Tag Archives: Landlord

5 Landlord Tips for the Holiday Season

In many parts of the U.S., winter has arrived. Are you and your tenants prepared?

As cold weather sets in, it’s time to winterize your rental properties. This article discusses five ways to keep things running smoothly, avoid expensive surprises, and keep your renters happy.

Roofs, windows, and electrical and plumbing systems are all vulnerable to the ravages of freezing temperatures. When it comes to winterizing, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of expensive sub-zero repairs.

In addition, the holiday season presents an opportunity for landlords to thank their renters with small gifts. Let’s get started.

1. Keep Your Tenants Safe

The holiday season means Christmas trees, and they can be an accident waiting to happen. A safety reminder to your renters—in the form of a holiday notice—could help avoid an expensive and dangerous catastrophe. The National Fire Protection Association says that one-quarter of the 210 Christmas tree fires that occur each year are caused by the presence of a flame or other heat source, and 35% are caused by electrical equipment.

Install GFCI Outlets or Breakers

Even if you’re not required to have a GFCI outlet in the living room, it’s prudent to install at least one and encourage tenants to plug the Christmas tree lights into that outlet.

The outlet trips when a short occurs, which greatly reduces the chances of a fire from electrical arcing. As an alternative, replace the living room breaker with a GFCI breaker. That way, all the outlets on the circuit are protected.

If your renters plan to hang outdoor lights, make sure they have an outdoor GFCI outlet. Also, it doesn’t hurt to advise your renters in the holiday notice to use new—or at least undamaged—cords and light strings. If you opt for a GFCI breaker for the living room circuit, you might as well install one for the outdoor circuit(s) as well.

Don’t Forget the Smoke Alarms

The NFPA recommends that you replace smoke alarms every 10 years, and the fire marshals in many states, including California, require it. Check the installation dates on the smoke alarms in all your rentals, and replace the ones that have expired.

2. Keep the Gutters Clean

Debris on the roof slides into the gutters and eventually clogs them. As snow melts during the day, it can back up onto the roof and form pools that refreeze at night to form ice dams. Nothing is worse for the roof, which can leak or sag as a result. Prevent this kind of damage by blowing off the roof and cleaning out the gutters before the cold weather sets in and the snow starts.

While your maintenance crew is on the roof, they should also look for and remove overhanging branches. Limbs routinely break during ice storms, and if they don’t cause damage immediately, they can contribute to ice dam formation.

3. Prepare for Frozen Pipes

Exposed water pipes can easily freeze in the winter, and when the weather warms up, you may need an expensive emergency plumbing call to stop the resulting leak. The pipes inside the walls are usually safe, but any pipes that run through crawl spaces and attics are vulnerable.

Insulate outdoor pipes before the cold weather comes.

It’s common to overlook pipes that may be part of a sprinkler system or network of outdoor faucets. The best way to prevent an outdoor burst is to shut off the water to the outdoor system and drain all the faucets. Even if you do that, some water may remain in risers and exposed horizontal runs. Insulate those runs as well.

Clean the Vent Stack

While your maintenance crew is cleaning the roof, have them clean out the sewer vent stack. It may be a nasty job, but if debris is partially blocking this vital component of the plumbing system, ice can destroy it. Then the toilets and sinks won’t drain properly.

4. Ensure the Heat is Working

When temperatures drop, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to ensure that everyone stays warm. In some places, such as Massachusetts or the City of San Francisco, the furnace must be able to maintain a minimum temperature of 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Even if there is no specific temperature requirement, though, the heater—whether it’s a furnace or wood stove—must be maintained in good working order.

A Short Checklist

You should inspect and maintain the furnace and fireplace yearly. Here are three important things to do:

  • Check the thermostat—Start by replacing the batteries, then turn on the heat and wait for the blower to come on. Make sure the air coming from the blowers is hot.
  • Replace filters—Air return filters aren’t expensive, and you should change them on a yearly basis. This not only guarantees efficient heating, it prolongs the life of the furnace.
  • Inspect and clean the chimney—If your rental unit has a fireplace or wood stove, you need to regularly remove creosote from the chimney and chimney cap to ensure proper updraft. Besides improving performance, cleaning also reduces the possibility of spark emission from the chimney.

5. Spread Some Holiday Cheer

Lawyers and shopkeepers understand the value of keeping their clients and customers happy with gifts during the holiday season, and so should you. Foster good relations with your renters (at least the ones you want to keep) with a small gift. The good feelings can last throughout the year. For example, if you’re firmly in the black and feeling generous, consider a modest end-of-year rent reduction. It’s a gift that any renter appreciates.

