Monthly Archives: November 2013

Focus on People Not Paperwork

For property managers who love working with people, but despise the paperwork process for inspection reports, Inspect and Cloud might be the solution. Inspect and Cloud is online property inspection software. Property managers can create customizable inspection reports to fit their specific needs. Inspect and Cloud has a commitment to customer service. If a customer believes something is missing from the software, Inspect and Cloud aims to resolve this issue and continues to innovate their product. We spoke to Jon Ray from Inspect and Cloud to hear more.

Inspect and Cloud (2)

APM: Can you please describe Inspect and Cloud?

Jon: From a 30000 ft overview, you have an icon inside the app that desensitizes the property inspection process. The information collects from the field via your Iphone or Ipad. We try to take the frustration out of the property inspection process, and ensure high quality reports for each property inspected.

APM: How does Inspect and Cloud stand out from other property inspection reports?

Jon: We try to build Inspect and Cloud based on the feedback we get from the property management industry. Both my business partner and I have backgrounds in the property management. We both know it is frustrating to carry around a bag with your digital camera, clipboard, and worksheets. This began as a personal issue for us. We realized that some of the property inspection software available has a limit with what you can do. We need the functionality to be able to customize the information we collect at each type of property.

With Inspect and Cloud, we offer customized templates. Create templates for single-family homes, multi-family complexes, HOA inspections or maintenance inspections. If there is information users need to specifically collect for a property, we have a capability to build a custom template. With the web application, Inspect and Cloud allows you to design the mobile app.

APM: Do you think users can easily design their own platform? Would you consider Inspect and Cloud user friendly?

Jon: Absolutely. We try to make Inspect and Cloud as intuitive as it can be. We understand how technology can be scary for people who do not use it all the time. We have a team in our support center that trains on every aspect of the product. Users can call our support center with any questions. Inspect and Cloud is intuitive. We want our users to open it up and immediately be able to conduct an inspection without learning a new system. We also created several video tutorials to give you a step-by-step on every single feature that is available.

APM: If we talked to your top three customers, how would they describe your product?

Jon: Most customers would take a sigh of relief, especially when they recall their old process and how tedious it is. Our top customers have several inspectors out in the field with large portfolios. We designed Inspect and Cloud with membership levels. We are excited to offer the product to the small property manager who is just getting started with less than 100 doors, to the property manager with 10,000 door clients. We think Inspect and Cloud contributes to a company’s growth and provides the tools to help foster growth. We have witnessed businesses grow due to the showcasing of their reports and professional designs. These inspection reports provide a competitive advantage in their prospecting kits.

APM: Do you have a favorite memorable moment with a customer?

Jon: There are several memorable moments. One that stands out to me involves a seasoned individual who has over 20 years in the property management industry. For him, the property inspection process is the most tedious part of his day. He loves talking to people, forms relationships, enjoys finding new prospects, but the property inspection process is something he could not get into. He thinks of it as a necessary evil. He was initially hesitant to use the software because he was not familiar with how to use an Iphone. Originally, we spoke with him a few times over a period of a couple of weeks, to explain the value of Inspect and Cloud. We knew he simply needed to try to the product, and once he did he would see how easy it is to use. He called us back after he tried it and said ” Its so easy! I filled out my own custom inspection report. We already did one inspection!”. We thrive on customer enthusiasm like his.

APM: We could see how that would be incredibly rewarding. Is there anything else you would like your users to know?

Jon: Yes, we appreciate user feedback. We try to schedule at least a phone call and hopefully a full product demo with every single person that signs up for the product. We designed our customer support system, to provide a level of customer service that builds relationships. We know our software and believe it is only as good as the feedback we receive. We continue to innovate. We put together a quasi-focus group of our users to innovate and add new features. We ask our users to let us know if anything does not seem intuitive, if something frustrates them, or if there is something they wish the product would do. If there is something missing please let us know immediately. Inspect and Cloud is a start-up company with our developers here in the US. We can quickly pivot if needed, and this is our competitive advantage.

Our users know they can make suggestions. If we think it could work, we go to our property managers focus pool, and see if we can implement it. We feel we add value because we spoke with enough property managers to solve everyday inspection issues. We want property managers to focus on growing their business. We do not want them to deal with the day-to-day tedium of doing property inspections.

To Sum It Up!

