Tuesday, June 27, 2017

The Do's and Don'ts on a Rehab To Rental

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Hello everyone,

This week we have our officer / good friend, Sue Brocker, as the guest speaker for the night. Sue is going to lead a discussion about the do’s and don'ts of fixing up properties for rental. 

We’re going to go over some of the start and mid way photos of the REI rental rehab and will talk about what we are doing, why we are doing it and how far we are taking it. Not quite to the degree of a flip, but quite a bit away from the bare minimum necessary to rent it. 

It’s going to be a fun meeting. 

See you there...

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Highland landlord who says city violated his Fourth Amendment rights dismisses lawsuit

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Roanoke City is guilty many times over doing illegal warantless inspections of properties. Going to be real bad for them when someone sues. Or they get a class action suit. They under no circumstance have any right to even ask a tenant if they can inspect a property when they have been told by the property owner they can't. State law clearly states an inspection warrant is required if either the tenant or the landlord denies access. No big deal for them to get it. But they have refused to do so and have broken the law repeatedly.

 http://www.pe.com/2017/06/07/highland-rental-property-owner-dismisses-lawsuit-city-changes-inspection-policy-4/

St. Louis County 'Rental License' Ordinance Is Unconstitutional, Judge Says

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Bad governments with uneducated elected officials who swear to honor the United States Constitution but don't even know or understand what it says. Or even care enough to read it or take a class on it. Pure lazy ignorance.
One after another... Cities illegal actions getting judicially shut down nationwide.

 https://m.riverfronttimes.com/newsblog/2017/06/07/st-louis-county-rental-license-ordinance-is-unconstitutional-judge-says

City orders man to stop letting grill smoke cross his property line.

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State Appellate Court Strikes Down Groton Law

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Roanoke City actually tried to unconstitutionally do this to landlords. They paid squeaky wheels to go down to Raleigh NC and study their illegal "PROP PROGRAM". What stopped them wasn't that it was unconstitutional and illegal as they don't even know what the Constitution says. What stopped them was the Dillion Law that Virginia has preventing them from becoming a rogue city.


State Appellate Court Strikes Down Groton Law http://www.ithaca.com/news/state-appellate-court-strikes-down-groton-law/article_2cc25848-5203-11e7-8948-e73c9aab6d94.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=user-share



Monday, June 19, 2017

For-Profit / Non-Profit Partnership Real Real Estate Tax and Estate Planning Strategy

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Hello everyone,

I was contacted by a guy who is new to the Real Estate speaking circuit who will be driving out to our meeting to give us an interesting presentation. 

Alan Bardwell, of Irvington Sweetwater LLC, will be talking to the group about a tax / estate planning strategy that he is an expert in putting together. This strategy is for sellers of assets that appreciated, such as real estate, who would like to avoid 99% of capital gains and have immediate access to 100% of the sale proceeds without having to do a 1031 exchange to do so. With this strategy you also have no deadline or requirement for a subsequent asset purchase as you would have with a 1031 exchange. 

This technique includes your for profit company partnering with a non profit company which he says will make you exempt from 99% of capital gains taxes. An added benefit is you will retain control of the assets and activities of the partnership within your family from generation to generation without incurring inheritance or estate taxes.

I’m wondering if Alan is taking about setting up a Foundation to do so. I have been told that Foundations are the tool of the wealthy as you can transfer several million dollars to a Foundation every year and not pay a dime of taxes on any of the money you use to do so. All a Foundation requires is that you use those assets some time during the year for a cause. Such as owning a mega yacht that you take disabled kids out once in a while on a fishing trip. Who knows... I’ve been looking forward to this upcoming presentation by Allen.

Cancel your plans if you have any as there just may be that nugget of information you need in this meeting to knock it out of the park. 

See you there!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Ridding Your Rental of Nuisance Wildlife...

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Hi Everyone,

This week our guest speaker will be Theresa Tyree of Smith Mountain Lake Wildlife Control. She will lead a discussion on removing nuisance wildlife legally, safely and QUICKLY from your property. Snakes, ground hogs, bats, raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, moles, squirrels... you name it. 

Theresa will give a bit of advice, offers home inspections, and answers questions. 

