Are you PAR compliant?

Dear Agents, as a PA Licensee, it is your responsibility to comply with the Penna. Code in association with Printed, airtime, electronic or any other form of media or advertising for your business and marketing.  It is our office policy that you assume the responsibility to have your cards, advertising and marketing approved by me or the R.E. Commission.  If you do not, and you are cited for non-compliance you will be indemnifying and reimbursing KW Realty Midway for any fees and costs for your violations.  This would result in a withholding of collecting any such fees from your compensation or commission. 

The PA Code REQUIRES you to List our office Brokerage name and phone number along with your name as the agent on any  form of advertisement.  It must be of equal or larger size than your agent name and number. 

Citations by the commission, if charged, start at $250-500.00 for a 1st time offense, and increase by any further citations to $750.00 then $1,000.00 up to $10,000 maximum.Fines are commensurate  with the citations. 

Any citations charged to you are logged as”disciplinary history” on your license.  What that means is that the Department of the State has to report this to ancillary companies such as Errors and omissions and agencies such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  This could not only cause your office fees to increase, but your ability to practice real estate could be limited, thus effecting your potential income.

As a fellow real estate agent who cares about your success and understands how challenging it can be to compete in our industry, I also want to protect you against any damages or unnecessary costs that could be avoided.

I welcome you to contact me with any further questions and to reach out to me should you need assistance prior to making any marketing or advertising decisions.

Very Sincerely,

Laurie Keen

Broker of Record

KW Realty Midway

 

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Criminals: The New Protected Class

Criminals: The new protected class
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
By Brett Woodburn, Esq.

121956596The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) recently issued a Final Rule to formalize a national standard for determining whether a housing practice violates the Fair Housing Act as a result of the discriminatory effect. The rule goes into effect on March 18.

By HUD’s analysis, this Final Rule codifies the long-standing process authorities have used to analyze liability under the Fair Housing Act arising from facially neutral practices, having a discriminatory impact. Under this test, the party claiming housing discrimination has the initial burden of proving that a practice “results in, or would predictably result in” illegal discrimination. Once that burden is met, the accused may refute the charges by proving that the “challenged practice is necessary to achieve one or more of its substantial, legitimate, non-discriminatory” business interests. If successful, the complaining party can still succeed if they prove that the “substantial, legitimate, non-discriminatory interest could be served by a practice that has a less discriminatory effect.”

The phrase “discriminatory effect” has a specific meaning. ”Discriminatory effect” results in a disparate impact on one or more people that “creates, increases, reinforces, or perpetuates segregated housing patterns” on people who belong to a protected class. An individual accused of Fair Housing violations may successfully defend against such claims if they have a “legally sufficient justification” for the discriminatory practice. The concept of a “legally sufficient justification” arises when a practice does have a discriminatory effect on a protected class but (1) it is necessary to achieve one or more substantial, legitimate, non-discriminatory interests; and (2) those interests could not be served by another practice that has a less discriminatory effect.

Defending against allegations of discrimination by asserting a “legally sufficient justification” is not a safe harbor. Such claims must be supported by evidence and not by hypothetical situations or broad speculation. In other words, a landlord or property manager who wants to deny a prospective tenant an apartment because that tenant has a criminal or arrest record should be prepared to offer an explanation, supported by facts, why the denial is necessary to achieve the landlord’s legitimate business needs and that there is not another practice that can achieve the same legitimate needs, but that has a less discriminatory effect.

During the public comment period, HUD was specifically asked to provide that denying housing to individuals with arrest or criminal records was not a Fair Housing violation under the disparate impact analysis. HUD noted this concern, in part, as follows, “Whether any discriminatory effect resulting from housing provider’s or operator’s use of criminal arrest or conviction records to exclude persons from housing supported by a legally sufficient justification depends on the facts of the situation. HUD believes it may be appropriate to explore the issue more fully and will consider issuing guidance for housing providers and operators.

