Do Landlords Have to Allow Support Animals If They Have a No Pet Policy?

With changing regulations, subdivision restrictions, municipal ordinances, state and federal laws, landlords certainly have a lot to keep up with today to make sure they stay compliant in their rental business.   I’ve been in the business over 40 years, have an interest-and a fair understanding of- laws that affect real estate, yet still find it challenging to stay updated. Given this, I can only imagine the challenge faced by someone with a full-time career who also owns rental properties as an investment. Perhaps, this might be a compelling reason to consider hiring a professional property manager for your rentals. However, that decision brings its own complexities, which I’ll delve into in a future article.

A recurring issue for landlords, which prompts many questions from agents in our firm, clients, and other landlords, revolves around service animals. The question is usually framed something like, “I don’t want any pets in my rental properties, so I have a strict no-pet policy but am I obligated to allow dogs or other pets if the tenant claims it’s a ‘service animal’?” Before I go further, let me remind you, I am not an attorney, this isn’t legal advice—in fact, it’s not advice at all. I’m merely sharing what I’ve learned on the topic to heighten awareness of the issue and to encourage those that are not familiar with it to learn what they need to learn or to seek out proper legal guidance to avoid problems.

Does it Matter??

Definitely a philosophical question but here we are talking about Smart Homes. Indeed, the adoption and implementation of the Matter Protocol could end up having a substantial impact within the real estate industry and all its intertwined industries. Before I get into why that is let me tell you what Matter is. In the context of smart homes, a protocol like Matter would define the rules and specifications for how smart devices, such as lights, thermostats, door locks, and more, communicate with each other over a network within a single ecosystem. So, here’s why I think it could have a huge impact in real estate:

  1. Seamless Integration: This protocol ensures that devices from different manufacturers work harmoniously together. This simplifies the marketing of smart homes, assuring buyers that their devices will seamlessly integrate.
  2. Increased Property Value: Homes equipped with Matter Protocol devices can offer a competitive edge if marketed correctly. Buyers are drawn to properties with a unified and ready-to-use smart home system, potentially leading to higher property values and lower insurance rates.
  3. Efficient Transactions: Home inspectors and buyers should easily be able to evaluate integrated smart home systems, reducing some of the transactional complexities. In fact, an ASHI certified inspector should be able to understand 5 of the biggest Smart Home technologies.
  4. Futureproofing: Matter Protocol maintains compatibility as technology evolves. In other words, no planned obsolescence. Remember when Apple got fined over $300m for slowing down your device?? This reassures buyers that their smart home investments won’t quickly become outdated.
  5. Diverse Device Selection: The protocol encourages a wider range of devices adhering to the same standard. Smart Home Certified real estate professionals can offer a variety of devices that suit buyers’ preferences.
  6. Simplified Management: Property managers benefit from streamlined smart home system maintenance. A uniform protocol minimizes operational challenges across multiple properties.
  7. Sustainability Appeal: The protocol supports energy-efficient practices, attracting eco-conscious buyers and aligning with green trends.

This protocol is backed by some of the biggest players in the Smart Home industry. Amazon, Apple, Google, Samsung, et al. are all continually developing more products for this protocol. Even with these names involved, the rollout of the hardware has been slow and it’s still pretty much lighting, plugs and shades. Level Lock is the one smart lock with a little secret: it hides a Thread radio in its hardware that will support Matter. Huh? Yeah, exactly. There’s a lot to this Smart Home stuff so if you‚Äôre buying or selling a home with Smart Home integrations, hire an agent who understands what this all means to the overall transaction– the only Smart Home Certified CRS agent in the Greater St. Louis area, John Donati.*

John Donati, Smart Home Certified St Louis Realtor
About the author…
John Donati, REALTOR®
Smart Home Certified
Accredited Buyer’s Representative (ABR¬Æ)
Military Relocation Professional (MRP)

