Monthly Archives: February 2014

Should Landlords Install a Security System in Their Rental Property?

A security system can be an attractive amenity in a rental property, so it’s worth considering whether or not you want to install one. If you decide to do it, like most aspects of your rental property and dealing with tenants, it’s important to have clear communication about installation, access and other issues surrounding the use of a security system.

Why a Security System is a Good Idea

Security systems are affordable, convenient and can be a significant factor in keeping your property and your tenant safe from harm. Here are just a few benefits of a security system in your rental property:

  • Prospective tenants may see this amenity as one more wonderful thing about your rental property.
  • Even in the best of neighborhoods, a security system can help tenants feel safer.
  • Extremely fast alerts to first responders in the event of a break-in or fire, reducing the risk of damage to your property.
  • Many security systems provide stickers for windows or discreet signs that you can put near the door or ground-floor window to deter burglars and vandals.

Security System Installation Tips

Installation by a reputable company is fast, efficient and usually just requires installing sensors at doors and windows, plus the control panel. Most of the time, you can even choose the area where the control panel will be located.

If your tenant is the one who has approached you about installing a security system, and you agree, make sure you do some research on the company and outline the conditions for installation. You may even want to be present during the install to answer questions and veto any excessive actions, just as you might do with another type of installation, like a satellite dish.

Alarm Access Codes

It’s tough to find a balance between the landlord’s right to access the property legally and the tenant’s right to have privacy and peaceful enjoyment. However, most landlords will insist upon having the alarm system access code so they can enter the property as needed without triggering the alarms. Some tenants will be fine with this, since you also have keys to the property, so an access code isn’t much different. Other tenants may resist or feel like you don’t need the code because you shouldn’t ever be entering without their permission.

Most states have clearly defined the conditions that the landlord can enter the property. For example in California, the landlord can only enter during an emergency, when the tenant gives permission, or after giving reasonable written notice. As long as you are compliant with your state’s laws about entry, the tenant can’t deny that entry. Refusing to allow an alarm access code can significantly interfere with your rights of legal entry.

If you are installing the security system, you will be able to program the access code. If you are allowing your tenant to do so with your permission, make sure the tenant clearly understands that you need to be provided with the code for access.

False Alarm Triggers

A properly installed security system will send a message to emergency responders when it is activated. Whether it’s a home invasion, fire and or other security issue, emergency responders will attempt communication with the occupant to determine whether the emergency is real or else they may also arrive on the scene quickly.

While everyone accidentally triggers a security system once or twice, a long, shrieking alarm can cause headaches for everyone involved. A loud alarm can disrupt the neighbors and too many instances may violate the noise nuisance ordinances for the municipality.

False alarms also waste the valuable time and resources of emergency responders and may affect their ability to respond to a real emergency. Too many false alarms could equal fines or other penalties and many cities have outlined consequences for excessive emergency calls. For example, in Atlanta, Georgia, approximately 65,000 security and alarm systems were activated in 2012, and 95 percent of those were false alarms. The city enacted an ordinance that requires homeowners to register their alarms with emergency services or face a fine. The city now also charges homeowners a $50 penalty for the second false alarm, and fines increase after that for every new false alarm.

As a landlord, make sure you go over the security system with the tenant upon moving in to reduce the risk of false alarms. It might be helpful to create a document that outlines how to set up and disarm the system for the first few weeks until the tenant gets used to it.

Lease Agreement and Addendums

If you are having a security system installed, always include language in the lease agreement or include a lease addendum that states the conditions of use for the system. The wording should cover the rules about the access code, who is responsible for excessive false alarms and any penalties thereof, and any information about damage or dismantling the system. A well-worded addendum can eliminate a lot of misinformation and miscommunication on the part of the tenant when it comes to operating the security system effectively.

Do you have security systems at your rental properties? Why or why not? Please share this article and let us know your opinions in the comments section below.

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“A Man Cannot Serve Two Masters”-Directors and Breach of Fiduciary Duty

This past weekend, I visited my daughter who is a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis. I had asked if I could possibly attend a law school class at some point during my visit since my daughter had her own undergraduate classes to attend throughout the day.

I knew ahead of time that I would be sitting in on a Corporations Law class but other than that, the topic for that evening's class was a mystery. When the professor reached the lectern, the first words he uttered were "A man cannot serve two masters". He then launched into a two- hour class on fiduciary duty.

Having represented directors in all types of shared ownership communities for many years, I was particularly interested in the topic. After all, volunteer directors don't always have the easiest time when it comes to operating and administering their communities. Professor T discussed the seminal 1944 U.S. Supreme Court case of Bayer v. Beran. He questioned his students as to whether a person can be honest and still breach his or her duty of loyalty to the corporation. In the Bayer case, Mr. Dreyfus, the Chairman of the Board of Celanese Corporation of America, decided that a radio advertising campaign would be great for the company and his wife just happened to be one of the singers on the program in which Celanese would be advertising. While Celanese hired an advertising agency to produce the ad and the advertising commitments were subject to cancellation at any time, some of the company shareholders were still concerned that it was not a fair transaction as they felt that the decision was made simply to advance the spouse's career. A shareholder's derivative action ensued wherein Mr. Dreyfus's loyalty to the company was challenged.

Professor T explained to his class that if a director's actions are challenged, then the burden is on the director to not only prove the good faith of the transaction but also to show the inherent fairness from the viewpoint of both the corporation and those interested therein.

