Red, white, and blue: Tips for displaying the Stars and Stripes

The Star-Spangled Banner. Old Glory. The red, white, and blue. No matter how Americans refer to the U.S. flag, everyone has the right to fly it. Flag Day, held annually on June 14 since 1916, should serve as a good reminder for how all should properly and proudly display the Stars and Stripes.

Thanks to the Freedom to Display the American Flag Act, enacted in 2006, residents in community associations have the right to fly the flag even if there are rules and restrictions that prevent it from being displayed. CAI believes, however, that associations should be able to determine the appropriate size, placement, and installation of the flag and flagpoles.

CAI encourages associations to follow the guidelines for flying Old Glory in the U.S. Flag Code, some of which includes:

  • Display the flag in public from sunrise to sunset. It can be displayed at night if it is illuminated during darkness.
  • Do not display the flag in inclement weather, unless it is an all-weather flag.
  • The flag can fly on all days, especially on national holidays, other days that may be proclaimed by the president, and dates of admission of states into the union.
  • Do not position the flag upside down. This represents a signal of distress in moments of extreme danger to life or property.
  • Do not let the flag touch anything beneath it, including the ground, floor, water, or other objects.
  • No part of the flag should have any mark, insignia, letter, word, figure, design, picture, or drawing of any nature.

Need more information about rules and regulations regarding flags, banners, and emblems? Read Everyday Governance: The Community Association’s Guide to Flags, Rentals, Holiday Decorations, Hoops, and Other Headaches, available from CAI Press.

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‘Twas the Night Before (the HOA’s) Christmas

‘Twas the night before the HOA’s Christmas, and through the community
Not a complaint was heard, there appeared just pure unity;
The thank-you notes were placed by the bulletin board with care,
In hopes that the board and manager would soon see them there;

The homeowners were nestled all snug in their beds,
No worries of paint or roofs bothering their heads,
And the Vice President in her condo, and I in mine too,
Had just settled down for a break from reviewing the dues,

When out in the courtyard there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my balcony to see what was the matter.
Away to the railing I flew like a flash,
Only to see neighbors with gripes to rehash.

I couldn’t figure out in the dark of the night
Exactly what they thought gave them the right,
But I knew from my time on the homeowners board,
Our meetings these neighbors had always ignored,

Then in a flash I noticed a visitor,
Who tried to join that group of inquisitors
He wore a red fur coat over an ample belly, and
His hearty laugh made it shake as it were jelly,

His smile quickly faded as they all turned away,
They told him that tenants had nothing to say,
The jolly man disappeared as quickly as he came here,
Amid the sound of eight snorting… reindeer?

In a moment came another, without much ado,
He arrived with a viewpoint needed and new,
I knew in a flash it was manager, Nick.
He knew what was needed and he brought it quick,

He exclaimed “Now, Member! now, Neighbor! Now, Bylaws and Covenant,
Please read the rules before bringing your comment.
Now back to your homes, and back to your castles,
Please, just for today, have a cease to the hassles”

He said “you by choice bought in a community,
Which works at its best when all live in unity,
Remember that your board serves you for free,
and consider joining a committee – or three.

“You have no busy elves, and HOAs thrive when all work as a team,
If all think only of selves, a nightmare soon it will seem.
Your association is much like a large but rowed boat,
If each rows as a solo, not for long will it float.”

Amidst headshakes and handshakes the courtyard then cleared,
And I hoped that above still flew a sleigh and eight impatient reindeer.

No reindeer or jolly elf’s labors returned to the site,
But folks reached to their neighbors, and started treating them right.
A different air began to take hold in the complex
As the Golden Rule became our theme and our text.

Manager Nick surveyed the scene, pleased,
Knowing the group a happy future had it seized.
And laying his finger aside of his face,
He ran toward his car as if in a race;

He sprang to his auto, heading home in a dash,
And away he drove as quick as a flash.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,

[Readers: May peace and neighborliness permeate your communities in the coming year!]

