Assistance Animals: Landlords Know Your Rights and Requirements

assistance-animals

While landlords are usually free to allow, or ban pets from their rentals, and are well within their rights to do so, there’s one very important exception to this rule that landlords should know about: assistance animals.

When it comes to the issue of service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs), landlords should note that these animals are exempt from no-pets policies. The reason is simple: these animals are not considered to be pets, but rather necessary aids for someone who has a disability. Because they don’t fall under the category of pets, landlords should make every effort to accommodate a reasonable request from a tenant who has a disability and allow these animals in their units. Landlords should also waive any pet rent or additional security deposits that they would normally require for pets.

When leasing their homes, some homeowners may feel concerned –that there’s room to exploit this system and attempt to smuggle pets in under the guise of service animals or emotional support animals; there’s no need for alarm. While a landlord is required to make reasonable accommodations for requests from people with disabilities, they also have rights to screen requests to ensure legitimacy.

If you’re a landlord –and wondering how you should treat requests for service animals or emotional support animals, read on. In this guide we’ll explore the difference between pets, service dogs, and emotional support animals; and see what your obligations –and rights are as a landlord.

Defining What Roles Animals Play

First, let's look at the three different categories of animals; and see the difference between pets, service animals, and emotional support animals.

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Home Warranties: What Every Landlord Should Know

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If you are a landlord, then you are all too familiar with the frustration that comes when you find out that the heater has gone out at your rental unit, or that there’s a leak –yet again.If you’re tired of the frustrations that come from dealing with breakdowns, and costly repairs eating into your profits, there’s a solution that you may want to consider: purchasing a home warranty for your rental.

Today, you can buy warranties for almost anything, including homes. Home warranties are particularly popular with landlords, who know all too well that if something can go wrong at a rental, it will. A good home warranty can help a landlord to save a significant amount of money if costly repairs are necessary. It can also help landlords to ensure compliance with state and federal laws.

While home warranties can be invaluable for landlords who are interested in protecting their investment, it’s important to note that not all warranties are created equal. Each warranty is unique in terms of the coverage that it offers, the exclusions, and terms and conditions.

If you’re interested in a home warranty for your rental, there are a few things that you should know before purchasing one. Here’s a brief rundown on what, exactly, a home warranty is, the benefits and disadvantages of getting one, and finally, what you can do to ensure that you choose the best option for your property.

What Is a Home Warranty?

The term ‘home warranty’ is enough to cause some confusion for those who are unfamiliar.

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Utilities: What Every Tenant Should Know

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While tenants should always ensure that they abide by the terms of the lease, unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.

One common lease violation that occurs is when tenants attempt to shut off the utilities upon vacating a property. In addition to often being a violation of the lease agreement, turning off the utilities can also lead to potentially serious problems –water damage, freezing pipes, and a dead landscape –just to name a few. Not to mention that when the landlord has to turn the utilities back on, additional extra costs are often incurred. Sometimes, tenants will even vacate a property –while still owing unpaid utility bills, putting the landlord in the frustrating position of being unable to turn the utilities back on until the back payments are made.

For many tenants, though, shutting off the utilities usually isn’t done with bad intentions. Often, shutting them off may seem like a logical step that’s done when leaving the property. The fact is, though, that utilities should almost never be turned off –and tenants should never ask a utility company to do so without the express permission of the landlord.

To help you to abide by your rental agreement, and to ensure that you understand your responsibilities as a tenant, here’s a look at some dos and don’ts when it comes to utilities.

Transfer Utilities Don’t Terminate

First, it’s important to understand that the utility connection should never be terminated, canceled, or disconnected by a tenant. While it’s true that in most single-family rentals, tenants are usually responsible for paying their own utilities for the duration of their lease, it’s also true that they are responsible for damage that occurs to the property due to a disconnection of the services.

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Renting to People With a Criminal History: HUD Guidance

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Landlords who have a rule banning applicants who were convicted of a crime-may want to rethink that policy.

Recent guidelines issued by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on April 4, 2016 call for landlords to do away with blanket bans, that disqualify applicants based on prior convictions or arrests. Having a general ban, that precludes applicants from housing solely on the basis a criminal record, could be considered a violation the Fair Housing Act.

The Fair Housing Act; signed in 1968, prohibits landlords from discriminating on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. While criminal history is not a protected class, under the new HUD guidelines, turning down applicants on the basis of a criminal record, without considering the nature of the crime or facts surrounding the conviction, can’t be legally justified –and could, indirectly, be a violation of the Act.

As many as 100 million U.S. adults, or nearly one-third of the population, have a criminal record of some sort. Additionally, the United States prison population, with 2.2 million adults, is the largest in the world. Since 2004, an average of over 650,000 people have been released every year from both federal and state prisons –and 95 percent of those currently incarcerated, will be released at some point in the future.

For individuals who are released, the ability to secure safe and affordable housing is a crucial part of their successful reentry into society. Yet many individuals who were formerly incarcerated are finding it extremely difficult to secure housing –because of their criminal history.

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