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The Security Deposit - How Much is Enough?

Security DepositBy Salvatore J. Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA Every property owner should require tenants to issue a refundable security deposit which is held on file to insure against non-performance of the lease agreement. Non-performance may be, but is not limited to, anything from damages occurring during occupancy to expenses accrued due to the tenants conduct or failure to pay rent. The confusion begins with the property owner not knowing how much to require the tenant to issue for the security deposit. It is important to understand that security deposits for residential properties are controlled by statute and call for nondiscriminatory  and equal treatment. It is a prohibited discriminatory practice to charge a family a different amount then an applicant without children. It is also prohibited by law to require an excessive amount for the security deposit. In addition to collection of one month’s advanced rent, the maximum security deposit allowed (at least in the state of California) for an unfurnished unit is two months rent and three months rent for furnished properties. [California Civil Code 1950.5(c)] Check your local area laws for similar guidelines in your area. Many owners will ask for the first and last months rent along with the security deposit. This is allowed; unfortunately most renters are unable to afford twice the rent plus the security deposit upfront. Some owners will offer their property with a reduced security deposit. The owner will advertise the rental property at $1,000 monthly requiring a security deposit of $500, ......
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Strategies for Collecting Missed Rent Payments

Rent CollectionBy Peter Lamandre, Better by Design Realty, Scranton, PA What to do when a tenant doesn’t pay or skips? I don’t mean hop-scotch I mean what do you do when the tenant leaves the rental prior to the termination of their lease? The process can vary and depends upon the terms of the lease (if there is one). This post will provide some pointers on how to handle this less than ideal situation. I’ve always tried to be human with my tenants and recognize that sometimes good people fall on hard times. The most important thing to remember is not to make this too personal – it is business and whereas you can empathize with the situation you can’t allow that empathy to blind you to the fact that the non-payment hurts your business. Have a specific policy set for dealing with the delinquent accounts. Here is an example action plan for collection, which based on location and local laws may need to be modified (but I think you will get the idea). 20th of the month – statements go out for next month1st of the month – rent is due5th of the month – late fees begin7th of the month – collection calls/letters begin10th of the month – eviction notices are posted13th of the month – eviction filing begins The big picture here is you need to have a plan and follow it. But what do you do if the tenant wants to make payments? Again it is all about having a ......
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Decrease Vacancies with Creative Leasing Strategies

Leasing StrategiesBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL As the weather warms up and the rental leasing season gets into full swing it is easy to get caught up in the rush of showing requests, rental applications, lease signings, and new tenant walk through appointments that usually fill these months for leasing agents and management companies. From what we are seeing in our area and what I have heard from managers and agents in other markets this is one of the more active springs in recent history for tenant moves and new leasing activity. We have seen our average vacancy time decrease from 30 days to less than 20 days over the last few months and some properties are renting as soon as they hit the open market. This is a far cry from just a few months ago when we were in the middle of one of the least active leasing winters that we can remember in the Midwest. While this is all great news for those of us who earn a living filling and managing these vacant units, we have noticed one area where things have not picked up all that much. The “tough to rent” properties are still hard to move. The nice unit in the dirty building, the overpriced 1 BR apartment, the house with the crazy wallpaper, the home next to the hoarding neighbor, and other general nightmare rentals still continue to be issues. While the market seems to be increasingly active, I see the activity ......
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Your Guide to Online Reputation Management

Online reputation managementBy Peter Lamandre, Better By Design Real Estate, Scranton, PA “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” - Benjamin Franklin We all work hard to build our reputations. I was speaking with a potential property management client yesterday, when I asked him if he had any questions about my firm. His reply was simple; “Yes, are you honest?” I chuckled and reminded him that he was a referral from one of our oldest clients. The fact of the matter is that people like to do business with those they know, like, and TRUST. In property management the TRUST part is a big piece — after all the owner of the property is basically saying here is my single biggest asset, you’re in charge; please make me lots of money. In the old days you would go to a chamber of commerce meeting, or an apartment association meeting, or a similar in-person event (we still do these things). In today’s internet-driven world, clients often first find you online then send you an email or fill out an online prospect form. The consumer will then conduct research online to find out all they can about you and your firm. The hard part is knowing what is said about you online — have you ever given thought to how many websites are out there? Here are some quick stats from pingdom.com: Websites 255 million – The number of websites as of December 2010 21.4 million – The number ......
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Setting Your Rental Rates

Rental ratesBy Geoff Roberts, Buildium, Boston, MA When determining rental rates, you want to strike just the right balance between maximizing your profit and remaining competitive in your local rental market. Following are some tips for finding that magic number. Look at rates of competitors As a property manager, you want to create business strategies that work for you and serve your best interests. However, you still need to be aware of competitors and the marketplace around you. When formulating rent rates, make sure you know what you’re up against. And the quickest way to do this is analyzing competitive prices. RentometerRentometer is a great web-based program that will allow you to see how you rank in your neighborhood. Just enter your address, rental rate, and number of bedrooms to gain access to a computerized graphic showing where your rates fall in comparison to other rental rates in your immediate area. Other Rental Listing SitesWhile Rentometer is great for a quick overview, remember that it doesn’t take specifics such as square footage, upgrades, and amenities into account. To make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, also look at competitive rental listings on sites likeCraigslist, Zillow, Rentals.com, Apartments.com, and local classifieds (both online and off). Look for places of a similar size, with the same amenities and upgrades and make sure that your rates are in the same ballpark. If your rental rates are higher than those of competitors, make sure this is justified (for example, your units have more square footage or were recently renovated). When a......
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Set Ground Rules Early with Owners and Tenants