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10 New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords for a Successful & Productive 2018

Each year, you pledge to streamline your operations and management of your rentals; but another year has come and gone, and you’re still not as organized as you’d like to be. You’re still wrangling with overdue repairs and maintenance. Trust me–we’ve all been there.

January 1st is a new beginning. Use it as an opportunity to start fresh. Here are our top 10 New Year’s resolutions for landlords to consider this year:

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #1

Review Your Lease Agreement

When was the last time you looked at your lease agreement? In particular, if you’re still using your state’s standard lease agreement, you should make it a priority to review your lease with your attorney this year. Be sure that the terms of your lease are specific to your rental situation. Carefully tailored leases are a great way to protect your interests.

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #2

Start an Emergency Fund

It’s one thing to have a rainy day fund; it’s another thing to have a rainy day fund that’s dedicated to your rental property alone. Set up a separate account that you’ll be able to draw on solely for expenses related to your rental property; then designate a separate savings account for your personal use.

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #3

Tackle One Long-Overdue Project

Maybe it’s a roof in need of repair. Maybe it’s repairing the back deck. Or maybe it’s a bathroom renovation. Sure, you could probably get away with letting this project slide a few more months–maybe even another year. Inevitably, however, other repairs and maintenance will start to pile up; and before long, you’ll feel overwhelmed. Start by chipping away at one project at a time. When you commit to just one, it feels a lot more manageable.

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #4

Explore Solar

You don’t have to commit to installing solar panels; but have you at least considered it? Not only does solar increase the value of your property, but it can save you hundreds of dollars a year if you pay for your tenants’ utilities. Explore whether your rentals are well-suited for solar, and if so, what type of solar might be the best fit. Look into tax credits and other incentive programs offered by your city, state, or federal government. Your utility provider might offer solar discounts, too.

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #5

Integrate One New Technology

This could be an in-unit technology (such as a Nest thermostat), a new leasing technology (like smart locks for self-showings), or a new technology that helps streamline operations (such as property management software). Real estate technology is evolving at rapid speed. There are several new tools out there to help landlords realize efficiencies and greater returns on their investments.

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #6

Re-Examine All Contracts

It’s easy to fall into a rut and accept the status quo–but when was the last time you took a hard look at your service providers’ contracts? Are you paying the best rates for the quality of service you’re getting? Are you satisfied with that service–or is it time to search for contractors you can really trust? Make it a priority to review all contracts in 2018. Contracts with repair/maintenance vendors, your insurance company, property manager, and accountant are a good place to start.

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #7

Read a New Book

If you’re anything like me, you love to read but just can’t find the time to do so; life just seems to get in the way. In 2018, make it a priority to dust a book off the shelf that you’ve been meaning to read. If you don’t have a book in mind, here are a few suggestions that have been on our radar: Moneyball by Michael Lewis; Cashflow Quadrant by Robert Kiyosaki, and Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio.

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #8

Find a Mentor

Whether you’re a first-time landlord or have decades of experience, consider finding a mentor. It’s amazing how much you can learn from others within the industry. Local real estate investing meet-up groups are a great way to source potential mentors (and friends!).

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #9

Spend More Time with Friends & Family

This is particularly important for self-managers, who can quickly become preoccupied with the day-to-day operations at their rental properties. Evenings are spent returning calls and showing vacant units. Weekends are consumed by repairs and maintenance. It can become overwhelming. In 2018, take a moment to pause. Devote more time to family and friends. Our rule of thumb: try to set aside at least two days a month–one day to see family, one day to see friends.

New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords: #10

Consider Hiring a Property Manager

If it feels like you can’t find time for #9 above, then it might be time to consider hiring a property manager. But you like to be a hands-on landlord! We get it. And truth be told, you still can be hands-on. Property managers work under all sorts of arrangements. You may be able to have a property manager help with just finding and screening tenants; or maybe you hire someone to help you with only repairs and maintenance. Property managers can play various roles depending on your needs–make 2018 the year that you explore your options.