How many times has a director who also owns a business which serves community associations believed that his or her company would do the best job cutting the lawn, cleaning the pool, managing the community, etc.? When questioned about the potential conflict, the director usually says something along the lines of "Well I know my company will do the best job because I live here and will observe the work and will give the best price." Now, this may very well be true and the director's company may be the very best fit for his or her community but it is still up to the other disinterested directors and not the conflicted director to make that decision.

This logic was articulated in the Bayer case which remains good law to this day. The Supreme Court found that the Chairman's wife was actually a very competent singer who had a reasonable rate of pay which made the entire board's decision to advertise on the program reasonable.

Overall, the decision to hire a particular person or company must be fair and in the best interests of the association and not just in the best interest of the director with the connection. Of course, just like Mr. Dreyfus, an association director with this kind of conflict should be prepared to live with the possibility of scrutiny at best and a public relations nightmare at worst.



10 Tips to Maintain Your Landscape and Conserve Water During a Drought

According to the Irvine Ranch Water District, “Up to 60 percent of your home’s total water usage is used outdoors.” Use these tips to conserve water, while maintaining your landscape and protecting your home’s property value.

  1. Water early in the morning or later in the evening when temperatures are cooler. Save 25 gallons per day.
  2. Choose a water-efficient irrigation system, such as drip irrigation for your trees, flowers and shrubs. In turf areas, upgrade your sprinklers to water efficient multi-stream nozzles. Check with your local water agency to see if there is a rebate available for the rotating sprinkler nozzles. Save 15 gallons each time you water.
  3. Maintain your irrigation system. Check your sprinkler system frequently for leaks, and adjust nozzles so only your lawn is being watered and not the house, sidewalk or street. A well-functioning irrigation system can save 500 gallons per month.
  4. Water deeply, but less frequently to create healthier and stronger landscapes. Reducing the time you water and increasing the cycles, prevents overwatering and run-off. For a free watering schedule, visit irwd.com. Save 12-15 gallons each time you water.
  5. Monitor the performance of your landscape and adjust the run times up or down accordingly. If your lawn does not spring back when stepped on, it’s time to water.  Be sure to turn off your irrigation system when it rains, and depending on rainfall wait to restart. Water only when necessary. Save 1,100 gallons per irrigation cycle.
  6. Consider investing in a weather-based smart controller. These devices will automatically adjust the watering schedule based on soil moisture, rain, wind and evaporation and transpiration rates. Check with your local water agency to see if there is a rebate available for the purchase of a smart controller. Save 40 gallons per day.
  7. Replace your lawn with drought-resistant trees and plants. These plants are well suited for California’s mild winters and dry summers. They are low maintenance, use less water and don’t require soil preparation or fertilizing. Remember to contact your association and obtain prior architectural approval, if necessary. Check your local water agency to see if there is a turf removal rebate available. Save 30-60 gallons each time you water per 1,000 sq. ft.
  8. Plant the right plants for your climate. Use the Save Our Water-Wise Garden Tool to learn what plants and flowers will work best in your neighborhood. Or, download a free copy of A Homeowners Guide to a WaterSmart Landscape.
  9. Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants to reduce evaporation and keep the soil cool.  Organic mulch also improves the soil and prevents weeds. Save 20-30 gallons each time you water per 1000 sq. ft.
  10. Avoid using water for outdoor clean-up. Use a broom to clean driveways, sidewalks, and patios. Wash cars with a bucket, sponge, and hose with self-closing nozzle. Save 8-18 gallons per minute.

For more tips and samples of drought tolerant landscapes, visit www.bewaterwise.com, http://saveourh20.org or download the toolkit.

 


Here’s a Rental Application Example Landlords Should Never Use

There are plenty of sites that offer free rental applications for landlords. We’re often asked “is there a particular application that should be used over others”, and of course the answer is yes.

While we don’t require landlords who use our tenant screening services to use our free rental application, we point out that every rental application should have some very important components. Up until today, I thought that mostly everyone was on the same page who provides rental applications.

Above all else, this is your rental application absolutely needs written consent/authorization from the tenant.

What is Written Consent?

Written consent is simply the few sentences that address what will be done with the information provided by the applicant. It typically should look something like this:

I/we, the undersigned, authorize RentPrep, the Landlord and its agents to obtain an investigative consumer credit report including but not limited to credit history, OFAC search, landlord/tenant court record search, criminal record search and registered sex offender search. I authorize the release of information from previous or current landlords, employers, and bank representatives. This investigation is for resident screening purposes only, and is strictly confidential.

X__________________________

Applicant Signature

Since the FCRA doesn’t have specific verbiage that must be used, the goal of the disclosure should make clear one particular point, that the applicant authorizes the use of a background check and the release of his/her information.

Getting this signature is not only important for pulling a tenant’s credit, criminal, eviction and bankruptcy information, it’s often required to verify their residence with a current and previous landlord, as well as employment.

More than half of the residence and employment verifications we perform at RentPrep by calling the landlords and employers require visual proof of this consent. In other words, if their is no signature or acknowledgment, then no information will be released.

Recent Example We Just Encountered

MyScreenngReport rental application thumbnail

Like I mentioned earlier, this all seems like common sense. But I’m always shocked to see that some rental applications are missing this information.