It is truly unlikely that we will have more definitive guidance from HUD on this topic before March 18. Unfortunately, landlords and property managers (actually, anyone who is conveying an interest in residential or commercial housing) should begin to compile records to support why they enforce a policy of denying housing based on a criminal or arrest record.

On the positive side, we now have official backing from HUD that the correct answer to the question of whether or not tenancy can be denied based upon a criminal record is “it depends

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Information Regarding Security Deposits

Taking Security Deposits

During the first year of a lease, a Landlord may not require a security deposit of more than two months’ rent. After the first year of a lease, this amount cannot exceed one month’s rent, and any security deposit of more than one months rent must be returned to the Tenant.  If rent is increased during the first five years a Tenant is in a Property, a Landlord may require that the amount of the security deposit be increased as well.  After five years, the security deposit cannot be increased even if the rent goes up.

 

Holding Security Deposits

If the Security Deposit is more than $100, the Landlord must keep the Security Deposit in a special bank account called an escrow account.  Landlord is required to tell the Tenant the name and address of the bank where the escrow is located, as well as the amount of the deposit in the escrow account.  After the second year of a lease, the Security Deposit must be in an escrow account that earns interest.  Interest that is earned on a Security Deposit belongs to the tenant, but each year Landlord has the right to keep some or all of that interest up to an amount equal to 1% of the Security Deposit to cover certain administrative expenses.  If the interest earned is less than 1% of the Security Deposit amount, Landlord any keep all the interest, but Landlord can NEVER take any money out of the original Security Deposit for administrative expenses.  After the second year of a lease, any interest belonging to the Tenant must be returned to the Tenant once a year on the anniversary day of the first day of the original lease term.

 

Returning Security Deposits

When a lease is ended, Landlord has 30 days to give Tenant a written list of any damage to the Property that Landlord claims Tenant is responsible for.  If the cost to repair this damage is less than the amount of the Security Deposit being held, Landlord must return the amount of the deposit not being held back to fix those damages when the list is provided, along with any additional interest that has not yet been paid to Tenant.  If damages are more than the amount of the Security Deposit plus interest, Landlord may keep the entire Security Deposit.  Landlord may not keep any of the Security Deposit to cover damages if a list of damages is not given to the Tenant within that 30 day period.  If landlord doesn’t return Tenant’s Security Deposit within 30 days of the end of the lease, Tenant may sue and Landlord may be required to pay Tenant up to twice the amount of the portion of the Security Deposit that should have been returned.  It is the responsibility of the Tenant to give Landlord his/her new address after the Lease is ended.  If the Tenant does not provide a new address to Landlord, Landlord is not liable for damages for failing to return Security Deposit monies within 30 days.

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Disposing of abandoned property: A reprieve for landlords

