Clutter vs. Hoarding: When to Worry About Your Roommate

Living styles can vary greatly from one person to the next, especially when it comes to cleaning and tidiness. Many times it is beneficial to discuss these traits before moving in with a roommate — if you’re a self-described “neat freak,” you might find it easier if your cohabitant is on the more organized side of things as well. That’s not to say that clean and messy roommates can’t successfully live together.

Maybe your roommate is just messy, a sentimental collector or a little bit of a packrat. If this is the case, there are plenty of ways to work through your differences and find a way to live peacefully together. But when is your roommate’s mess potentially the sign of hoarding?

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Messy and disorganized

If you’re noticing more mess than usual or if it seems like your roommate is struggling to keep up with normal housework, it might be a sign that something else is going on in their life that is causing stress or taking all of their attention.

Stress and other bigger issues going on outside your home can often disrupt normal patterns, with cleaning and organization falling to the bottom of the priority list.

If personal items are stacking up on tables and counters, more than a day of dirty dishes are piling up in the sink or you notice some extra loads of unwashed laundry from your roommate, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.

The mess (and maybe a slight smell) might be a nuisance, but try to check in with your roommate to see if anything has changed recently that might be causing them to neglect their housework.

If they are apologetic or willing to cooperate with your requests, you’re good to go.

When it becomes hoarding

There are a few red flags that are cause for concern — especially if you notice multiple signs or extreme conditions.

  • Overwhelming smells or visible mold, mildew or pests
  • Rooms or common areas become difficult to navigate
  • Unnecessary items rapidly accumulating in outdoor or garage areas
  • Denying access to certain rooms or areas
  • Vehicle full of personal belongings and other items
  • Unwilling to cooperate with cleanup requests or giving constant justifications for the mess

Noticing any one of these signs doesn’t necessarily mean your roommate is struggling with hoarding, but they are usually good indications that the problem is heading in that direction.

Knowing some of the warning signs can help you come up with an action plan before the situation gets out of control.

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How to handle hoarding

If you do suspect your roommate is struggling with hoarding tendencies, it’s important not to make quick judgments.

Someone unorganized, messy or has trouble letting go of extra personal belongings may get overwhelmed or stressed about something going on in their lives, but individuals struggling with hoarding might be dealing with a bigger mental health issue, finding it difficult to make changes or set limits without help.

A little empathy and patience can go a long way in getting cooperation from a messy roommate.

Try to find out the root cause of the problem and see if you can offer your roommate any support. Let them know that the clutter is beginning to affect you. See if you can agree on a cleaning schedule and set other expectations that you can both agree to.

Find a starting point that focuses on immediate items related to your health and safety including issues like addressing any mold or mildew. Focus on common areas since that is a shared space between the two of you. Suggest beginning with less daunting tasks like removing and emptying all garbage or organizing entryways and walkways.

If your roommate is seriously struggling with hoarding, don’t be afraid to ask for outside help. Your landlord is a good place to start. They may have suggestions or even be able to point out cleanliness clauses written into your lease agreement.

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Source: apartmentguide.com

Understanding Single-Family Home HOAs

Before you buy a home in an HOA-governed community, make sure you review the rules thoroughly.

What does HOA mean?

HOA means homeowners association. It can also be referred to as HOD or Home Owners Dues. HOAs can exist in planned housing developments, town homes, and condos. It is generally billed on a monthly basis.

Most people think of homeowners associations (HOAs), legally known as Common Interest Developments, as related to attached housing structures like condominiums or town homes. But this is not always the case.

Around the 1980s, developers started building communities of single-family homes that were actually Common Interest Developments. These communities came with their own sets of rules, regulations and HOA fees.

The reason builders starting developing communities in the HOAs structure was to maintain order and the aesthetics of a community. Their rules keep home paint colors and front yards in harmony, restrict building additions that don’t fit into the neighborhood, and stop owners from parking broken-down vehicles in their driveways or front yards. Such regulations assure new and existing owners that a neighbor’s behavior and choices will not diminish property values.

But they also mean that you must follow the rules yourself, and typically contribute monthly fees to manage and run the HOA for the benefit of all owners. When residents violate these rules — which can cause stress for other owners and hurt property values– the HOA will typically step in and enforce them with violation notices, fines and possibly litigation, if the issue gets that far.

The root of the issue

Often, the problem is not the rules, it’s that people don’t read the rules and regulations before they buy into a community, and then they violate the rules. But ignorance is no excuse — those rules are recorded on the property title, and likely given to every buyer to review before they purchase a home in a standard transaction. Owners are still bound by those rules whether they received and read them or not.

If you are buying into an HOA-governed community, be sure to read the rules and regulations before you buy. Once you’ve read them, if you don’t like them, then you should avoid buying a property in that community.