The rental application we received today was from MyScreeningReport (click here to view the actual pdf) and while the missing consent slipped under the landlord’s radar, it didn’t get past ours.

After closer inspection this is what we saw:

I certify that to the best of my knowledge all statements are true and complete. False, fraudulent or misleading information may be grounds for denial of tenancy or subsequent eviction.

Applicant understands that he/she acquires no rights in an apartment until a holding deposit in the amount of $______________ has been paid. Applicant requests landlord to hold Unit___________ for applicant while the screening process is completed.

If this application is not accepted, the holding deposit will be refunded. If the application is accepted and applicant chooses not to occupy the unit being held, applicant forfeits the holding deposit and no portion of it shall be refunded.

I am aware that an incomplete application causes a delay in processing and may result in denial of tenancy.

Notice what’s missing? Nowhere in these few sentences does it address the fact that the applicant agrees to a background check to be performed. And nowhere does it mention that the applicant gives authorization to release any information.

6 Crucial Things Missing From this Rental Application

In no way shape or form am I trying to call out MyScreeningReport for their service or make them look bad, but this is a real issue they need to address immediately. It will also prevent any legal issues in the future for them.

Beyond the written consent, here are some other components I feel are missing from this particular rental application:

1. The apartment/unit they’re applying for

Their is no reference to what apartment or unit they’re interested, what the proposed rent is, the desired start date, and where they heard about the rental. These are important factors to a landlord/property management company to streamline the application process.

2. The reason for leaving their previous residence

Wouldn’t you like to know why they left or want to leave their current residence?

3. Personal reference field is missing

This may not be hugely important for the tenant screening process, but it can be a great way to locate someone that owes past due rent. (Note: Their actually is a “Personal Reference” field visible on the rental application, it’s just listed under the “Emergency Contact” section. Kind of makes sense?)

4. Have they ever had a bankruptcy or committed a crime?

Asking a rental applicant about their background and history is your chance to test their character. Will they be truthful about a bankruptcy or an eviction? There’s not a more certain way to disqualify someone than to prove they lied on their rental application.

5. Additional information field to explain themselves if needed

This section of the rental application may be the tenant’s last hope to get the apartment they want. For example, maybe they were evicted 5 years ago but it was due to a nasty divorce and since then they have had no problems or history of paying their rent late. Would landlord want to know this? I think so!

6. What’s the rental application fee?

There is no mention anywhere of the rental application fee. This could cause obvious problems for the landlord if the applicant gets denied and requests their rental application fee back.

What if they only paid $20 but then go ahead and claim they paid $100? If it’s not in writing, it’s not real.

So What Rental Application Should a Landlord Use?

I’m always stressing to landlords that they should treat their investment properties like a business, because in business you would never want to expose yourself to avoidable liabilities.

So my simple advice when it comes to rental applications is this, you might as well have a hand-written application that makes you look unprofessional and unorganized if your application is missing the most important components to not only protect your property and investment, but keep you in the good graces with federal housing and credit regulations.

Photo credit: betasoluciones

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5 Biggest Homeowner Association Management Complaints

For many, HOA’s are a “seen but not heard” element of home ownership. Things work, dues are reasonable and neighbors get along with one another. A good HOA Management Company handles all the critical aspects of the community, and the Board acts responsibly.

HOAHowever, things can go awry. And when they do, the lack of a good HOA manager can mean the difference between minor frustrations and full-blown disaster. Sometimes, even the best management agencies will have difficulty satisfying all Board members and homeowners. Here are the top complaints we hear about management company performance:

  1. Failure to respond to inquiries in a timely manner. This is the single biggest complaint about ineffective HOA managers. Companies that submit contact reports as part of their contractual responsibilities tend to perform better since there is a verifiable record of all contacts made and responses given.
  2. Unreasonable delays in resolving homeowner problems. These types of issues generally find their way to Board Members and are a major irritant. Keeping a written record that includes their ultimate resolution is a must-have from an HOA services firm.
  3. Inconsiderate or disrespectful tone when communicating with homeowners. Given the extensive people contact and the unreasonableness of some homeowners, it’s important that the manager be fair, firm and unbiased to avoid escalation of issues. Diplomacy and consistent communication is a must.
  4. Delays in fixing maintenance issues. Maintenance issues, large or small, reflect on the entire community.
  5. Poor vendor selection. Using low-quality or unscrupulous vendors is the quickest way to lose confidence in the Board and the associated management company.

When checking references for a new HOA management company make sure you ask about the prospective company’s performance in the areas mentioned above. The CAI (Community Associations Institute) has a standard Code of Ethics that can be useful guide in vetting candidates as well.

Proper vetting of several competent management companies can help to avoid many of the pitfalls mentioned above. Make sure you take the time to properly screen and challenge your prospective service provider to avoid the painful process of replacing an unsatisfactory manager.

The 300 Most-Popular Property Management Companies in America

POP QUIZ: What happens when more than 2,000,000 visitors choose a common selection of property management companies?

ANSWER: AllPropertyManagement.com’s 2013 Visitors’ Choice Awards!

—————–

APM_VisitorsChoice_2013_1200_ORANGEAt All Property Management, we are passionate about promoting best practices for managing rental properties and associations, and we strive to help rental property owners find the right resources to run their businesses. We think that professional property managers bring a wide range of expertise and efficiencies to this process that benefits property owners and tenants alike.

