Wisteria Investments

“Smoke gets up landlord’s nose in court

A bedbug invasion isn’t the only thing that New York City landlords have to worry about; smoking tenants may also become a major problem.

Last week, a District Court judge in Nassau County ruled that an Upper East Side tenant could break her lease and pay reduced rent because she had complainted about a neighbor’s cigarette smoking and the landlord failed to take appropriate action to alleviate the secondhand smoke. The ruling was the first of its kind because most smoking-related matters between landlords and tenants do not go to trial, experts said.

Bloomingdale, Georgia, Landlord to Pay $680,000 to Settle Housing Discrimination Lawsuit

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department today announced that Darwin Kenneth Morgan and his company, D.K. Morgan Consolidated LLC, have agreed to pay $680,000 in monetary damages and civil penalties to settle a Fair Housing Act lawsuit alleging that Morgan discriminated against African-Americans and sexually harassed female tenants and prospective tenants at Morgan Mobile Home Parks in Bloomingdale, Ga.

Under the consent decree, which the federal district court in Savannah approved today, the defendants must pay $350,000 to 11 individuals identified by the United States as victims of the defendants’ discriminatory conduct, $280,000 in monetary damages, costs and attorneys’ fees to four private plaintiffs, including the Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council, and $50,000 to the United States as a civil penalty. The consent decree also prohibits the defendants from engaging in discrimination and requires that an independent manager manage the properties.

"It is offensive and illegal to deny equal access to housing based on the color of one’s skin or to harass women who are seeking a place to live," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "This settlement sends the message that such conduct will not be tolerated, and the Civil Rights Division will aggressively pursue those who engage in it."

"This is an appropriate resolution of this case," said Edward J. Tarver, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. "The settlement is entirely in keeping with the United States’ interest in enforcing the Fair Housing Act."

The lawsuit arose after the Savannah-Chatham County Fair Housing Council alerted the Civil Rights Division to Morgan’s discriminatory activities. The government conducted an independent investigation and uncovered additional evidence of discrimination, including more victims of the defendants’ conduct. The government’s suit, filed in September 2008, alleged, among other things, that Morgan denied the availability of mobile homes and/or mobile home lots to African-American persons while at the same time told white persons about available mobile homes and/or mobile home lots; refused to negotiate with African-American prospective tenants for rental; made statements with respect to the rental of mobile homes and/or mobile home lots at Morgan Mobile Home Parks indicating a preference, a limitation, or discrimination based on race or color; discouraged African-American persons from applying for a mobile home and/or mobile home lot while encouraging white persons to apply; and subjected female tenants and prospective tenants at Morgan Mobile Home Parks to discrimination on the basis of sex, including severe, pervasive and unwelcome sexual harassment. The government’s lawsuit was subsequently consolidated with a related private suit that had been brought by the Fair Housing Council and three individuals.

Fighting illegal housing discrimination is a top priority of the Justice Department. The federal Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin and disability.

More information about the Civil Rights Division and the laws it enforces is available at the website www.justice.gov/crt/ . Persons who believe they have experienced or witnessed unlawful housing discrimination may call the Housing Discrimination Tip Line at 1-800-896-7743, e-mail the Justice Department at fairhousing@usdoj.gov, or contact HUD at 1-800-669-9777. More information about the Fair Housing Act can also be found at www.justice.gov/crt/housing/ or www.hud.gov/fairhousing.

Time Doesn’t Stop When You’re Renovating

When you buy a house for the purposes of renovating it, there may well be a simple equation in your head. Money spent on buying house + money spent renovating = total spend. Resale pricetotal spend = profit. Simple! Isn’t it? Well, maybe not. You see, on top of this you do need to consider what else is going on while you are renovating. Renovating a house is not something you can do in “dead time”, so you also have to look at how you live in the mean time.

After all, if you need to be present for the workbecause you are helping to do it or because you need to monitor the projectthen this cuts into time that you would ordinarily spend workingand making money. If you have sold your house to buy the new one, then you will also need to take care of resettlement costs, whether you are renting or have found another solution. It is hard to live in a house which is in the middle of renovations, as anyone who has done it will tell you.

You may need to work into your budget an amount which will cover the costs of your time spent on siteand your temporary accommodation. If you have borrowed in order to buy the house, you will need to at least service the mortgage on it, too. Therefore it is essential that you have a plan,and that that plan isrealistic. Many people get carried away thinking of the profit that they will make, but it is important to think about the difference between grossand net profit



It’s a Fixer-Upper!

When you are making your first steps towards becoming areal estate developer, it is often helpful to start out with a deal that is financially supportable. Frequently, you will see a house appear on the market that looks like it will need a lot of workit may have been lying vacant for a time, or may have been damaged by a storm, a flood or some other horrible incident. These houses usually go on the market for a fraction of their market value,and if you have the borrowing or spending power to buy themand do them up, they can be a quickand easy profit.