Inspect and Cloud is a property management software that aims to incorporate each aspect of property inspections. However, if users feel that something is missing, Inspect and Cloud looks into the issue and see what changes can be made immediately. Inspect and Cloud is committed to being innovative, and also wants to make the property inspection process easy so property managers have time to focus on other endeavors.

5 Thanksgiving Safety Tips for Your Renters

Landlords can keep their property and their tenants safer during the Thanksgiving holiday by sharing important safety tips with them. Even tenants that generally follow the rules for the rest of the year may accidentally or intentionally let things get out of control during the holidays.

Here are 5 Thanksgiving safety tips that every landlord should share with their renters:

Safety Tip #1. Tenants are responsible for their guests

Thanksgiving often means out-of-town guests arriving for dinner or eve staying overnight for a few days. Tenants need to know that they are responsible for the actions and behavior of their guests. Whether it’s violating the noise regulations as outlined in the rental lease agreement to swimming in the pool after hours to illegal activity, if the guests of the tenant are not following the lease agreement, the tenant can be penalized for it.

Introducing alcohol at a Thanksgiving party may cause otherwise mindful guests and tenants to act a little more recklessly, so an advanced warning about behavior may minimize issues. Notifying tenants of this can help them keep their guests under control early on, before their actions become a problem.

Safety Tip #2. Open flames inside

Thanksgiving and other holiday decorations often include candles, scented wax warmers and other open-flame decorations. Remind your guests about the dangers of open flames when there are lots of people in a living space. It doesn’t take much to jostle a table, tip over a candle and cause a fire.

Open flames and children or pets is generally a recipe for disaster and can quickly cause your tenant’s Thanksgiving preparations to go up in flames. Discuss fire safety and decorations, emphasizing any open flame regulations that appear in your lease agreement. Remind tenants of where the fire extinguishers are and how to use them.

Safety Tip #3. Deep frying turkeys

A fast-growing trend in preparing turkey for Thanksgiving is to deep fry it in the backyard in a large vat of hot oil. The potential for injury and property damage is huge with deep frying turkeys, so be very clear with your tenants on whether such food preparation techniques are allowed on the property.

Safety Tip #4. Overloading electronics

Thanksgiving dinner preparation in a small space like an apartment can mean lots of extra appliances, like electric frying pans, slow cookers, griddles and more. Add in anything that overnight guests bring in, such as hair dryers, curling irons, and other electronic devices and the outlets may get overloaded. Besides, a lot of people put up holiday lights inside and outside during Thanksgiving to get a jump on decorating for Christmas.

Tenants should limit the number of appliances and electronic devices in use simultaneously. Encourage tenants to use power strips rather than overloading the rental property’s outlets and reduce the risk of electrical-related problems and even an electrical fire.

Safety Tip #5. Parking

If your tenant is hosting a Thanksgiving gathering, there will likely be a need for increased parking. Make sure the tenant knows where the available guest parking spots are and that guests park their cars properly. When cars are squeezed into spaces that are set aside for other residents, double parked or even parked in places that aren’t even meant for parking, it could cause fender benders as other cars try to maneuver around them.

Ice and snow can add danger to an already crowded parking lot, so make sure your snowplow crew is on time and ready to work. Talk with your tenant about having guests carpool or park nearby and walk in order to keep things safe and peaceful on Thanksgiving Day.

Is there anything special you do on Thanksgiving to ensure your tenant’s safety? Share this article and let me know in the comments below!

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4 Thanksgiving Tips on Holiday Entertaining in Your Small Apartment

Don’t let the size of your living space deter you from hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for friends and family. Whether you think the place is too small or you are embarrassed that it isn’t decorated the way you want, there are several things you can do to remove all your doubts and fears and host a Thanksgiving dinner party that brings your loved ones together.

By following these 4 tips, you’ll look forward to creating Thanksgiving memories that center around good food and fun company:

Tip #1. Create More Space

In a small apartment, you’ll need to get creative with the space available. First, swap out the dinner table to the living room and move living room furniture into the table’s old space. Even though you wouldn’t normally put your table there, for Thanksgiving it’s better to have plenty of room for guests.

Gain even more space throughout the apartment by using your bedroom as a storage area for the day. Move end tables, bookshelves and other unnecessary pieces of furniture to your bedroom temporarily to create better flow and more seating in the other rooms. Clean the apartment well, removing all clutter from surfaces to give the illusion of more open space and clean lines.

