposes included converted properties that may not have been “converted” properly.

The hazardous conditions included:

What Happened in Oakland

Let’s get the story straight. In Oakland, a landlord was fined 3.9 million dollars for the “hazardous” conditions the tenants were living in. The landlord couple had over one hundred and thirty properties, some of which weren’t for family tenancy. Those that were being rented for residential purposes included converted properties that may not have been “converted” properly.

The hazardous conditions included:

  • Hallways too small for safe evacuations
  • Lack of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors
  • Improper or illegally installed water heaters
  • No hot water heaters
  • Unsafe electric wirings
  • Possible mold in living quarters
  • Windowless bedrooms

How Did This Happen

Some speculate that the landlords at fault were able to ‘get away’ with these conditions as the main tenants were low-income migrants who did not speak English – therefore, they could not complain. It is easy for a landlord to not know there are problems when a tenant can’t tell, right?

  • Hallways too small for safe evacuations
  • Lack of carbon monoxide and smoke detectors
  • Improper or illegally installed water heaters
  • No hot water heaters
  • Unsafe electric wirings
  • Possible mold in living quarters
  • Windowless bedrooms

How Did This Happen

Some speculate that the landlords at fault were able to ‘get away’ with these conditions as the main tenants were low-income migrants who did not speak English – therefore, they could not complain. It is easy for a landlord to not know there are problems when a tenant can’t tell, right?

Getting fined for providing unlivable or hazardous living conditions isn’t unusual. Most states and cities have similar protections embedded into their landlord-tenant laws. The question is, how did the fine get so high. 3.9 million dollars is a ludicrously tall order for many landlords to even imagine, and across only 130 properties? The idea of divvying it up doesn’t seem to fit. However, in Oakland, under the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) a court “can require a landlord to pay up to $1,000 a day per violation.” All those violations for an extended period of time across all those properties, it does begin to add up.

Getting fined for providing unlivable or hazardous living conditions isn’t unusual. Most states and cities have similar protections embedded into their landlord-tenant laws. The question is, how did the fine get so high. 3.9 million dollars is a ludicrously tall order for many landlords to even imagine, and across only 130 properties? The idea of divvying it up doesn’t seem to fit. However, in Oakland, under the Tenant Protection Ordinance (TPO) a court “can require a landlord to pay up to $1,000 a day per violation.” All those violations for an extended period of time across all those properties, it does begin to add up.

In January of 2015, one landlord was fined $300,000 after renting a single family home to seven college students. Another landlord was fined $800,000, at that time a record, for 467 code violations. Two more were fined $460,000 after breaking fire safety code violations. While Oakland might crack down on infringing properties seemly more than other areas, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods in your zip code.

How to Keep It from Happening to You

The best thing to do is to just be safe. The one thing all these landlords have in common is, in layman’s terms, that when something broke, they didn’t get it fixed. They didn’t fix smoke detectors, call exterminators, and they didn’t check electrical wiring. For the first landlord with the multi-million dollar fine? They bought and “converted” properties whose hallways were too small to begin with. They didn’t double check some important things and ignored property conditions to the point where they became hazardous.

 

Problems that big aren’t likely to happen to you. As a responsible landlord, you check for mold, and keep your codes up to date, so you won’t be fined for those issues. As a landlord who takes care of the small issues in a timely manner, such as a leaky faucet, you don’t have to worry about those issues spiraling into big problems like mold in the kitchen. As a good caretaker, you don’t need to worry about the big fines, because you take care of the little things before they become problems. That’s how you know you’re safe.

In January of 2015, one landlord was fined $300,000 after renting a single family home to seven college students. Another landlord was fined $800,000, at that time a record, for 467 code violations. Two more were fined $460,000 after breaking fire safety code violations. While Oakland might crack down on infringing properties seemly more than other areas, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods in your zip code.

How to Keep It from Happening to You

The best thing to do is to just be safe. The one thing all these landlords have in common is, in layman’s terms, that when something broke, they didn’t get it fixed. They didn’t fix smoke detectors, call exterminators, and they didn’t check electrical wiring. For the first landlord with the multi-million dollar fine? They bought and “converted” properties whose hallways were too small to begin with. They didn’t double check some important things and ignored property conditions to the point where they became hazardous.

Problems that big aren’t likely to happen to you. As a responsible landlord, you check for mold, and keep your codes up to date, so you won’t be fined for those issues. As a landlord who takes care of the small issues in a timely manner, such as a leaky faucet, you don’t have to worry about those issues spiraling into big problems like mold in the kitchen. As a good caretaker, you don’t need to worry about the big fines, because you take care of the little things before they become problems. That’s how you know you’re safe.

