Category: Property Management
By Tracey March
A preventive maintenance plan, with regularly scheduled inspections, should be part of every residential landlord or rental property owner’s policies and procedures. Thorough preventive maintenance programs have significant economic benefits, namely:
- Lower utility bills
- Avoidance of costly emergency repairs
- Extension of the life of HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning), plumbing and electrical systems
Any good preventive maintenance program includes:
Annual inspection of your building and its systems: Find a preventive maintenance checklist and tailor it to meet your needs and those of the building. A checklist will include inspections of air conditioning units, water heaters, toilets, electrical outlets (look for signs of damage and make sure they aren’t overloaded), and the roof (make repairs, and clear drains and gutters).
Annual inspection of rental units: Be sure to schedule the annual inspection in advance with your tenants, and consistent with notice requirements. Pay particular attention to the bathrooms and kitchen, where leaks can cause costly damage. During the inspection, use the checklist to keep you on track, but also look for signs of other issues, such as mildew, mold, or water damage. If a carpet is damp, don’t assume your tenant cleaned the carpet or spilled water; follow-up with your tenant–it could be a leak. While you’re doing the annual inspection, it’s a good time to also change the batteries in smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Regular cleaning schedule: HVAC, swimming pools, and the building exterior should be cleaned regularly, based on usage. Replace HVAC filters first, and then check filters in your washers and dryers and their venting systems. Replacing filters makes your equipment run more efficiently and be less susceptible to break downs. Tailoring a preventive maintenance checklist and committing to regular inspections is extra work for landlords and property managers, but can save a lot of money, time and inconvenience in the long run.
What if you don’t have time for all of this? Try Outsourcing.
Some landlords and property owners purchase maintenance plans to ensure that they keep on schedule and the work get’s done. One popular company providing this service is American Home Shield Preventive Maintenance. They focus exclusively on HVAC, plumbing and electrical system, the big ticket items that are most likely to break down without proper maintenance.
By Tracey March
My in-laws recently avoided a common online rental scam. They had found a great-looking rental on Craigslist and it was listed at a bargain price. They contacted the landlord, who said he was out of the country doing missionary work in Africa, but that they could go walk around the property and peek in the windows. If they liked it, they could wire him a deposit and he would send them the keys. Fortunately, they mentioned it to my husband, who told them it sounded like a common Craigslist scam. In these situations, “landlords” hijack rentals or real estate listings from Craigslist or Zillow and re-advertise them at bargain prices, in the hopes that someone will send them a deposit or first month’s rent before they figure out they’ve been had.
People looking for rentals are increasingly aware that they could get scammed, and they are proceeding cautiously. Unfortunately there is no way to guarantee your rental property won’t be used in a scam, but here are three things you can do to make your ads and your rental business seem more credible to a better and bigger pool of potential tenants.
Online Advertising: In addition to writing a good description of your rental home, linking to a website you have created for the property, or to your rental’s listing on your property management company website, puts potential renters at ease. Scam artists tend to deal in bulk and don’t have time to make professional webpages or create fake property management businesses.
Scan Craigslist: More and more people are using Craigslist to locate rentals, and scam artists are following them. Scan the Craigslist rentals for your area every few days to make sure that your rental properties haven’t been appropriated by a scam landlord.
Signage: On the property make sure a sign lists either your business phone number or, better yet, contact information for your professional property management company. That way anyone doing a drive-by will see the correct contact information. While this doesn’t protect out-of-towners who don’t have an opportunity to actually visit the rental, it does put most potential renters on notice.
Finally, don’t claim you’re out of the country, ask your potential tenants to wire funds to your account, or require a security deposit or first month’s rent before signing a lease. These are red flags to anyone who is concerned about rental scams.
Do you have any experience with rental scams? Any advice?
By Tracey March
My job requires me to stay up-to-date on news about landlords and property managers. Almost every day there is a report involving landlord-tenant violence or crime. Despite this, I’ve seen very little discussion of safety for property managers and landlords, who not only host open houses, but also deal with tenant complaints, collect rents, and process evictions–all of which can involve irate and emotional renters.
Here are four tips from various landlord and property manager resources to get the conversation started:
Don’t give out your home address. Instead have rent checks sent to a P.O. box, placed in an on-site drop box, or deposited electronically. Although it can be easy to get someone’s home address these days, if an irate tenant who has just received an eviction notice has to spend a couple of hours looking, it might give him or her a chance to cool off.
Consistently follow a screening process. When selecting tenants review applications for consistency and consider checking criminal records. Require references and call present and previous landlords. Use a reverse look-up service as an applicant may give you a phone number for someone who is pretending to be an ex-landlord. Also, check identification carefully, as some applicants may pretend to be someone they’re not.
Program emergency contact numbers on speed dial on your phone. If you need emergency assistance, the ability to press a single button on your list of “favorites” will save you time and prevent you from making dialing errors, which can happen if you’re in a panic.
Know who you’re showing rental property to. Before you show your rental home have a formal meeting in a public place or your business office with the potential renter. Have him or her show at least two forms of ID and fill out a contact information form or rental agreement. Criminals tend to look for easy victims, and if you make the process more formal and require them to work a little, they may look elsewhere for trouble.
Do you have any practical advice and safety tips? Please help us spread the word and make work safer.