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Rental site Zumper launches Zumper Select, a rental brokerage service

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Condo owners can try to enact restriction on smoking inside units

A contiguous owner in a three-level apartment-style condo caused a fire in her unit while smoking in bed. The ashes ignited bedding while she was breathing through her medically necessary oxygen tubes. She: (1) smoked in bed, (2) fell asleep and (3) was attached to oxygen tubes. The combination of all three is unsafe. Her normal cigarette smoke discharge enters units above hers.

How can a condo board deter or prevent such behavior that presents grave safety risks to all condo residents? Is it possible to declare the condo nonsmoking. — Al

Smoking — which now includes marijuana — is the hot-button issue today in almost every community association throughout the country.

You can’t stop stupid people from doing stupid things. I hope the smoker — if she survived — has learned an important lesson. But the association cannot be the hand-holder of each and every unit owner.

However, you can restrict smoking of any kind in the common elements as well as in the units. While some of my lawyer friends believe the association can enact a rule prohibiting smoking in the common areas, I believe that the safe harbor is to get a bylaw amendment on this issue. I recognize that it often is very difficult to enact bylaw amendments.

To restrict smoking in units, you have to amend not only the bylaws but also the declaration. Such a restriction will be controversial, which is why the declaration should be amended. Now would be a good time to present such a proposal, because owners may be concerned there may be yet another fire resulting from smoking.

Case law around the country is very clear: Community association owners are legally bound not only by the legal documents in effect when the owner took title but also as to any properly enacted amendments to the legal documents in the future.

The president of our condominium association acts alone and has previous members of the board on the bank account of the association. He has been on the board for more than three years. He harassed all the secretaries and treasurers that had been elected by the unit owners.

The president doesn’t have meetings with the board or include them in any decisions for projects, nor does he let the treasurer handle the money. He also is a custodian/ janitor and he pays himself a $800 per month.

Please, we need help. Where should we report this without hiring an attorney.

I am the current secretary for the association but the president doesn’t even talk to us. He buys apartments from owners who are behind with the association dues. He owns five apartments in a 20-unit building, and he comes to the meetings with his votes plus with proxy votes from the owners who are renting out their units— Ana

My first reaction was you gotta be kidding. But then I remembered reading “Escaping Condo Jail” by Sara E. Benson and Don DeBat, so my next reaction was welcome to the wonderful world of condo living.

Are you the only one concerned about this? Have you talked with other owners to see if you could mobilize a group that would start to challenge the president? Have you advised the absentee owners of these problems so they would no longer give the president their proxy?

The best approach, in my opinion, is to try to throw the rascal out of office. Your bylaws contains the procedure for recalling an elected board member. Keep in mind that the board can terminate an officer but only the unit owners — in the percentage of vote required by your legal documents — can remove a director.

If you can prove even only half of the facts in your question, there is a strong case that the president is breaching his fiduciary duty to the association.

So why don’t you want to get an attorney? A lawyer can help, and I suspect that most lawyers would relish filing a suit against the president.

Contact the Community Association Institute ( ). That’s a national association that represents community associations across the country. There are local chapters, and you will get some names of local attorneys who practice community association law. I strongly recommend you talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.

You are the secretary of the board. You also have a fiduciary duty to the association, and in my opinion, that duty requires you to take immediate appropriate action to remove the president — either by vote of the membership or by court order.



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Curb Appeal Problems And Easy Ways To Fix Them

Just how important is curb appeal? Real estate industry legend Barbara Corcoran has said, “Buyers decide in the first eight seconds of seeing a home if they’re interested in buying it.” What are buyers going to see in the first eight seconds after driving up to your place?

If you’ve walked around the perimeter of your house recently, you’ve probably seen at least a couple of issues that need to be addressed before you sell. And your plan probably depends on how much time you have available. If you’re listing your house today and expect immediate interest, you may have to pick from a few quick tips to get it in the best shape you can. Have a little more time? You can make a real impact in improving the curb appeal so potential buyers will drive up and want to see more.

