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Jury decides landlord must pay $37,000 in disability discrimination case

A federal jury in Butte, MT Wednesday returned a $37,343 verdict against a Bozeman landlord for charging a tenant with physical and psychiatric disabilities $1,000 to have a service animal, the Justice Department announced.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Butte, alleged that Jaclyn Katz, the owner and manager of rental properties in Bozeman, discriminated against Kristen Newman, a tenant with physical and psychiatric disabilities, by charging her a $1,000 deposit as a condition for allowing her to keep her service dog, Riley.

According to a news release from the Department of Justice:


New York landlord accused of violating service members' rights will pay out $59K in settlemen

A company that operates a townhome community near Fort Drum, New York, will pay about $59,000 spread over more than 125 service members who were allegedly illegally charged fees that violated federal law, according to the New York attorney general’s office.  


Foreclosure Activity Down Across the Board

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are seeing declines in foreclosure activity across the board. According to the February 2017 Foreclosure Prevention Report released by the Federal Housing Finance Agency on Thursday, serious delinquencies, short sales, deeds-in-lieu, third-party sales, and foreclosure sales were all down for the month of February.


Private Property Rights Wins the Day in House Short-Term Rentals Debate

In the end, in a House of Representatives where Republicans dominate, private property rights were always going to win.  But the vote that passed HB 425 was close Friday, 63-56, and will stop local governments from cracking down on short-term vacation rentals because they don't like them.

The win was a victory for online companies like Airbnb and Homeaway, which contract with homeowners to rent out their vacant homes in mostly resort locales. Under HB 425, only cities with vacation-rental ordinances on the books before 2011 would be allowed to keep them.

Bill sponsor Rep. Mike LaRosa, R-St. Cloud, pressed his conservative advantage: “Is it possible to have too much freedom?" he asked. "And is this a referendum on that freedom? If it is, I’m OK with that.”

He said local governments shouldn't be punishing the responsible majority of property owners for the potential wrongs of a few.

(See: Jacksonville Rental Property Owners May Face Fees For High Crime Properties)


Salisbury Beach landlord fights $22K fine

SALISBURY, MA — A Salisbury Beach landlord is appealing a fine of more than $22,000 for failing to comply with the Board of Health’s rental property inspection ordinance.

Salisbury Health Agent Jack Morris said the problem dates back to Feb. 24, 2016, when he learned that Daniel Belfiore, owner of the apartment building at 128 Railroad Ave., hadn’t complied with the Health Department’s regulation requiring inspections of all rental properties in town.

Morris learned of the problem when Belfiore and his son were in court because of similar issues in the building they owned at 126 Railroad Ave.


US Supreme Court ruling upends Jacksonville regulation of signs

A tried and true way of using roadside signs for advertising open houses has run head-on into a U.S. Supreme Court decision, leaving it up to City Council to sort out how it will decide the sticky dilemma of regulating signs posted on city property.

The city’s beautifiation campaign has cracked down for years on snipe signs — the small signs that pop up like mushrooms with ads for everything from “We Buy Homes” to cleaning dryer vents to yard maintenance to buying gold — while giving an exemption on weekends for real estate signs that direct motorists to open houses.


Florida House pursues property tax cut

TALLAHASSEE – Voters next year could be asked to expand Florida’s homestead property-tax exemption, under a measure introduced Wednesday in the House that quickly drew objections from local governments.

As a companion to a nearly $300 million tax-cut package, the House Ways & Means Committee voted 13-6 to approve a proposal (PCB WMC 17-04) that would ask voters in November 2018 to expand by $25,000 the non-school homestead exemption.


How a New Kind of Fraud Puts South Florida Real Estate Owners, Lenders at Risk

A con man is exploiting a loophole in public records access to target South Florida real estate lenders and landowners.  Based on little more than his charm, a fake driver's license and forged corporate documents altered on a government-run website for $50, he posed as a Boca Raton doctor and walked away with $550,000 from hard-money lenders in Fort Lauderdale.

People involved in the transaction say he spoke at length about his real estate holdings, didn't flinch when questioned, and was so convincing that when a private detective later inquired about the deal, lenders were suspicious of the investigator, not the fraudster.


N.C. lawmakers to Charlotte: You can’t make all landlords register with city

N.C. lawmakers, in the closing hours of their session this month, passed a bill invalidating a local Charlotte regulation requiring all landlords to register with the city.

The Charlotte ordinance, which took effect in 2013, was meant to help police establish an official database to contact property owners whose tenants break the law. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, who supported the local ordinance, said they sometimes had trouble tracking down absentee landlords.


Why eviction notices hurt black women especially in King County

A few years ago, Nikita Smith was named in an eviction case by her landlord. They ended up resolving the issue and she was never evicted.  But being named in the case was enough to disqualify her when she applied for a home in Renton in 2015.

Now, Smith has filed a lawsuit targeting the landlord screening policy that stood in her way.


Here are the nation’s healthiest—and unhealthiest—housing markets

Housing remains in high demand in most of the nation, but the housing recovery looks increasingly uneven, depending on location.

Whether buyers are shopping for their own homes or for investment properties that will throw off some cash, certain markets are becoming far more lucrative than anyone might have expected just a few years ago. Still, some of the hottest markets are falling from grace.