In summary, it’s easy to keep your renters safe, dry, and warm inside and out, and the rewards are well worth the small output of effort.

Credit to Chris Deziel

Chris has owned and managed 4 rental properties in Santa Cruz, CA, and Salida, CO. He is a DIY handyman expert for popular sites like Pro Referral.

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How to Deal with a Deadbeat Landlord

What do used car salesmen, lawyers, and landlords all have in common? … People in all three professions are often the butt of jokes about—shall we say—low ethics.

Here are some jokes I’ve heard recently:

  1. What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer? … A bad lawyer makes your case drag on for years. A good lawyer makes it last even longer.
  2. I saw the most beautiful cars in the window of a dealership. A salesman came out and said, “Come on in. They’re bigger than ever, and they last a lifetime!” … Later I discovered he was talking about the payments.
  3. What do landlords do for fun? … How would I know? I haven’t seen mine in the past eight months.

Those jokes you hear are often unfair, but what makes them funny is the kernel of truth associated with them. And unfortunately for all the great, honest, just-trying-to-make-a-living landlords out there, the deadbeat landlord gives all of us a bad name.

So, just to show that all landlords are not untrustworthy villains, I would like to do my part by helping all the tenants out there who are stuck with a deadbeat landlord, meaning a landlord who is good at collecting the rent check and nothing much else.

There’s a Problem, and Your Deadbeat Landlord Has Disappeared

You won’t know you have a deadbeat landlord until a problem arises. The most common problem tenants have are maintenance ones. So what should you do when you notify your landlord that:

  • The heat went out during the winter (or the AC in the summer),
  • A window won’t lock,
  • Bugs are running around your kitchen,
  • Or any one of a number of possible problems

…and your landlord is M.I.A.?

First of all, here’s what you shouldn’t do: You should not withhold rent. Doing so could get you evicted.

Some tenants think that if the rental unit has a problem that means they don’t have to pay rent. If you stop paying rent, you will probably hear from the landlord—but not to fix the problem. It will be to evict you.

You do not have to live with a problem, either. There’s a concept in the law called the “implied warranty of habitability,” meaning that your landlord has to keep the place livable. Note that livable pertains to necessities, such as running water, not because you can’t bear the olive green walls.

The Appropriate Steps

Here’s what you should do if there’s a problem that needs fixing:

1. Make Contact (and document it)

Contact your landlord as soon as you notice the problem. A good landlord will respond right away, and will take care of the issue. But, since you have read this far, you probably have a deadbeat landlord, and you are being ignored. So go to step 2.

2. Send a Certified Letter

Send your landlord a certified letter if they don’t respond to your first request. State the nature of the problem, and the date it started happening. You’ll need to have this documented in case you need to take further action, so make a copy for yourself as well.

3. Wait

Wait to see whether your landlord responds. Tenants typically need to give their landlord 30 days to fix a problem that is not an emergency. But emergencies need to be addressed immediately.

4. Allow Access

If your landlord responds, let them (or their representative) in to make the repair.

5. Try to “Repair and Deduct”

If your deadbeat landlord still ignores the situation, there’s more you can do. Try the repair-and-deduct method if your jurisdiction allows this. You would arrange for a repairman to fix the problem, and you would then deduct the cost from the rent. Provide your landlord with a receipt.

6. Call the Authorities

Call your local health or building inspector. Someone will inspect, and that could force your deadbeat landlord to act.

7. Withhold Rent

I know I said not to withhold rent earlier. But there might be an instance where you can. Find out whether your state allows this, and if so, under what conditions. What you’d typically need to do would be to set up an escrow account, and put the rent in it. Let your landlord know that you’re putting the rent payment in an escrow account and will release the funds after the repair is made.

8. Break the Lease

If your rental is truly uninhabitable, and your deadbeat landlord won’t do anything to fix it, you might be able to break the lease. But first check with an attorney or legal aid for your area to see whether you have a case.

You Might Not Have a Deadbeat Landlord

Although you are entitled to have your landlord fix major problems, such as no heat, no running water, and a pest infestation, you are not necessarily entitled to have nonessential problems fixed, such as a leaky sink. Read your lease to see whether it addresses minor repairs, how those are handled, and whose responsibility they are. You might need to change out that lightbulb yourself.

