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Integrity in Real Estate
Updated: 21 hours 23 min ago

Is Now a Good Time to Become a Landlord?

October 14, 2021 - 6:03am

TNS—Q: We are getting older and ready to move to a smaller home. Our plan has always been to rent our existing house to make extra money toward our retirement. After the eviction moratorium, we are nervous. Is it a good time to be a landlord? — Jerri

A: Not collecting rent is a scary prospect that every landlord needs to be prepared for.
Whether it is because of a pandemic, natural disaster or non-paying tenant, you need to have enough of a cushion to carry the house’s expenses for at least several months.
Renting property, done correctly, can be rewarding.

The good news for landlords coming out of the coronavirus crisis is that rents are higher now.

To be a successful landlord, treat it like a business. Write everything down and save your receipts. Keeping track of your financials can help when it is time to file your taxes.
Tenant selection is critical to successfully renting your property. It is better to spend extra time upfront choosing your tenant than spending even more time evicting them.

Check work history and do a background and credit search to ensure your prospective tenant is financially stable.

Take the time to read the landlord-tenant statute. It is written to be understandable to non-lawyers and reads almost like an instruction manual for renting.

Knowing your rights and responsibilities is key to a good experience. If you feel intimidated by the process, you can hire a real estate agent to help you.

Once you find a good tenant, do not ruin the relationship by trying to be friends. Being friendly is good, but who wants to evict a buddy for not paying the rent.

Remember to treat this as a business relationship. Respond to repair requests quickly.
In return, your tenant also needs to take the relationship seriously. Explain that they need to treat the house as their home and must pay their rent on time.

Accepting excuses rather than rent rarely works out. Posting a warning notice for nonpayment sends a clear message that the rent needs to be paid each month to avoid immediate consequences.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Water Damage: How to Lessen the Threat

October 8, 2021 - 6:04am

Water damage is caused by storms, flooding, roof leaks, damaged pipes, leaking washing machines and more. If not addressed, water damage can eventually cause structural damage, which can mean significant costs to repair and can negatively affect a home’s value.

Prevention is the first line of defense against water damage in the home. Here are some basics on preventing water damage and its effects:

1. Water supply lines to and from washing machines and dishwashers should be regularly inspected for cracks and leaks. Both the hoses themselves and the connections should be examined. Even a small leak can cause water damage over time, so it’s best to just replace these hoses every five years or so. Steel-reinforced auto-shutoff hoses are available that sense the pressure change when a leak occurs and will stop the flow of water automatically.

2. Tank-style water heaters are prone to failure, especially as they age. Over time, the bottom of the tank can rust out and release the entire contents of the tank. Most plumbing codes require an overflow valve that will conduct leaking water to a pipe that drains either to the outside or to an appropriate interior drain. Homeowners should check with a plumber who is familiar with local codes for this type of overflow pipe.

3. Another common source of water leaks is the icemaker supply line; this should be regularly checked as well. For added peace of mind, homeowners should shut off the icemaker and the supply line if leaving home for more than a few days.

4. Be aware that pipes slowly leaking inside the walls or ceiling may be impossible to detect visually before damage has already occurred.

5. Check gutters and downspouts to ensure that water drains freely and flows away from the home’s foundation. Make any adjustments, and check the flow again using water from a garden hose.

6. Leak detectors can be installed at floor level near water heaters, washing machines and interior air conditioning units. Simple, inexpensive wireless models are widely available and will sound an alarm when water is detected on the floor near these appliances. These are a good option for homeowners who run these appliances only while they’re at home, which is highly recommended. “Smart” water alarms can also alert homeowners via an app that a problem has occurred.

Some home inspectors can use moisture detectors to check for damp conditions not visible. This tool helps detect possible trouble spots in walls, ceilings and floors.

These tips can help homeowners avoid the often expensive and intrusive damage water leaks can cause if not prevented or repaired.

Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is committed to ensuring confident home ownership. To learn more about how Pillar To Post Home Inspectors can help your clients, visit pillartopost.com.

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Considering Cutting Back Homeowners Insurance Coverage to Save? Press Pause on That

October 5, 2021 - 6:02am

If money is running tight and you’re looking for ways to cut back, you may be tempted to cut into your homeowners insurance coverage. This could be a mistake.

If you don’t have adequate coverage and your house gets damaged or destroyed, or someone gets seriously injured on your property, you may be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to lower your homeowners insurance premiums without scaling back your coverage and putting your family’s financial future in jeopardy.

Bundle Your Insurance Policies
If you currently have your homeowners insurance through one company and your auto or life insurance through a different insurer, you may be spending more than you have to. Insurance companies typically offer substantial discounts to customers who bundle their policies. If you buy two or more types of insurance from the same company, the total you spend may fall significantly, even if you keep your coverage limits exactly the same.

Find Out If You Qualify for Discounts
You may be eligible for one or more discounts on your homeowners insurance. Insurers reward customers who make upgrades that make them less likely to file a claim. For example, you may qualify for a reduction in premiums if you repair or replace your roof, update your home’s electrical system or install a monitored home security system. If you make any of those changes, notify your insurance company and ask if you’re eligible for lower rates. You may also qualify for a discount if you’ve been with your current company for several years.

Raise Your Deductible
Your homeowners insurance premiums are based, in part, on your deductible. If you experience a loss, you’ll have to pay the deductible out of your own pocket before your insurance will kick in.

Raising your deductible may lead to a significant reduction in your premiums. Call your insurance company or agent and ask. You should only raise your deductible if you’ll have access to that amount of money if you need to file an insurance claim.

Shop Around for Better Rates
Switching to a different company is another possible way to save money. You should compare rates from different homeowners insurance companies every year. If you contact other insurers and request quotes, you may be surprised to find that you can get the exact same coverage you have now at a much lower cost from a different company.

Even if the insurer you currently have offered the lowest premiums when you bought insurance, another company may quote you a lower price today. You also may be eligible for discounts that weren’t available to you when you originally purchased homeowners insurance.

Agents, want more tips like these to share with your existing and prospective clients? Check out our automated social media marketing platform, ACESocial.

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The Final Walkthrough Before Closing: Checklist and Tips

October 4, 2021 - 6:02am

(TNS)—As you prepare to finalize a home purchase, there’s an important step to take before the closing: the final walkthrough. This personal inspection helps ensure that the home you committed to on paper is in relatively identical condition to when you first visited, and that the seller is compliant with the terms of your real estate contract.

