Tag Archives: Maintenance & Renovations

How to Solve the 5 Most Common Complaints from Tenants

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It’s bound to happen: tenants will come to landlords with complaints. How are you going to react?

If you want to keep good tenants in your property, you need to be responsive to a tenant’s complaints, or even better, not let problem situations develop in the first place. Be proactive. A landlord needs to be proactive if he or she wants to be successful.

Being slow to act on legitimate issues will frustrate and alienate your renters.

Here are some of the most common things tenants might complain about and how you can handle them. Or better yet, how you can avoid the problem situations before they arise.

1. Where’s my security deposit?

When you become a landlord, you should know the security deposit law for your jurisdiction. You can look up your state’s law here: Landlord-Tenant State Laws & Regulations

You typically have 30 days to return your tenant’s security deposit or explain why you’re keeping all or part of it. This requirement varies by state, which is why you need to know your state’s law and follow it. Otherwise, you could be sued.

Note that you can’t keep the security deposit to renovate your property. You can, however, use the money to repair anything your tenant damaged that is above and beyond “normal wear and tear.”

2. The __________ is still broken.

The debate can go something like this:

“You never fixed the broken oven,” your tenant says.

You reply, “I never knew the oven was broken.”

If you have a maintenance request system in place, you can avoid this he said/she said situation entirely.

Quick, Easy Communication

There’s no need for a notarized letter sent to you certified mail. You don’t need a formal system, but maintenance requests should be in writing.

Encourage your tenant to text or email you about the problem.

You should then respond as soon as possible (ideally within 4 hours), letting them know you are aware of the problem and how you plan to resolve it. If your tenant calls you to report a maintenance request, you should text or email them back with an acknowledgement of the repair request and the plan is to resolve it. That way, you have a paper trail.

Not All Repairs Need to be Fixed

Then you should get the oven, or whatever the problem might be, fixed.. As soon as you know when the repair person is coming, let your tenant know that they either need to be home at that time, or if they can’t be there, you or your representative should let in the repair person. If you don’t intend on fixing the problem, communicate that to renters, too. Don’t go radio-silent.

Don’t mistake a wish list from a repair list, but don’t go radio-silent either.

It’s worth mentioning that not all requests need to be fulfilled. Perhaps the renter is asking you to change the paint color, or install granite countertops. Don’t mistake a wish list from a repair list. While you should strive for excellence, a landlord is only required to make repairs for issues that affect habitability.

After the repair is finished, follow up with your tenant in writing to make sure the repair was satisfactory.

3. I can’t reach you.

It’s best if you don’t set up arbitrary times when you can and can’t be reached. Your tenants should be able to contact you for legitimate reasons any time, and you should answer in a timely manner.

If your tenant starts to contact you for non-pressing reasons, you can let them know—in a calm and professional manner—when they should and should not contact you. And give them examples of “crying wolf.”

Good communication with your tenants comes with the territory. If that’s something you’re unwilling to do, hire a property manager to communicate on your behalf. It’s unacceptable to ignore your tenants.

4. The neighbors are horrible, so I can’t sleep.

Landlords often get complaints that the neighbors are undesirable in some way, usually because they’re noisy.

Unfortunately, you usually can’t do much about bad neighbors unless they’re also your tenants.

You could take measures to better insulate your property from sound, by installing carpeting or planting bushes around the house, but that might not be enough.

In situations where cigarette smoke is crossing into other units, you could seal up all the gaps around outlets and switches, and try to keep the air systems isolated.

If the Neighbors are your Tenants

If the noisy neighbors also happen to be your tenants, you can speak with them. If they continue to be inconsiderate, and by doing so, are violating lease terms, you might wish to consider giving them an eviction notice. Or you might not want to renew their lease at lease renewal time.

If the Neighbors are not your Tenants

If the noisy neighbors are not your tenants, ask your complaining tenants to speak with their neighbors about the problem. If that doesn’t do any good, or if your tenant doesn’t want to take action, have your tenant send you something in writing about the problem.

If your property has a homeowners association, send them a copy of the complaint. Ask to be notified about any action they might take.

If there is no HOA, let your tenants know they can call the police. Explain that it’s difficult for you to approach the neighbors or call the police since you aren’t involved, and, therefore, can’t give a first-person recounting of what happened. Plus, you can’t be certain the neighbors really are out-of-bounds.