Come on out… it should be an entertaining meeting.

We’ll see you there!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Drone Based Photography In Real Estate, This Week At REI of Virginia.

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Hi everyone,

This week our guest speaker will be Mark Turner. Mark owns a company that is doing drone based photo and video which has taken off in the major real estate markets throughout the country. 

These photos, and or video, can be used for both the sale of your flips or to attract a higher end tenant at a greater price point for your rental.

These breathtaking shots aren’t only suited for million dollar mansions as it doesn’t cost much to have it done. Drones are also beneficial when purchasing a property and checking the roof condition. Or checking a leak on one of your houses you already own from the ground to keep your contractor on point to identify the problem rather than just say the whole thing needs to be replaced.

We’ll see you at  the meeting!

Monday, May 22, 2017

Discover The Power Of Self Directed IRA’s This Week At REI

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Ladies and Gentlemen,

We’ve got a very special meeting this Tuesday. People from Equity Trust will be flying in to Roanoke to talk to us about Self Directed IRA’s. We spent a little money, for the first time ever, sending out a mailing to landlords that didn’t appear to be on our current mailing list. Equity Trust did some marketing as well. So we expect it to be a decent sized meeting. Hopefully with some new faces. 

For those of you who don’t know, a self directed IRA is an investment vehicle, with tax advantages, where you can personally invest in assets you know and understand the most. For example, with a self directed IRA, you don’t have to do the standard investment into the stock market or by buying some mutual or index funds. A self directed IRA allows you to invest in real estate, promissory notes, tax liens, private businesses, precious metals, etc. 

You also get some huge asset protection benefits with money you have in an IRA. For example, if you got sued and lost, a person can not dip into your IRA retirement money to pay the debt you incurred. And lets say one day something drastic happened and you ended up having to file bankruptcy. Self directed IRA’s are afforded protection under federal bankruptcy laws to ensure your assets are secure. They also pass along after death with little to no tax implications. 

There are even self directed IRA’s out there, only with a handful of smaller companies, where you can invest in real estate that you personally own. It isn’t a law that in order to be a qualified person to invest with it can’t be you. That is a “rule" that the big companies have for some unknown reason. 

This is going to be a fantastic meeting on an interesting retirement account / investment vehicle, so cancel any plans you had and come learn about this powerful tool to add to your portfolio. 

We’ll see you there!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Auction.com at REI of Virginia This Week!

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Real Estate Professionals,

This week our guest speakers will be the folks from Auction.com. Pretty much any town, on any day, anywhere in the United States, you will find several properties available on Auction.com. 

Our guest speakers from Auction.com will be talking with our group this week about how the bidding process works for the various types of auctions. Some are online auctions, some are live, some are foreclosures, others are bank owned REO’s. 

When looking for good deals, it’s important that you throw everything into the mix. Look on the MLS, talk to wholesalers that you can trust, bid on websites like Auction.com, and go to local auctions such as trustee sales advertised in the paper, tax sales, etc. You should be on the mailing list of all of the auction companies that sell properties locally such as Woltz, Walker, Counts Auctions, etc. Look them up online and get on their lists. 

Come on out to the meeting this week to add auction.com to your list of good sources for deals.

We’ll see ya there!
 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Building Codes And Why They Are Needed This Week At REI

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This week at REI our guest speaker will be Roanoke City Building Commissioner, Neil Holland. Neil will be talking about building codes and the reasons we need them. Not to be confused with property maintenance code which is a completely different department. 

Neil is in the permit office. I would say overall that the building inspectors under Neil are pretty easy to work with and do a great job at guiding you in the right direction when you have issues you are trying to get resolved. Unlike the code enforcement department, these building inspectors are highly qualified and fully understand the building codes which makes them easy to work with. His staff doesn’t seem to have the power trip complex that some of the code enforcers have. Which leads to a much more pleasurable experience when working with the city to make modifications to a property. 

The primary complaints I hear from members pertaining to the Building and Planning department are that they put too many unnecessary roadblocks in the way, preventing businesses from efficiently growing their company. Which leads to economic growth, jobs, higher taxes for the city, etc. 

