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That ‘For Rent’ sign in your yard is legal

Allen Norwood
Allen Norwood writes on Home design, do-it-yourself and real estate for The Charlotte Observer. His column appears each Saturday.

Yes, a landlord can stick a “For Rent” sign in the yard of the house or apartment complex where you’re renting, even as you’re keeping up on your monthly payments.

It’s a question that comes up from time to time, especially in competitive rental markets. This time it comes from Louise, who’s renting a house in a neighborhood of 1950s ranch homes in southeast Charlotte. She wonders simply, “Can he do that?”

In most circumstances, advertising the occupied rental property is fine, according to Ken Szymanski, executive director of the Charlotte Apartment Association.

Tommy Lawing Jr. of T.R. Lawing Realty agreed. “The landlord pretty much can do what he wants to,” Lawing said. “He can market it with a tenant in there.”

Lawing’s company represents more than 1,800 area property owners, and he’s on the N.C. Real Estate Commission.

He pointed out that some large complexes display rental banners constantly, including times when there may not be a unit immediately available. Basically, at some places, the banner doesn’t come down.

That’s probably more likely to happen during a tight rental market, he said – and Charlotte’s rental market is tight right now.

The rules should be the same for landlords of single-family homes: “I can’t think of anything in the statutes, or the standard lease, that would be different.”

He added more context about why the owner of a single-family home might erect a “For Rent” sign when the house is occupied.

Lawing speculated about a couple of situations. If the tenant’s long-term lease has run its course, and the tenant is paying on a month-to-month basis, the landlord would know that a vacancy might be looming. “Knowing that … he might put a sign in the yard, just to see what’s out there.”

Indeed, Lawing hit the bull’s-eye. Louise said she’s paying month-to-month, and plans to buy a place not far away.

Or, Lawing said, if the landlord is trying to bump the rent up, he might erect a sign to apply a little added pressure to the existing tenant. “I don’t like that … but some landlords do it,” he said.

These days, online advertising creates even more of these situations.

Lawing’s company is one of the oldest in Charlotte. It has been around more than 50 years, and is the largest manager of single-family properties in the Carolinas. But it’s increasingly using the latest Internet tools and portals to market properties.

For all its speed, the Internet is not always current.

If you’ve shopped for a home online, you might have discovered that a listing you’ve found is no longer available. Real estate agents complain about that regularly. It’s lots easier to get a listing online than to get someone to remove it when the house is sold.

New listings are the lifeblood of the Internet. Site managers battle for those.

Purging dated listings? Not so important.

The same is true in the rental business, Lawing said. “Lots of us are using these portals (to market properties),” Lawing said. “We get a daily feed. … But sometimes these portals don’t turn off listings as easily as they turn them on.”

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