Four Tips for Thriving as a Property Manager

Managing rental properties is no easy task. At any given moment, you have a lot to juggle. Rental agreements. Marketing. Upkeep. Corresponding with tenants and potential tenants. The list could go on and on! 

At Atlas Law, we have a deep understanding of how much is on your plate. In today’s blog post, we’re sharing our four biggest tips for success. We hope these ideas will help you thrive in your role as a property manager!

  1. Prioritize maintenance and customer service. 

Number one on our list essential boils down to keeping your tenants happy. It is wise to be proactive about maintenance matters and not wait until something becomes an emergency to fix it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to be glued to your phone and email, just that you need to have a reliable system in place for dealing with issues as they arise and for checking periodically that all appliances and other amenities are in tip top working order. 

  1. Know your portfolio of properties inside and out. 

Don’t miss out on opportunities to get the word out about your offerings by not being as familiar with them as you should. Know your amenities and the types of tenants they typically attract. Know the prices and what might make your property particularly attractive to any given potential renter. You never know when you may be presented with an unexpected opportunity to market.

  1. Build a trustworthy team. 

There will reach a point when you can no longer manage all your properties on your own. It’s important to understand when and how to delegate. When that time comes, screen employees carefully and make sure anyone you hire can share in your vision for customer service, growth, and responsibilities. 

  1. Retain knowledgeable counsel.

This goes hand-in-hand with #3. Make sure you leave the legal side of managing your business to a trained professional. It’s important to choose an attorney who has an extensive background in real estate law and therefore truly understands the challenges your business faces. 

Contact Atlas Law

If you are looking for an experienced real estate law firm, the Atlas Law team is here. We cover eviction and real estate cases across jurisdictions throughout the state of Florida. Are you ready to tackle your legal issues? Is it time to make moves to protect your business moving forward? We can help. Contact Atlas Law today!

When is It Legal to Raise the Rent?

As a landlord, there are going to be times when you need to raise your rental prices. Sometimes the increase is driven by market changes, while in other cases, maintenance costs and taxes have gone up, making it necessary to charge more when you want to keep the property in good shape and stay in business.

At Atlas Law, our goal is to help Florida landlords preserve the value of their property while maintaining good relationships with their best tenants. In this blog, we’ll answer the frequently asked question “When it is legal to raise the rent?” and show you how to avoid potential pitfalls when handling rent increases with tenants.

How often can Florida landlords raise rent? 

With residential tenancies, you can only raise the rent for fixed-term tenants once their lease expires. If they rent from you on a month-to-month or week-to-week basis, you can increase their rent at any time, as long as you give fair and reasonable notice, which is generally 15 days for monthly tenants and seven days for weekly.

If you’re a commercial landlord, your lease agreement may include a rent increase schedule, such as a yearly increase based on a percentage of the current rent. If the agreement is silent on the issue, a Florida rental law attorney can recommend the best way to manage your investment financially.

When can Florida landlords NOT raise rent?

This is an equally important question. In Florida, landlords are prohibited from raising rent as a discriminatory or retaliatory measure. For example, a landlord can’t impose an increase because a tenant has reported code violations or requested repairs, not can they raise rent based on characteristics like the following:

  • Sex or sexual orientation
  • Race, religion, color, ancestry or national origin
  • Age
  • Marital or parental status
  • Physical or mental handicaps (real or perceived)

The problem is that a landlord who imposes a rental increase in good faith may be accused of discrimination or retaliation by tenants who honestly believe it to be the case or who are trying to gain an advantage. If this happens to you, it is essential to seek legal advice to protect your rights and reputation as a landlord.

Additionally, if you are the owner of a manufactured home community governed by Chapter 723 of the Florida Statutes, you may only raise your rent based on limited circumstances, and only after providing your tenants with 90 days notice of the increase.  In the event that you are the owner of a mobile home park and wish to increase your rental rates, you should consult with a Florida attorney who has experience representing mobile home community owners.