I asked Susan Lower, Director of Real Estate Valuation, some questions pertaining to the GIS and how it misleads people in some areas. Some of these things that are misleading can literally bankrupt a person who is just getting started out. Susan forwarded the questions to Neil Holland and Ian Shaw as it appears that they are in charge of these things. Neither of them replied.  If you would like to see the details of these GIS issues, see the emails below. 

See ya at the meeting…

Hi Susan,

Andy was saying that you had some questions pertaining to anything bad related to the new eTrakit system. As you know I have always been real happy with the city GIS. You do a real good job with it and it’s miles beyond most towns. Roanoke County is playing catchup. There are some irritations with the new system though that could be resolved. One thing is it should connect directly with the eTrakit system rather than make you hit the link and retype in the house address. I am computer savvy but many as you know aren’t. I can imagine them getting to that page and then trying to figure out where they go for the information they were so used to getting. No reason not to connect it directly to Code Enforcement and make it so the address transfers as well.

Enough with the nit picking though and lets get to the larger issues. The city has been attacking people that have open violations. They say for compliance with something they are trying to gain compliance with they have to have every single violation in closed status. Nothing open ended. They will years later go after you saying that this or that was not closed. But you know for a fact that it was closed as you met the inspector out there and he or she said it’s done. They just forgot to go back later and mark it as closed. Then they forget a few years later that they ever had that meeting with you. 

This system does not clearly show if something is open or closed.  Sometimes you will see a date in the closed tab and sometimes you won’t. Sometimes there is something in the compliance tab and sometimes there isn’t. Sometimes there is nothing in either of them even though the issue is closed. Sometimes there is a rental certificate on the house but it is not listed on there as having one. My suggestion is that it should be made so each column HAS to be filled out by the person inputting the data. And if it’s not filled out than it is not complete. I would like to see every open violation highlighted or some real easy way to tell if it is an open problem or closed. I buy junker houses and invest my money in the city to fix it up and increase tax values. I like to know what I’m walking into without big surprises. 

Talk about a mega surprise. I also don’t like that the city will put that a property is a multifamily property on this GIS and then turn around and tell people later that it’s not and we should have checked with them to determine if it was or wasn’t. That’s seriously messed up and I think you know why as the expert in real estate valuation. We buy property based on the income it produces. It’s not worth anywhere near what we paid if it all of a sudden is required to be converted to a single family. Not only the cost of conversion so but also the lost income. This type of thing leads a lot of newbie people who buy at the city tax sale straight into bankruptcy. Yes, The city bankrupts the person. They put all of the little amount of money they have into buying a house and think they are going to make X number of dollars in rent so they will be able to afford the investment. They check the GIS and it confirms that it is officially a multifamily house. Then BAM, they get slammed when they try to do the right thing and go down to get a permit. The evil people there tell them they have to convert it to a single family house in order to get the permit. Can you only imagine the taste someone gets in their mouth for the city when that happens to them. Months later the house still sits there vacant, boarded up and unable to be fixed as they don’t have the money to convert it to a single and the house is so big it doesn’t make since to do so in the first place. I’ve found that typically the tax assessed value will match what you typically will see for a multi as well. So there is literally no indication even for the experienced investor. The simple fact that it says the word multifamily on there I’ve found to mean absolutely nothing. That causes bankruptcy for innocent people who are just starting out investing their money in the city. So it’s very bad and urgent that it’s changed. 

Also I’ll look at properties now and there are page after page of violations since there are so few per page. My work has now more than tripled as there is not enough information on that first line and I have to literally open each and every violation and see what it’s all about and if it’s closed or not. It’s not even organized by date so there is no way to even look at the most recent date assuming that the other older issues have been resolved. Or if it was a rental certificate or not. I have to see if a place has a valid certificate or not. Or if it ever has had one. Some of that information in the second page is relevant. So a property has 6 pages of notices. I have to look at each and every violation and open them all up. Takes an unnecessarily long time. Didn’t take all of that work with the first system. 

So the things we would like for you to talk about at a meeting are the new functionalities of this system you have. It looks like it does a lot more and I would like to know all of the ways we can utilize the new system to be efficient, etc. What this contractor stuff is all about. About getting permits right there on the system. What is projects? Scheduling inspections through it. What is the purpose of the properties search on there. I put my properties in there and nothing comes up. Maybe that is work in progress. 