Owning rental property can be highly rewarding, but it can also be all-consuming. As a landlord, you really need to operate your rental portfolio like a business if you want to be successful–and like any business owner, that means setting goals and tracking your results over time. Starting with a few New Year’s resolutions is a great way to get started in that direction!

P.S. Wondering what the 2018 real estate market holds for your business? We highly recommend Buildium’s free guide,?What to Watch in 2018: 7 Predictions for the Housing Market & Property Management Industry.

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. Amanda holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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5 Tips for Landlords for a Stress-Free Holiday Season

Could you use a vacation? Once the holidays wind down, it’s the perfect time to get away–but seasonal hazards like winter storms, freezing temperatures, and residential fires may have you feeling apprehensive about leaving your property at risk.

As you work hard to ensure that your residents have a safe and stress-free holiday, it’s easy to feel like you’re stretched too thin to take a break. We’re here to help you carve out time for the things that are important to you, whether that means quality time with your family or a well-earned vacation. While your properties can require your attention at any hour of the day or night–weekends and holidays included–it doesn’t need to prevent you from taking the time you need to renew your energy and motivation.

Here are 5 tips for a low-stress holiday season that you can put into action today (so you can make sure you get the break you deserve)!

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #1

Invest in Preventative Maintenance

Start by asking residents what needs fixing rather than waiting for them to call in emergency repairs. Have furnaces, smoke alarms, boilers, fireplaces, roofs, and other key points of failure inspected ASAP. Insulate pipes in exterior walls, trim tree branches, clear out your gutters, drain outdoor spigots, and take other precautionary winterization steps before winter’s in full force.

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #2

Help Residents to Help You

Residents are your eyes and ears for issues like frozen pipes, power outages, and failing appliances. Keep them in the loop so they can help you to prevent issues–for instance, by leaving cabinet doors open to warm pipes on exterior walls. Make sure they know how to get ahold of you if problems do arise, and that you have up-to-date contact information for each household as well.

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #3

Stay on Top of Safety

Reach out to residents with guidelines for kitchen and space heater safety. Holiday meal prep and space heater usage are disproportionately responsible for residential fires, which unfortunately peak on Thanksgiving and Christmas. In addition, remind residents to keep Christmas trees well-hydrated and away from heat sources, which can also result in fires. Last, be sure to test all smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, replacing batteries and swapping out expired devices.

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #4

Contact Your Contractors

If you haven’t already, be sure to find contractors you can trust and line up service contracts for snow clearing today–before the worst of winter weather is upon us. If you wait until a storm hits, your contractors’ other clients will take priority, leaving you and your residents out in the cold. Make sure to have a supply of de-icing chemicals and shovels on hand for residents to use, too.

Tips for Landlords During Holiday Season: #5

Don’t Go it Alone

Above all else: Consider hiring a property manager to tackle your entire to-do list, for the coming season and beyond. This year, you could spend your time enjoying your loved ones’ company rather than worrying about what’s going on at your rental properties and troubleshooting issues. To find the perfect property manager for you (wherever your neck of the woods might be), just visit All Property Management’s website.

P.S. If you liked this post, we bet you’ll enjoy this, too: 10 New Year’s Resolutions for Landlords for a Successful & Productive 2018.

Robin Burinskiy is the Senior Content Writer and Managing Editor for the All Property Management Blog and Buildium Blog. She cut her teeth as a marketing copywriter at Wayfair and TechTarget, and she spends her free time perfecting her lifestyle blog, Feather & Flint. She holds degrees in psychology, sociology, and songwriting.

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5 Resident Appreciation Ideas to Spread Holiday Cheer in Your Community

It seems obvious, but it’s something that’s often overlooked by landlords, property managers, and HOAs alike: Happy residents are good residents, and the ones who are most likely to stick around in the long term.

Believe it or not, keeping people happy doesn’t need to cost a fortune. You don’t need to make a grand gesture to show your residents that you appreciate them. Even a hand-written note that says how much you enjoy having them as a part of your community can go a long way.