For decades, landlords and property managers have been looking for guidance on how long and how
carefully they have to store property that was left under (oftentimes) hostile conditions. On July 5 the
governor signed an amendment to the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1951, establishing time limits
tenants have to remove their abandoned property.
This amendment requires tenants to remove their personal property from the residence when they
have “relinquished possession.” If the tenants don’t take all of their property when they leave, can
the landlord get rid of it? Not right away…
The 10-day rule
Regardless of why tenants leave, they have 10 days to communicate their intention to the landlord
that they will retrieve their property. While the tenants are responsible for their own property, the
act requires landlords to give notice to the tenants before that 10-day clock starts to tick. How does
the 10-day rule work?
If the landlord has an order of possession from a magisterial district judge that informs the
tenants they have 10 days to communicate to the landlord their intention to retrieve their
personal property, then no additional notice need be given by the landlord.
If the order does NOT contain a notice to the tenants, then the landlord must serve the tenants
with notice that they have 10 days to make arrangements to retrieve their personal property.
The notice may be served by regular mail to the tenants’ new address, if known, otherwise to
the vacated property; or by personal service.
If the tenants move out and the lease contains a notice that the tenants have 10 days to make
arrangements to retrieve any property left behind, the landlord STILL has to give the tenants
10 days to make the necessary arrangements to get their ‘stuff.’
If the tenants move out and the lease does not contain a notice (as most existing leases will
not), then the landlord must give the tenants the 10-day notice, which can be served at the
tenants’ new address, if known, otherwise at the old address if no forwarding address was
provided; by personal delivery; AND to any emergency contact identified in the lease.
The 10-day notice period begins from the date of the postmark on the notice.
The 30-day rule
If the tenants communicate their intention to collect their personal belongings, the landlord has to
safeguard the tenants’ property for 30 days. To the landlord’s benefit, the property may be stored at
a place of the landlord’s choosing, provided it is reasonably close to the leased property, and the
actual costs of moving and storing the property may be passed along to the tenants. Throughout the
time that the landlord is holding the property, he must exercise ordinary care to safeguard the
tenants’ property.
Notice requirements
The act does not proscribe the form of the notice. Reading the act as a whole, the notice should
inform the tenants that if they do not make arrangements with the landlord to retrieve their personal
property within 10 days of the postmarked date of the notice, their property will be disposed. The
notice must also identify:
telephone number and address where the landlord can be contacted;
location where the property can be retrieved; and
the tenants will be responsible for costs of moving and storing their belongings if they are not
retrieved within that 10 day window
Getting rid of the property
If the tenants do not contact the landlord within that 10 day notice period, or if despite
communicating their intention to retrieve their property, they fail to do so within 30 days, then the property may be discarded. After the appropriate time period expires, the landlord has “no further
responsibility to the former tenant” and may dispose of the property by whatever means the landlord
chooses.
If the landlord chooses to sell the property, the landlord may only keep enough of the proceeds to
cover any outstanding obligations the tenant may owe to the landlord. This may include the costs of
moving and storing the property, as well as any judgment for damages against the tenants. If the
landlord believes the tenants owe for damages or rent, but does NOT have a judgment, then the
landlord should consult with counsel before keeping proceeds from the sale of the tenants’ personal
property.
What should the landlord do with any excess proceeds? The excess proceeds should be forwarded by
certified mail to the tenants’ new address. If the tenants did not provide a forwarding address to the
landlord, then the landlord must hold the proceeds for an additional 30 days. Once that last 30 days
has expired, the landlord may keep the proceeds.
It will take time for the practice to incorporate these changes. Landlords, property managers and
their attorneys would be wise to provide magisterial district judges with the notice at the time the
order of possession is sought so the tenants can be served with the notice when the order is issued.
(It might be wise to have a copy of the act to share in the event you are asked for authority
supporting your request.)
In the meantime, update your leases to include this new notice and implement the changes going
forward. Act 129 takes effect on September 5, 2012.

As Posted By Caldwell and Kearns On July 18, 2012

 

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VETERANS ADMINISTRATION SERVICES EASE AGING BURDENS

 

Monthly Newsletter – May 2012

www.seniorsrealestate.com

 

 


Veterans Administration Programs Ease Aging Burdens

By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau

Maybe you’ve never tapped U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) benefits because you’ve never needed them. Or because you forgot that they’re available to you.

But if you or your family member is retired from the military, you may be overlooking a host of health and financial benefits.

Thought the VA won’t deliver the high life, some of its services can ease some of the burdens and costs associated with aging.

The most well-known VA benefits are associated with health care, but the package is more extensive than many realize. It includes:

Preventative services, such as:

  • Immunizations
  • Health care assessments from a team that includes doctors and a social worker
  • Health and nutrition education

Medical care, including: 

  • Outpatient and inpatient hospital, medical, surgical,  mental health care, and substance abuse care
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehab services
  • Durable medical equipment, such as hearing aids and glasses.
  • Respite and adult daycare. If you’re a full-time caregiver to a Veteran, you can get 30 days per year off. Adult day care services, says Carlotta Katra, are especially helpful if, for example, you’re caring for someone with dementia and that person can’t be left alone safely. Katra is president of Aging Avenues Eldercare Consulting, Indianapolis, Ind., a fee-only consulting company with an expertise in VA benefits.
  • Hospice care. The service is for Vets with a terminal condition and who have six months or less to live.