What Is the Final Walkthrough Before Closing?

A final walkthrough is an opportunity for you, as the homebuyer, to visit and assess the property you’re purchasing before the closing. The goal of the visit is to ensure the home is in the same condition it was when you agreed to buy it.

“It’s also an opportunity for you to ensure that the seller has moved out or substantially moved out, and that the seller did not cause any damage during the move-out,” adds Lisa Okasinski, a real estate attorney and owner of Okasinski Law PLC, based in Detroit.

This visit is important, as it allows you to assess whether the seller has met your interpretation of the purchase agreement and removed all their personal property, explains David North, broker/owner of Realtrua in Redmond, Washington.

“This is also the time to confirm that non-subjective contractual obligations of the seller, such as specific repairs, have been met,” North says.

Final Walkthrough Checklist: What to Look For

There are several items you should confirm during the final walkthrough of the property. Okasinski and Elizabeth Grimes, an attorney with Ligris + Associates PC in Wellesley, Massachusetts, recommend the following checklist:

– The seller’s belongings have been fully moved out.
– Any repairs that the seller promised would be done have been completed.
– All appliances that the purchase agreement specified would remain are in proper working order.
– The seller left copies of all manuals and instructions for appliances and fixtures.
– Door and window locks are fully functioning.
– The HVAC systems (furnace, air conditioning, etc.) are working properly.
– All faucets are working, toilets flush properly and there are no plumbing leaks.
– All walls, ceilings and doorways are structurally intact and not damaged from moving.
– The yard is free of any debris or damage.
– The seller left the garage door openers and keys in the home or with their agent.

“Cleanliness, completion of repairs, any changes to the condition of the property from the time of the sales contract, presence of all items that are contractually included in the sale and removal of items not included in the sale should all be checked during your final walkthrough,” North advises.

When Is the Final Walkthrough?

The final walkthrough commonly takes place 24 to 48 hours before closing. The home purchase agreement typically contains a provision allowing for the walkthrough, and it might specify the window of time in which it can occur.

“I always suggest to my clients to schedule the final walkthrough on the morning of the closing so that they are getting a last look to make sure the property is in good condition prior to signing closing paperwork,” Grimes says.

What to Bring to the Final Walkthrough

You are not required to bring anything with you to the final walkthrough, but you might want to bring a checklist (either on paper or your phone) that you can mark off during your visit. Your real estate agent and/or attorney might also be present with you during the final walkthrough.

“I always suggest buyers bring a flashlight to look in basement and attic areas that have low visibility, too,” Grimes says.

How Long Should a Final Walkthrough Take?

The duration of the walkthrough is up to you—there is no legal maximum or minimum time limit, according to Okasinski. Generally speaking, prepare to take the time necessary to carefully evaluate the home. Rushing through a final walkthrough can lead to regret, as you could accidentally overlook flaws or breaches of contract.

“How long it takes is highly dependent on the property, how inclined you are to look at details, what you end up finding and other unpredictable factors,” North says. “I always recommend scheduling at least an hour and a half—sometimes longer. Walkthroughs don’t usually take longer than that, but they can, at times.”

Can a Buyer Back Out During the Final Walkthrough?

Whether or not you can terminate your real estate contract after the final walkthrough depends on the terms of your agreement.

“In most cases, it would be hard to terminate the purchase agreement as a result of the final walkthrough, unless you could point to a major change in the condition of the property,” Okasinski cautions. “For smaller items of damage that happened after the purchase agreement was entered, it’s more realistic that the parties would agree to have the buyer withhold from the seller an amount necessary to make the repairs at closing.”

Legally, however, you are allowed to back out if the property does not meet the obligations detailed in your real estate contract, according to Grimes.

“Typically, sellers and buyers instead agree to either monetary compensation or other solutions to ensure the transaction moves forward,” Grimes says.

What to Do If You Find Issues in the Walkthrough

You might discover a problem or violation of your purchase agreement during the final walkthrough, but that doesn’t mean it’s a dealbreaker.

“Depending on the problem, there is usually a solution that can be worked out with the seller,” Okasinski says. “For example, if the seller appears that they are not able to move by the scheduled closing date, you could either delay the closing date or enter into a lease with the seller so that you receive rent from them after the scheduled closing date. If there is damage to the property you notice, you could have the seller agree to make the repairs to the property or negotiate to have the purchase price reduced by the cost of repairs.”

“I always advise the buyer to review the situation carefully and figure out whether or not it’s worth delaying the closing or mentioning it to the seller,” adds Jason Gelios, a REALTOR® with Community Choice Realty in Southeast Michigan. “However, larger issues like missing appliances or major damage to the property should never be overlooked.”

Gelios notes that most of his buyer clients don’t back out of the deal without holding the seller accountable for things not honored in the purchase agreement.

“Most sellers are open to making things right at this stage of the process,” Gelios says.

©2021 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Real Estate Q&A: The Association Says I Missed Payments. I Say I Didn’t. Now What?

September 30, 2021 - 6:02am

(TNS)—Q: For the last several months, my condo association has accused me of missing two payments from several years ago that they apparently just discovered. I paid my dues with online bill pay and provided the association with proof of payment for those two months. The property manager is still asking for the “missed” payments and refuses to give me a copy of my account ledger. What can I do? — Ira

A: Your question highlights the need for keeping good records. Now that you are being accused of not paying your dues, the onus is on you to prove that you did.

Association maintenance payments are applied to the oldest outstanding amount due. This means the payment you make in October will be applied to a payment missed in May, along with late fees and collection costs. This procedure cause confusion and further problems because you think you are paying October, but your association feels you are just catching up on an earlier missed payment.

Because of this, you will need to do more than show them only the two payments they claim you did not pay.

Gather proof of monthly payments going back before the payments they claim you missed. Check to see you paid every month.

If you did, provide management with proof you made all of those payments and politely demand they correct their ledger.

If it turns out that you missed earlier payments, write a check for the overdue amounts before the problem gets worse.

Your community must provide you with a copy of your ledger, and there are penalties for them refusing to do so. It is also suspicious that the property manager does not want to.

Speak to a board member and let them know what is happening, especially after you prove you are current with your dues.

