Simple Tips To Protect Your Rental Property From Liability & Lawsuits

If you are the owner of a rental property, it is likely that you have considered the liability associated with that. If you have real legal concerns, it is best to speak with a lawyer. There are, however, simple tactics that you can use to help protect you and your assets.

Purchasing rental properties is widely considered one of the best investment choices a person can make. Usually, you can buy them below market value which opens up the potential to make real money. There are real risks associated with being a rental property owner, such as being sued for money or because of injuries occurring at your property. Whether a freak accident occurs or someone gets hurt from landlord neglect, the risk of injury is a real problem facing owners.

As an owner, you need to consider if the returns you make on the property are worth the risks. Even if it is worth it, there are still precautions you can take to protect yourself. If your returns are decent, then you can afford to take additional precautions. If you are more limited in your options, it is best to consult with professionals to get the best advice on what coverage and precautions you should take.

Use a property manager

Managing your properties or someone else’s increases your liability. There have been cases where an evicted tenant hurt themselves while moving out and turned around to sue the property manager. The tenant claimed that the landlord had broken his TV and left the glass in a window well. When he fell in the window well while moving, he claimed the injury was the fault of the landlord. Tenants can make a lawsuit out of almost anything, so it is best to be prepared.

Even after lengthy court cases and a verdict in favor of you, there is still a valuable lesson to learn. It is critical for landlords to have insurance; with liability insurance to cover issues like this the legal fees would have been covered. Talk to your insurance agent about getting liability coverage. To be a property manager in most states you need to be a licensed real estate agent first, and they require E and O insurance, so this is a good place to start.

As a property manager, you need to be aware of local and state ordinances. Take the time to research which forms and documents. A good example is that some states require you to sign lead based paint forms and to put up a flyer on all properties. You need to be careful because states can fine a great deal of money to get you to pay attention to the laws. You have to consider if you really want to risk losing money on something you had the time to research and take care of.

Create corporations or LLC’s

Creating one or several organizations is a great tactic to protect your properties. Each property will need a checking account for all money associated with that location. Setting up a corporation is a simple process, taking no more than thirty minutes and there are several of online companies that will help you get started with the process. You have the option to have a lawyer set this up for you too, but they can cost around $750. This really is too high, considering you can do it yourself. Setting up an LLC can be fun, you can be as creative as you want when it comes to naming them.

You need to check with the bank that finances the property before transferring it to an LLC. The reason being that some bans have due on sale clauses, which means they can call your full loan if you sell the property. Even though the same individual owns the property and the LLC, it can still trigger the clause to be activated. Once a property is transferred to an LLC, it also becomes harder to refinance.

Homeowners insurance

Think of all the things that can cause damage to the property; frozen pipes, backed up sewers, trees falling and even natural disasters or severe weather. Working with agents to get the proper coverage for your properties is a necessity. Discuss all the possible coverage and find out what is not covered; some companies do not include floods and sewer problems. Each property will require different coverage so for each location evaluate the risks against the insurance costs to determine what will work financially and protect you.

Free and clear is not always best

Having a property free and clear with no loans open puts you at greater risk for lawsuits. People will be more inclined to sue when they are assured of a payoff, and if you owe nothing, you will have to pay more for any suits. Opening a line of credit against the property shows up in public records which can help you. Even if you do not owe anything, the full amount of the loan is what is visible, and it could protect you.

Hiring rental property services to take care of your properties and having proper and adequate insurance coverage is the best protection you can give yourself. Always use a reliable and knowledgeable insurance agent who has experience with rental policies. They can inform you of all the potential policies and explain them to you, allowing you to pick what is best for each of your properties.

It is also a good idea to hire an accountant to make sure all taxes are filed and handled correctly and a lawyer to take care of any possible legal protection you may need. It may be expensive to work with these professionals, but if you are new to the rental property owner game, it is a wise choice to get them involved. Understanding the risks and getting prepared early, will make and future problems much easier to deal with. You could stand to lose a lot with one lawsuit, so look into thoroughly protecting yourself, you will thank yourself later.

Common Mistakes New Landlords Make & How To Avoid Them

New landlords of rental properties need to be aware of the size of the commitment they’re taking on, in particular when it comes to financial and legal matters. Inexperience is nothing to be ashamed of, but it should be used not as an excuse but as an opportunity to seek out knowledge and experience from seasoned experts in the property management field and get their advice, so they are better prepared if they have to deal with safety issues or a troublesome tenant.