Also consider that if you caused the problem, you need to fix it. If your hair clogged up the sink, you need to fix that since you caused the problem. If the landlord fixes a problem you created, they can deduct the cost from your security deposit.

Conclusion

You don’t need to put up with a deadbeat landlord. Try the steps listed here. If you have a deadbeat landlord story of your own, share it in the comments section, along with what you did to solve the problem!

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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5 Ways Landlords can Maximize Profit from Rentals

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Recent developments in the real estate industry are proving to be a mixed bag for landlords.

Vacancy rates are increasing for the first time since 2009 as the number of empty properties grows. Although they only rose by 0.1 percent in the last quarter, it’s concerning because empty units are one of the largest drains on profit that landlords face.

The good news is that increased supply isn’t putting a damper on rent amounts, which continue to rise as newly built homes and apartments tend to command a premium.

But savvy landlords know that they need to act now to future-proof their profits against the potential for losses from higher vacancy and home-ownership rates as the economy recovers.

Here are five ways that landlords can maximize profit from their rental properties:

1. Increase the Rent, but be Competitive

If you price your unit too low, you’ll fill it quickly, but might miss out on thousands of dollars in rent. You need to ensure that you’re correctly calculating the cost vs. revenue on each property.

Location is the greatest influencer of price, but an excellent condition and updated decor also helps to maximize rental income.

In summary, start advertising 4-6 weeks out from lease end, and try to get the most you can for the rental. Check Craigslist and Zillow and New Star Realty for current market rent rates.

2. Work Smarter, Not Harder

Technology offers modern landlords opportunities to significantly reduce their property management overhead. One particularly useful platform is Cozy, which provides simple end-to-end rental management software for landlords and tenants.

Cozy reduces the amount of time you need to spend collecting applications, screening tenants, and collecting rent. Not only are tools like Cozy a better overall experience, it allows both the landlord and tenant to “set it, and forget it,” thereby making rent collection automatic.

You could also try uploading videos of your properties to YouTube or Vimeo and having your application link to those videos, year after year.

Tax concept

3. Take Advantage of All Tax Breaks

This is a no-brainer, as writing down every possible allowable expense reduces taxable profits and therefore your tax bill.

Landlords can claim all the maintenance and repair costs on their properties. Keeping your properties in excellent condition makes it much easier to find tenants and allows you to charge higher rents, too, making this a win-win situation.

You can also deduct mortgage interest as well as the costs you incurred buying your properties. You can’t deduct the latter all in one year, so you need to do it through annual depreciation, as property is classed as an asset like vehicles or machinery. Unlike other assets though, provided you did your homework when buying, your rental units should increase in value over time.

Other deductible expenses include insurance, business-related travel, contractors and the expenses of a home office, if you have one.

4. Target Your Ideal Tenant

Getting the perfect tenants for your property is a triple financial bonus; you’ll be able to set a higher rent and if they’re suitable they are less likely to leave, saving you costs associated with vacant units and tenant turnover.

Find out what your ideal tenant is likely to want, in terms of fixtures and fittings and décor, and give it to them.

This sounds simple but just make sure you do you research first: if your best tenant is a professional twenty-something then they’re likely to want different facilities and interior design than retirees or a family with young children.

Location is key too. Someone renting a luxury apartment in Los Angeles is quite likely to have different needs, expectations and tastes from someone renting a modest family home in Philadelphia.

Be realistic about how attractive your apartment is to potential tenants. Unless the neighborhood is rapidly improving, a rental property in a low-income area is unlikely to attract affluent tenants, no matter how well it’s decorated.

5. Install Solar Panels, Rent Storage Space, or Sell Ads

Take advantage of “green” tax incentives and rebates by installing solar panels on residential properties while they’re still available. Although at first glance it might seem that these benefit homeowners more than landlords, this is not necessarily the case. Once you’ve installed the solar panels, you can sell back excess energy to the grid, opening up another income stream from your property.

Your tenants will benefit from lower energy bills and as prices are predicted to keep rising, this is an advantage that could become even more attractive over time. This can be factored into the rent, allowing you to make a bigger rental income even as your tenant pays less overall.

If you have extra storage space, you could increase your profits by renting it to non-tenants. Further, there may be local businesses willing to buy advertising space. A simple banner hung on an exterior wall or side fence might bring in hundreds of dollars a month.

Credit to Guest Author – Ella Jameson

After graduating from university with a degree in English Literature, Ella worked as an editor and copywriter for several years before becoming a journalist.

