Monthly Archives: April 2016

What To Do In Spring at Your Rental Property

In most parts of the country, April showers are giving way to May flowers, and it’s time for landlords to check out their winter-worn properties and give them some tender-loving care. The prime moving season is just around the corner as well, giving landlords a chance to make some significant upgrades, changes and remodels while their properties are between tenants.

From interior improvements to major exterior repairs, there are plenty of things that landlords can do to their rental properties in the spring. Good weather, stable tenants and more make spring the ideal time for changes. Here is a collection of RentPrep’s best spring cleaning, remodeling and upgrading articles for landlords, whether beginners or experienced property owners.

12 Exterior Spring Cleaning Tasks for Rental Properties

Property Management Tips: Spring Cleaning and Maintenance for Property Owners

Property Management Tips: Get Ready for Spring

5 Steps to Cleaning Vinyl Siding at a Rental Property

Tree Trimming at Your Rental Property

How Often Should Landlords Paint Rental Properties?

Landlord’s Guide to Patio Rules and Regulations

How to Use Flowers to Boost Your Rental Property’s Curb Appeal

Hiring Maintenance Workers for Rental Properties

Pests and Your Rental Property: Voles

How to Get Rid of Ants in Your Rental Property

Landlords and Natural Disasters

5 Cleanup Tips for Landlords After Big Storms

Does Your Rental Property Need a New Roof?

Whether your spring cleaning is entirely cosmetic or you have some serious work ahead of you, it’s always a good idea to make plans early, stick to your budget and think about the long-term impact of anything you do. Spring is a time for renewal and rebirth, and your rental property will definitely benefit from anything you do to make it, and your business, better.

The post What To Do In Spring at Your Rental Property appeared first on RentPrep.

Pet Weight Restrictions


QUESTION
: Our CC&Rs state that each homeowner may have two pets up to 25 pounds each. A prior board adopted a rule relaxing the restriction to 40 pounds. Is the rule valid? Also, can guests bring pets that go over the weight limit?

ANSWER: Unfortunately, your rule is invalid.

Statute. As provided for in the Davis-Stirling Act, “To the extent of any conflict between the operating rules and the…declaration [CC&Rs], the… declaration shall prevail.” (Civ. Code §4205(d).) If the CC&Rs set the maximum at 25 pounds, then the maximum is 25 not 40. Case law also gives priority to recorded restrictions.

Case Law. In Ekstrom v. Marquesa, the CC&Rs had a provision that protected views by requiring all trees be trimmed so they not exceed the height of the house. The board exempted palm trees because trimming them would kill them. An owner sued and the court found that the CC&Rs were clear and unambiguous and the board’s actions were inconsistent with the restriction. The trees had to be trimmed.

Amend CC&Rs. That means the rule adopted by the board is invalid. To increase weight limits from 25 to 40 pounds, the association must amend its CC&Rs.

Guests. Weight restrictions apply equally to tenants and guests. Some associations prohibit guest pets altogether. I see this primarily in condominiums, particularly highrises. When it comes to guest pet restrictions, they can be adopted by the board as a rule change.

RECOMMENDATION: Your 40-pound rule should be rescinded. That, of course, will create problems with those who already have over-weight pets and others who want them. The only way to avoid legal problems is to immediately put a CC&R amendment before the membership increasing  weight limits from 25 to 40 pounds.

INSURANCE
FOR BAD JUDGMENT

QUESTION: When a majority of board members make a decision which is counter to the Business Judgement Rule, will the minority opposing board members be covered by D&O insurance if the board is sued for unsound decisions?

ANSWER: Yes, that is what D&O Insurance is for–defending directors for errors in judgment. That applies both to directors who voted for a motion and those who voted against it.

Minority Position. For those directors who are outvoted and may be concerned about being sued, they should make sure their opposition is recorded in the minutes. That way, they should avoid being named if the majority directors make a bad decision that results in a lawsuit. Recording their opposition may be especially important if the majority did not satisfy the Business Judgment Rule which requires directors to make decisions (i) in good faith, (ii) in the best interests of the association, (iii) and with the care a reasonably prudent person would exercise in similar circumstances.