St. Louis City Considers New Ordinance Targeting Landlords

Last month, city of St Louis mayor, Tishaura Jones, signed into law a new ordinance which provides “access to legal representation for tenants facing eviction or equivalent proceedings”.  Surprisingly, it does not appear that the tenant needs to show a final hardship or need for “full legal representation” to be provided at no cost as the bill defines a “covered individual” as “any residential tenant who occupies a dwelling located within the City under a claim of legal right, other than the legal property owner of the dwelling.”  Another interesting thing in the ordinance is that it appears to include legal representation for not only in the case of an eviction but also in the case of a non-renewal of a lease as Section Four of the ordinance (General Provisions of Right To Counsel for Tenants In Covered Proceedings) states “A covered individual may access legal representation as provided in this ordinance as soon as a landlord provides notice to terminate or not renew a tenancy, or as soon thereafter as is practicable.”

Then, according to reports, yesterday, St. Louis Aldermanic President Megan Green announced that legislation was being drafted to require landlords in the City of St Louis to provide contact information as part of the City’s occupancy permit process.  Aldermanic President Green stated “It will help the city better keep track of who is owning certain properties so if there’s issues with properties there’s a local agent requirement, instead of trying to track down a random person registered to an LLC, which is often a challenge,”  Landlords will also be required to report the rental amount they are charging according to Green.

Green also announced that the Board of Aldermen plan to consider a “tenants bill of rights” as well.

Ordinance 71694 – Providing Legal Representation to Tenants Facing Eviction

(click on image below for entire ordinance)

Ordinance 71694 - Providing Legal Representation to Tenants Facing Eviction

Nearly Forty Percent Of The Renters In Missouri Feel They May Face Eviction Within The Next 2 Months

According to the results of the Household Pulse Survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau during the week of  October 5 – October 17, about 1 in 8 tenants in Missouri reported they are not current on rent and a staggering 37.87% said they are somewhat likely to face eviction in the next 2-months.

Tenant Delinquencies In Missouri (Infographic)

(click for full-size version)

Tenant Delinquencies In Missouri (Infographic)




Eviction Moratorium Extended To July 31st But Is The Last Extension

The Director for the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Dr. Rochelle Walensky, signed an extension to the eviction moratorium extending its expiration from June 30, 2021 to July 31, 2021.  The CDC has indicated that “this is intended to be the final extension of the moratorium.”

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Federal Court Overturns the CDC Ordered Eviction Moratorium

UPDATE:  After the decision by to overturn the eviction moratorium was decided upon by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on May 5th, at 6:54pm that evening the U.S. Government filed a notice of appeal as well as a motion for an emergency stay to not have the eviction moratorium lifted until after the appeal.   Judge Dabney L. Friedrich through a Minute Order, granted the stay, thereby leaving the eviction moratorium in place for now but noting that “This Minute Order should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of the defendants’ motion.”  The judge allowed the plaintiff’s until May  12th to file opposition to the motion to stay and then the U.S. government 4 days to respond to the plaintiff’s opposition.

So, for now, the eviction moratorium stands…

MINUTE ORDER. Before the Court is the defendants’ 57 Emergency Motion for a Stay Pending Appeal of this Court’s 53 May 5, 2021 Order vacating the national eviction moratorium at 86 Fed. Reg. 16,731. In this emergency motion, the defendants request an immediate administrative stay to give this Court time to consider and rule upon its motion to stay this case pending appeal. Alternatively, the defendants request that the Court stay its 53 May 5, 2021 Order as to all parties except for the plaintiffs. Defs.’ Emergency Mot. for a Stay Pending Appeal at 1 n.1, 8-9, Dkt. 57. Although the plaintiffs have not yet filed an opposition to the defendants’ motion, which was filed at 6:54 p.m. this evening, the defendants represent that the plaintiffs oppose the motion. Id. at 1 n.1. In order to give the Court time to consider the merits of the defendants’ 57 Emergency Motion for a Stay Pending Appeal, and the plaintiffs time to file an opposition to the motion, the Court will grant the defendants’ request for a temporary administrative stay.

