DURING THE APPLICATION PROCESS
- Give Applicant a Screening Fee Receipt
When you accept a screening fee from a prospective tenant, you must provide them with a receipt for those monies. You may either give or mail them a copy of this receipt itemizing your charges for screening. Note that if you end up spending less than you charged, you must refund the difference. Use AOA’s form #147 – Receipt of Application Screening Fee.
- When Denying Applicants, Send Written Notice
If you choose not to rent to applicant based on the information you obtained during the screening process, you must provide them with a written “Adverse Action Notice”, (also known as AOA’s Tenant Rejection Notice). This notice is required by the Fair Credit Report Act (FCRA) and allows the tenant to obtain, dispute or correct information with the reporting agencies. AOA’s form #140, the Tenant Rejection Notice contains all the legal requirements and is very easy to fill out.
DURING THE TENANCY
- Notice to Enter Premises
Except in the case of emergencies, landlords and managers must give a written notice of intent to enter. The notice must be at least 24 hours in advance and include the purpose of the entry, the date and approximate time. (AOA form #130).
Note: The scheduling of the initial move-out inspection, (AB2330 Walk-Through) however requires a 48 hour notice.
- Returned Check Charges
State law limits charges to $25 for the first bounced check and $35 for returned checks thereafter.
DURING THE MOVE-OUT
- AB-2330 Walk-Through Process
Within two weeks from a move-out date but not before, you must give your exiting tenants the opportunity to schedule a pre-inspection walk-through. This will inform the tenant(s) what you intend to deduct from their security deposit giving them the opportunity to rectify the damages and/or perform proper cleaning. Complete instructions and necessary forms are available to members – AOA form #135 – AB2330 Walk-Through Process.
AFTER TENANT VACATES
- Security Deposit Refund Letter – 21 Days!
Drill this number into your heads. This is the number one error landlords seem to make. Not a week goes by where we don’t get a call from a landlord who has neglected to send written accounting of the security deposit within the legally required 21-DAY period after a tenant moved out and turned over possession.
If you do not send proper written accounting and copies of receipts over $125 within 21 days of the actual move-out, it is almost guaranteed that a small claims court judge will order you to return the ENTIRE DEPOSIT along with additional penalties.
If you don’t have a forwarding address, mail the accounting to the apartment address – if it comes back to you, keep it unopened in their file as proof that you mailed it.
Don’t lose the money you can legally withhold from a security deposit. Use AOA’s Security Deposit Refund Letter, form #133.
· Abandonment of Personal Property
You cannot touch a tenant’s property until you have legally gained possession of the premises. This occurs when a tenant finally leaves voluntarily, whether or not she gives you the keys, or when the tenant is physically evicted by the sheriff, marshal or constable. If you gained possession of the property after having heard nothing from the tenant for 18 days since mailing a Notice of Belief of Abandonment of Real Property, you should understand that your mailing of the abandonment notice relating to the real property – the premises- has nothing to do with any personal property abandoned inside. In other words, it only allows you to enter legally after the premises were abandoned, not dispose of property.
- Send Personal Property Abandonment Notice
You can face serious liability for disposing of the junk, unless you use a Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property. If after a tenant has left, you discover property in addition to obvious trash or garbage, follow these steps:
Step 1. Take an inventory of the abandoned property and write down a list of everything you find. An objective witness (tenant or neighbor) is valuable here if you want to protect yourself from any charge that you have not done this honestly. Don’t open locked trunks or suitcases or tied boxes; just list the unopened container. You may, however, open other containers to check items for value, since your method of disposing of the property depends on its total value. [Photos of the property are recommended as well.]
Step 2. Decide whether the value of all the property – what you could get for it at a well-attended flea market or garage sale – is more than $700.
Step 3. You must then send the tenant a Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property. There is no time limit for doing this, but you may not legally dispose of the property until you begin the process with this notice. On the Notice of Right to Reclaim Abandoned Property, you list:
- The name of the tenant (and any other person you believe has an interest in the property).
- The address of the premises.
- A description of the property. If there are too many items of property to list on the form, you can list them on a separate sheet of paper labeled “Attachment A. “The property must be described “in a manner reasonably adequate to permit the owner of the property to identify it” (CC § 1983(b).) Merely describing it as “household goods” is insufficient.
- A place where the property may be claimed.
- The value of the property, by checking the appropriate box on the form as to whether the property, in your opinion, is worth more or less than $700.
- Your signature and date the notice was mailed.
Mail the notice to the tenant’s last known residence, which will, of course, usually be the address of your residential rental property. The postal service will forward the notice if the tenant has left a forwarding address.
You must surrender the property if the tenant contacts you within 18 days after you mailed the notice. If you haven’t mailed a notice, you must surrender the property within 18 days after the tenant has left. Again, before returning the tenant’s property, you have the right to charge moving and storage costs (not exceeding the prorated daily rental value for keeping the property on your premises), and/or any out-of-pocket costs you incur for renting storage space. However, as we mentioned, it may not be worth the hassle and risk to insist on these charges. You may dispose of abandoned property only if the total worth is less than $700 … after following the proper procedures.
NOTE: If the property is worth more than $700, you must arrange for the property to be sold at a public auction and then publish a notice in the newspaper announcing the auction. Complete directions are listed in AOA’s form #145 – Notice of Belief of Abandonment of Personal Property.
NOTE: AOA members may download all of the above mentioned forms for FREE at www.aoausa.com.
Patricia A. Harris is Senior Editor of the Apartment Owners News & Buyers Guide. This article is a general guide and has no legal representation. It is suggested that you contact an attorney for legal advice should the need present itself.