Good stuff! Just have some suggestions for refining. 


Best regards,



Dallas 

Hey Dallas and Happy New Year!

Thank you for your nice comments on our GIS. We do try to have correct Real Estate information and current maps available to you for view each day. Our team works hard to load our system daily so on the next day the new data entered is live in GIS.

And for your comments on the Trakit system (our new permitting system), I honestly do not know enough about this system to help you and your group. Our team is still in training on this system and we learn something new on this each day. We still print a paper copy of a new permit to take to the field for review. I feel like you need to invite Neil Holland and Ian Shaw or somone from the permiting department to speak to your group to address the questions you have listed below. We have a "read only" version of this system and I am simply NOT qualified to speak on this.  

Andy had asked me to address your group with the real estate presentation we did for City Council on Monday. This presentation is more about the percentage of increase in the real estate assessments. And since you have several new members in your group he also asked me to speak about navigating in GIS. I will bring Tracey Leet our GIS coordinator to help facilitate using the tools in GIS.  

I am copying Neil and Ian on this email, so they are aware of your concerns in Trakit. I look forward to speaking with your group regarding GIS and our Annual Reassessment Presentation.
Best Regards,
Susan 



Susan S. Lower, SRA
Director of Real Estate Valuation

Monday, May 1, 2017

How To: Driving For Dollars This Week At REI

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Hello Everyone,

This week I'm pleased to announce that we have special guest speaker, Alex Steady, of the Lynchburg Real Estate Investors Association. Alex is one of the organizers for his group in Lynchburg. He will be speaking about how a wholesaler can effectively use the "Driving For Dollars" technique to find and get contracts on below wholesale deals. 

Good stuff guys and gals. Come on out and get some advice from a fellow investor on getting deals. 

See you there!

Monday, April 24, 2017

Is It A Myth Or Is It Reality?

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Hello everyone,

Can you really become a multimillionaire by buying low income properties for just a few thousand dollars, fix them up and then get them rented and have all of your money back to spend on another within a few short months? Our guest speaker, Spanky Macher, has proven that you can. 

We are proud to debut Spanky’s first publication of a book called Slumlord Millionaire. This innovative book shows you how to buy property, starting out at any level, and build a substantial portfolio. 

Understand that buying in low income areas does not necessarily mean that you are a slumlord forcing people to live in substandard living conditions. As a matter of fact, the low income areas of many towns have rental inspections which would make it impossible to be a slumlord, even if you wanted to. 

Learn how to make millions from the expert who was able to catapult Macados Restaurant into the real estate business, how he made both his mother and brother wealthy and built a real estate empire of low income rentals for his children, with little to no money to start. 

Meet the author, Spanky Macher, and be one of the first in the Roanoke Area to get the book that will teach you how to do it yourself. 

There will be an hour presentation from the author and then 30 minutes for question and answer. 

Come one, come all. If this is your first meeting at the Real Estate Investors of Virginia group, the meeting will be free...

See you there!

Monday, April 17, 2017

Money Talk This Week At REI

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Ok Guys and Gals,

This is the meeting that we have been waiting for… Our good friend, former REI CEO, Dan Cullather, and his daughter / loan officer Kelly, will be our guest speakers. 

Dan is the owner of Valley Tree Mortgage and has all of the contacts you need to get a loan. They have contacts all over the country so they can get some outstanding rates. They’ve got loans for those of you with great credit OR those of you with credit that needs a little work. 

I’m told that there have been a lot of changes happening lately in the mortgage industry. And the great news is those changes have been focused on investors for loans to strengthen the housing market rather than being focused on homeowners as they used to be in the past. I love the business friendly atmosphere that we are working towards right now.

Loans have loosened up quite a bit for us investors. Come on out and hear what kinds of changes there have been so you know what your financing options are. 

This is going to be a meeting that you don’t want to miss. Cancel any plans you have as I can’t figure how they could be more important than funding for your business. 

Be There or Be Square...