What if you already own in an HOA, and don’t like the rules or how the elected HOA board of directors interprets and enforces them? Luckily, an HOA is a democracy and the owners can vote out the board of directors and change the rules!

Any member-owner can try to get elected to the board and change the regulations. They just have to get enough other community members to support their opinion and vision for the community.

Unfortunately, most community members never go to a board meeting and never get involved. They just complain about the board — who are all volunteers, by the way — and complain about HOA fees, rules, and special assessments, etc.

If you are one of those owners who doesn’t like the rules, then get involved and take the time to campaign in your community, get on the board, and change the regulations.

Do Renters Pay HOA Dues?

“The landlord cannot force you to pay the HOA unless that is what is required in the lease. If it is part of the lease, then you have to pay. If not, you don’t, but the owner may decide to find another tenant when the lease is up.

If the HOA is not doing their job in clearing snow, I would write them a letter and send copy to the landlord. You are not the owner so they may not listen, but it gives you proof of the issue and may prompt the owner to act.”

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

What is Rent Control?

Did you ever wonder how Monica and Rachel in “Friends” could afford rent in a two-bedroom New York City apartment on a waitress and chef’s salary? Well, the answer is rent control.

Rent control is a rare policy that fixes the price of rent indefinitely and falls under the umbrella term “rent regulations.”

It sounds great, right? Before you get too excited, you need to understand exactly what is rent control.

We’ll talk about the difference between rent control vs. rent stabilization, explain how it really works and give you a few advantages and disadvantages of living in a rent-controlled apartment.

Rent control vs. rent stabilization

Both rent control and rent stabilization are concepts centered around the idea of protecting tenants from major increases in the price of rent. The goal is to keep housing affordable while also enabling landlords to increase rent.

While people often confuse the two, there is a big difference between them.

Rent stabilization

Rent stabilization is the more common practice and means that landlords or property owners can only increase rent by a specific percentage year-over-year. In areas that have rent stabilization in place, the state sets the rate at which landlords can increase rent. Because this is a state issue, not a federal issue, it can vary drastically state-by-state. For example, Oregon limits yearly rent increases to 9.2 percent while Los Angeles County in California limits yearly rent increases to a mere 3 percent.

This is a more common practice and you’ll likely have an easier time finding a rent-stabilized apartment than a rent-controlled apartment.

Rent control

Rent control is a policy that means landlords cannot increase a tenant’s rent. Effectively, rental rates remain set and won’t increase. Rent-controlled apartments have a set price for rent that will not increase whereas rent-stabilized apartments will see price increases but there is a cap on how much the rate can increase each year.

Rent-controlled apartments are incredibly rare, so if you live in or can find a rent-controlled apartment, you’re very lucky.

Friends apartment in NYC.

In fact, there are only 22,000 rent-controlled apartments out there. Even if you can find a rent-controlled apartment on the market, you have to meet a specific set of criteria to qualify for one. This includes:

  • You cannot make more than $200,000 for two years in a row
  • The building must have been built before 1947
  • The apartment must have been lived in by the same family since at least 1971
  • The apartment must be passed from family member to family member
  • The person who inherits the rent-controlled apartment must have lived in it for two years straight before officially inheriting it

Now, it makes sense how Monica had such a great apartment in New York — she lived in the apartment with her grandmother for two years prior to inheriting it from her. This allowed her to take over the rent-controlled apartment and keep it in the family.

Where is rent control most common?

Out of the 50 states, only five have specific rent control policies in place. The other 45 exempt rent control or have no active policies in place.

The five states that have some rent-controlled apartments are California, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Oregon.

Map of rent control.

Photo source: National Multifamily Housing Council

Pros and cons of rent control

As with everything, there are pros and cons to rent control depending on your perspective and situation.

Pro: Cheaper for tenants

Because rent-controlled apartments have a fixed price for rent, they are very affordable. You will pay the same price for rent year after year, even as your neighbors experience price increases. Rent-controlled apartments are cheap.

Pro: Affordable even when wages don’t increase

It’s common knowledge that rent prices are rising faster than wages are. So, you can live in the same apartment at the same price and still afford it, even if you don’t see a pay bump on your paycheck very often.

Pro: Foster safe neighborhoods

Rent-controlled apartments offer renters financial stability because they know that they can live on a fixed income. When there is financial stability, people will stay in the same location, develop relationships with neighbors and decrease renter turnover. All of these factors contribute to a safer neighborhood and environment.

Pro: Automatic lease renewals

When you live in a rent-controlled apartment, you automatically get the first right of renewal on your lease. Basically, you always have a place to live and can always re-sign your lease at the same rate.

Con: Not always well-maintained

Because of the fixed rent price in a rent-controlled apartment, landlords don’t maintain, update or refurbish them as often because it isn’t profitable for them. At times, rent-controlled apartments have outdated appliances because no one invests in them.

