Lawyer helps landlords improve neighborhood livability

Why would a well-known East Portland attorney give away his sage advice to landlords every month? The discovery on this matter begins right here …

Attorney Jeffrey S. Bennett, Warren Allen, LLP, specializing in landlord/tenant law for 17 years, shares his advice with new and experienced property managers at November’s Citywide Landlord Forum.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
When homeowners complain about apartment complexes in their neighborhoods, it usually isn’t about the design of their building or the layout of the parking lot.

Neighbors usually find fault with the behavior of the renters.

Partly based on the notion that “good tenants make good neighbors”, attorney Jeffrey S. Bennett, of the outer East Portland law firm Warren Allen, LLP, holds regular seminars called the Citywide Landlord Forum.

“Better landlords and property managers can improve the livability of the neighborhood in which they are located by attracting better renters,” Bennett told us. “And, better tenants reduce costs and liability issues for the property owner.”

He should know: He’s been dealing with rental housing issues for 17 years; other attorneys consider him an expert in the field and seek out his advice and training.

Today’s landlords are confronted with challenges that never existed in the past, explained Bennett. “Landlord/Tenant laws have become more complex, and tenants have become savvier. Countless traps await the unsophisticated landlord; the forums we hold bring them valuable information.”

Bennett says he helps landlords avoid common legal traps.

Avoiding beginner’s mistakes
November’s meeting, held at the Portland Neighborhood Office, was entitled, “All the Beginners’ Mistakes”.

Bennett listed four common errors unsophisticated landlords make.

  • Failing to properly screen tenants – Screening is critically important, and should include a check of their personal background history, such as prior convictions or evictions.

“Bad tenants can give rise to untold losses in the form of unpaid rent, property damage – or, worse, injuries to other tenants.”

  • Lack of good rental agreements – Failing to enter into a well-written rental agreement that clearly outlines both sides’ duties and rights.

“Poorly written rental agreements often diminish the landlord’s legal rights, or fail to grant the landlord remedies that would have otherwise been available under Oregon law.”

  • Lack of inspections – Failing to periodically inspect the premises to make sure they’re safe, sound, and undamaged.

“Whether caused by destructive tenants, or mere deterioration, property damage can undermine the value of the investment. Left unchecked, minor repair items can give rise to thousands of dollars in repair bills – and to needlessly unhappy tenants.”

  • Illegal discrimination – Discriminating against protected classes of people based upon such things as their race, national origin, age, or familial status is both wrong and illegal.

“Oregon landlords are governed by local, state, and federal laws prohibiting housing discrimination. Discrimination lawsuits can be costly – but are easily avoidable.”

A landlord armed with good information can increase the value of a rental dwelling — and the surrounding neighborhood — by attracting better quality tenants, Bennett says.

Bennett suggested that landlords and property managers join a landlords’ organization such as the Rental Housing Association of Greater Portland, the Metro Multifamily Housing Council, or the Oregon Landlord Support Association.

“Their forms, handbooks, and newsletters are some of the best available,” Bennett commented. “They’ll help you stay abreast of current legal trends. And, come to our forums. You’ll have the opportunity to network, learn, and have your questions answered by a specialist.”

Interested? Check our Community Calendar for the date, time, and location of the Citywide Landlord’s Forum.

© 2007 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News Service

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