As property managers, we confront the ever-changing process of attracting and qualifying new residents to fill vacancies. With the legal landscape also changing, it’s increasingly important to understand the laws governing rental applications in the state where we manage our rental properties.
Let’s begin with the state having the largest population; California. Here’s what a potential renter is told on the state’s web site for information by The Department of Consumer Affairs on the topic of “Looking for a Rental Unit” (http://www.dca.ca.gov/publications/landlordbook/looking.shtml): “Before renting to you, most landlords will ask you to fill out a written rental application form. A rental application is different from a rental agreement. The rental application is like a job or credit application. The landlord will use it to decide whether to rent to you.” Then it lists all the information that a rental application form will probably ask for and reminds the potential renter, “The application also may contain an authorization for the landlord to obtain a copy of your credit report, which will show the landlord how you have handled your financial obligations in the past.”
No matter what state you’re operating your property management business in, it pays to carefully study the instructions and clarifications that the state is posting to educate the public on their rights and the responsibilities of owner-landlords.
One of the other most populous states is Florida. The Division of Consumer Services of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has a similar page which explains the highlights of “Florida’s Landlord/Tenant Law—Summary of Chapter 83, Part II—Florida Statutes” (http://www.800helpfla.com/landlord_text.html). The State of Florida has its own style of explaining the “Oral and Written Rental Agreements” which they succinctly describe as follows: “A rental agreement is an agreement to rent property (commonly referred to as leases). Rental agreements may be either written or oral. “Most rental agreements are written because oral agreements can be subject to misunderstandings and are difficult to prove. A written rental agreement can be a formal contract, or simply a copy of a letter stating the rights and obligations of both the landlord and tenant. “Florida law requires that notices to and from a landlord must be in writing, even if the rental agreement is oral. You should always retain a copy of any correspondence to and from your landlord.”
Section 83.46(2), F. S.
“If the rental agreement contains no provision as to duration of the tenancy, the duration is determined by the periods for which rent is payable (week-to-week, month-to-month, etc.). All other terms are either those specifically addressed by law or those that are part of the agreement between you and your landlord.”
My point is that as property managers we need both continuing updates and sometimes legal guidance on what the state laws dictate and how they may have been recently changed and interpreted. Before you go to any great expense, locate, print out and study the specific text in your state’s website and make sure your rental applications comply specifically with the rules that protect the rights of anyone who may be applying to fill one of your vacancies.
In future articles I hope to offer more ideas on ways to simplify the process of making sure you have a rental agreement that is consumer-friendly and legally “bullet-proof”.