Con: Hard to come by

As we mentioned earlier, there are roughly 22,000 rent-controlled apartments in the wild, so they are incredibly rare and hard to come by. As such, you’ll be frustrated looking for one as the supply is so low.

Con: Landlords often lose money on rent-controlled apartments

If you’re a landlord of a rent-controlled apartment, you’re likely losing money compared to other landlords who can increase the price of rent each year. If you’re a tenant, this is great. But, it’s a con for the property owner.

Reviewing and signing a lease.

How to find a rent-controlled apartment

Rent-controlled apartments are a unicorn in the real estate world. When you have one, hold onto it as they are very rare and you likely won’t have a better deal anywhere, especially in an expensive metro like New York City.

If you want a rent-controlled apartment, you have two ways to find one.

  1. You can inherit a rent-controlled apartment
  2. Research the city or state’s database of rent-controlled apartments

If you can’t find or qualify for a rent-controlled apartment, don’t fret. Rent.com has thousands of affordable apartments all across the country that would be perfect for you. Start your search today!

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

Source: rent.com

How to Get Rid of Your Roommate (Legally!)

As tempting as it may be, you can’t just kick him to the curb.

He’s messy, his rent is always late, and now he “lost” his pet scorpions somewhere on the premises. In other words, it’s high time for your roommate to hit the road.

But how to get him out? Legally speaking, can one tenant kick the other to the curb based on a few common lease violations? And, if so, what is the least-stressful way to accomplish this feat? Below, we discuss several tips and techniques for lawful roommate eviction, as well as conduct to avoid at all costs — or you may find yourself on the curb.

Communication is key

As in any relationship, lack of clear communication between roommates could be the downfall of an otherwise promising cohabitation situation. When a problem first arises, talk it out. Perhaps your roommate is under unusual stress, isn’t aware of the rules or just needs a little coaxing to meet obligations. Hopefully, this tactic will calm the waters.

But if not, it may be time to bring your landlord in on the conversation. If your roommate is engaging in clear violations of the lease agreement, your landlord should be notified immediately, and the violations should be clearly documented through pictures and descriptions. Assuming your roommate is a tenant of record (more on that below), he or she maintains a distinct legal relationship with the property owner or landlord and must abide by the terms of the lease. While general messiness is not usually cause for eviction, late rent payments and unapproved pets likely are, so alert your landlord. He or she can start the eviction process under your state’s landlord-tenant laws.

Off-the-record roommates

This issue can become much more acrimonious if your roommate is not a tenant of record (i.e., an inhabitant who has not signed a lease agreement). In essence, this person has no legal duty or obligation to the property, its owner, or its lessee (you), so state landlord-tenant laws do not apply. Accordingly, it may be time to seek an alternative legal remedy. However — and this is key — you cannot physically force a roommate out the door by pushing them or throwing belongings on the sidewalk.

Most states have enacted a more civilized approach that provides the unwanted guest the right to notice and due process. In many states, a roommate must first be put on notice that he or she is no longer welcome. To accomplish this, a simple one-page statement declaring that the roommate arrangement has ended should suffice. Further, provide the roommate with a deadline for leaving, which usually must be at least 15-30 days from the date of the notice. Lastly, as much as you might like to avoid actual interaction, be sure the roommate actually receives the document.

See you in court!

Hopefully, the roommate will take a hint and exit gracefully. If this does not happen, however, it will be necessary to file a petition for eviction in your local court, which is likely the same court that handles formal landlord-tenant matters. By allowing the roommate to remain on the property sans lease, you actually created a month-to-month oral tenancy agreement, which must be undone using proper legal channels.

The court staff will give you a date and time for an eviction hearing. At the hearing, be prepared to present the eviction notice mentioned above, as well as evidence to show that the roommate was never included on the lease and — at most — had a month-to-month tenancy as an off-the-record roommate.

The court will likely grant the petition, and your roommate will have no choice but to vacate the premises immediately.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

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Source: zillow.com

Understanding a Rental Lease Agreement

Make sure you understand what you’re signing.

You love it. You want it. You’re ready to sign on the dotted line, but stop and take a deep breath first. This is everything you need to know before signing that rental lease agreement.

What is a rental lease agreement?

A rental lease agreement is a legal document that sets out the terms for you to rent a residence from a landlord, apartment community or property management company.

The agreement protects you and the prospective landlord. Both of you need to abide by the rental lease agreement’s terms.

It’s smart to get a second set of eyes on the lease before you sign it. Colleen Wightman, a licensed Realtor and a leasing specialist based in Rochester, NY says, “Have a licensed real estate agent or, better yet, an attorney look at the lease agreement. You are legally bound once you put your signature on it…Let the landlord or property manager know at the time of signing that you’ve had it reviewed by an attorney. That will make the landlord pay attention; you are someone who knows what you’re doing.”

Reviewing a lease.

What’s in this agreement?