Tip #2. Elegant, Simple Decorations

Forget about the big Thanksgiving centerpiece and choose décor that is classy, simple and evokes an elegant atmosphere. Start with mood lighting, such as string lights along the ceiling, candles or tea lights. Mood lighting brings proper focus to the table and away from other areas of the apartment.

Instead of taking up precious surface spaces with decorations, look up and use the space above your head instead. Decorate your small space using paper lanterns or elegant banners.

Bring in a few arrangements of fresh flowers to engage everyone’s senses and add a touch of the outdoors to the party. Set these on shelves, windowsills and small tables. Use a light color for your tablecloths to keep the room feeling light and airy.

Tip #3. Seating and Table Space

Since your table is probably not big enough for all the guests you are planning for, get creative with eating surfaces. Now is the perfect time to put in that table leaf and extend it. For more table space, buy or borrow a card table, which will look just fine with a tablecloth draped over it. Even a coffee table can make a wonderful eating surfaces where guests can sit on the sofa or lower chairs. Bring in folding chairs with slipcovers for more seating, and place them around the perimeter of the room to create nooks for conversation. Then, when its dinner time, move them up to the table.

If you can, move the sofa or loveseat into the kitchen, where the dining table used to be. Since you’ll be in the kitchen prior to serving dinner, some of the guests can hang out there and keep you company. Don’t overlook atypical seating options like ottomans or benches from elsewhere in the apartment.

Tip #4. Serving Food

To keep the tabletop space freed up, consider serving food buffet style. If you have the space on the kitchen counter or kitchen bar, set it up there. If you don’t have a built-in surface, create one using a folding table, desk, a coffee table or two, or even a TV stand with the TV removed.

If you have a long dresser in the bedroom, move it to the dining area and cover it with a tablecloth for an instant buffet table. Remove books and knick-knacks from a bookshelf or two to hold non-food items like extra plates and napkins.

Another option is to extend an existing surface with a piece of plywood covered with a tablecloth, instantly maximizing any surface space you have. The secret is making do with what you have and getting creative in the small space.

In the end, it’s most important to remember that a successful Thanksgiving dinner party with your guests all depends on your attitude. Instead of setting up impossible standards for this event, realize that the opportunity to get together and enjoy each other’s company is the whole reason for the holiday.

Good friends and loving family members will be on hand to help out, share laughs and appreciate all your fine effort.

So, what do you do in your apartment to get ready for holiday guests? Let us know in the comments below and don’t forget to share this article.

Photo credit: John Lund

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Don’t Worry, Inspect Happy

A lengthy to do list can overshadow the feeling of joy you experience when the clock says 4:58 on Friday afternoon. Property inspectors, for example, can spend hours distinguishing between contractor quotes. Happy Inspector, a property inspection app, alleviates this issue by streamlining all contractor quotes in one place for your review. Happy Inspector allows property inspectors to finish their work in a timely manner and brings back Friday 5:00 p.m. joy. We spoke to Rand Owens, from Happy Inspector, to learn more about the app.

Happy Inspector

APM: For property managers who do not have a lot of time to differentiate between products, why does your product stand out from the competition?

While most inspection software have similar basic features that digitize the inspection process itself, Happy Inspector has additional features that significantly boosts a property manager’s customization and automation capabilities, which translates to more professional reports and faster turnaround for maintenance requests.

For instance, specific industries can customize their inspection tablet, not only can a user customize the property areas and specific amenities to inspect, but they can also modify the rating system by changing the rating icon, name, and number of rating items.

To help the inspectors streamline the repair process, the app can aggregate quotes from local contractors and allow the inspector to send out maintenance requests directly from the app, either to the contractor or simply to the owner.

Aside from these additional features, Happy Inspector has the most intuitive and user-friendly interface among its competitors. Our app is so simple to use that many of our users who never used a mobile device before are fluent with it within a few minutes. As we start to on-board larger clients, the ease of adoption is incredibly important to us because an easy app to use means a fraction of the time and energy spent On-boarding employees within the company.

When it comes to pricing, Happy Inspector also has the most affordable and flexible plans. Unlike our competitors, we do not charge additional fees to add additional users within a company or to have a high number of doors inspected.

APM: Describe a memorable moment with a customer and what they said about your product?

Chris Brown from Beeline Property Management called us to say how happy he is with our product. His words were, “This is everything I’ve been looking for in an inspection program!” Chris previously used the app of our largest competitor, so his compliments were especially meaningful. We are glad our time spent listening to our customers helped us build the best product on the market, and since then Chris and many other happy customers like him have helped us continue to improve and grow our business.