Most property managers are honest and hardworking, but there are always exceptions to every rule, and no one likes to admit their mistakes.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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5 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Payments

September 27, 2021 - 6:03am

TNS—Social Security provides a secure, fixed income to retirees and others, helping many to afford their golden years. Given the fact that you get reliable money for the rest of your life, many people want to max out their monthly check. But how do you do that?

Broadly speaking, you have three levers to max out your Social Security income:

Work longer. The more years you work, the more money Social Security will pay, up to your best 35 years of income.

Earn more. If you pay more into the Social Security system, your payout later will be larger, up to a point.

Delay your benefit. If you wait longer to claim your benefit—up to age 70—you’ll claim a higher monthly payment.

But those methods are only part of the story, and those looking for a bigger benefit check have a few other ways to boost their payout.

1. Work more years.
While you can’t always earn a higher salary, you may be able to work longer, and that’s the first step for maxing out your Social Security paycheck.

“Social Security benefits are calculated from the 35 years of work in which your salary was at its highest,” says Mark Bodnar, CFP, wealth adviser at Octavia Wealth Advisors in Cincinnati. “This is important to consider, because if you have not worked for 35 years, zeros will be factored in, lowering your overall payout.”

But even if you have 35 years under your belt, adding some additional higher-earning years can boost your average.

“If an individual already has a complete 35-year earnings record, the additional earning can make a difference in future benefits only if it causes an earlier year’s lower earnings to drop off the record,” says Beth Lynch, CFP, financial adviser at Fort Pitt Capital Group in Pittsburgh.

Later on in your career you’re probably making more than when you first started out. So if you can earn more and push some of those earlier years out of the calculation, you’ll get a higher Social Security benefit.

But working longer benefits you in a couple other ways: You’ll be able to amass more savings and delay the start of drawing down assets in your retirement plan, such as an IRA or 401(k).

2. Earn more money.
The next obvious lever to pull to get a Social Security paycheck is to earn more money. Social Security uses a formula that factors in how much you’ve paid into the system. The more you’ve paid in, the bigger your benefit—up to a point.

Social Security taxes your wages 6.2% each year, and your employer pays another 6.2%, up to $142,800 (for 2021) in income. Paying taxes on the maximum would give you the highest possible Social Security payout, all else equal. So if you pay taxes on the maximum, which tends to rise each year, then you’re topping out your contributions to the system.

For those who paid at the taxable maximum during their entire working lives and claimed their full benefits at age 70, the starting payout in 2021 would be $3,895. This figure gives you the top end of what they could expect, though that number should grow over time, thanks to adjustments.

But even if you don’t earn this much before retirement, you may be able to increase your check.

“Work during retirement to increase your benefit payout,” Lynch says. “A person who continues to work after claiming benefits may also be able to increase their benefits. Earnings during retirement continue to go on a person’s earnings record.”

3. Delay your benefit.
Delaying your benefit will increase your benefit check, but there’s a limit to how far it will go.

You can begin taking your Social Security benefit at age 62, though you’ll receive less than if you waited until full retirement age (67 years old, for those born in 1960 or later). If you want the biggest check, you can wait as late as age 70, but waiting beyond that won’t get you anything extra.

“Delaying benefits will earn an individual 8% in delayed credits for each year after full retirement age,” Lynch says.

So if your benefit at full retirement age were $1,000, you’d be able to claim $1,080 per month by waiting a full year. However, you need not wait the full year to claim some of the increase. That is, for every month you delay your benefit, you’ll receive a benefit that is two-thirds of 1% higher, which is just the 8% annual rate divided by 12 months.

So if your full retirement age is 67 and if you wait three full years, until age 70, you’ll be able to claim 124% of your full benefit.

Plus, by delaying your benefit, you’ll get another “raise”—the cost of living adjustment (COLA) that tends to increase the monthly payout over time.

“This will enable a person to start out with a higher benefit and receive bigger ‘raises’ each year, as the annual COLA is applied to the higher amount,” Lynch says.

4. Married? Divorced? You have options.
Social Security offers a lot of benefits to people in a lot of different scenarios, and some of the most complex choices occur if you’re married or divorced. So spouses and ex-spouses need to carefully consider the options and what works best for them, especially in the area of survivor’s benefits when one spouse predeceases the other.

“If married, you have to consider your spouse,” says Eric Bond, wealth adviser with Bond Wealth Management in the Los Angeles area. “How much the surviving spouse will receive at the passing of the first spouse will depend on when that spouse started their Social Security.”

“The largest benefit stays in the household when a spouse dies,” says Beau Henderson, lead retirement planning specialist with RichLife Advisors in Gainesville, Georgia. “This is why we need to think about the impact of our claiming decision on both lives. There are a lot of scenarios and they need to be modeled to give you the best result.”

And just because you’re divorced doesn’t mean you can’t claim Social Security benefits on your ex-spouse’s earnings. But there are specific requirements that you need to meet.

The existence of a spouse or ex-spouse complicates the planning process and means that you need to model more scenarios to see what maximizes your benefits.

5. Work with a specialized financial adviser.
“There are over 500 possible ways to claim your benefit, and most Americans claim with very little thought into this decision that represents on average 40 percent of their retirement income,” Henderson says. “Only 4% of people in the U.S. choose the optimum claiming strategy that would give them the most money over their life expectancy.”

For this reason, it could make sense to work with a financial adviser who specializes in claiming Social Security benefits, especially if you have an unusual situation.

“Social Security Administration employees are not allowed to give advice, and the majority of financial advisers are not helping with this benefit, because they are not educated in the area or because they are not compensated,” Henderson says.
Because of the program’s complexity—a result of trying to help people in many different situations—you may need specialized advice to find the best solution for you. And that could pay off handsomely, even though it could cost you a little bit of money upfront.

Bottom Line
It’s easier to get a bigger Social Security check if you’ve aimed toward that goal your entire working life. But even if you’re down to the wire with only a few years until you want to claim your check, you still have a number of things to do to boost your benefit, and waiting even a couple years can significantly increase your payout and do so permanently.

©2021 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Real Estate Q&A: Our Condo Board Is Dragging Its Feet on Approving Our Buyer. What Can We Do?