Scranton landlords joining class-action lawsuit against rental-registration fees

More than 100 Scranton landlords recently joined a pending class-action lawsuit that challenges the city’s rental registration fees as arbitrary and excessive, and seeks refunds.

The city’s revision of rental registration rules in 2014, imposing fees of $150 per building, $50 per unit and inspections, spurred a lawsuit in 2015 in Lackawanna County Court from landlord Adam Guiffrida.

His lawsuit claims the city set arbitrary, high fees and imposed unwarranted inspections on only those few landlords who complied and registered their properties. Law requires that such fees are only supposed to cover administrative costs and not raise extra cash for city coffers, the suit contends.


IHT Realty: One Man's Plan To Grow Affordable Housing By Crowdfunding

JACKSONVILLE, FL -- IHT Realty announces Park Place Communities (PPC) is taking a major step toward growing the stock of affordable homes in the United States.

PPC, a national real estate investment company that specializes in affordable housing, is seeking $1 million in capital to facilitate a large-scale affordable home project.

The company plans to take existing mobile homes, renovate them and sell them to qualified buyers using five-year amortized mortgages. The buyer will make monthly payments for five years at 12 percent.


Landlords Win Suit With City

BELOIT, WI — A group of landlords, including a woman running for Beloit City Council, has won a civil lawsuit against the city over its rental permit system.

The group claimed the city’s system violated the state-passed legislation from last year.

Rock County Circuit Court Judge Michael Fitzpatrick ruled in favor of the landlords in an initial order given Wednesday. The ruling shows municipalities can only require rental units to be registered for the purpose of having an authorized contact person associated on the rental property’s address.


In Real Estate, Scammers Are Getting Unbelievably Tricky

A hip-looking website and a realistic-looking payment invoice. Real estate professionals in Florida were recently hit with a scam in which they were instructed to pay a fee to maintain their membership listing with the Florida Board of REALTORS®, but there is no such organization.


L.A. Landlords Fight ‘Unconstitutional’ Housing Inspections

Landlords sued Los Angeles in a federal class action this week, claiming a rental ordinance gives city officials and employees law enforcement-like powers that violate protections against unlawful searches and seizures.

Pasadena landlord Brandi Garris and Venice landlord Jason Teague on Wednesday also sued Los Angeles Housing and Community Investment Department, formerly known as the Housing Department. They claim that City of Los Angeles Housing Code is “facially unconstitutional,” under the Fourth Amendment, and allow city employees to seize evidence and make arrests.


Florida, Texas & Tennessee see fastest home value appreciation

The nation’s fastest-growing home values are no longer in their traditional California markets, having shifted to markets in Florida, Texas and Tennessee, according to Zillow’s latest Real Estate Market Report.

U.S. home values are up 7.2 percent over the past year, to a Zillow Home Value Index of $195,300, with some new growth leaders seeing annual home values leap by double-digits.


Landlords Are Taking Over the U.S. Housing Market

As Wall Street backs off of buying rental homes, small investors are picking up the slack.

As rising home prices, slow new home construction, and demographic shifts push homeownership rates to 50-year lows, the U.S. is increasingly a country of renters—and landlords.

Last year, 37 percent of homes sold were acquired by buyers who didn’t live in them, according to tax-assessment data compiled in a new report published by Attom Data Solutions and ClearCapital.com Inc.


Landlord: Tenant violated his lease by dying

Debra Tolbert at the White Center house where her brother, Dennis Hanel, had been living.   

Debra Tolbert’s brother had been battling stage four kidney failure when he died last month of a heart attack.

But a grieving Tolbert was hardly prepared for what she heard from property managers of Dennis Hanel’s White Center rental house when she tried to collect his security deposit and last month’s rent.

Her brother “violated the terms his lease” when he died, a representative of the rental and management company told her. “She said to me, ‘He’s not getting anything back,’ ” Tolbert said.


Fla.'s Housing Market Ends 2016 With Price Gains, Fewer Sales of Distressed Properties

Florida's housing market wrapped up 2016 with more new listings, higher median prices and fewer sales of distressed properties compared to the year before, according to the latest housing data released by Florida Realtors®.

"This past year was marked by tight housing inventory throughout Florida, particularly in the range of $200,000 and under," said 2017 Florida Realtors® President Maria Wells, broker-owner with Lifestyle Realty Group in Stuart. "Buyer interest was high and home sales likely would have been even stronger if there had been enough available for-sale supply to satisfy demand. Realtors across the state stand ready to help buyers and sellers understand their local housing market trends.

"Florida's economy is in growth mode, more jobs are being created and mortgage interest rates, while rising, remain at historically low levels, which will continue to spark buyer demand in the coming months."


This Florida Landlord Will Only Rent To Large Dog Owners (And Pit Bulls Are Preferred)

Pet-friendly residences can be hard to come by, but pit bull-friendly rentals seem next to nonexistent. One Florida landlord is doing her part to change that, though, by opting to only rent her house to someone with large dogs — and she's giving preference to tenants with pit bulls!

Meet Jade Rouzeau, the proud owner of two pit bulls who happens to be putting her three-bedroom ranch in Jacksonville up for rent. As Rouzeau told "Today" in an email, it isn't that she dislikes cats or small dogs, she just doesn't anticipate their owners will have all that much difficulty finding a rental that allows their pets.

"While we appreciate their interest, we politely decline to rent to them," Rouzeau said.