Work with an Experienced Florida Landlord’s Rights Lawyer

Raising the rent is an important part of maintaining necessary cash flow for landlords. It can also be a contentious area where tenants are concerned. At Atlas Law, we will provide you with valid and accurate legal advice in all matters related to rent increases, including tenant objections. To schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys, call 813.241.8269.

As you have likely heard, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (the “CDC”) issued an agency order (the “Order”) attempting to halt all residential evictions due to nonpayment until December 31, 2020. Yes, the CDC is now putting their gloved hands into the residential tenancy realm, effectively attempting to materially alter the already tumultuous landscape that we are presently facing. The Order is set to be codified on September 4th, 2020. A copy of the Order is attached as Exhibit A. According to the CDC, the Order seeks to “prevent the further spread of COVID-19” by imposing a nationwide moratorium on evictions. It is important to note that the Order does not immediately require landlords to refrain from filing eviction actions due to nonpayment. Instead, the Order prevents landlord from filing nonpayment, residential evictions ONLY WHEN the tenant provides a signed declaration, which is discussed below. 

While we disagree with the CDC’s logic, reasoning, and actions taken, it is important to understand how this Order affects tenancies, and what responsive measures are required. On its surface, the Order appears to be unconstitutional, or enacted without appropriate authority. However, attempting to directly fight the enactment of the Order through legal efforts (e.g. a lawsuit against the CDC) isn’t something that most landlords would want to finance. Moreover, the likelihood that a decision would be made regarding the constitutionality of the Order within a reasonable amount of time is not good. As a result, the best remedy that we have is to arm ourselves with specific knowledge regarding the ins and outs of the Order. 

Before we go through the details regarding the Order, it is important to understand that landlords can still file eviction actions against residential tenants for nonpayment of rent. The Order creates an exception to that general rule. The exception is that no action can be taken to remove a tenant from a property if the tenant has provided the landlord a signed, written declaration in the form of Exhibit B. Reports of the CDC Order generally state that there is a national eviction moratorium. That is not entirely true. The Order creates an “opt-in” moratorium, which is limited to people who meet the specific criteria contained in the Order. It is not as far-reaching as is being reported in the news. 

Applicability 

The first question we have to answer is whether the Order applies in Florida. The Order expressly states that it “does not apply in any state, local, territorial, or tribal area with a moratorium on residential evictions that provides the same or greater level of public-health protection that the requirements listed in this Order.” It is unclear whether Florida’s current moratorium provides the “same or greater level of public-health protection” as the Order. Florida’s eviction moratorium requires tenants to demonstrate that they have suffered a “COVID-related loss” that prevents them from paying their rent. Similar to the Order, the Florida eviction moratorium requires a tenant to provide proof to the Judge that the tenant qualifies for protection under the moratorium. Just like the Order, Florida’s moratorium does not allow tenants to be removed from their homes so long as the moratorium is in effect. The Order and the Florida moratorium are different, in that Florida requires the loss of income to be “COVID-related.” Additionally, the Florida moratorium allows landlords to send demand letters, file for eviction, and receive final judgments. The Florida moratorium only requires that no “final action” be taken to remove tenants from a property while the moratorium is in effect. Whether the Florida moratorium or the Order provides more protection truly depends on the facts for each particular tenant. 

It should also be noted that the true intent of this Order was to provide a moratorium in states and cities where an active moratorium was not already in place: 

“The Federal moratorium, however, did not reach all renters. Many renters who fell outside the scope of the Federal moratorium were protected under State and local moratoria. In the absence of State and local protections, as many as 30-40 million people in America could be at risk of eviction.” 

Interpreting this paragraph above, an argument could be made that this CDC Order does not apply to Florida or any state/city that has an existing moratorium. The concerns stated in the Order are already being addressed in the State-level moratorium, therefore the CDC Order is inapplicable in the state of Florida. Unfortunately, that is only an interpretation, and does not necessarily reflect what the final decision will be regarding applicability of the Order. 

