Renter issues

14 Replies

Hopefully I post this in the right spot, but I have a couple of questions. Basically the story is I have a friend who is having issues with the renters in her house in Georgia and I was wondering what rights she has when dealing with them. Basically the renters are demanding that she put up a privacy fence because they have a son with autism and it is necessary according to them. Now this was not apparently an issue when she first rented out the house to this family. The owners refused due to cost and the fact that they do not want a fence on their property. The renters then went and got an estimate, which again the owners refused. The owners then found out that it was going to be a chain link fence that the renters wanted to put up and this was not allowed either by the HOA. Now the renters are looking to sue the owners (our friends) due to discrimination because their son has autism. Granted they signed a year lease before and there were no issues during that year. Now the renters are on a month to month lease and the issues are now arising.

My questions are, one would the renters have any case in court, and two would the owners have any rights in evicting them after giving a 30 day notice? These are concerns for them and myself as I am about to start buy and hold investing once I get to Tennessee. I appreciate any help from those with more knowledge in this area than myself.

No legal advice. Seek counsel this is just my opinion as to my understanding of fair housing laws.

 Fair housing laws would not make the landlord pay for this as it would be an undue burden on the landlord. Fences can run over $10,000.

If the tenants wanted to pay for the fence I would think the landlord would have to acaccommodate the request as disabled tenants are allowed their own expense to make modifications to the property.

If the tenants want to install an approved fence at their expense and also remove it at their cost when they leave, that is a reasonable accommodation.  Read the state tenant landlord law about disabilities. In my state they need to establish disability and make a request for accommodation.  You can also contact the fair housing office to ask their opinion on what your obligations are. Agree this is expensive enough to consider unreasonable. Best to let them leave on their terms to not give them more fuel.

Originally posted by @Michele Fischer :

  Best to let them leave on their terms to not give them more fuel.

 I'm sure the renters KNOW they can't force the owner to pay for the fence and also KNOW that if the owner gives them notice that THEN they have a case. They should document that they are willing to allow an appropriate fence at the renters expense and let it die there.

To the Landlord:

Become familiar with the Fair Housing Act. It is a federal law that will have a big role in this kind of scenario. Autism is a qualified disability. A fence could be considered as a reasonable accommodation. The property owner would need to allow for a fence and the HOA would also need to allow for it... IF the child does indeed have this disability AND the accommodation is necessary and reasonable.

The fence choice does not have to be the exact type chosen by the tenant, so find a fence the would meet everyone's needs... tenant, landlord and HOA. Also, the tenant would be compelled to pay for the installation, maintenance and future removal of the fence. If they do not want to pay for the fence, they may want move. Releasing them from the lease early, without penalty as a reasonable accommodation, could be a viable option and would allow them to find a housing situation more suitable to their needs.

I would contact your local fair housing office for information and guidance. There are federal and state laws that may apply. Above all, don't tell the tenant a blanket "no" for this type of request. Be respectful and keep it friendly. Tell them you will take their request under consideration and then do your fact finding. Tread carefully.

My primary suggestion would be to talk to a lawyer as i make no pretense at having a clear understanding of law. That being said, i do not see them having a case, let alone for discrimination. There is nothing in the above that implied unfair treatment due to disability, and it is beyond their rights to force the landlord to install fences, especially if its against HOA regulations. I would advise your friends to 1) notify them that they will not pay for the installment of fences and if they do so, they will do it under your instructions, to avoid breaking HOA regulations, and at their own expense. 2) These don't seem like tenants i would care to have and once this legal battle is taken care of i would not seek to renew the lease. I do not pretend to understand their motivations, but i would not care to keep around tenants who will drag me to court, especially for a trivial matter such as this.

@James Wise  , @Michele Fischer  , @Bob Bowling , @Marcia Maynard  , @Kenneth Huddleston  

 Thank you for the advice. I will pass this on to them. What you are saying does sound reasonable. Now with the current tenants being on a month to month lease currently does the owner have the right to not continue this practice based off of this incident? I could see that becoming a sticky situation and I am not sure if they can legally not rent to someone who pays their rent on time because of a disagreement such as this. Now having the tenant pay to put up and remove the fence when they leave makes perfect sense, I am not sure if it is worth it anymore if the owner could just not allow them to renew their lease on a month to month basis. 

I would imagine the owner telling them they can do the fence but have to pay for it would be enough to make them look elsewhere.  Fences are expensive. I would not try anything like not renewing their lease as that looks like retaliation.

Originally posted by @Michele Fischer :
If the tenants want to install an approved fence at their expense and also remove it at their cost when they leave, that is a reasonable accommodation. Read the state tenant landlord law about disabilities. In my state they need to establish disability and make a request for accommodation. You can also contact the fair housing office to ask their opinion on what your obligations are. Agree this is expensive enough to consider unreasonable. Best to let them leave on their terms to not give them more fuel.

The key thing is: reasonable accommodation. That would mean no undue hardship to the landlord; tenant must pay for installation AND I would say that the money needed to pay for removal should be placed into a separate escrow in case the tenant leaves without having fulfilled the requirements to have the fence removed. And of course the type of fence must meet the approval of HOA and municipality. Tenant would have to pay all permit fees and HOA approval fees. If permit and HOA approval would be needed for removal, the fees for that permit and approval get put into escrow also. The money placed into escrow to cover the removal would be returned to the tenant upon completion of the removal.

Not legal advice of course. And whether you can have the removal expense escrowed without counting as security deposit money could be an issue. That could be considered as part of a deposit and local laws do have a way of limiting deposit amounts.

Timothy, normally with a month to month either party can give the legally required notice to end the tenancy without needing any cause.  But as is stated earlier, it is unwise to give notice, raise rent, start to get MORE picky about enforcing the agreement or do anything at this time that looks like retaliation.  

Hope this info helps -- from an autism info site, on reasonable accommodations:

http://autismnow.org/articles/reasonable-accommodations-and-accessibility-in-housing/

Excerpt:

The Fair Housing Act outlines basic accessibility as well as the legal rights of persons with disabilities and the responsibilities of property owners. Federal regulations have been written that give consistent and concrete direction to home and commercial builders on construction of accessible buildings and units.

The seven basic requirements of fair and accessible housing are:

  1. An accessible building entrance on an accessible route.
  2. Accessible public and common use areas.
  3. Usable doors (usable by a person in a wheelchair).
  4. Accessible route into and through the dwelling unit.
  5. Light switches, electrical outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls in accessible locations.
  6. Reinforced walls in bathrooms for later installation of grab bars.
  7. Usable kitchens and bathrooms.
- See more at: http://autismnow.org/articles/reasonable-accommodations-and-accessibility-in-housing/#sthash.eHAZrjM4.dpuf

Some states are a bit stricter, but as pretty much national law you can kick someone out of your property, with reasonable notice, just because you want the property or you don't like them. When it comes down to it, it is YOUR property. That being said, i would wait until this legal storm has passed as its better not to add fuel to the fire, but they would be well within their rights not to seek to renew the lease.

Thanks to everyone for the responses. They have been passed on. Hopefully it all works out. Kenneth, that makes sense and waiting would be their best option. Now if someone is on a month to month lease how much of a notice would be needed to not renew the lease? Is it 30 days or would this be something that varies by state? 

If the tenants are on a month to month lease, the landlord needs to give 60 days notice. Preferably in writing.

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