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!

How You Can Avoid Expensive Regulatory Violations

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Not knowing local, state, or federal housing laws is an unfortunate, but common, mistake that many landlords make. Being unaware of potential regulatory violations as a landlord can mean serious legal troubles and expenses. You are not only putting yourself at risk for legal ramifications, you may also be putting your property and your tenants at risk. Specialized, your Arlington property management company, knows these laws can be a lot to remember, especially for new landlords. Navigating the system of rental property regulations can be difficult, but it is necessary to protect yourself, your tenants, and your property.

Specialized Recommends Knowing These Laws

We put together this list of important laws, codes, regulations, and general rules to follow as a landlord. Know that the local laws vary widely and change often, so this list is just an example of some of the things you need to be aware of. For more information on your specific area call Specialized, your local Arlington residential property management team.

  1. Your state property laws
  2. Local city ordinances
  3. Real estate contract law
  4. The Fair Housing Act, ADA, and tenant screening regulations
  5. Laws on security deposits, monthly payments, collections, and evictions
  6. Maintenance and property inspection regulations

How Your Arlington Residential Property Management Team Can Help

With the dozens of laws and codes you need to know, how can you be sure you remember them all and that you’re protected from legal and financial risks? Specialized’s property managers are the experts you need. We help thousands of property owners around the country stay on top of the ever changing laws, ordinances, and regulations. That is our job! More importantly, our local property managers are experts in your area’s specific local laws as well as the state and national laws. You can rest easy knowing your Arlington property management company has you covered. Call Specialized today to hear about all our property management services.

Three Legal Stories That May Keep You Up Tonight

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Three Legal Stories That May Keep You Up Tonight

Innocent Landlord Mistakes to Avoid

Here’s a Specialized story of three landlords who oversaw their own Denton property management. Can you identify the legal issues in each?

Legal Scenarios

    1. Sam rented for years, so he thought he knew all about property management. Denton landlords who knew him would often come to him for advice. He had a no-pet policy for his rental units, but when a tenant showed up with a service dog, he knew he had to permit the dog on the premises. So he charged a small cleaning fee and asked the tenant to sign an agreement to pay for damages.
    2. Theresia received a call one night from her tenants who were concerned about mold in the laundry room. She told them she would get right on it but had a big presentation at work the next day and promptly forgot. Three weeks later she called a certified mold specialist company and scheduled an appointment, but they were booking two weeks out. Five weeks later, they investigated and discovered black bold. A serious health concern.
    3. Erik worked as a manager of a manufacturing company in town, so he knew a few handymen and mechanics. When something went wrong at his rental, he would ask one of them to take a look at it and repair it if possible. They were happy for the side jobs, and the work got done quickly. He was proud to be saving money on property management. Denton tenants who rented from him were happy too since the work got done.

Answer Key

    1. Sam did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A landlord cannot restrict or charge for service animals.
    2. Theresia failed to comply with habitability laws, including failure to urgently and effectively attend to any safety, mold, or structural/foundational issues.
    3. Erik hired unlicensed or improperly licensed maintenance company or individuals to handle repairs.

Make sure your Denton property management story does not end up in court. Specialized can help you avoid these and dozens of other common legal mistakes landlords make unknowingly. Ignorance will not impress a judge. Documentation from your property management company with legal experts who understand the field, laws, codes, and ordinances will, however. Call today Specialized today to learn more or visit www.specializedrpm.com  to read about other common legal mistakes we can protect you from.

Texas Courts Will Not Let you off Easy

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Landlords Beware: Texas Courts Will Not Let you off Easy

After three decades offering the best of Ft. Worth property management, Specialized has seen it all – including landlords taken to court for not taking fast enough or the correct action on health and safety issues with their properties. The plea of “I didn’t know” never sits well with the judges, yet this continues to be one of the biggest myths of rental property management. Here are three truths to replace it.

  • The Truth to Handling Maintenance Requests

Handling tenant maintenance requests is far more important than simply answering their calls and sending reputable companies over to make the repairs only when funds allow. Texas courts are plagued with Ft. Worth property management litigation between tenants and landlords regarding maintenance issues gone awry.

  • The Truth About Zero Tolerance in the Courts

If landlords do not follow the specific laws about the process of communication with the tenant and take the right steps to ensure those working on the property have proper licensing and insurance, then tenants have a case to take landlords to courts, which favor error by landlords with zero tolerance.

