- Be on call. "If you're only looking now and then when it's convenient, you're probably wasting your time," says James Malmberg, a real estate professional in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He suggests treating house hunting like job hunting. If someone calls with a lead, follow up promptly to gauge whether it could be a good fit and don't linger.
- Bring the paperwork. To be taken seriously, buyers would be wise to get a mortgage pre-approval letter as well as a "proof of funds" form from their bank to show they have enough to cover a down payment. They'll be able to act quicker when they do find the right house.
- Limit the contingencies. In a seller's market, buyers may need to drop some of the contingencies to score the house. Sellers prefer the fewest number of hurdles to closing as possible. If your buyers come in with several contingencies — such as "if" they secure financing — the sellers are more inclined to bypass their offer and take another with less hassle. Also, "don't waste your time lowballing a seller," advises Sean Kelley, a real estate professional with Howard Hannah in Pittsburgh, Pa. "Always put in an aggressive offer."
- Cast a wide net. Search for homes outside prime locations if faced with limited or high-priced choices. Buyers need to carefully consider what they're willing to compromise on. "Sometimes properties sit, even in a seller's market, because of a problem that is scaring other buyers away," such as some renovation work that may need to be done, Malmberg says. Those "flaws," however, might not be a big deal to your buyers. "Finding a house this way can also cut down on the amount of competition you will face," Malmberg adds.
In a seller's market, home buyers need to be willing and able to act fast to snag the home they want. This spring, areas across the country are facing a limited number of homes for sale. Realtor.com® offers up a cheat sheet for surviving a seller's market.
Disputes often arise between property owners and tenants concerning the tenants' right to bring an animal onto the property. If this is not handled correctly, severe legal consequences can arise.
The rights of tenants to possibly bring animals onto rental property arise under Federal law through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Housing Act as well as through various California laws particularly the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA). However, this often gets confusing as to which laws apply, what animals are covered, and what exceptions may exist.
There are three distinct categories of animals that may trigger tenant rights:
1. SERVICE ANIMALS - Under both Federal and CA law, "Service Animals" are defined as any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. These include:
(a) Service dog which assists an individual who has a mobility impairment with tasks including, but not limited to, providing balance and stability, retrieving items and pulling wheelchairs;
(b) Dog Guide which assists an individual who is blind or visually impaired with tasks such as, but not limited to, aiding in navigation and alerting the individual to dangers such as moving cars;
(c) Hearing Dog which assists an individual who is deaf or hearing impaired by alerting the individual to the presence of sounds or people;
(d) Alert/Response Dog which alerts an individual to a seizure or other medical condition; and
(e) Psychiatric Service Dog which aids an individual with a cognitive, psychiatric or neurological disability. A service dog must be individually trained to perform work or tasks directly related to the handlers disability.
2. EMOTIONAL SUPPORT ANIMALS - The protections discussed above do not apply to emotional support animals, also called therapy support animals. An "emotional support animal" is a dog or other animal that is not trained to perform specific acts directly related to an individual's disability. Instead, the animal's owner derives a sense of well-being, safety, or calm from the animal's companionship and presence. Therapy dogs are often the pets of the therapist or psychiatric personnel of the particular institution or hospital where they bring comfort.
Significantly, neither Service Animals nor Emotional Support Animals are considered to be "Pets" when it comes to housing.
3. COMPANION ANIMALS - Companion animals not individually trained to perform any specific kind of task. Instead, the principal service that companion animals provide is simply that - companionship. Under the law, they are considered as pets and their owners do not receive any rights to bring them onto property. However both Federal and California law allow the elderly to keep companion animals in housing owned or operated by the government. Federal law further extends this right in "government supported" housing which may mean that the right extends to elderly tenants under Section 8 leases.
OBLIGATIONS OF LANDLORDS
Subject to certain restrictions, in California tenants have the right to bring their service dogs and emotional support animals to live with them in many circumstances. Landlords and other housing providers in California may not refuse to make "reasonable accommodations" in their rules or policies if such accommodations are necessary to afford a person with a disability the equal opportunity to use and enjoy a house or apartment. This means that a landlord or homeowners' association that does not usually allow tenants or residents to keep pets on the premises may be required to allow an individual with a physical or mental disability to have an animal that provides disability-related assistance. Remember, these animals are not legally considered to be "pets". For the same reason, Landlords may not require applicants or residents to pay a pet deposit for a service dog, psychiatric service dog, or support animal, even if they do so for other applicants or residents.