With this in mind, we are pleased to announce the recipients of our 2013 Visitors’ Choice Award. Out of the more than 2,000 active property management companies in our network, these 300 companies were most often selected by the more than 2 million visitors who came to our web site last year. These companies are organized below by state, presented without order of rank. Congratulations to all the winners!

The 300 Most-Popular Property Management Companies in America

ALABAMA
GK Houses, Birmingham

ARIZONA
Saving Grace Investments, Glendale
Real Property Management East Valley, Mesa
Rentals America, Mesa
All County Prestige, Phoenix
Clients First Realty, Phoenix
GoldenWest Management Phoenix, Phoenix
Gorenter, Phoenix
Northpoint Asset Management Phoenix, Phoenix
Renters Warehouse, Phoenix
Real Property Management Titanium, Scottsdale
Bancroft and Associates, Tucson
Real Property Management Titanium, Tucson
Fort Lowell Realty Property Management, Tucson

CALIFORNIA
APG Properties, Anaheim
Blackstone Realty & Management, Beverly Hills
Marples Property Management, Brentwood
A&M Property Management, Campbell
LRS Realty and Management, Chatsworth
Southern California Property Management, Chino Hills
HomeTeam Property Management, Chula Vista
Noble Real Estate Services, Chula Vista
Power Property Management, Culver City
North County Property Group, Del Mar
Real Property Management California Coast, El Segundo
Eagle Property Management, Elk Grove
Real Property Management Select, Fairfield
White Glove Property Management, Fullerton
DMM Property Management, Gardena
Prellis Property Management, Granada Hills
West Point Property Management, Huntington Beach
LRS Realty and Management, Irvine
Blue Sapphire Homes, Lafayette
UNYGLOBE Management, Los Angeles
Liberty Property Management, Modesto
All County Property Management West, Monterey Park
Black Diamond Management, Oakland
LRS Realty and Management, Ontario
Desert Property Management and Investments, Palm Springs
My Smart Lease, San Bernardino
Real Property Management Titanium, San Diego
Pacific Union Property Management, San Francisco
Intempus Realty, San Jose
LRS Realty and Management, San Diego
ProEdge Property Management, Scotts Valley
L B Property Management Inc, Sherman Oaks
RentToday, Southern California
All County Community, Temecula
Real Property Management Titanium, Temecula
Mesa Property Management, Upland
Rockwood Property Management, Westlake Village
Secure One Properties, Westlake Village
Lido Property Management, Anaheim
Penmar Management, Lomita
PMI-Silicon Valley, San Jose
Pristine Property Management, Downey
Real Property Management Beach Cities, Long Beach
Real Property Management San Diego Shores, San Diego
D&M Management, San Diego

COLORADO
Denver Property Management & Leasing, Centennial
Real Estate Solutions, Centennial
All County Colorado Springs, Colorado Springs
Centre Point Properties Residential, Denver
Northpoint Asset Management CO, Denver
Woodruff Property Management, Denver
Secure Asset Management, Englewood
Echo Summit 16 Touch Management, Greenwood Village
Zeato Property Management, Statewide
Renters Warehouse Denver, Westminster

CONNECTICUT
Real Property Management Hartford Metro, Newington
Service 1st, Shelton
Pro Property Management, Waterbury

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
Citylights Realty Group, Washington
Nomadic Real Estate, Washington
Real Property Management DC Metro, Washington
Urbane Results, Washington

FLORIDA
MREI Professional Management, Brandon
Douglas Realty & Dev., Cape Coral
Exit Realty Professionals Elite, Clermont
International Real Estate Company, Coral Springs
Danon Management Group, Delray Beach
Home Solutions Property Management, Fort Lauderdale
Real Estate Management Advisors, Fort Lauderdale
Realty Services Property Management, Fort Myers
Planet Realty & Management, Jacksonville
Property Management Pros, Jacksonville
Florida Coastal Property Management, Jacksonville Beach
Dennis Realty, Lutz
Affinity Management Services, Miami
Professional Management and Association Services, Miami
Southern Star Realty and Management, Miami
Management Miami, North Miami
Bosshardt Property Management, Ocala
RealSource Property Management, Ocoee
Collins Property Managers, Orange Park
All County Premier Property Management, Orlando
Bahia Property Management Orlando, Orlando
Orlando Realty and Property Management, Orlando
Camelot Property Management, Pompano Beach
Angel Property Management & Real Estate, Tamarac
Bahia Property Management Tampa, Tampa
CHRESTATE, Tampa
Rent It Network, Tampa
Rent Solutions, Tampa
WrightDavis Real Estate, Tampa
All County Elite Property Management, West Palm Beach
Allied Property Management Group, West Palm Beach
Property Management Pros, West Palm Beach
Real Property Management Metro Orlando, Winter Park

GEORGIA
Meridian Management Group, Atlanta
Real Property Management Peachtree, Atlanta
Renters Warehouse Atlanta, Atlanta
Sentry Management, Atlanta
Real Property Management Executives Greater Atlanta, Buford
Bartow Real Estate Group, Cartersville
Myers Team Realty, Loganville
Avenue Real Estate Marietta, Marrietta
WEGO Property Management, McDonough
My Home Spot, Roswell
Central Georgia Realty Main Office, Senoia
Solutions Realty Network, Tyrone

