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Are You on Autopilot?

Today, I purchased my lunch at Noodles , one of my favorite fast-but-good food restaurants. And I love how the one by my house is so 'green'. I get  preferred parking, right by the front door, because I drive a hybrid vehicle. And when I pay, they always ask me if I need a receipt. If I don't want one, they don't print one. I know it's small, but I like that they ask me. Today, as my order was 'to go', my server asked if I needed plastic silverware and a napkin. I didn't and I made a very specific point to tell them how much I appreciated them asking me. I abhor waste of any kind, and oftentimes,  take out orders get a lot of 'extras' that really aren't needed.  Shortly afterwards, my name was called, I gathered my bag and left. Upon my arrival at home, I was dismayed to find  - you guessed it - silverware and a napkin in my bag. I checked the instructions written on the bag label and it was clearly marked "Silverware - Yes".   It got me thinking. The server was obviously used to adding silverware to almost every takeout order. And while she asked me if I wanted any , she never really listened to my answer. She was on remote control - my answer was irrelevant. She was going to proceed as she had dozens of time before. How many of us are on autopilot? There are literally hundreds of......
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Military Lease Agreements

By Salvatore Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA The city of San Diego has always had a strong military presence, and here at www.SDPManagement.com we are very thankful for the men and women of the armed forces who brave their lives each and every day to protect our country and freedoms. The military is a strong and considerable part of our local economy and we take pride in marketing our rental properties to active and retired military personnel. In doing so we also understand that “Service Members” of the military and their dependents are provided further protections under Federal law regarding tenancy rights. Under Federal law, a “Service Member” is classified as: A member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, or Coast Guard on active duty;  or A member of the National Guard under a call to active service authorized by the President or the Secretary of Defense for a period of more than 30 consecutive days under section 502(f) of title 32, United States Code, to respond to a national emergency declared by the President and supported by Federal funds; or A member of the commissioned corps of the Public Health Service on active service; or commissioned members of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on active service; The Federal Service Members Civil Relief Act is one of the protections afforded to service members. It applies to any service member who is on active duty or active service; or during any period when the service member is absent from duty because......
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Prepaid Debit Cards: A Win Win

According to a Business Wire article there are more than 100 million “unbanked” consumers living in the United States today. Many banks and financial intuitions have started to offer prepaid debit cards as a method to help solve the financial needs of this large segment of customers. These “unbanked” residents represent a large portion of potential renters in the multi-family housing industry.  Before the option of paying rent with prepaid debit cards, these individuals would have had an immense amount of trouble making secure rent payments.   

Prepaid debit cards work much like regular debit or credit cards, except they are not tied to a bank account or credit account, allowing a broader range of people to use them. Below are several of the benefits that accepting prepaid debit cards can bring to a property. 

prepaid debit cards

 Benefits of prepaid debit cards for residents: 

·Pay Rent Online- Electronic payments are the way of the modern era. With prepaid debit cards residents can make their rent payments online without ever having a banking account or credit card.

·Secure Payments- There’s no need to worry about security issues when prepaid debit cards are used to make payments instead of cash or money orders. Payments are delivered securely as long as you use a PCI Compliant online payment processor.

· Avoid Check Cashing Fees- For residents without bank accounts; cashing checks can get really expensive. Taking advantage of the direct deposit feature of prepaid debit cards can eliminate this expensive and unnecessary hassle.

·No Interest- With prepaid debit cards, money is taken directly out against the balance on the card that has been previously paid for. Since no money has been loaned, there are no interest charges.

·No Debt- Since no line of credit has been extended, there’s no danger of going into debt. If there’s an attempt to use the card for more than its available balance, the transaction will be denied.

·Make Purchases- Residents can use prepaid debit cards in stores and online without having a bank account or credit account, allowing them to shop in a wider variety of places.

Benefits of prepaid debit cards for property managers:

·More Potential Residents- Accepting electronic payments, and thus prepaid debit cards, at your property opens up a much larger segment of potential residents to your business. The large portion of “unbanked” residents in the US will be able to rent at your property if they can use prepaid debit cards to pay rent and utility fees.

· Secure Payments- Prepaid debit cards are a safe and secure way of collecting rent payments from a group of residents who would otherwise use cash or money orders to make rent payments. This allows your business to collect rent securely and to not worry about the manual accounting that comes with cash transactions.

·Fewer NSF Payments- With prepaid debit card transactions, there is less worrying about non-sufficient fund check payments and the effort to re-capture the funds from your residents. There is no checking account attached to a prepaid debit card so either the money is available and the payment is processed or the card is immediately declined.

