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Archive for Friday, January 6, 2006

Landlord can ask for tax return

January 6, 2006

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Q: My wife and I recently applied to rent a house. When we told the landlord that we are self-employed, the landlord said that we would also have to include a copy of our most recent tax return with the application. This seems like an invasion of our privacy. Was the landlord's request legal?

A: Yes, the landlord's request that you provide a copy of your tax return was legal. All landlords have the right to gather a reasonable amount of information to help them determine whether a prospective tenant has the financial wherewithal to pay the rent.

If you worked for a company on a salaried basis, the landlord could ask to see copies of your recent pay stubs, and might also call your employer to confirm your earnings. But because you're self-employed, the only way that the landlord can attempt to verify your income is to review a copy of your tax return and perhaps ask to see an updated profit-and-loss statement for your business.

Q: My mother passed away last summer, leaving behind a house, at least one rental property and a fairly large amount of money. The problem is that we never discussed her finances or will because it made us both feel uncomfortable, and I never asked for the name of her attorney or executor. As a result, I have no idea what has happened (or is happening now) with her real estate and other assets. What can I do?

If your mother died after making a will, her executor generally would have been required to make an earnest effort to find you. Maybe he did, or maybe he didn't: The bottom line is that you haven't been contacted, and you have a right to know what's going on with your mom's house and other property.

To find the executor, start by talking with your relatives, your mother's close friends and her former neighbors. Her accountant or stockbroker certainly should be able to help, assuming that you can find out who they are. Your mom's doctors and even the funeral home that handled her burial arrangements might have some useful information, too. Also, check the probate court in the county where your mother last lived.

- David Myers is a veteran of the newspaper and magazine business.

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