Everything just looks a little shabby

It may be time to bite the bullet and repaint the house, or, at least, address some peeling trim. If your windows, walkways, and ornamental details are looking drab, a power washer can help transform the area easily and inexpensively. This is a relatively easy DIY task and the rental will only cost you about $40 a day from Home Depot.

Your open house is today and your yard is looking pretty boring

You may not have time to do any new plantings, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make the yard look tidy and pretty. Fresh flowers in pots placed near your front door will bring the eye up from the street to your entry and give the impression that your home (and your yard) is well cared for. Add a new welcome mat to finish the look.

Your front door is janky

If you’re looking at making a few smart updates before listing your home, don’t ignore your front door. A new door can return between 75–100 percent of your investment, and it’s a relatively low-cost project,” said Houselogic, with a “national median cost of around $2,000 installed.”

You have a last-minute showing and the landscaper hasn’t done his thing in the yard yet

Get in the car, drive to Lowe’s, and pack up the trunk with mulch. It’s one of the easiest ways to transform your yard and make it look fresh and neat. Lawn and bushes a little overgrown? Nextdoor is a great resource for finding last-minute landscape help or, in a pinch, a neighborhood kid with some developing gardening skills and a need for pocket cash.

Leaves. Everywhere

Get out the hose and spray those suckers away from sidewalks and walkways. Even if the hardscape is wet when the prospective buyers arrive, the area will look nice and clean. Now corral everyone in the house for some fire drill leave-bagging fun. An abundance of leaves in the yard can be a turnoff to those looking to buy as it may make them think the home is unkempt or that the yard is hard to take care of.

Your mailbox is…wow. How did you never notice that?

If it’s old, worn, rusty, or has just seen better days, buyers will notice. This seemingly little thing can make them question the quality of your home. Thankfully, it’s an easy fix that you can do yourself for almost no money. “It doesn’t matter if you have a regular mailbox by the road or if you have a box mounted to your house, adding a new mailbox can add curb appeal. You can find a new mailbox starting around $20,” said DIY Network. “When you install your mailbox, make sure that you are following the regulations that are set forth in the city that you live in. If you have a simple mailbox mounted on your house, this home improvement project should take less than an hour to complete. If you have a full-size mailbox at the road, plan for at least two hours or so to complete the project.”



The post Curb Appeal Problems And Easy Ways To Fix Them appeared first on AAOA.

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Walkable Areas Are Getting More Competition

Older Americans are placing a higher value on living in walkable urban centers, according to a new survey of 1,000 respondents nationwide about their living preferences

A majority of respondents surveyed by A Place for Mom, a national referral service, said it was “very important” or “somewhat important” to live in a walkable neighborhood. They also sought neighborhoods with low crime and those that are close to family.

“It’s time to abandon the idea that only millennials and Generation X care about walkability and the services available in dense urban neighborhoods,” says Charlie Severn, head of marketing at A Place for Mom. “These results show a growing set of senior housing consumers also find these neighborhoods desirable. It’s a trend that should be top of mind among developers.”

The survey authors say it’s important for developers to consider creating multigenerational communities in suburban centers that place an emphasis on walkability. Walkability ranked high regardless of income level in the survey. Walkability ranked highest for those under 70 years old who were seeking senior apartments.

The message needs to change, says Bill Pettit, president of R.D. Merrill Co., a parent company of Merrill Gardens, which develops senior living centers. He says many developers had assumed that seniors preferred a more rural or suburban location.

“We were creating these islands of old age where you’re surrounded by your peers and you lose that intergenerational connectivity,” Pettit says. “We found we were spending a disproportionate period of time busing our seniors to other places to generate that intergenerational connectivity.”

Pettit says his company is changing its strategy. It is now focusing on developing senior living centers in urban areas with high walkability scores.