·Fewer Late Payments- Cut down on late payments by offering more flexible payment options to your residents. Collecting rent payments online will save you and your residents time and money by avoiding cash and money order transactions.

·Higher Renter Retention- Studies show that more flexible payment options give your property a competitive advantage and increase renter retention. Residents will be less likely to leave if they feel their community is doing everything to make paying rent easier.

Residents with prepaid debit cards are able to utilize many new payment options including online pay, paying by text message and mobile iPhone Apps. Plus, residents are then eligible for a variety of benefits by making electronic payments including secure transactions, paying remotely, and rent reminder emails. With prepaid debit cards both property managers and residents win. Property managers get a larger number of residents to market to and residents get the ease and flexibility of electronic payments without the worries of having credit. 

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An inconvenient truth about consumer reviews

I know consumer reviews are scary.  Trust me.  Having worked in public relations my whole life, user-generated content that can disparage a brand I’ve been working years to uphold, has kept me tossing and turning more than one night.  Something you used to have control over is not totally in your hands anymore: your public image (e.g. branding, advertising, marketing collateral, and even to some degree, the press being generated about your company).  Sure, people could complain about your property, but that was typically somewhat contained.  Today, anyone can publicize their praise or contempt for your brand by going online.  What’s worse than consumers finding it?  Consumers looking for it, especially renters.  In fact, 58% of renters, who are also active on social media, told us at Apartments.com they search for additional apartment information and recommendations online when looking for a new place to live.   My name is Tammy Kotula, and I’m addicted to review websites I have to admit that over the past two years, I’ve also become obsessed with reading reviews.  Whether it’s choosing a new restaurant to go to in Wicker Park, booking a hotel or purchasing a book on Amazon, I find myself consulting consumer reviews with nearly every purchase I make.  (Check out Chris Brown’s post on the zero moment of truth). In turn, I’ve also become less bashful about interacting with brands I LIKE on social media and leaving negative reviews for the places where I have received subpar service.  Let me just add......
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8 Tips for New Landlords

Transfer PoliciesA guest post by Brian Davis, Ezlandlordforms.com, Moorestown, NJ Building a strong relationship with a new tenant and protecting your real estate investment is of paramount importance when crafting a lease agreement.  There are a multitude of considerations at this juncture that are essential to understand.  Brian Davis, Vice President of EzlandlordForms.com, is a seasoned landlord and top expert on landlord-tenant relationships.  Here he offers his top tips for new landlords as a helpful tool for navigating lease creation and the ongoing considerations of managing a rental property. 1. Understand the Fair Housing Act and how it applies to your rental.  When advertising for a new tenant, it is critical that landlords and property managers understand and comply with the Fair Housing Act. The Fair Housing Act prohibits landlords from using any of the following criteria when evaluating potential tenants: race, color, national heritage, religion, gender, disability, and familial status. While that may sound simple on the surface, consider that stating in a rental listing “perfect for a single professional” is a violation of the Act (bias against familial status). Advertising only in your church’s newsletter discriminates by religion. What landlords can and should use to evaluate potential tenants is financial data, credit histories, and other background data. 2. Know your tenant by thoroughly screening each prospective renter to avoid problems down the road.  This can be accomplished by a few simple steps.  First, conduct a professional credit check to learn an applicant’s credit history and if they have been fiscally responsible in t......
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Establishing Transfer Policies for Multi-unit Properties

By Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL Transfer policies are often a detail overlooked by landlords and property owners who own/manage multi-unit properties. A tenant requesting a move from one unit to another presents challenges and can add unnecessary and unexpected costs for property owners. Ignoring these requests or not addressing them properly can open landlords up to potential resentment from tenants and even legal liabilities if not properly documented. There are a lot of reasons why a tenant might request a transfer to another unit within the same property and there are positive and negative impacts resulting from this type of request. The most common reasons for these requests in my experience are: - Problems or issues with current neighbors - Maintenance issues within their current unit which they feel were not or will not be addressed - Lack of upgrades due to extended tenancy (newly remodeled units are obviously more desirable) - Preference regarding location within the property (different floor, closer to parking, amenities) - Moving from 1 unit type to another such as moving from a 1 bedroom apartment to a 2 bedroom Regardless of the tenant’s reason for the transfer request, there are both positive and negatives that you should consider. The positive: - Your tenant obviously likes the property enough to want to stay - You have a history with this tenant so you know what to expect regarding care for the property and rental payments. No surprises. That is always a positive. ......
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10 Tips to Effectively Communicate with Your Landlord