Just as the applicability of the Order in Florida is unclear, the answer as to who determines whether the Order applies in Florida is equally unclear. Is it the CDC that makes the determination regarding applicability, or is it Florida’s Governor who issued the Florida eviction moratorium? Will it be local Judges who make the decision, or will the Florida Supreme Court issue an administrative order declaring which eviction moratorium should apply? These are questions that we simply cannot answer at this stage. What we can advise is that landlords have the ability to comply with both moratoriums simultaneously, and that landlords may still conduct evictions due to nonpayment of rent. To ensure proper compliance, it is important to understand how the Order works. 

How does the Order work? 

In this newly enacted Order, the CDC made the following key declarations to take effect on September 4th: 

“Under this Order, a landlord, owner of a residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or possessory action, shall not evict any covered person from any residential property in any jurisdiction to which this Order applies during the effective period. This Order does not apply in any State, local, territorial, or tribal area with a moratorium on residential evictions that provides the same or greater level of public-health protection than the requirements listed in this Order.”

There are a few things to unpack in this paragraph above. First, we will focus on how the CDC defines a “covered person.” A “covered person” is defined as: 

“any tenant, lessee, or resident of a residential property who provides to their landlord, the owner of the residential property, or other person with a legal right to pursue eviction or a possessory action, a declaration under penalty of perjury indicating that: 

1) The individual has used best efforts to obtain all available government assistance for rent or housing; 

2) The individual either (i) expects to earn no more than $99,000 in annual income for Calendar Year 2020 (or no more than $198,000 if filing a joint tax return),6 (ii) was not required to report any income in 2019 to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, or (iii) received an Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) pursuant to Section 2201 of the CARES Act; 

3) the individual is unable to pay the full rent or make a full housing payment due to substantial loss of household income, loss of compensable hours of work or wages, a lay-off, or extraordinary out-of-pocket medical expenses; 

4) the individual is using best efforts to make timely partial payments that are as close to the full payment as the individual’s circumstances may permit, taking into account other nondiscretionary expenses; and 

5) eviction would likely render the individual homeless— or force the individual to move into and live in close quarters in a new congregate or shared living setting— because the individual has no other available housing options.” 

In order to qualify as a “covered person” the tenant will have to jump through some hoops. The tenant will need to attempt to procure government assistance; the tenant will have to demonstrate that he/she is making best efforts to pay at least a portion of the rent; the tenant will have to show that he/she suffered an income loss; and the tenant will have to show that he/she would be forced into a communal living situation or homelessness if evicted. Looking at the criteria listed above, it appears to be a difficult task for a tenant to prove that they are in fact “covered” under this Order. If the tenant does not issue a declaration to the landlord, then the tenant cannot receive any protection under the Order. If a tenant signs and delivers a declaration to the landlord, it should be examined to ensure that the tenant is being truthful. The declaration is supposed to be made under penalty of perjury, and the Order provides that untruthful statements by a tenant could subject the tenant to fines, imprisonment, or both. 

In addition to “covered person” the Order defines the term “evict.” According to the Order, “evict” and “eviction” means “any action by a landlord . . . to remove or cause the removal of a covered person from a residential property.” By defining eviction this way, the Order requires that once a tenant has provided a landlord with a signed, written declaration, the landlord may not take any further action to attempt to remove the tenant. This means that once a declaration is received, the landlord would not be allowed to send a standard rent demand letter, as a rent demand letter requests either payment in full or possession of the premises. It is very important that landlords be aware of who has sent in a declaration and who has not. If a declaration is received, the landlord should immediately cease any further action with regard to the tenant, and consult with legal counsel on the next steps. 

Penalties for Violation 

There are severe civil and criminal penalties for violating the Order. The Order states that an organization that violates the Order is subject to a fine of no more than $200,000.00 per event if the violation does not result in death, or $500,000.00 per event if the violation results in death. The Order also provides penalties for individuals who violate the Order, which includes one year of jail time for each violation. 

What does this mean for evictions? 