“When you can walk to shopping, or cross the street to a park, and that park is filled with children and families, I think it gives you a kind of lift that sitting and playing bingo during the day doesn’t give you,” he says.



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To See the Future of Renting, Watch the College Kids

To rent an apartment on LoftSmart, a website for college students looking for off-campus housing, users browse listings, take a virtual tour, and read reviews from current or past tenants. If they find a place they like, they can put in an application, sign a lease, and pay their security deposit—all online.

That makes the website highly unusual in the online real estate industry, where most listing services direct apartment hunters to get in touch with a broker if they like a listing. It also offers a clue to the way technology is changing the process of finding an apartment for a wider universe of renters. A college student whose first housing transaction takes place entirely online may not be so quick to accept the stressful, time-consuming open houses of traditional renting during their next search.

“This demographic is a really interesting testing ground for the future of real estate,” Sam Bernstein, the startup’s 23-year-old chief executive officer and co-founder, said. “They’re untarnished by cumbersome legacy institutions.”

Bernstein started building LoftSmart in 2015 as a sophomore at the University of Virginia, intending to create a Yelp-like product to help his classmates avoid landlords known for shirking basic repairs or withholding security deposits. By the following fall, he had dropped out of college to work on the company full-time. He moved to Austin, Texas, and on his first night in town struck up a random conversation with an engineer named Sundeep Kumar, who would go on to become a co-founder.

Soon the pair realized that the real opportunity wasn’t in warning college students away from crummy rental houses but in helping big property managers market their apartments.

Even big campuses are small worlds. In many cases students will be familiar with a given apartment building, either by reputation or because they’ve already been on site to visit a friend or go to a party. In some markets, Bernstein said, 70 percent of students sign leases for housing without attending an open house or scheduling a viewing. A virtual tour suffices.

Over the past two decades, an industry has sprung up to develop off-campus apartment complexes geared to college students, featuring by-the-bed leases and, often, upscale amenities. Even in its early days, this held obvious appeal for investors. College enrollments were rising, but schools weren’t building dorms to keep pace with them, giving the off-campus-dorm developers a captive audience.

Student housing looked even better after the Great Recession, when apartments were leased readily, even as other rental landlords struggled to fill units. The operating theory is that college enrollments tend to rise in a down economy, because it’s even harder to get a job with less education and because people don’t need to give up as much opportunity to pursue a degree.

Developers have added more than 350,000 new beds in off-campus student housing since 2010, according to Axiometrics, a real estate data firm. Investors spent $9.6 billion last year acquiring student housing properties, triple what they spent in 2014. The resulting competition has led landlords to spend more on marketing and created an impetus to lease units online. Across the industry, landlords have spent heavily to stand out, buying local television spots or holding expensive raffles, according to Bernstein. (Sign a lease and be entered for a chance to win a Vespa.)

LoftSmart makes money by charging property managers a fee, typically from 4 percent to 8 percent, on transactions that close via its website. The company currently operates in 27 student housing markets across the U.S. and lists 250,000 apartments that can be leased through its site. Earlier this summer, Bernstein was awarded a Thiel Fellowship, a $100,000 grant for young entrepreneurs who work on their businesses instead of going to college.

Will today’s college students take along the habit of renting sight (and site) unseen when they leave campus?

Bernstein points to Airbnb, which has taught millions of users to choose an apartment based on photographs and user reviews. Of course, those stays can be as short as a day, while apartment leases typically run at least a year. Yet some people are even buying homes without setting foot in them, relying on 3D photography and smartphone-wielding brokers to conduct virtual tours.

LoftSmart just closed a new round of funding led by Tribeca Venture Partners, bringing its total funding to $5 million. Its additional investors include the venture arms of such real estate firms as Corigin Real Estate Group and Sterling Equities. If the company can build loyalty with first-time renters, it might one day seek to expand beyond college markets.