Easier aging in place

Other benefits that aren’t linked to health care and some that are lesser known have the power to ease day-to-day aging challenges and, in some cases, transform lives by allowing for greater independence.

Keep in mind that not all veterans qualify and some program benefits vary depending on what state you live in. And one rule of thumb to keep in mind is that disabled veterans typically receive the deepest benefits.

Some non-medical benefits include: 

  • Home loans: Qualified Vets can use VA loans to buy or build a home and renovate an existing one. See http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans for more information.
  • Home modifications: Grants are available for small modifications, such as for installing universal design elements like shower grab bars. Others address more extensive renovations to create barrier-free living. For more information, see http://www.vba.va.gov/VBA/benefits/factsheets/homeloans/homemods.doc
  • Vehicle modification: Vets with disabilities connected to their military service  may qualify for money for buying or modifying a car to accommodate those injuries. For information, see www1.va.gov/VHAPUBLICATIONS/ViewPublication.asp?pub_ID=340
  • Dependents and Survivors Benefits: If you’re a low-income widow of a Vet who did wartime service, you may be eligible for some pension money and some other services. See www1.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book/benefits_chap12.asp and http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/pension/spousepencalc.htm for more information.

Benefits bonanza

Perhaps the single most overlooked benefit is Aid & Attendance, which is an Improved Pension Benefit for Vets and their surviving spouses who need assistance with basic self-care.

A doctor has to qualify a candidate and a person must be legally blind or need assistance with one or more of the following:

  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • Transferring
  • Walking
  • Medications
  • Personal care

The tax-free money, ranging from $1,094 to $2,020, can be used for care at home, in an assisted living facility, or at a nursing home.

There are stringent qualification guidelines. For instance, the Vet or spouse must be spending at least 5 percent more than their gross income on medical and care expenses to get the maximum benefit. 

In addition, those who qualify must have limited–typically the VA says $80,000 or less per couple–assets, though Katra says that’s not a hard and fast rule.

And since the VA, unlike Medicaid, doesn’t have a lookback period, you can do some advance planning to qualify for the benefit without incurring a penalty.

“You could have $1 million today and, with proper planning, get approved for Aid & Attendance tomorrow, ” says Katra. “They do look at assets, but right now there’s no penalty for repositioning assets, but that probably will change this year.”

That’s why Katra suggests planning early and meeting with an attorney schooled in elder law and who understands VA benefits. After all, no one really knows when the VA will close the loophole.

6 things to know

1. Snowbird benefits. If you have dual residences, you need to register at hospitals in both places. This is especially important for snowbirds who spend six months in Chicago, for example, but pass the winter in Florida or Arizona.

2. Know your benefits.  Don’t overestimate benefits. It’s important to really understand what the VA does and doesn’t provide when you’re doing your long-term planning. For instance, many assume that they get cradle-to-grave care. But for funerals, for instance, the VA typically provides only a $300 burial allowance. For more about burial benefits, see http://www1.va.gov/opa/publications/benefits_book/benefits_chap07.asp.

3. Be patient. Be prepared to wait for appointments and when you’re picking up medicine, suggests Katra.  The VA isn’t known for speed.

4. Pre-screen facilities.  If you’re looking for nursing care and you or your relative qualifies for a VA facility, visit the facilities in your area and take a close look at them. Not all are created equal. Some are lovely and state-of-the art and others are just the opposite, according Katra.

5.  Agent Orange exposure: Katra says exposure to Agent Orange likely will affect everyone who went to Vietnam. Among the ailments are early heart attacks, prostate cancer, and Parkinson’s disease. Veterans who filed a claim years ago and who thought they had symptoms, can return to the VA for treatment. “Because they filed a prior claim, they’re eligible for 100 percent disability. That can be worth a huge amount of money because a Vet who is fully disabled gets a monthly payment,” she says.  “They also pay that amount all the way back to their original claim date.” For more information on Agent Orange exposure and for information about making a claim, see http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/agentorange and http://www.vba.va.gov/bln/21/benefits/Herbicide/AOno3.htm.