We have arguments that we can make to a judge or any decision-maker that the CDC Order should not apply, but what does the landlord do right now to put themselves in the best position possible in the wake of this Order? Answer- get any rent-based evictions out as soon as possible. We do not know for certain the extent of the applicability of this Order, but we do know that if we wait instead of act, we may find ourselves having to overcome even more hurdles. The only time an eviction action cannot be filed is if a tenant submits a written, signed “declaration” to the landlord that complies with the language stated in the Order. A copy of the form declaration is attached hereto as Exhibit B. Once you receive a signed declaration, you should immediately provide it to your legal counsel and cease collections and eviction efforts until advised otherwise. 

If you haven’t received a declaration from a tenant, then you are free to move forward with eviction of that tenant due to nonpayment of rent. It is incumbent on the tenant to advise the landlord or the Court that the tenant is claiming entitlement to the protections of either the CDC Order or the Florida eviction moratorium. Until the tenant takes this step, the landlord may evict the tenant. It is advisable to file any nonpayment eviction actions as soon as possible, before additional restrictions are imposed and before tenants begin sharing information regarding the Order. 

The State and Federal government can continue to move the goalposts on us, but we will remain vigilant and will continue to adjust course, as necessary. If you have any questions on this memorandum, please do not hesitate to contact the attorneys at Atlas Law at 813.241.8269 or brian@atlaslaw.com

Respectfully, 

ATLAS LAW 

Four Tips Maximizing Property Value Before a Sale

Whether you’re planning to sell commercial or residential real estate, it is worth your while to put some work into increasing its value before you put it on the market. Sometimes a small investment in your property can have a big payoff in the sale, and inexpensive or even free fixes that just take a little effort can do a lot for your bottom line as well. In today’s blog post, we’re sharing our tips for increasing your property’s value before you put it on the market.

  1. A fresh coat of paint.

New paint can go a long way towards updating a space. Opt for neutrals like light gray. Even if there’s nothing inherently wrong or bad about the current paint job, it can be helpful to redo it to cover any scuffs or fading caused by time. Plus, the smell of fresh paint tells your potential buyers that you’ve been making improvements from the moment they walk through the door. 

That being said, a poorly done paint job — one that leads to smudging on the ceiling, for instance — is an instant detractor. If you’re not sure of your painting abilities, it will be worth the expense to hire professional painters. 

  1. Curb appeal. 

Small improvements can make a huge difference when it comes to curb appeal. A new mailbox is a great, inexpensive addition to a residence. Landscaping can be a major improvement for commercial or residential properties. Also consider new or improved siding, walkways, and outdoor living space like patios and decks.

  1. Fixtures.

If you have outdated fixtures like doorknobs, cabinet handles, or even lighting fixtures, it is wise to replace them with something more modern, while also keeping it neutral. These kinds of details will make an especially big difference if your property is being shown to potential buyers unfurnished.

  1. Cleanliness.

This one should be a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people put a property on the market without cleaning up first, even if they’ve just evicted a tenant. You aren’t doing yourself any favors when you let potential buyers see a property that isn’t squeaky clean. If you don’t feel up to taking the time and energy to clean up yourself, hire professionals. It’s definitely worth it. 

Contact Atlas Law for Your Florida Real Estate Needs

Our team represents property owners in real estate transactions and evictions. We work with clients throughout the state of Florida. No matter what region of the state you’re in, we have the knowledge and experience to help you. If you’re interested in learning more about our services, contact us today!

How Does the Commercial Eviction Process Work in Florida?

If you own a corporate property like a store or an office space and you rent it out to a business, it’s your worst nightmare when your tenant’s business begins to fail and they stop paying rent as a result. This leaves you in the uncomfortable situation of needing to evict your commercial tenant so that someone else can move into the space and you can start getting paid again. Where do you begin? What will the process be like? Read on to learn how the commercial eviction process works in Florida.

One of the most important things to keep in mind as you begin this process is the importance of going by the book. Don’t give the evicted tenant any reason to sue you or even threaten a lawsuit!