ILLINOIS
Prestige Management Solutions, Arlington Heights
Chicagoland Leasing and Property Management, Aurora
Chicagoland Leasing and Management, Chicago
In Business Real Estate, Chicago
Real Property Management Group, Chicago
Westward Management, Chicago
Letts Property Management, Downers Grove
Real Property Management Suburban Chicago, Franklin Park
First Class Realty, Lake Villa
RE/MAX Synergy Residential, Orland Park
D&R Property Management and Realty, Richmond
Real Property Management West Suburban Chicago, Warrenville
Grid 7 Properties, West Dundee

INDIANA
Real Property Management Indianapolis Metro, Indianapolis

KANSAS
National Property Management Group, Lenexa
Oz Accommodations, Lenexa

MASSACHUSETTS
J. Butler Property Management, Andover
Real Property Management Boston, Jamaica Plain
Martin Property Management, Waltham

MARYLAND
REMAX American Dream, Baltimore
Weichert Realtors, Columbia
Renters Warehouse Maryland, Elkridge
Realty Group Property Management, Gaithersburg
Metropolis Condominium Management, Hyattsville
Reside Real Estate & Property Management, Lanham
Goldberg Group PM, Montgomery County
Tidewater Property Management, Owings Mills
Coakley Realty Management, Rockville
Real Property Management Capital, Rockville
Prudential PenFed Realty, Statewide

MICHIGAN
Du’Bose Realty Group, Detroit
Mutual Property Management, Farmington
One Step Realty, GrandRapids
DeHaven Property Management Corporation, Lansing
Stellar Properties & Management Group, Livonia
Aspect Properties, Rochester
East Side Property Services, Rochester
Real Property Management Metro Detroit, Troy
NCDG Realty & Property Management MI, Wayne County
North Bloomfield Properties, West Bloomfield

MINNESOTA
Homes For Now, Apple Valley
Northpoint Asset Management MN, Edina
Tradewind Properties, Maple Grove
ASK Property Management, Minneapolis
R.E.I. Property Management, Minneapolis
Renters Warehouse, Minnetonka
Realty Connect, Shakopee
Place Property Management, Minneapolis

MISSOURI
CJ Real Estate, Blue Springs
Oz Accommodations, Cass County
Worth Clark Realty, Chesterfield
Northpoint Asset Management MO, Kansas City
Elite Property Management, St. Charles
Real Property Management Gateway, St. Charles
REI Liaison, St. Charles
Pyramid Realty Group, St. Louis
Waters & Associates Realty, St. Louis
Avenue Residential Leasing & Management, Town and Country

NORTH CAROLINA
Group 15 Real Estate, Charlotte
Northpoint Asset Management NC, Charlotte
Premier Rental Property Management, Charlotte
Property Management Inc. Carolinas, Charlotte
APS Realty Group, Clemmons
Park Avenue Properties, Cornelius
All Property Solutions, Greensboro
Alarca Property Management, Mooresville

NEW HAMPSHIRE
Granite Commercial Group, Bedford
Real Property Management Premier Network, Hooksett
Total Solutions Property Management, Manchester

NEW JERSEY
South Jersey Property Management, Cherry Hill
Abacus Avenue Property Management, Hoboken
HOA Billing, Jersey City
MEM Property Management Corporation, Jersey City
Craig Raymond Properties, Marlton
Real Property Management Central New Jersey, Matawan
Cervelli Management, North Bergen
RE/MAX Unlimited, Rancocas
T.R.M. Property Management, Trenton
Samroz, Rutherford

NEW MEXICO
Real Property Management Albuquerque, Albuquerque
Real Property Management Rio Grande, Albuquerque
Town and Country Diversified Realty, Albuquerque

NEVADA
GoldenWest Management Las Vegas, Las Vegas
PMI Las Vegas, Las Vegas
Real Property Management Las Vegas, Las Vegas
Simply Property Management-Paielli Realty, Las Vegas
LVRE, Las Vegas
RE/MAX Affiliates Property Management, Henderson
Advanced Management Group, Las Vegas

NEW YORK
Newgent Management, Brooklyn
Tristate Property Management Services, New York City
Acela Property Management, Newburgh
Real Property Management New York Gold, Queens
The Cabot Group, Rochester
NYC Apartment Management, Manhattan

OHIO
Hayes Realty and Property Management, Canton
RE/MAX Edge Realty, Canton
REM Commercial, Canton
Real Property Management Greater Cincinnati, Cincinnati
Property Management Pros, Cleveland
NCDG Realty & Property Management Columbus, Columbus
Property Management Pros, Columbus
Real Property Management Midwest, Columbus
Gem City Property Management, Dayton
Real Property Management Dayton, Dayton
NCDG Realty & Property Management Dayton, Tipp City

OREGON
Blue Key Property Management, Portland
Passadore Properties, Portland

PENNSYLVANIA
Your Local Leasing Company of Delaware County, Broomall
Wexford Property Management, Glenside
Del Val Property Management, Malvern
Atlas Property Management, Philadelphia
Tague Real Estate, Pittsburgh
Mace Property Management, Pittsburgh
Onyx Management Group, Southampton
Real Property Management Delaware Valley, Wayne

