Michele - Thursday, March 21, 2019
While landlords and property managers have always been required to test smoke alarms, a new Virginia Landlord Tenant Law now requires that tenants be provided with an annual written certification that smoke alarms are correctly installed and functioning properly.
In order to fully comply with this new requirement, we have hired Stop Loss LLC to conduct the annual certifications. Stop Loss inspectors are all off-duty fire fighters who have a vested interest in ensuring our managed properties are compliant with state laws and are free of safety risks. In addition to testing all smoke alarms, inspectors will walk through the home and identify any other fire safety risks.
Inspectors will ensure that smoke alarms must be located in each bedroom and on each level of the home. Smoke detectors must also be less than 10 years old. Inspectors will replace any defective alarms and install any missing smoke alarms. For homes that have natural gas utilities, one Carbon Monoxide alarm will also be installed.
Owners are charged for these certifications. Tenants will be held financially responsible if they have removed or disabled any smoke alarms. These certifications will not only meet state requirements, but w...
System - Monday, December 3, 2018
When discussing a target rental rate with landlords, I typically describe the need to balance between the competing goals of maximizing their cash flow and minimizing their vacancy. Setting a higher listing price will hopefully result in a more positive cash flow, while setting a lower listing price will more likely result in more interest from prospective tenants, a quicker move-in date, and a decreased likelihood of extended vacancy.
Personally, when setting a listing price for my own rental properties, I lean toward the lower range of the suggested listing price because I have a complete aversion to vacancy! Vacancy not only equals lack of cash flow, but also introduces many risks.
First, a landlord’s insurance policy may require additional coverage for properties that are vacant for more than 30 days. Landlords should always check with their insurance provider to understand their policy’s requirements regarding coverage during vacancies.
Vacant properties can become a “hang out” for teens to congregate around or break into. We’ve had several instances of teens breaking into vacant properties during the winter months to find a warm place to smoke. In some areas of our county, homeless persons have also take...
Michele - Friday, May 18, 2018
When I first speak with new landlords, they often share that they are worried about getting a call from tenants in the middle of the night about a toilet overflowing. Actually, we rarely have emergency toilet issues, but we do often have emergency calls from tenants with no AC. This typically happens on the first hot day of the year when tenants are turning the AC on for the first time in the spring, or in late July and early August when the AC systems are pushed to their maximum capacity due to extreme temperatures.
Industry standards do not consider the lack of AC to be an emergency unless the temperatures are in the 90s or tenants have health related concerns. Because we are committed to providing excellent service, we ask our HVAC contractors for same-day service whenever possible if temperatures are above 85 degrees.
However, we’ve experienced that tenants consistently DEMAND that any lack of air conditioning be treated as an emergency! Tenants also frequently demand to be put up in a hotel if the AC is not working. We attempt to handle this situation in a way that keeps the tenants from losing their cool without a significant financial impact to the landlord.
Michele - Saturday, March 3, 2018
IN A PERFECT WORLD, you don’t need a property manager. In a perfect world, the tenant pays rent on-time (or early), doesn’t want to break the lease, takes good care of the home, and doesn’t have unauthorized pets or occupants in the home. …. In a perfect world, appliances don’t break down, HVAC systems don’t stop heating and cooling, basements don’t get flooded, sewage systems don’t back up, roofs don’t leak, faucets don’t leak, and trees don’t get blown down.
But of course, it isn’t a perfect world. For instance, yesterday, was not a perfect day!
Our area suffered a major windstorm with wind speeds up to 60-70 MPH. Several of our tenants reported trees blown down blocking roads or landing on roofs and fences. In severe weather circumstances, many major tree companies are contracted to work for VDOT or the power companies to prioritize restoring power and removing trees and debris from roadways. Fortunately, we have an excellent working relationship with a local tree company that allowed us to have the fallen trees removed within hours of tenant reports.
At least 20 of our tenants have already reported shingles, siding, and shutters bein...
Michele - Wednesday, July 5, 2017
One of the reasons that we are able to provide excellent management services is that we have developed excellent working relationships with a wide range of vendors to support all of the possible maintenance issues that could occur at our managed properties.
We have working relationships with three roofers, three HVAC contractors, three plumbers, three carpet installers, three cleaning companies, three landscapers, three tree trimmers, three garage door companies, three general contractors, three mold specialists, three paving companies, and many other specialty vendors. Before establishing a working relationship with these vendors, we test their services out on vacant properties or on the investment properties that are owned by the principals of our company.
Each of our vendors must provide prompt, courteous service including a positive interaction with our tenants. Vendors must provide quality workmanship and stand behind their work if any problems or questions arise. Further, vendors must provide competitive pricing. Each year, we research pricing by calling on other area vendors to price jobs and ensure that our pool of contractors remains competitive.
