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How to Submit a Helpful Maintenance Request

Problems happen. The dishwasher leaks, the heater doesn’t heat, or the air conditioner only makes noise. A maintenance request helps ensure that your landlord (or the building’s management company) does something about the issue in your rental unit.

To make sure the issue is addressed properly and in a timely fashion, your maintenance request should contain useful information and be thorough. The more helpful and specific the information, the more likely your maintenance request receives an appropriate resolution.

1. Call As Soon As Possible

Call your landlord or property manager shortly after you’ve noticed an issue. Read your rental agreement to ensure you call the right party. Calling an out-of-town landlord is far less efficient than calling a maintenance person or site manager within minutes of your rental.

If the situation is an emergency, such as a broken pipe causing a flooded bathroom, look for an emergency maintenance phone number on your rental agreement, and call it immediately.  

If it’s not an emergency, let the landlord or site manager know whether the maintenance crew can enter your apartment while you’re away. If you prefer to be home when the work takes place, offer a block of several hours in which the work can take place.

2. Follow Up in Writing

If you request is addressed within two days (or within the time the landlord or manager said it would be handled) — great — your work is done!

If not, or if you left a message via voicemail and haven’t heard back within 24 hours, it’s time to put your request in writing. The Cleveland Tenants Organization offers a simple notice to correct conditions. A more formal request form is available through the Tenants Union of Washington State. Here’s what to do:

  • Fill out all the required information and spell out in specific detail exactly what needs repaired in your apartment.
  • Include written notice of when you first placed a call requesting repairs.
  • Mail (or drop off) the notice to the landlord or property manager (whomever is indicated in your original rental agreement).
  • Send the notice via certified mail, or take the letter to the post office and pay for postage directly with a postal clerk. That way, you can get a receipt that has tracking information. (A stamped letter dropped into a mailbox isn’t trackable. You’ll have no proof that the other party received the letter.)
  • Have the person sign a piece of paper stating that they received the letter. This applies if you dropped the letter off directly to the person in charge of handling your request. (Prepare this in advance and take it, along with a pen.)
  • Keep written records and proof of all maintenance requests and communications regarding the maintenance issue.

3. Wait the Proper Amount of Time

In many cases, maintenance issues are taken care of within 48 hours, but the legally required time frame varies by state. For instance, in Washington State, serious issues such as no hot water or electricity must be dealt with within 24 hours. But 72 hours is acceptable for a refrigerator or oven repair. If you’re concerned that repairs are not happening in a reasonable amount of time, look up your state’s laws here.

4. Consider Dealing With Minor Issues Yourself

Minor issues, such as a small hole in the carpet are not required to be fixed.

A landlord is legally required to keep the property in habitable condition. But minor repairs such as a dripping faucet or a small hole in the carpet are not required repairs, according to a tenant’s rights article on FindLaw. You may not be able to force the landlord to handle such repairs, but a well-written request pointing out the benefits of repair can greatly help your cause. For instance, spell out that a running toilet or dripping faucet wastes water, leading to an increasing water bill that wastes the landlord’s money.

Bottom Line

Even if you have a great relationship with the property manager, a written request matters more than a verbal request. This is true even when renting from an individual that you see nearly every day, such as a duplex owner that lives in the other unit of the duplex. A written and dated maintenance request leaves proof of the issue in case the responsible party takes a while before doing anything about it.

No matter what your reason for submitting the request, be sure to make it look as professional as possible. Consider typing it out instead of writing it out by hand so there’s no question of legibility. If you do all these things and submit the request to the proper party (as spelled out in your rental agreement), your maintenance issue should soon be resolved.

Credit to Kathy Adams

Kathy is an award-winning investigative journalist, not to mention a writer, brand blogger, decor/DIY expert, renter, commercial landlord. She also writes for brands such as Behr, Kroger, Canon and Black+Decker on topics pertaining to home and apartment decorating and maintenance.

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How to Handle Noise Complaints from Neighbors

If you rent out a house in the middle of nowhere, you can rent to the noisiest tenants imaginable. Why? Because no one can hear them.

But if you rent to tenants who will live in close proximity to other people, you hope they’ll respect their neighbors’ right to quiet.