  • The Truth of About Protecting Yourself

Partnering with a well-qualified Fort Worth property management company to protect yourself is always a financially sound idea, but not all property management companies are created equal. They are as different as their names. So the services they offer differ as well. Compare experience, team size, and specialties, and number of services – not just monthly fees.

Legal compliance mandated by Texas Property Code, local city ordinances, and Federal Landlord Laws is very stringent, which is why landlords need a knowledgeable Fort Worth property management company such as Specialized that dedicates considerable time and effort to staying current with requirements. Our in-house legal support is one of our specialties. Call today to learn how we face the facts on your behalf.

How to Avoid Costly Regulatory Violations: Take the Legal Risk Quiz

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Avoid Expense and Liability with Strict Compliance

Evaluate your understanding of your legal risk as a landlord – something all Arlington property managers should know – to protect yourself and your investment. Let’s start by matching the following three laws with one of the definitions below:

Legal Risk Matching Game

LAWS

The Fair Housing Act

Habitability Law

Americans with Disabilities Act

DEFINITIONS

A. A requirement that you not discriminate against potential tenants with disabilities, and that you allow the tenants to install adequate access features. You can require them to put the property back to its original condition. Plus you may never restrict or charge for service animals.

B. This requirement prevents landlords from making decisions based upon race, color, sex, national origin, handicap, or familial status. States and localities can add additional protected classes, and violations can cost tens of thousands of dollars.

C. This requirement varies from region to region for property management, Arlington included, but essentially requires that your rental property provides a safe, comfortable living environment for tenants. If you neglect the living conditions or your property, respond slowly or ineffectively to needed repairs, or require tenants to pay for them, you may end up with landlord-tenant disputes, lawsuits, or governmental actions.

ANSWER KEY

  1. Americans with Disabilities Act
  2. The Fair Housing Act
  3. Habitability Law

In addition to understanding and complying with the laws and regulations – local, state, and federal – the compliance team at Specialized recommends the following 7 action items to avoid litigation, liability, and expense proactively.  

    1. Hire licensed and insured personnel only to do repairs.
    2. Be licensed if you plan to conduct transactions that are only authorized for a real estate agent.
    3. Provide a 24-hour service line for your tenants to use evenings, weekends, and holidays. Respond promptly to their requests.
    4. Document, document, document. Remember actions and communication. This is your best defense in litigation.
    5. Keep tenant information private data confidential, both in what you share personally and in how you store your records. Keep records for as long as your state requires.
    6. Carefully handle and document security deposits and other funds.
    7. Stay current on all federal, state, local, and industry laws, codes and regulations.

As a landlord, it’s imperative to understand the potential landmines of legal risk associated with your investment. Typical lawyer’s’ fees are $250/hour, so a single legal issue could easily wipe out your entire annual profit. That’s why many Arlington property managers trust Specialized to reduce their risk. After 30 years of keeping our eyes wide open and our ears close to the ground, this is one of our specialties.
We would love to explain the legal side of property management, Arlington style, to you in more detail. Call the Specialized compliance team today for a free personalized evaluation of your current and greatest risks. Can you afford not to protect yourself?

When Does a Landlord Need to Repair Property in Texas?

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Texas has multiple laws protecting tenants from dangerous or unreasonable living circumstances due to neglect by their landlords. A Fort Worth property management company should be well-versed in these regulations, so they know when it’s appropriate to delay or refuse repairs on a rental unit and when a lack of response puts them at risk of litigation.

What Kinds of Repairs are Required?

  • Right to Habitable Housing

Under the legal definition of  “implied warranty of habitability” Texas property owners are required to maintain a livable premise. This means repairs such as a broken furnace or water heater must be addressed or the tenant has a right to “repair and deduct” the charge from rent.

  • Right to Health and Safety

A tenant has a right to repairs for issues that affect the physical health or safety of the tenant. This could include rats, cockroaches, faulty electrical wiring, plumbing issues, and roof leaks. If the Fort Worth property management company refuses to fix issues compromising the health and safety of the tenant, SB 1448 grants the justices of the peace to order the repair for problems not exceeding $10,000.

  • Right to Security

Although there are exceptions, Texas law requires Fort Worth property management companies to equip each unit with proper security devices, including window latches, keyed deadbolts for all outside access doors, sliding door security, and door viewers. If these safety measures are broken or missing, a tenant has a right to have any of these repaired at the landlord’s expense.

Can Fort Worth Property Management Refuse to Make Repairs?

Yes, IF:

    1. The tenant is behind on rent payments, or
    2. The tenant or a person in connection with the tenant caused the damage

What Is the Process for Tenants to Submit a Request?

