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LEGAL NEWS - JUNE 2008


EARLY TERMINATION BILL BECOMES LAW

The Governor has signed the Early Termination Bill into law which will allow you some more flexibility in charging liquidated damages or an early termination fee to a tenant who leaves before the end of the lease term. In order to take advantage of the new law, a specific addendum must be entered into at the time of lease signing under which the tenant either chooses to pay a liquidated damage amount or early termination fee upon vacating early, or pay rent until the unit is re-rented.

Click here for more information regarding the Early Termination Law.

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EVICTION FILING FEES TO SKYROCKET

The new Florida Budget has become law, and as a result, counties will be raising the eviction filing fees. When budgeting for evictions, expect your county charges to add at least $200.00 to each eviction that you file beginning July 1, 2008. The days of $80.00 filing fees are over, and our state government now hopes to raise an additional $29,000,000.00 off of the backs of already cash strapped landlords from eviction filings alone.

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DEALING WITH THE CHRONIC LATE PAYER

It is inevitable that you will have a chronic late payer. Every excuse in the book is given by the tenant for the tardy payment, but the payment always comes, sometimes with the late fees, sometimes without the late fees. You may inherit a late payer from a self-managed property or a prior management company. Is a tenant always allowed to pay late? Can you evict a late payer? Is there any way to tell a tenant to shape up or ship out, or will you be destined to always accept late payments?

Click here to see what you can do with the chronic late payer.

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COMPUTER DISASTER PREPAREDNESS

Fire, flood, hurricane, theft, lightning strike? It will never happen to you, right? Each year we see our clients lose important data, have severe business interruptions and lose time and money due to unanticipated events.  As asset managers, you have a serious duty and obligation to your owner to preserve data and be able to continue your operations when disaster strikes. Most property managers rely on an in-office back up, tapes or CD’s, and this is not nearly enough. We are ready for just about anything. Are you?
 

Click here to see if you are protected.

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TIME FOR A FORMS CHECK

The forms you are using have come from many sources. The prior property manager, a landlord/tenant law book, the prior owner of the company or apartment community, the corporate office, the internet, and the high paid attorney in the skyscraper in Chicago all have contributed to your “toolbox” of forms and notices. The problem is that you assume that just because you are provided with a form or notice, it must be legal or proper to use. It is time to do a forms and notice review and see if you are using the correct tools or incorrect or obsolete ones. 

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MUST YOU REPLACE THAT GARBAGE DISPOSAL?

The garbage disposal breaks, and of course it must be replaced or repaired, as this type of item is the landlord’s responsibility, unless the landlord can prove that the repair need is due to the tenant’s negligence or misuse.  Can it simply be removed and replaced with a straight pipe? Yes, if the lease specifically states this. Tenants have successfully lived for years without a garbage disposal, and in these tough economic times, a landlord just may choose to not have to replace one if it breaks. The key is the lease wording. Garbage disposals are not the only items which can be excluded from a tenancy, and a successful property manager knows what, when and how to exclude items. 
 
Click here to see how to exclude some items from a tenancy.

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GOLF CART SAFETY

Your maintenance tech parks the company golf cart outside an apartment and performs a service call. A child living on the property hops in, turns it on, joy rides through the community, sideswipes cars and ends up in your alligator infested retention pond. Does it happen? All the time. Whose fault is this? If the keys are left in the golf cart, or can be operated without a key, your company can incur some serious liability for injury to persons or property. Take steps now to prevent these occurrences, and get with your maintenance staff right away. This is a completely preventable problem.

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ABSURD MISTAKE OF THE MONTH

It is a Monday morning, and whatever could go wrong that day already has.  A prospective tenant comes into your office as planned and wants to look at the home you have advertised. Super nice person, well dressed, and well spoken.  The home is nearby the office, and you give the key or the lock box combination to the prospect so he can run over and look at the property. The prospect liked the house so much that he decided  to move in that day. Problem is, you did not find out about it until you realized the key was never returned. No lease, no money, nothing. Will the police remove the person as a trespasser?  Probably not.  Can you change the locks?  Nope. YOU have a problem now, and will be forced to file an ejectment action in court, which could take a long time at great expense.  (Oh, and the owner will not be happy). 

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SELFSTORAGELEGAL.COM - What Other Fees Can I Charge?

As an operator of a self storage facility, there are many situations when fees or charges are imposed. These fees and charges are and should be clearly listed in your lease agreement with your tenant. The question arises though: are these fees legal? Just because your contract provides for them and all parties have agreed, it is crucial that you know for sure that the fees or charges that you impose are in fact legal and will not get you into hot water.
 
Click here to read Self Storage Law expert attorney Jeffrey Greenberger’s article “What Other Fees Can I Charge”.

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THE FAIR HOUSING CORNER - NO SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER? NO PROBLEM
                          
                                By Cathy L. Lucrezi, Attorney at Law

Nearly every application for housing asks the applicant to provide his social security number.  The purpose is to have a type of identification available so that a credit and criminal background check can be done.  Unfortunately, not everyone has a social security number.  What does that mean, and what can a landlord do about it?
 
Click here  for more information.
 

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INDUSTRY LEADER OF THE MONTH - Ginny Decker

Ginny Decker is a District Manager with Empirian Property Management, Inc. responsible for overseeing eight multifamily communities in Orlando and Gainesville, Florida.  
 

Beginning her property management career in Gainesville as a leasing consultant with Colonial Properties Trust, while attending the University of Florida, Ginny graduated from UF with her B.A. in Elementary Education, and decided to pursue a career path in property management in lieu of teaching. After holding an assistant manager position with Colonial, she tested her skills in a different market and made a move to Atlanta, GA, holding a Regional Marketing position with Archon Residential for two years, and then moving into a community management role with Julian LeCraw & Company for the next four years. During this time, Ginny achieved her CAM designation through the Atlanta Apartment Association and was able to use her background in education to facilitate some of the training programs offered to LeCraw associates, an opportunity she truly enjoyed. 

 

Ginny has become very involved with the Apartment Association of Greater Orlando (AAGO) and the Florida Apartment Association (FAA), currently serving as the AAGO Legislative Committee chair. Recently, Ginny made an important impact while fighting a burdensome fire assessment in the city of Winter Springs, successfully mobilizing property managers and making the industry’s voice heard loud and clear.

 

During football season, Ginny devotes her Saturday’s to Gator football; she is an avid reader, enjoys spoiling her dog, an American Eskimo named Riley, and traveling. After exploring Ireland last November, she is counting down the days to her upcoming trip to Italy in August. Ginny is a real up and comer in the industry, and we all look forward to her continued industry leadership!

 

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In this issue:

Early Termination Law

Eviction Filing Fees

Chronic Late Payer

Computer Disaster Preparedness

Forms Check

Exclusions from the Tenancy

Golf Cart Safety

Absurd Mistake of the Month

SelfStorageLegal.com

Fair Housing Corner

Industry Leader of the Month

 
 

July
Legal Holiday Alert

Don't forget to exclude this Legal Holiday when preparing your Three Day Notices in July 2008!

4 - Independence Day

 

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Law Offices of Heist, Weisse & Lucrezi, P.A.

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