APM: Pick a specific feature of the product and tell me in detail why this feature stands out to you and your own experience with it.

The customizable inspection template is my favorite feature. Customers are happy to learn about Happy Inspector’s ability to customize specific templates for a specific unit, door, and even the items in the room. A few of our competitors are doing the same thing, but property managers have found it easier to customize templates in our app than in those of our competitors, not to mention the level of specificity is much higher.

APM: If we talked to your top three customers, how would they describe your product?

They would describe Happy Inspector as:

  • An efficiency booster”

Happy Inspector cuts inspection time by 75% for property managers. That means saving thousands of dollars each year normally spent on inspections and reporting, and having more time to go out and get new businesses.

  • One of our key value propositions”

Our customers have described our app as trans-formative for their businesses, the level of professionalism, organization, and ease in communication our technology provides helps them stay ahead of their competitors. The professionally branded reports and capability to attach photos, comments, and signature makes their businesses very attractive to their potential clients.

  • An intuitive and easy tool”

We’ve been told what really differentiate us from our competitors is how intuitive our app is. The entire process resembles the traditional pen-and-paper inspection process… only it is faster, neater, and easier to organize. When you have a team of multiple inspectors, the ease of adoption makes a huge difference.

APM: Is there anything else you would like your customers to know?

A big misconception about Happy Inspector is that it’s meant only for residential property managers, when in reality we service hundreds of companies in industries like multifamily, REIT, student housing, vacation rental, commercial properties, and more. Our highly customizable template makes it easily adaptable to nearly all inspection models? our software specialists can even create custom templates upon set-up for our more particular customers.

To Sum It Up!

Happy Inspector is a property inspection application that allows you to streamline all your work into one location. Property managers can customize their own reports, import information from previous management software, and access vital information immediately. Property managers can finish their work in a timely manner and re-experience 5:00 p.m. joy.

Go With The Flow: Flowfinity Streamlines Day-To-Day Tasks

Property managers are overwhelmed with the many hats they wear. Property managers screen for the ideal tenant, negotiate leases, enforce policies, and manage financials; day-to-day tasks never end. Flowfinity is a mobile application that enables property managers to organize their work day from one place, either by phone or tablet. We spoke with Flowfinity to learn more about their product.

Flowfinity 1 (3)

APM: For property managers who do not have a lot of time to differentiate between products, why does your product stand out from the competition?

Flowfinity: Every property manager spends time away from the office. Flowfinity provides a flexible mobile solution that helps property managers and maintenance personnel complete their daily tasks on-the-go using popular smartphones and tablets. Flowfinity is point-and-click software and creates custom business applications without programming; customers can keep their existing way of doing business and easily adapt it to a mobile platform. Flowfinity is not a pre-built solution, but instead a fast and easy way to replace paper forms and improve productivity in the field.

APM: Describe a memorable moment with a customer and what they said about your product?

Flowfinity: Flowfinity helped a property management company eliminate two hours of meetings each week and reduce invoice cycles from 1.5 days each month to just half an hour.

This property manager implemented Flowfinity to replace paper forms with mobile apps for their field technicians. The property manager also saw the field technician’s work, and could check the progress of jobs in real-time.

He went on to say: “I looked for other applications in the marketplace, but I couldn’t find anything that suited our needs as a property management company. What attracted me to Flowfinity was the ability for us to customize mobile workflows to reflect the way we do business. We use Flowfinity to dispatch and manage all of our maintenance and repair work orders on smartphones.”

APM: Pick a specific feature of the product and tell me in detail why this feature stands out to you and your own experience with it.

Flowfinity customers appreciate the fact that they can customize their mobile solution exactly the way they need to, without having to change their business to match the software. The flexibility of the software means that different departments can take advantage of the software, whether they are using it for managing data, teams, maintenance jobs, sales, or anything else that requires mobile access to company data in the field.

APM: If we talked to your top three customers, how would they describe your product?

Our customers typically see Flowfinity as an essential mobile solution for managing their field operations in real-time. It comes with a centralized database, which allows two-way transactional data to be retrieved or submitted from just about any mobile device. Flowfinity maintains device support for the most popular smartphones and tablets on an ongoing basis, which keeps our customers’ software investment protected even when mobile device popularity or mobile device strategies change within the organization.