This Minute Order should not be construed in any way as a ruling on the merits of the defendants’ motion. The Court notes, however, that, as the Court has explained, see Mem. Op. at 19, Dkt. 54, the law in this Circuit is clear: where a court concludes that an agency has exceeded its statutory authority, as this Court has done here, see Mem. Op. at 17, vacatur of the rule is the proper remedy in this Circuit. See Nat’l Mining Ass’n v. U.S. Army Corps of Eng’rs, 145 F.3d 1399, 1409 (D.C. Cir. 1998). Based on this clear authority, courts in this Circuit do not restrict vacatur only to those plaintiffs before the Court. See, e.g., O.A. v. Trump, 404 F. Supp. 3d 109, 152-53 (D.D.C. 2019). Indeed, the government has been unable to point to a single case in which a court in this Circuit has done so. See Mot. Hr’g Rough Tr. at 31.

Accordingly, it is ORDERED that the Court’s 53 May 5, 2021 Order is administratively STAYED. It is further ORDERED that the plaintiffs shall file any opposition to the defendants’ motion on or before May 12, 2021, and the defendants shall file any reply within four days of the date the plaintiffs’ opposition is filed. So Ordered by Judge Dabney L. Friedrich on May 5, 2021. (lcdlf1)

(Entered: 05/05/2021)

Today, United States District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich issued an oder setting aside the CDC Ordered nationwide eviction moratorium that, prior to this order, was in effect until June 30, 2021.  For the entire opinion from the court, click “>HERE and then scroll down to the first big red button titled “Court Order Lifting Rental Eviction Moratorium May 5, 2021”.

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COVID-19 Pandemic Driven Serious Mortgage Delinquencies To Highest Levels Since The Great Recession

According to a report just released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), titled “Housing insecurity and the COVID-19 pandemic“, there are over 2 million homeowners that have fallen behind at least three months on their mortgage payments.  This represents a 250% increase from pre-Covid-19 levels and is now at a level we haven’t seen since the height of the Great Recession in 2010.

Homeowners with an FHA mortgage delinquency rates double rate for all loans:

As the chart below shows, homeowners with an FHA mortgage hit a serious mortgage delinquency rate of 10.8% during the 3rd quarter of 2020, with the rate for all mortgages was just under half that at 5.2%.

Serious Mortgage Delinquency Rate By Loan Type- Q1 2005 – Q3 2020

Seroious Mortgage Delinquency Rate By Loan Type- Q1 2005 - Q3 2020

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Control your investments with self-directed IRA investing

Jeremy Vlasich  I have a lot of people ask me about what to invest in and how.  Not every time, but often, the self-directed IRA investments can be great options for people that are in the real estate industry.  For this post, I wanted to go over the basic concept and give some actual real-life examples.  Once you read this, if you still need help or have questions, you are more than welcome to reach out.  We are here to serve and help!

What is an IRA and what does a “self-directed” IRA mean?  This is an Individual Retirement Account.  There are two options:

  • Roth IRA – contributions are post-tax and then the growth is tax-free for life
  • Traditional IRA – contributions are pre-tax and then the growth deferred

During the 2020 year, you can contribute $6k a year and add $1k if you are over 50. There are income limits for contributions for the Roth IRA and the tax-deductible traditional.  However, you can always contribute to the traditional but the income limit determines if the IRA is tax-deductible or not.  All traditional IRA’s are tax-deferred.  The Roth IRA is the only tax-free growth IRA.

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Rental Income Rebounding Somewhat After Taking a Dive

As a result of the impact of COVID-19 on the economy, as well as the impact of eviction moratoriums and the like, residential rental income for the apartment sector in the U.S. took a nose dive during the 2nd quarter of 2020.  As the chart below shows, the total revenue for businesses from Rental and Leasing, dropped to $156 Billion during the 2nd quarter of last year, a decline of 16% from the quarter before when the total revenue was nearly $186 Billion.  During the 3rd quarter however, rental revenue rebounded to nearly $180 Billion.

