Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Misrepresenting Single Family Home Rentals

I received the following from an acquaintance who lives in the Samish Neighborhood. Admittedly, the information is anecdotal, however, it does suggest that some further investigation is in order. Actions by rental agents, such as described below, may fall outside acceptable ethical boundaries set by codes of ethics and licensing authorities. This is especially true if the individual is a Realtor ®.

"Sometimes if you want to find the truth, you need to play Sherlock. I did a little snooping and discovered that some real estate and property management groups really “speak with forked tongue”, no matter what they say or present to our City Council! Here are three independent “samples” I took recently, within three blocks of each other (and my home).

There was a rental I called about for my “bogus” WWU entering grandchild looking for a shared place to rent. I was told, over the phone, that “only 3 lease signers were allowed: (with co-signers), but that “they could sub-lease to others if they wanted”.

I went to an open house and engaged the realtor about the benefits in purchasing the 3-bedroom home as a rental-investment. “Excellent!” was the answer and he proceeded to tell me that two doors away was a college rental (see first sample above) with four students. When asked how many renters were allowed by the City, he said he didn’t know. But, later he called and said “three”, and that “I could have more, if I didn’t tell anyone”. We also discussed thoroughly how to change the basement laundry room ½ bath into a ¾ bath and modify the bonus room into 1 or 2 more bedrooms.

There is a smaller house for sale, just across the street from an “infamous” rooming house; the owner of 35 years is moving because of it and fears from retaliation (how sad)! When asked about the house (for my “bogus” single, professional daughter), I was told, “it would be a great house!” I asked about the area and was told it was zoned R-1 and in a very nice single-family neighborhood”. Interestingly, no mention of the rooming house across the street."

When faced with a possible rooming house this year on my block, I wrote the owner and property manager (both had real estate licences) to warn them that any representation of the property as a rental, which contravenes the Bellingham City Code on single family residences, would lead to my complaining to the appropriate real estate association and state authorities for violation of the ethics code. I further stated that any representation of the property as a rental home for other than a single family would additionally contravene the covenants on the property which convey with the title. Ironically, the owner of the home is also the developer who wrote those covenants. To date, the property remains unrented.

To determine if an individual has a real estate license, you can go to the Washington State Department of Licensing (click here) and run the name.

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