APM: Is there anything else you would like your customers to know?

For property management companies looking to provide better tenant services, streamline workforce management and carefully manage time charges and materials usage with smartphones or tablets, Flowfinity goes beyond simple mobile data collection. Flowfinity is a flexible and adaptable enterprise mobile app solution that provides the depth of functionality and database support to meet complex data collection and workflow requirements. To learn more please visit www.flowfinity.com

To Sum It Up!

Managing day-to-day activities is stressful especially as the to-do list becomes longer. Flowfinity’s mobile application eliminates stress and streamlines tasks into one easily customizable place. Property managers can take back the control of their day and make better use of their time.

Roommates Rejoice: PayByGroup Makes Splitting Costs Easy

Remember the time your roommate did not pay you back for utilities on time? Or the other time your landlord called you for past due rent, but you knew you paid your portion already? Splitting costs between roommates can be difficult, especially for the roommate whose name is on all the bills. PayByGroup is an efficient way to collect money for rent, utilities, and other group payments. Property managers can recommend PayByGroup to help diffuse difficult roommate situations. APM spoke with Kevin Shepherd to get more insight about PayByGroup.

PayByGroup

APM: I actually browsed the website, and I sent the link to a friend because she sets up big group events. I told her, “I think I found something perfect for you.” Can you please provide more details about PayByGroup?

Kevin: Sure thing. We’ve two products. We have a merchant facing product and consumer facing product. For the vacation rental industry, we focus more on the merchant facing product, and try to exist almost like a PayPal button for groups on our merchant’s checkout page. The consumer product side helps someone like your friend, an organizer who gets groups together on the fly that ends up paying. Once the money is collected, it pays directly to that organizer’s bank account. On the merchant side, the merchant offers PayByGroup through checkout flow. Once the group collects the total amount due, PayByGroup enables them to pay directly to the merchant.

APM: Could property managers use this to make it easier for tenants to pay on-line?

Kevin: We actually see this in both the real estate and vacation rental sector. With real estate, we see tenants using it to collect rent from one another. The most common scenario we see generally involves college students or young adults. I myself live with two other guys, and we use PaybyGroup every month just so I don’t have to put it all in my account; they pay to me. Basically, my roommate can join PaybyGroup, which in turn will deposit to their money into my bank account, and then I can write the check.

Property managers can offer it, and tenants can pay rent independently. Pay rent in one lump sum, but from different people, which is helpful.

APM: I could see how property managers can benefit from this.

Kevin: The technology makes PayByGroup useful. PayByGroup sends reminders in a timely manner and takes the awkward pressure off the group organizer. The group organizer will not shoulder the burden to round the group up, hassle people for money, fund it themselves, or worry about being paid back.

That’s what we’re good at, we get groups to come together and make it happen. Typically one roommate says, “OK, I’m the one in charge of rent. I will ask John and Fred every month for the rent check.” Now this individual can invite them to PayByGroup. It will handle reminders for, and notify the user when the other people in the group sign up. Everyone can see who pays and it holds each person accountable for their portion. For something like rent, it’s great.

APM: What do you think makes your product stand out from other similar products? Do other services like this exist?

Kevin: Actually, we’re the only one with a merchant focus. One company does what we do in terms on the consumer side. PayByGroup takes away the uncertainty from the organizer; he or she will know when the payment arrives. Once the user receives the notification, he or she can make the payment via check or credit card.

APM: I saw the customer reviews that you sent me. Can you describe the feedback received from merchants?

Kevin:It’s all been very positive. Again, for right now, we focus more on the vacation rental property management than the real estate side. I would imagine the same ideas still apply. Any agent who deals with customers or tenants on a day-to-day basis can simplify multi-party transactions. Property managers will find value in PayByGroup and simplify the rent collection process.

APM: Is there anything else you would like our readers to know about PayByGroup?

Kevin: PayByGroup simplifies a process that traditionally creates friction and requires a lot of coordination. This in turn becomes an inconvenience for the merchants. PayByGroup makes it easy on both sides. As a result, payments happen faster.

To Sum It Up!

Both property managers and tenants can benefit from PayByGroup. This service makes collecting group payments easy. Property managers can either use or recommend this service to maximize timely rent payments. Roommates can use this to split their rent and take away the awkwardness that comes during rent collection time.