Here are six common mistakes for new rental property owners to avoid.

1. Failing to Screen Tenants Properly

Many inexperienced landlords will think they’re saving money and hassle by not undertaking a full tenant screening process. They may be easily convinced by pleasant people with everything appearing right about their application. But it’s vital to protect your investment with due diligence, doing a credit report, enquiring about the tenant with past landlords, and assuring yourself there’s no history of late payment or aggravation or prior evictions.

Any landlord will want to avoid the eviction process if they possibly can. It’s costly, time-consuming and unpleasant. A little extra time spent researching a tenant can save a lot of stress, and any honest tenant won’t mind you doing it.

Property Management Legal Issues

2. Lack of Legal Knowledge

Any departure from local and federal housing regulations from the moment you begin accepting applications from renters can put you at risk of litigation as a landlord. You must have an understanding of local habitability laws and the Fair Housing Act on a federal level, and ensure your property is compliant and legally safe and habitable.

It may seem a daunting amount of legal material to learn, but expert help is readily available, and this should be a priority.

3. Not Following Through On Late Payment Fees

Don’t let any tenant get away with exploiting you by not paying rent responsibly and on time. An exceptional hardship as a one-off may be permissible if it’s verifiable, but if you allow repeated late payments out of a desire to appear kind, you will be losing out on any return on your investment.

Hold tenants to late fees and ensure they adhere to the terms set out in their lease agreement.

4. Not Having Regular Inspections

Inexperienced landlords of rental properties may be tempted to save themselves the nuisance of arranging a regular property inspection. It’s easy to believe the tenant will raise any maintenance issues promptly – but what if they haven’t noticed them, or caused the problem themselves, or are trying to conceal something else?

Beginning each tenancy properly by making safety and inventory checklists, and checking all areas are well maintained, can save you costly and unexpected repair bills in future. You can enlist professional help from property managers to make sure the inspections are full and thorough. Seasonal inspections can protect against any faults or negligence escalating into critical problems in hot or freezing weather.

5. Not Having Full Insurance Cover

The worst possible situation for a landlord is to be liable without a sufficient insurance cover. Be sure to include specific landlord’s coverage in your homeowner’s insurance to cover situations such as somebody suing because they sustained injuries while on your property.

You should also insist on tenants having renter’s insurance to cover damage on and off the property, as well as their own possessions. If your tenant accidentally causes water damage to the apartment below, you won’t be faced with damages that the tenant is unable to cover. Experienced landlords often require this protection to be in place as a term of the tenancy agreement.

6. Not Using A Property Manager

It’s a significant investment to hire property management for landlords to represent you in matters dealing directly with the tenant, but it’s one that can save time and stress particularly as an alternative to managing a property for the first time.

If you are not prepared to go into detail with all the required knowledge of landlord and tenancy laws, or you find minor day-to-day rental issues are occupying more time than they should, then it’s well worth considering investing in the services of a property manager. There is a trade-off between the management fees and the amount of time and stress property management will save you. If you have multiple rental properties to manage, getting professional help with the day-to-day running can pay off more.

These six common mistakes are part of the array of knowledge you should arm yourself with before investing in a rental property, and are a good starting point towards avoiding legal tangles and enjoying the returns that your investment brings you.

Residential Rental Property: Is It A Good Investment?

If you have money to invest and you are considering investing in residential rental properties, you may be wondering whether or not it is a good idea. In this article, we will go over the things that you should consider before deciding to invest in rental properties.

What Should You Consider Before Investing In Rental Properties?

The first thing you should decide is whether or not you are going to live in the building that you buy. If you rent out the entire property and you reside elsewhere, you would be able to deduct all expenses related to the building from your income. If you decide that you are going to move into the building, you would only be able to deduct the expenses related to the units that you are renting out. Should you decide to sell your property at some point, The portion of the building that you were living in would be exempt from the capital gains tax. If you rent out the entire building and you live elsewhere, all of you taxable gains would be taxable.

If you have a specific piece of property in mind that you are hoping to buy, you should make sure that the realtor’s listing is correct. If the number of units in the listing is inaccurate, it can change the terms of the sale considerably. To get this information, check the assessment roll. For example, if the building has a basement and it is considered to be a livable dwelling, it will count as an additional unit, which means that you would need to put down a larger down payment.