Michele - Thursday, January 26, 2017
A straight shooting note to new landlords: I know that the garage door opener, the ice maker, the cook top vent, the dishwasher and the AC system were all working perfectly fine when you turned the home over to us and had worked perfectly fine for the 6 years that you lived in the house before you transitioned it into a rental property. But your current tenants are FULLY living in the house, and are wearing things out!!!!
Your tenants are doing 3 loads of laundry per week, so that dryer is handling another 150 cycles per year and is just going to hit its limit. The garage door is opened and closed over 900 times per year! Those tension springs and cables are getting a work out! Tenants, friends and family are putting tens of thousands of steps up and down those carpeted stairs, sometimes with their shoes on. The AC and the furnace are working overtime to keep the tenants comfortable during the extreme weather conditions we’ve been having. Tenants are changing the filter regularly but the HVAC system is now 15 years old and just can’t handle the hot-hot August days anymore.
As I mentioned in previous posts, 98% of our managed tenants maintain the property in acceptable conditio...
Michele - Thursday, October 20, 2016
New landlords often ask if we can use their favorite trusted vendor for any future maintenance needs. Of course we can! We already work with most of the larger local vendors and welcome the opportunity to meet new vendors recommended by our landlords. Landlords should provide us with a list of their preferred vendors before signing our management agreement so that we can contact the referred vendors to assure that they are licensed and insured as required by the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR).
Sorry, we can’t use your Uncle John, Cousin Bob, or Neighbor Ricky as a handyman to do minor repairs. While we understand that keeping maintenance costs low is an important goal, our liability insurance requires that we only allow properly licensed and insured vendors to enter the home. We do have an in-house property superintendent, who can address minor items such as changing locks, installing screens, replacing smoke detectors, installing microwaves or range hoods, and caulking tubs at rates less than would be charged by a general contractor.
As your home is a valuable investment, we require that any vendors that we use have the ability and the commit...
Michele - Thursday, October 13, 2016
I’ve written several blogs in the past about the need for new landlords to budget for maintenance. I’m writing another, as I feel this is THE MOST IMPORTANT action that a landlord must take when transitioning their home into a rental property.
We have found that many new landlords have set aside funds to make mortgage payments during vacancy periods or if tenants are late with paying rent, but have not budgeted for required maintenance items that could occur at any time.
Regardless of the age of the appliances or the age of your rental property, maintenance problems happen! At any time, a faucet or angle stop can begin leaking, a toilet can run continuously, a main drain can back up due to tree roots, a AC condensation line can back up, an AC system can stop cooling, a roof can start leaking, a piece of siding or a shutter can blow off the house, a small decorative tree could begin leaning and trigger an HOA violation, deck boards could warp, split or splinter, a fence could begin leaning, a refrigerator could start leaking or stop cooling, a gas cooktop igniter could stop working, a microwave could start sparking, a basement could flood due to grading issues or sump pump failures, a hot water heater could leak or stop functioning,...
Michele - Wednesday, April 27, 2016
When budgeting for annual expenses, owners should expect some minor “touch-ups” needed between tenants even when tenants take excellent care of their home. Outgoing tenants are allowed normal wear and tear, which includes minor scuffs/scrapes to walls in main living areas. Owners will most likely want to address those minor painting needs before the next tenant moves in. If more major painting touch-ups are needed, local judges restrict the amount that can be considered damages chargeable to the outgoing tenant depending on how recently the home was painted (See blog post “Collecting Damages from Tenants”).
Average carpet in a rental property is expected to last for 5-7 years when cleaned annually. So, depending on the age of the carpet, owners may need to budget for carpet replacement after long-term tenants. Carpets that do not need to be replaced may need to be stretched.
If a rental property is outfitted with relatively inexpensive blinds, these blinds are likely to need to be replaced every 5 years, or more frequently if they are used regularly to regulate sun into a home.
While landlords are always clear on the need to turn ...
Michele - Thursday, December 3, 2015
As the weather is starting to get cold, we are wrapping up Fall/Winter HVAC servicing appointments for many of our managed properties. While we do not require landlords to put an annual service contract in place, we do encourage it. All local HVAC companies offer a service plan that includes two clean-and-check servicing appointments. This service provides the owner with valuable information about the condition of the furnace or air conditioner before the unit has to start its heavy workload for the upcoming season. Technicians will check all major components of the system and will advise if any further preventative maintenance or chemical cleaning is needed. For instance, replacing a capacitor that is not performing correctly is a very inexpensive action compared to the emergency situation and possible system damage that could occur if the capacitor fails completely. All manufactures suggest the semi-annual servicing and some home warranties will void a claim if it is clear that the unit has not been properly maintained.
Failure of an AC system in August or of a heating system in January typically requires emergency appointments with escalated costs and frustrated tenants. The cost of an HVAC service contract (typically u...