“Folks are feeling more and more comfortable, year-over-year,” Bernstein said. “There’s definitely been an evolution.”



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Mayors agree, Congress should invest in affordable housing

Last month, the United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution in support of expanding the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and calling for increased investment in our nation’s critical affordable housing infrastructure. This acknowledgment of the importance of housing programs by local leaders should not go unnoticed by the U.S. Congress.

As public officials from two very different places – New York City and Des Moines – we are united by the shared need for safe and affordable housing in our communities. Our Mayors co-sponsored the Housing Credit resolution to underscore the growing shortage of affordable housing in our cities, and in towns and rural areas across the country. We come together today to call upon our congressional leaders to protect and expand federal housing programs.

The affordable housing crisis is a bipartisan issue that transcends geography. A recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition found only 12 counties nationwide where a minimum wage worker can afford a modest two-bedroom apartment. Nationally, one in four renter households pay more than half of their income on housing costs, leaving more than 11 million families one paycheck away from homelessness.

The negative impacts of housing instability and poor housing quality on families are well- documented. Children’s school performance suffers, the risks of asthma and type II diabetes increase, and families are too often forced to forego other essential expenses, including medicine and healthy food, just so they can make rent.

Ongoing trends in the rental housing market further perpetuate the housing crisis. As an increasing number of Americans look for rental housing, the shortage in supply drives up rents. Meanwhile, wages haven’t kept pace. To reverse this tide, we need to build more housing that is affordable to our nation’s workforce. To do that, we must protect and expand the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

The Housing Credit is one of the longest-standing public-private partnerships in our nation’s history and continues to be incredibly successful. By offering tax credits to affordable housing developers partnering with investors, this program finances nearly 90 percent of all affordable rental housing in the United States. There is also a critical connection between housing and the economy as a whole. In addition to the fact that workers need homes they can afford near their work, the Housing Credit supports 96,000 jobs every year in the construction and property maintenance industries. New housing is often accompanied by the introduction of commercial and retail space, which bring a variety of employment opportunities into communities.

Right now, there is bipartisan legislation in both houses of Congress to protect and expand this critical resource. The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act would make changes to the program, such as streamlining the formula that determines how much Housing Credit equity can go into developments, allowing income averaging in order to reach families at a wider range of income levels, and protecting the use of tax-exempt private activity bonds for affordable housing. The Senate version of this bill would also increase the Housing Credit by 50 percent, which would mark the first meaningful expansion of affordable housing resources in decades. All of these changes would result in the creation of more affordable housing for Americans who need it most.

As Congress continues with federal budget negotiations, it is critical to note the importance of funding for affordable housing programs of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Agriculture. Without adequate funds for public housing, rental assistance, HOME Investment Partnerships, rural development and Community Development Block Grants, we cannot fully address housing needs across this country. In fact, these programs serve as an essential complement to the Housing Credit, as most affordable housing is financed through a combination of HUD program resources and credits.

Some may say we can’t afford to invest in housing, but the truth is we can’t afford not to. Housing isn’t just tied to the health and well-being of individual people.  It is connected to the productivity and strength of our communities. If we want to spur economic growth, create jobs, and connect Americans to opportunity, we must start with strategic investments in affordable housing. We applaud the U.S. Conference of Mayors for supporting the Housing Credit and other housing programs. At a time when the need for affordable housing is overwhelming, and the will to act on the local level has never been greater, we urge Congress to join us in standing behind these programs.



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Legal Tips for Real Estate Partnerships

Types of Real Estate Partnership Agreements

You know the deal structure – one investor brings in a few other investors or one investor purchases an investment with another investor. Here are a few different real estate partnership agreement scenarios:

  • A property management company purchases a property with a “money guy” who is a partner who only invests money for income and profit, and wants no part of day-to-day management.
  • One partner provides the cash, while another partner is a real estate agent whose job is “sweat equity”- to locate properties, make offers, arrange financing, and work with escrow.
  • One partner may be an “equity player,” or a secured lender seeking a return on investment.
  • Two co-asset managers round up 10 limited partners to purchase some buildings.