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Total Revenue For Real Estate and Rental and Leasing, Establishments Subject to Federal Income Tax – 2012 – Present

(click on chart for Live Chart)

Total Revenue For Real Estate and Rental and Leasing, Establishments Subject to Federal Income Tax - 2012 - Present

Individual landlords appear to be doing better…

As the chart below shows, individual landlords appear to have fared a better than their corporate counterparts.  Residential rental revenue for individuals fell over the summer months of last year to a low of $791 Billion in June which was a decline of about 1.6% from March 2020 when the rental revenue was $804 Billion.  In November, the rental revenue grew to $818.7 Billion which represents the highest level ever.

Rental Income of Individuals – 2000 – Present

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ental Income of Individuals - 2000 - Present

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CDC Issues Order Halting Residential Evictions Through Year-End

Yesterday, the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the issuance of an order temporarily halting all residential evictions in the United States through December 31, 2020.  The CDC indicated this action was being taken “to prevent further spread of COVID-19”.

Details of the order….

Under the order, a landlord or other owner of residential property, “shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which this Order applies during the effective period of the Order.”  So, it’s pretty simple, if you own a residential property in the U.S. that has a tenant in it, this order applies to you.  The only exception is the American Samoa, which, at the time of the order, had not cases of COVID-19 reported.

Tenants are still obligated for rental payments…

The order makes it clear that it does not remove the tenant’s obligations to pay rent, nor the landlord’s ability to charge late fees, penalties, etc.  Specifically, the order states:  “This order does not relieve any individual of any obligation to pay rent, make a housing payment, or comply with any other obligation that the individual may have under a tenancy, lease, or similar contract. Nothing in this Order precludes the charging or collecting of fees, penalties, or interest as a result of the failure to pay rent or other housing payment on a timely basis, under the terms of any applicable contract.

Tenants must submit a declaration form to take advantage of this protection…

According to the order, for a tenant to receive the protection under this order, an executed copy of a Declaration form must be submitted to their landlord, owner, or property manager.

See the entire order here.

Download the Declaration Form for tenants here.

St Louis County Judge Issues Order Stopping Evictions

Yesterday, Michael D. Burton, Presiding Judge of the Circuity Court of St Louis County, signed an order that, until further notice, directed the St Louis County Sheriff’s office to “refrain from executing any writs of restitution (eviction of a tenant), writs of replevin, writs of attachment, writs of partition and any other writs of execution that require them to come into direct contact with the general public..”.  In addition, putting a stop to evictions of tenants in St Louis County this order stops the additional actions listed as well but preventing evictions is probably the most significant part of the order.

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HUD, Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Suspend Foreclosures for at least 60 days

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) (which oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac), directed their loan servicers to suspect foreclosures and evictions for at least 60 days to help those people affected.

In a statement, Mark Calabria, the Director of the FHFA, said that borrowers affected by the coronavirus who are having difficulty paying their mortgages should reach out to the mortgage servicers as soon as possible.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said that “The halting of all foreclosure actions and evictions for the next 60 days will provide homeowners with some peace of mind during these trying times,”

Bernie’s Plan For Housing Likely To Negatively Impact Investors

Let me begin with this is not a political statement and the purpose of this site is not about politics but about real estate.  Having said that, this morning I came across the plans for the housing market that Bernie Sanders is proposing if he is elected President which I had not seen before.  Upon reviewing his plan (it is on his official site) I realized that while many of the components of it sound good (like “End homelessness and ensure fair housing for all”) many of his promises in this area sound like things that would negatively impact investors and the housing market as a whole.

The following are the Key Points to the Bernie Sanders housing plan from his website (I have included the complete list):

  • End the housing crisis by investing $2.5 trillion to build nearly 10 million permanently affordable housing units.
  • Protect tenants by implementing a national rent control standard, a “just-cause” requirement for evictions, and ensuring the right to counsel in housing disputes.
  • Make rent affordable by making Section 8 vouchers available to all eligible families without a waitlist and strengthening the Fair Housing Act.
  • Combat gentrification, exclusionary zoning, segregation, and speculation.
  • End homelessness and ensure fair housing for all
  • Revitalize public housing by investing $70 billion to repair, decarbonize, and build new public housing.