September 21, 2021 - 6:02am

(TNS)— Q: We are selling our condo, and closing is fast approaching. Our condo  board is dragging its feet on approving our buyer. We are getting concerned because we must pack and move out, and we do not even know if our buyer will be allowed to buy our home. What can we do? — Anna

A: Selling your home can be incredibly stressful. Not only do you have to worry about your buyer getting association and financing approval, but you have to move to your next home.

The best way to deal with this complex situation is by first getting educated and then getting organized.

You should find out as much as you can about the closing process. Review the purchase contract, your condo’s governing documents and some of the many websites explaining the process.

Interview your real estate agent and closing attorney to make sure you hire professionals who know what they are doing and will answer your questions. Then ask questions.

Take charge of your closing. Delegate tasks to your team, but do not abdicate your responsibility to them:

  • Make a list of the deadlines in your purchase agreement.
  • Make sure that your buyer is following them. Ensure their loan and association membership applications are submitted on time.
  • Follow up with your community manager to confirm the application was received and complete.
  • Find out what the process is and keep politely following up to make sure it keeps moving forward.
  • If the process falters, gently push it along. Always be polite and helpful, and remember you want your association on your side.

By staying on top of your deal, it will most likely go smoothly.

And if it does not, you will know about it well ahead of time. Not every transaction works out, but little is worse than finding out about the problems for the first time on closing day.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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7 Home Maintenance Tips to Tackle This Fall

September 17, 2021 - 6:03am

Fall is just about here, and it’s a great time for homeowners to tackle home maintenance items in and around the house. Doing these tasks will help protect their investment, too!

1. Caulk and seal around exterior door and window frames. Look for gaps where pipes or wiring enter the home and seal those as well. Not only does heat escape from these openings, but water can also enter and cause mold problems and even structural damage. Good sealing will also keep out insects, mice and other unwanted critters.

2. Use binoculars to check the roof for missing or damaged shingles. Water, wind, ice and snow can cause serious damage to a vulnerable roof, leading to a greater chance of further problems inside the home. If issues are spotted, have a qualified professional inspect and repair the roof.

3. Clear gutters of leaves, sticks and other debris. If the gutters can accommodate them, leaf screens can be real time savers and prevent clogging. Check the joints between sections of gutter, as well as between the gutter and downspouts, and make any necessary repairs.

4. In cold-weather climates, drain garden hoses and store them indoors to protect them from the elements. Shut off outdoor faucets and make sure exterior pipes are drained of water. Faucets and pipes can freeze and burst, causing leaks and increasing the potential for water damage.

5. A cozy wood-burning fireplace can be a real pleasure on a chilly fall evening. For safety, have the firebox and chimney professionally inspected and cleaned before use this season. Creosote, a byproduct of wood burning, can build up to dangerous levels and cause a chimney fire that can spread to the rest of the house.

6. Gas fireplaces should be inspected for proper venting and operation. Check glass doors for cracks and don’t use the fireplace if the glass is damaged.

7. Have the furnace inspected to ensure that it’s safe and in good working order. Many utility companies will provide basic, no-cost furnace inspections to their customers, but schedule early as there can be a long waiting list as the weather cools down. Replace disposable furnace air filters or clean the permanent type according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Using a clean filter will help the furnace run more efficiently, saving money and energy.

Pillar To Post Home Inspectors is committed to ensuring confident home ownership. To learn more about how Pillar To Post Home Inspectors can help your clients, visit
pillartopost.com.

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Real Estate Q&A: How Do We Correct the Size of Our Condo in Association’s Documents?

August 30, 2021 - 6:00am

(TNS)—Q: In our condo, all the units have two bedrooms, but some are slightly larger and pay $40 more in monthly maintenance. Ours is one of the smaller units but is listed in the condo documents as a larger one. We have been paying the lesser amount, and the association has cashed the checks while telling us we need to pay the difference. Now they are threatening us with interest and late fees. What can we do? — Ron

A: For now, at least, you need to pay the amounts in your condominium’s declaration. By not paying the specified amount each month, you are subjecting yourself to late fees, interest and even possible legal action by your community.

When people short-pay their association, it will accept the payment and apply it to delinquent balances, charges and interest before the current month.

The check you write this month is being used for the older, outstanding charges, making your delinquency grow. This causes your debt to snowball, especially when your community’s attorneys are brought in to collect. You will have to pay their fees too.

I understand the instinct to stand up for yourself, but like most things, there is a right and wrong way to do it. You cannot withhold dues, even partially, because you disagree with something the association does.

Simply ignoring the rules, even if they are mistaken, and doing your own thing is bound to make matters worse.

I once saw someone lose their condo to foreclosure over what started as a disagreement over $6 of maintenance dues and spiraled out of control year after year.

You need to pay the amount in your condo documents while fixing the problem.

You will need to prove to your community that the condo docs are mistaken. You may need to hire a professional to measure and report on the actual size of your unit.

Once your community knows of the mistake, a vote by the majority of the unit owners can correct it.

When that happens, you should be entitled to a refund of the overpayments.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at
www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Real Estate Q&A: Can a Condo Community Post Speed Limit Signs?

August 18, 2021 - 6:04am

(TNS)—Q: I live in a small condominium community. Several residents are complaining about speeding vehicles and delivery trucks. We are thinking of posting 15 mph speed limit signs, although the streets outside our community allow faster travel. Can we do this, and what else can we do to slow drivers down and prevent someone from getting hurt? — Margaret

A: Not only can you post speed limit signs, but you also should.

Your association, acting under the authority of its governing documents, may create community guidelines and take measures to enforce those rules.

Like any other association rule, a community traffic rule is enforced in similar ways, such as issuing violations and even small fines.

Unit owners can be held responsible for their guest’s violation of the rules. That said, fining your neighbors might not be the best way to get people to slow down.

Posting speed limit signs is a great start. People are more likely to follow the rules if they know what they are.

Signs are an excellent reminder to drivers to slow down. You can post other signs to curb speeding, such as “Children at Play” or “Slow Down.”

You can also install speed cushions at strategic places in the community. Speed cushion placement is more science than art, so consult with an experienced professional to determine the best locations.

Make sure to check with your local building department because there may be requirements for you to follow before installing these calming devices.

Some communities purchase electronic signs that display drivers’ speed, flashing it if they exceed the limit. This device, especially when used with the methods mentioned above, is very effective because it provides visual feedback.