Ultimately, this process can be tailored, but should generally consist of these steps:

    1. The tenant must be fully up on rent payments
    2. The tenant should take pictures of the condition needing repair
    3. The tenant should submit a written request for the repair

Always keep copies of all communications documents. After a repair is requested, a quick response from the landlord on the progress of the repair will help keep relationships between management and tenant positive.

A Fort Worth property management company can be at risk of serious fines by not complying with the regulations regarding living conditions and repair needs for their rental homes. Enlisting the help of experts in Texas repair requirements will ensure your property is always safely within regulation. Specialized has over 30 years of experience maintaining rental property and following rental rules and will ensure you are legally protected and your tenants are comfortable in their home.

Learn more about our expertise management services at www.specializedrpm.com

Lease Agreement Requirements in Texas

Arlington rental property management companies

Each state has laws to govern and regulate the relationship between a tenant and a landlord. By signing a lease or rental agreement, a legal contract is formed between the tenant and landlord which binds them to the terms outlined in the document.

Although laws regulating this agreement will vary from state to state, most rental agreements, including those used by Arlington rental property management companies, include the same basic features:

    • Names of parties involved (primarily the tenant and landlord or property owner)
    • Address and description of property
    • Duration of lease commitment
    • Cost of rent (and its monthly due date)
    • Cost of security deposit
    • Procedure for requesting repairs or maintenance
    • Information on pets and requirements surrounding having them in the unit

Texas rental agreements can be different in these ways:

    • Disclosures: An Arlington property management company must disclose information about individuals authorized to act on behalf of the landlord in cases where the landlord fails to satisfy the rights of the tenant by making necessary repairs.
    • Security Deposits: Texas state law does not regulate the amount a landlord may charge for their rental security deposit; however, it does require that deposits must be returned within 30 days of the tenant’s move.
    • Small Claims Lawsuits: For tenants wishing to sue Arlington property management companies in a Justice Court for the return of their deposit, they can do so but must limit the suit amount to $10,000.

Texas law regulates late fees and the time frame in which a tenant must move if he or she has not paid rent. It regulates a tenant’s right to withhold rent, eviction rules, and retaliation situations. There are many laws and regulations surrounding this short document, and you should research these thoroughly to ensure you understand the laws as they apply to your specific rental situation.
For more information on how to navigate through these legal matters, enlist the help of our Specialized team of managers. These experts can guide you on general matters about property management as well as the specific regulations as they apply to an Arlington property management company. Visit www.specializedrpm.com

What Security Devices are Required For Texas Rental Units?

Arlington property managers

Arlington property managers must carefully navigate the lock laws of Texas to ensure their rental properties are up to code. Owners that fail to comply with codes surrounding security devices essentially void lease agreements giving tenants the legal ability to walk away from a property. Also, if a break-in occurs on an unsecured property, the landlord may be liable for stolen or damaged belongings. So, it is important to follow the requirements for security devices in Texas rental units. Purchasing and installing the proper security devices for your units will cost pennies in comparison to the cost of unplanned vacancies or fighting legal action.

Each state may have different lock laws, and so knowing what regulations apply to your properties in various locations is vital to ensuring you are always following the law and keeping your tenants safe and secure. Here are some of the requirements for security devices specifically for Texas rental units:

  • Exterior Door Keyless Bolt— According to Texas Property Code, Section 92, Subchapter D, all exterior doors must have a keyless locking device. Doors that lead to and from the garage and house are considered exterior doors. Doors should also have a doorknob lock.
  • Re-key Doors when Tenants Leave— Within seven days of changing tenants, your unit must be re-keyed. Arlington property managers are responsible for covering the costs of rekeying all exterior doors. According to Texas law, it is illegal to pass the expense of re-keying locks onto a tenant, even if the tenant agrees.
  • Exterior Door Viewer— All exterior doors must have a peephole or door viewer allowing an occupant to see outside before opening the door. Doors with glass windows in or beside the door are an exception.
  • Exterior Sliding Door Locks— Sliding doors must have a pin lock and either a lock on the handle or a bar securing the door from opening.
  • Exterior Window Locks— All exterior windows need a latch, and all exterior doors must have a doorknob lock or keyed dead bolt.

There are exceptions to the rules in section 92.153, but Arlington property management companies will be held responsible for not following all the regulations with exactness. Ignorance is not a legal defense, in this case, so know the law and follow it. Our experts at Specialized can guide you through the difficult and complicated intricacies of national and local regulations for securing your units. Give the best Arlington property managers a call today. You can find more information at www.specializedrpm.com

How do Tenants with Disabilities Affect Your Lease Agreement?