If you rent to noisy tenants, a few things might happen. You might receive a formal complaint from a building manager, a nasty email from the neighborhood HOA, or a nuisance complaint from the city if a neighbor complains to the police. If you don’t do anything about the complaints, you could receive fines until you do something.

So what should you do if you get complaints that your tenants are so loud they’re disruptive?

Determine Whether the Complaint Is Valid

Before you confront your tenant, find out the nature of the noise complaint. Your tenant could very well be causing a disturbance, but it’s just as likely that the complainant isn’t warranted. Tenants are allowed to live their lives, and sometimes that includes making noise.

Your job is to determine whether your tenant is crossing the line by being excessively noisy.

If your jurisdiction places a limit on noise decibel levels, then your tenants should not exceed this level. If your rental property is subject to noise laws and you receive a complaint, ask the department that issued the complaint to come out and measure the noise levels to determine whether there is a valid reason for the complaint.

If you don’t have regulations, you can use some common sense measures to evaluate whether your tenants are the problem or whether the complaining neighbor is just being fussy.

Here are some examples:

  • Dinner Parties
    Having people over for a get together that ends by 11 p.m. is not complaint-worthy, but regular loud parties that go late into the night are a problem.
  • Noisy Feet
    Tenants walking around their own apartment, no matter what time of day or night, is not complaint-worthy from a downstairs neighbor, but if your tenant is jumping rope or acting out their own WrestleMania session at midnight, that’s valid.
  • Barking Dogs
    A dog that barks occasionally is not complaint-worthy, but a dog that barks incessantly all day or night is.
  • Loud Arguments
    Disagreements between partners are bound to happen, and an occasional argument is not complaint-worthy, but a nightly screaming match is.

If the Noise Complaint Isn’t Valid

Let the complaining party know that you have researched the noise complaint. Tell them what you did to determine whether your tenant is guilty of a noise violation or not. If you found out your tenant didn’t do anything wrong, let the complainant know that you didn’t find any evidence to suggest the complaint was warranted.

If the Noise Complaint Is Valid

If you’ve received multiple complaints from a variety of sources, your tenant is probably being too noisy. You might also wish to witness for yourself whether the complaints are valid by driving by your rental property and seeing for yourself.

You need to address this issue with your tenant immediately. If your tenant is being too noisy and interfering with the neighbors’ peace and quiet, you should tell your tenant to keep the noise at acceptable levels. Explain the problem and what you expect your tenant to do to resolve the problem.

Sometimes the resolution is easy. If a downstairs neighbor complains about noise coming from upstairs, for example, put down area rugs. If your tenant listens and stops the noisy behavior, problem solved. If not, and the complaints continue, you may need to evict.

Have a Clause in Your Lease

You can protect yourself from noise problems by including a noise, or quiet hours, clause in your lease. That way, if your tenant violates the noise clause, you can act based on the lease terms, such as fining them if you receive a valid noise complaint.

Here’s a sample of a noise clause from a lease, courtesy of the University of Rhode Island.

Note: This lease pertains to university students in the state of Rhode Island. You can, however, personalize your lease to meet your needs. Please consult a lawyer when preparing your lease.

Screen Tenants

The best way to ensure you’ll rent to tenants who won’t cause trouble is to screen them first. Run a background check and check references to determine whether potential tenants have a history of complaints against them. I use Cozy tenant screening, and I recommend it.

Bottom Line

If you get complaints about a noisy tenant, you need to do something about it. Don’t rush to judgment by automatically blaming your tenant. But don’t ignore the complaints, either. It’s best to come up with a compromise that everyone can live with.

Now, peace out everyone.

Please let us know in the comments your experience with noise and how you handled it!

Credit to Laura Agadoni

Laura is a landlord, journalist, and author of New Home Journal: Record All the Repairs, Upgrades and Home Improvements During Your Years at…. Her articles appear in various publications such as Trulia, The Houston Chronicle, The Motley Fool, SFGate, Zacks, The Penny Hoarder, and loanDepot.

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Help First-Time Sellers Through the Sale

Like rookie buyers, clients who are new to selling need extra hand-holding through the sales process.

