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Author: Natalie Jones

Natalie and her husband found the homebuying process to be incredibly overwhelming, but definitely a learning experience. Natalie hopes to help other first-time buyers by sharing her knowledge through homeownerbliss.info.

Your home should be somewhere you feel comfortable. It certainly shouldn’t exacerbate any of your health conditions or affect your overall wellness. Fortunately, even if you’re on a budget, there are a few changes you can make to your home that will keep your physical and mental health in peak condition.

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Author: Suzie Wilson

Suzie Wilson is an interior designer with more than 20 years experience. What started as a hobby (and often, a favor to friends) turned into a passion for creating soothing spaces in homes of every size and style. While her goal always includes making homes look beautiful, her true focus is on fashioning them into serene, stress-free environments that inspire tranquility in all who enter. Ms. Wilson’s mission with Happierhome.net is to offer you insight into how to turn your home into a sanctuary that you’ll not only be happy to come home to, but will actually make you feel better when you’re there.

It’s no secret that, statistically, more homes are sold in the spring and summer months than other times of the year, but that doesn’t mean you should shy away from putting your home on the market in the fall and winter. In fact, you might be able to sell your home even quicker in the colder months. When the weather is warm, the market is saturated with homes and it can take serious effort to make your home stand out. With less competition, you may be able to get more eyes on your property.

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Author: Staff

The cost of housing is rising in many parts of California. Real estate investors view this as good news, of course, because higher property values and higher rent often mean greater returns on investments. The state government is seeking to balance property owners’ and tenants’ interests. It is hard to dispute that rising housing costs often outpace people’s earning capacities. Whether California’s new “rent control” law is the right way to address the problem, however, is likely to remain a contentious issue for some time. The new law caps annual rent increases and establishes additional standards for evictions. Prospective California real estate investors should be aware of how the new law could affect them.

What Is Rent Control?

The term “rent control” refers to laws that limit landlords’ authority to raise the rent and evict tenants in various situations. In California, rent control laws have existed for some time at the city and county levels in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, and the Sacramento area. California’s new law, which will go into effect at the beginning of 2020, is the first such law to apply statewide.

New York City probably has the most well-known rent control law in the country. Television shows set in Manhattan often cite “rent control” to explain characters’ improbably-large apartment. Rent control laws can range from fixed ceilings on rent, with no further increases; to limits on how much a landlord may increase the rent from one time period to another. Most jurisdictions have laws that establish eviction procedures. Rent control laws may add further limitations on landlords’ authority to evict tenants.

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Author: Staff

Buying and selling real estate in California is a complicated machine with many moving parts. Everything must be in working order before the deal can close. Most problems that arise in the days or weeks leading up to a closing might cause the machine to sputter, but the parties involved in the transaction can set everything back in order. Some issues, though, can cause big enough problems that they delay the closing date—or derail it altogether. This could be a major problem that changes the nature of the deal for the buyer or seller, or it could be a small problem that simply goes unnoticed for too long. For California real estate investors, knowing how to adapt to unforeseen problems is just as important a skill as knowing how to identify and avoid problems in the first place.

Title Problems

In almost any real estate transaction that includes mortgage financing, the lender will require title insurance. The title company will conduct a search of the property’s title history to look for anything that might affect the buyer’s—and therefore the lender’s—interest in the property.

Any defect in title raises the possibility of some third party asserting their own interest in the property. Liens, which give creditors a non-possessory interest in real property, are a common type of title defect. Before a closing may proceed, all title defects must be resolved to the satisfaction of the title insurance company.

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Author: Staff

Investing in real estate in California, or anywhere, really, is risky, with potential liabilities extending beyond sunken costs. A business entity, such as a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC), can protect investors from liabilities associated with their investment. They can also protect the investment properties from unrelated issues in an investor’s personal life. A California real estate investor does not need to form a business entity in order to make an investment, but it can be useful. Understanding how, and when, forming a business can help is an important part of planning an investment.