3 Real Estate Investment Tips for Choosing a Rental Property

Those who intend to build or diversify their investment portfolios often choose to buy a real estate property because of its perceived inherent stability of this mode of investment. While it is true that investors may stand to earn a lot more by investing in the stocks of some blue chip company, the risks associated are usually greater too.

On the other hand, a house generally appreciates in value as the years go by. So those who want to play safe when making their investment decisions usually decide to go in for a piece of real estate. The key is to choose rental property that is most likely to bring you an impressive return.

Like stocks, shares, and bonds, the investor needs to be extremely careful when buying a property for real estate investment. Not all properties make sound investments and bring on a cash flow readily. Keep reading for a few pointers to help you choose the ideal real estate investment property.

Tip #1. Choose Single-Family Homes Over Condos

Some research studies have shown that single-family homes tend to be more suitable as real estate investment options than condos. This is primarily because of the kind of renters that the former tends to attract. More than 60 percent of all single-family home tenants have children and so move less often than unmarried individuals in their 20s and 30s and childless couples in the same age bracket. In fact, tenants of single-family home tenants are about 20 percent more likely to live in a house for five years or more.

Tip #2. Choose Rental Property with Locational Advantages

When you choose rental property for a real estate investment, consider buying one that will attract tenants in droves and also definitely appreciate in value through the years. One way to ensure this is to buy a property that has obvious locational advantages. While judging in the light of this criteria, keep in mind that proximity to a school district and a major interstate and the presence of recreational opportunities in the vicinity will make your property always be in high demand amongst tenants with varied needs.

What is more, these locational advantages will ensure that the worth of your property won’t decline in future and you can sell it easily—to a family with school-going kids, a couple in their sunset years who want to settle in a quiet and safe community with lots of recreational opportunities nearby, or a couple who wants to stay somewhere from where it is easy to commute to their respective places of work.

Tip #3. Choose Rental Property That’s Built Right

When looking for a property to buy to add to your investment portfolio, always go in for a house that has a stable structure and a strong foundation. A sturdily-built house will save you hundreds and thousands of dollars in repair, replacement, and maintenance costs in the long run than a derelict and run-down house that is a few thousand dollars cheaper now. What is more, a sturdily-built house will also attract tenants readily; put yourself in the shoes of your potential tenants and you will get the picture.

The above pointers should help you zero in on a property that will ensure positive returns on your real estate investment by appealing to both tenants and sellers, like a well-built single-family house that is in a fantastic location. With many foreclosed properties in the market right now and low mortgage rates, NOW is the right time to plunge into the world of real estate investment.

Do you have any other tips on how to choose rental property that translates into a sound real estate investment? Let us know in the comments, and don’t forget to share this article.

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Court rebukes delinquent landlord who attempts to evict tenants paying rent to condominium association.

An Orlando case which was heard on July 24, 2013, will hopefully send a strong message to delinquent landlords in community associations who attempt to interfere with their tenants tendering rent to the association pursuant to Florida law. 

In the case of L AND V REALTY LLC, Plaintiff, vs. KENNETH BLOUNT, FELIX THEODORE, & MARCOS PERES, a landlord attempted to evict its tenants because they properly tendered their rent payments to the condominium association after the association sent a letter to the tenants indicating that their landlord owed the association $11,042.74.

Pursuant to Section 718.116(11) of the Florida Statutes, the association demanded that future rent payments be paid directly to the association. The tenants complied and began paying rent directly to the association. As a result, the landlord served the tenants with a three-day notice demanding rent for the month of May on or before May 31, 2013 at the Plaintiff's property management company's office. On May 28, 2013, the Defendants paid May's rent directly to the association and Defendants provided the Court with a copy of the receipt at the hearing on Defendant's motion to dismiss.  On June 21, 2013, the Plaintiff, through its property management company, filed this eviction action for non-payment of rent.

The Defendants also paid June's rent directly to the association and they provided the Court with a copy of the receipt at the hearing on Defendant's motion to dismiss. The court ruled that the tenants' payment of the rent directly to the association within the time frame provided by the three-day notice gave them“complete immunity from any claim for rent by the landlord pursuant to Section 718.116(11), Florida Statutes.

The landlord's tactics in this case are disappointing but certainly not surprising. We have heard of many tenants in community associations being told by their delinquent landlords to "just ignore" the association's demand for rent notice. Tenants ignore the association's demand at their own peril since the association can evict them for not complying with that demand while the landlord's threat to do so is nothing more than a bluff. Of course, a landlord could still evict a tenant who is violating the terms of the lease agreement for other reasons but not for failure to pay rent when the rent is being properly tendered to the association pursuant to a demand for rent notice.