6. Hire an expert.  Don’t go it alone, especially if you’re applying for Aid & Attendance, says Katra. It’s a complex process and not all the details, exceptions, and updates are easy to find for the average consumer. So someone, an eldercare attorney or consultant with VA expertise, can decipher the legalese and fine print and guide you through the process.

Resources:

Enroll: 

Apply for VA benefits online https://www.1010ez.med.va.gov,  by  calling  1-877-222-VETS (8387), or in person. To find VA facilities, see www2.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp.

Consultants and eldercare lawyers:

VA benefits basics:

Aid & Attendance:

 

 

Real Estate Matters: News & Issues for the Mature Market

(Keller Williams Realty Midway-

Team Matrix)

(200 Municipal Drive)

(Thorndale, PA  19372)

(The Team of Laurie Keen and Associates)

 

 
 

 

 

 

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Do you know the difference between a “visual” mold inspection and a “lab” inspection as an agent?

Recently, an agent in our office  experienced a different type of mold inspection format.  I am writing to inform you about it, because it wasn’t exactly what any of the parties expected – AND it caused a difficult situation between the buyer and the seller, which then led to the termination of the Agreement of Sale.  It benefits us all to know about it, to prevent further issues in potential similar transactions.

What is the difference?  A visual inspection is just that – a visual analysis – the inspector still submits a sampling of a suspected area to be tested to a certified lab, however, they cannot release that information or use it in their written report following the inspection.  The lab results are withheld, until they are paid for.  If any of the parties involved do not elect to pay for them, those results will not be released or distributed.

How is this pertinent to a Real Estate Transaction where a buyer and seller are in a binding agreement?  The result of the mold inspection, if no lab results are produced and delivered to a seller, is considered to be incomplete.  It makes it difficult to enforce the agreement of sale if you are representing a seller, if you have no objective data to provide to him.  Therefore, it would be almost unfair to expect a seller to make an informed decision.  Agreeing to remediate mold can cost thousands of dollars if it is recommended to be performed.

In this  situation – the visual analysis information was not properly and fully disclosed up front to the agents and the seller, prior to the seller agreeing to have a mold inspection performed.  The seller did not chose to remediate, as he did not believe that he had been given enough information up front to allow the inspection to begin with.  Because he felt he was not fully informed, he did not agree to pay for the results or the remediation for that transaction.   The seller did decide to choose a different mold remediation company to correct the perceived defect outside of that transaction.

It is important to be aware that this allows for an incomplete inspection.  Being incomplete, neither party is obligated to move forward.  It does not follow the steps allowed for in the Agreement of Sale Inspection Contingency structure.

This type of inspection could work if your buyer and seller are fully informed up front.  What should be avoided is one party thinking they were manipulated into making a decision, rather than allowing for the normal flow of the decision making process that our PAR forms are already set up for when inspection results are complete.

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Proceed with Caution: Executors Do Some Heavy Lifting

Monthly Newsletter – February 2012

wsrealestate.com

 


Proceed with Caution: Executors Do Some Heavy Lifting

By Elyse Umlauf-Garneau

Sure, the duties of an executor seem fairly straightforward task. The job includes gathering, cataloging, and protecting a deceased person’s assets, paying off his or her debts and taxes, and divvying up what remains.

But the process tends to get complex and time-consuming.

So choosing who will do the job requires clear thinking and planning. So does agreeing to serve as someone’s executor.

Here are seven considerations when choosing an executor.

1. Conscious choice. Frequently the default executor is the oldest child. But it shouldn’t be the automatic choice, especially if that child doesn’t have the skill or desire to do the job. After all, maybe your oldest is a forest ranger who lives 1,000 miles away and whose idea of wise financial management entails dumping receipts in a shoebox. And maybe the youngest child is accountant who lives nearby and is methodical and familiar with business and finances. So choose the best person for the job. That person also could be a friend or a lawyer, or it could even be a bank trust department.

