Companion Animals

A prospective tenant is requesting accommodations for their service animal, but you have a strict “No Pet” policy, what do you do? How do you make sure that you are in compliance with The New Mexico Service Animal Act and the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)? What are the different types of service animals and why does that matter? Can you deny a request? Can you charge a fee? Here we will take a look at these questions and make sure that you are in compliance with the law.

New Mexico Service Animal Act and the ADA

The New Mexico Service Animal Acts states that public accommodations must allow your “qualified service animal” to accompany you. A “qualified service animal”, is a service dog or service miniature horse that is trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability. The laws specifically exclude emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy animals, which are defined as animals that accompany people with disabilities, but do not perform work or tasks for them and do not accompany them at all times.

The ADA states that a service animal is a dog or miniature horse that has been trained to perform disability-related tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability. Examples of service animals that must be allowed are hearing dogs, guide dogs, psychiatric service animals, and allergen alert animals.

Types of Service Animals

According to the USA Service Dog Registration, there are 4 specific types of service animals and depending on the type of service animal the tenant has, effects their right under federal and state legislation.

1.“ Emotional support animal”, “comfort animal” or “therapy animal” means an animal selected to accompany an individual with a disability that does not work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability and does not accompany at all times an individual with a disability;

2.”Qualified service animal” means any qualified service dog or qualified service miniature horse that has been or is being trained to provide assistance to an individual with a disability; but “qualified service animal” does not include a pet, an emotional support animal, a comfort animal or a therapy animal;

3.”Qualified service dog” means a dog that has been trained or is being trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; and

4.” Qualified service miniature horse” means a miniature horse that has been trained or is being trained to work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability who has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

Can You Charge Extra

No. The New Mexico Service Animal Act states “A person shall not be required to pay any additional charges for the qualified service animal, but may be liable for any damage done by the qualified service animal; provided that persons without disabilities would be liable for similar damage”

Can You Ever Deny a Request

Yes. If a service animal poses a direct threat of significant harm to the health or safety of others. Lastly, remember that the ADA prohibits you from asking questions about their disability, as well as, demanding to see certification or other proof of the service animal’s training or status. If it is not apparent to you what the service animal is for, you may ask whether it is a service animal, and what work or task(s) it has been trained to perform.

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Presenting A Rental

If you think you’re ready to market your rental unit to potential renters, think again. It’s a good idea to take a little inventory on how you will debut your investment to the perfect tenant. Although you may have a suitable rental unit available, sometimes it takes a little boost in presentation to seal the deal. A few small touches can make the difference between you collecting monthly rent fast or letting the unit sit for months unoccupied. Here are some staging tips you need to know to make your rental outshine the rest.

Curb Appeal

They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. When it comes to rental units, the outside can be a deal maker or breaker. The first impression of your rental should bring nothing but good vibes. Power wash the driveway and siding of the home to ensure it looks clean and fresh. Mow the lawn and trim the bushes so that the house can become the focal point. Repaint chipped or dull paint to make the colors pop in the eyes of potential renters. Be sure to wash the windows to remove dirt so that they are easy to see out of. The first impression of your rental should bring nothing but good vibes.

Clean Clean Clean

The cleanliness of your rental will play a direct role on how fast the unit is rented. Showing a dirty rental to potential renters is a waste of time and energy. A renter wants to know that you care about your property and are willing to take care of it. Cleaning the unit is an effective way to show that you care about your investment. Whether you do it yourself or have the professionals do it, cleaning the unit from top to bottom is a must; no exceptions.

Make it Neutral

Everyone has their own style. You want a potential renter to come into your vacancy and feel as if they can make it a home of their own. The best way to show the warmth of a lived-in space while exhibiting a blank canvas is to use neutral colors and style. Avoid gender specific pieces in the décor. Keep everything in the middle of the spectrum so that potential renters can envision how they will make themselves at home.

Renters Insurance

As a property owner, there is no doubt that you want to secure your investment by purchasing the necessary insurance on your own behalf. There is a myriad of things that could go wrong that you would be held liable for otherwise. However, what about being held liable for something that occurred in one of your units that a tenant is at fault? Even if no one plays the blame game, can you guarantee rent will
be collected if your tenant is sued for everything they are worth? The best way to ensure a little peace of mind is to require your tenants to have renter’s insurance. Here are a few reasons why it is important to make renters insurance apart of your lease agreement.

A Little Bit Goes A Long Way
The great thing about renter’s insurance is that for a low cost, property and liability will be covered in the event of an accident or occurrence. Renter’s insurance covers perils like fire, explosion, lightning, and theft. If someone is hurt in a tenant’s unit, renter’s insurance can help cover the cost of bodily injury or property damage while in the unit. In many cases, renter’s insurance can be added to an existing personal auto policy.