The rental lease agreement starts off with the basics: your name, the date, the name of the person or entity who will be leasing the property to you and the property’s physical and address.

While each lease is different, they will all cover the following information:

  • Arrangement to lease: There’s an acknowledgment from both parties that you and the prospective landlord agree to the arrangement. The rental lease agreement will name the length of time, i.e., the number of months you will be renting for and when that begins and ends. This is either for a long-term or short-term duration.
  • Rent: It will state the rent amount, to whom you’ll pay the rent; how you’ll pay it (debit or credit card, some other electronic system, personal check) and when it’s due. The lease agreement will state the day rent is due each month and what happens if you fail to pay the rent — such as late charges.
  • Additional monies: This section would discuss situations in which you might pay extra money in addition to the monthly rent. “These would be things like a non-refundable pet deposit or perhaps an additional month’s rent in lieu of you having a perfect credit score,” said Wightman.
  • Property use: This part clarifies who will be living in this rental — you alone? with a roommate? spouse? pet? — and it states that the apartment is only for residential purposes with no illegal activities permitted.
  • Apartment possession: You are not liable for the rent if the landlord or management company doesn’t let you move in on the date promised. Your rent will then be pro-rated.
  • Security deposit: By signing the agreement you acknowledge that you will pay the landlord a specified amount of security deposit (usually equal to one month’s rent). This money will cover any property damages that you incur. The landlord must notify you in writing when and how much of the security deposit they keep. Keep in mind, the security deposit is different from “last month’s rent,” money you pay upfront to cover the final month you will live in the apartment. In some states, the security deposit pays for that final month. Check your state laws regarding the use of security deposits. Also, check your state’s laws regarding how your landlord holds your security deposit.
  • Addendums, provisions and disclosures, and amendments: This section lets you know that if you or the landlord/property management company want to modify this rental lease agreement in any way, it must be done in a written agreement signed by you (the tenant) and the landlord/property management company. What might you need to modify? Let’s say the apartment comes with one parking space, but you’ve got a motorcycle and a car and you want to park your motorcycle on the side of the building if that’s possible. “If you’re augmenting what’s offered — have it put into the lease because both parties have to agree to it,” shared Wightman.

Is the rental agreement lease term flexible?

Yes! You might sign a short- or long-term lease.

Leases come in all sorts of durations. Maybe you can sign a lease that’s longer than 12 months and can get a more favorable monthly rate. Or perhaps you need the apartment for less than 12 months. Maybe the landlord will agree to a six-month or even month-to-month lease, in which you actually rent one month at a time (this will likely be more expensive).

The bottom line is that anything like this needs discussing upfront, documented on the lease agreement and signed by both parties.

A couple reviewing a lease.

What if I need to break my lease agreement?

The short answer is, “Yes, you can…but.”

There will be information on your lease agreement about the rules on “early release” — likely resulting in penalties for breaking your lease. You may have to give a certain amount of notice if you choose to do this. You may have to find another renter to take your place. Or, you might have a buyout clause.

Check your lease agreement upfront so that you can prepare in case this happens. And, always be honest and open with your landlord. You don’t want to incur financial penalties or land in court.

What about working from home?

The coronavirus pandemic sent many of us into our bedrooms with our laptops. But if your rental contract says you’re only using your apartment for residential purposes, will you get in hot water for working from home? As long as you’re not inviting a third party into your home to conduct business, you’re all right.

Fair housing and discrimination

Before you sign the lease, make sure to read through the fair housing laws. It’s important to make sure that the person renting the apartment is in compliance with all fair housing laws.

Service animals can be a hot-button issue. Even if there’s a no-pet rule, Wightman says “As long as you have all your paperwork in order, a landlord cannot deny renting to you because you have a service animal.”

But make sure you get it into the lease that you have a service animal and that you’re in compliance with any and all appropriate paperwork you may need to provide. Also, it’s important to know that the landlord will likely ask for a non-refundable pet fee. It’s best to prepare for that miscellaneous cost.

Sign of the times

Read through any sort of documentation that you’re going to sign and be held accountable to. So often, people don’t think about “the legal ramifications of signing something they’re not thoroughly reading,” said Wightman.

You may feel the urgency from this rental market, but take the time to go through the rental lease agreement. “Being aware upfront and being thorough is always in the renter’s best interest,” Wightman shared.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

Source: rent.com

How Important Should Parking Be in Your Apartment Search?

Parking can be key to your apartment search, especially if you’re expecting a commute. A good parking situation can be a huge bonus when you finally nab the right apartment. The last thing you want is to circle your block hunting for a spot every day. And even if you do get designated parking, it can sometimes be pricey.

At the same time, your lifestyle, location and budget might make parking less relevant. If you’re moving to a new place, how will you figure out if you even need to worry about it? To determine the importance of parking in your search, answer the following questions.

