What You Missed March 2012 General Meeting
by Rob Earhart
Fair Housing Laws and Practices,
Handicapped Accessibility Laws, and
How You Can Get Trapped With Unlicensed Activity
March 6, 2012
Our guest speaker was Ms. Nina Gang, Executive Vice President of the Bay Area Apartment Association.
Ms. Gang introduced 3 topics she planned to address: Fair Housing laws and practices, handicapped accessibility laws, and how you can get trapped with unlicensed activity.
As far as what would need permits for work done on your property and licensing for doing the work, Nina advised getting the qualified assistance you need. The cities are looking for ways to make money and, if caught, you could face some expensive repairs.
Changing window glass, installing a fan or doors all are licensed activities. What does the city have to gain by making you get permits? Money. Some permits have gone from $40 to $400 and work without permits has tripled in cost.
Nina cited: “I had to put in a drain field and ended up with permits for the plumbing, the drain field, and a permit from the health department stating that I would not put a swimming pool in the front yard. I had to put in a lift station for two people living in the house.”
“When this battle heats up, don’t sit by but get involved and speak up to defend your rights. You cannot spend more than you take in and stay in business,” advised Ms. Gang.
There is a big push in Tampa to clean up the neighborhoods. A lot of houses are owned by the banks and have not been maintained. The Code Enforcement people have been lax on applying fines to banks, but are now cracking down. Hillsborough County seems to be a little more lenient than the City of Tampa.
In Tampa, alarms are a problem. “Tenants can alarm their apartment but, if there are false alarms, the tenant is billed without the knowledge of the owner.” If the fines are not paid the owner could be on the hook to the tune of $500 for three false alarms.
Fair Housing: The National Fair Housing Alliance publishes a summary each year. The biggest complaint (40%) is disability with race at 15%.
If you need to go to a Fair Housing court case you will need at least $250,000. As an example, Nina spoke of an attorney who drove by and cited all restaurants on Gulf Blvd. for ADA violations and ended up with $5,000 per restaurant. ADA does not apply to single family houses, but apartments must comply. Even 35% of all new construction will not meet all facets of Fair Housing/ADA laws and regulations.
As far as Fair Housing Rules there are four kinds of testing that Federal agents do:
1. They reply to your ad, shop your apartment, then send a minority couple behind them.
2. Linguistic profiling—they call and leave a message on your answering machine, then call back and leave another message with a different accent or speech pattern. They want to see if you call both back or discriminate.
3. If you have a website they will visit it and leave a name that suggests a person of color
or ethnic origin, then check to see if you respond to the emails.
4. They will also respond to emails from Craigslist or similar sites to see if you respond equally to all.
“Squatters are like no-see-ums,” described Nina, and they are not always easy to get rid of. “They have more rights than we have.” In the north they move into houses and it is tough to evict them.
A couple of things are scary. Is there a new protected class? “Criminals or unemployed.” Some ex-convicts are demanding rental rights even though owners are uncomfortable renting to them. Disparate impact is the different treatment of two individuals and many people are being sued because of it. In some states you can no longer refuse to rent to someone with low income or who is underemployed.
Thomas Jefferson said: “When the banks and the government work together, no one sleeps well.”
Hillsborough had wanted to investigate every unit every year. Nina then suggested to the Association that they hire a government affairs individual as liaison with the city officials. As a result they got the city of Tampa to change their water pricing schedule. Apartments were being charged twice the amount that single family houses paid, but are now on par.
The biggest mistakes made on evictions are using the wrong address, not listing all occupants, and not accounting for Florida holidays. If you file a three-day notice and they pay you a partial amount, just give them a new three-day notice.
If you decide to pay a resident to leave, it may be the best investment you can make. Every day they go back to your property is another day they have to damage your property. Give them a hundred dollar bill and tell them they will get another once they move.
“Tenants are all amateur lawyers,” professed Ms. Gang, “and tenant landlord laws are very specific.” The quickest eviction is about 26 days. Then you get to clean it out.
Make sure damages are in your lease or you cannot get the money back.
If you collect advance rent it is treated the same as a deposit and must be held either in a separate interest-paying account or in a separate non-interest-bearing account.
Ms. Gang stayed for several minutes to answer specific questions and invited all to the Bay Area meetings. Everyone was appreciative of all the information shared by her and the association.