The ability to demand rent from tenants in properties owned by landlords who are not in turn paying their assessments applies to Florida condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners' associations. This statutory right has enabled countless associations to recoup thousands of dollars owed and helped many of them regain a healthier financial footing. Tenants in your community need to be educated about their rights and responsibilities when it comes to the association's demand for rent as they often do not receive accurate information from their landlords.


Death & Delinquent Assessments

QUESTION: A delinquent resident passed away. We sent a letter requesting the executor of the estates’ information but have not received anything in return. What action can we take, if any, on this property?

ANSWER: Collecting delinquent assessments from a deceased owner with no executor or administrator is challenging but not insurmountable. First, a pre-lien letter must be sent to the deceased owner at his/her address of record. Next, an assessment lien must be recorded against the property in the name of the deceased owner.

Foreclosure. If payment is not forthcoming, the board can authorize foreclosure of the lien by non-judicial or judicial foreclosure. In your case, judicial foreclosure may be preferable because the court can authorize service of certain required documents by publication in a newspaper in lieu of personal service.

Thank you to Richard Witkin, Esq. of Witkin & Neal for his assistance with this question.

PLEASE MOVE!


QUESTION: A board member suggested I sell my unit and move to a different HOA. Is this an abuse of power by the director?

ANSWER: It is not an abuse of power for a director to express an opinion. In your case, there are two distinct possibilities. Either (i) your director is thin-skinned and doesn’t know how to interact with your or (ii) you’re a toxic homeowner who should move to another association. I will leave it to the two of you to sort out.

INSURANCE
FOR BOARD MEMBERS


QUESTION: Is Public Officials and Management Liability insurance the same as Director and Officers (D&O) Liability?

ANSWER: They are similar but not the same. Both are errors and omissions policies, i.e., they protect the insured in their decision-making. The difference between the policies is who gets insured.

In the Public Officials policy, elected/appointed officials of state and local governments are the insured. A D&O policy, on the other hand, covers directors and officers of corporations. However, common interest developments need broader coverage than a straight corporate D&O policy.

Management Liability. D&O policies for community associations are designed like a management liability policy. That is to say, they typically include coverage for errors and omissions and fiduciary liability. Many also include employment practices liability, with others offering coverage on endorsement. In addition, they cover volunteers on committees and the onsite manager (if any). In other words, they are specifically tailored to the HOA industry.

RECOMMENDATION: It goes without saying that boards should talk to insurance brokers with expertise with homeowner associations. The last thing a board wants is to have a claim denied because they bought inadequate insurance.

Thank you to Michael Berg of Berg Insurance for his assistance with this question.

BABY ATTORNEY JOINS
ADAMS KESSLER PLC

I’m pleased to announce that Olivia Jacobs joined our firm on November 4. She is 20.5 inches but we expect her to quickly grow into the position in our Los Angeles office.

She and her mother, attorney Karen Jacobs, are at home busy working on briefs and such things.

Orange County Opening. We still have an opening for an experienced attorney in our Orange County office. If you know someone you can refer, please contact me by e-mail or at 310-945-0280. -Adrian Adams

FEEDBACK

Constant Bickering. Personal agenda disorder? I can’t stop laughing! -Lorna L.

DS Rewrite. “As the President promised, ‘If you like your governing documents, you can keep your governing documents. Period.’” hahahahaha- I just LOVE this newsletter! Who knew HOA stuff could be fun! -Sandi F.

Growing Pot #1. If the “garden” is a bona fide nuisance then so be it; but if the owner is cultivating a few plants much as our parents and grandparents did with their victory gardens then let’s leave them alone. Limit the heights if you must to what cannot be viewed by neighbors across the fence -Jim S.

RESPONSE: Boards must make a business decision regarding enforcement. Just because an association can go after a pot grower does not mean it should. Directors must first decide if the plants represent a true nuisance, i.e., (i) Is there any criminal activity associated with the plants? (ii) Is the odor strong enough to really affect anyone? (iii) Do the plants represent a visual blight? (iv) How many people are impacted by the plants? If, however, only one person is complaining, and there has been no criminal activity surrounding the growing of the plants, and the number of plants is within prescribed limits, and in the board’s opinion the plants do not represent a nuisance, then the board can decide not to charge the grower with a CC&R violation no matter how loudly a neighbor might be complaining.