Monday, April 10, 2017

Fire Prevention In Your Rentals This Week At REI

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Hello Everyone,

This week our special guest speaker will be Roanoke City Community Risk Reduction Specialist Tiffany Bradbury.  Tiffany is going to give us some insight on how tenant fires in the city often start and what we can do to help prevent fires from happening. 

I saw an interesting video last week that one of our members posted on Facebook. A Roanoke landlords house was getting torn down by a couple excavators. In this case the tenant, that was in the process of being evicted, set it on fire. 

 
Short and Sweet this week guys and gals. So no time to write any announcements even though I have a few for you. Been super busy lately. Right now I’ve got to prepare for a few minutes as I’m a guest speaker tonight at the Asian Business Association. It’s a massive group of people who are primarily business owners. Entrepreneurs. My kind of people. The movers and shakers in town. Mostly in the hotel, convenience store and drug store industries. I attended one of their meetings a couple years ago. It was impressive. 

See you guys at REI...

Monday, April 3, 2017

This Week A Wild Card Meeting

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Hello everyone,

So you ask… what is a wild card meeting. And the answer is I don’t know either. I have no idea what we are talking about. All I know is Frank was supposed to be working on some sort of big Auction.com thing and I have no idea if it panned out or not. Maybe some webinar or something with the people from Auction.com which would be fun. If that’s what it’s about. I have no idea and am not getting a response. So we’ll see...

Regardless we’ll talk about something interesting.

See you there!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Protect Your Hard Work And Investments With The Right Insurance Rather Than Rolling The Dice This Week at REI

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Hello Everyone,

A few weeks ago we had an interesting discussion on insurance regarding Rebuild vs Actual Cash Value policies. There was the question with actual cash value as to whether you are effected by the minimum 80% of insured value penalty that you are subject to with your Rebuild policy. We also talked about, in the case of a total loss, whether or not you will get all of what you are insuring the property for with Actual Cash Value. Or will you just get a portion of it based on depreciated values of the house like you would with a Rebuild policy insuring it under the 80% rule.

We also threw around some ideas regarding what amount of insurance will make an insurance company want to defend you in a claim and what amount they will just go ahead and pay without a defense. Which often leads to you getting dropped by them and your premiums going through the roof with your new company as a result of your lost claim.

This week we have an expert coming to give us his perspective on how Farmers / Foremost Insurance would treat these various situations. Our sponsor Tripp Godsey will be with us to iron out the details. We will have an in depth conversation about builders risk, vacant policies, landlord protector, deductibles, umbrella policies, workers comp and renters insurance. We will talk about what it all means, what do you need, when do you need it, how do you know if you need it, etc.

It’s going to be a very informative meeting on protecting your investments. We’ll see you there!

Monday, March 20, 2017

City Council In Roanoke Virginia Swore To Honor and Protect The Peoples Constitutional Rights

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However, if you don't have a rental inspection certificate in Roanoke City Virginia inspection districts, as of now, they have done nothing yet to protect you from the city taking away your Constitutional rights by illegally giving you criminal charges and fines up to $2,500.

Just a reminder to everyone… We do live in the United States of America. We do have a fourth amendment. And that fourth amendment does put limitations on the government. Our founding fathers knew that without limitations there would be tyranny. An example of that tyranny is government preforming a warrantless search. A city can create an ordinance like this only if there are no fines, fees or criminal charges for refusal to comply. Case law across the country shows that if the tenant OR the landlord refuse the entry of police, code enforcement or any government official, than you have the right to do so with complete impunity. You shall suffer no form of punishment for exercising your constitutional rights. No criminal charges. No civil charges. At this point their only option to continue on your property is by getting an inspection warrant. Virginia law clearly states that. As does the US Constitution.

There appears to be no upper level court case, not a single one… anywhere in the country… that allows any city to take away these constitutional rights.

I have been told by several landlords who have had problems with particular enforcers that they told the enforcer that they would be trespassing if they entered the property… or there was a visible no trespassing sign on the property and they entered it anyways. No one, that isn’t invited, can legally enter your property if it is marked with a No Trespassing sign. All of the code enforcement staff know this. And some of them respect it while others don’t care and break the law regardless. At the point of seeing a no trespassing sign or being notified that if they do enter they will be trespassing, they are legally required to get their inspection warrant. Or maybe easier, contact the landlord to set a time where they can meet someone out there. That’s what any normal person would do. Sneaking on your property is illegal.

