Renters, Know Your Rights!

Posted by Judy Anne Cavey on Dec 7, 2011 in , , | No Comments

Opting to live off campus? Understand exactly what you’re getting into…

Being a renter has it’s disadvantages–even in this housing market. To ensure you won’t be evicted by a lender of the property you’re renting because the landlord is defaulting, or scammed by a property management company, take some simple precautionary measures:

1.) Log onto the Better Business Bureau’s site at BBB and plug in the name of the property management company to see if they have any negative reports against them. The BBB rates them, and those ratings are important. For example: one management company I found to have the worst rating–an “F”. Another had an “A-” rating, putting them in the “excellent” category.

2.) Check out the property managers themselves by going to your states Department of Real Estate site to see if the managers in that office have an active, current real estate license. Check to see if there are any “actions” against them by the DRE.

3.) Contact your County Assessors office to find out who actually owns the property. This is important since people are being scammed by non-owners. It also verifies that the owner (landlord) you are dealing with does in fact legally own the property.

4.) If dealing with a landlord directly, be sure to ask for information from their mortgage lending company showing they are in good standing, not in default. Do follow through calling the company to verify that information. Many landlords are defaulting on their rental property mortgages leaving tenants to face eviction. Property managers should also provide proof the owner is in good standing.

5.) Go online to see what tenants rights organizations are in your county or state. Those might have a “Hall of Shame” listing, showing the worst landlords and property managers. Read all the comments by tenants or former tenants.

6.) Pick up from agencies, such as the Department of Consumer Affairs, a published booklet listing tenants rights. These are often free of charge and updated sometimes yearly, or when laws have changed. The publications usually have great resources, check lists for move-in and move-out, and explanations of terms used by the rental industry and much more.

7.) Some states have laws that specifically tell landlords, or their property managers, they must disclose certain information about a property. For example, in California, they must disclose if a house/condo/apartment was once used as a Meth lab. Dwellings which were used for this purpose are highly toxic, but some landlords are not disclosing all that they should. Police departments may provide such information. Always check on the property’s “criminal” history.

Do all you can to protect yourself as a renter. Online ads are loaded with scams, proceed cautiously if that’s the avenue you intend to take. Going through reputable property management agencies and well-known landlords are better options. Even so, be sure to verify their present standing, which could easily change. Look over your rental agreement carefully, if you don’t understand something, have it clarified by both the landlord or property manager and local renter’s rights agency before you sign the agreement. Remember, those agreements are legally binding.

Lending institutions have come under fire for how they’ve dealt with tenants in foreclosed upon rentals. Even with legislation aimed at protection of renters, these institutions are ignoring the law. If you are in a situation where a lending institution is evicting you, contact your renter’s rights agency, know your rights.

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