RECOMMENDATION: Boards should check with their insurance agent to make sure their insurance has appropriate limits and a minimum of exclusions.

Thank you to Demetrious Xanthos of Sax Insurance for his input on this question.

ARCHITECTURAL
CONTROL

QUESTION: Could you address the issue of exterior architectural control differences with a PUD and a condominium? For example: can a PUD (townhouse style) specify the windows, garage doors and front doors used in an upgrade?

ANSWER: The architectural issues between condos and PUDs are significantly different.

Condominiums. Condos care about alterations inside your unit because everything surrounding your cube of air is owned in common. That means you cannot change the structure without first getting the association’s permission. Alterations to plumbing and electrical lines are also restricted because they can dramatically affect neighboring units. Thus, it requires approval by the association.

Planned Developments. Planned developments generally don’t care what you do inside your house. Instead, they care a great deal about exterior appearances. As a result, they regulate the color of paint you use, your fences, doors, windows, garage doors, landscaping, tree houses, and anything else that can be seen from the street or by your neighbors.

Hybrids. Townhouse developments can be a bit confusing. A townhouse is a form of construction not a form of ownership. Townhomes can be legally structured as condominiums or as planned developments. If structured as condominiums, homeowners might own air space or the entire structure depending on how it is defined. Similarly, maintenance might be defined  narrowly or expansively. It is not uncommon for a homeowner to own the structure but the association to be in charge of painting and roof repairs.

Whether a townhouse is defined as a condominium or single family home, the exterior of the structure is controlled by the association. In all cases, the association can specify the type, color and quality of windows, garage doors and front doors used by homeowners when they upgrade.

RECOMMENDATION: If your association has not already done so, it should develop a maintenance chart in addition to clearly defined architectural standards so there is no confusion over what owners are responsible for and what they can and cannot do regarding improvements.  


FEEDBACK

Representation. Can an attorney redoing our CC&Rs represent an owner suing the association for violating the Davis-Stirling Act? -H.R.

RESPONSE: Attorneys representing a client are not supposed to represent someone else against their client. I suspect the State Bar would deem it a violation of Rule 3-310 of the Rules of Professional Conduct.

Board Qualifications. I am appreciative of your firm’s newsletter. I find each one informative on multiple levels. My husband serves on our board of directors and is the treasurer. Can I, as his wife and 50% owner of our unit, run for the board while he is a board member? Our governing documents are silent on this issue. -Sigrid W.

RESPONSE: If your bylaws do not restrict it, co-owners can serve on the same board at the same time. For tiny associations, that is often a necessity. Large associations, however, frequently amend their bylaws to prevent co-owners from serving at the same time.

Absentee Owner. We have a board member who owns four units and does not live on site. Can we change our bylaws so people who do not live in the development cannot be on the board? – Patricia H.

RESPONSE: Yes, you can amend your bylaws to make residency a requirement for serving on the board.

New Roofs. Some of our neighbors have not yet replaced their original roofs; the houses are 25 years old. The board advises we cannot enforce architectural requirements to notify the homeowners their roof must be repaired/replaced. Their position is the high cost of replacement cannot be forced. We live in a fire prone area and have complied with the fire authorities to create defensible zones. Are there Davis Stirling rules that can be applied? -S.C.

RESPONSE: As provided in Civil Code §4720, associations cannot put aesthetics over safety when it comes to roofs. Associations are prohibited from requiring owners to install or repair their roofs in a manner that violates Health & Safety Code §13132.7.

Developments in high fire severity zones must allow for at least one type of fire retardant roofing material that meets the requirements of the Health and Safety Code. When boards emphasize cost over safety, it rarely leads to good results. If a fire were to leap from roof to roof burning down multiple homes and the board is sued as a result, they may have trouble explaining their decision to forego safety.

Hindenburg. Adrian, if you don’t read the association column in the Sunday LA Times, you don’t know that the Times today urged condo owners to book seats on the Hindenburg. -Ilse N.

RESPONSE: Sadly, the LA Times is often hostile to community associations. They frequently present an unbalanced view of the difficulties faced by volunteer boards and committees. Their standard solution is to sue boards. So I’m not surprised they favor disrupting association operations by injecting lawyers into board meetings.


