Archive for March, 2011

Fair Housing Act 1968

It’s a hot summer in 1958. The kids are out with their 1 cent bubble gum they got from a pack of playing cards.  Across the street old lady Beth is rounding all the people together at the local diner.  Across the street you hear “You better get off my property, boy.”  “There is no way I am renting to someone like YOU.”  You look over and an angry man is yelling at someone with a different ethnic background.  In 1958 this would be considered OK.  Luckily there were some smart politicians who, during the civil rights movement, put a stop to discrimination of this kind.  The Fair Housing Act was created in 1968.  This act was meant to protect everyone, from the landlords to the tenants. There are some important facts that you will want to know.

  1. Refusal to sell or rent a dwelling to any person because of race, color, religion, handicap, national origin, marital status, or gender is prohibited.  If you find yourself in this kind of position you need to make sure your doing the right thing by the law.  Otherwise you can find yourself in a legal situation.
  2. Posting any advertisement indicating a preference or discrimination due to race, sex, color, religion, national origin, marital status, gender is prohibited.
  3. Coercing, threatening, intimidating, or interfering with a person’s enjoyment or exercise of housing rights based on any discriminatory reasons,  as well as retaliating against any person or organization that aids the exercise or enjoyment of fair housing rights is prohibited.
  4. Setting different terms, conditions, or privileges for any type of rental or property for sale is also prohibited.

Sometimes life finds us in funny places.  One day you can be renting to one of the best tenants of all time.  The next day you can be getting sued for not letting some rent to you.  Thankfully, these rules that have been put in place in order to protect tenant’s  rights as well as the Landlord’s.

What do you think of the FRCA rules?  Do you think they go far enough?  Do you know anyone that has ran into a problem before?

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FCRA Free Credit Reporting Act Link

Here is a link the free credit reporting act in its full text.

http://www.ftc.gov/os/statutes/031224fcra.pdf

Here is a link to Wikipedia’s break down of what it means.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fair_Credit_Reporting_Act

The Eviction Process

It has been six months since you said these words, “I’m so happy! I just filled my apartment with a tenant.”  Now you have come to the realization that you probably should have screened them a little better.  You now have a huge problem… they are not paying your rent!  What do you do now?  You begin the eviction process.  There are several steps you will have to take in order to remove someone from your property. Some of the key steps you will have to take are.

1.       Make sure you are evicting your tenants for the right reasons.  The Fair Housing Act of 1968 states that you will not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, familial status, pregnant women, handicap, and people securing custody of children under the age of 18. (http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/fair_housing_equal_opp/FHLaws)

 

2.       Be sure to check the laws on the county, as well as state level. A lot of counties have specific rules that must be followed.  You can find these rules under the landlord and tenant sections of their civil code.  A common rule to know is that you cannot be retaliating against someone. Reasons to evict someone are refusal to vacate at the end of a lease term, nonpayment of rent, or violating any condition of the original lease agreement.

 

3.       All states will have a time frame for you to post a written notice for your tenant.  Most of the time, you’re going to be looking at between two weeks and thirty days.  You must state the reason for the eviction and the date they must leave by.  You will also need to include an option giving them a way to restore their good standing and avoid the eviction. Some states do not require an option if the eviction is the result of one or more lease agreement violations. Once again, make sure to check your state and county laws.

 

4.       The next step is to get the law involved.  It’s never fun when you have to go to this next step, but it is definitely recommended.  You will have to go to your local court and start an Unlawful Detainer or Dispossess Lawsuit.  You will need the following items when you go to court:

 

a.       Lease Agreement

b.      Copy of Rent checks paid

c.       Copy of Rent invoices

d.      Written Notice

e.      Any evidence you have

 

5.       You have two choices in serving your tenant.  The first is to have someone serve him in person.  It may be difficult as they know it is coming at this point.  Another way to serve them is to send the notice through certified mail and have it posted on the property.

 

6.       If your tenants do not leave after the judgment is placed against them, you will have to file a Writ of Possession.  After that your local authority is eligible to enforce the eviction.

 

 

Being a landlord certainly has its ups and downs.  One day you may be so happy because you think you have made a good choice in placing a tenant.  The next day you may be pulling your hair out over the loss of time, money, and effort spent into removing that same tenant.  Make sure you are screening your tenants properly.  We ALWAYS recommend running an eviction search to make sure they have not been evicted before.  Remember the Idiom: ‘Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice… Shame on me.’

 

Has this happened to any of you?  Is their something else we should be aware of?

 

Let us know,

Accurate Credit Bureau

 

 

Accurate’s Facebook “Likes” Benefitting Wounded Veterans

March 24, 2011

Bastrop- Accurate Credit Bureau website “Likes” are translating into gifts for disabled veterans of the US Armed Forces.  For every 500 “Likes” the website receives, Accurate Credit Bureau will donate a laptop to a wounded veteran.  The small Tenant Screening Company is located in Bastrop TX, but is making visits to San Antonio’s Brooke Army Medical Center to host the give-aways. Donations are being made to veterans of the United States Army, Navy, Marines Corp, and Air Force.

