Fort Worth Rental Property Management Helps You Comply with Landlord/Tenant Discrimination Laws

Our society is more aware than ever before of everyone around us and their civil rights. In 1968, the Fair Housing Act was established to protect all citizens from being discriminated against for reasons such as race, color, national origin, religion, gender, disability, or familial status when trying to rent or buy housing. Fair housing rules are important to know when you are deciding whether or not to accept a tenant application. These rules have created more opportunities for more people, but have also required that everyone be more aware and careful in the way they speak and run their businesses. Don’t take the risk of rejecting someone only to find out that you’ve unknowingly discriminated against them. In order to steer clear of uncomfortable legal situations, educate yourself on landlord/tenant discrimination legislation in Fort Worth. Rental property management companies like Specialized Property Management are a great way to ensure that you aren’t making any costly mistakes and can handle marketing, tenant screening, and more to ensure that everything is done in the correct way. To get a head start, begin by reading the laws and special situations listed below and making sure that you are in compliance with those. 

Marketing

Marketing your rental home property will help attract good tenants, especially if you market in the right way. Be careful not to market to one specific group of people. When you say that your property is ideal for families, senior citizens and single people may feel like they can’t live there. It’s better for you and the community if you encourage all types of people in all stages of life to live in your rental property. This will help create diversity and the feeling that no one is getting left out. Diversity is encouraged and appreciated all over the city of Fort Worth. Property management services will help you market your rental property in a way that is inclusive, without attracting tenants that are irresponsible or unreliable. The following checklist from MetroTex can help you determine if you are in compliance with marketing regulations when posting an online ad. 

  1. Does the ad contain any misleading statements, or does it tend to create a misleading impression in any manner? It is prudent for someone who did not design the ad to scrutinize it for any potentially misleading statements. Keep in mind that the standard is not whether a statement is true, but whether the advertisement “tends to create a misleading impression.”
  2. Does the ad contain the name of the real estate firm or broker? It should. 
  3. Does the person causing the ad to be published have proper authority to publish or submit the advertisement? 
  4. Is the price quoted the price agreed upon by the owner? 
  5. Does the ad inadvertently imply a limitation or preference to a protected class that could potentially violate fair housing laws? 
  6. Is the specific information relayed in the advertisement accurate?

Tenant Selection

Using a Fort Worth rental property management company is very important when selecting tenants. Once you’ve got a good amount of interest in your property, you have the opportunity to begin the screening process. You have the right to ask tenants about their rental history in order to see how they will treat your property and how seriously they will take their tenant responsibilities. Talk to former and current landlords about if the tenant paid rent on time, gave proper notice, or violated any lease terms. Use a written or online application that collects the information you need such as names, contact information, social security numbers, current and past addresses, employment information, and landlord references. 

The entire screening process can be lengthy and time consuming. If you use Specialized Fort Worth Rental Property Management company, you will save so much time and worry by letting them handle the screening process and do so without risking discrimination. When you ask about tenant’s background, you have to be careful not to mention any questions that could be related to race or disabilities. Things you can ask about are financial history, sex offender charges, and criminal records. In order to gauge how reliable a tenant is, you are able to ask questions about past and current employment as well as check their credit score. You may also ask why they’re moving and how many people and pets will live in the residence. 

Service Animal Compliance

Speaking of pets, service animals must be allowed, whether your rental property allows pets or not. Since they are required in some medical situations, service animals cannot be denied under any circumstances, including breed or size. In addition, someone who needs a service animal cannot be rejected because that would also be considered discrimination. Be careful to not make any slips that would make you appear non-compliant. Saying that your rental property does not allow pets, and that there are no exceptions, could put you at risk for being non-compliant when the exception is that service animals are allowed. Specialized Fort Worth’s property management services are aware of all the special needs that go along with disabilities and service animals. They will be able to inform you of what to say and what not to say when meeting someone with a service animal. For example, your potential tenant must provide proof that they need a service animal, but don’t have to explain why. 