 
Adrian Adams, Esq.
ADAMS | STIRLING
A Professional Law Corporation

We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or info@AdamsStirling.com.

Selling a Property With a Tenant In Residence

There are many reasons for landlords to get into the real estate investment business, and there are just as many reasons for them to exit it. In other words, there may come a time where a property owner decides to put a rental home on the market and look for a buyer. When the rental home is occupied by a renter, there are certain steps and conditions that come into play. It’s known as selling with a tenant in residence and there are lots of things for landlords to consider before listing the home.

Who Might Be Buying?

There are several different types of buyers who might be interested in purchasing a tenant-occupied property. The first is the tenants themselves, and many landlords work out creative financing, like rent to own, with tenants who are already in place. Other buyers might be people who want to live in the property as their primary residence. In that case, landlords will have to follow their state’s laws for notifying tenants of the intent to sell and in most cases, wait for the lease agreement to expire and choose not to renew. Yet another potential buyer would be to another real estate investor, who would keep existing tenants in place.

No matter what, landlords must check out the laws and regulations that govern their state and follow the process to the letter in order to ensure that they are in compliance with every rule. Selling an investment property with a tenant in residence comes with a unique set of steps and landlords would do well to do their research first. There are certain notification timelines as well as right to enter requirements that often differ from more standard processes.

For example, in California a landlord must deliver a written notice of intent to sell the property 120 days before showings can begin. Then, landlords can give tenants a 24-hour written or oral notice before a showing. Showings can only take place during reasonable business hours, and landlords must always leave written evidence of entry, like leaving a business card on the counter.

No matter who landlords think might be buying a property, they are beholden to the laws governing that transaction with a tenant in residence.

Occupied vs. Empty

Many landlords wait until the tenant’s lease is about to expire, then list the empty property. Others try to sell the property while the tenant is still in residence. There are pros and cons to each approach.

Ideally, landlords would have the property vacant while trying to sell it. It’s always easier to get buyers more excited about an empty house or one that has been professionally staged. There also can be a negative association with a home that has been used for rentals versus one that is more neutral, and generally occupied rental homes are considered less valuable. An empty home can be fixed up properly and listed in its best condition possible. With a renter in place, the property might not appear its best to prospective buyers.

However, most landlords simply can’t afford to have their rental property sit empty for a few months just to make it look better to buyers. Keeping the tenant in place until a transaction is imminent ensure that the property is generating income. However, tenants may not take care of the place very well, which would turn off prospective buyers. In fact, if tenants really wanted to, they could probably figure out plenty of ways to discourage most buyers from making any kind of offer.

For example, tenants might purposely fail to notify the landlord about needed repairs or to alert them to any negative cosmetic issues. Or, when tenants don’t care for the property or even clean up regularly, it can further diminish its appeal to potential buyers.

Communicating With Tenants

It’s important for landlords to communicate with tenants so that everything goes smoothly. From keeping the property occupied to putting it in the best light during showings, tenants have a big part to play when landlords decide to sell investment property. The tenant needs to agree to cooperate or the landlord will have a hard time showing the property properly.

Here are 5 tips on communicating with the tenant when selling the property:

  1. In writing, landlords should explain to the tenants a summary of their intent to sell.
  2. Landlords should remind tenants about their state laws concerning proper procedures for showing an occupied property that is for sale.
  3. Set up a considerate yet firm process by which landlords will notify tenants when the property is to be shown.
  4. Assure tenants that the landlord won’t allow dozens of unknown strangers to parade through the occupied property and that their safety and their possessions are of utmost consideration.
  5. Offer an incentive to the tenants if they assist in the process, such as keeping the place cleaner than average.

When landlords communicate well with tenants in residence, they are more likely to cooperate throughout the entire process and contribute to a successful sale.

Incentive Ideas for Tenants

Many landlords understand that it is a big shock for tenants to discover that the rental home they are living in will be sold. The fear of the unknown is always going to worry some tenants, and landlords can do their best to help tenants feel like they are not being kept in the dark. Many landlords do offer incentives to tenants to encourage them to help out during the process of finding buyers, showing the property and keeping it clean.