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Tenant Screening

New California Tenant Screening Bill Was Just Passed into Law – Here’s What It Means for Landlords and Renters

A new year comes with a multitude of new things, and the rental housing industry is no exception. With the passing of California’s Assembly Bill No. 2559, effective January 1st, 2023, an existing consumer report ordered on a prospective tenant by the landlord whose property they’re applying to rent can now be redefined as a reusable tenant screening report. So, what exactly does this mean?
Simply put, an applicant’s report can be reused for the application process within 30 days of purchasing. The furnished report must comply with all state and federal laws pertaining to the use and disclosure of information used in the tenant screening process and must include all specified information as outlined, including, but not limited to: full legal name, verification of employment/income, previous addresses and last known address, the results of a housing record history check (consistent to applicable law), any records that may exist of the applicant’s criminal history, etc.
The benefits of reusable tenant screening reports are not one-sided.
• First and foremost, the acceptance of a reusable tenant screening report by the landlord is entirely optional, and the landlord must be opted in if proceeding with a reusable tenant screening report. Opting in is not a requirement for the tenant screening process.
• Use of a reusable tenant screening report expedites the tenant screening and application process if the applicant is applying to multiple properties and mitigates the expense of the tenant paying multiple fees per property applied for.
• While the initial cost of obtaining the report from a consumer reporting agency is at the request and expense of the applicant, the option for reuse comes at no additional cost to the landlord or applicant, and the landlord is prohibited from charging an application fee to access or view the report.
• The 30-day reuse period allows for the most up-to-date and current information on the applicant if the timeframe is exceeded while the applicant is still applying to properties. This also gives agency and incentive to the applicant to complete the process in a timely manner.
• Reusable tenant screening reports must still contain all prescribed information required for the application, the same as any consumer report ordered for the purposes of renting a property.
• For convenience, reusable tenant screening reports can be ordered and provided through third-party screening providers such as ApplyConnect, which regularly engages in the business of providing a reusable tenant screening report. Doing so will also include propriety parameters each third-party provider includes in their screening process; for instance, shared reports you receive from ApplyConnect will also include ApplyConnect’s SAFE Screen review customized to your address.

While the list of pros is substantial, existing landlords considering proceeding with reusable tenant screening reports may be wondering – “Are there any cons I should be aware of before opting in and accepting a report this way? And what should I be prepared for?”
Like any bill newly signed into law, any inadvertent effects of AB 2559 remain to be seen. For instance, one could ascertain that a byproduct of prohibiting the charge of additional fees by a landlord who traditionally imposes an application/processing fee to cover any additional expenses other than the cost of obtaining the report means forfeiting the landlord’s autonomy to impose such a fee, and that additional cash flow as well. Landlords who opt in will need to amend their screening process to remove said fees.
Section F of the bill also asserts that if an ordinance, resolution, regulation, administrative action, initiative, or other policy adopted by a city, county, or city and county conflicts with this section, the policy that provides greater protections to applicants shall apply. In some cities and counties, these local laws can prohibit rental owners from considering their applicant’s criminal report, even if it’s on a reusable report. Landlords will also have to accept different formats of the report, as not all screening companies were created the same – one might source their data differently than another with different accuracy rates, primarily use FICO instead of VantageScore in credit reporting and vice versa, etc.
As more landlords and property managers accept reusable tenant screening reports, we’ll be able to see more definitively how and if that changes the leasing process in California. While the provisions in AB 2559 are optional now, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for legislation that could aim to make it required.

Read More »
Tenant Screening

Can Your Tenant Legally Own An Alligator As An Emotional Support Animal?

When you think of an emotional support animal, what comes to mind? It would be fair to assume the first thought to enter one’s head would be a dog, if not some kind of bipedal mammal — and most likely not a reptilian carnivore with razor-sharp teeth.

In enters WallyGator: a five-and-a-half foot, 70-pound TikTok famous alligator with over 72,600 followers on the platform owned by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Joie Henney. While it is legal to own alligators in Philadelphia, that isn’t the case in many other states — nor is it likely that the majority of pet gators, if any, qualify as emotional support animals. Or is it?

Since Wally’s uptick in popularity on the internet back in August, “alligators” as a related topic to the Google search query “emotional support animal” has seen a 300% increase in search frequency, most likely for the purposes of curious internet users seeing and reading about WallyGator for themselves. However, with the increase in popularity of keeping various species of reptiles as house pets and the common need for emotional support animals, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that people with legitimate mental health conditions, unique cases of PTSD, or related conditions could be looking into obtaining a support gator of their own.

As we’ve previously covered, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided guidance on how the Fair Housing Act (FHA) interfaces with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regarding emotional support animals. HUD classifies assistance animals into two different categories in order to distinguish their roles from one another: service animals (primarily dogs), and other trained animals that do work, perform tasks, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities. Per HUD’s guidelines, because Wally is not a dog, he, therefore, cannot qualify as a service animal – so, how does HUD define Wally and his role, exactly?