The Rule BookBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL I’ve always had a lot of respect for professionals who truly learn from their mistakes.  Many of the top companies and executives in the world admit that they have made plenty of them over the years.  What sets the successful companies apart from the unsuccessful ones is the ability to immediately make adjustments and avoid making the same mistake twice.  It can be costly to make an error on the job but it can be devastating to repeatedly make the same mistake over and over again.  That’s why I sat down last week to reflect upon a recent string of lost property management accounts. Those of us who manage properties owned by others all have our steady, long-term clients.  These are the ones that we can count on.  We depend on them to provide the residual revenue that drives our business and allows us to operate on a monthly basis.  These owners generally defer to our decisions, believe in our process, and most importantly trust us to manage an important part of their investment portfolio.  In our experience we have found a common theme that runs along with most of these clients.  Ground rules and expectations were properly set at the beginning of those business relationships.  Although there are always ups and downs involved in managing any relationship when you are playing with someone else’s money, those hurdles can often be overcome if guidelines were properly established at the beginning of the relationship.  If ......
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Is Renting to Family and Friends Wise?

Pay RentBy Salvatore J. Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA As a property management company the majority of our accounts are derived from real estate investors but many of our accountscome from owners that have only 1 rental unit which is usually a prior primary residence. They may have self managed the property at one time but usually something occurs that invokes them to seek professional property management. There are many reasons why but for some the final straw comes after dealing with the aftermath of renting to a family member or a friend. Rental real estate should be treated like any other business venture but if you’re not accustom to being a landlord it seldom is. Many new landlords make the mistake of filling their vacancy with friends or family members to avoid having to actually deal with finding a qualified tenant. At first the situation may seem like a perfect fit and a great way to reduce costs associated with vacancy and marketing. In most cases the owner/landlord will typically relax qualification measures and make concessions based on the relationship, including not requiring an application or security deposit. Right from the start this creates a relaxed environment and allows the family member or friend to perceive the situation as somewhat casual and flexible as opposed to contractual. Because they know the tenant the owner often develops a false sense of security and doesn’t anticipate any problems, “I know this person and I’m helping them out so why ......
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Tenant Selection in Today's Economic Environment

Tenant ScreeningBy Ben Holubecki, STML Realty Group, Glen Ellyn, IL I was recently on the phone with a rental property owner who was considering utilizing our leasing and property management services and he asked me an interesting question.  He asked me how the downturn in the economy and the flood of foreclosures and short sales had affected the way that we make decisions about rental application approvals.  I had not given the issue a lot of thought as the housing collapse didn’t exactly happen overnight.  However, as I reflected upon the way that we used to process rental applications a few years ago as compared to the way we do today there is a big difference in our process as well as the information that we deem important.  There are several factors that have contributed to the change in the way that tenants are screened and selected. The biggest factor that we have seen is that the market is now flooded with people who are converting from property owners to renters.  While a small percentage of these people are making this transition by choice, a huge percentage of them are being forced into rentals as a result of foreclosure, short sale, and the inability to procure financing for a home purchase.  This presents an interesting dilemma when reviewing a rental application as these applicants do not fit the typical renter’s profile that we are accustomed to making decisions about.  This has also forced traditional selling real estate agents into the rental market which c......
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Emergency Preparedness Plans for Property Management

Emergency Plan ChecklistBy Geoff Roberts, Buildium, Boston, MA We all had it drilled into our heads as kids: Better safe than sorry! Whether it was through fire drills or being told to wear a helmet when riding my bike, hearing this phrase is amongst my earliest memories. It may sound elementary, but it’s still true. And the same goes for your property. Having property emergency preparedness plans in place will help mitigate damage and protect the safety of your tenants in case of an unexpected event. What kind of plans do I need?  You will need to have a plan on hand in the event of fires, floods, earthquakes, and other unforeseen emergencies that may potentially apply to your region. Tenants need to know not only how to evacuate the building, but also what to do in cases where they must remain inthe building as a disastrous event occurs (such as an earthquake). In addition to outlining what residents should do in case of emergency, you will also need a solid plan of action for yourself and/or other responsible parties. Know what tasks must be performed and who is responsible for completing them. How do I create emergency plans for my property?  Your insurance agent, local fire department, local police department, and Red Cross may all have resources that can help you formulate your own emergency preparedness program. Additionally, professional property management associations, networking groups, or colleagues may be able to provide guidance. With that in mind, following are some items every emergency preparedness plan should cover: ......
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Handling Repairs - The Right and Wrong Way

By Salvatore J. Friscia, San Diego Premier Property Management, San Diego, CA Having to make repairs to your rental property should not come as a surprise. For some reason most owners drop the ball when it comes to handling maintenance requests from their tenants. Some owners struggle to understand the importance of addressing repair issues in a timely fashion. They fail to realize how the lack of maintenance affects the condition of their property and ultimately the quality of tenants the property attracts. The owner, not realizing that every rental property regardless of age will have its fair share of plumbing leaks, electrical problems, water heater issues, and broken appliances will either let maintenance repairs linger or handle them in a poor fashion. Repairs should not to be confused with the normal upkeep such as cleaning, changing light bulbs or plunging a clogged toilet. These issues are the responsibility of the tenant. Repairs can be considered anything a licensed bonded contractor should take care of such as; plumbing, electrical, appliance repair, heating/cooling, flooring, & construction. These types of repairs are best left to the professionals and when handled appropriately, exhibit the owner’s willingness to resolve repair issues properly and in a timely fashion. In some cases a handyman can be useful and worth the small fee to resolve minor repairs. Now, if you normally handle repair issues yourself and have the knowledge and experience to do so then that becomes a judgment call, but most owners would rather sit back and......
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