Tip: Another natural choice as executor is the surviving spouse. But keep in mind that a spouse likely will be grief-stricken. Taking care of a will may prove too burdensome.

2. Choose a backup. If your first choice can’t or won’t do the job, be certain to have an understudy or two lined up.

3. Review your choices. Maybe that once beloved son-in-law is no longer trustworthy. Or maybe he’s no longer in the family. Be sure your choice of executor is up to date.

4. Ask first.  Being named an executor can come as a nasty surprise to those who don’t have the time, desire or skill to do the job. So be certain that your pick is willing to serve.

5. Head off feuds.  When you do choose an executor, discuss the decision with the family members you didn’t choose, suggests Strawhun. A simple explanation of your rationale can smooth ruffled feathers.  By saying, “We asked Joe because we don’t want to burden you” or “Joe is a financial planner and it would be an easier job for him,” can go a long way in easing survivors’ angst that you didn’t love or trust them enough to manage the task.

6. Anticipate complexities: If you have assets, such as a large real estate portfolio that require a particular skill, be sure the person is capable of managing them and finding the right people for advice. Or, for instance, if you have expensive hobbies or an oddball collection, ask if your executor have the skill to both value and manage the assets, whether that is a collection of vintage clocks or a fully-equipped pottery studio.  After all, the executor is responsible for babysitting the assets until the estate is settled.

7. Make peace. When someone dies, long-buried feelings and sibling rivalries often emerge. In many situations, the bickering over a $2,000 tractor likely isn’t about the value of the tractor, points out Strawhun.  It often stems from unresolved conflicts and a family’s emotional baggage. So any steps you can take while you’re alive to resolve any long-simmering disputes can head off potential trouble for your executor.

5 Things to Consider Before Saying Yes

If someone asks you to be an executor, here are five things to consider before saying yes.

1. Do you have the stamina? Consider the impact that taking on the job of executor can have on your health, particularly if you’re in your senior years. Given the time involved and the stress, you may not be cut out for the job. Strawhun suggests asking yourself, “I love the person, but is it good for my overall health to deal with that kind of short-term, high-level stress?”

2. It’s a commitment. Determine whether you have the time to do a good job. Depending on the circumstances, the job for some executors requires a few months of work. For others, the process can drag on for a year or even more. Other can take even longer.

“If you’ve never gone through it, you don’t fully appreciate what’s involved until you’re in the heat of battle,” comments Strawhun. “It’s a learning curve and it can be frustrating.” So if you’re a medical resident or have some other very demanding profession, really think about whether you can add a host of new duties to your schedule.

3. Understand the landscape. Ask to see the will or at least get a good feel for what it contains. You want to get a sense of the complications you could face. Will you be responsible for selling off a vacation house in France? Will you need to manage 5,000 acres of soybean fields while you’re settling the estate? Maybe your friend is disinheriting someone or plans to donate a hefty portion of the estate to the zoo or another charity. Look out for red flags that could lead to someone contesting the will and for other complications that could turn your life nightmarish.  Also keep in mind that heirs sometimes accuse executors of mismanagement and sue them.

4. Family feuds: Are you or your siblings at war with one another? Or if you’re a neutral third party, are you willing to place yourself at the center of a family firestorm? Consider declining, if you know you’re stepping into a minefield.

5. Know thyself: Finding documents, getting papers notarized, and having patience to, for example, hunt down the VIN number for a car located out of state, could all be part of the job.  Are you a methodical, task-oriented person who has the patience to deal with small details? Honestly assess your skills and willingness to serve as an executor before saying yes.

Related resources:

Real Estate Matters: News & Issues for the Mature Market

Keller Williams Realty Midway

200 Municipal Drive

Thorndale, PA  19372

Laurie Keen, Broker, ASR, ABR, SRES GREEN, SRES

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