Landlords: Beware of Dog

The Iowa Court of Appeals recently had before it a sad (sad for the child that was injured and sad for the dog) and somewhat surprising dog-bite case in which they decided that a fact question was created, necessitating further review, when a landlord had knowledge that a dog had a propensity towards violence and yet that landlord allowed the dog to remain on the property.

The abbreviated facts are as follows:  Landlord's son, who was also a tenant, had a German Shepard as a pet.  German Shepard was kept outside, possible neglect occurring (Disclosure Alert: dog owner writing this blog post). German Shepard attacks neighbor.  Landlord/father is aware that tenant/son's dog attacked neighbor.  Steps are taken to insure that dog does not get loose again.  Tenant/Son sent jail for unrelated matter.  Dog left in fenced in yard (testimony showed neglect).  Landlord/father insists that dog be removed.  Son/ex-tenant threatens suicide, father/ex-landlord relents.  Dog eventually escapes and severely injures neighbor boy.  Court of Appeals finds, among other things, that a fact issue requiring further review had been created as to whether the landlord was negligent in allowing a dangerous dog to remain in his property.

The lesson:  If you are going to allow your tenants to have pets you should have your tenants provide you with information regarding the animals demeanor and any past displays of abnormal aggression.  Also, you should put a provision in your leases that would allow you to terminate the lease should you become aware of an animals aggression and after such aggression the tenant refuses to find alternate accommodations for pet. 

Photo by flickr

Good Tenants Make Good Landlords

Four Legacies Mortgage - Chief Inspiration Officer - Brent Rauch recently put together an informative article addressing the phenomenon of accidental landlords  if you review his article pay special attention to the section titled: Tenents of Tenants. 

It has been my experience that the wrong tenant can make being a landlord a nightmare (side note: the 1990 movie Pacific Heights with Michael Keaton, Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine comes to mind).  Making a poor choice when deciding on a tenant can turn the once profitable rental property into a money-pit.  The inconsiderate tenant will eat into your profits both though extra damage to the realty and through the non-payment of rent.

Bottom line for success as a one or two unit landlord:  First, choose a property that will increase in value at least as much as your market average. Second, just as Brent suggests, do your due diligence when selecting a tenant to rent your property and with a little luck you just may find that being a landlord can be both enjoyable and profitable.

If You are Going to Acquire a Rental Unit, Don't Forget the Rental Certificate

Given the current real estate market with its increasing foreclosure rate and ensuing credit crunch, individuals and families are choosing to rent rather than buy.  If you have the financial ability and the interest in owning rental property then this could be an intriguing possibility.  However, there is more to owning rental property than simply finding a property and suitable tenants.  If you own a rental unit in central Iowa, before you can move any tenants into your property you must first obtain a rental certificate, according to the Iowa Uniform Residential Landlord and Tenant Act and the City of Des Moines Municipal Code. 

 

If in your haste you neglect to obtain a rental certificate it could come back to haunt you should you find yourself in the unenviable position of having a tenant whom neither pays nor exits the premises on their own volition.  Under Iowa Law, without a valid rental certificate the tenant is considered a tenant at will and the landlord must give thirty days notice prior to eviction, on top of that the past due rent will not be recoverable either.  Bottom line, if you are a current landlord or a prospective landlord, be sure that you have a  rental certificate for each unit before renting.

Photo on Flickr by The Rocketeer

"Breaking-up" with your Landlord

If you're like me, you've probably found yourself in a relationship where you feel that it's just not working out like you hoped. Most of us at that point have the dreaded, but necessary, “it's not you, it's me” or “let's be friends” conversation with the other person and try to move on. However, when the other person is your landlord the break-up might not be so easy.

First you need to determine whether your landlord is keeping its part of the bargain. According to Iowa Code § 562A.15 a residential landlord’s duty is to maintain a fit premises. This means the landlord must:

·        comply with applicable building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety;

·        keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition,

·        keep common areas clean and safe;

·        maintain the electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances;

·        provide garbage receptacles; and

·        supply running water and reasonable amounts of hot water

Second, if your landlord fails to comply with the requirements of the statute materially affecting health and safety you may be able to terminate the lease provided you deliver written notice to the landlord

·        Specifying the areas of non-compliance. 

·        Stating the landlord has at least 7 days from the receipt of the notice to remedy the problems.

To ensure the landlord received your letter request a return receipt from the post office. If the landlord fails to remedy the problem by the date specified in the notice you may then terminate the lease or “break-up” with your landlord. The landlord is obligated to return all prepaid rent and the recoverable security deposit.