This season, round out the year by focusing on resident appreciation. Here are a few ways to spread the holiday cheer within your community.

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #1

Light It Up

It’s amazing how happy a few well-placed LED lights can make us during the holidays. You can keep it simple by putting flameless candles in the windows, or you can create an over-the-top display on the lawn of your property. We typically prefer an understated look that will appeal to all residents far and wide, including prospective residents touring units during the holidays.

Inside, add holiday lighting to the common areas. Consider decorating a Christmas tree for all residents to see, or hang lighted wreaths and garlands in doorways. There are so many ways to play with lighting displays during the holidays–and this time of year, you can typically find a string of 100 incandescent lights for under $5 at your local pharmacy or hardware store.

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #2

Dish Out Tasty Treats

For one weekend every December, my kitchen turns into Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. I spend hours upon hours baking cookies, candies, and other decorative sweets. I buy pretty boxes and tins to package the goodies, and then deliver a set to each resident with a card thanking them for another great year. It’s not much, but it’s the thought that counts.

A simpler option would be to order a pie for each tenant, or to leave a dish of holiday candy in the common area for all to enjoy. If you’re going to do the latter, just be sure that someone is checking in every so often to replenish the stash throughout the holidays!

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #3

Give a Small Gift

Most residents never expect a gift from their landlord, property manager, or HOA–which makes the gesture that much more impactful. Gifts should certainly be small, such as a $15 gift certificate to the neighborhood grocery store. If you have a good relationship with the tenants and can personalize the gift, that’s even better. For instance, I know that one of my tenants grabs coffee every morning on his way to work, so he’d love a Dunkin’ Donuts gift card. Another tenant has a newborn baby, so $20 to Babies-R-Us would certainly be put to good use. Just be sure to keep the gift small and simple, with a note that thanks them for being great residents or neighbors.

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #4

Host a Holiday Party

You might be thinking, “But I only have 5 residents!” That’s okay–whether you have 5 residents or 500, a holiday party can be a great way for neighbors to get to know one another. When neighbors form positive relationships with one another, they tend to stick around longer–and fewer issues come up.

The format of the holiday party may vary depending on your resident profile. For instance, in properties with young children, you may consider inviting Santa to pose for photographs with the kids. Other ideas include a gift wrapping party, a Yankee Swap, a beer and wine mixer, or a pot luck supper (where management could provide an enticing main course).

If you’re struggling to determine which type of event residents would be most inclined to attend, shoot out a quick survey. Residents often love to give feedback and will often come up with an idea you had never considered!

Resident Appreciation Ideas for the Holiday Season: #5

Team Up to Give Back

The holidays are a great time to give back to the community–but you shouldn’t have to do so alone. Consider engaging residents with a canned food or toy drive, or asking residents to join you in “adopting” a local family who cannot afford gifts of their own this year. This differs from most tenant appreciation ideas in that you aren’t doing something specifically for residents, but it shows a different side of management and encourages camaraderie.

Spreading the holiday cheer isn’t just good for morale–it’s good for business. Residents who feel at home are less likely to leave, which reduces turnover and potential vacancies. Most of these suggestions, from small gift certificates to holiday decorations, are also tax-deductible.

However you decide to celebrate, just keep in mind that your residents may have a variety of religious beliefs. It’ll be a failed effort if you end up offending someone, so we suggest keeping all events, gifts, and decorations agnostic during the holidays–better to be safe than sorry!

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How to Deal with an Influx of Package Deliveries at Your Property This Holiday Season

People are shopping online now more than ever. They’re buying clothes, household supplies, and even groceries online. Amazon, Blue Apron, Peapod, and countless others are making a steady stream of deliveries to residents’ doors. One poll finds that more than 25% of residents receive at least 4 packages each month.

Package delivery management is creating a major headache for some rental owners and HOA communities.