Finally, you can install a speed monitoring camera to catch offenders. But this only makes sense if the board is willing to regularly monitor it and issue violations and fines to offenders. This may be overwhelming in a small community such as yours.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Roof Leaks: Why You Cannot Ignore Them

August 4, 2021 - 6:01am

Roof leaks are one of the leading causes of preventable property damage. A leaking roof is disruptive and costly, and can eventually cause mold, damage to interior finishes and even structural damage.

While it’s true that older roofs or those in disrepair are at greater risk for leaks, one of the most common causes of roof failure is faulty workmanship during installation. This is not always readily apparent because it often takes a few years for a poor installation to manifest itself as a leak. Using a licensed, qualified roofing contractor for any installations or repairs is always recommended.

Let’s look at some of the factors that affect how a roof handles water and what can cause leaks to form.

Pitched/Sloped Roofs: Pitched or sloped roofs are designed to shed water from one shingle to the next down to the roof edge, where the gutters and downspouts will carry the water away. Many people are surprised to learn that sloped roofs are not actually waterproof but instead rely on gravity and engineering to quickly move water off the home.

Flat Roofs: The most common type of flat roof is the built-up, or tar-and-gravel, roof. Flat roofs are designed to be waterproof and use a membrane such as roofing felt or specially engineered foam to seal the surface. These roofs have just enough slope to conduct water to a drain, which funnels water down and off the roof surface. It’s critical to keep drains on flat roof clear of debris so water won’t back up and damage the integrity of the roof.

What Causes Leaks? Most roof leaks can be traced to poorly installed or worn flashing. Flashing usually consists of pieces of metal that cover gaps between the roofing material and items that penetrate through the roof such as chimneys, skylights, dormers and roof/wall intersections. Wind and rain in just the wrong combination can cause a pitched roof to leak by compromising its water-shedding capabilities.

In cold climates, ice damming can cause a perfectly good roof surface to leak. Ice can block the flow of water to the edge of the roof or to the drain. The water can then back up under the shingles and leak into the house.

Leaks can have interior causes as well. Condensation in the attic due to leaking household air or heating and/or air conditioning ducts can cause damage to the roof decking and structural framing. In severe cases, it can cause water to drip back into the house. This can lead to mold and even structural damage if not corrected.

Proper installation and maintenance of roofs are key to preventing problems down the road. Homeowners should monitor their roof and attic, and contact a qualified roofing contractor at the first sign of any problems.

For more information, please visit pillartopost.com.

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Real Estate Q&A: What Can Homeowners Do When the HOA Board Isn’t Doing Its Job?

August 2, 2021 - 6:00am

(TNS)—Q: Our association’s board of directors is not doing their job. Overgrown landscaping, boats and inoperable vehicles in driveways, and houses that need painting are among the many problems in our community. What can a homeowner do when their board and management company are ineffective? — Margaret

A: The board of directors of your community association must maintain the common areas and enforce the rules and regulations. This is not an easy task, and many associations hire a property manager to help.

Board members have their own lives, jobs and concerns. Even so, having volunteered to take a leadership role in their community, board members need to fulfill their responsibilities.

The first step in getting your neighborhood back in shape is to let the board know your concerns.

Gather other members who feel the same way and request a meeting with the board.
You can also sign up to air your grievances at the next board meeting. Cite specific examples and maintain a professional and helpful tone when you do.

If this does not work, and enough of your neighbors agree with you, you can have a recall vote. If this succeeds, you can remove some or all board members and replace them with volunteers willing to do the job.

Another possibility is running for the board yourself at the next election and improving the board’s performance from the inside.

If all else fails, you can sue your board to make them enforce the rules and properly maintain the grounds.

Litigation is expensive and time-consuming, and often the losing party pays the winner’s attorney fees, so this option should be taken only as a last resort.

Another option is to move to a community that more suits your standards. Your neighbors may be okay with the way things are run and not want things to change.
Finding the right community for you may be the best choice.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Fla. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Why Now Is the Time to Consolidate Your Mortgage and HELOC

July 28, 2021 - 6:03am

(TNS)—Homeowners have another opportunity to take advantage of a mortgage rate fire sale these days as a variety of economic factors and the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s decision to eliminate the refinance fee are all coming together to push the mortgage market back down.

One strategy for benefiting from these conditions could be to refinance your mortgage and wrap any home equity debt you have—like a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit (HELOC)—into the new loan. Here’s why doing that could save you money in the long run.

Why Consider Consolidating 

Mortgage interest rates are generally lower than those on home equity products, and with mortgage rates poised to fall even further in the near term, it’s a great chance to scale back your higher-interest debt.

For now, Federal Reserve policy is meant to promote low interest rates, but most experts expect that to shift as the COVID recovery continues.

“When the Fed does start raising rates, the first rate to go up is the home equity rate,” said Melissa Cohn, executive mortgage banker at William Raveis Mortgage. “Your home equity loan has only one way to go: up.”

Home equity loans and lines of credit are more susceptible to fluctuations in the market, because those products tend to have adjustable rates, while primary mortgages more commonly have their interest fixed at a single rate over the life of the loan.

“We’re in the final innings of this extraordinary low-rate environment,” Cohn said, so borrowers with adjustable-rate loans have only a matter of time before their payments start going up. “Wouldn’t you want to refinance your whole loan to a mortgage where your rate is secure?”

How Does the Refi Fee Affect This Consolidation Strategy?

“It’s huge,” Cohn said. “You got the gold ring on top of it. Not only have bond yields dropped, but so has the cost of borrowing because we got rid of that fee.”

The refinance fee of 0.5% of the loan’s balance was levied on most mortgage overhauls since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It applied to conforming loans held by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, with a principal balance of at least $125,000.

The end of the fee on Aug. 1 will make it easier for borrowers to consolidate their debt, especially if doing so would have put them on the wrong side of that $125,000 threshold. The fee was paid by lenders, and many of them chose to pass just some of the cost on to borrowers, so it’s not clear if anyone will see the full half-point in savings when they refi.

How to Consolidate Your Debt

The easiest way to consolidate your mortgage and home equity debt is to do a cash-out refinance of your primary mortgage, and use the extra funds to pay off the balance you’re carrying on your HELOC or loan.

If you have enough equity in your home, you may be able to keep the line of credit open, even after paying it off, according to Cohn.