LGBT Compliance

The state of Texas doesn’t have any current ruling for LGBT housing issues. The more people talk about these issues, the sooner there will be changes in laws in order to protect the housing rights of people who identify as LGBT. In the meantime, property owners should be aware of how they are advertising their property, be honest about available units, ask questions that aren’t discriminatory on lease applications, and avoid tenant screenings for things other than what is allowed by state regulations. If you were to suggest that you had no vacancies when you actually did, it could be grounds for a real estate agent to lose their license and the denied tenants would have grounds to file a complaint with the real estate licensing board. No matter what your personal beliefs are, it’s important to think of your rental property as a business, separate from religious or emotional views. Like anything else, there are some exceptions to Fair Housing laws, but you would have to have years of experience and knowledge to be able to identify which exemptions applied to you. That’s why employing the help of Fort Worth property management services can help you avoid costly fines from unwittingly going against current or future regulations that have the potential to change all the time. 

Disability and Reasonable Accommodation

The definition of a disability is a mental or physical condition that substantially limits that person’s ability to participate in major life activities that are important to daily life. Disabilities are not always identifiable just by looking at someone. That’s why it’s important to be careful when first meeting potential tenants and putting them through the screening process. Be careful not to say or do anything that may be discriminating, regardless of whether they have an apparent disability or not. Conditions like heart disease, epilepsy, or even anxiety, may not be obvious when meeting someone, but may require special requirements or service animals. Fort Worth rental property management knows that reasonable accommodations for someone’s disability are required by law. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has laid out what it means to provide reasonable accommodations to these tenants. Some examples may include changes to parking policies, rent collection procedures, or the allowance of service animals. In order to not be discriminatory, it’s important to wait for a reasonable request to be made, rather than offering it and assuming that someone has a disability or the need for a special accommodation when they don’t. 

Fair Housing Laws

No one wants to be discriminated against, and no one wants to discriminate. Most non-compliance happens because property owners aren’t aware of all the laws and regulations that exist at the federal, state, and local levels. Violating the Fair Housing Act comes at a cost, whether in the form of hefty fines or losing one’s real estate license in Fort Worth. Property management services can be the difference of hundreds of dollars for you, if you allow them to be the authorities on what laws are out there and how you can avoid breaking them. Specialized Property Management is required to stay up to date on past, current, and changing Fair Housing laws, protecting you from making mistakes that could result in hefty penalties and fines. Partnering with a professional property management company like Specialized Property Management will give you access to correct legal counsel, providing you with peace of mind knowing that you are always complying with the laws and not discriminating against anyone. As the leader of Texas property management companies, Specialized Property Management keeps you compliant with all federal and local laws and regulations. Contact us today!

Single-Family Rental Investing vs. Multi-Family Rental Investing

When Specialized Fort Worth Property Management Company started out almost 30 years ago, the general public was mostly interested in investing in multi-family units or apartments. If people did invest in single-family homes, it was so they could fix up an older home and resell it for a higher value. Though this is a smart and quick strategy for making money, more and more investors are adopting a buy and hold strategy today. Just some of the reasons to invest in a single-family rental are: the investment stability, affordability, less tenant drama, an increase in demand, better available management, and a quick and easy exit strategy. Today, there are almost twice as many single family homes as there were 10 years ago during the housing crisis. In fact, according to the National Multifamily Housing Council, 43% of renters choose to reside in a single-family rental. Because of the increase in demand, property management techniques have changed. Learn the benefits of investing in single-family homes and how Specialized Fort Worth Property Management Company can help you maximize your profits. 