Under the “When Bernie is president, he will” section are some of the things he plans to do to accomplish the above goals (this list is rather extensive on his site so I have only included a sampling of the items that appear will negatively impact investors and homeowners):

  • Enact a national cap on annual rent increases at no more than 3 percent or 1.5 times the Consumer Price Index (whichever is higher) to help prevent the exploitation of tenants at the hands of private landlords.
  • Allow states and cities to pass even stronger rent control standards.
  • Implement a “just-cause” requirement for evictions, which would allow a landlord to evict a tenant only for specific violations and prevent landlords from evicting tenants for arbitrary or retaliatory reasons.
  • Place a 25 percent House Flipping tax on speculators who sell a non-owner-occupied property, if sold for more than it was purchased within 5 years of purchase.
  • Impose a 2 percent Empty Homes tax on the property value of vacant, owned homes to bring more units into the market and curb the use of housing as speculative investment.

Again, this is not a political piece, but given the strong housing market we have enjoyed over the past several years, which has helped many Americans build equity and recover wealth lost during the housing bubble burst of 2008, I think it’s worth noting proposed plans, by any party or power, that could negatively impact the market. Also, these are just talking points from someone running for office, so whether it’s Bernie Sanders or any other candidate, or even the current President, Donald J. Trump, they can all have ideas but getting them implemented takes cooperation of Congress and that is not always so easy so it doesn’t mean any of their plans ever actually come to fruition.



Florissant Tramples the Rights of Landlords and Tenants With Passage of Crime Free Bill

On October 10th (well, technically October 11th since the final vote was not taken until reportedly 1:00 am) the city of Florissant dealt it’s latest blow to landlords and tenants.  The blow by way of  Crime Free Bill No. 9226 which was introduced by the Florissant City Council as a whole and was passed unanimously by the council in spite of opposition to the bill expressed by the St Louis Association of REALTORS, EHOC and others.  I have provided below a complete copy of Article XVII: Residential Real Estate of the city of Florissant ordinances as this was the section that was changed by the bill.

Highlights of changes as a result of Crime-Free Bill No. 9226:

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New Landlord-Tenant Bill Make Force Missouri Landlords To Use Property Managers-UPDATED Feb 3, 2017

UPDATE February 3, 2017 –

Representative Gary Cross has introduced HB 705 which would repeal this legislation.  Ironically, Rep Cross is the representative that first introduced the original legislation, HB 1862.  I’m guessing he has come to realize the problems this legislation has caused, which I believe were unintended consequences, and has chosen to fix the issue which I praise him for!


This legislative session, the Missouri State Legislature passed HB. 1862, which modifies provisions relating to the existing landlord-tenant law in Missouri, specifically, it repeals sections 534.350, 534.360, 535.030, 535.110, 535.160 and 535.300 of the Revised Statutes of Missouri and replaces them with five new sections as described in the bill.  The bill has been delivered to Governor Nixon and, if signed by him, will go into effect August 28th of this year.

Why This New Law May Force Landlords (even licensed real estate agents) To Use Property Managers:

While this bill has some good things in it, such as establishing some reasonable procedures and time lines for a landlord regaining possession of a property as well as doing a little housekeeping with regard to what can be deducted from a security deposit, the bill also makes, what I believe to be, a very damaging change to the law with regard to security deposits.  With regard to security deposits held by landlords, the bill changes section 535.300 (2) to read (emphasis is mine):

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Requiring Adult Supervision Of Children At An Apartment Pool-Fair Housing Violation?

Today most, if not all, landlords are aware of the Federal Fair Housing Act with regard to making various types of discrimination illegal when it comes to housing and, even if they don’t have a thorough understanding of all of the nuances of the act, at least have a basic understanding of it.  However, today, a lack of a thorough understanding of the law, as well as the risks associated with violating it, or even being accused of violating it, can be quite costly to a landlord.  Therefore, if you are considering becoming a landlord, or perhaps are already in the midst of building your real estate empire, spending time studying and understanding the Federal Fair Housing Act and how it applies to you would be time well spent and it would also be a great move to align yourself with a real estate professional with a good understanding of it that can help you navigate the regulatory waters a landlord must navigate today.