How Much Of a Down Payment Can You Expect To Pay?

If you are planning on renting out every unit in the building that you purchase, you would need to make a minimum down payment of 20 percent of the price of the building. If you are planning to buy a duplex and you intend to live in it, you would need to make a 5 percent down payment of the purchase price as long as you have mortgage loan insurance. If you are buying a three or a four family building and you are going to live in it, you would need to put down at least 10 percent.

These down payment rules are the same universally for all American financial institutions.

What Are Other Fees Associated With The Sale?

There are several fees that you would need to pay besides the down payment. These charges include:

  • Welcome tax
  • Notary fees
  • Inspection costs
  • Property tax adjustment (The school taxes and municipal taxes that you would be responsible for)

To cover all of these fees, your American loan insurer would calculate a standard amount, which is 1.5 percent of the purchase price of the building that you are planning to buy. In some cases, unexpected issues can arise, which would cost you more money. To cover you if something like this should happen, many financial institutions including Wells Fargo recommend changing the number from 1.5 percent to 3.5 of the price of the building. The additional money would be put in a line of credit or a savings account that is easily accessible.

Besides the Building’s Condition, What Else Should You Look For?

There are plenty of things that you should look for other than what the building looks like on the inside and out.

If you want to find tenants as easily as possible, you should look at how close stores, schools, and other important businesses are to the building.

If you aren’t planning to live in the building, you should consider the proximity of your home and your rental properties to make it easier to collect the rent each month.

If you want to be sure that you are not overpaying when you buy the building, you should take a look at how much similar buildings were sold for in the last year. This is something that a realtor can help you with.

If the building already has tenants, you need to find out about them. Find out how long each tenant has been living in the building and when their lease expires. Also, find out how much the tenants are paying for rent.

Tips For New Landlords

You should make sure that the lines of communication are open between you and your tenants. You want to include every little detail in the lease and make sure that you put everything in writing.

Many financial institutions allow you to schedule the due date for your mortgage payments. You should schedule them for the middle of the month. This will give you the leeway you will need if some of your tenants don’t pay their rent on time.

You should open up a separate bank account strictly for managing the building. If you have one account for rents, mortgage payments, and expenses, it can make accounting much easier.

What Does It Mean To Leverage Real Estate?

Leveraging your property is when you take out a second mortgage on your first investment property to purchase a second building if you don’t have the capital to do so. In most cases, you can get up to 80 percent of the worth of your first building to put toward your second.

The Pros Of Investing In Real Estate

The reason that most people invest in rental properties is that they like that they can see and spend the money that comes in each month. If you have other investments and you want to diversify your assets, real estate is a great way to do this. If you want to own your own home but you are living on a tight budget, The rent that you collect from your tenants will help you make your mortgage payments.

The Cons Of Investing In Real Estate

Real estate investing isn’t for everyone. If you like being a manager, it could work. To be a good landlord, you will need to have a lot of patience with your tenants, and you need to be available at all times to fix any problems that come up in the building. If you don’t think that you can handle something like this, real estate investing may not be the best thing for you. If this is the case, you should meet with a financial planner to discuss other investment options.

Should You Self Property Manage Or Put Up With A Property Manager Fee?

Most property owners are often faced with the question if it is cheaper to manage their property or whether leaving property managers to do it is a better option. While some consider managing their property so as to escape the extra fee of hiring property managers, it is worth that you know it is not all about the charge but what the fee has to do with the services. Hence to get the answer to the question as stated earlier, you need to consider all the factors that make you hire the property manager, such as the value of your time and get to see if the services provided by your manager are much more worth that the fees charged.

According to research, most property owners are on the move to hire property managers. There is an increase in the number of landlords who prefer to have property managers manage their rentals while there is a decrease in the number of those who manage their property.

I believe you are now wondering why such a trend and why opt to hire a property manager while you can do it for free. The reason behind this is simple. No one would consider going for an expensive option while you can get a cheaper option, which means that hiring a property manager is cheaper as compared to managing your property. However, how can this be true while you will pay a property manager and you don’t need to incur any fee by managing your property? Let’s have a discussion and discover why a property manager is worth your consideration.