By Ben Holubecki, STML Realty, Glen Ellyn, IL As a property manager, I spend quite a bit of time thinking about how I communicate with the residents of the properties that I manage. Unfortunately, most residents give little thought to how they communicate with their property manager or landlord. Considering that nearly 35% of Americans currently reside in approximately 40 million rental units throughout the country it is surprising that so few of us really understand how to communicate effectively with our landlords. Almost every one of these landlord/tenant relationships last a minimum of one year and some last many years, even decades. The relationship that you enjoy with your landlord can directly impact your lifestyle, comfort, image, and financial standing. Establishing a positive and healthy relationship with your landlord can go a long way in helping you live in the best conditions possible, getting you the fastest responses to maintenance requests, and keeping your rental rates reasonable. The following are some quick tips which can go a long way in helping to maintain and improve landlord/tenant relations: During your rental search 1) Know what your expectations are before searching for a property. If your requirements aren’t offered at a particular property, then move on. Don’t expect a landlord to add an unreasonable amount of amenities or upgrades to an existing rental. There are often other units available that will meet all of your needs. 2) Submit completely accurate rental applications regardless of your shortcomings. Do not overstate your income or......
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Not Everyone's a Property Manager!

By Salvatore Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA I made a quick trade, put an offer in on a property in Arizona and then closed my laptop and headed with the kids for lunch in La Jolla. It was after lunch that I had an all too familiar experience. We were playing tourist for the day and on the walk back to our vehicle we stopped into a small boutique store near the cove to allow each kid to choose an item of there choice as a fun reward for good behavior throughout the day. I noticed the owner of the boutique slumping over his cash register near the back of the store and I greeted him and asked how his day was going. He responded quietly, “Better then yesterday” and we struck up a conversation. The conversation quickly went toward business and the owner proceeded to tell me that he just bought the store last year and sales were considerably down. To make matters worse the landlord was increasing his rent. I empathized with him and offered some of my ideas for a short term solution but it was obvious they were falling on deaf ears as the owner quickly interrupted me and said something that made me stop and think. He told me that he was not really worried about the slower sales at his store because he was going to start managing some real estate for a couple of friends that own rentals in ......
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Tenants Have Legal Responsibilities Too

By Colin McCarthy, J.D., Robinson & Wood, San Jose, CA Recent posts have suggested onerous burdens and detailed obligations owed by landlords.  “What about the tenants?” you ask.  They have some responsibilities, too.  If a tenant in California does not adhere to these minimum requirements, a landlord may not be held responsible for failure to provide a tenant with a habitable residence – i.e. the bare necessities.  Let’s outline them here, ok? To successfully prosecute a claim against you for not providing those bare necessities, a tenant probably should be able to show that: He kept the unit clean and not unsanitary.  He cannot let it get dirtier than it was when he first started renting. He cannot abuse or misuse the plumbing, gas, or electric fixtures in the unit. He should prevent his guests from damaging the premises. He should make written requests of his landlord when he wants something in the unit fixed. When you come to fix it, he should not prevent you from doing so.  He should not put the chain lock on.  He should not refuse to let you come to fix it on reasonable notice. He should throw out his trash and garbage. If your standard lease agreement does not spell out some of these responsibilities, you might consult with your transactional attorney to see if such terms can or should be incorporated. Basic equity (and some statutes) provide that a tenant should inform you if he believes the premises are or have become uninhabitable.  Any ......
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Move In - Move Out Checklist (Part 1)

By Salvatore Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA A vital part of reducing cost when managing a rental property is limiting the expenses associated with tenant turnover. Tenant turnover usually requires the rental property to be professionally cleaned, painted or touched up, and carpets cleaned or replaced. In order for you to know what expenses to absorb and what expenses to charge back to the tenant, you should always know the current condition of the property as well as the condition in which the property was given to the tenant. To accomplish this, each tenant should be provided with a written “Move-In/Move-Out” checklist. The “Move-In/Move-Out” checklist allows both parties to identify in writing the initial “Move-In” condition and the final “Move-out” condition of the property. These checklists will eliminate any misunderstandings regarding which party will pay for non-normal wear and tear repairs throughout the tenancy and upon move out. Prior to giving the keys to the tenant the owner should completely inspect the property and document the existing condition on the “Move-In” side of the checklist. It is necessary to document the condition of the appliances, windows, screens, blinds, doors, walls, lighting, flooring, a/c, heating, toilets, faucets, ceiling fans, and any other necessary interior and exterior areas. During the initial walk-through with the tenants, it is important to review the findings with the tenant and have the tenant sign and date the document. The use of a digital camera or video camera is also recommended upon both “Move-in”......
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