Every new year brings new laws that are coming into effect. Stay abreast of new developments in the rental business with this list of 2016's new regulations. But keep in mind that this list isn't exhaustive, and that if you have any questions about laws in your jurisdiction, you should contact a lawyer.
New York's Rent Act of 2015
Thanks to efforts by tenant rights groups, New York state has enacted several new rental regulations that will take effect in 2016. One of the most notable of these is the Rent Act of 2015.
Property owners in New York are likely familiar with the Rent Regulation Reform Act of 1993, which removes rent control stipulations from properties under certain conditions. The Rent Act of 2015 raised the both high-rent vacancy deregulation and the high-income high-rent deregulation from $2,500 to $2,700. For each following year, the local government's Rent Guidelines Board will adjust the deregulation threshold by a percentage they've previously determined.
Another important change caused by the Rent Act of 2015 changed how preferential rent works with regard to vacancy allowances. For example, when a tenant paid a preferential lease but has vacated the property less than two years prior, the landlord is allowed a 5 percent vacancy allowance. These vacancy allowances behave as normal.
Finally, the monetary penalties if landlords harass tenants have increased. The amount of the increase depends on the type and circumstances of the harassment, so it's a good idea to check with the law if you're curious.
New Laws In California
Perhaps as a reaction to the housing crunch that's hitting San Francisco so hard, California's state-level lawmakers have implemented a slew of new laws that are affecting landlords and property managers. All of these take effect on January 1st, 2016.
Assembly Bill 447, for instance, is good news for landlords with less affluent tenants. Under this bill, insurers can no longer discriminate against property managers whose tenants are on low-income programs such as Section 8.
Before the passage of Assembly Bill 418, a tenant needed to give their landlord 30 days' notice before vacating the property in nearly all cases. AB 418 reduces that period to 14 days if the tenant is leaving due to domestic violence. Likewise, Senate Bill 328 declares that you or your agent must give tenants written notices before applying pesticides to a property.
Senate Bill 600 amends California's existing Unruh Civil Rights Act to forbid discrimination on the grounds of a tenant or prospective tenant's immigration status, citizenship, or primary language. However, it does not state that landlords need to supply documents in non-English languages, unless the contract negotiations are taking place in a language other than English. Likewise, you can legally ask a tenant for proof of immigration status under SB 600.
Oregon's New Rental Laws
The state of Oregon has implemented Senate Bill 390, which takes effect on the first of January in 2016. Many of the "changes" outlined by these laws are actually just clarifications on existing laws, but there are some important new developments to be aware of.
One of the categories of changes that will take effect concerns non-compliant pet owners. Previously, tenants could only be charged a non-compliance fee if they did not pick up and dispose of pet waste within the dwelling unit proper; now they can be charged for failing to properly dispose of waste anywhere on the property. You must issue a notice and give the tenant 48 hours to rectify the situation before levying fees. The first fee is capped at $50; second and subsequent fees may reach a maximum of $250.
The bill also states that if a tenant moving into a property incurs a condominium or homeowner association fee, this fee may be passed on to the tenant, so long as those fees are clearly explained in the rental agreement and the landlord provides the tenant with a copy of the association's assessment. If a landlord or property manager levies an association fee without doing this, they can be fined up to twice the fee or $300, whichever is greater.
SB 390 also clarifies the laws surrounding charging tenants for damages to properties, as well as charges, deposits and utility fees. After the damage is done, but before three rental payments are due, the landlord must provide a written notice to the tenant to describe the damage and the amount of money that's required to remedy the damages. The landlord must request the money in the written notice, and they must make it explicit that non-payment may be grounds for termination of tenancy. If the written notice is about a failure to pay money owed to the landlord, the notice is considered to be valid for 12 months after it is delivered to the tenant.
It's always wise to stay aware of new laws coming into effect where you do business, and to follow up with a lawyer if you have any questions. And even if you don't do business in one of these jurisdictions, it's often a good idea to take a serious look at legal trends throughout the country. Local and state governments often take cues off of each other, so a law that's taking effect in one area may soon be proposed as legislation in another. Keep a close eye on rental regulations, and you'll be ahead of the game.
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