“As online sales continue to skyrocket, package delivery management is becoming a growing issue to apartment communities,” says Mercedes Sanchez of the Houston Apartment Association. “Many simply do not have the storage capacity, so they are trying to figure out how to handle the deluge of packages and are having a second look at their policies regarding this issue.”

A recent survey finds that package carriers will first try to deliver a parcel directly to the resident’s door. If that doesn’t work, they’ll try to deliver it to a management office.

An executive with Camden Property Trust says that for his property management company, package delivery management results in 10 minutes of lost productivity per delivery. “Multiply that by the 1 million packages Camden handled in 2014 and you begin to see just how big an issue package management is, especially as online shopping continues to grow,” he says.

While package delivery management issues may be exacerbated in large apartment communities, they affect owners of small buildings equally.

In fact, small buildings are less likely to have a publicly accessible common area for carriers to deliver packages. Instead, packages are just left on the front steps, or wedged between the front and screen doors. These deliveries, when visible from the street, are an indication that nobody is home?and can put the rental unit at greater risk of a break-in.

A typical apartment community receives as many as 100 packages per week?a number that can double during the holidays?and online shopping shows no signs of slowing. This means that landlords, property managers, and HOAs are going to have to get more creative when it comes to package delivery management. There’s no time like the present, particularly with the holidays upon us!

Here are a few strategies for package delivery management at your property:

1. Relinquish responsibility. Unless you have an on-site management office where staff can receive packages for residents, be sure to specify that you’re not responsible for deliveries that are lost, damaged, or stolen. A simple email reminder may be warranted as the holiday season approaches.

2. Install an oversized mailbox. If space allows, consider installing an oversized mailbox that can accommodate packages (18 x 18 x 24 inches should do the trick). This won’t solve all of your package delivery challenges, but it will at least keep a portion of the deliveries hidden from view.

3. Utilize smart locks. As building technology becomes more sophisticated, the number of smart lock solutions has continued to grow. In smaller apartment buildings, you might consider installing a smart lock system on your front door. Carriers could use a special code to unlock the front door, allowing them to leave packages in the foyer or other common area without having access to individual rental units.

4. Invest in package lockers. Amazon announced last month that it would start partnering with apartment buildings to offer Amazon Hubs: locker systems that can receive deliveries fulfilled by Amazon. Amazon will experiment with allowing other carriers to deliver their packages to those hubs as well.

Amazon isn’t the only purveyor of locker systems?there are others with varying degrees of sophistication. Most cost anywhere between $10,000 and $20,000 per locker, but each locker can be shared by five to eight apartments. The most technical locker systems can tell which compartment is empty and will randomly assign the locker so that resident can use a unique code to get their package. Lockers can be accessed any time of the day, which allows for round-the-clock deliveries.

The investment can be worth it, given the growth of online shopping. Residents now view storage lockers as an added amenity that can help your building stand out from the rest. According to a survey by Multifamily Executive, over 28% of renters list package lockers as “very important,” or near the top on a scale of 1-10 in terms of amenities they care about most.

Despite the spike in online shopping, we’re still only at the tip of the iceberg: About 90% of shopping is still conducted in traditional brick-and-mortar retail stores. If the last few years are any indication of what’s to come, package delivery management will become increasingly important for landlords, property managers, and HOAs in 2018.

As technology continues to improve, we expect to see other solutions emerge. Until then, these?package delivery management strategies should at least give you some reprieve as you get through this holiday season!

Amanda Maher is a self-proclaimed policy wonk who dabbles in real estate law. Amanda holds a B.S. in Political Science and Sociology from Boston University, as well as a Masters in Urban and Regional Policy from Northeastern.

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7 Ways to Keep Your Property Safe This Halloween

Ghost, ghouls, and goblins–beware! Your property is ready for any of the scares they might try to bring your way this Halloween night–or at least, it will be, assuming you take a few steps before trick-or-treaters hit the streets.

Here are 7 Halloween safety tips for rental properties and homeowners associations.