“We’re becoming a nation of renters — and not just apartment dwellers. Since the housing crisis, more renters are writing the monthly check for single-family homes. More of them are also writing checks to corporate landlords like Invitation Homes, Colony-Starwood, and American Homes 4 Rent. Back in 2005, ‘there were about 10.5 million single-family rental properties,’said Karan Kaul of the Urban Institute. ‘Today that number is north of 17 million. That’s almost a 70 percent increase. If you look at the other segments of the rental market,’ he said, ‘the growth in those units has not been close to what you’re seeing in the single-family market.’”- Marketplace

Investment Stability

People that want to live in a single-family rental are usually doing so because they like the stability and home life that a house provides but they also want the flexibility and mobility of renting. This means, as a property owner, that you’ll be able to rely on your good tenants who will take care of your property and most likely stay long term. With a long term tenant who pays their rent on time, you won’t need to worry about frequent turnover and vacancy costs that often play a big part in multi-family units, or apartments. You’ll also be able to form positive relationships with your tenants over time, decreasing the amount of tension around maintenance issues and neighbors. 

“From day one, you want to work on developing a positive yet professional relationship with your tenants. That means making them feel welcome and comfortable at the property, and providing them with all the information they need to start their tenancy off right. That includes contact numbers, details on your expectations, important dates and locations of the nearest grocery stores, schools, bus stops, etc. And, make sure they know where to locate emergency shut off valves for water and gas in case they need them.”- Zillow

Because single-family rentals usually increase in value over time, you’ll be earning passive income and can expect a very good return on investment. If you take a look at past real estate patterns, single family homes tend to appreciate much faster than multi family units. Since the value of single family homes is decided by supply and demand, and demand for places to rent is usually high, they appreciate quickly. On the other hand, multi family units are valued based on the rent being charged and the state of the home, meaning that value only goes up if all the rent prices increase in that certain location. 

More Affordable

In general, single-family rentals cost less than multi-family homes, such as duplexes and triplexes. The down payment required for a multi-family rental could be anywhere from 25-30%, while single-family home investors usually only have to pay around 10-15% down. Insurance rates are also cheaper for single-family rentals. In addition, there are many available options currently in the single family rental market, making it a buyer’s market. This means you’re more likely to find a better deal when investing in single-family rentals than anywhere else. Though paying for your property in cash would be ideal, it’s not always realistic. If your situation requires financing, single family homes often offer less expensive financing options that multi family homes do. You are more likely to be offered lower interest rates, longer terms, and higher loan-to-ratio values with single-family rental properties. 

No Tenant Drama

One of the worst parts about owning a multi-family rental is the tenant-to-tenant complications. Noise complaints, parking troubles, and plain old drama can make you feel like you’re parenting teenagers on a daily basis. Tenant drama like a divorce or a lost job can still happen, but are less common and usually more serious than complications in multi-family rentals. Though a property manager can help handle all of those things, it’s much better to invest in a single-family rental where those problems don’t exist. When there’s only one family in a home, there’s more privacy for them and less headache for you or your Fort Worth property management company. 

Demand Increase

As we mentioned earlier, people that are looking for a single-family rental enjoy the fact that they can live in a home with a yard and enjoy a great neighborhood with respectable schools. The growing number of millennials are looking to start families without having to buy a home. Wanting to keep their options open for spur of the moment travel plans or career changes, millennials appreciate the renting life. With a plan to stay long term, single-family tenants are more likely to take good care of the home and lawn while informing you of any maintenance problems in a timely manner. Because single-family homes are larger, contain land, and are located in higher-value areas, you have the potential as a property owner to charge more rent. Tenants are usually willing to pay more to be able to also enjoy the fact that they can leave easily, if need be, and aren’t 100% responsible for the property. Our Fort Worth property management company is still involved in single-family homes in regard to repairs, maintenance, rent collection, marketing, and much more. It’s up to you as the property owner, and the local housing laws, to decide how many expenses you would like to take on and what the tenant is responsible for. With the demand for single family rentals on the rise, they are the smart investment choice for property owners. 

Better Management

Specialized Fort Worth Property Management Company has processes and services in place that make owning a single family rental investment easier than ever. Rather than trust a property management company that uses multi-family business models to manage apartments as well as single-family homes, choose a property management team that has specialized in single-family rentals for nearly 30 years. Our technology-driven systems have proven the test of time and are still rated #1 in comparison to other property management companies. Specialized Fort Worth Property Management Company’s nationwide portfolio consists of over 70% single-family homes. 

