The bad news is that costs increased when taxes rose in January.  Interest rates may also rise.  The good news is that for savvy landlords, there are some proactive strategies to improve the bottom line now with the help of sound legal counsel.  Following are Stark & Stark’s top 10 tips for landlords to consider:

1.    RefinanceWith interest rates low, now is the time to act to refinance and cut costs before interest rates rise.  Have you reviewed your properties with counsel to ascertain what you need to refinance?  Are your estoppel certificates in order?  Any outstanding litigation cases that need to be resolved, in case your lender asks?  Stark & Stark’s Real Estate Group can manage these issues.  

2.   Reduce Taxes.  Have you considered filing a real estate tax appeal before the deadline?  April 1st is almost here.  Have you considered 1031 exchanges to provide tax benefits?  Stark & Stark’s Business & Corporate Group can help guide you through these tax issues.

3.   Plan.  Have you consulted with counsel lately to discuss and update your plans and options, including estate planning and business succession planning?  An experienced trusts and estates counsel can ensure that the maximum amount of your money stays where you want it, instead of going to Uncle Sam.  Stark & Stark’s Trusts & Estates Group can assist in planning for your future.

4.  Reduce Responsibilities.  Have you updated all your documents and procedures to reduce your responsibilities?  Have you minimized your repair and construction costs?  Have you reduced your utility and compliance costs?  Stark & Stark’s Real Estate and Construction Groups have the expertise you need.

5.   Improve Insurance.  When was the last time you reviewed and updated your insurance coverage?  Have you looked at your coverage in the wake of Hurricane Sandy?  Do you know what risks are not covered?  Are you relying on certificates of insurance that may not protect you?  Stark & Stark’s Insurance Group is here for you.

6.   Manage Risks.  Have you updated your compliance procedures, employee handbooks, and other documents and procedures to prevent problems?  Have you considered all available dispute resolution options?  Stark & Stark’s Employment Group can provide you with solutions to these issues.

7.   Improve Properties.  Have you recently developed or remodeled your real estate to attract and retain the best tenants and increase rents?  Stark & Stark’s Land Use Group can help you assess the legal issues with your property improvements.

8.  Increase Collections.  Are you collecting your unpaid debts while complying with the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and other applicable laws?  Will your strategies and procedures reduce future debt collection problems?  Are you enforcing all your bankruptcy and other rights?  Stark & Stark’s Bankruptcy & Creditor’s Rights Group is here for you.

9.   Improve Your Deals.Do your documents maximize recovery of operating expenses and unpaid rent?  Have you included all the language you need in different jurisdictions, such as "additional rent" language to capture all rent in New Jersey evictions and Confession of Judgment language to expedite rent recovery in Pennsylvania?  Stark & Stark is a regional firm with offices in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.

10.   Get Deals Done Faster.  Do your negotiations take too long?  Are you expediting the negotiation and drafting of letters of intent, leases, amendments, contracts, and other documents? Stark & Stark’s Real Estate Group understands the immediacy of “now” and can help you with your needs.

These are just a few examples of how landlords can, with the help of good legal counsel, improve the bottom line now.  Evaluating these questions requires careful review on an individual basis with experienced counsel.  Having an attorney familiar with these issues is critical.  The attorneys at Stark & Stark understand the real estate community and can provide you the insight you need to address these and other questions for your real estate and business needs.