We all want safe and habitable property for our residents. Otherwise we won’t have much of a business as no one would want to live in your property if it’s in bad shape. They wouldn’t even move into it if it was in bad shape unless for some reason no other landlord would rent to them as they are professional evictees or hardened criminals.

That being said, if you feel like you don’t want a particular code enforcer on your property as you have deemed them to have been giving you a hard time while you look at the surrounding properties and see all of them in a state of disarray, you do have the right to notify that code enforcer that if they step foot on your property again they will be trespassing. If they want to continue to go on your property anyways, the only way they can do that is by getting the inspection warrant. Just like police get warrants to enter a house. In which case all public officials will have to prove to a judge that they have probable cause. There has to be evidence of a crime or violation that is occurring on the premises.

Your tenants have the exact same right as you do. If the police or a code enforcer comes to their rented door, they can tell them get off the property or they are trespassing. If Either you or them, without the other, states that a government official or any other person will be trespassing if they don’t leave the property, than they legally can not be there. Code enforcement can legally be personally sued for doing so.

We have had a lot of complaints lately with members of our group saying particular enforcers are singling them out rather than treating the whole neighborhood, every homeowner in it, the same. A good potential solution to this situation, that I have used a couple of times when having a rogue code enforcer that was going after me, is to let them know that they will be trespassing if they step foot on your property again. After doing so contact their supervisor, making them aware of what’s going on, and that you will need a different code enforcer to inspect your property as you aren't being treated fairly. They have no reasonable right of refusal of your request considering the fact that you can push the issue and force an inspection warrant. That they won’t get without probable cause that there is an actual violation within the property.

The best possible scenario is always to just get along and work towards positive relationships whenever possible. But there are occasions where that isn’t feasible and you have to put your foot down and demand your rights.

There are loads of higher level court cases which prove that an inspection program, with no fees, fines or criminal charges associated,  is legal, but if you decide you want them to get a warrant, than they legally have to do so. They can not coerce you into giving up your fourth amendment rights by the threat of a fine or criminal charges. 

2012 Notice to local governments via the Municipal Minute that forced rental inspections are illegal deemed by a New York Appellate court.
http://municipalminute.ancelglink.com/2012/01/rental-inspection-ordinance-found.html

2014 - Hampton Virginia finds their Rental Inspection law to be unconstitutional.
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/07/01/aclu-rental-ordinance-unconstitutional/11372997/

2015 - Top level federal court states that mandatory warrantless rental inspections with criminal or civil charges if you don’t comply are illegal in Ohio therefore the entire United States.
http://www.thetimesherald.com/story/money/business/2015/10/24/wallace-federal-court-rules-rental-inspections-unconstitutional/74544618/

City forced to pay back all rental inspection fees collected! Deemed llegal nationwide.

http://www.ohioconstitution.org/2015/10/01/federal-court-cities-rental-licensing-and-inspection-requirements-unconstitutional/

http://www.cincinnati.com/story/news/2015/10/02/judge-rules-ohio-citys-rental-inspections-unconstitutional/73196886/

http://www.stgeorgeutah.com/news/archive/2013/10/10/mjf-city-faces-potential-lawsuit-after-code-enforcement-search-declared-unconstitutional/

2015 to Now - Several court cases over the years clarifying the law:
http://fourthamendment.com/?p=17935

2017 - After seeing these court cases, California city understands the Constitutional rights of people and votes to repeal their rental inspection ordinance.
https://calcoastnews.com/2017/03/slo-council-votes-repeal-rental-inspection-ordinance/

The End. Everyone is happy and there are no more cities in the country intentionally violating your rights. Except Roanoke City...

Attorneys in Virginia That Specialize in Defending Your Rights regarding Zoning Disputes, Eminent Domain Takings, Property Tax Issues, Improper Code Enforcement and Unconstitutional Ordinances.
http://brigliahundley.com/municipal-law/improper-code-enforcement

TWO organizations, American Civil Liberties and the Institute for Justice have fought for your Constitutional rights as well and they now have officially been restored. Any city or town in the United States continuing to take away your rights after these lawsuits is risking very high bad faith punitive damages for doing so. Especially when fully aware of the case law that proves it being Unconstitutional  No rental inspection program is legal unless it has no fines, fees or criminal charges associated with lack of compliance.