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Landlord Liability When a Tenant’s Dog Bites Someone

Military Working Dogs

There’s an old saying in journalism: When a dog bites a man, that is nothing new, but when a man bites a dog, that is certainly news!

If you’re a landlord, however, and your tenant’s dog bit someone, it’s newsworthy to you. You need to know whether you’ll be held responsible.

Like most landlord-tenant issues, the answer to what happens when your tenant’s dog bites someone is that it depends, and the answer can vary by state as well.

This post will go through some scenarios to help you determine what could happen if your tenant’s dog bit someone. Please know that these are just hypothetical situations and should not be taken as legal advice. But first …

The Importance of Renter’s Insurance

If you require your tenants to carry renter’s insurance, you most likely won’t need to worry about being sued if your tenant’s dog bites someone. The tenant’s renter’s insurance will cover that.

Renter’s insurance protects you if your tenant’s dog bites someone.

The exception is if the injuries to the bite victim are so extensive that they go beyond what the renter’s insurance covers, and that doesn’t happen too often. Even if you are sued for the balance, there needs to be a case against you.

The rest of the scenarios we’ll cover will be focused on tenants who do not have renter’s insurance.

Sample Lease Clause

Dog Bites: The Good News

In most cases, you are not responsible if your tenant’s dog bit someone. So breathe a huge sigh of relief.

In most cases, you are not responsible if your tenant’s dog bit someone.

You are also not responsible if you know there’s a dangerous dog on the property, but you can’t do anything about it. This could happen if you buy investment property that’s already occupied by a tenant who has a lease. As soon as the lease comes under your control, however, you need to correct the situation.

Dog Bites: The Bad News

There are some other instances where you could be held responsible if your tenant’s dog bit someone.

Scenario 1: You knew the dog was dangerous

Let’s say that when you interviewed a potential tenant, they had their dog with them. The dog was big, bared its teeth at you, and lunged at you. When you asked the potential tenant what’s up with the dog, they were honest and let you know that the dog had bitten someone before. They then explained that this is their guard dog.

You consider the story, and you like the tenant (who passed your background check). So you decide to rent to this person and allow the dog, even knowing the dog is dangerous.

In this case, if the dog bites a visitor to the property or bites someone in the common area, you could be held responsible for the injuries. Why? Because you knew the dog was dangerous and let the dog live on your property anyway. Some courts consider landlords who knowingly rent to people with dangerous dogs irresponsible and negligent.

Scenario 2: You didn’t enforce your own lease

You might not allow dogs in your rental unit, and you have a provision in the lease that states this policy. That is not enough to protect you if you don’t enforce your no-dog policy.

Let’s say that you know that your tenant is keeping a dangerous dog on the property — a direct lease violation. You’ve seen the dog when you stopped by for a maintenance call. The dog was chained outside and barked ferociously at you. Yet, you did nothing. You might be held responsible if that dog were to bite someone.

Scenario 3: You take care of the dog

You live on one side of a duplex and rent out the other side. You struck an arrangement with your tenant that you’ll take care of their dog when they need to go out of town for work. The dog bites someone while it was under your care. In this case, you would be considered an owner and would probably be held responsible.

Dog

Scenario 4: You didn’t fix the gate

Let’s say that you rented your property to a dog owner.

You have a fenced-in yard that you use as a selling point in your rental ad, even. But now the gate is broken and no longer latches.

The tenant let you know immediately and is concerned because the dog keeps getting out, and this dog is a pit bull who has a history of attacking other dogs. You plan to get around to fixing the gate, but the dog bit someone before you fixed it. You could be held responsible.

Scenario 5: Some people sue even when they have no case

People can and do try to sue for anything and everything, but that doesn’t mean they have a case. For example, if your tenant’s dog bites someone while your tenant is away from the property with their dog, you would almost never be responsible. However, if you know that your tenant keeps a dangerous dog on your property, and you know that the dog roams the neighborhood all the time, a court might find you responsible if that dog injures someone.

Take Precautions

If you allow dogs at your rental property, take the necessary steps to help ensure guests to the property and neighbors are safe. If you know the dog is dangerous, don’t let your tenant keep it if you have control of the situation.

Nolo has a fantastic list of historical cases regarding landlord liability for dog bites. If you want to see how judges have ruled in the past, check them out.

You may also want to suggest or require that your tenant carry renter’s insurance, and make sure that you have adequate liability coverage from your landlord insurance policy … just in case.

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.

homes for rent, homes for sale,
homes for rent, homes for sale, newstarrealty.com
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