The simple reason behind this is that some people simply want to upand move when their old house has been damaged,and they will sell cheaply for a quick deal. This benefits the buyer because it allows them to pay a reduced priceand then spend what it takes to turn the house into a viable, buyable property for a family to move in to. Often there is a significant profit margin because the house is located well, architecturally fineand attractive to new buyers.

These houses are known as “fixer-uppers”. When you buy them, they need a lot of work. But if you are prepared to put that work in, you will find that the whole process is not that expensive. As long as you have done your research, there is a very good chance that you can turn a profit which will allow you to try again with another fixer-upper or a sounder property.


How To Handle Bad Tenants

Bad tenants are a landlord’s worst nightmare. Between not paying their rent, trashing your rental property, allowing pest infestations, committing criminal acts in the propertyand a hundred other miserable acts, bad tenants can make a landlord’s life miserable. Fortunately, there are tactics you can employ to minimize the damage caused by bad tenants.

First Line of Defense: An Airtight Lease Agreement

Before you allow a tenant to move into your property, you can lay the groundwork for addressing future problems by using an airtight lease agreement. Every state has different landlord-tenant laws governing what your lease agreement can contain, so be sure to use a state-specific lease agreement. These can be sometimes be obtained through your state’s website, but more likely you’ll have to buy one online (EZ Landlord Forms offers a custom lease agreement for each state).

Among other provisions, a strong lease agreement states clearly the landlord’s policies on cleanliness, property maintenance, criminal activity, late rental payment penaltiesand all other common problems that can arise.

Second Line of Defense: Adhere to All Disclosure Laws

Bad tenants will often run crying to sleazebag attorneys or Legal Aid, claiming that the “Big Bad Landlord wants to evict me! I didn’t do anything wrong, oh protect me protect me!”And the first thing lawyers will do will check to make sure that your lease agreement is validand that you complied with all applicable landlord-tenant laws, including delivering all of the necessary disclosures. You have several options for complying with these laws:

You read your state’s landlord-tenant code directly
You hire areal estate attorney to tell you what to do, or
You use an online landlord forms system that automatically fills in all of the required forms for your state.
Third Line of Defense: Offer a Deal to the Tenant to Vacate

It always pays to offer a carrot before a stick, so when your tenants go bad, sit down with them, preferably in personand make them an offer. If they can be out of the property within the week, with all of their belongings, you won’t take them to courtand get a judgment against them. If they want to fightand drag it out, then tell them that you’re going to file the eviction, which shows up on their credit report,and obtain a hefty judgment against them for back rent, court costs, legal feesand damages to the property.

Fourth Line of Defense: Comply with All Local Eviction Laws

Every state outlines different eviction procedures in their landlord-tenant laws,and all landlords need to comply closely with them if they want to clear the bad tenant out of their rental property this decade. As with every other step in this process, as a landlord you have several options:

You can hire areal estate attorney who specializes in evictions, which is effective but pricey;
You can hire an eviction specialist, which is less expensiveand often effective; or
You can do it yourself, by mailing the appropriate notices to the tenantand filing an eviction form with the local landlord—tenant court (see the above landlord forms link for state-specific eviction instructions).
As a final note, it helps to have all of the tenants’ assetinformation on record, for collection purposes,and the cheapestand easiest way to learn thisinformation is to simply have the tenant fill it in on their rental application.

Which brings us back to the initial point of prevention: Through being diligent from the beginning, when they first fill out the rental applicationand you first sign the lease agreement, you can lay the groundwork for dealing with future problems. Hopefully, you’ll never have to do any of these actions,and your tenants will all be clean, make their rental payments on timeand take good care of the rental property—but don’t count on it.


The Wrong Side Of The Tracks

Most of us have heard someoneoften our parents, but probably more often a character in a TV showdescribing another individual as being “from the wrong side of the tracks”. It is one we hear,and repeat, without necessarily giving any thought to what it means. We as humans, have a tendency to do thatbut what does it mean?

Well, to make a long story short, it wasrealised some time ago that people who could afford to choose where they lived would pay for a house in a location that was peaceful, cleanand sedate. Too much through traffic means a lot of pollution,and can also cause structural faults,and also an increased number of strangerssomething we were always taught to dread.

Poorer neighborhoods, with higher crime ratesand naturally a “less desirable” kind of person living there, as a result, were often positioned close to public transport links such as railwaysand (in larger cities) airports. Anyone living in that area would be considered bad news by the richer families who intended to maintain a spotless reputationand if the son or daughter of a rich was seen to be consorting with someone from those areas, that could mean social suicide.

This kind of reputation still persists for many people. However, there are also advantages to livingand buying in what might be considered a poorer, grottier neighborhood. Prices are lower, but sound investment does mean that you can still make a decent profit. After all, proximity to public transport links also has its benefits



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