First, talk with an attorney and review the lease agreement to make 100% sure you are not infringing upon any of their rights or breaking the agreement by beginning this process. Next, you will need to give the tenant notice that you intend to begin eviction proceedings. If you are evicting them because they didn’t pay rent, you must give them three days notice. If you are evicting them for another reason, you must give them fifteen days notice. This is not the amount of days before they must vacate the premises, just the number of days before you can actually begin the official eviction process.

Once enough time has passed since you provided the notice, you can file an unlawful detainer complaint with your local state court. Your tenant will then need to be served with a copy of this complaint. The complaint must be thorough — it should include information about how much rent is due as well as who has legal possession of the property and whether your tenant will be required by the lease agreement to pay your attorney fees and court costs.

Your tenant has five days to respond to the unlawful container complaint once they’ve been served. Failure to respond will allow you to win the case by default. If they file a counterclaim, you then have a five-day window of your own to respond. After that, a court date gets scheduled.

Courts typically move quickly in these matters, but at present there may be a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

You don’t have to handle the commercial eviction process on your own.

Mistakes in this process can be costly. You need to work with an experienced attorney to make sure that the complaint is properly presented so your tenant can be removed as quickly as possible. Don’t take a risk! Contact Atlas Law today to learn how our team can make this process less stressful so that you can get back to your life!

Understanding Contingencies

Real estate contracts usually include provisions called “contingencies.” Never heard this word before? Not to worry! Today’s blog post breaks down what contingencies are and how they work when it comes to real estate.

Contingencies are essentially provisions included in a contract that will make the whole thing null and void if certain events do or do not occur. In essence, they note that “I will fulfill my side of this agreement, contingent upon x, y, or z.” You could also think of contingencies as conditions of your contract and sometimes they’re even referred to conversationally as conditions. Buyers and sellers are each able to propose contingencies as a way to protect themselves. Contingencies can also be bargaining chips. Let’s look at some of the most common examples of contingencies found in real estate contracts.

Contingency Regarding Selling Another Property: Perhaps the buyer only wants to and is able to buy a new house if they’re able to sell they’re old house. If, for instance, their old home is under contract, they can propose a contingency that their participation in the contract for the new house is contingent upon the sale of their old house going through. If you’re thinking this doesn’t sound very appealing to the seller, you’re right! The seller does not have to accept the contingency. Whether they do will likely depend on how confident they are in their ability to get another option. They could also potentially say, “Yes, I’ll accept this contingency, but only in exchange for increasing the price by so-and-so amount.”

Contingency Regarding Appraisal or Inspection: Buyers who want to make sure the value of the property they’re buying is consistent with what they’ve been told or their personal assessment may request contingency based upon a professional appraisal. You can also request contingency based on inspection to make sure there aren’t any flaws that need to be fixed for a high price. This gives you room to negotiate for a lower price or even back out altogether if you learn the property is worth less than expected. 

Contingency Regarding Mortgage Approval: Oftentimes, real estate contracts include a contingency for approval of the buyer’s mortgage. These can be quite specific, and may clarify that the terms of the mortgage approved must be the same as the terms stated in the contract.

When it comes to contingencies, these examples really only represent the tip of the iceberg. Still, we hope it gives you some clarity on what these provisions are and how you might be able to utilize them in your real estate contact. As always, if you have questions about this or any other matter related to real estate law, the Atlas Law team is here to help. Contact us today!

How to Have a Successful Open House — Virtually!

We are all slowly adjusting to live in the wake of coronavirus. Quarantining and stay-home orders have been a difficult adjustment for the real estate world, but we’re quickly finding ways to adapt. For example, some sellers and their real estate agents are now opting to host virtual open houses. In other words, they are using online platforms such as Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime to allow potential buyers to check out properties from the safety of their own homes. First impressions matter, even when they’re virtual. Read on to discover the Atlas Law team’s tips for a successful virtual open house.