SOUTH CAROLINA
Park Ave Properties- SC, Myrtle Beach

TENNESSEE
Clark Simson Miller, Knoxville
Property Management Pros, Nashville

TEXAS
Property Management Pros, Austin
Real Property Management LoneStar, Austin
Michael Brady Realty, Colleyville
Leap Property Management, Dallas
Local Dwelling, Dallas
Schuster Property Management, Dallas
Passive Income Properties, Dallas / Fort Worth
Northpoint Asset Management Dallas, Fort Worth
Leap Property Management, Fort Worth
360 Realty & Property Management, Houston
Green Residential, Houston
Precision Realty, Houston
Renters Warehouse Houston, Houston
Tramco Realty, Houston
Trend Property & Management, Keller
Remarkable Property Management, Richardson
McCaw Properties, Roanoke
Birdy Properties, San Antonio
Century 21 United Davalos, San Antonio
Larsen Properties, San Antonio
Liberty Management, San Antonio
Red Wagon Realty, San Antonio
Wick-Mullins Realty and Property Management, Spring
Rave Property Management, Round Rock
RealManage, Multiple States

UTAH
PMI of Utah, Lehi
KeyRenter, Midvale
Northpoint Asset Management UT, Salt Lake City
Premier Real Estate Services, Salt Lake City
Secure Property Management, Salt Lake City
Real Property Management Elite, West Jordan
Strategic Property Management, West Jordan
Elite Realty Management, Sandy

VIRGINIA
Safe Property Services, Alexandria
Prudential PenFed Realty, Fairfax
Legum & Norman, Falls Church
Property Management Inc. Richmond, Glen Allen
Real Property Management Pros, Haymarket
Patriot Properties, Leesburg
Property Management Pros, Northern Virginia
Advance Realty Specialists, Richmond
Dodson Property Management, Richmond
Great Richmond Rentals, Richmond
The Wright Choice Richmond Realty Group, Richmond
Flat Fee Landlord, Vienna
Atlantic Coast Property Management, Virginia Beach
Real Property Management Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach
The Kris Weaver Real Estate Team, Virginia Beach
Northern Virginia Property Management, Springfield

WASHINGTON
Real Property Management of N. Puget Sound, Everett
Lakeshore Corporation, Kirkland
Real Property Management Today, Lakewood
Yates, Wood & MacDonald, Seattle
Full Service Property Management, Seattle
MacPhersons Property Management, Shoreline
T-Square Properties, Woodinville
Brink Property Management, Seattle/Bellevue

WISCONSIN
Real Property Management Southeast Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Performance Asset Management, Wauwatosa

Section 8 Inspection Guide for Landlords

Usually known by its nickname, Section 8, this low income housing assistance program is actually Section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 and is officially known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

It’s a rental assistance program managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that provides the difference between a tenant’s contribution toward rent and the full rental price. Owners contract with the government to provide a certain number of units dedicated to low income housing. Section 8 inspections are a key part of the program.

Benefits of Section 8

The benefits of participating in the Section 8 program are numerous, but the best part is that the government directly subsidizes the landlord for its portion of the rent, on time and in full. Landlords gain a certain buffer from any hardships the tenant may face, because the program adjusts to the tenant’s financial circumstances. There are always pSectionlenty of potential tenants on the waiting list, which means minimal vacancy time and lower marketing costs.

FAQs about Section 8 Inspections

Part of the requirements for owners to qualify to participate in the program is an inspection by a housing official. The properties must meet certain standards in order to qualify and stay eligible. Section 8 inspections allow officials to confirm that landlords are complying with the standards of the program in providing rental units for low income citizens. Many landlords get nervous about the inspection process, but there’s no need to worry.

Here are some FAQs that landlords who are thinking about participating in the program may have about Section 8 inspections:

Why is my property being inspected?

Section 8 inspections were implemented to ensure that all rental units meet minimum standards of safety and decency. Any unit being considered for participation in the program must be checked out to make sure there are no health issues. It’s also for the property owner’s benefit to assess any areas that may need maintenance or repair.

How often are inspections done?

Initial Section 8 inspections are the ones that takes place before the contract is executed. After that, the unit will be inspected annually. There may be an additional inspection if there is an audit or if there are complaints about the unit.

How can I prepare for an inspection?

Property owners should check out the rental unit prior to the inspection and take care of any maintenance issues beforehand. Broken or worn out features should be repaired or replaced before the inspection. While cosmetic fixes should be taken care of, inspectors are specifically looking for violations that affect health and safety of tenants.

What if they find problems?

If the inspector finds a violation in the unit, the property owner has time to make the fix before a re-inspection date. If the repairs aren’t finished by the next inspection date, the subsidy payments for rent will be suspended. If the violation is significant, such as something that can affect the health and safety of the tenant, the inspector will issue a 24-hour deadline for the repair or replacement.

Can I get an extension to complete any repairs?

Extensions for fixing any non-serious violations can be granted on a case-by-case basis and depend on the nature of the problem, why the extension is needed, the owner’s current efforts to make the fix and any other outstanding circumstances. Again, if the violation is serious, no extensions will be granted.

Most Common Section 8 Inspection Violations

The inspectors have a checklist of items that they are looking for when they look at a rental unit. No matter the number and severity of any violations found, owners are responsible for making repairs and doing that in a timely manner.

The most common violations for housing inspections are:

  • Chipped or flaking paint with children in the home.
  • Lack of window locks on first floor windows.
  • No window screens in place.
  • Exposed asbestos
  • Improper pressure release valves on hot water heaters and boilers.
  • No handrails on stairs, both interior and exterior.
  • Nonworking smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors
  • Poor tub caulking.
  • No weather-tight windows or doors.