Simple Exit Strategy

When you invest in a single family rental, the goal is to buy and hold the home, collecting the mortgage through rent. Once the house is paid off, you should sell the house and take home the profits from the increase in value. Fortunately, with the high demand for single family homes, you shouldn’t have a hard time with renting it out or selling it in the end. You can then use this money to invest in more properties or put it towards your retirement fund. If you’ve owned the property for a year or more, you may qualify for lower capital gains taxes when you sell. You’ll also be able to take advantage of tax breaks if the property depreciated in value. Investors also get an annual deduction that assesses the value of the home and how many valuable years it has left. To ensure that you make the most out of your single family rental investment, let Specialized Fort Worth Property Management Company help you along the way.

“SPM’s reporting and accountability is excellent. I have been impressed with the courteous, professional and efficient manner in which the affairs of my properties have been conducted. I recommend Specialized as an agent for handling rental properties.”- William M., Owner 

 Our team of experts will handle the everyday stresses of being a property owner and protect you against any mistakes made from not being aware of legal and local regulations. Our services include marketing, property showings, tenant screening, collecting rent, maintaining your property, providing you with detailed monthly reports and year-end tax statements, and much more. You can trust us fully to make your rental property the best it can be and help you increase your profits. Take advantage of our user-friendly online owner user portal, where you’ll have constant access to your rental property from any location. Contact us today to find out how Specialized Fort Worth Property Management Company can multiply and take care of your investment in today’s growing real estate market. 

Tenant Pet Policies: Tips for Fort Worth Property Managers and Tenants

Cat hair, dog slobber, and muddy pawprints may come to mind when you think about pets in rentals. These furry animals are valuable to people, and are considered family in most cases. While most property owners worry that pets will decrease the property value of their rental units, or that there will be an increase in damage, studies have shown that this isn’t necessarily true. When you choose to rent out your home to pet owners, it could mean more responsible tenants, no more damage or maintenance needed than usual, and a more consistent stream of income. Whether you’re a pet person yourself or not, your attitude towards pets on your property could be the difference for a future tenant and end up costing you legal fees. The Fair Housing Law states that in certain cases, you are required to allow pets that are needed for the wellbeing of your tenant. We’ll go over what pet policies are out there and which ones you should adopt in order to increase revenue. 

Decreased Vacancies

68% of U.S. households own a pet, and most pet owners will do anything for their furry family members, even dictate where they are going to live based on if pets are allowed or not. Because there aren’t very many pet-friendly rental units out there, Fort Worth property managers encourage property owners to allow pets, and by so doing, invite more possible tenants. Happy with an animal-accommodating rental, tenants will most likely stay for a while, worried that other places may not be as accepting. This means fewer vacancies and consistent income for you as the property owner. Pets can also mean tenants who are more responsible and happier overall. If they can care for a pet, take it to the vet, and remember to feed, bathe, and clean up after it, pet owners can also be expected to clean up after themselves, take care of the rental unit, and remember to pay their rent on time. Since animals have been shown to improve overall mood, you’ll most likely have happier tenants as well. 

No Greater Damage

Worried that you won’t be able to afford to replace the carpet when a tenant with a puppy that loves to chew decides to leave? Studies show that damage isn’t any more costly than normal damages caused by tenants who don’t have pets. You can also control how much you want to charge for pet deposits. Asking for a larger pet deposit will ensure that if there are extra damages, it’s covered by the tenant, meaning low to no risk involved for you. FIREPAW is a non-profit group that created CARP (a companion animal renters program). They work with landlords and our Fort Worth property managers to help them increase profits while decreasing pet-related damages. CARP provides economic assessment, needs assessment, tailor-made programs, customized pet policy and pet agreements, and a custom made pet perk package. 