Even the most steely-eyed sellers can get emotional when it’s time to list their home. It’s the place where they raised their children, gathered friends for annual holiday parties, or painstakingly executed their design vision over many years. The longer they have stayed in a home, the greater the challenges they may face getting up-to-date on the rules and regulations governing transactions. Those who have never before sold are, indeed, in uncharted territory. Here are suggestions for working with first-time sellers who may find the financial and legal complexities, as well as the emotional terrain, especially daunting.

First-time sellers who have never contended with buyer demands may not initially understand how neutralizing their home or adding small upgrades can make their property more competitive on the market. Using data to highlight comparable nearby homes and what they’re selling for is a good place to start, but make sure to explain how the data supports your argument. Andy Werner, abr, e-pro, associate broker at RE/MAX Realty Group in Gaithersburg, Md., says many first-time sellers don’t realize how minor repairs can elevate their property’s market value. Buyers typically expect a home to be in move-in condition, so sellers who choose not to upgrade could face a $10,000 to $15,000 price reduction, he says.

“I tell buyers that if you don’t fix up your house, the buyer will go around the corner and buy from someone who did—and they’ll pay $5,000 more,” Werner says. Such an explanation demonstrates market fundamentals to your clients and keeps them on track toward the closing table. The costs of modest repairs, such as repainting, installing carpet, and refinishing or replacing kitchen cabinetry, are often recouped at resale, Werner adds.

Selling After Decades of Owning

Some common seller issues become more difficult simply because of how long a first-time seller has lived in a home. Decluttering, for example, can be hard enough for someone who’s been in their home only five years. Imagine how challenging it is for sellers who have lived in a home for their entire adult life.

It’s not just emotional resistance they’re experiencing. First-timers may simply not be aware of how clearing out personal items improves the odds of a sale. Alice Chin, psa, a broker with Keller Williams Infinity in Naperville, Ill., recommends that sellers who have never dramatically decluttered their homes before do it in stages, clearing one room at a time. Slowing down the pace can ease the mental and emotional pressure involved in getting rid of personal items, she says, and once sellers see the results in one room, it can encourage them to continue working on the rest of the house. If your client needs more convincing, ask a professional home stager to weigh in, Chin says.

Patience Is a Virtue

All sellers benefit from practicing patience while waiting for the right buyer, but this is doubly true for those who are listing a vacation home in resort areas for the first time. They face different market dynamics than if they were selling a primary residence, says McKee Macdonald, a broker with Coldwell Banker Carlson Real Estate in the ski resort town of Stowe, Vt. Many of his clients who are new to selling are shocked to learn how long it can take to sell—an average of 250 days in his market. Some properties have languished for as long as five years, he says.

Therefore, first-time sellers require a higher degree of communication so they can be prepared for the realities of a niche market, Macdonald says. He explains that traditional marketing tactics such as open houses aren’t always effective because the number of skiers (who are prospective buyers) in town on weekends is unpredictable. Instead, he advises his clients to consider renting out vacation properties while they wait for a buyer. After all, selling a second home often isn’t urgent, and a seller’s motivation can change. “Some sellers say, ‘Throw it out there. If we get the price we want, great. If not, I’m still using it,’” Macdonald says.

Experienced Sellers Can Be Rookies

Even seasoned sellers can feel like newbies when market conditions have changed markedly since their last sale. A client who sold one property during a downturn may be ill-prepared for today’s tight-inventory environment and the stress of handling multiple offers. Though it’s a nice problem to have, it can still be overwhelming.

Ashleigh Fredrickson, sales associate at 8Z Real Estate in Denver, says the biggest challenge for sellers of all experience levels is determining which offers stand the best chance of holding up. In a strong seller’s market, buyers can get swept up in the heat of the moment and bid 10 percent over list price only to realize later they won’t be able to qualify for financing, she says. So it’s important to counsel sellers—particularly those who have never been in such a situation—that the highest bid isn’t necessarily the best. “You want to make sure you’re getting the most qualified buyer so that you’re not back out on the market again,” Fredrickson says.

She suggests using a spreadsheet to help sellers analyze competing bids, taking special note of any contingencies. Your clients need to understand that a higher offer with more contingencies may not be in their best interest. “Maybe the timeline is paramount, so the seller will sacrifice a couple of thousand dollars to ensure the deal is done by a certain time,” Fredrickson says.