See Where They Are Financially
If your potential tenants are finding it hard to grasp the concept of required renter’s insurance, it may be time to reconsider the tenant. Renter’s insurance is a security blanket for both parties to aid in the event of loss or injury. This low-cost insurance should not make or break the budget of a renter. If a tenant cannot handle a small change in the monotony, can they afford to rent your unit?

Covered Deductible
Did you know that the renter’s insurance policy of your tenant can cover your policy’s deductible? In the unfortunate event that a tenant damages your building, your policy may cover the damage, but you will have to foot the bill for the deductible if your tenant has no insurance. Although any accidental
damage can be an inconvenience, the benefit of a covered deductible can help to ease the blow.

Leasing Season

Rental leasing season is upon us so it’s time to get your properties up to speed and ready for new tenants. Did you know that May through September are when most renters are on the prowl for new digs? Schooling, weather, and the end of tax season may play a huge role in when tenants are looking to make a move and sign on the dotted line. Whatever the reason, it’s important to make sure that your property stands out above the rest. Here a few ways to make your properties shine during leasing season.

Clean it Up
Now is the time to ensure your team is ready to get to work. Your cleaning crew will need to be on deck to clean move-outs promptly. The landscaping team will have to keep the grounds in tip top shape to help attract new tenants to the property. Now is also a good time to make the necessary repairs and cosmetic upgrades to units so they are in optimum shape for new tenants. Showing a little extra TLC during this time can help to fill those vacancies faster.

Price it Right
Now that your units are ready, it’s time to review pricing. Do some quick research to find out what similar units are going for in the area. Rental prices can drift from year to year so it’s important to stay current to make sure the price is right. Rental specials can sweeten the pot for new potential tenants. A rent that is too high will scare prospective tenants away. Talk with owners about pricing so that everyone is on the same page to create the best outcome so that everyone wins.

Be Prepared
Leasing season may bring higher traffic through your offices. Take the time before the season begins to make sure all paperwork and policies are up to date. Get any extra filing done that may be piling up. Have a strong, experienced office staff in place to handle the higher volume of inspections, screening, marketing, and prospect follow-ups.

Security Deposits

Your rental property is a golden source of revolving income that can add a pretty penny to your earnings. Once you have found the perfect tenant to occupy your space, you will need to hack out the fine print details; including the security deposit. The security deposit helps to bridge the gap between certain and uncertain instances that may occur during the lease period. Excessive wear and tear, unpaid
rents, and damages can all add up in costs very quickly. Unmet obligations can take a pretty penny out of your pocket if there is nothing to cover the charges. So how much is a good price for a security deposit for your property? Here is a quick guide on how much to charge tenants for the security deposit.

Know Your Limits
There are some states that have do not have a limit on how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. However, some states limit the total security deposit to no more than two times the monthly rent. Charging on the high end of two times the monthly rent or more will encourage tenants who move in to be responsible and respect the unit.

Who Should Be Charged What                                                                                         High risk tenants who have passed your tenant screening process, but have less than stunning rental or credit history, should be charged a higher security deposit. Someone who has a glowing rental and credit history poses less of a threat and it may be more profitable to offer a lower security deposit. Seniors also pose a lower risk to cause damage. Review the fair housing laws in your state to ensure this
doesn’t breach any laws. Use your discretion based on the tenant to help secure your investment.

Don’t Be the Bad Guy
Moving can be quite the daunting task. There is a ton of money spent on actual moving costs, setting up utilities, and other expenses procured during the process. You don’t want to be the one to add insult to injury by making your new tenant pay an unreasonable amount for the security. Keep these circumstances in mind when you assign a price for the security deposit. Showing empathy to your tenant’s situation can create a great rapport from the start of your rental relationship.

Don’t Be the Nice Guy
Although you want to be a considerate landlord, you don’t want to incur a loss. Being considerate of others does not mean that you should get the short end of the stick. The security deposit is a very crucial element of funds needed in every leasing agreement and should never be waived. Protect your investment at all costs.

How to Screen for the Perfect Tenant

When you have invested your time and money into a property, it’s no wonder that you want everything
to be properly maintained. Apart from reasonable wear and tear, a dwelling should be kept in decent
condition with each new tenant. Although you may have a few standard practices in place to screen
your tenants, it never hurts to learn new ways to ensure that you are placing the best tenants for your
rental. Here are a few tips on how to screen for the perfect tenant.

Treat Everyone Fairly
The Federal Fair Housing Act strictly prohibits discrimination of any kind based on race, sex, nationalorigin, religion, familial status, or a disability. You will have to treat everyone fairly based on thesecriterions when screening for your tenant. Keep in mind that your state may have additional laws toadhere to regarding this matter.