If a tenant informs his or her landlord that a service animal or emotional support animal will be kept on the premises, the landlord must generally accept the tenant's credible word and should respect the tenant's right to maintain such animal in the home. When the disability or need for reasonable accommodation is not obvious, a landlord may ask the person with a disability for documentation that he or she has a disability and a disability-related need for the service dog or support animal. The tenant or boarder must then provide the landlord with reasonable medical documentation from a health care provider that confirms the existence of the disability and the need for reasonable accommodation. A landlord who asks for "proof" that a service animal is just that can easily lead to legal action against that landlord for discrimination if the demand is not allowed under law. Therefore, a landlord must be very careful in how the tenant is questioned.
A landlord may deny a request to keep a service dog, psychiatric service dog, or support animal in California as a reasonable accommodation if the specific animal poses a direct threat to the health or safety of others, or would cause substantial physical damage to the property of others. The determination must not be made on mere speculation or fear about the types of harm or damage an animal may cause or because of evidence about harm or damage that other similar animals have caused. An issue sometimes arises where a housing provider/landlord's insurance company has restrictions on breeds of dogs in the insured's policy. The insurance company may label certain breeds of dogs as "dangerous" in the policy. If a housing provider's insurance carrier would cancel, substantially increase the costs of the insurance policy, or adversely change the policy terms because of the presence of a certain breed of dog or a certain animal, this may be found to impose an undue financial and administrative burden on the housing provider. However, before banning the animal, the landlord should confirm this with the insurance company directly.
Landlord/Tenant Questions & Answers
Ted Kimball, Esq. April, 2016
Is a new owner subject to the pet policy of a previous owner with month-to-month agreements?
Yes, but the terms of a month-to-month agreement can be changed by properly serving a 30- day notice of change of terms of tenancy on the tenant.
What is the best way to handle the 31-day month? When a tenant moves in mid-month, is it best to prorate the remaining days until the 31st or is it best to ignore the 31st day and consider all months to be 30 days?
There is no specific law on point so if your lease doesn’t address this issue, most judges use a 30-day month to calculate daily rent notwithstanding the number of days in the month.
We have a tenant who has been incarcerated. Her aunt is coming by to remove her personal belongings from the unit before the tenant’s 30-day notice expires. Does the tenant still owe rent for the remainder of the days left on the notice to vacate even though the unit key has been returned to us?
Yes, unless you are able to relet the premises before then.
Can I require all overnight guests to register in the office?
Some judges may consider this an unreasonable invasion of the tenant’s right of privacy. It is so far untested in our courts.
What should I do if I suspect drugs are being sold out of one of our apartments?
Call the police and report the incident. Ask the police for further direction. Document all of the calls and what you said, did and observed. If you can prove illegal activity, commence an unlawful detainer action.
If a resident dies and we discover the body, should we call the police first or a family member?
Call the police and give them the names and addresses of the family members. Wait for further instructions from the police.
What happens if we rent to someone who is under 18 and is not an emancipated minor?
The lease is voidable because the tenant did not have legal capacity to legally enter into the agreement.
8. Question: What if the first of the month falls on a weekend?
Answer: Under California law, Sunday is automatically considered a holiday. So if the first is a Sunday, a notice to pay rent or quit can normally be served on the following Tuesday (unless Monday is also a holiday in which case you have to wait until Wednesday). However, Saturday is not automatically treated as a holiday. It is only treated as a holiday if the tenant needs to access their bank in order to pay their rent and their bank is closed on Saturdays. Unless the landlord knows the tenant’s bank is open on Saturdays, the safe approach is to treat Saturdays like a holiday and give the tenant through Monday to pay (unless Monday is a holiday).
Where do I get the lead paint pamphlets?
The California Apartment Association or one of its local affiliates, the office of HUD, or the Environmental Protection Services (EPA) has pamphlets available.
The Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home pamphlet is available online at www2.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/pyf_brochure_landscape_color_1-16-13_0.pdf. The disclosure form is available at portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=DOC_12345.pdf. A fact sheet regarding the lead disclosure requirements is available at portal.hud.gov/hudportal/documents/huddoc?id=DOC_12351.pdf.
Can I serve both a 3-day notice to perform covenant and a 30-day notice at the same time?
Yes, so long as the 3-day notice provides that the tenant can either perform the broken covenant or quit possession of the premises within the three days.
What is a prejudgment claim? When should it be used?
A prejudgment claim is a document that can be filed along with the summons and complaint for unlawful detainer. It requires that all persons who are claiming a right of possession to the subject property to file a response and they will then be added as additional parties (defendants) to the eviction lawsuit.
What kinds of changes to the rental agreement require the “change of terms” notice?
Any material change to a month-to-month tenancy requires a written 30-Day Notice of Change o0f Terms of Tenancy. It may be served personally, by post and mail, or substituted service and mail.