Should Real Estate Investors Get Their Real Estate License?
- A real estate license entails many rewarding benefits.
- Unless you own the property, you need a license to become a property manager.
- Real estate investors should know their legal responsibilities.
Property management can be a rewarding experience. However, it also comes with responsibilities.
The duties include leasing, collecting security deposits and rent, maintaining properties to a certain standard, and adhering to all laws related to the profession.
Further, the property manager must ensure compliance with all laws governing the conduct of business in the state, including workplace safety, sexual harassment, discrimination, and the like.
There are a number of requirements for California property managers. Among them are:
Possession of a Real Estate Broker’s License
You’ll need a real estate broker’s license, or you must work for an individual who has one to operate as a property manager in the State of California.
You must also demonstrate specific training in the field and pass a written examination administered by the state’s Department of Real Estate.
Here are some benefits of getting a real estate broker’s license:
- You can create your own firm. A broker’s license allows you to create your own firm. Only licensed brokers can secure funding, create a business plan, and hire agents.
- You will have bigger share of commission. The average fee for a Buyer’s Agent is 2.5 to 3 percent, while the average Listing Agent gets 5 to 6 percent.
The only exception to this rule is if you own the property and manage it yourself.
Conformity with Health, Safety, and Building Codes
Property managers are required to ensure residential rental units meet all applicable health, safety, and building codes. This, of course, means they have to be familiar with them.
In nearly every state, landlords are required to keep their properties safe and livable for tenants. This includes basic needs such as hot water, sturdy walls, and solid roofs.
It also means keeping tenants safe from hazardous materials like lead and asbestos or dangerous activity like theft.
In California, rental properties are subject to a specific definition of the “implied warranty of habitability”. Under this legal doctrine, landlords are to provide the following:
- Effective waterproofing and weather protection from roof and exterior walls
- Working plumbing or gas facilities
- Ample water supply capable of producing both hot and cold running water
- Well-maintained heating facilities
- Electrical lighting, wiring, electrical equipment
- Adequate number of garbage bins
- Programs for insect, rodent, pest infestation control
- Sturdy floors, stairs, and railings
- A locking mail bin (for apartments)
In Washington, the warranty of habitability can be found in the Residential Landlord Tenant Act. The requirements are mostly similar to California habitability standards, including:
- Sufficient locks and keys
- Keeping common areas safe and sanitary
Some tenants can refuse to pay rent until units are brought up to code. The California State Supreme Court has ruled this defensible. You can learn more on our free Los Angeles Rent Control Cheat Sheet.
In Washington, tenants cannot withhold rent if the landlord does not adhere to basic habitability requirements and building codes. However, tenants may claim partial or total rent deduction if the unit was determined uninhabitable.
Proper Administering of Security Deposits
In California, security deposits are limited to a maximum of double the monthly rent for unfurnished living spaces. If the space is furnished, a maximum of three months’ rent can be charged as a security deposit. Security deposits cannot be made nonrefundable.
In Washington, there are no limits for how much a landlord may charge, but this may vary from city to city. Although, like California, landlords are also not allowed to make security deposits non-refundable. Read more on our free Seattle Rent Control Cheat Sheet.
Deposits must be held on to. It cannot be used for any purpose other than recompensing repairs, cleaning efforts, or generating lost rental income if a tenant moves out owing back rent.
Further, move-in inspections must be conducted when a new tenant moves in to document the condition of the unit. When the tenant moves out, another inspection must be conducted to compare the results from the move-in inspection.
If damage is found, the security deposit can be employed to correct it. However, the tenant will be given a choice of either hiring someone to do it or doing it themselves.
Deposits and itemized deductions must be returned to the tenant must be refunded within 21 calendar days of moving out in California, and 14 calendar days in Washington.
Additionally, tenants have four years to dispute the handling of a security deposit. Here are a few security deposit mistakes to avoid.
Compliance with Rent Control Ordinances and Policies
Rent control ordinances can be found in all of the state’s major metroplexes. This has become a hot topic in California’s largest cities as rents have escalated over the last few years.
Property managers must be familiar with local rules where their properties are and make sure they operate within the guidelines of the ordinance.
For example, some cities exempt townhomes from rent caps, but forbid landlords from evicting tenants without just cause to get a better-paying tenant in the property.
Other metros have subtle differences, like requiring interest payments on security deposits, while many do not.
It is the responsibility of the property manager to be aware of these regulations and ensure the property operates within the rules.