HUD states if the service animal status is not readily apparent, to limit inquiries to two questions: “Is the animal required because of a disability?” and “What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?”, and if the answer to either question is no, then following denial of service animal status under federal, HUD states that the animal can still qualify as a support animal or other assistance animal, depending on what needs to be accommodated.

In Wally’s case, Henney received approval to use him as a support animal after expressing to his doctor he did not want to be medicated for depression following the deaths of several family members and close friends in a short period of time, and more recently, his untimely cancer diagnosis. Even before rescuing and adopting Wally, Henney has worked with and rescued reptiles (particularly alligators) for over thirty years, and his vocation is one he is very passionate about – so it stands to reason his support animal of choice would be one he’s so accustomed to working with.

Because the ADA makes the same distinction that an emotional support animal would only be classified as such due to its mere presence providing comfort as opposed to employing any training to respond to a situation, HUD’s guidelines technically, but clearly grant Wally his status as a legitimate emotional support animal under federal law.

While Wally’s status is protected in the eyes of the law, HUD also states that a housing provider can refuse a reasonable accommodation request for a support or assistance animal if said animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of other which cannot be reduced or eliminated. However, before denying such a request due to a lack of information, a housing provider is encouraged to engage in a “good-faith” conversation with the owner of the support animal to gather information about the animal and mitigate any potential misunderstandings regarding its purpose.

Luckily for most property owners, WallyGator is very much an anomaly, and most folks aren’t scrambling to obtain an emotional support gator of their very own, anyway. Henney himself calls Wally a “very special gator” (he’s trained Wally to understand commands and to keep his mouth closed around other people) and actively discourages others to adopt a pet alligator if they’re not actively predisposed to working with alligators, stating “if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get bit”.

Check out ApplyConnect’s HUD guidance breakdown: https://www.applyconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Emotional-support-animals_-HUDs-Guidance-cliff-notes-AC-Version.pdf

Read More »

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Tenant Screening

New California Tenant Screening Bill Was Just Passed into Law – Here’s What It Means for Landlords and Renters

A new year comes with a multitude of new things, and the rental housing industry is no exception. With the passing of California’s Assembly Bill No. 2559, effective January 1st, 2023, an existing consumer report ordered on a prospective tenant by the landlord whose property they’re applying to rent can now be redefined as a reusable tenant screening report. So, what exactly does this mean?
Simply put, an applicant’s report can be reused for the application process within 30 days of purchasing. The furnished report must comply with all state and federal laws pertaining to the use and disclosure of information used in the tenant screening process and must include all specified information as outlined, including, but not limited to: full legal name, verification of employment/income, previous addresses and last known address, the results of a housing record history check (consistent to applicable law), any records that may exist of the applicant’s criminal history, etc.
The benefits of reusable tenant screening reports are not one-sided.
• First and foremost, the acceptance of a reusable tenant screening report by the landlord is entirely optional, and the landlord must be opted in if proceeding with a reusable tenant screening report. Opting in is not a requirement for the tenant screening process.
• Use of a reusable tenant screening report expedites the tenant screening and application process if the applicant is applying to multiple properties and mitigates the expense of the tenant paying multiple fees per property applied for.
• While the initial cost of obtaining the report from a consumer reporting agency is at the request and expense of the applicant, the option for reuse comes at no additional cost to the landlord or applicant, and the landlord is prohibited from charging an application fee to access or view the report.
• The 30-day reuse period allows for the most up-to-date and current information on the applicant if the timeframe is exceeded while the applicant is still applying to properties. This also gives agency and incentive to the applicant to complete the process in a timely manner.
• Reusable tenant screening reports must still contain all prescribed information required for the application, the same as any consumer report ordered for the purposes of renting a property.
• For convenience, reusable tenant screening reports can be ordered and provided through third-party screening providers such as ApplyConnect, which regularly engages in the business of providing a reusable tenant screening report. Doing so will also include propriety parameters each third-party provider includes in their screening process; for instance, shared reports you receive from ApplyConnect will also include ApplyConnect’s SAFE Screen review customized to your address.