Halloween Safety Tips for Rental Properties & HOAs: #1

Tidy Up the Landscaping

Be sure to walk the property and pick up any branches that may have fallen, roots that children could easily trip over, or other debris that might get in the way of trick-or-treaters trying to make their way to the front door. Trim any overgrown hedges, mow the lawn one last time for the season, and rake up dead leaves. All of these tasks will make your property safer on Halloween night–and they’re tasks that are likely already on your fall maintenance checklist.

Halloween Safety Tips for Rental Properties & HOAs: #2

Ensure the Property is Well-Lit

Outdoor bulbs should be replaced and lighting should be installed along the most likely traveled path of youngsters. For instance, your residents may typically enter through a garage or back door; but on Halloween, children are likely to head to the front entrance. Consider installing motion-sensing lights to enhance visibility for costumed guests. This will also reduce the likelihood of vandalism and mischief.

Be sure to check the lighting in the parking lot as well. Here’s a little known fact: Children are twice as likely to be hit by a car on Halloween than any other time of the year. You should also remind residents to drive slowly around the neighborhood on Halloween. Always check twice for kiddos!

Halloween Safety Tips for Rental Properties & HOAs: #3

Secure Loose Railings, Steps & Pavers

If you’ve ever stumbled over a loose stair or brick at your property, just imagine what it will feel like for an excited child fiddling with a costume. Now is a good time to take care of these small maintenance repairs before they turn into bigger issues. Not only will this protect trick-or-treaters, but it will improve safety for your residents on the whole.

Halloween Safety Tips for Rental Properties & HOAs: #4

Lock Doors, Garages & Gates

Take care to prevent access to unauthorized areas on Halloween. This is particularly true for landlords or HOAs who have vacant properties, since intruders will be less obvious to observers on Halloween night. At larger apartment communities, you may want to ask neighbors to keep an eye out on vacant properties as an extra precaution.

Halloween Safety Tips for Rental Properties & HOAs: #5

Leave a Bowl of Candy Out

If one of your rentals is vacant, consider leaving a front porch light on with a bowl of candy outside. Even though there might not be someone there to answer the doorbell each time it rings, the outdoor light and bowl of candy will help to ward off pranksters or disgruntled teens who were hoping to receive a treat.

Halloween Safety Tips for Rental Properties & HOAs: #6

Keep Pets Indoors

While it’s tempting for residents to have their pets join them in handing out candy, some children can be easily scared by animals–and vice versa: Even the friendliest animals can become skittish around children in costumes. Keep everyone safe by asking residents to bring their pets inside for the night. This will prevent any erratic behavior that could scare or injure a trick-or-treater.

Halloween Safety Tips for Rental Properties & HOAs: #7

Focus on Fire Safety

On one hand, it’s great to encourage residents to celebrate Halloween. Festivities can help an apartment building feel more like home! On the other hand, some residents may be tempted to show off their jack-o’-lanterns by lighting the pumpkins with candles. Remind residents to keep candlelit pumpkins and any other open flames away from doorsteps, walkways and other landings that may be in the path of trick-or-treaters. If someone accidentally knocks over a pumpkin, the flame could ignite nearby leaves or clothing and cause a fire. That’s one scare you’ll want to avoid on Halloween night!

After the pirates and ballerinas have retired for the season, encourage residents to help do a clean-sweep of the property. Pick up any candy wrappers or other items that were dropped by trick-or-treaters; repair any accidental damage; and start putting away Halloween decorations.

While property owners and managers have a heightened responsibility during this time, these Halloween safety tips for rental properties and HOAs will ensure that everyone has fun during this year’s festivities.

The post 7 Ways to Keep Your Property Safe This Halloween appeared first on APM.

Check Out Some Devilish Décor for Halloween

Home owners love to decorate their homes for the holidays. But how far is too far when it comes to curb appeal with your Halloween décor? Get amused – or maybe even a little spooked – and check out this new slideshow at REALTOR® Magazine, the “Scariest (or Funniest?) Home Décor.”