The Case of HUD vs Pebble Beach Apartments –

In July 2013 there was a fair housing violation complaint filed against the owner and manager of the Pebble Beach Apartments alleging they discriminated against a tenant based on familial status in violation of the Fair Housing Act.

The Allegations made by HUD after an investigation: (the numbering corresponds with the complaint itself)

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The Rights Of Missouri Landlords Are About To Be Trampled On Again

Section 347.057  of the Missouri Limited Liability Company Act states “A person who is a member, manager, or both, of a limited liability company is not liable, solely by reason of being a member or manager, or both, under a judgment, decree or order of a court, or in any other manner, for a debt, obligation or liability of the limited liability company, whether arising in contract, tort or otherwise or for the acts or omissions of any other member, manager, agent or employee of the limited liability company.”  So, like a corporation, LLC’s provide protection to the individuals, (or other LLC’s, or corporations) that own the LLC from personal liability for business conducted by the LLC.  Without the ability to protect one’s personal assets from liability from business operations, many businesses wouldn’t exist nor would the products and services they provide.  For example, would you be willing to buy stock in a company such as Ford, or Johnson and Johnson if you were going to be personally named in all the lawsuits brought against those companies?  I doubt it.

Landlords, rehabbers, developers and speculators often own and operate their real estate inside of LLC’s for many reasons including for liability reasons, tax benefits as well as to sometimes conceal or protect the identity of the individuals or companies involved.  All of these things (including concealing the identity of the members of the LLC) are lawful purposes of the LLC and have legitimate purposes.

Proposed legislation could strip protection away from property owners in Missouri:

House Bill 864 (bill contents below), introduced by Representative Sheila Solon from District 031 Continue reading “The Rights Of Missouri Landlords Are About To Be Trampled On Again

Fair Housing Act Violations Cost Landlord $550,000

Today, the owners and operators of the Alger Meadows Apartments in Grand Rapids, Michigan, agreed to pay $550,000 in damages as well as terminate their property manager to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit that was filed against them by the U.S. Department of Justice.  

With the increasing popularity of rental property as an investment, there are many new investors and landlords getting into the business and they need to realize the importance of being familiar with the laws and regulations that may affect them and their business in order to avoid problems.  Even though, according to the press release issued by the DOJ, the property manager is the one that was alleged to have committed the sexual harassment, the DOJ also included the owners of the complex and alleged they were liable for the property managers actions.  So, just because you, as a landlord, may use a property manager, that does not necessarily mean that you are in the clear or not liable for what goes on in your behalf. Therefore, the better informed you are as an investor and landlord, they better off you will be!

I have bought and sold 2,000 homes and have owned and managed apartments and rental homes and enjoy using this experience to help new, as well as seasoned, investors not only find good deals to invest in, but get educated on the things they need to know about such as Federal Fair Housing Laws.  If I can help you, please contact me.


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How To Use The Internet To Perform Due Diligence On Real Property


As far as I’m concerned, the Internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time, and ranks right up there with flush toilets, sliced bread, and basketball! For real estate investors, the Internet is the single best property due to diligence research tool available. Especially for investors who are located in counties where property tax rolls are online.

If your county’s property records are available online, you can quickly find out who owns a property, when it was purchased, how much it costs and its tax-assessed Continue reading “How To Use The Internet To Perform Due Diligence On Real Property

How to Choose a Real Estate Investment Strategy That’s Right for You

Thomas J. Lucier - Avoid Bad RealtorsUnfortunately, there are no cookie-cutter strategies, which will work for all investors in every single real estate market nationwide. And that’s exactly why, when you’re starting out in this business, you must take your time and carefully analyze a real estate investment strategy and take into account, the:

1. Temperament, knowledge, skill and experience needed to implement the strategy.
2. Amount of cash and credit needed to finance the strategy.
3. Amount of time and energy needed to complete the strategy from start to finish. Continue reading “How to Choose a Real Estate Investment Strategy That’s Right for You