Here are just a few ideas for tenant incentives when they are in residence:

  • A percentage off the monthly rent.
  • Rent rebate when the property sells.
  • Free weekend in an upscale hotel during an open house.
  • Gift certificates after every positive showing.
  • Gift certificates for every month the property is showing.
  • Agreeing to pay moving expenses upon the sale of the property.

All in all, it’s better for the landlords to have an ally in the tenants rather than an enemy, because a messy, uncooperative tenant can quickly thwart the interest of prospective buyers.

Landlords who want to sell their investment property while the tenant is in residence are embarking on a process that may or may not be successful. However, when done with the right approach and with the right incentives, the sale can be done legally, thoughtfully and profitably.

The post Selling a Property With a Tenant In Residence appeared first on RentPrep.

Rental Properties and Onsite Playground Equipment

Few thing are guaranteed to make people smile like the laughter of little children, but when that laughter comes from enjoying onsite playground equipment, it can make some landlords feel more worry than joy. Children’s playground equipment can be an attractive amenity for a single family home rental or for a multi-unit complex, but there is a whole other side to think about for landlords.

Playground Equipment and Injuries

With playgrounds, there’s an inherent risk that children will be injured, just as they would with any physical activity. In fact, emergency rooms across the country report that they treat plenty of playground-related accidents. The most common cases include head wounds, dislocated bones, broken bones, cuts, and internal injuries.

Playground equipment is especially conducive to accidents among children because many of the activities take place several feet of the ground, making a fall particularly harmful. Swinging, climbing, sliding, jumping, hanging and more can all put kids off balance, causing them to stumble, trip and fall. It’s also quite common for children to hurt themselves on other parts of the play equipment like sharp corners and solid platforms. All in all, it’s fair to say that children will most likely experience accidents and injuries while playing on the playground. But is that a landlord’s responsibility or even their fault? It depends.

Accidents vs. Liability

While most people will agree that playground accidents will definitely happen at some point, whether or not a landlord is responsible entirely depends on a number of factors. Most of the time, the landlords who take care of their property, including playground equipment, won’t have anything to worry about. However, there may be situations and conditions where landlords might be found liable for accidents that take place on their property.

The most common triggers for liability lawsuits regarding playground equipment are when the structures are not properly cared for. Over time, the equipment can deteriorate and become less structurally sound. Safety issues that weren’t present at first may present themselves, such as loosening bolts, rusting metal edges and weakening components. Landlords that don’t do regular maintenance and inspections on the equipment can be found liable for any playground injuries. Of course, landlords should take great care to avoid all situations that would lead to a liability lawsuit.

Protecting Against Liability

For most accidents on playground equipment, there’s an understanding about an inherent risk in using the equipment. When kids are sliding, swinging, hanging, jumping and running, there’s always going to be a chance of injury by just participating in that activity. Where landlords can get into trouble is when faulty or damaged equipment itself causes an injury or presents a danger when it doesn’t meet the minimum safety standards.

In order for a landlord to be found liable for an injury on playground equipment, the following conditions would have to exist:

  • The landlord failed to maintain the equipment and it deteriorated.
  • The injury was a direct result of equipment neglect and disrepair.
  • Such an accident was a foreseeable result of equipment neglect.
  • Making the repairs to the playground equipment was not overly difficult or costly.
  • The landlord was notified of problems and failed to take reasonable action to maintain broken equipment.

If the tenants can show the court that most or all of these conditions existed to lead to the accident, they could win their liability lawsuit. If the landlord can refute each of these conditions with proof, then the court will rule that the incident was an unfortunate accident and not a result of unsafe conditions.

How Landlords Can Properly Set Up Playground Equipment

Landlords shouldn’t let the fear of liability scare them away from setting up a playground. In fact, if landlords want to add a playground feature to the property, there are several things they can do:

  • Utilize a local construction company to professionally install the equipment.
  • Have regular inspections for the equipment, either annually or more often if required by state law and keep copies of the inspection results.
  • Make any repairs or replacements immediately upon discovery to avoid causing any accidents and keep copies of the work orders.
  • Carry a good landlord insurance policy that will help safeguard against any kind of injuries on the property, including playground accidents.
  • Include a playground addendum in the lease agreement that notes the use of such equipment comes at the tenant’s own risk.
  • Post a sign at the playground for a multi-use property stating that all tenants can use the area at their own risk.