Accurate Credit Bureau specializes in tenant credit and background screening for landlords and real estate agents. The team at Accurate has recently delved into the social media spectrum, creating a facebook page and company blog through WordPress. Eager to see the results of their efforts, a “Like” button was installed on the company’s website, accuratecredit.com. This button, when clicked by a facebook user, will add a “Like” to Accurate’s website as well as show on that user’s facebook page, informing their friends.

Having worked closely with many disabled veterans, Accurate Credit Bureau Founder and CEO, Jeff Bader, had the idea to donate a laptop with every 500 Likes. He says “Giving a wounded hero a laptop allows them to reconnect with their battle buddies, friends and family as they heal and get better.”

The first 500 Likes happened in just a few days time. The first laptop was given to Shanan Lefeat at Brooke Army Medical Center located in San Antonio, Texas. On March 17, Bader personally donated the first laptop during a small celebration.

The 1,000 mark is quickly approaching and the company is in preparations for the next give-away. Make sure to check the Accurate Credit Blog for updates and photos.

To learn more email us at accuratecb@accuratecredit.com

Or visit us at our website http://www.accuratecredit.com

How to Spy the Truth by Brandon Varn

It is a funny thing to recognize when a person is lying. Lie detection tactics will let you know if someone is trying to pull a fast one. Some people may say ignorance is bliss, but in the world of a landlord, knowledge is power. In the military when you become a Non-Commission Officer (or NCO) they make you go through a school now called Warrior’s Training, formerly Primary Leadership Development Course (or PLDC). One of the most important subjects they go over is lie detection. Today I am going to go over the most common ways to tell if someone is lying to you. This can be a powerful tool to any landlord during the tenant screening process.

Imagine this… you’re on the way to meet a prospective tenant for the first time.  You’re happy because you think you may have found someone to fill a vacancy. In comes Tenant Smith. He says “Hi” and smiles naturally as he says it. During the meeting, you as if he has ever been evicted from a residence. He smiles and replies that he hasn’t; only it’s not the same natural smile. The smile looks forced and awkward. He sits there and touches his nose, mouth, or throat a lot when answering your questions. These are all signs that Tenant Smith may not be being completely honest. If you are a mindful landlord who does his/her background checks, knowing how to spot lies will put a lot of power in your hands. Following are three different tips on how to spot when someone may not be telling the truth.

  • Rule 1 Body Language: Touching of the nose, mouth, throat, and scratching behind the ears.  Not being able to sit straight and hiding their palms when answering questions.  While they are directly lying to you they will avoid body gestures.
  • Rule 2 Speech: If someone is speaking slowly to you, stopping or pausing during their story.  It is possibly because they are making it up as they go.  When someone is telling you a story and lying they are probably making most of the facts up as they talk. That pause and slow speech is them figuring out what they are going to tell you.
  • Rule 3 Reactions:  If someone is guilty they are often going to be defensive.  They will put accessible objects in-between you and them.

There are also some great books and sites that you may want to reference yourself.

Living in today’s high tech society, it is easy to find out anything someone has done.  Most people are going to leave a paper trail behind.  However, there are going to be a few who slip through the cracks.  If you can help yourself by knowing how to spot when someone is lying to you, you could really save a lot of time and money.

What would you do if you found a tenant hiding the truth from you?  Do you know any other detection methods?

 

Free to Low-Cost Marketing for Every Tenant Screener by Brandon Varn

Today is an exciting day. You may be asking yourself “why?” Well the answer is simple… today we are going to discuss some of the low-cost and free advertising options available to you. No matter where you are in the world, if you’re a landlord, you’re trying your best to occupy your vacancies. If you’re not using all available means, you may not hit as broad of a market as you would like.  This can be detrimental, not only to the number of applicants you have, but also your bottom line (what’s going on in your pocket). So grab a snack and relax as we go over the various options available to you.

 

Craigslist: This is one of the best free resources to use when looking for a tenant. Believe it or not, most renters now use the internet to find their next living space. A lot of these renters are using Craigslist.  It was funny the first time I heard of Craigslist. I was in the Army and my friend was looking for a place to live. I asked if she had looked in the local classifieds (which is a good source). She laughed at me and told me “That’s the way of the past!” She was going to use Craigslist. Low and behold, there were over 30 different listings in her price range that she could go look at. It cost her as much to look at the ads as it does the landlord to place them; Nothing. Now, there are some things you can do to make your post more attractive than others. Our main suggestion is to include pictures of the rental’s interior and exterior. Many prospective tenants will not even stop to look at posts that do not contain pictures. Secondly, you will want to list the benefits of living there. Whether it is next to a freeway, close to a school, or near a market should also be mentioned. Make sure to list all the benefits of your property’s location. Furthermore, make sure to put more than just “Contact me.” You will want to include, at a minimum, your name/company name, phone number, and email. Another option would be to include a link to your website if you have one. To optimize the number of views, make sure to post ever 48 hours. You may want to post more often, but Craigslist will not allow it. There are also many other sites similar to Craigslist that are gaining in popularity. Here are a few to check out:

 

Sites specified for renters: There are also some good sites made specifically for renters that you may want to check out as well. For example, rent.com and apartments.com offer services that cater to renters. However, these sites have their own rules that you must follow. Their FAQ page will help to answer most of your questions. Sites like these are great, free/low-cost options to consider when accepting applications for your vacancy.