Time is money

Managing your property when that isn’t your full-time job will take much of your time, not to mention that you will probably have to spend much of your valuable time dealing with tenants. This is likely going to make you lose much money especially if you have to leave your business to deal with your rental property residents’ issues. This can worsen if your rentals are too far from your residence or business area. However, no matter the situation you are in, you cannot forsake your tenants as this may just make you lose another income source which means that you will probably have to go out of your business for some time. Such situations will make you make losses on your business especially if you need to deal with your tenants frequently. To avoid losing your valuable time you should consider delegating some duties, the most convenient which is leaving property managers to oversee your property.

Knowledge of the law

Did you know that there are rules set for a property owner to abide by? Failure to comply with such codes will only lead to costly pitfalls. Being a property owner who has more valuable things to deal with, you probably will not have the time to research on such rules and regulations. Besides, keeping up to date with changes to such codes can be hard, which can cause you to deal with costly legal charges or even the loss of your property. To ensure that your property and every undertaking related to it is compliant with the law, hiring property managers is a good step to take as you can have the assurance that you will not fall in the illegal arms of the law. The reason behind this is that property managers keep track of the rules and regulations supposed to guide property owners, thereby ensuring that your rentals meet the required requirements.

Offsetting tax

Despite the fact that you ought to pay the fee arising after hiring a property manager, you can still raise your tax benefits. This results when the management fee is counteracted against your tax.
While there are several advantages of paying the extra fee and having experts manage your property, the choice on whether to incur the fee or to manage your property ultimately depends on you.

Make sure that you weigh the benefits of hiring property managers to the fee charged as well as the value of your time and ensure that you make the right choice.

The Metro Phoenix Apartment Market’s Promising Outlook

The Phoenix metro rental market continues a two-year ascent, showing no signs of stopping anytime soon. What really could be the reason behind the increasing demand for rental property in Phoenix?

An aerial of recently developed areas in the Phoenix valley. Photo courtesy of the International Space Station.

According to Stephanie McCleskey who is the vice president of Research for Axiometricks, outstanding job growth is the most important factor. McCleskey asserts that with over 3% annual Phoenix job growth rate, the huge demand for accommodation is consuming a huge portion of new property supply.

According to his organization, Phoenix businesses created 56,800 in 2015. The data provide evidence that real estate companies are in a rush to add another 4612 housing units in 2017, after supplying 7093 units in 2016. Looking at 18 submarkets with over 1000 units, the 2016 data ranked the valley cities with the most growth as follows;

  1. South Glendale—11.0%
  2. South Mesa—9.1%
  3. Sunny Slope—8.2%
  4. East Mesa—7.9%
  5. North Glendale/Peoria—7.3%

Despite mortgage rates currently being at their historic lows, Phoenix remains one of the most promising property markets across the nation. The cost of rent has gone higher for the 23 of the past 24 months so is the apartment occupancy.

Nathan Pierce—principal at Strong Tower Realty in Scottsdale advises tenants to consider low or no down payment programs and acquire homes rather than rent. He believes that renters are spending more than they would on a mortgage payment. “In our market, you could save 25% by buying a house outright instead of renting,” says Nathan. He goes ahead to point out that people are spending more when they sign a lease and they are missing out on tax breaks like interests, property tax as well as mortgage insurance by not choosing property acquisition over rental.

As The Phoenix Real Estate Market Booms, Rental Prices Skyrocket

The prices for homes are increasing all over the country. Homes in Phoenix are expected to surpass the national average.

In the month of May rent was 2.6 percent higher than it was the past May according to the Census Bureau.

Phoenix saw a 4.9 percent increase from the previous May.

The growth in 2017 has been happening quicker than in 2016. The calculations for the increase use data from apartments and single family homes. Government data is also used to come up with these figures.

The population in Phoenix is quickly growing. The Mayor, Greg Stanton credits the growth due to additional jobs in the health care field. Home sales are also increases where first time home buyers are making the switch from renting to owning a home.

The average rental cost of a two bedroom home in Phoenix was $1,020 in the month of May. The national average is $1,150.

This report does not include North Phoenix, but other nearby cities had higher rent costs than the rest of Phoenix. The town of Sunrise charged $1,340 in rent for a two-bedroom apartment while Gilbert got $1,350.

Two bedroom apartments in Bela Rosa, Talus Ranch, and other areas in Northern Phoenix ranged from $975 to $1,150. Two bedroom homes were listed at prices from $1,495 to $2,250.

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