Look for Stability
The best tenants are those who maintain stability. Ideally, you will want a tenant who will stay put in your property to ensure a steady stream of income. Does this tenant have staying power? Look for things like rental and employment history to determine how stable your potential tenant truly is. Do they switch jobs often? Does this person move from place to place? Chances are they will do the same soon if they move into your rental.

Criminal History
It’s important to make sure that you run a thorough criminal check on any potential tenants. To do a criminal background check, you will need the full legal name and date of birth. The tricky thing about criminal background checks is that there is no nationwide database of criminal records. This is where a rental management company can come in handy to handle the tough leg work and get you the criminal
records you need.

Credit
Unless you are a gambler and feel like taking a risk, it’s best to choose a tenant with good credit. Run  a credit check to see if this person pays their bills on time. Rent is typically the most expensive bill a person can have so if the potential can’t pay smaller bills on time, will they be able to pay your rental fee? When looking at the credit report, keep an eye out for prior evictions, judgements, and bankruptcies. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about any of your findings to get more information.

Trust Your Gut
Some people are very good talkers. With the “gift of gab”, it can be easy for a potential tenant to explain away the flaws in their history. Although some people genuinely have a rough patch here and there, a consistent pattern of less than perfect history can mean that this is not the best tenant for your
property.

Pool Safety

PoolImage

As a landlord or property manager, offering use of a swimming pool is a great way to attract more tenants. Especially in New Mexico where the summer temperatures can reach 100 degrees. Swimming is a great way to exercise, relax, and keep the kids entertained during the seemingly endless school breaks. But as with any amenity, maintenance and safety regulations must be followed to the letter to avoid accidents and fines.

Across the board, there are basic safety guidelines for any pool. The CDC states: “ there was an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings (non-boating related) annually in the United States — about ten deaths per day. An additional 332 people died each year from drowning in boating-related incidents.” In addition to drowning-related deaths, nonfatal drowning injuries can cause severe brain damage that may result in long-term disabilities such as memory problems, learning disabilities, and permanent loss of basic functioning (e.g., permanent vegetative state).

So, as you can see, pool safety should be one of your top priorities as a property manager. People’s lives literally depend on it.

Most rental properties are required to have child-proof fencing with a locking gate. This fencing isn’t just for children’s safety. It also prevents unauthorized access by guests and trespassers. Even someone unauthorized to swim in the pool can potentially sue the property owner in the event of an accident, so it’s obviously in the management’s best interest to keep this fence in good condition and make sure it stays locked when the pool isn’t in use.

In addition to making sure the pool area is secure, assuring that the water is clean is also very important. When there isn’t enough chlorine in the pool, algae and other organisms can grow. Once your pool has an algae problem, it will have to be drained and refilled to make sure no one gets sick from exposure. It’s imperative that your filtration system works properly and is checked often, along with the chlorine levels. The pool should also be cleared of leaves, dirt and other debris on a daily basis. If pool maintenance is something you’re not familiar with, consider hiring a professional to make sure everything is as it should be.

On a monthly basis, Monthly tasks include, testing for water hardness (calcium content), pH, dissolved solids, and total alkalinity — and adding chemicals as needed, cleaning the pool filter, and checking the operation of the pump and motor. You can view a complete list of pool maintenance tasks here.

As far as local standards are concerned, it’s imperative that you familiarize yourself with your city’s ordinances. In Albuquerque, there is a checklist for pool certification. Certification is required by the city. Failure to follow these guidelines can result in hefty fines or shut-downs of your amenity. This will not make your current, or prospective tenants happy. Don’t skimp. It’s not worth it, dangerous, and could lead to loss of tenant retention or lawsuits.

While you are doing your part, make sure these following items are included in your lease pool addendum so your tenants are clear about their responsibilities as well:

  • Tenants use the pool at their own risk.
  • The landlord should be notified immediately if something needs to be fixed.
  • Users must comply with manufacturer instructions and recommendations when using the pool equipment.
  • The gate must be locked and the pool deck free of obstructions.
  • If you elect to allow tenants to perform routine maintenance, such as adding chlorine and removing debris, all such maintenance tasks should be specified.

Happy and healthy tenants mean happy (and wealthy) landlords. As we gear up for the summer months, take the necessary steps to make sure you are 100% compliant with local swimming pool laws.

Rhino Realty offers property management and commercial real estate sales in New Mexico, Albuquerque, Los Lunas, Rio Rancho, and Bernalillo. For more information, please contact us at  505-856-0033 or visit us at www.RhinoRentalsNM.com