1. Don’t forego cleaning. 

Just because buyers won’t physically be there to poke around doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make sure your house is spic and span before showing it off. If a potential buyer is curious about closet space you want to be able to open the closet door to show them without worrying about piles of dirty laundry tumbling out. Clutter is a bad look for any open house. 

2. Empty house? Try virtual furniture.

For in-person open houses it’s not unusual to rent furniture if the home is empty. This makes it much easier for buyers to envision themselves living in the space. Amazingly, you can save money when hosting a virtual open house by inserting computer-generated furniture! Check out Box Brownie online for some examples (but keep in mind that this is for still images, not video).

3. Good lighting.

If you show the house in poor lighting it can make it look like you’re hiding something. Make sure the lighting throughout the house is bright and consistent.

4. Get the word out. 

An amazing virtual open house is pointless if no one sees it, so you need to get the word out. There are lots of places you can promote including Zillow, Facebook, Nextdoor, Craigslist, and even LinkedIn. Your real estate agent or attorney can help you make sure your open house is widely promoted so people will know to attend.

Finally, keep in mind that any time you are buying or selling property, it is important to have an experienced real estate attorney by your side to guide you through the legal complexities of this process. An attorney can protect your best interests and make sure that the sale or purchase is handled in accordance with state and local laws. Atlas Law is here to help with all of your real estate needs. Contact us today.

Buyers: 4 Things You Should Do During the Due Diligence Period When Buying a Home

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the phrase “due diligence” as “the care that a reasonable person exercises to avoid harm to other persons or their property.” When it comes to real estate and buying or selling a home, you will find that there is a due diligence period (usually of 15 days in Florida contracts, but this can be negotiated) during which any investigations that could impact decision-making on the part of the buyer must be carried out. 

You’ll often hear people reminding you to “Do your due diligence,” but what does that mean exactly? How do you go about doing your due diligence? What are the steps? Read below to discover the Atlas Law team’s recommendations for things to take care of during your due diligence period.

1. If you haven’t already, get to know the market.

Some people fall in love with the first house they see and spring for it without seeing what else is out there. If you aren’t already familiar with the market, you should look at some other comparable houses in the area at this time to make sure that the home you are buying is fairly priced (and to make sure it’s really what you want).

2. Calculate prices of potential repairs.

You’ve probably already had the home inspected by this point. If you haven’t already, now is the time to go over the inspector’s notes in detail. Then, you should get down to the nitty gritty details of what any necessary repairs are going to cost you. This may require calling a contractor for an estimate or even taking a trip to the hardware store to look at the costs of materials.

3. Look into insurance options.

Some buyers don’t look into insurance options until it is too late. They find out their home can’t be insured because, for example, it’s in a hurricane-prone area, but by the time they learn this it is too late for them to back out of the purchase. Don’t let this happen to you. Talk to some insurance companies and get some bids during the due diligence period.

4. Review Homeowners Association documents.

Some homeowners associations are better than others and it can be a big mistake to buy into the wrong one. Take some time to review the Homeowners Association documents so that you will be sure you know what you are getting into.

If you are buying or selling real estate in Florida, contact Atlas Law today. Our firm is unique in that we handle cases across jurisdictions through the state of Florida. We are extremely experienced and committed to helping our clients make the best real estate decisions possible. We can’t wait to chat with you about how we can help you!

Can I be Sued for Using Criminal Background Check?

Potential Legal Claims Against Properties Based on Criminal Background Check Policies

April 16, 2020 | By Ryan J. Vatalaro, Esq. | Atlas Law

    As a part of the services Atlas Law provides to property ownership and management companies, we provide advice and defense for housing discrimination claims. Recently, a number of Atlas Law’s clients and other properties have been accused of discrimination for not renting to convicted felons. Frequently, the accusations are coming from an entity called “Florida Fair Housing Alliance.”