Above all, directness and thorough education are what every first-time seller needs, Macdonald adds. When a sale isn’t going the way a seller had imagined it would, “you need to look for strategies to offset the negatives.” But always “give sellers the honest truth, and don’t sugarcoat it,” he says.

 

Credit to Judith Crown
Judith Crown is a Chicago-based freelance writer specializing in business, government, and education.

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Top 10 Amenities Renters Can’t Resist

To be a successful landlord, you need to give your tenants what they want.

Think of it this way: You wouldn’t want to be in the surfboard business in the Midwest, but you might in a Southern California beach community.

It’s the same for the landlord business. Buying rental property is only one part of the equation for success. If your property is as appealing as that Midwestern surfboard, it’s not doing you much good.

To be successful, you need to provide a rental product that people want to rent, and to be really successful, they should want to stay in it for as long as possible. Here are 10 things renters can’t resist.

1. Walkability

A great location means different things to different people. But if your rental property has a high Walk Score, a measure of a location’s walkability, it’s a safe bet you’ve got a good location.

There’s a shift in this country toward moving to urban areas, but not necessarily the traditional ones, such as New York City and San Francisco. Renters just want to walk to restaurants, shops, schools, parks, and entertainment, no matter which city they’re in.

A Walk Score between 50 and 100 means some or most amenities are within walking distance, and a score between 0 and 50 means the property is car dependent.

2. A Well-Maintained Place

One of the big advantages to being a renter versus a homeowner is that renters don’t have to worry about maintenance and repairs. That’s the responsibility of the owner or management company. So when you’re showing a place, be sure there are no maintenance issues.

When you’re showing a place, make sure there are no maintenance issues.

And when a tenant moves in, conduct periodic inspections to ensure your rental unit remains in great shape. You or your management company also needs to be responsive when a repair needs to be done.

3. A Place to Park

Renters want off-street parking, and that’s a feature they don’t necessarily get in a building in an urban area. So if you have a single-family home with a garage, play up this feature. If you don’t, any off-street parking, such as a covered area or a driveway, is a great selling feature. In the suburbs, renters are fine with street parking since it’s typically easy to find parking in front of the property.

4. Storage Space/Walk-in Closets

If your rental unit has enormous walk-in closets, you’re sure to impress potential tenants. But if you don’t have this feature, you might want to consider having one built in. A bigger closet in a smaller bedroom is usually a bigger draw than a tiny closet in a spacious bedroom. And any additional storage space is always welcomed.

5. Washer/Dryer

Tenants want a washer/dryer in their rental unit. Although this is an extra amenity that you’re not required to offer, it makes your unit more desirable to renters if you do. Some renters have their own washer/dryer, or don’t mind getting their own, so if you have a laundry room or a place to hook up a washer/dryer, that’s better than nothing.

6. Air Conditioning

By air conditioning, we mean central air, not a window unit. But this amenity varies depending on where your rental property is located. In a hot, humid climate, central air is a must-have feature. Window units are not ideal in humid climates because they tend to sweat, adding even more moisture to the home. And the seal around the windows is not perfect when you have an AC installed in the window, which is not energy-efficient.

7. Flexible Pet Policies

Lots of people have pets, making a pet-friendly place desirable for many renters and a must-have feature for others. Sixty-five percent of people own a pet, according to the National Pet Owners Survey. The most popular pets are overwhelmingly dogs and cats. If you decide to allow pets, here’s some further reading on best practices:

  • The Definitive Guide to Renting to Tenants with Pets
  • Pet Deposits, Pet Fees and Pet Rent — What’s the Difference?

8. Security and Safety

At the very least, you should reassure renters that you always change the locks between tenants. And, of course, you can’t just say this — you have to actually follow through with it. Besides changing locks, make sure your property has proper outdoor lighting, a wooden dowel for the bottom of sliding glass doors, deadbolt locks, and either provide an alarm system or let your tenant add one if they want to.

