The Fair Housing Act – Service/ Emotional Support Animals

My last post, Service Animals/Emotional Support Animals – What You Need to Know, discussed the fact that, if you have rental properties, you need to know the laws on service and emotional support animals. We covered rules laid out by the ADA, but there are 2 agencies that create regulation regarding these animals:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Fair Housing Act (FHA)

Here we will discuss the additional laws laid out by the FHA. Note that ADA covers commercial areas where FHA covers residential. Also, ADA does not cover emotional support animals but FHA does.

The Fair Housing Act – protects renters from landlord discrimination. It prohibits discrimination of home sales, rentals, and financing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status or those with disabilities.

Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) of 1988:

Assistance Animal – an animal that works, provides assistance, or performs tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability
an assistance animal does not have to be individually trained or certified
once an assistance animal is approved, the landlord is not permitted to charge any associated pet fees or deposits
a landlord is not permitted to put weight or breed restrictions on an assistance animal

What can you require:

the prospect or resident must have a disability within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act
there must be a disability-related need for the animal

Permissible questions:

Is the disability apparent or known?
Is the disability-related need for the animal apparent or known?
If both the disability and the disability-related need for the animal are apparent and know, you may not ask any further questions and you may not require any additional verification or documentation.
If the disability is not apparent or known, you may request reliable documentation of the disability and the disability-related need for the assistance animal.

For emotional support animals, you may request documentation from a physician, psychiatrist, social worker or other mental health professional that the animal provides emotional support that alleviates one or more of the identified symptoms or effects of an existing disability.

You may deny an accommodation request when:

it would cause undue financial hardship on the property
it would create an administrative burden on the property
the specific animal would be a direct threat to the property or would cause substantial physical damage to the property
if there is insufficient verification when the disability is non-apparent

The prospect/tenant can make a request from you for their animal in pretty much any manner including something as simple as writing their request on a sticky note. There is no formal request form and you can’t require that they use one that you create.

Your next step is to ask that written verification be provided by the doctor or medical provider. Again, it does not need to be on a specific form. You must accept verification from a reliable third party that confirms the applicant has a disability within the meaning of the Fair Housing Act and confirms that there is a disability-related need for the animal.

Without sufficient verification, you may deny the applicant. And – beware – there are many online sites that provide certifications without requiring any verification of a disability.

How the ADA and FHAA are different:

The ADA applies to areas of public accommodation. It does not apply to areas of the property not open to the general public. (i.e. Service animals must be allowed into the leasing office.)
The FHAA applies to the entire property. (Qualified service and emotional support animals must be allowed to live in your rental property.)

Most of your concern as a landlord is going to be regarding regulations laid out by the FHAA.

Great Property Management Companies

Choosing the best manager for your property can promote your real estate investment or even break it. You find managers in all parts of the market and it is important to tell the good apart from the bad.

Messaging and branding

The outbound branding and messaging that the company uses is an important factor that can be used to determine what they are really like. To be able to understand them and their mode of operation. Then you need to ask questions.

Documentation

The first thing that you should get to know is whether the company is licensed and recognized by the right body. You need to ensure that you get to know what kind of properties they manage and then get references. You should never move on with the deal if the company does not want or is not able to give you the necessary documentation. When you see the documentation, then you can comfortably say that their operations are legitimate.

You should also get to know the following things about the company:

How they set and collect rent
How maintenance and repairs are handled?
If property inspections are done
Retention and marketing of tenants
How the tenant and owner funds are handled?
How they do tenant screening.

The other things that you should talk to them about include:

Their management fees
The management contract

The above should be done to about three companies that you may have shortlisted before you can hire them. You should remain vigilant and don’t settle for the first company that you come across regardless of how good they seem to be. There is really no harm in talking to other companies. Talking to others confirms that the initial preference was the best and you may even have some more questions. Young never know, the next company could actually be better than the first one.

If you do not take time to talk to others, then you will have nothing to compare with. It is important to have an idea about how other companies operate to be certain that you are indeed making the right decision. There are many databases that you can use to locate management companies near you.

You need to appreciate the fact that finding a manager for an investment that you made is a very important and big decision. You should do a thorough research before you settle for just anyone. There are many qualities that you should consider when you are picking a great organization.

You should try getting referrals from various sources. This is one of the best ways because you will know the experiences of other people first hand before choosing. You may get some amazing tips about the whole choosing process. Since referrals can sometimes be biased, you should get them from all corners. If you receive same referral about a certain company, it could very well be true after all, regardless of whether it is a good opinion or a bad one.

Know How Estate Agents Value Properties For Sale

Every homeowner wants to sell his or her property for its maximum value. And, too often they end up choosing an estate agent simply on the basis of whoever provides them with the biggest initial valuation. However, this will be a costly mistake.

What your house is valued at matters. If you get the estimate wrong, it might sell for a price, less than what the actual worth of the property is. On the flip side, even overpriced houses will put off prospective buyers from viewing your house. Moreover, hefty selling prices can even result in a long wait before any good offer comes in or might not sell at all. Getting the valuation done right agent is thus recommended.

Here are a few aspects estate agents take into consideration during property valuation!

Few Factors Estate Agents Keep In Mind While Valuing A Property

1. Local Amenities

During property valuation, one of the major factors which can drive up the selling price is the actual area where the house is situated in. Aspects such as how close the house is to schools, shopping malls, banks, restaurants and parks definitely affect the final selling price. A property which has good transport links will get a much better price than the house that’s located in secluded places.

2. Size

When it comes to getting your property valued, the size of your home is another vital aspect which estate agents keep in mind. The number of bedrooms that the property has affects the marketing of the property. Even the size of every individual room largely determines buyer demographics.

3. Aesthetics

Other than the obvious considerations like keeping your house well-maintained, tidy and clean, there are few other aesthetic factors which can help you in raising the value of your property. Properties which offer great views or are close to water bodies will always achieve a better selling price. Just the way hotel rooms with scenic views cost more, so do houses near a river or sea.

4. Kerb Appeal

Estate agents believe that the way your property looks from outside is as important as the interiors. After looking all around your property, the agent will determine if your front garden looks neat and well maintained and whether your property stands out from the rest. A house with great exteriors will certainly fetch a better price than the ones which don’t have.

5. Potential

Though the size of the home plays a vital role in property valuation, so is the flexibility of the property which is being valued. Agents even check if a particular property can be extended. A house which has the potentiality to be improved can help a lot with the selling price. Properties with the scope of improvements and renovation can drive up selling prices significantly.