REALTORS offer suggestions to the Fed on how to deal with the REO problem

Dennis Norman, St Louis REALTORNational Association of REALTORS® (NAR) President, Ron Phipps, wrote a letter to Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury Department and Edward DeMarco, Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency with suggestions on how to improve the Real Estate Owned (REO) asset disposition programs for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and FHA. NAR, like many other housing related associations and organizations, submitted letters in response to the government’s request for information on how to deal with the REO problem. Continue reading “REALTORS offer suggestions to the Fed on how to deal with the REO problem

How to Earn Tax-Free Income as a Serial Homebuyer

Thomas J. Lucier - Avoid Bad Realtors
In my opinion, the capital gains tax exclusion that was granted to homeowners under the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997, is the single best, wealth-building opportunity, that’s ever been made available to the average American. That’s because, under Section 121, of the Internal Revenue Code, a single homeowner can exclude, up to $250,000, from the sale of their principal residence, from capital gains tax, and a married couple, filing a joint tax return, can exempt up to $500,000. The only requirement is that a homeowner must have owned and occupied their home, for a total of twenty-four out of sixty months, prior to the sale. And best of all, homeowners can use this home sale tax exclusion, every two years, until they depart Planet Earth. Continue reading “How to Earn Tax-Free Income as a Serial Homebuyer

How to Negotiate the Best Deal for Yourself

Thomas J. Lucier - Avoid Bad RealtorsTo me, real estate negotiations are about two things and two things only: Price and terms. And that’s why your objective during negotiations, should always be to obtain a purchase or sale price and terms, which will give you the best possible deal. By “best possible deal,” I mean a price and terms that an investor can realistically expect a seller or buyer to agree to, which will allow them to earn, what they consider to be a reasonable profit, from the property.

For example, when I am negotiating to buy a small mismanaged residential rental property, the best possible deal that I can realistically expect to receive, is a purchase price that’s twenty percent below market value and owner financing In this business, knowing how to negotiate the best possible Continue reading “How to Negotiate the Best Deal for Yourself

Can you go to prison for not paying your rent?

My guess is you read the headline, chuckled and said to yourself “no way”. After all, the idea of sending people that could not pay their debts to prison went away over a century ago in the U.S., right? Yes and no….In 1833 the United States abolished Federal imprisonment for unpaid debts and most states did as well around the same time. However, Missouri Representative Gary L. Cross, representing the Kansas City area, has introduced legislation that would subject tenants that do not pay their rent to a criminal charge, a Class A Misdemeanor to be exact. Continue reading “Can you go to prison for not paying your rent?

Justice Department Settles Disability Discrimination Case Against Property Management Company for $1.25 Million

The Justice Department today announced a $1.25 million agreement with Warren Properties Inc., Warren Village (Mobile) Limited Partnership and Frank R. Warren to settle allegations that the defendants violated the Fair Housing Act by refusing to grant a tenant’s requests for a reasonable accommodation. This settlement is the largest ever obtained by the department in an individual housing discrimination case. Continue reading “Justice Department Settles Disability Discrimination Case Against Property Management Company for $1.25 Million

Former Employee of Florida Property Management Company Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud

A former residential sales manager at a Florida property management company pleaded guilty to wire fraud in connection with housing repair contracts for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Department of Justice announced this week.

Benjamin K. Graves, formerly a residential sales manager at West Palm Beach, Fla.-based Ocwen Loan Servicing LLC, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Orlando, Fla., to wire fraud. According to the one-count felony charge filed on Nov. 12, 2010, in the Middle District of Florida, Ocwen managed foreclosed properties under contract with the VA, which guaranteed qualifying residential mortgages for veterans. Under the contract between the VA and Ocwen, if a veteran defaulted, Ocwen completed necessary repairs and re-sold the property. Continue reading “Former Employee of Florida Property Management Company Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud

