New York landlords and those looking to become landlords can prevent costly mistakes by taking the following preventive measures:
- Attend landlord seminars at community education programs and property owners’ associations to learn your rights and responsibilities. Educate yourself about housing discrimination laws – ignorance is no excuse.
- Find an attorney who has experience with landlord/tenant and real estate law.
- Find an accountant to assist you with record keeping, tax planning, business formation and tax return preparation.
- Form a limited liability company or corporation.
- Arrange for mortgage financing.
- Check with the municipal building department for information on the maximum number of occupants permitted in your apartments and if landlord’s registration (e.g. Buffalo and Niagara Falls) or a certificate of occupancy is required.
- Hire a good property manager.
- Obtain adequate insurance coverage from a knowledgeable insurance agent and require tenants to have renter’s insurance.
- Be sure that your property is safe; in compliance with shared meter regulations and building codes; and contains adequate smoke detectors.
- Hire competent contractors for repairs, remodeling and decorating. Don’t have tenants do repair work or painting in exchange for the payment of rent.
- Set policies for screening your tenants, e.g. minimum employment qualifications (where source of income discrimination is not prohibited) and the maximum number of occupants per bedroom allowed.
- Screen all tenant applicants with a rental application, credit/criminal report and check references.
- Draft written leases whether for a month-to-month tenancy or for a fixed term.
- Inspect for lead or warn tenants of the dangers of lead paint in properties built before 1978 by using the required lead paint disclosure form and booklet.
- Use move-in/move-out checklists supported by photographs and videotapes.
- Provide rent receipts containing the date, amount, identity of the premises, period for which paid and the signature and title of the person receiving the rent.
For further information regarding landlord/tenant law, see http://www.wny-lawyers.com/pamphlets.php.