Will New Laws in 2015 Affect You as a Landlord?
Ever hear the old saying, "Ignorance of the law is no excuse"? Well, it's true, and it is especially true for property owners and managers. States, cities, counties, and the federal government pass new laws all the time that can affect how you do business. Those laws might change the wording in your lease agreements, require you to install new appliances in your units or impact how much rent you can collect.
Here are a few examples of the types of laws that might be passed. In Maryland, starting next year, a lead paint inspection might be required before you can rent a residence to a new tenant. California has several new laws for 2015, including one upgrading the type of smoke detectors installed in rentals (effective in July), and another requiring landlords to post local utility rates in apartments and houses (effective January 1). Another example: most apartments and multiplexes in Pennsylvania will require carbon monoxide detectors by June 2015.
City and County Laws
It's not just states that can create legislation, of course. Cities and counties pass laws too. Those with property in rent-controlled cities know this all too well. For example, the Housing and Community Investment Department of Los Angeles sets a percentage cap for rent increases that changes each July 1, and New York City's Rent Guidelines Board sets the rent increase percentage for the year, commencing each Oct. 1.
Government agencies don't send out announcements to property managers when they pass these laws, but that doesn't mean you're off the hook. Remember: "Ignorance of the law is no excuse." It's up to you as a property manager to know the law, and the fines for non-compliance could can be hefty. So what are you -- a legitimate, law-abiding business owner -- supposed to do to protect yourself? Stay informed. How do you do that? We have some suggestions.
First, use the resources of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. HUD maintains a blog called The HUDdle where you can find posts about changes in federal property laws. Even more useful are HUD's pages tracking state laws. Just go to this list, click on your own state, and you'll find posts about the latest news, as well as contact information for your local office. You can even sign up for a email newsletter.
Here are some other ideas for keeping yourself up to date:
- Join an organization of property managers or landlords. The National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) is one; there's also the Building Owners and Managers Association, and many others. Click on their directory or map to see if there's a chapter near you.
- Subscribe to Real Estate Management News, which is free and full of information.
- The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), part of the federal government, shares news about environmental toxins like lead-based paint, mold, asbestos, and even carbon monoxide. The EPA also reports on the laws passed to control these problems, which may affect you.
- Use Twitter and Facebook to stay updated. HUD (@HUDgov) has a Twitter list called Housing News, and you can search for others using terms such as "property management" or "real estate management."
Your local Chamber of Commerce can also be a great source of local information, so don't forget about their meetings. At the very least, you'll meet folks who could be a tremendous help to you, who may sit on City Councils and special boards, and who want your goodwill. You'll also meet other property managers willing to share their concerns and information.
To sum up, there are several ways to keep yourself informed about new laws that affect property managers. Try a few of these suggestions, and you'll stay up to date on all the changes.
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