Freddie Mac Suspends Evictions Over Holidays; St. Louis Mortgage Rate Update

Paramount Mortgage Company - St LouisFreddie Mac announced today it has ordered all evictions involving foreclosed occupied single family and 2-4 unit properties that had Freddie Mac mortgages to be suspended from December 20, 2010 to January 3, 2011. Continue reading “Freddie Mac Suspends Evictions Over Holidays; St. Louis Mortgage Rate Update

Rental housing market weathering storm; more tenants former homeowners

According to a survey just released by Transunion, Landlord’s and Property managers appear to be making it through the Great Recession and are seeing improvement in the market from their perspective. In fact, seven out of 10 property managers said their rental properties have no vacancies, an increase of almost 17 percent from a year ago. Only 39 percent of respondents said they’re having difficulty finding residents in today’s economic climate. Additionally, more than 3 out of 4 respondents (76 percent) said rental prices have either remained the same or increased since last year. Continue reading “Rental housing market weathering storm; more tenants former homeowners

Consumer Organization to Congress: Lenders ‘Lawless Attitude’ pushes homeowners into Foreclosure

The “robo-signing” scandal that has exposed illegal practices by servicers of mortgage loans has also showed the urgent need to reform a broken system that is plagued with abuses, lacks adequate resources and has pushed countless homeowners toward foreclosure.

That’s the message that Diane Thompson, a lawyer for the National Consumer Law Center, delivered in testimony earlier this week to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs. Continue reading “Consumer Organization to Congress: Lenders ‘Lawless Attitude’ pushes homeowners into Foreclosure

How to avoid being a victim of a real estate or rental scam

The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have published a report about common real estate scams and rental scams they are finding and how to avoid them. Like most scams there are warning signs and red flags that can help you avoid falling victim; knowing what to look for is key.

The IC3 reminds people to be cautious when using the internet to either advertise real estate for sale or rent or to find a property to rent or buy.

For Landlords and Sellers of Property:

Look out for: Rental scams occur when the victim has property advertised and is contacted by an interested party. Once the rental price is agreed upon, the scammer sends a check for the deposit. The check covers housing expenses and is either written in excess of the amount required, with the scammer asking for the remainder to be remitted back, or for the correct amount, but the scammer backs out of the rental agreement and asks for a refund.

Because banks do not usually place a hold on the funds, the victim has immediate access to them and believes the check has cleared. In the end, the check is found to be counterfeit and the victim is held responsible by the bank for all losses.

For Renters and Home Buyers:

Look out for: The scammer duplicates postings from legitimate real estate sites, alters them, and reposts them. Often, the scammers use the broker’s real name to create a fake e-mail address, which gives the fraud more legitimacy. When the victim sends an e-mail through the website inquiring about the home, they receive a response from someone claiming to be the owner.

The “owner” typically says he and his wife are doing missionary work in a foreign country and need someone to rent their home while they are away. If the victim is interested, he or she is asked to send money to the “owner” in a foreign country. These funds go directly to the scammer, and the would-be renter loses his or her money.

Suggestions from the IC3 and FBI on how to protect yourself from schemes:

  • Do not accept overpayment for rental properties. If you receive a check that’s for more than the specified amount, return it. Do not deposit it.
  • Do not wire funds to people you do not know.
  • Verify potential renters’ income.
  • Request renters’ personal references and follow up with those individuals.
  • Check with your county recorder to learn who owns the property you’re seeking to rent.
  • Call the property manager or association, if applicable, and ask about the landlord.
  • Ask the landlord for a rental application. It’s a red flag if one is not available; most managed properties require an application.
  • Find out how much of a security deposit may be requested in your state. Scammers will often ask for extra money in the form of a deposit.

The following requests can be indicators of fraudulent activity:

  • The would-be tenant wants to rent or purchase the property sight unseen.
  • The potential tenant says he or she is out of the country and he or she would like to send you a cashier’s check.
  • The payment is for more than the agreed upon amount.
  • There’s an urgency to the entire process. For example, the tenant says he or she is arriving in the country next week and needs to establish residency right away.

If you feel you have been a victim of an Internet real estate scheme, you can file a complaint with the IC3 by clicking here.