1. Do you own a car?

This is easy. If you own a car, parking should absolutely factor into your apartment search.

Want some less obvious advice? If you don’t have one yet, consider if you might ever own a car. Your set of circumstances is liable to change from year to year. If you stay in the same place long enough, you may just have to purchase your own vehicle.

At the very least, parking is something to consider, even if you currently depend on public transportation. You might end up taking a new job in the middle of your lease at an office located an hour outside the city, for instance. Take stock of your present plans and goals and be considerate of your future needs.

2. Will you pay extra?

Some apartments charge a rent premium for parking garages, an additional cost to consider when weighing your options. You’ll pay more for these residential properties than those without the same amenities, so if you don’t need a space, you should look elsewhere.

The U.S. is a car-friendly nation, and that puts parking costs at a bit of a premium. That means apartments without solid options are likely to charge less. If you’re willing to sacrifice convenience, you might add more flexibility to your monthly budget.

If parking is a premium amenity for you, you can still make sure you know what you’ll pay. Meet with the landlord and have a discussion over what they charge for a space, what kind of security is available and any other concerns you have before you sign a lease.

3. Are there other options?

You have choices in how you get from place to place, and while car ownership is attractive, there are alternatives you can turn to. Dockless bike-sharing programs have seen increasing popularity in many cities, with bicycle commuting up more than 60 percent since the turn of the century.

Many of these cyclists don’t want the additional responsibilities associated with vehicle maintenance, and city traffic is often challenging to navigate. Bike sharing, scooter sharing and ride sharing options provide freedom from these anxieties, and these are friendly on both the environment and the wallet.

These alternatives are usually located in bustling cities, so they might not be available in your area. If they do catch your interest, research different properties and browse around. If living without a car seems freeing, it may even change up where you decide to focus your apartment search.

Parking is always going to be a major concern for most renters, but your situation might be unique. Things are always changing, too, and the next time you’re looking for a place to live, there might be even more transportation options out there. Rethinking your priorities can help you find the apartment that meets all your needs.

Photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash

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Eviction Process: What to Do If You Receive an Eviction Notice

Follow these steps if you receive an eviction notice.

The eviction process is stressful. But losing your home isn’t inevitable. It’s possible to delay or prevent eviction. Help is available — you just have to know where to look. And you need to act fast.

What to do after receiving an eviction notice depends on your lease, your state and even your ZIP code. Knowing and defending your rights, working proactively with your landlord or property manager and accessing local, state and federal resources can keep you in your home.

What is an eviction?

“Eviction is a legal process that may be undertaken to remove a tenant from a rental property,” explains a definition on LegalDictionary.net. “The majority of evictions are the result of a tenant’s failure to pay rent, or the tenant’s frequent violation of the terms of the lease or rental agreement. Regardless of the purpose of the eviction, the landlord must follow a process specified by the law.”

Legal grounds for eviction

Landlords and property managers must follow particular steps and a certain order during the eviction process. They’re required to document every step so the eviction will hold up in a court of law.

Landlords must have a legal reason to evict a tenant. Legal grounds for eviction include:

  • Non-payment of rent
  • Incomplete rent payments
  • Criminal activity
  • Committing an act of domestic violence
  • Not abiding by community health and safety standards
  • Not vacating a property when the lease is up
  • Violating the term of the lease by subletting (or subleasing)
  • Housing an unauthorized tenant who doesn’t appear on the lease
  • Keeping an unauthorized pet not specified on the lease
  • Causing significant damage to the property

eviction notice

How long does the eviction process take?

The eviction process varies from state to state. Check the eviction process in your state.

The Eviction Lab provides an overview of eviction rates across the country. The site’s Eviction Tracking System also details the weekly eviction rates in 27 U.S. cities and five states and lists if a state eviction moratorium is in place.

How does the eviction process work?

The eviction process is specific to your state. But the key steps are similar across the country.

The eviction notice

The eviction process begins when a landlord or property manager gives the renter an eviction notice. This is often called a Pay or Quit notice or a Pay or Vacate notice. It serves as a formal, documented warning that a renter violated the lease.

Landlords may post this on the door of a unit. But they usually send it by certified mail so there’s a legal record of the sent and received dates.

This notice tells the renter what they need to do to comply with the lease and avoid eviction. It also lists the number of days permitted before the official eviction notice is filed. The time in between these steps is often just a few days, so it’s important to act immediately.

If you get one of these notices, don’t panic. If you take steps to resolve the issue, your landlord may not file the eviction.

Eviction filing

You must comply with the terms of the lease by the deadline specified in the Pay or Quit Notice. If you don’t, the landlord will file an eviction complaint form to begin the eviction case.

Once a court date is on the books, you’ll receive a summons to court. Both documents will come via delivery by local law enforcement.

Court hearing and judgment

A judge will review documentation in the eviction case. This can include the lease, the payment record and all relevant communication between you and the property owner or landlord.