5. Eeeek, bugs!

If your property is infested with bugs, rodents, or other such nastiness, call an exterminator. Don’t blame your tenant or accuse them of being dirty. Most of the time, your tenant isn’t the reason for a pest problem.

Also, if you had one infestation, it’s a good idea to have a pest service perform periodic or quarterly treatments. This benefits you as well, since you are the property owner.

If your tenant leaves dirty dishes all over the house or maintains other unsanitary conditions, you can evict them if that’s a violation of the lease terms. If not, just wait it out. You don’t need to renew their lease.

Bottom Line

It’s your responsibility to reply to legitimate complaints in a timely manner. Proactive landlords will prevent issues before they arise.

As long as you do your best to fix issues that are in your control, you should have no problem keeping good tenants in your property.

 

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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Top 5 Preventive Maintenance Tasks for Landlords

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A landlord needs to stay abreast of many maintenance issues to keep a unit comfortable and running efficiently. Common preventive maintenance tasks include:

  • Servicing the heating/cooling system
  • Plumbing and drain maintenance / fixing leaks
  • Painting
  • Appliance repair/replacement
  • Maintaining landscape structures
  • Water management
  • Fireplace and chimney cleaning

In the interests of discretion and efficiency, you may try to limit the number of visits to an occupied rental unit and to get as much done as possible while you’re there. This may mean that some jobs don’t get done. When you can’t get to everything on your maintenance checklist, here are five tasks you shouldn’t ignore.

1. Gutter Maintenance

Water runoff around the foundation of your house can cause serious problems. It can undermine the foundation and cause settling, and it can create the moist soil conditions that attract termites. A well-designed gutter system directs runoff from the roof safely away from the foundation, but not if the gutters are blocked with debris.

A single day devoted to gutter maintenance is worth your time and money.

You can do the job yourself, or hire the job out.

You’ll prevent snow and heavy winter rains from backing up and forming dangerous ice dams or icicles, and you’ll avoid damage to the siding and foundation from overflow from the gutters.

Gutter Guards Help

Most gutter guards can keep leaves and large twigs out of your gutters. Depending on the type you have, you still have to inspect the gutters for silt, conifer needles, and other smaller debris. Pay special attention to the downspout openings where silt and debris tend to accumulate.

2. Check the Dryer

Dryers cause approximately 2,900 residential fires each year, and 34% of them are due to poor maintenance. The main culprit is lint buildup, and that most often occurs in the vent ducts.

Here’s what to do:

  1. Turn on the dryer.
  2. Feel for a steady stream of warm air coming from the outdoor vent opening.
  3. Note whether the flap is moving. It should be.

If the flap isn’t moving, take the following steps:

  1. Remove the vent cap.
  2. Vacuum out the vent.
  3. Disconnect the vent from the dryer.
  4. Clean out the lint you find there.

Community Association Underwriters of America recommends getting the dryer vents cleaned professionally every two or three years.

Proper dryer maintenance helps prevents fires and ensures efficient operation. Clothes dry more quickly, and that saves money for whoever pays the utility bill.

3. Service the Septic System

A midnight call from a distressed tenant may be annoying, but that’s the least of your problems in a septic crisis. Visualize the cleanup necessitated by an overflowing toilet. Septic experts recommend pumping the tank every five years, but many homeowners let it go for longer than that. As a landlord with limited knowledge and control of what goes into the toilets and drains, you shouldn’t.

It isn’t just a buildup of sludge at the bottom of the tank that you have to worry about. The scum layer at the top can clog your drain field if it’s full of grease and other insoluble materials. Regular pumping helps control this layer by reestablishing a healthy digestive balance in the tank.

Don’t Forget the Pump Alarm

If your tank has a transfer pump, instruct your tenants to keep a watchful eye on the visual alarm. Prompt response to a signal can also avert a backup and expensive cleanup. The pump may need servicing, but the problem is often something as simple as a tripped breaker.

4. HVAC Maintenance

HVAC service experts recommend changing heating and cooling filters every 6 to 12 months. This is important for air quality and for the performance of the heating/cooling unit. Energy.gov says that filter maintenance can lower the energy bill by 5% to 15%.