“The benefit of a home equity loan is that it gives it access to your home equity at a moment’s notice,” she said. “You may not be required to close it out.”

For homeowners, a HELOC can be a great source of emergency cash if unexpected major expenses pop up, in addition to being a smart way to fund home improvement projects.

Keep in mind that if your lender does require you to close out your HELOC, which many probably will as part of a refinance, you’ll no longer have access to that equity unless you choose to open another line of credit later on.

Bottom Line

Mortgage rates are heading down again, and while the historic lows won’t last forever, the trend is giving borrowers renewed opportunities to benefit.

If you haven’t already refinanced, or if you’re carrying multiple mortgages on your home, now is a great time to crunch the numbers and consider pursuing a lower interest rate and consolidating some debt.

©2021 Bankrate.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Should You Get Rid of PMI?

July 26, 2021 - 6:05am

You were likely able to snag a house with a lower down payment than the traditional 20% required, but that may have left you with private mortgage insurance (PMI). This type of insurance is designed to protect your mortgage lender in case you default on the loan. Typically, a homeowner who must purchase PMI is required to keep it until reaching 20% equity.

As long as your mortgage doesn’t have a prepayment penalty, you will have the option to make extra payments on a regular basis or once in a while (for example, when you have funds from a bonus or a tax refund). Paying more than the required amount can help you reach 20% equity and eliminate PMI faster.

Should You Make Extra Mortgage Payments or Focus on Other Priorities?
Putting more money toward your mortgage can help you build equity faster and eliminate the monthly burden of PMI premiums. Before you put additional funds toward your home loan, however, make sure that you’re devoting enough financial resources to your other goals.

If you’re not saving as much as you would like for retirement, you may be better off putting extra funds into a 401(k) or an IRA so they can benefit from compound interest. You may also decide that it would be better to use extra money to save for your children’s college education.

If you have high credit card balances, you may be better off paying them down than working on eliminating PMI. The amount you could save in interest charges on credit cards may be far greater than the amount you could save in PMI.

You should have an emergency fund to cope with a job loss, an unexpected medical bill or some other type of financial hardship. Your emergency fund should have enough money to cover your essential living expenses for several months. If you don’t have a substantial emergency fund, make saving for the unexpected a top priority. Once you’ve built up a reserve to get you through hard times, you can shift your focus to building home equity and eliminating PMI.

Where Should You Put Your Extra Money?
Private mortgage insurance can be expensive, and it’s understandable to want to build home equity and eliminate that additional expense as soon as possible. If you’re currently putting enough money toward your other long-term goals and have little or no credit card debt and plenty of money in an emergency fund, go ahead and put extra money toward your mortgage so you can stop paying for PMI.

If you’re not on firm financial ground in other areas, address those issues first. Once you’re in better shape, you can focus on making extra mortgage payments and getting rid of PMI.

Agents, want more tips like these to share with your existing and prospective clients? Check out our automated social media marketing platform, ACESocial.

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3 Ways to Cool Down Your Home This Summer

July 22, 2021 - 6:03am

We’re mid-way through summer and there’s already been several heat waves making their way across the country. If you struggle to keep your home cool in the warmer months, or your electricity bills are astronomical because you run the air conditioner all day, you may want to consider the following.

Keep Sunlight Out
Window coverings, such as thermal curtains or shades and blackout curtains, can reduce the amount of sunlight that enters your home and keep it cooler during the hottest parts of the day. Keep curtains or blinds closed during the day, especially on windows that face south and west. You can also use insulated window film to keep heat from pouring into the house.

If one part of your house tends to get a lot of sun and there is nothing to block the sunlight, you can plant trees or bushes. Another option is to install awnings outside the windows.

Seal Up the House to Control Airflow
The average home has lots of small cracks and leaks around windows, door frames, skylights and other locations that let hot outdoor air in. Your utility company can perform a home energy audit to find leaks and give you advice on how to fix them to keep your house cooler. Doing so may also make you eligible for a discount on your electricity bills.

Hot air flows to an area with cooler air. If your home is poorly insulated, the interior can get hot in the summer and your air conditioner will struggle to keep up. Adding more insulation could keep your house cooler in the summer and keep your utility bills down.

If you don’t use certain rooms often, close the doors to keep cooler air in the parts of your home that are occupied. Open windows at night to let a cool breeze into the house.

Use Air Conditioners, Fans and Thermostats Wisely
If you use one or more window air-conditioner units, make sure they are appropriate for the areas they are cooling. Using a unit that is the wrong size can waste energy and cost you more for electricity. ENERGY STAR air conditioners save energy and are inexpensive to run.

Ceiling fans, if used correctly, can make a room feel cooler. Set ceiling fans so the blades rotate counterclockwise to circulate cool air close to the ground throughout the rest of the room. Turning on the bathroom fan when you take a shower and the kitchen fan when you cook can draw hot air out of the house.

Use a programmable thermostat to set your air conditioner to a lower temperature when your family is not home. You can program it to cool off the house shortly before you return home so it will be comfortable while you’re there, while avoiding wasting money to cool it when unoccupied.

Agents, want more tips like these to share with your existing and prospective clients? Check out our automated social media marketing platform, ACESocial.

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Real Estate Q&A: Is Landlord Responsible if Renter’s Dog Bites Someone?

July 20, 2021 - 6:00am

(TNS)—Q: We own a rental house and allow renters to bring their medium and small dogs. Who would be liable if a renter’s dog bites and injuries another visitor on our property, such as the landscaper or another guest on the property? — Anne

A: A landlord will usually not be liable if their tenant’s dog injures someone. However, there are exceptions to this general rule.

If you are aware your tenant has a dangerous animal and do not have it removed from the home, you could be held responsible if someone is injured. You could also be held liable if you are aware someone is breaking the lease and do not put a stop to it.

For example, you said your lease is for small and medium dogs, and you know that your tenant brought a large dog, and you do not do anything to enforce the restrictions. If this large dog bites someone, you could be on the hook.

If you help take care of the dog, such as taking him for a walk or feeding her when your tenant is at work, and the dog later attacks someone, you could be held liable.
This is another reason that every landlord should treat renting as a business and not become friends or get involved with their tenant’s life.

When renting to a tenant with a pet, screen the pet along with the prospective tenant. You should also require your tenant to get renters insurance that includes liability protection.