Pet Policy and Expectations

With their help, you can customize your policies on pets to fit your personal situation and property. FIREPAW has helped remove negative myths about pets in rentals, creating more pet-friendly options for tenants and awareness of the not-so-negative realities of pets to property owners. If you choose to rent out your home, Specialized Property Management can help you figure out the best customized pet policy for your property. Make sure to ask questions and set expectations with your tenant in regard to their pet. Just because you are allowing pets, doesn’t mean certain rules don’t apply. Some pet owner expectations to set in your pet policy are as follows: 

  1. All pets will have the required shots, licenses and tags, including name tags. Check with your state to determine the vaccines and licenses required locally.
  2. All dogs will be on a leash at all times outside of the apartment.
  3. Other animals, such as birds and hamsters, will be appropriately caged.
  4. The tenant is responsible for cleaning up any “accidents” their pet has left inside the apartment, inside the building or outdoors.
  5. The tenant is required to pay for any damage their animal has caused.
  6. Require or advise (up to you) the tenant to get renters insurance with liability coverage.
  7. If any part of the pet agreement is violated, or the pet becomes a nuisance or a hazard to others, Fort Worth property managers can require the pet to be removed or can terminate the tenancy. If only the pet is removed, this will have no effect on the validity of the signed lease agreement, to which the tenant will still have to adhere.
  8. State that you have the right to make changes to the pet agreement as long as you give proper notice, at least 30 days. This protects you in case, for example, you decide not to allow dogs in the future.

Increased Revenue

As a property owner, it’s your job to maximize your profits while keeping tenants happy. Creating a pet friendly policy is one of the easiest ways to accomplish both. In most cases, because of the negative stereotypes around pets, there is a shortage of property owners who will accept pets. Even though pet owners are happy to pay more rent in order to keep their pets, and in most cases make more money than people who don’t have pets, landlords aren’t taking advantage of the opportunity out of fear of potential damages. In fact, properties that allow animals in rental units are able to charge 20-30% more in rent. Fort Worth property managers realize that other benefits include longer lengths of tenant stay, less vacancies, less marketing needed, and more applications received per unit. 

Insurance Costs

If you’re still worried about costs because you’ll have to pay more in insurance when you rent out your home to pet owners, think about it mathematically. It is true that pets come with increased insurance costs, but these costs are relatively low and usually are completely covered by the upcharge in rent. Though the amount of damage is usually no higher than the amount for people who don’t have pets, when there is damage, the cost averages around $430, which is much less than the rent deposit paid when the tenant signed the lease forms. This means property owners don’t actually have to worry about a decrease in profits and with more tenants willing to pay the premium for their pets, extra insurance costs won’t be a big deal.

Service Animals

Fort Worth property managers at Specialized Property Management, will make sure you know about the laws regarding service animals. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Fair Housing Act, there are some animals that you can’t turn away, even if your property is not pet friendly. If your potential tenant has a disability present that the use of a service animal would help alleviate, that animal is a required exception to any “no pet” policy or breed restrictions. Even if the breed of the service animal is deemed aggressive, if it is labeled a service animal, it must be accepted. It is our job to inform you of the documentation to ask for: proof that the disability exists and creates a need for a service animal, and to inform you that there are some things you can’t ask for – like information on what the specific disability is. In these types of situations, there are always tricky details for which to watch. 

Our professional Fort Worth property managers have dealt with situations like yours, time and time again. We know how to help you, protect you, and maximize your profits. We’ll inform you of your rights as a property owner and make sure you aren’t violating any rights of potential tenants. If you don’t allow service animals, even when you have a no-pet policy in place, or if you charge an extra fee for service animals,  it can cost you greatly. Service animals are not technically considered pets and are required by law to be accepted into rental properties. Check with your property management team for information on the few exceptions that exist before you rent out your home. 