If landlords follow each of these steps when installing playground equipment on a rental property, there will be fewer problems and much more enjoyment on the part of the tenants. Like any other exterior part of the property, such as the roof, flooring, driveway, or fencing, the playground equipment must be well-cared for and up to standards.

Landlords Must Decide For Each Property

It’s important to remember that landlords cannot unfairly restrict the activities of children or set restrictive rules on just families with children. The Fair Housing Act protects the familial status of families with children, so landlords must set up clear rules around the playground that apply to all tenants, not just those with children.

Of course, whether or not to put in a playground in the first place is completely up to the landlord and should be decided based on the needs of the property and the type of tenants they hope to attract. As long as the landlord does everything they can to keep the playground area safe, there should be no struggles with liability if a child does happen to get hurt. No landlord wants to see anyone injured, especially children, but if done right, the playground equipment can be a fine amenity to any rental property.

The post Rental Properties and Onsite Playground Equipment appeared first on RentPrep.

Interrupting Other Directors


QUESTION
: Can a board member be censured for continually interrupting other board members at meetings? She has been warned over and over on this issue. What exactly does censuring mean, what does it accomplish?

ANSWER: Yes, boards can censure fellow directors for disrupting meetings.

Orderly Meetings. Board meetings are supposed to be run in an orderly fashion so as to accomplish the business of the association. Rules of parliamentary procedure were created for that purpose. If one director is constantly disrupting meetings, business is delayed and directors become frustrated and either cease voicing their opinions or, worse, resign from the board.

Censure Defined. A censure is an expression of disapproval. Its purpose is two-fold. A censure is intended to discourage further bad behavior by an errant director. And, it distances the board from potential liability. If a director behaves badly (verbally abusing homeowners, signing contracts without authority, etc.), silence by the board can be interpreted as approval. Then, when a lawsuit is filed, the plaintiff names the entire board because it “endorsed” the bad behavior. A censure serves as evidence the board was not complicit in the behavior.

Procedure. A censure can be imposed at the meeting where the behavior occurred or the board can schedule a noticed hearing. In the case where a director is disrupting the meeting by interrupting other directors, the censure can be imposed immediately. Under Robert’s Rules of Order,

in any case of an offense against the assembly occurring in a meeting, there is no need for a formal trial provided that any penalty is imposed promptly after the breach, since the witnesses are all present and make up the body that is to determine the penalty. (Robert’s Rules, 11th ed., p. 646.)

Minutes. If done in an open meeting, the censure is recorded in the minutes of the meeting and becomes a public record for the membership’s review. If it occurs in executive session, the minutes are not open for review but the action can be reported in the executive session summary recorded in the next open meeting minutes. (Civ. Code §4935(e).)

Other Actions. In addition to expressing disapproval of a director’s behavior, the board can remove the director from office (president, secretary, treasurer) and from any committees the director may be on. If the director is particularly abusive, the board can seek to recall him/her from the board.

RECOMMENDATION: Try to resolve the matter with a verbal warning to the director that the board may have no choice but to censure her if she continues to disrupt meetings. If the warning does not work, the board must be prepared to impose a censure.

ABSENTEE HALF-OWNER
ON THE BOARD


QUESTION: Does a member have to hold 100% title in the unit to be eligible for the board of directors? If the candidate shares 50% title with another and does not reside in the unit but leases it, is the member eligible to run for board?

ANSWER: Unless your governing documents state otherwise, directors do not need to be members. That means someone not on title can serve on the board.

Ownership Interest. If your governing documents require directors to be members but don’t set an percentage ownership interest, someone with a 1% interest can serve on the board. When I restate documents for associations, I set a minimum ownership interest of 10%. That way, directors have more of a stake in keeping the development in good shape.

Residency Requirement. If your governing documents are silent, then residency is not a requirement for someone to serve on the board. I include this as an option when restating bylaws. Some associations want it. For others, it may be an impossible requirement if the development is a resort with few if any permanent residents.