While the list of pros is substantial, existing landlords considering proceeding with reusable tenant screening reports may be wondering – “Are there any cons I should be aware of before opting in and accepting a report this way? And what should I be prepared for?”
Like any bill newly signed into law, any inadvertent effects of AB 2559 remain to be seen. For instance, one could ascertain that a byproduct of prohibiting the charge of additional fees by a landlord who traditionally imposes an application/processing fee to cover any additional expenses other than the cost of obtaining the report means forfeiting the landlord’s autonomy to impose such a fee, and that additional cash flow as well. Landlords who opt in will need to amend their screening process to remove said fees.
Section F of the bill also asserts that if an ordinance, resolution, regulation, administrative action, initiative, or other policy adopted by a city, county, or city and county conflicts with this section, the policy that provides greater protections to applicants shall apply. In some cities and counties, these local laws can prohibit rental owners from considering their applicant’s criminal report, even if it’s on a reusable report. Landlords will also have to accept different formats of the report, as not all screening companies were created the same – one might source their data differently than another with different accuracy rates, primarily use FICO instead of VantageScore in credit reporting and vice versa, etc.
As more landlords and property managers accept reusable tenant screening reports, we’ll be able to see more definitively how and if that changes the leasing process in California. While the provisions in AB 2559 are optional now, it’s important to keep your eyes peeled for legislation that could aim to make it required.

Read More »
Tenant Screening

Can Your Tenant Legally Own An Alligator As An Emotional Support Animal?

When you think of an emotional support animal, what comes to mind? It would be fair to assume the first thought to enter one’s head would be a dog, if not some kind of bipedal mammal — and most likely not a reptilian carnivore with razor-sharp teeth.

In enters WallyGator: a five-and-a-half foot, 70-pound TikTok famous alligator with over 72,600 followers on the platform owned by Philadelphia, Pennsylvania native Joie Henney. While it is legal to own alligators in Philadelphia, that isn’t the case in many other states — nor is it likely that the majority of pet gators, if any, qualify as emotional support animals. Or is it?

Since Wally’s uptick in popularity on the internet back in August, “alligators” as a related topic to the Google search query “emotional support animal” has seen a 300% increase in search frequency, most likely for the purposes of curious internet users seeing and reading about WallyGator for themselves. However, with the increase in popularity of keeping various species of reptiles as house pets and the common need for emotional support animals, it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility that people with legitimate mental health conditions, unique cases of PTSD, or related conditions could be looking into obtaining a support gator of their own.

As we’ve previously covered, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has provided guidance on how the Fair Housing Act (FHA) interfaces with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regarding emotional support animals. HUD classifies assistance animals into two different categories in order to distinguish their roles from one another: service animals (primarily dogs), and other trained animals that do work, perform tasks, and/or provide therapeutic emotional support for individuals with disabilities. Per HUD’s guidelines, because Wally is not a dog, he, therefore, cannot qualify as a service animal – so, how does HUD define Wally and his role, exactly?

HUD states if the service animal status is not readily apparent, to limit inquiries to two questions: “Is the animal required because of a disability?” and “What work or task has the animal been trained to perform?”, and if the answer to either question is no, then following denial of service animal status under federal, HUD states that the animal can still qualify as a support animal or other assistance animal, depending on what needs to be accommodated.

In Wally’s case, Henney received approval to use him as a support animal after expressing to his doctor he did not want to be medicated for depression following the deaths of several family members and close friends in a short period of time, and more recently, his untimely cancer diagnosis. Even before rescuing and adopting Wally, Henney has worked with and rescued reptiles (particularly alligators) for over thirty years, and his vocation is one he is very passionate about – so it stands to reason his support animal of choice would be one he’s so accustomed to working with.

Because the ADA makes the same distinction that an emotional support animal would only be classified as such due to its mere presence providing comfort as opposed to employing any training to respond to a situation, HUD’s guidelines technically, but clearly grant Wally his status as a legitimate emotional support animal under federal law.

While Wally’s status is protected in the eyes of the law, HUD also states that a housing provider can refuse a reasonable accommodation request for a support or assistance animal if said animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals or would result in substantial physical damage to the property of other which cannot be reduced or eliminated. However, before denying such a request due to a lack of information, a housing provider is encouraged to engage in a “good-faith” conversation with the owner of the support animal to gather information about the animal and mitigate any potential misunderstandings regarding its purpose.

Luckily for most property owners, WallyGator is very much an anomaly, and most folks aren’t scrambling to obtain an emotional support gator of their very own, anyway. Henney himself calls Wally a “very special gator” (he’s trained Wally to understand commands and to keep his mouth closed around other people) and actively discourages others to adopt a pet alligator if they’re not actively predisposed to working with alligators, stating “if you don’t know what you’re doing, you will get bit”.

Check out ApplyConnect’s HUD guidance breakdown: https://www.applyconnect.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/Emotional-support-animals_-HUDs-Guidance-cliff-notes-AC-Version.pdf

Read More »

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Get Started with ApplyConnect!

The nation’s most trusted tenant screening for real estate agents, landlords, and property managers. No cost background checks available 24/7.

©2018 ApplyConnect. All rights reserved

ApplyConnect marks used herein are trademarks or registered trademarks of applyconnect.com. Other product and company names mentioned herein are the property of their respective owners.