 

Community Bulletin Boards: If you live next to a college, community center, or shopping mall, you are likely to find a Community Bulletin Board. It is a fact that a lot of student renters find their future apartments on bulletin boards around campus.  The most effective method is to make little tabs on the bottom of your ad containing your contact information that people can take with them. This is free most of the time, but you will want to contact whoever is in charge of the bulletin board in order to getyour post approved. Most Bulletin boards require a stamp of approval.

 

Real Estate Agents: I know a lot of landlords are reluctant to involve the services of a Real estate agent as to avoid a fee. However, quite a few of them will allow you to list your rental for free. This can be beneficial for the Real Estate Agents as it helps increase their volume while putting your ad directly into a targeted market.

 

Local Classifieds: This is a dying breed of advertising due to today’s constant internet connectivity. Many people are turning away from newspapers that hold classified ads. However, this is not to say that it does not work. It is just not the first place most people are going to look. Many newspapers are adapting and now allow you to post for free on their online classified ads. However, if you choose to post in their physical newspapers, there will probably be a charge, albeit a small one.

 

Remember… it is always good to use every tool available to you. Free advertisement is hard to beat. It is the guerilla warfare of putting tenants in your rentals. For further enquiry, please do not hesitate to send me an email.

 

What do you think?  Would you use any of these idea’s in the future?  And do you have any more to add?

Accurate Credit Bureau

accurate@accuratecredit.com

 

The Importance of Screening Tenants

In today’s ever evolving society, there are many factors you must consider in order to find a tenant that is going to meet your leasing standards. Factors such as prospective tenant’s prior credit, background/criminal history, and prior rental history should be examined closely.

There are several background screening techniques that can be used. Most of them can be expedited and accessible to you within minutes.  Let’s look into some of these key steps you can take to ensure your safety when renting your home. The most important things to look into are:

1.) Credit Check: A lot of landlords make the mistake of not checking a prospective tenant’s credit history. Not knowing prior financial behavior is going to hurt more often than not. After all, what a tenant has done in the past is a good indication of what they will do in the future.

Example: let’s say tenant, John Smith, comes to rent from Landlord          Jones who is charging $1,300 a month for rental of his home. Tenant          Smith fills out a standard rental application leaving blank any financial        questions such as; have you ever declared bankruptcy, foreclosure,            or had a judgment or lien placed against you? Have you had             any     accounts charged off as bad debt within the last 7 years? Upon          receipt of Smith’s credit check, Jones finds that Smith had a foreclosure          on a $150,000 mortgage with monthly payments of $1,200.  Based on       this information, Smith would obviously not be a good Tenant match for      Landlord Jones.

This is just one common example, but you can see how poor payment history can be a serious red flag in any landlord’s decision. Fortunately, obtaining a credit check through a tenant screening company is an easy process for landlords and real estate agents.

2.) Eviction Search: An eviction occurs when a landlord is forced to remove a tenant from the premises. This is usually due to nonpayment of rent, but there are various other circumstances that can lead to evictions. Evictions can be very costly for you, the landlord.  Not only are you missing out on rent payments during the process but, lawyer’s fees, court costs, and property damage can add up quickly. Getting an eviction search is highly recommended and it is a very simple and low cost search to perform. If you ever find yourself in a situation where you need to evict a tenant, here are some steps you can take http://www.ehow.com/how_4780799_evict-someone.html (listed on ehow.com).

3.) Criminal Record Search: A criminal search can be a good indication of what a tenant’s behavior will be like while in your building. The extra cost of getting a criminal search is definitely worth the benefits. One of the main benefits is the peace of mind knowing your tenant does not have a history of theft, violence, or vandalism. Of course, people can turn over a new leaf and find themselves rectified from all previous transgressions and behaviors. However, when renting out your property, it is always best to find the option with the least amount of risk. The landlord can still be held liable for a lot of what goes on in the residence during the tenant’s occupancy. As an added benefit, most criminal searches also scan the sex offender databases. If an individual has ever been convicted of a sexual offense, they will be listed online under Megan’s Law . Again, knowing what a person has done in the past will always help to guide you in your decision making process.

4.) List of other searches you may want to consider.

a. SSN Verification

b. Prior names and addresses

C. employment verification (companies that do this for you usually have do do this manually so I would recommend doing this one yourself

The main reason for these searches is to verify that the individual is who they say they are and are not using a fraudulent Social Security Number or stolen identity.

Screening tenants is essentially a free service. A lot of landlords charge an application fee for their property to cover the cost of the tenant background check. This has two main advantages. The first is that potential tenants who know they are going to fail a credit or background check usually just walk away and you won’t have to deal with that complication. The second advantage, of course, is knowing that you have a good tenant match for your rental.

I hope you find you can use this information to your advantage.

Thanks,

Brandon C Varn

President

Accurate Credit Bureau

accuratecb@accuratecredit.com