RECOMMENDATION: Most associations lack sufficient director qualifications and need to update their bylaws to meet current Davis-Stirling election requirements. Contact me if you need assistance.

 

BUDGET
ADJUSTMENT


QUESTION:
I know the association is required to provide members with an annual budget report. During the year when there is no change in assessments, can the board adjust the budget by increasing one line item and decreasing another by the same amount effecting no overall increase in the budget amount and not recirculate the budget to the members?

ANSWER: Yes, the budget can be adjusted to reflect truer numbers so long as it does not affect anyone’s assessment. The budget serves as a spending guideline. It’s what the board projects for the year.

Line Item Adjustment. If, midyear, you learn that your insurance premiums dropped by half but your utility rates increased, you have two choices. You can continue with the same budget line items or adjust them to reflect the new reality. The change should be noted in the minutes of the meeting where the board approved the adjustment.

Note. Most associations leave the budget as-is and make appropriate adjustments in the next year’s budget.

FEEDBACK

Mental Illness #1. Genius and hilarious…thank you for your fantastic newsletter! -Maureen B.

Mental Illness #2. Adrian’s last entry is hilarious! Thanks for improving my rainy Sunday! -Jean S.

Mental Illness #3. In my position as a Circuit Rider for not-for-profit associations, I often address boards of mutual water companies and guide them through the sometimes difficult understanding of their roles and responsibilities as board members. While some of the laws for MWC’s are different, your weekly newsletters have helped me to not only gain some insights and points to ponder but your sense of humor has made me laugh out loud more often than not. Thank you! I find that humor will get you further down the road of life than any other attitude and I especially enjoy reading yours. Keep up the good work and please keep these newsletters coming. -Angela W.

RESPONSE: Without humor in our line of work, we would all end up in a psych ward.


 
Adrian Adams, Esq.
ADAMS | STIRLING
A Professional Law Corporation

We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or info@AdamsStirling.com.

How To Make Your Rental Home More Senior Friendly

Whether you are getting older and would like to make your rental home a little safer and more accessible, or you have elderly relatives visiting, making adjustments without doing major renovations is more affordable than you might think. There are things you can do within your rental home to make it more senior friendly without any major effort or permanent changes to the house structure that will upset your landlord. Some of the major topics to consider when making your rental home more senior friendly are safety, energy conservation and accessibility.

Safety

Seniors are very prone to falls as eyesight and reflexes decline. Some simple measures can help reduce the risk of injury.

  • Remove unnecessary clutter from the floor. Put shoes in baskets or on shoe racks by the door and keep cords looped under a table top or firmly attached to the wall.
  • Place handrails on the stairs that are secure and easy to hold on to. Depending on mobility, you may want to consider rails on both sides of the stairs.
  • Remove loose throw rugs on the floor since they are common tripping hazards. Tack down any loose carpet edges (this should fall under the responsibility of your landlord).
  • Use non-skid rugs in the bathroom and place safety rails in the shower/bathtub and next to the toilet. Most medical supply places have options that use suction to attach to the wall. When properly installed, they are secure and do not result in any permanent damage to the walls.
  • Consider nightlights for the hallways and motion sensor lights at the front and back doors.

Energy Conservation

As seniors get older, it is important for them to employ energy conservation techniques in daily living tasks to accommodate arthritic joints and weaker muscles.

  • Replace twist knob water faucets and door handles with lever handles, or install basic handle adapters.
  • Use a lazy susan wherever possible in the kitchen cabinets and pantries.
  • Install pull handles on drawers and cupboard doors.
  • Place removable toilet seat risers to make sitting and standing easier after toileting.
  • Replace the shower head with an adjustable, hand-held option and keep a shower chair that can be used when needed. This will help eliminate falls while bathing, but is not a permanent change.

Accessibility

Seniors sometimes require the use of a walker or a wheelchair. Whether it is permanent or a tool used during recovery from surgery or an injury, you must still be able to get around your home easily.