Within these basic joint venture/partnership structures you have one partner who has certain tasks, responsibilities, and duties, and the other partner has other tasks, responsibilities, and duties. No matter what structure (general partnership, limited partnership, Limited Liability Company, joint venture, syndication, corporation, or one shot opportunity) partners owe each other fiduciary duties to act in the best interest of the other partners and the partnership, and not in their own best interest.

What is Fiduciary Duty?

A fiduciary is someone who has undertaken to act for and on behalf of another in a particular matter in circumstances which give rise to a relationship of trust and confidence.

A fiduciary duty is the highest standard of care at either equity or law. A fiduciary is expected to be extremely loyal to the person to whom he owes the duty (the “principal”). There must be no conflict of duty between fiduciary and principal, and the fiduciary must not profit from his position as a fiduciary at the expense of the partnership.

How to Draft a Partnership Agreement

A well-drafted partnership agreement is a blueprint for setting the tone for the positive relationship between partners.

One way for partners in real estate transactions to adhere to their legal fiduciary duties and limit unexpected surprises is by creating and executing a partnership agreement. The partnership agreement is the foundation for a solid and flexible relationship between partners.

In a detailed and flexible format, a partnership agreement should define the duties, obligations, and responsibilities of partners, and certain legal and financial consequences for violating the spirit and the letter of the agreement. It is an important reference point to define the partner relationship. For example, the agreement may address the following:

  • At what point in time is net profit to be distributed?
  • How should a refinance of secured debt occur?
  • Who is in charge of day to day maintenance and management?
  • What is the term of the partnership?
  • When is financial reporting going to occur to investors?
  • If there is a dispute, can the partners mediate with a neutral third party?
  • When and under what conditions do partners have the right to be bought out?
  • What type of entity will hold partnership assets?

Without a well-drafted partnership agreement, partners have to resort to oral promises and representations (sometimes jotted on a paper bag or Starbucks napkin), and this can lead to embellishments, misrepresentations about material issues, in fighting and a potential court battle.   It is well worth it to have a detailed partnership agreement drafted by legal counsel.

Here are few more ideas of items/issues to address in the partnership agreement. This is not a complete list, but is a good starting point to think about the issues:

  1. Business purpose and goals of the business
  2. Choice of entity for the partnership and the assets
  3. Percentage of ownership of equitable interests/ debt
  4. Rights of limited or minority partners
  5. Property management duties, fees, and responsibilities
  6. Define the jobs, roles, and duties of general partners and key officers and managers
  7. Management of internet and social media communication and relations
  8. Division of expenses and net profits and rights to reimbursement
  9. Meetings of partners
  10. Method of accounting and rights to inspection of books
  11. Financial reporting and disclosure, right to an accounting from partners and the partnership books and records
  12. Grounds and conditions for termination of partners and buy out and transfer rights
  13. Death or disability of a partner
  14. Applicable state laws and choice of forum for litigation
  15. Rights to mediation and arbitration
  16. Rights upon liquidation or dissolution
  17. Method of amendment or suspension of terms of the agreement

When you have a detailed and well-drafted partnership agreement, it addresses and may resolve a great number of the questions and issues that can arise between partners.  Here are some general tips for handling a “real estate marriage” between partners:

General Tips for Partners in a Real Estate Joint Venture
  1. Understand the basic laws of partnership and fiduciary duties, and that you should act in the interest of the partnership- not your own self-interest.
  2. Have a well-drafted partnership agreement that covers all aspects of the partnership relationship.
  3. Have layers of insurance in place for various risks.
  4. Have real financial consequences for legal violations of the partnership agreement between partners.
  5. Provide frequent accounting and financial disclosure between partners.
  6. Have frequent and periodic meetings and conference calls.
  7. Advise partners and investors of capital expenditures that improve the asset.
  8. Avoid conflicts of interest.
  9. Understand that partners have the right to independent legal counsel at all times.
  10. Place the title of assets in the name of both partners, an LLC, or corporation, not one partner or a partner’s relative.
Partnership Disputes – Managing and Resolving Conflicts Separation, and “Divorce”

If you have a well-drafted partnership agreement that defines duties, obligations, and remedies, then you may avoid certain conflicts and expensive court battles. Sometimes the partners will need to “get divorced,” or decide an important issue.