9. Outdoor Spaces

Although many renters like amenities, such as a pool with a cabana and a fitness/yoga studio (like many apartment complexes have), what even more renters prefer is outdoor space — a fenced-in yard, patio, deck, or balcony are all desirable to renters. When it comes to outdoor spaces, something is better than nothing.

10. A “Smart” Home

This feature typically won’t be a deciding factor for most renters, but if you have smart features, it’s a bonus, especially for millennial renters who love technology. The Internet of Things (IoT) allows devices to “talk” with each other, which makes it possible for technology to work for us.

Temperature controls that allow homes to heat up before you come home, a place to plug in your electric car, and lights that go on as you enter the room are all examples of what smart devices can offer. Nest is the leading provider of smart thermostats, but there are others for less money.

Which features help rent your place? If you’re a renter, what features are your must-haves? Let us know in the comments!

Credit to Laura Agadoni

Laura Agadoni is a landlord and journalist whose articles appear in various publications such as Trulia, The Houston Chronicle, The Motley Fool, SFGate, Zacks, The Penny Hoarder and azcentral.

 

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8 Dating Rules That Apply to Real Estate

Your clients are looking for a home to fall in love with, so here’s how to perfect your matchmaking skills and help them find the one.

So much of our lives are online nowadays. Our social lives happen in online communities as much or more than in friends’ basements or bars. We meet people with similar interests by joining Facebook groups or following someone’s story on Snapchat. YouTube is where we learn to do almost everything, from simple home maintenance tasks to cooking dinner for the family.

Home shopping, like dating in the 21st century, almost always starts online as well. They’re both about finding the right one—and just like a matchmaker, house hunters turn to you to help them wade through the pool of eligible homes and find the one of their dreams. Here are eight ways online dating and home shopping are exactly the same and what your role is as the matchmaker.

  1. Knowing their price range is like knowing who is in their league. You have to help your client be as realistic as possible here. In the dating world, it’s a waste of time always going after people who you know won’t give you a chance. In a home search, there’s no point in lusting after houses you’ll never be able to afford. Be a good wingman for your client and only introduce them to prospective properties they have a serious chance with.
  2. Be sure they’re ready to move on. Buying a home is a long-term commitment; is your client ready for something long-term? Help your client get prequalified — it’ll show they’re ready to move on from their current home or apartment. In other words, make sure they’re over their last real estate love. Ask them for a sign they’re not just pretending to be ready to move on.
  3. Don’t be superficial. Ever met a date who looked nothing like the online photo? Well, homes sometimes also look way better online than they do in person. Before agreeing to take them on a home tour, ask your client to name something not related to aesthetics that draws them to the home. Then you’ll know a deeper connection is possible.
  4. Don’t make decisions based on first impressions. After they meet in person, your client may think the house is as awesome as it appeared online. But encourage your client to take it slow before making a commitment. Keep them grounded by pushing them to do an inspection (or maybe more than one) to make sure the home isn’t hiding any dark secrets inside.
  5. Don’t second-guess your heart (or gut). Love at first sight is rare, but it happens. It’s possible your client will find the home of their dreams in the first property they see. If this is the case, don’t try and rationalize or talk them out of their decision. But do make sure they take the necessary precautions before jumping into this new real estate relationship.
  6. Ask if others see in the home what your client sees. Are you worried your client is being blinded by the twinkle in the windows and the sparkle in the backyard pool? But you think the home is just a pig wearing lipstick? Tell your client to bring their friends, parents, and others they trust to a second showing. They’ll see right through any facade and help your client avoid falling for the wrong house.
  7. Celebrate once they’ve sealed the deal. Once your client closes the transaction and walks down the aisle and into their new home, congratulate them and come to their housewarming party to show your support for their new status as a homeowner.
  8. Help them maintain a lifetime of happiness. Show your clients steps they can take to care for their home so they don’t fall on hard times. Give them resources to keep up with home maintenance and make sure they know never to ignore problems that may pop up. This will help your clients have an enduring home that comforts them and their families for years to come.
Credit to Mary McIntosh

Mary McIntosh, GRI, AHWD, is associate broker at ProSmart Realty in Gilbert, Ariz., and has been selling real estate since 2002. Her motto is: “Always look for ways to better serve your clients and keep them laughing throughout the process.”

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