Some of the adjustments you can make are:

  • Gripping plastic floor guards on the main walkways and hallways in the home to make navigation in a wheelchair a little easier, while also protecting the carpet.
  • Ramps on the stairs leading into the house. Many ramps are removable and can be constructed without permanently altering the home. For complete safety, the American Disability Association requires one foot of ramp for every inch of rise on the stairs.
  • Replace regular door hinges with offset “swing clear” hinges to increase doorway width by a few inches to accommodate a wheelchair.

While landlords is required by law to allow certain modifications that can make a home safer for a senior individual, it is always wise to let them know if anything you are doing will permanently affect the unit, such as installing additional handrails on the stairs or switching out faucets. You will likely be required to return the home to its original condition or pay an additional deposit, depending on your plan.

Either way, the safer and more convenient you can make your home, the longer you will be able to independently enjoy it as a senior.

The post How To Make Your Rental Home More Senior Friendly appeared first on RentPrep.

5 Cleanup Tips For Landlords After Big Storms

No matter where you live, your area will likely be affected by a significant spring or summer storm at some point. Thunderstorms, high wind, hail, rain, flooding and more can really wreak havoc on properties large and small. As a landlord, you have the extra responsibility of not only checking for damage at your own home, but also to investigate your rental property for storm-related issues.

Getting cleaned up after a storm can take hours or days, depending on the damage. As you are cleaning up any debris, make sure you are checking the structure itself for damage that is subtle. Without correction, however, that small damaged place could lead to big and expensive problems. Here are 5 post-storm cleanup and inspection tips that you can do to ensure that your investment and your tenants are safe and sound.

1. Don’t leave inspections to tenants.

Some landlords might just want the tenants to take care of storm cleanup but that would be a mistake. Because the rental home is your investment, you should be the one to do a property inspection. Tenants may not see everything or may injure themselves by stumbling into a hazardous area. As the landlord and the property owner, take responsibility and see what is needed, then make arrangements with both tenants and experts to take care of each problem.

2. Do a safety walk through.

Cleaning up after a storm is more than just clearing out debris like shingles and branches. Look at all sides of the house and any other property structures, like a shed. Inspect all trees and fences, and don’t forget to check the gutters and storm drains. There can be real dangers associated with post-storm cleanup, so a thorough assessment of the property will help you identify any real dangers. Broken or downed power lines are perhaps the most dangerous, but downed trees, and even standing water (which can hide sharp objects or be a conduit for electricity) can cause injury or death. Don’t forget to check the drainage systems

3. Take pictures, pictures and more pictures.

As you begin your cleanup efforts, take plenty of pictures beforehand. This will be invaluable as you are dealing with insurance companies, repair professionals and even documenting storm damages to separate them from damages done by your tenant. Most insurance companies will only pay for damage to the structures on your property, and may only pay for the removal of debris that is touching a structure. Having documentation of exactly how the property looks after the storm will help everyone stay on the same page.

4. Know DIY cleanup vs. professional cleanup.

There are plenty of things that you can do on your own to clean up after a storm, from replacing torn screens and cleaning up debris to restoring washed away landscaping  and x. However, there are other projects that require the aid of professionals, such as if a tree has toppled, the sewers have backed up due to flooding or the roof is leaking. Chances are the professionals in your area will be very busy in the next few weeks, so calling them sooner rather than later to book a visit is wise.

5. Follow municipal storm cleanup rules.

When a storm or other natural disaster hits a community, there are generally several emergency regulations that go into effect. For example, some communities rearrange their garbage pickup schedules and want household garbage first, then yard debris at a later date. Another common rule is to specify whether it is the city’s or the homeowner’s responsibility to clear out the gutters and storm drains of any debris to reduce street flooding.

Cleaning up after a bad storm is necessary, but staying safe is even more important. If you are well prepared to assess, document and report all the damage from the storm, you are well on your way to getting your property back to normal and keeping your tenants happy.

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What’s In, What’s Out for 2016? Share Your Insights!

Is brass out or in? Is granite fading in popularity to quartz? We want to hear from you! Tell us about some of the latest trends you are noticing in home design for 2016, and which ones appear to be fading fast. Share your input on this blog or e-mail Realtor Magazine writer Melissa Dittmann Tracey at […]