If you have a partnership dispute, and you are not getting satisfaction or disclosure from your partner or the partnership’s controlling managers, and your partnership agreement allows it, you have the right to sue your partner for:

  1. An accounting
  2. Declaratory relief to have the court interpret a contract provision (See Cal. Code of Civil Procedure Sections 1060-1062.5)
  3. Breach of the partnership agreement
  4. Injunction to stop the bad conduct of the partner (See Cal. Code of Civil Procedure Sections 525-534)
  5. Breach of fiduciary duty and its component duties
  6. Fraud or conversion (theft of assets)
  7. Partnership dissolution and winding up of the partnership (See Cal. Corporations Code Section 16705)
  8. Partition by sale to have the court supervise a liquidation. See (Cal. Code of Civil Procedure Sections 872.820, 872.830, and 873.500-873.850).

Sometimes applying the pressure of filing and serving a lawsuit against a partner is the only way to get the partner to focus on resolving the issue, and to encourage a settlement. A lawsuit does not always have to be for money damages. The lawsuit can be for equitable relief in the form of declaratory relief or for an accounting to force and compel financial disclosure and accountability.


A real estate business partnership or joint venture is kind of like a civil marriage, the difference being you don’t have to come home to your business partner! Just like marital partners who have to respect community property, there are fiduciary duties between real estate partners, and partners cannot just pillage and loot the partnership assets and usurp opportunities and expect to get away with it. Understanding fiduciary duties between partners is a starting point in having a positive partnership experience, but the partnership is only as functional or as transparent as the partners are with each other and the partnership’s creditors. A well-drafted partnership agreement is also helpful, as is having legal counsel on speed dial for smoothing out those rough patches.

Copyright 2017 Nate Bernstein, Attorney at Law. LA Real Estate Law Group. All Rights Reserved.

The author of this article, Nate Bernstein, Esq., is the Managing Counsel of LA Real Estate Law Group, and a member of the State Bar of California and his practice concentrates in the areas of complex real estate litigation, commercial litigation, employment law, and bankruptcy matters. The contact number is (818) 383-5759, and email is  Nate Bernstein is a 22 year veteran Los Angeles real estate and business attorney and trial lawyer. Mr. Bernstein also has expertise on bankruptcy law, the federal bankruptcy court system, creditor’s rights and debtor’s bankruptcy options. He previously served as Vice President and In House trial counsel at Fidelity Title Insurance Company, a Fortune 500 company, and in house counsel at Denley Investment Management Company. Nate Bernstein created, a leading educational resource on quiet title real estate litigation. Nate Bernstein is a local expert on real estate law and economic trends in the real estate and leasing market, business law, and bankruptcy law. Nate has personally litigated more than 40 major real estate trials, and has settled more than 200 complex real estate and business cases. 

Any statement, information, or image contained on any page of this article not a promise, representation, express warranty, or implied warranty, or guarantee about the outcome of a legal matter, and shall not be construed as being formal legal advice. All statements, information, and images are promotional. All legal matters are factually specific, laws change on a daily basis, and courts interpret laws differently. No express or implied attorney client relationship shall be inferred from any statement, information, or image contained any pages of this website. No attorney client relationship is formed until the client or the client’s representative, and the attorney signs a written retainer agreement.

The post Legal Tips for Real Estate Partnerships appeared first on AAOA.

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