Inspections Shouldn’t Mean Anxiety

While Section 8 inspections may cause some property owners to get nervous, the bottom line is that if you are doing a good job in keeping your property up to date and your tenant happy, the inspector won’t find much wrong. If your property is run down and you aren’t doing a good job in keeping it up, the inspector may find violations that you need to fix right away.

Just focus on being a good landlord and manage your property as if you were having an inspection just around the corner, That way, you’ll be ready for a real inspection and pass with flying colors.

Do you have experience with Section 8 inspections on your rental property? How did you do? Please share this article and let us know in the comments below.

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Another Strong Year for Austin’s Real Estate and Rental Markets

Austin, TexasAustin is the 11th most populous city in the US, and the capitol of Texas. It is known for being a liberal enclave in a generally conservative state, giving rise to the unofficial slogan of some residents, “Keep Austin Weird.”

Government, education, technology, biotech, and business have strengthened Austin’s reputation as one of Texas’ major metropolitan areas. The city is also known for its live music opportunities, including Austin City Limits and South by Southwest. Austin offers many other cultural and recreational opportunities, including theater, museums, and an impressive park and recreation system.

Austin’s public schools generally rank very well compared to other cities. The city also does well in crime rankings: the FBI Unified Crime Report rates Austin the 2nd safest major US city. The unemployment rate in Austin is an enviable 5.6%, with 22,500 new jobs being added in 2013.

All in all, Austin seems like a great place to live–even the weather is great! Heck, after doing the research for this article, I’m considering a trip to Austin myself. It seems like a really interesting, open-minded, and diverse city. And I bet I can find a really great cup of coffee there too!

So, with jobs, education, recreation, and culture looking fantastic, how are the real estate and rental markets doing? Well–pretty much as you’d guess. It seems lots of people want to live in Austin, which means there’s an increased demand for housing, and consequently prices are going up.

Austin Real Estate

According to local experts, the Austin real estate market is in for “another stellar year.” The population of the Austin metro area has been growing consistently, and is currently estimated to be about 1.87 million. With demand projected to be 2.2 million by 2020, more housing units need to be built.

As of January, home sales had increased 4 percent year over year. The median single-family home price in January was $211,800, reflecting an increase of 7 percent since early 2013. Housing inventory is low at about 2 months, and average days on the market is also low, at about 63 and down from 72 in January 2013.

Austin Rental Market

As of January, more than 17,000 apartments were under construction. The vacancy rate is about 4.2%. The average apartment rent in Austin is $1159, with increases of 6% for one-bedroom apartments in the past 6 months, and 3% for two-bedroom apartments during the same period.

As in Seattle, many Austin real estate experts are anticipating the rise in popularity of micro-apartments. Although these “apodments” tend to be associated with a NIMBY attitude in the neighborhoods, these small units are popular among younger people, and more affordable.

Are you a property manager or landlord in Austin? How does the rental market seem to you? Are there frantic hipster rental applicants knocking down your doors?

Please comment–we’d love to hear.

By Tracey March

Post, Track And Manage Properties From Your Phone

Property managers know, when a new listing becomes available, getting a new tenant as quickly as possible is the goal. However, there are multiple steps to posting advertisements for available properties. Property managers constantly need to be near their computers to track and update their listings. The Landlord App, is an app that allows property managers to track their new listings without being near their computer. We spoke with Rob Rappold, from the Landlord App, based out of Michigan, to learn more.The Landlord App

APM: Tell us more about your product.

Rob: Our product is a time maximizing tool for landlords. It enables them to manage their properties and organize operating costs through a smart phone.

APM: What made you develop your product?

Rob: The LandlordApp was born out of necessity from managing my own properties. Difficulty in tracking down rents, expenses paid and how much I was actually earning each month gave birth to the idea of a property management app. After looking on the app stores and not finding anything that did what I needed it to do, I began researching how to create the app. I did not know about app development and knew very little about software development. It was a long and arduous path, and I actually used a lot of the things I read about in the “4 Hour Work Week” to help me along the way.

APM: What makes your product stand out?

Rob: Functionality is the key to The LandlordApp. I have been in the rental business for over 10 years now, and I feel have a good rhythm for what it takes to manage my properties. I am constantly trying to simplify the property management process by adding new features to the app. Additionally, we are very receptive to our customers and critics by incorporating requested modifications. Our current efforts are focused on taking all of our improvements and repackaging them into a new, redesigned from the ground- up LandlordApp Pro- Version.

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?

Rob: The LandlordApp stands out from the competition for a couple of reasons that are also the cornerstones to our business philosophy. First, we are constantly striving to improve our product by incorporating new techniques and technology to simplify the property management process. Second, we do not believe in making our customers pay a ridiculous amount for a tool that helps them manage their property. Our business model is to allow customers to add as many properties as they own and not charge any premiums for additional functionality. Paying the one time download fee for The LandlordApp gives our customers access to all the functionality and future upgrades. Third, we believe in completely satisfying our customers. We provide one- on- one customer support if there is any issues with our app.

