DEAR BOB: I’ve been in the landlording business for more than 20 years. My tenants have purchased for me, thanks to their rent payments, four free-and-clear houses, and I am well on my way to owning several other mortgage-free rental properties in the next few years. Most tenants are wonderful people if they are properly screened before they move in. Also, there is a period of “tenant training” to get them to pay rent on time. My longest-term tenant has been with me 16 years. Why he never bought his own home, I don’t understand, but I don’t want to lose him. My question is, do I have to rent to lawyers? Over the years, my two worst tenants were lawyers. They complained about insignificant items and tested my patience. I had to evict one for non-payment of rent and the other one thankfully left when she got married. Recently, I turned down a lawyer applicant because of a poor credit report with a FICO (Fair Isaac Corp.) credit score of only 637 and a bad report from his previous landlord. He threatened to sue me. I stupidly told him I wasn’t renting to him because he is a lawyer. Do I have to rent to lawyers? –Martin Y.
DEAR MARTIN: No. You had valid reasons for not renting to that lawyer, such as the low FICO credit score and the bad report from a prior landlord.
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However, you should not have said the real reason was because the applicant is a lawyer. That was like waving a red cape in front of a bull.
I am not aware of any state that prohibits rental discrimination on the basis of a tenant applicant’s occupation. Frankly, although I am an attorney, I have had past problems with attorney tenants so I don’t blame you for being reluctant to rent to lawyers.
INSURANCE AGENT SAYS TITLE IN LIVING TRUST IS FINE
DEAR BOB: As an insurance agent for more than 24 years, I must politely disagree with that item you ran several months ago from an insurance company employee who said the homeowner’s insurance company must be notified when title is held in a living trust. Many of my insured homeowners hold title in their living trusts. I’ve never seen a problem paying a claim just because the title is in a living trust. Frankly, it would complicate my life as an insurance agent if I had to change all those policies. The only circumstance that caused a slight problem was when the homeowner became incompetent and the successor living-trust trustee filed a policy claim. The insurance company asked for a copy of the living trust to be certain payment to the successor trustee was proper. Perhaps this is an insurance company-by-company decision. –Jonathan B.
DEAR JONATHAN: Thank you for sharing that valuable information. I heard from several other insurance agents who said there was no need to notify the insurer that a homeowner’s title is held in their living trust. Just to be certain, homeowners should check with their personal insurance agent to learn if it necessary to notify their insurer of holding title in their living trust.
BUYER’S AGENT WARNS ABOUT “OFFER SHOPPING”
DEAR BOB: As a home buyer’s agent, I thought you and your readers should know the best way I’ve found to prevent “offer shopping” by some unscrupulous seller’s listing agents. Some listing agents refuse to allow me to present my buyers’ offers. Just to thwart that possibility, I always write in the offers, “this offer to be presented to seller only in the presence of the buyer’s agent.” If the seller’s listing agent refuses to let me directly present my buyer’s offer to the seller, I either politely phone the sellers direct or drive over to the sellers’ home to inform them that their agent refuses to let me present the purchase offer. I have found this prevents “offer shopping” and establishes my client as a serious buyer –Shirley T.
DEAR SHIRLEY: Thank you for sharing that excellent strategy to overcome listing agents who insist on controlling the situation, often to the detriment of their home sellers. As the home sale market “cools,” I think you will find listing agents much more cooperative and less inclined to “offer shopping.”
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