Limited Liability of Investors

One of the primary purposes of business entities like corporations is the protection they offer owners against liability for business debts. It is such a central feature that it is part of the name of business forms like the LLC. An individual engaged in a business activity on their own, including real estate investment, is known as a sole proprietor. A group of individuals doing business together form a general partnership by default. In either case, the individuals are liable for any debts or other obligations arising from their business activities. Partners in a general partnership are jointly and severally liable for one another’s business activities.

California law governs the formation and operation of business entities within the state, and determines their limitations on liability. Shareholders in corporations, members of LLC’s, limited partners in limited partnerships, and owners of other business entities are not individually liable for anything arising from ordinary business activities undertaken through the business entity. This requires a strict separation of personal and business assets and activities. For example, if an investor sets up an LLC to manage their real estate investments, the LLC should have a separate bank account.

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Author: Staff

An apartment building can be a great investment for a California real estate investor, but it often requires a great deal of maintenance and attention. California law sets numerous standards and requirements for leased residential premises, particularly when a property includes multiple residences. These include ongoing responsibilities for maintenance and management of the property. Rather than duties owed to individual tenants, these are duties owed to all tenants as a group. Here, we offer a general overview for apartment building owners in California.

Minimum Standard of Habitability

A California landlord is bound by the implied warranty of habitability, which holds that a landlord, merely by offering an apartment for lease, is warranting that it is suitable for residential use. California law defines this duty in very general terms, requiring a landlord to “repair all deteriorations…occasioned by his want of ordinary care,” and to “put it into a condition fit for such occupation, and repair all subsequent dilapidations thereof.”

This implied warranty also means ensuring that the premises meet legal requirements under local building codes, state and federal laws regarding accessibility, and laws involving hazardous substances like lead paint. If a landlord fails to meet their obligations under this warranty, a tenant can get out of a lease by claiming constructive eviction.

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Author: Luke Wake

Luke Wake is an attorney for the National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center—a Bona Law client. Luke and Jarod Bona have also published two law review articles together, on both takings and antitrust law. Luke is one of this nation’s leading experts on takings law. You can read some of his academic articles here.

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued an important decision for property owners across the country. Chief Justice Roberts wrote the opinion in Knick v. Township of Scott, which held that landowners are entitled to pursue just compensation in federal court when local or state law has effected a taking of private property. This is major development because takings cases were previously relegated to state courts where judges are sometimes viewed as hostile toward claims seeking compensation over local land use laws.

Knick explicitly overturned Williamson County Regional Planning Board v. Hamilton Bank from 1985. In Williamson County the Supreme Court ruled that one cannot bring a takings claim in federal court until after litigating in state court. But Williamson County was a trap for landowners because, in reality, there is no path to federal court after you have litigated a case in state court. Well established doctrines prevent a litigant from re-litigating issues that have already been decided. The Supreme Court ultimately made this clear in San Remo Hotel v. City and County of San Francisco, where the Court held that there was no way to preserve a federal takings claim if an owner seeks just compensation in state court.

Of course, landowners have always been allowed to pursue just compensation against the federal government for a taking. Those claims must generally be brought in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington D.C. But for claims seeking compensation against state or local restrictions, litigants were stuck in state court. And worse, some government defendants had played games with Williamson County—seeking to remove cases filed in state court to a federal forum, and then seeking dismissal on the ground that the claim had not been litigating in state court. Not all courts allowed those sort of shenanigans, but some did.

In overturning Williamson County, the Knick decision has made clear that property owners may vindicate their federal rights in federal court. That was already true with regard to every other federal claim one might have had against state or local actors. Enacted in the 19th Century by the Reconstruction Congress, U.S.C. Section 1983 has long provided that litigants may sue for a violation of federal rights in federal court. Moreover, if a litigant is successful in litigating a 1983 claim, they are entitled to attorney’s fees—which makes it easier for citizens to hold government accountable.