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

Rob: Over the last couple years, I have had the pleasure of speaking with several clients. The most memorable was a gentleman from my hometown who was shocked to see his area code pop up when I returned his call. He was astonished to find out that he was talking directly to the developer of The LandlordApp, and that I was from the same area as him. He was a very funny guy, and kept cracking jokes about telling his wife that he was talking to a millionaire. I assured him that was not the case, resolved his question, but not before agreeing to meet up sometime per his request. Several months later, we ended up meeting after a local REO meeting. His knowledge in the world of commercial properties helped us tremendously with new ideas for our pro- version. Having the opportunity to meet and learn from folks who have been doing this longer than me has been a wonderful second order effect.

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

Rob: There are a few features that I pride myself on developing, and they are unique to The LandlordApp. The one that helps me the most, while on the road, which ironically not too many people are aware of, is the advertising function. I post my vacant properties frequently on popular websites like Craigslist, almost daily to keep them at the top of search lists. The advertise function simplifies the posting to these websites by keeping all the property information stored in the app so that you just have to copy and paste it onto the website of your choice. Before this feature, I would have to use my home computer, find my listing information, copy it and populate the advertisement. Now when I am traveling, it is always there ready for me to post.

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

Rob: They would say it is a stress reducer, time maximizer, and provides great bill and utility tracking services.

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

Rob: All feedback is welcome. We enjoy hearing all the different ways we can improve our app.

To sum it up!

Tracking new listings is tricky for property managers. Property managers need to constantly monitor their posts, and in some cases update on a daily basis. The Landlord App gives property managers more flexibility in their day-to-day operations, including the ability to track new listings all from their phone.

Like this article? Check out other similar articles with information on technology resources on our Property Management Tech Tools Reviews Page!

Should You Pay Off Your Mortgage Early?

When you finally sign your name on the dotted line for your first home owning that property outright might seem like a long ways off. Since most of us sign 30-year mortgages the thought of being mortgage free isn’t a realistic goal until you’re nearing or even in retirement. But what happens if you’re able to save up a significant amount of cash; should you contribute extra to your mortgage or even pay the whole thing off?

Traditional wisdom might tell you to get rid of your outstanding debt as fast as possible since that’s what we do in other facets of our lives. We know it’s not a good idea to have a car payment, carry credit card debt or pretty much anything else that requires a monthly payment so we usually try to pay those things off. But since a real estate purchase represents one of the biggest financial transactions of your lifetime, it also provides for some unique circumstances.

Peace of Mind

You’ve probably heard this argument before and it goes something along the lines of not being able to sleep as well knowing you owe thousands on a property. And it’s true, owning a home can be scary for some of us because the amount of debt can seem insurmountable. But owing money on a mortgage is nothing like owing credit card debt.

A monthly housing payment is something we can’t avoid unless we want to live with our parents for the rest of our lives. And since you have to either pay rent or a mortgage, the total amount you owe shouldn’t matter that much. If you’re not able to handle the psychological strain, fine, but it’s always a good idea to remove emotion out of the equation when you’re dealing with investments.

The Mortgage Interest Deduction

One of the best arguments that’s usually brought up against paying off your mortgage early is the mortgage interest and property tax deduction. Generally, these two deductions allow you to itemize and significantly reduce your taxes. They also open up other itemized deductions like charitable contributions which normally can’t be deducted if you take the standard deduction.

The interest deduction is a nice benefit of having a mortgage since it actually becomes more beneficial the more money you make(and the higher tax bracket you’re in). Don’t get too caught up in the tax savings though because obviously you still have to pay the full amount of interest. Think of the deduction as a discount on the amount of interest you pay.

Are There Better Investments Available?

In today’s low (but rising) interest rate environment, it makes less sense than ever to pay off your mortgage early. You can get a guaranteed 3% rate of return with a CD right now so if your mortgage interest rate is anything close to that you don’t save much by paying off your mortgage. If you were willing to take even a small amount of risk you should easily be able to outpace the interest rate on your mortgage and make more by investing than if you were to pay off your mortgage.

The higher your rate though, the less likely you’ll be able to outperform. Since most interest rates are in the 3-5% range right now, it probably makes more sense to invest your money elsewhere and get a much higher return.

Having Liquid Cash on Hand

If you couldn’t tell by now, I’m usually against paying off your mortgage early. There are too many things that can go wrong when you have all your money tied up in an illiquid asset like a house. Having cash on hand is another reason why it’s a bad idea to pay off your mortgage early.

Life is full of uncertainties and when you own a home anything that can go wrong probably will. As a homeowner, you should have a minimum 6-12 month emergency fund before you ever even consider paying one extra dollar to your mortgage.

There aren’t many short-term borrowing options if you ever need money and it’s a lot harder to take money out of your mortgage than it is to put money in. Real estate tends to be one of the more illiquid investments out there.

Hedge Against Inflation

In today’s economic climate, inflation is a big worry for a lot of investors. There are things like I-bonds and TIPS that provide inflation protection but they won’t do much in terms of capital appreciation. Real estate is one of the best ways to hedge against inflation.

If inflation goes up in the future, you own a large physical asset and the price of your home will also go up. Secondly, whether we see 3% or even 10% annual inflation over the next 25 years, the amount you owe on your home will stay the same. By not paying off your mortgage early and investing that money elsewhere you’d be able to pay off your balance with inflated dollars.

Ultimately the choice to pay off your mortgage is a personal one. But I think it’s important to look at the facts and base your decision off reason instead of emotion. Sometimes it makes sense to pay off your mortgage early but if you do you’ll lose out on a lot of the financial flexibility and savings that having a mortgage can offer.

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