Finally, enforce the terms of your lease. Letting your tenant slide on the agreed rules can cause you to be held liable if something goes wrong.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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These Outdoor Features Will Help You Sell Fast

July 19, 2021 - 5:00am

The interior of homes is often in the limelight when it comes to considering what adds value to a property. However, you shouldn’t discount the exterior of a home. Outdoor features can prove just as valuable, giving you a boost in price when it comes time to sell.

Having a backyard filled with amenities, from a well-thought-out irrigation system to a fully equipped kitchen right outside, has quickly become a necessity for sellers to feature.

Smart Irrigation System
Not only is this a great selling feature, but it is also environmentally friendly. With many of today’s buyers coming from the millennial generation, highlighting something that is tech-friendly and sustainable is important. There are many options to choose from, such as a system that can be controlled via bluetooth, as well as some that are solar powered. Highlight this feature in your listing, including the environmental and financial benefits that come along with it.

Pet- and Kid-Friendly Spaces
Another great selling feature when it comes to your outdoor space is having one or more areas dedicated to pets and children. If you have a dog, for example, and have built a dog house in your yard, consider leaving it on the property and adding it to your listing. The same goes for swing sets, playhouses and treehouses. If a buyer has young children, these can be attractive features that can help your listing and your home to stand out from the competition.

Outdoor Kitchen
Of course, not every backyard features a fully equipped kitchen, but if you have one, be sure to highlight it. More people are spending time at home and crave an outdoor living space that checks all of their boxes. Rather than a grill and a simple patio set, today’s buyers are looking for outdoor features for entertainment and relaxation. And what is more relaxing than having everything you need right at your fingertips? Consider adding a small fridge, counter and storage space, a bar cart and even a pizza oven!

Privacy
For many buyers, privacy is a top priority. Whether you have large hedges or a tall fence around your property, be sure to point this out in your listing. For homes in a neighborhood where neighbors are close in proximity, this is especially important. If you do not have a fence or another form of privacy around your property, serious buyers may request this as part of their negotiation, so consider adding this feature before you list your home to avoid major costs later on.

Before putting your home up for sale, consider adding a few of these outdoor features that today’s buyers crave. If you already have one or all of these features, be sure to highlight them in not only your listing images, but the description as well. Talk to your real estate agent about how to best showcase these outdoor add-ons to ensure that your home sells fast!

Agents, want more tips like these to share with your existing and prospective clients? Check out our automated social media marketing platform, ACESocial.

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Florida Among Worst States for Soaring Rents

July 16, 2021 - 5:00am

(TNS)—For the second year in a row, a group studying the chasm between declining wages and soaring rents found that nowhere in the U.S. can a minimum-wage worker afford a two-bedroom apartment at the fair market rent.

In its signature Out of Reach report released this week, the National Low Income Housing Coalition determined that a full-time hourly worker would need to earn $24.90 an hour, more than three times the $7.25 federal minimum wage, in order to afford a $1,295-a-month rental home. That’s the average “fair market rent” in the U.S., according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“It keeps telling the same story,” said Anne Ray, manager of the data clearinghouse at the University of Florida’s Shimberg Center for Housing Studies. “Housing costs have really just come unhinged from wages for a lot of jobs like retail, hospitality, customer service, and in some early career teaching, pre-school and childcare.

“Somehow things are to the point where even though there’s that huge demand for relatively low-cost housing, the units aren’t getting produced.”

According to the report, Florida is one of the states where the gap between the minimum wage and what’s actually necessary to afford modest housing is widest.

The state minimum wage is $8.56, equivalent to $17,804 a year and, after Amendment 2 was passed last November, will increase to $10 in September. But to be able to afford a two-bedroom unit at the $1,290 fair market rent, you’d need to make $24.82 an hour, which amounts to $51,619 for a yearly salary.

Put another way, a minimum-wage worker would have to work 115 hours a week.

“This report affirms the sad truth, what we already know about Florida’s housing crisis: The average person is priced out of the market,” said Sen. Victor Torres, who was elected to the Legislature in 2012 and represents Osceola County and parts of Orange County. “When it comes to rents, they’re $1,300, $1,400, $1,500 a month depending on if you need a two-bedroom or a three-bedroom. It’s just not fair.”

Ray said it’s an issue that affects most of Orlando’s workforce, half of which makes below $17.59 an hour, according to data from NLIHC and the state that the Shimberg Center uses to analyze Central Florida’s rental market. Professions in tourism, including cashiers, retail workers, restaurant cooks and servers, make far less than the necessary wage that NLIHC calculated, and even other jobs such as firefighters, electricians, auto mechanics, hairdressers, social workers and constructions laborers largely do not make enough to afford reasonably priced housing on their own.

For someone in Florida working a full-time job making $17.59, the most they could afford to pay in rent without spending more than 30% of their income—how the feds and most housing experts define “affordable”—is $915 a month.

“For people who can work, one full-time job should be enough,” the NLIHC contested in its report.

But the affordable housing shortage doesn’t just affect working families. Florida’s seniors who are on fixed income also struggle.

In the Orlando metropolitan area, Ray said there are about 240,850 people who get Social Security retirement benefits. The average benefits are between $1,341 and $1,559 per month, meaning they’d have to find a two-bedroom rental for $402 to $468 a month in order to avoid spending more than 30% of their income on rent. Otherwise, a one-bedroom “fair market rent” apartment would eat up as much as 75% of their Social Security.

The result is a state with millions of households, of various ages and income levels, that spend a big portion of their pay on rent, making it more difficult to save, handle an unexpected expense or break into homeownership. The Shimberg Center has found that 1.4 million renter households spend at least 30% of their yearly income on rent, and of those, 938,957 pay even more.

During the pandemic, when droves of workers were suddenly laid off or furloughed, that had devastating effects. With no income and not much savings, paying rent simply became impossible, and despite eviction moratoriums and rental assistance programs set up to help, thousands of people were evicted while the coronavirus was spreading.

As the report points out, most new rental housing that gets built is for high-income renters to balance out high development costs and landlords can “virtually never, without state or federal subsidies” afford to rent out their units at a price that the lowest-income renters can afford.

That’s led to a shrinking supply of affordable homes—for renters and buyers.