After reviewing the facts, the judge will issue their ruling. If they find it in your favor, you’ll be allowed to stay in your home.

Even if you win your case, the court case remains part of the public records for up to seven years — just like an eviction. If your next landlord doesn’t read the details of the case, this can negatively influence your background check. That’s why it’s so important to stop the eviction process before it gets to this point, if possible.

If the judge sides with the landlord, you’ll be forced to leave your home. Depending on the rules in your state, unclaimed belongings will be removed through the court process, put in storage or set out on the curb.

Man upset holding an eviction notice.

What to do if you get an eviction notice

It’s normal to feel shocked or overwhelmed by an eviction notice. But since the time between an eviction notice and an eviction filing is short, it’s important to act quickly to stop the process early.

The effort is worth it. An eviction stays on your record for seven years and makes it difficult to rent an apartment in the future. Unpaid rent can damage your credit for years to come. And the stress of eviction has negative physical, mental and emotional effects on the entire household, especially children.

Review the steps below and reach out for help the moment you get an eviction notice or know you’ll be short on the rent. Every step takes time, so pursue multiple resources simultaneously. Don’t wait to hear back from someone before moving down the list.

1. Review your lease

If you’re served with an eviction notice for violating the terms of your lease, review your copy. Make sure any violations you’re accused of are actually listed in the lease.

Paperwork errors can happen. And vague or general language can lead to confusion. If you find an error or wording that’s open to interpretation, contact your landlord for clarification immediately. Document all correspondence.

2. Correct any lease violations

If you’re violating the terms of your lease, change your behavior right away. Unauthorized roommates and pets must find a new place to live immediately. Repair any property damage.

Document your compliance in writing. Supply photos and receipts for repairs. Communicate all positive changes to your property manager or landlord.

3. Make a payment plan

If you’re behind on the rent, create a payment plan and present it to your landlord. This document should tell them why you’re experiencing financial difficulties. It should also give a reasonable repayment schedule.

You can request to delay payments, make smaller payments or ask for rent forgiveness, depending on your financial situation. Stay realistic about what you can afford.

Property managers aren’t obligated to accept your plan. But many would rather have some income and a realistic plan for repayment instead of dealing with the eviction process.

Woman calculating numbers on her laptop.

4. Take advantage of temporary eviction moratoria

If you lost your job during the pandemic (or experienced a loss of income) fill out the CDC Declaration Form and provide a copy to your landlord immediately. The eviction moratorium suspends the eviction process during the COVID-19 public health crisis. This temporary stop to evictions for non-payment of rent extends to June 30, 2021.

This is not a rent forgiveness program. Your rent is still due. But it could buy you some very valuable time to access rent assistance programs and find employment.

Many states are also halting evictions during the pandemic. Regional Housing Legal Services displays temporary state eviction moratoria on an interactive map.

5. Access federal, state and local funding resources

Federal, state and local governments offer emergency rent assistance programs and other resources to help renters secure more affordable housing. You may qualify for more than one program, so reach out to as many as you can, as soon as you can.

The Apartment Guide Eviction Resource Guide lists federal eviction resources. It also helps renters search for service organizations and government programs in their home states. Charitable organizations also offer grants and emergency rent payment assistance.

HUD

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides affordable housing options across the country. Contact a Public Housing Agency (PHA) for rental advice at (800) 569-4287. Or search by state for an agency near you.

Renters who already receive assistance from HUD may qualify for lower rent through income recertification or hardship exemptions. A PHA representative can help you file the correct paperwork.

The NLIHC

The National Low Income Housing Coalition (or NLIHC) maintains a list of emergency rental relief programs by state. It also offers rental assistance.

The CFPB

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) features comprehensive advice for renters facing eviction in eight different languages, including Spanish and Tagalog. It includes resources for active duty service members and a list of emergency rental assistance programs across the country.

211

Get help with housing expenses by calling 211 or searching 211.org. Renters can connect with local health and human service agencies, food and clothing banks, shelters and utility assistance programs.

talking to lawyer about eviction notice

6. Know your rights

If you receive an eviction notice, review your tenant’s rights. These vary by state, but there are commonalities. Your eviction is not valid if a landlord has discriminated against you, violated your rights, harassed you or provided a home that is not safe.

Property managers and landlords can’t discriminate against a renter because of race, religion, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation or physical or mental disability. A landlord can’t evict you because of your marital status, whether or not you have children or the language you speak.

Landlords cannot harass you until you move out or cite personality conflicts as a reason for eviction. They can’t change the locks, throw you out without proper notice or prevent you from entering your home.

Housing law states that tenants have the right to live in clean homes that protect from the elements. They must have working heat, plumbing and electrical systems. Homes should meet all health and housing code standards and be safe and accessible for residents.

