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When it rains, it pours...

…but do you take a prospect to tour the community?  What if there is lightning or thunder, a tornado warning, or high winds?  What if it is getting dark?  What if the humidity is high and your hair will get frizzy?  And of course, the age-old (at least in property management) question, what if the prospect is scary?  What if the prospect is really scary – as in Ted Bundy or Hannibal Lecter scary?    Well, the answer is, “it depends”.   And ere I be accused of equivocating, let me elaborate (I love to elaborate).   No one in the fair housing world really cares what your policy is.  But there are good risk management steps to take to be sure you do have a good one…   Think it out.  Based on staffing, risk tolerance (both of the company and/or owner, as well as the leasing staff), local conditions (usual weather – no hurricanes likely in Iowa; blizzards less likely in Florida), time zone and the like, establish a policy for when and how (photo IDs?) you show apartments that makes sense for your operation. Write it down.  Once you have figured out the when and how you show apartments, create a written and dated policy for your records.  “Put it in writing” is a good idea here. Follow your policy.  Hey, you thought it out and you created a policy; it would be really smart now to adhere to it. Document that you do in fact follow your own......
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I Am Not a Hoarder...

…if I were, I would not be sharing tidbits on the topic that I gleaned from attending a NAA session on hoarding presented by my friends DJ Ryan, Kathy Belville and Craig McMahon from the Kimball, Tirey & St. John’s law firm.  I took copious notes (what a good student am I) and want to share some highlights with you.  This is a very intricate issue with a fair housing component, and it still amazes me how many multifamily industry folks have been dealing with this (as the show of hands at the NAA session revealed).  Now I won’t share all I learned (not because I am greedy, but because that would make this post way too long), but here goes: There are lawsuits involving hoarders (as in you, the landlord get sued) because management either did not act soon or enough or did not respond appropriately. Hoarding is affecting an increasing number of seniors (senior housing alert!). There are more opportunities today to impulse buy – think QVC and the internet. “Collectors” do not create health and safety issues; hoarders do. Hoarding is a disability and you MUST reasonably accommodate under the Fair Housing Act. Hoarding becomes an issue when it affects the health and safety of the residents, others, or your property. Sanitation – this is not a cosmetic issue; it is a health and safety issue when there is no access to sinks, tubs, or toilets, or there are insects and/or rodent droppings. Volume is an issue if......
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Risk: It’s Everywhere!

If there is one thing that property managers know, it’s that we are exposed to risk in all that we do. This “risk” comes in all shapes and forms; some are more evident than others. I am constantly reminding my employees to be careful of their actions as to not expose the property and our owners to possible litigation. Some of the greatest potential risks, as I have found, are in the very small details. Here’s a few that I wanted to point out. First, consider the “golden rule” of leasing—treat everyone consistently. Consistently being the key word.  I have often instructed my leasing agents to use caution when asking where people are from. Generally, in life this is a great conversation starter, but in the realm of fair housing when we open that door and are inquisitive on a prospects nationality this could be construed as discriminatory (if an allegation were to ever occur). The curiosity of national origin presents a very strong basis for a suit if one were ever made against the defendant (i.e. leasing agent). Think about it: why does it matter where they are from? You are trying to lease them an apartment—its best to stick to questions that qualify the prospect. As an alternative, the leasing agent might inquire about the prospects interests, hobbies, etc. While it may seem like a harmless, amiable way to personally get to know a prospect, its best to leave this question alone.   Secondly, the guest card. The guest......
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Implementing a Social Media Policy

Whether you are just getting started with your social media strategy or you’re paving the way for others in the industry, it is imperative to have a policy in place.  In this digital era, your employees need to be well versed in appropriate online behavior when they are representing, not only themselves, but  also the brand.  Policy can be a scary word for employees, which is why your social media policy should really be more of a set of guidelines.  Here are a couple tips to get you started on your set of guidelines: 1.    Team Effort – Creating a social media policy at your company should be a team effort.  Gather a cross-functional group from departments like PR, legal, strategy, sales, marketing and senior leadership.  All of these people will play an important role in crafting your guidelines. 2.    Common Sense – Make sure to include guidelines that you may think are common sense in your policy.  You cannot assume everyone thinks the same way and it is better to be safe than sorry.  Some examples of this would be: ·         Be transparent – If you discuss industry topics, make sure your company name and position are clear and included in your profile description. ·         Be respectful – The Golden Rule still applies: Treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Don’t say hurtful things about residents, the competition, coworkers or the company.  ·         Be professional – Post content in a professional manner and tone.  Also, never disclose company information......
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But It's a Vicious Bunny...

Animal Liability for LandlordsBy Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA As everyone knows, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is the greatest movie ever made. Especially for the scene involving the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog. In it, several of the Knights of the Round Table are cut down in a blood bath by a particularly vicious, cute, cuddly white bunny rabbit. Why? They were not aware of its dangerous propensities! Their Scottish guide tried to warn them before the unlucky Knights marched into certain death. He tried, but they wouldn't listen.* We have already discussed the issue of control as being the hook on which a landlord will/can be liable for injuries related to property. If the landlord has control over the property in question, and could have taken steps to prevent an injury because of that control, they will not be able to avoid responsibility for injuries related to dangerous conditions on that property they control. Which leads to the obvious question: What about dogs? Well, I mean animals. Cats, Parakeets, Vicious bunnies, etc. What's a landlord to do about these animals? Well, again, it's all very clear. It depends on how dangerous the particular animal is, what the landlord knows, and where the animal is. If the animal is not on property the landlord controls, there is no duty. This is in accord with our earlier control discussion. However, if the animal is a permanent guest of the landlord's tenant, the issue is two-fold: 1. The animal's dangerous propensity.......
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Failure to Inspect or Repair = Trouble

By Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA I once lived in house in downtown San Jose that was next to an abandoned "historic" house. The house was abandoned because it was "historic." The city had an ordinance that prevented the owner from demolishing the building and rebuilding it, or selling it. Because the house was built before a certain time, the city ordinance prohibited him from doing anything with the property other than fixing it up. Rather than doing that, in protest, he did nothing with the property. And I mean nothing, other than board it up. Mistake! You see it was downtown San Jose. It was right in the middle of urban, night time activities. The abandoned home soon became a sort of an attractive spot for the seedier and less fortunate souls. We frequently had to call the police. There were the typical late night guests, drinking, broken glass, and other non-printable activities going on in there. After enough of these visits, the neighbors reported the landlord to the city, and hearings were held. Fines were levied. Landlords got mad. Fences were put up. Pulling the restrictive ordinance and the obstinacy of the landlord out of the equation, the landlord had a duty to know what was going on at his property. He should have inspected it, even if he did not have tenants. What kinds of things can happen, from a legal perspective, if you do not inspect and repair? What will happen if the......
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