But Williamson County had assumed that special rules precluded takings claimants from proceeding under Section 1983. The Takings Clause prohibits the taking of private property without payment of just compensation; however, Williamson County concluded that this should be understood as requiring a litigant to pursue compensation in state court in order to have a ripened claim. Yet as groups like Cato Institute and National Federation of Independent Business Small Business Legal Center argued as amicus curiae before the U.S. Supreme Court in Knick, this sort of logic is perverse because it would also preclude litigants from vindicating other constitutional rights. The Supreme Court would never require a litigant to sue in state court in order to ripen a claim alleging that local or state actors had violated the Equal Protection Clause or the First Amendment. So why was the Takings Clause singled-out for special ripening rules?

Ultimately, Chief Justice Roberts concluded that the Court was confused in Williamson County because there really was no good reason for the “state litigation rule.” The constitutional text provides a straightforward guarantee against uncompensated takings—meaning that a litigant is entitled to pursue just compensation in court (either federal or state) if there is no administrative procedure for obtaining compensation owed. So, for example, if a local ordinance precludes all development opportunity without authorizing payment to affected owners, an owner is allowed to proceed in federal court.

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Real estate syndicates allow California real estate investors to pool funds to finance a project. This could be a new development or the refurbishing of an existing property. The person responsible for managing the project, and the investors’ money, is known as the syndicator. A syndicate may arise out of a group of investors looking for a project, or it may result from a developer seeking financing for a project from sources other than a bank. Before investing in a syndicate, investors should understand several important features.

What Is a Real Estate Syndicate?

A “real estate syndicate” is a business entity created to manage a property or project, and which seeks financing through investors. Several different business forms may be used for syndicates, such as a limited partnership (LP) or limited liability company (LLC), to protect investors against liability beyond the amount of their investment. Depending on the type of entity, the syndicator might be liable for the syndicate’s debts and other obligations.

A real estate syndicate differs from a real estate investment trust (REIT) in at least two important ways:
1. REITs typically manage large portfolios of properties, with the goal being longer-term holdings. A syndicate, on the other hand, might exist for the sole purpose of developing or improving a single property, with the intention of dissolving once the project is complete.
2. Investors can buy into an existing REIT and sell their shares without restriction. They tend to be more liquid. Syndicates may only allow investors to buy in at specific times.
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Author: Staff

Most real estate purchases require some form of financing. Banks that issue loans for the purchase of real estate protect their investments in several important ways. The most well-known is the deed of trust, by which the borrower conveys a security interest in the property to the lender. If the borrower defaults on loan payments, the deed of trust gives the lender the right to foreclose on the property. Most deeds of trust contain a “due on sale” clause, which is another way banks protect their interests. This clause limits a property owner’s ability to transfer title to their property. It is worth noting that enforcement of due-on-sale clauses is fairly rare, but it is still an important issue for California real estate investors to understand.property management

Due-on-Sale Clauses

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Author: Staff

Creating a “living trust,” as opposed to a will, allows an individual to take a more active role in the preparation of their estate. In a will, the testator designates someone to act as executor, but that person is not authorized to act until after the testator’s death. The executor must submit the will to a probate court, which can take time. A living will allows the process of distributing assets to begin while the testator—known as the “grantor” of the trust—is still alive. The trustee can bypass the probate process when the time comes. California real estate investors may benefit from living trusts. They should understand the various legal pitfalls that they can produce.

Fiduciary Duties of a Trustee

When the grantor of a living trust is still alive, they often serve as the trustee. The trust instrument should designate a successor trustee to take over upon the grantor’s death. The trustee owes fiduciary duties to the beneficiaries, and could be held liable for breaching those duties. Beneficiaries are only entitled to equitable remedies under California law, such as compelling certain actions or removing the trustee.

If the trust is a “revocable living trust,” the grantor may change the terms of the trust, or revoke it entirely. The successor trustee likely will not have that authority. The legal pitfalls for a trustee of a living trust derive from their fiduciary and statutory duties to the beneficiaries.
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