Our Specialized Fort Worth property managers are well versed in local and federal laws, ultimately saving you time, worry, and money. We’ll make sure that your rental property is free from costly legal mistakes, and take care of disabled members of our community that need service animals. As the nation’s leading property management firm, and with 30 years of experience, you can rest assured that our unmatched customer service will have you, your property, and your tenants, in good hands. Learn more about our services and how we can help you manage your property.

Specialized Fort Worth Property Management’s RentMoney Program for Tenants

Being a landlord can be stressful if tenants don’t pay their rent on time, and being a tenant can be stressful if your landlord is breathing down your neck for payment. Add to that already-tense relationship the maintenance issues and unexpected expenses, and both sides may be wishing they had never signed the lease papers in the first place. The best way to avoid too many problems is to find, and be, a quality tenant. The Golden Rule applies very well in renter/rentee relationships, but isn’t always the logical answer. Specialized Fort Worth Property Management now offers RentMoney to make being a great tenant easier. Property managers can take the stress out of the entire rent collection process, and with this new rent program, both tenants and property owners can take a deep breath and relax. 

RentMoney Program

This payment platform offers more ways to pay that make paying rent more convenient for tenants and, therefore, more reliable for owners of rental homes in Fort Worth. Through RentMoney, tenants can take their cash payments and convert them into a secure ACH electronic transaction, fully integrated with your Property Management Company’s information. You only need to generate your tenant voucher by following a few simple steps online. You’ll have access to a tenant portal where you can easily make payments with the click of a button. The next page will present different payment options that are available to you. Choose the RentMoney button and click Continue. You will then see the current balance that needs to be paid. Select the balance you would like to pay and then print out your payment voucher or save it to your electronic device. With RentMoney, you no longer have to worry about rifling through your checkbook to prove you’ve paid last month’s rent and your Fort Worth Property Management Company won’t have to hunt you down for collection. 

Payment Voucher

The cash payment voucher you receive will include the Biller Name (RentMoney), your Account Number, your Name, Payment Amount, Bill Payment Fee ($3.75), and Total Payment Amount. The account code generated on your voucher is a unique number that will never be changed or duplicated for another tenant – and is what ties your cash payment to your tenant ledger. You can then take this voucher to one of 25,000 retail locations in the U.S. that work with CheckFreePay and currently accept cash payment vouchers. Click on the Search Payment Centers button on the payment screen to find the one closest to you. Once there, you may hand your voucher to an employee and tell them that you’d like to pay your RentMoney bill. Once the transaction is processed, your Fort Worth Property Management Company will see it reflected on your ledger. You’ll receive a payment receipt, and no hassle from your landlord. Paying your rent is now something you can cross off your to-do list as you go about your other regular errands. Rather than feeling like you have to go out of your way, RentMoney makes paying rent fast and convenient.

RentMoney FAQ’s

1. What do you need to make your RentMoney payment? You will need your voucher and U.S. Currency. Additionally, it is important to know the current balance on your ledger from your tenant portal because the in-store personnel will not have access to that information.

2. What happens if the account number typed in and processed by the in-store personnel is Incorrect? If you notice from the receipts that your account number typed in by the employee does not match the number you provided, immediately contact your Property Management Company with your name, account code, and a copy of your receipt.

How Property Management Companies Can Help

80% of property owners manage their rental homes in Fort Worth by themselves, and end up making simple mistakes, feeling frustrated, and wishing they had someone else to do the hard work, like collecting rent, for them. That’s where RentMoney can help. Combined with our services and guarantees, RentMoney takes all the stress out of owning a property and collecting rent. Not only do we handle the everyday hassle and maintenance of owning a property, we also take care of official business and paperwork with exactness, meaning you don’t have to be stressed or worry about making mistakes. The reason that our Fort Worth Property Management team, and our company in general, has received the highest online ratings and customer levels in our industry is that our services make life easier for both landlords and tenants alike. Stop trying to do everything yourself and start minimizing your daily stress. Call today to find out more about the RentMoney program and how you can gain greater peace of mind by trusting us to manage your property.