Defending your rights against tyranny is a Liberty minded American thing to do.

The framers of our Constitution understood the dangers of unbridled government surveillance. They knew that democracy could flourish only in spaces free from government snooping and interference, and they put restraints on government overreaching in the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. . . . These protections require, at a minimum, a neutral arbiter - a magistrate - standing between the government's endless desire for information and the citizens' desires for privacy.Elizabeth Holtzman

...The Bill of Rights is a literal and absolute document. The First Amendment doesn't say you have a right to speak out unless the government has a 'compelling interest' in censoring the Internet. The Second Amendment doesn't say you have the right to keep and bear arms until some madman plants a bomb. The Fourth Amendment doesn't say you have the right to be secure from search and seizure unless some FBI agent thinks you fit the profile of a terrorist. The government has no right to interfere with any of these freedoms under any circumstances.
Harry Browne

The Fourth Amendment is clear; we should be secure in our persons, houses, papers, and effects, and all warrants must have probable cause. Today the government operates largely in secret, while seeking to know everything about our private lives - without probable cause and without a warrant.
Ron Paul

Companion, Emotional or Service Animals… The current law.

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Landlords across the country have been complaining about a spike of tenants lately that have been trying to skirt no pet policies and avoid paying pet rent, deposits or fees by using the Service, Emotional or Companion animal argument.

Virginia has done a substantial amount of research as a result of an Obama Administration Federal HUD guideline preventing discrimination on this basis. There has been a backlash with states asking HUD for a clarified definition to prevent fraud in their subsidized housing. To date HUD has not answered the requests to modify their definition of a disability to stop these fraudulent disability scams.This is where we currently stand on the issues.

As a result of the new guidelines, there are several websites online that have popped up such as thedogtor.net , certapet.com, therapypet.org etc that provide a money back guarantee certifying that they will evaluate tenants for a fee and provide them with a disability that requires a companion or emotional pet.

Currently as a landlord you can not ask what type of disability a person has if the disability is obvious such as being blind or being in a wheelchair.  However, if they have a disability that requires emotional support, a disability as such may not be apparent, therefore you are allowed to ask for verification.

They will need to provide you with proof that reasonable accommodations are needed to be provided by you if they have a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” showing the relationship between their disability and their need for the accommodation. That can come in the form of a note from their physician, psychiatrist, social worker or other mental health professional.  You can not request medical records.

A landlord can not charge any kind of fee, pet rent or deposit for an assistance animal. Which can currently be for emotional, companion or service needs. A landlord also can not deny a request to rent the unit due to not being sure if person actually has a disability that needs animal assistance. And you can not discuss a tenants disability or need for accommodation with other residents or visitors to the property which may arise when other tenants inquire why one person was allowed to have an animal and they weren’t. They have deemed an answer such as our company will not discuss another tenants records and we always comply with federal fair housing laws to be sufficient.

If they are accepted and they have an assistance horse than you are required to let them have it in your house. They clarified that as of now emotional assistance boa constrictors are also allowed. You may not determine what kind of assistance animal they have. If they have an emotional assistance, companion animal pit bull than you are required to allow them to have it even if your insurance company does not allow it and you won’t be insured. The laws are very clear on this. You may also not put any restrictions on the animal such as weight, size or any other criteria. If the animal violates the rules, causes damage or hurts someone than at that point the tenants are subject to the same eviction process as others.

The State of Virginia has made it clear that you can deny request only for things that clearly pose a danger to the health and safety of others and they give the example of a service alligator. You also may deny if that particular service animal they have has a documented history of violated reports of nuisance, property damage or physical damage of other persons or animals and there is no possible way to reduce the likelihood of another occurrence happening.
The state gives the example of a service elephant being an animal that you may deny as substantial physical damage to the property will happen. If it is any type of animal that violates local ordinances than you may deny it.

To read more detailed information from a pdf that Virginia has put together on this issue Google search the term Virginia fraudulent requests for assistive/emotional support animals
 

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