7. Contact a fair housing organization

If these rights are violated, call in the experts at your local fair housing agency. These organizations can also help renters facing eviction examine their options. Services and programs vary by state.

“Almost every state has a fair housing organization. And there’s a National Fair Housing Alliance that can help as well,” said Michelle Rydz, executive director of High Plains Fair Housing Center in Grand Forks, North Dakota. “We can help them fill out the paperwork and find money to pay for rent. And we have lawyers that work with us that can help clients when they have a court date.”

8. Get a lawyer

Finding a lawyer might sound like an unnecessary cost. But the eviction process moves quickly and the financial consequences of a judgment are dire. Seek council at the first sign of trouble.

“I think that tenants should seek the advice of counsel at the notice stage,” said Emily Benfer, law professor at Wake Forest School of Law and the chair of The American Bar Association’s COVID-19 Task Force Committee on Eviction.

Retaining an attorney can stop an eviction from becoming part of a renter’s permanent record. Attorneys also help more renters win their cases and stay in their homes.

“Nationwide, only 10 percent of tenants are able to secure representation in eviction cases, compared to 90 percent of landlords,” Benfer said, “Where tenants are not represented, the vast majority lose their case.”

A study conducted by The Kansas City Eviction Project found that 72 percent of tenants without legal representation had monetary damages and/or an eviction judgment entered against them. For renters with attorneys, the percentage fell to 56 percent. Benfer’s article cites a study that shows that 84 percent of New York City renters represented by an attorney remained in their homes.

Free and affordable legal resources

Paying for a lawyer is a major concern for people facing eviction. There are resources available for renters on a budget.

The American Bar Association’s FreeLegalHelp.Org connects low-income renters with federally funded legal aid services. It also includes pro bono attorneys who volunteer their services for free.

Search LawHelp.org for legal assistance and free legal aid programs by state and a list of legal resources. Or visit JustShelter.org to find resources listed by state. The site also links to several legal aid organizations across the country.

woman looking at tablet

How to get an apartment after an eviction

It isn’t easy to get an apartment after an eviction. But it can be done. Some basic tips can help you build up your credit and get back on your feet.

  • Rebuild your credit: Work with a credit counselor, consolidate your debt, reduce your expenses and pay all your bills on time.
  • Get a co-signer: Ask someone you trust with good credit to co-sign your lease to help lessen your landlord’s financial risk and share the financial burden.
  • Find a roommate: Move in with friends or family to minimize expenses, pay off debt and save money for a larger deposit
  • Demonstrate your credibility: Dress to impress and be polite. Tell landlords (ideally in writing) about your eviction and provide evidence that it won’t happen again.
  • Show financial responsibility: offer a larger deposit upfront to minimize the landlord’s financial risk. Produce paycheck stubs and reference letters from your employer and demonstrate how you’re rebuilding your credit.

Keep calm and take action

Eviction isn’t inevitable. By understanding the eviction process, acting quickly and using all your resources, you can hopefully delay or prevent eviction and stay in your home.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.

Source: rent.com

Renting an Older Home: 5 Red Flags to Look Out For

Often, the oldest homes are in some of the most desirable neighborhoods and are more affordable than something brand new in the same location.

It’s tough to beat the charm and character you’ll find when renting an older home or apartment.

However, it is important to remember that older buildings come with their own unique set of quirks.

While some characteristics commonly found in older homes are easy to upgrade or simply based on personal preference, there are a few red flags to keep in mind that might make or break your decision when considering signing a lease.

1. Potential utility costs

Ask your new landlord if they are willing to share a previous month’s utility bill so you can get a sense of how much you’ll be spending on utilities. Efficiency wasn’t necessarily a priority in the past, and things like electricity, heating and water can add up quickly.

Many older homes run on gas heat (or oil!), often a new expense for many.

Ask if any previous tenants have experienced any electrical issues, and take note of outlet placement as this is something you can’t really change once you’ve moved in.

Interior of older home.

2. Check out the windows

Older homes and older windows can often mean cold drafts in the winter months.

Ask your potential landlord if the windows are single or double pane windows — this will be critical when it comes to outside noise and maintaining the temperature you want inside the home.

3. Test appliances and fixtures

Older buildings have their quirks, and it’s likely you’ll deal with one or two if you decide to move forward with renting.

Make sure you know what you’re signing up for by giving things a quick test when you view the unit – flush the toilets, turn on the sink, turn on the stovetop, see if you are familiar with the heating system, etc. For example, if you notice things like slow-flowing drains or a toilet taking forever to flush, it might be a sign of larger plumbing issues down the line.

4. Ask about maintenance and repairs

There’s no way around it – older homes and apartments are generally going to require more maintenance and repair than brand new buildings. Ask the landlord about any major projects or upgrades they have planned for the near future.

Plans to replace kitchen appliances may entice you to stick around. Plans to replace the roof could deter you depending on your situation. As things age, they start to wear out, so be aware that you’re more likely to deal with regular maintenance issues.