Property management in Fort Worth

For those with mental or physical disabilities, renting a home may be a better option than purchasing. Fort Worth property managers need to prepare themselves for interactions and contracts with a person who has a disability. There are laws and rights protecting these individuals from discrimination, and unprepared Fort Worth property managers may find themselves in a lawsuit due to even unintentional discrimination. Managers must know that lease agreements or general accommodations on the property must support the needs of those with disabilities.

  1.  The first step is to understand who meets the requirements to obtain legal protection for a disability. This group includes:
      • Persons with a written record of a disability
      • Persons with a mental or physical limitation that prevents the ability to perform major life activities
      • Persons perceived by others as having a disability
  •  
  1.  The next step is to understand the legal protections available to this group through Fair Housing Act requirements. This includes protection from discrimination because of:
      • Race
      • Color
      • Sex
      • Religion
      • Presence of children
      • Disability
  •  

Rental applications should not ask questions about disabilities, including the severity of the disability. And property management in Fort Worth, TX should be cautious to avoid these discriminatory questions in verbal conversations as well.

  1. Beyond application discrimination, if a protected individual rents your property he or she also has rights to reasonable accommodations. A simplified overview is that the rental property or policies governing your unit may need alterations to accommodate an individual’s disability. Accommodations deemed “reasonable” according to the law are typically paid for by the tenant. The property should be returned to its original condition when the tenant moves out. All accommodations of this nature should be clearly documented in an addendum to your leasing agreement to ensure the terms are clearly understood and followed by both parties.
  2.  Property management in Fort Worth, TX should always be on guard for potential pets that are service animals. Service animals are given an exception to no-pet policies, and landlords are required by law to allow them in the rental property. Service animals are also protected from additional pet fees.

 

Our Specialized team has the experience and legal knowledge to ensure that all accommodations and lease policies allow tenants with disabilities to enjoy where they choose to live. We are the Specialized Fort Worth property managers owners can trust to keep their rentals and lease agreements in compliance with all laws and regulations. Find out what we can do for the success of your rental investment. Find us at www.specializedrpm.com

911 for Rental Property Emergencies

Arlington rental property management companies

Arlington rental property management companies get their fair share of exposure to emergencies. Most of these emergencies don’t merit a 911 call, but in fact, make their way right to the manager’s phone at 1 am. Instead of calling to report break-ins, more often than not the calls report breakages. You may or may not be surprised at what renters occasionally feel merits a 1 am wake-up call, so it is important to lay appropriate parameters from the very beginning that can protect both the Arlington property management company and the tenant. If a policy is important, always, always, always get it in the leasing agreement. Having information about maintenance, non-emergency repairs, and emergency repairs in writing from the start establishes clear communication on the subject. Then continued communication about repairs breeds a positive relationship between the tenant and management.

The Landlord’s Responsibilities

Texas law requires property management companies to ensure conditions in rental units are healthy and safe for their tenants. This includes things like:

    • Damage caused by natural emergency situations like fire, flooding, and severe storms
    • Leaky roofs
    • Pest control for roaches, rats, mice, and bedbugs
    • Sewer leaks and plumbing problems that create health-hazardous situation
    • Dangerous exposed or faulty electrical wiring

The law requires that managers notify tenants in writing before entering a rental home; however, in emergency situations, like a broken water pipe, this law no longer applies, and the landlord can enter the unit without any advance notification to the tenant. Local laws can guide you in knowing the standard of repair and codes required of landlords.

A Tenant’s Responsibilities

While your Arlington property management company has certain legal obligations when it comes to maintenance and repairs for healthy and safe living circumstances, tenants also have responsibilities to maintain the property to a certain standard and to follow established protocol. As a general rule, maintenance and initial repairs for an issue are much easier to address and significantly cheaper than problems that have been allowed to fester and grow over time. A tenant has the obligation of preventing the unnecessary growth of issues by reporting concerns early. Before initiating any DIY efforts, tenants should always check with the Arlington property management company overseeing the property. Tenants are also required to keep up with rent payments and avoid excessive damage to the property. Either of these could be legal grounds for a landlord to refuse repairs.

If you’re looking to avoid that 1 am call next time, make sure you’ve already called Specialized Specialized Property Management. Our Arlington rental property management company will save you from both the sleepless night of the call and the headache and stress of the repair. Find out today what our 24/7 live hotline for maintenance emergencies can do for you (www.specializedrpm.com)