LEGAL NEWS - NOVEMBER 2005


 NAA “LEGAL SYMPOSIUM” - A GREAT SUCCESS

The National Apartment Association’s (NAA) first ever “Legal Symposium” was held on November 16 and 17 in San Antonio, Texas. The Symposium brought together over 35 landlord/tenant attorneys and industry leaders from around the United States to discuss pressing issues facing the industry. Topics included liquidated damages, inspection and licensing, privacy laws, challenging property taxes, discrimination, source of income and much more. This Symposium is sure to be a regular event each year.  Many thanks goes out to those who made this event a success.

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COMMUNICATIONS WITH THE TENANT AFTER THE THREE DAY NOTICE

You served the Three-Day Notice, got no response from the tenant and now serve the tenant with another “last chance letter” or “final notice”. Seems innocent enough, but can it interfere with an eviction? A “post” Three-Day Notice communication can completely kill an eviction action.
 

Click here for more info on “Post” Three Day Notice Communications.

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SO YOU ARE BEING SUED IN SMALL CLAIMS COURT – Now what?  

It is Monday morning and a sheriff’s deputy walks into your office holding some papers. He asks if you are the property manager, to which you reply “yes”. With a smile, the deputy hands you some papers and informs you that “you have been served”. Hands trembling, you read the paperwork, and sure enough a past tenant is suing you and your company. What is the next step? Can you make this just go away quick?

Click here  for Small Claims Court Settlement Strategies.

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LEAD BASED PAINT DISCLOSURE – ARE YOU IN COMPLIANCE?

Almost every property manager knows that if a property was built before 1978, the Lead Based Paint laws are triggered, and the applicant must be given the Lead Based Paint Disclosure and the pamphlet "Protect Your Family From Lead In Your Home". But when does this need to be given? Usually it is provided to the tenant at the time of lease signing, and often the tenant acknowledges receipt of the information. This is too late. It is highly recommended that the applicant be provided with the Disclosure and Pamphlet at the time of showing the property and not a moment later. We also recommend that the property manager notes the exact date and time the applicant has received the LBP information to avoid a later dispute.
 

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DOCUMENT DESTRUCTION RULES

It is time to clean out those old tenant files. You have saved all your tenant files for 5 years since the tenant vacated the premises, and now it is time to empty those filing cabinets. You box them up, tape up the boxes and heave them into the dumpster out back. Two old computers you have previously used in the property management department have been sitting on the shelf in the storeroom for years. You finally realize that you will never use them. You throw them in the trunk of your car and give them to a local school that may be able to use them. Are you violation of the law? You bet, and it is Federal law!
 

Click here to find out if you are in compliance.

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RENTAL INSPECTION AND REGISTRATION UPDATE

Counties and municipalities are rapidly jumping on the rental registration and inspection bandwagon throughout Florida. Fees range from $20.00 to $200.00 for registration with large inspection fees tacked on. Now is the time to carefully watch your local city council and county’s actions, and if they are proposing a fee/inspection program, you need to mobilize and work with the city or county to prevent them from creating an ordinance that may not work for you.  Sitting back and doing nothing will result in very unexpected and unpleasant results. If you see a fee/inspection program on the horizon, please call our office immediately.

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INDUSTRY LEADER OF THE MONTH - MICHAEL SEMKO, Attorney at Law  

Michael Semko is currently counsel to the National Apartment Association (NAA) and advises the company on a number of legal issues, including its National Lease Program.  The National Apartment Association is the nation's leading advocate for quality rental housing and has over 52,000 members that own  approximately 6 million apartment units.  Michael lectures across the country on behalf of NAA on topics ranging from risk management, Fair Housing and other landlord-tenant issues.   In September 2005, Michael filed an amici curiae brief on behalf of the apartment industry in a class action lawsuit pending before an appellate court for the state of Illinois.  This class action lawsuit is particularly significant for apartment owners and management companies because it involves the legality of redecoration and other nonrefundable fees charged to residential tenants during the leasing process.  Because of his work with NAA, Michael has developed a national network of real estate law firms and attorneys, and is a good source for companies to consult when seeking counsel in new or unfamiliar jurisdictions.

In addition to his work with NAA, Michael represents several national real estate firms on a variety of matters, including commercial and residential landlord tenant law, condominium conversion, and construction litigation currently representing a client before the Virginia Supreme Court, and has litigated many cases in federal and state courts.  Prior to joining NAA, he worked as an associate at a prominent Washington-area law firm devoted to real estate land use and development law.

Michael is a 1997 graduate of Tulane University Law School and currently resides in Lorton, Virginia, with his wife Jennifer (an attorney with the Washington, D.C. law firm Baker & McKenzie) and their daughter/queen-of-the-household, Sarah.

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THE FAIR HOUSING CORNER - HEARING-IMPAIRED APPLICANTS ARE CALLING   By Cathy L. Lucrezi, Attorney at Law

Landlords who advertised rental units refused to speak to deaf persons in one of four calls, while non-disabled callers were given information about the units.  For those hearing-impaired persons who were able to get some information, they did not receive the same level of encouragement as non-disabled persons.

Those are the results of a recent HUD study.  You can read the full report at http://www.huduser.org/publications/hsgspec/dds.html

Many hearing-impaired individuals rely upon TTY or TDD (“Telecommunications Device for the Deaf”) when making a phone call.  If you haven’t seen one, it is a phone with a connected keyboard.  Don’t have one at the rental office?  No problem.

A hearing caller who needs to get in touch with a TTY user can use the TTY operator to make the call. The caller simply calls the TTY operator (800-955-8771). The operator at the center will use a TTY to call the party that the hearing person is trying to reach. The operator acts as an interpreter, typing the hearing person's message into a TTY and reading the response to him as it returns. (This works vice versa for a deaf caller trying to reach a hearing party.)

Using the TTY operator to communicate makes for a slower conversation since a “translator” is at work.  That may take a bit of getting used to.  Nonetheless, don’t let it cause you to short change the information you provide to the applicant.  You should provide as much information and encouragement to a hearing impaired person as you do to a non-disabled person.

By using the TTY to accommodate hearing-impaired applicants you will be complying with fair housing laws.  You will also be opening up your rental market to over 4 million TTY users.

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In this issue:

NAA "Legal Symposium"

Post 3-Day Notice Communications

Small Claim Strategies

LBP Disclosure

Document Destruction Rules

Rental Registration Update

Industry Leader of the Month

Fair Housing Corner

 
 

December
Legal Holiday Alert

Do not forget to exclude these Legal Holidays when preparing your Three Day Notices in December 2005!

 23, 26, 27 -
Christmas Holidays

* Note: The above dates may not be Legal Holidays in your county, but we recommend excluding them anyway.

 
 

Legal News Archive:

October 2004

November 2004

December 2004

January 2005

February 2005

March 2005

April 2005

May 2005

June 2005

July 2005

August 2005

September 2005

October 2005

 
 
 

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