Older home, kitchen interior.

5. Watch out for lead paint

Lead paint was banned in the U.S. in the late 70s, so if the building you’re considering existed before then, watch out for lead-based paint in the home or apartment.

Federal law requires landlords to warn tenants of the presence of lead paint at a rental property, which many do through a Lead Warning Statement built into the rental agreement. Additionally, landlords must provide renters with EPA-approved information on lead-based paints and potential hazards — it’s required.

Don’t hesitate to approach this topic before you get to the lease signing process, and keep an eye out for any noticeable peeling paint that may exacerbate the issue.

Renting an older home

Older rental properties might not have all of the luxury amenities of a brand new building, but you are more likely to find a one-of-a-kind space to call home.

Keep these considerations in mind when renting an older apartment or home. Make sure it’s the right fit for you.

Source: rent.com

The Wrong Way to Achieve Wealth

“Mr. Beaver, I am finally starting to earn real money in my medical practice but don’t know the first thing about investing. I need concrete advice on handling money, building wealth, but don’t want to become a slave to money.

“I have met with financial advisers, but lack a grasp of the terms they use and, frankly, am afraid of looking stupid, so I don’t ask them to explain. Do you know of a book that is meant for people like me, who need a basic education in personal finance, but that has a ‘human’ touch as well? Thanks, Karl.”

I just finished reading the answer to what Karl is searching for.  It’s Your Total Wealth: The Heart and Soul of Financial Literacy, by former university business professors Lyle Sussman, Ph.D. and David Dubofsky, Ph.D., CFA.

For anyone starting out in life, Your Total Wealth is the ideal read. It is the most unique and accessible financial advice resource I’ve ever seen and goes well beyond how to make money.

The authors give us a window into what “total wealth” means, how to achieve it, and demonstrate that it is much more than mere numbers. Total wealth is greater than the “stuff” we own or the balance in an investment account.

I wish that I had this book years ago, or as I tell my friends, “When I had hair.”

Applying Financial Definitions to the Real World – An Emotional Annuity

Your Total Wealth has a feature that I’ve never seen before. Pages on the left provide definitions, such as, Margin, Short Selling, Dollar Cost Averaging, Leverage – terms that most people do not understand, with examples. Pages on the right give readers a life lesson connected to the term just defined.  Here’s an example from the book:

Annuity: A financial annuity is a predictable payment stream, such as a retirement annuity offered by insurance companies, designed to pay for as long as you live.

The Life Lesson: An emotional annuity is a predictable, human bond of caring, commitment and concern. It says, “I’m here for you.” The next time you see an elderly couple walking down the street with smiles on their faces, holding hands, you are witnessing an emotional annuity payment.

When adult children take care of aging parents, those children are making an emotional annuity payment.

Your Total Wealth is filled with insights like that, financial terms and life lessons that get you thinking about living a richer life.

The Search for Monetary Wealth Has Its Own Costs

I asked the authors to discuss some of the things people do in the pursuit of financial wealth that lead to disappointment and failure in life.

Sussman: Failure to understand the cost of obsessively focusing on monetary wealth.

Consequences: Think of the Midas touch parable. If you are consumed by making money and greed, realize the cost you’ll pay. You lose family, self-esteem, happiness. These things often become unintended consequences of acquiring financial wealth.

Yes, we need money to live comfortably, but studies show that when our basic needs are met, more income does not mean greater happiness. I have met millionaires who admit missing something despite their great monetary wealth.

Dubofsky: Failure to be happy in your job and constantly chasing higher-paying jobs.

Consequences: You will pray for Fridays and hate Mondays! People with total wealth understand they must actively earn money in a way that does not result in losing the things they enjoy, friends and family.  If you are madly working just to pay one bill, another will be due later in life. 

It is the one that asks, “Did you achieve a balance between acquiring financial wealth and personal fulfilment? Did you wake up every day happy to go to work”?

It is the fortunate person who realizes early in life what results from being dedicated to income alone. They have the wisdom to look into the future, when they are older. And they ask, “What will be my legacy?”  

Sussman: Using credit for the wrong purposes. Borrowing money to go on an expensive vacation. Buying something unnecessary that you can’t afford.

Consequences: You will forgo future financial security. Borrowing money for a house is a sound use of credit, but not for an unaffordable vacation.  Leasing a car is fine – but don’t go overboard and lease something well beyond your means just to look successful. There are lots of “successful” people in bankruptcy court.

After reading the book, I can see it has a lot of sound advice that can help many types of people. Your Total Wealth is about living and how to use money to improve our lives and the people we care about. Giving a copy to young, new clients, would be a great way for a financial adviser to begin a professional relationship.

Attorney at Law, Author of “You and the Law”

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “You and the Law.” Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. “I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift.” 

Source: kiplinger.com