In Florida, for instance, over the past 20 years nearly 200,000 rental units priced under $1,000 per month have disappeared as landlords increased rents, while at the same time about 1 million units priced above $1,000 were added, according to the Shimberg Center. The Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association has also seen the inventory of entry-level homes recede to record lows.

In 2019, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings convened a Housing For All task force made up of homebuilders, REALTORS® and leaders from the region’s theme parks, labor unions, charities and hospitals that devised a 10-year-plan to inject $160 million into housing projects and build 30,000 new places to live, but few would be for extremely low-income rents. About a third of the units that could be created would be for households that make between $26,000 and $83,000 a year, and two-thirds would be for those who make between $83,000 and $97,000.

The plan also called for loosening zoning codes and offering bonuses to entice developers to the most housing-hungry neighborhoods, and also established a $3.5 million loan fund for nonprofit builders and identified dozens of lots that the county will donate to nonprofits to be redeveloped as affordable houses.

Sen. Torres said he believes the state and local governments can do more, though, including enacting rules to force builders to set aside affordable units in market-rate developments. He also criticized the decision by Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls this past session to permanently siphon half of the state’s affordable housing trust fund to spend on environmental projects.

The Florida REALTORS® Association, the largest trade association in Florida, has launched a campaign to get a constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot to restore the fund.

“The Legislature is controlled for the past 20 years by Republicans (who) have their own version of how they want to use those funds,” Torres said, adding that this year lawmakers passed a $100 billion budget. “The money is there, it just depends on the will of the government.”

But aside from building to fix the shortage, the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the Biden administration is pushing for a massive expansion of housing programs for the poor, including universal rental assistance to increase the funding for housing vouchers programs, which allow people to rent from the private market while only paying a portion of the rent. The rest is offset by the housing voucher, which is administered by the local housing authority directly to the person’s landlord.

Right now, only 1 in 4 very low-income renters who are eligible for voucher programs receive one.

©2021
Orlando Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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Real Estate Q&A: Can Delivery Driver Sue Me If He Tripped and Fell Near My Door?

July 15, 2021 - 8:00am

(TNS)—Q: A parcel delivery driver tripped on his way to leave a package by my front door. I saw it happen later, reviewing the video from my doorbell. It was a bad fall, and he slowly limped back to his truck and left. I hope he is OK, but I am worried if he can sue me. Can he? — Walter

A: As a property owner, you owed the driver a duty of care. This means you are responsible for making sure no dangerous conditions could injure someone on your property.

If the hazard was not in plain sight, like a loose step leading to your porch, or a rotted handrail, you need to warn people until you can fix the problem. If someone gets hurt because you did not live up to your duty of care, you could be sued for their injuries, suffering, and lost wages.

In your case, you did not mention if some issue with your property caused the driver to fall or if it was a freak accident.

Either way, your first step is to save the video of what happened. This could prove crucial to your defense later, especially if it were a random event or if the driver’s actions, maybe by playing with his phone rather than watch where he was walking, contributed to his fall.

You also need to call your homeowners insurance company and tell them what happened. If you live within a community association, report the accident to them too.
The driver is most likely covered by worker’s compensation insurance, covering his medical bills and most of his lost wages.

Unfortunately for you, his insurance company could look to you for reimbursement if you were at fault.

The driver could also sue you directly, although he would have to pay part of any recovery to worker’s comp to reimburse them for what they spent.

Your homeowners insurance company should help you with this issue, including your legal defense. This is why it is essential to report the issue to them immediately.

Gary M. Singer is a Florida attorney and board-certified as an expert in real estate law by the Florida Bar. He practices real estate, business litigation and contract law from his office in Sunrise, Florida. He is the chairman of the Real Estate Section of the Broward County Bar Association and is a co-host of the weekly radio show Legal News and Review. He frequently consults on general real estate matters and trends in Florida with various companies across the nation. Send him questions online at www.sunsentinel.com/askpro or follow him on Twitter @GarySingerLaw.

©2021 South Florida Sun Sentinel
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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The Buyer Wasn’t Preapproved for a Mortgage: Do You Accept the Offer?

July 14, 2021 - 8:00am

It’s always a good idea to get preapproved for a mortgage before you begin house-hunting. However, it’s not necessarily required. If you’re on the selling side, just be prepared to receive offers from buyers who haven’t been preapproved.

What Does It Mean When a Buyer Is Preapproved?
When a buyer applies for mortgage preapproval, a lender requests information on that person’s income and assets, as well as reviews the applicant’s credit. If the applicant meets the lender’s criteria, the company issues a mortgage preapproval letter stating how much money the institution is willing to lend the applicant to purchase a house.

The buyer can then present that letter to a seller to demonstrate that they are in good shape financially. The buyer will have to seek final approval for a mortgage, either from the same company or from a different one, before closing on a home.

Why Should You Prefer an Offer From a Buyer Who Has Been Preapproved?
A preapproval letter means that a lender has reviewed an applicant’s finances and found that the person has the financial resources needed to buy a house. If you’re selling your home and you receive an offer from a buyer who has been preapproved, the likelihood that the transaction will go smoothly is high.

It’s possible that a problem, such as a job loss, a drop in credit score or another issue, will arise and cause the deal to fall through. That’s why the buyer will need to secure final approval before closing. Still, you can be relatively confident that a buyer who has been preapproved will be able to purchase your for-sale home.

If a buyer hasn’t been preapproved, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the person can’t afford to buy your house. It just means that a lender hasn’t reviewed the individual’s finances. If you accept an offer from someone who hasn’t been preapproved, the deal may go off without a hitch, or it may quickly fall apart.

If a potential sale falls through, you’ll have to re-list your home. That can cause you to lose valuable time and may make other prospective buyers wonder if there is something wrong with the house or if it was overpriced.

When Might It Make Sense to Accept an Offer From Someone Who Hasn’t Been Preapproved?
If your house has been on the market for weeks or months with no offers, you may want to entertain a bid from a buyer who hasn’t gotten mortgage preapproval. If that individual can pay in cash, the offer may be particularly appealing.

Discuss the offer with your real estate agent, gather as much information as possible and consider the local housing market overall. Your agent can help you figure out if you should accept the bid or if you would be better off waiting for an offer from a buyer who has mortgage financing already lined up.

Agents, want more tips like these to share with your existing and prospective clients? Check out our automated social media marketing platform, ACESocial.

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