HUD Says Certain Criminal Background-Check Policies May Be Discriminatory

Over the years, housing discrimination claims have expanded from race and ethnicity to also include claims based on disabilities, ‘support animals,’ and criminal history, among other things. Discrimination claims based on criminal background check denials have increased due to a 2016 HUD opinion on the use of background checks for tenant applications. In the opinion, HUD states that a policy which automatically excludes everyone with a criminal record may have a discriminatory effect because minorities are disproportionately arrested and incarcerated compared to the general population. Therefore, according to HUD, certain background check policies could be deemed discriminatory even though the policy is based on criminal history, not race, and regardless of whether the landlord had any intent to discriminate. 

You May Receive Calls from Housing Discrimination Testers

Housing discrimination laws allow entities to call properties, pose as a prospective renter, and ask questions testing whether the person on the other side of the line says something which violates Fair Housing laws. These callers posing as renters are commonly referred to as ‘testers’ because they are testing whether a property is in compliance with Fair Housing guidelines.

Florida Fair Housing Alliance has been using a tester to call properties and ask questions about criminal background check policies. Here is what may happen to you: you receive a call from an unidentified prospective renter who asks whether you accept convicted felons. If you say no, in a few weeks you receive a letter from an attorney alleging that you have engaged in housing discrimination and should contact him about a settlement. This has already happened to a number of properties in Florida and federal lawsuits have already been filed against the properties which do not reach a settlement.

What You Should Do to Avoid Legal Liability

Properties should be reviewing or creating policies to ensure compliance with the Fair Housing Act. Properties should regularly train staff, especially those answering the phone, on Fair Housing compliance. Specifically, staff should not advise prospective renters over the phone whether or not they will pass a credit or background check. The policy should be that submitting an application is the only way to find out if you will be approved or denied because each application is considered on a case-by-case basis.

If you think you may have received a call about criminal background checks or if you have already received a letter from an attorney, you should immediately contact your attorney or retain an attorney if you do not already have one.

Attorney advertisement. Atlas Law, PLLC, office in Tampa, FL. Information in this article is intended for a wide audience. This information is not intended to provide legal advice, nor is it to be relied upon as legal advice. Readers should consult their own attorneys for advice specific to their situation before taking any action in response to information in this article. Questions about this article should be directed to Atlas Law, PLLC, (813) 241-8269 or to another licensed attorney. Atlas Law, PLLC, All Rights Reserved 2020 ©

Understanding Common Area Maintenance (CAM) Charges

If you’re the landlord of a commercial property, you’ve probably heard of CAM charges. These are additional charges beyond monthly rent that many landlords require their tenants to pay to cover costs associated with common area maintenance. Common areas include parking lots, lobbies, elevators, public restrooms, and anywhere else that multiple tenants or groups of tenants access, indoors or outdoors. 

How should CAM fees be handled in a lease?

Landlords should list precisely in the lease what CAM fees will be charged, how often they will be charged, and what they will cover. It is also wise to include a cap on how much they can be increased each year. If you are requiring your tenant to contribute to major renovation costs, such as repairs to the building’s roof, let them know in writing. The lease should state when these repairs were last made as well as the dates on which they are scheduled or expected to be made again in the future. An attorney can help you make sure you cover all your bases, with CAM and otherwise, when reviewing your lease.

How are CAM fees calculated and paid?

Property managers and/or landlords make estimates on how much common area maintenance will cost at the beginning of each year. This amount is divided among tenants, but regulated by the lease agreement. 

Typically, tenants will be allowed to pay CAM fees in small increments throughout the year. If common area maintenance costs end up being less than estimated, the property manager will be required to reimburse them. This reimbursement should be paid as a lump sum.

Who can I ask if I have more questions about CAM?

If you are a landlord and you have questions about CAM charges, the Atlas Law team is here to help. We are attorneys and landlords’ advocates with extensive experience in providing innovative solutions to landlords and property managers for all of their real estate related legal needs. We are a different kind of real estate law firm because our relationship with our clients is NOT defined by billable hours. If you want to learn more about CAM or have questions about what we can do and how we can help you, please give us a call at (813) 241-8269. We can help you determine what charges are appropriate and how to implement them in your leases. We look forward to partnering with you!