Growing Pot #2. Oh, that is just wrong about marijuana. If the HOA board is seeking a remedy or solution, they should follow state law and provide harmony within the neighborhood, they should never be considered the HOA police unless they want a claim against their D&O insurance carrier. A second solution is to report the violation with the Federal Drug Enforcement Agency and stay clear of any disciplinary action. -Ted S.

RESPONSE: The city of San Rafael passed a smoking ban that took effect last week (Nov. 14) that is one of the toughest in the nation. Because secondhand smoke is harmful regardless of the source and because it seeps through walls, floors and ventilation ducts, the ordinance prohibits smoking in any residence with shared walls, including condominiums. It will be interesting to see how they handle marijuana since the ordinance does not exempt it. The ordinance defines smoke as “gases and particles released into the air by combustion when the apparent or usual purpose of the combustion is human inhalation of the resulting combustion products, including, but not limited to, tobacco smoke.” I think it is clear that pot smokers cannot harm the health of others even if their smoking is for medicinal purposes.

Growing Pot #3. Many of the people who need this medicine don’t have the funds to purchase it from collectives because of the unfair taxation that is imposed. They have no choice but to cultivate. Cultivating indoors is also a far more expensive process that outdoor cultivation. Our “President” promised the country he wouldn’t allow the gestapo style DEA raids on law abiding medicinal marijuana collectives because he would recognize the will of the people. He admitted to being a prodigious user himself. Another campaign promise broken, just like keeping our medical plan. Your argument for citing federal laws seems like the last hope of someone who just doesn’t like people who use medicinal marijuana. It comes off as discriminatory and beneath civilized debate. -Kris K.

RESPONSE: I hate to disagree but civilized debate is always appropriate.


Adrian Adams, Esq.
Adams Kessler PLC


“Legal solutions through knowledge, insight and experience.” We are friendly lawyers; you can contact us at (800) 464-2817 or info@adamskessler.com.

Turn Your Backyard Into a Wedding Venue & Increase Property Value

As an investor, I’m always thinking of ways to increase the value of my investments.  Whether they’re digital ones like stocks and bonds or more physical things like real estate, I’m constantly working on adding value.

Combine that attitude with planning for a wedding (I’m getting married next summer) and you can imagine all the creative ways I’ve been coming up with to try and save money on our pending nuptials.

There’s no getting around it: weddings are expensive.  The cost seems to add up faster than you could ever imagine and quickly busts your budget.  We took a look at a lot of wedding venues but they all seemed rather expensive for what you were getting.  Some of the wedding factories we looked at would have had multiple weddings taking place on the same day and there was very little in the way of customization.

Our Almost Perfect Wedding Venue

One of our top three choices ended up being my parents’ backyard. They have a pretty good sized yard but it hasn’t been touched in 20 years other than routine gardening maintenance.  Since my parents had been wanting to renovate the backyard anyway, it seemed like the perfect time to do it.

Essentially, we’d be able to roll their renovation into our wedding and accomplish two things.  First, they would get a much needed makeover to their backyard and second, we would get a nice cheap setting for our wedding.

Investment Perspective

I really liked the idea of a backyard wedding because I was looking at it from an investment point of view. My parents have a great house and when they downsize some day, an upgraded backyard would add huge value to the property.  Backyard renovations don’t always pay off but when you think of it as a venue fee, you can get part or all of it for free.

Most people get married at an age when they should probably be maxing out their retirement accounts and saving for or buying real estate. Instead, the average couple is spending $28,427 on their wedding(as of 2012).  That’s a ton of money considering the credit card debt, student loan debt and low income most young couples have.  Simply put, they are a bad investment.

Real Estate Investment Opportunity

If you’re on a tight budget, why not turn your wedding into an investment opportunity?  The investment benefits are pretty obvious but you’ll also save money by being able to cater your own food, provide your own rentals and, of course, stock your own bar!

Ultimately, my parents’ backyard was too small for the wedding we wanted since we both have huge families, but it definitely got me thinking. Most people will consider the state of the backyard when they’re making a home buying decision but it usually isn’t a deal breaker.  When we buy our next house, I’m definitely going to take into account the size of the backyard and potential as a wedding venue for my kids down the road–way down the road.

Photo source: Rustic Wedding Chic

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