It’s better to replace filters than it is to clean them, and filters aren’t very expensive. A furnace filter costs from $4 to $20, depending on model and size, and a general purpose air filter costs about the same. It’s an extra expense, but you’ll probably realize the savings in improved efficiency.

5. Inspect and Clean the Chimney and Fireplace

If your tenants use the fireplace, you should have the chimney inspected once a year. Soot deposits should be removed if they are thicker than 1/8 inch.

Fireplace maintenance is a safety issue; creosote buildup increases the likelihood that hot embers will fly from the chimney during a fire. It’s also an energy issue because a clean chimney produces a hotter fire. Finally, it’s a maintenance issue. Sooty air blackens the stones around the hearth and dulls the walls in the fireplace room, and there is less blowback if the chimney is clean.

Now that you know the five basic preventive maintenance tasks, you have a game plan that’s easy to carry out. And you can feel confident that you’re maintaining your property.

 

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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8 Ways to Increase the Value of Your First Multifamily Investment Property

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Welcome back to the three-part series: A Beginner’s Guide to Multifamily Investing. If you haven’t already, read Part 1: How to Buy a Multifamily Rental Property.

Why would you want to increase the value of your small multifamily investment property after you emptied your pockets just to purchase it?

First and foremost, you may be able to increase the rent and/or your property value, either of which will further increase your total borrowing power. With value-add investment, you have the option to implement any of the following strategies at a leisurely pace to improve your property incrementally over time. The associated expense is simply the cost of opportunity.

1. Make Repairs and Improvements

If you have an outdated property that needs cosmetic work or modernization, if you revive the property, it is likely that you could dramatically increase the rent. The rental income from outdated units will land somewhere between modern rates and those from its original era. But an upgraded unit can fetch market rates.

My own strategy is predicated largely on acquiring historic rental properties that need to be improved and then bringing them to the top tier of my local market rents.

2. Increase the Rentable Square Footage

If there are common areas in your property, it is very difficult to capture their true value in rent. Whether you give the key to the hallway closet to a tenant or open that space directly into one of the units, increasing the square footage of personal area will also allow you to increase your rentable square footage and total rental income.

3. Subdivide or Combine Units

This strategy can add value if a property is not the right size or configuration to suit the demographic makeup of its market.

If you have a 3,000 sq ft unit, you might consider splitting it into two 1,500 sq ft units. They will be easier to rent because the total monthly cost will be significantly lower to each tenant and will subsequently reach a larger segment of the population. This will decrease vacancy and may also increase your Gross Scheduled Income.

4. Decrease Expenses

Accounting, advertising, insurance, lawn maintenance, legal fees, licenses, property management, repairs, and maintenance all add up. Anything that you can do to decrease any of these expenses without sacrificing the quality of the property is all money in your pocket.

5. Pass Expenses to the Tenants

Because gas, water, and electricity are all consumable resources that can be used variably by tenants, it is appropriate to have them pay as much of their utility expense as the market will bear in your area.

If the infrastructure of your property is not already metered separately, consider doing so. There is an entire industry built around sub-metering behind your master meter to help allocate expenses to your tenants fairly.

6. Decrease Property Taxes

Property taxes fuel the public improvements that make your market a desirable place to live; you want to pay your taxes to keep this cycle flowing, but you don’t want to pay more than your share. If you are able to convince your local appraisal district to lower its book value of your property on the tax rolls, it will noticeably decrease your overall property tax expense.

Evaluate the properties surrounding your house that are similar to craft an argument that illustrates to the authorities how they have over-assessed your property in relation to your neighbors’ properties.

7. Tap Additional Sources of Income

There are a number of strategies to develop secondary sources of income from your rental property. Premium paid parking is an excellent example, as one of your tenants will certainly want to reserve the lone carport in your fourplex for their most treasured automobile. Invariably, shared resources in small multifamily properties are underused or abused if they are not valued fairly.

8. Raise Rent

If your rental rates are significantly below the rest of the market, you may be able to simply increase the rent at the next available opportunity. Even a 3% annual inflationary increase will add up over the years.

In the upcoming and final article of A Beginner’s Guide to Multifamily Investing, we will explore how you can multiply your rental property income over time by recycling equity and leverage.

Credit to Ben Bowman

Ben Bowman is an Architect, real estate agent, investor, and author at AssetsandArchitects

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