About Judy

Property Management Mentor

Residential Property Maintenance – Systems and Procedures

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HomeRepairAs property managers, one of our most important responsibilities is to oversee the maintenance and repair of the homes we manage. In fact, most states’ laws address this, in one form or another. For example, Nevada law, in its Property Management licensing section, states:

NRS 645.019  “Property management” defined.  “Property management” means the physical, administrative or financial maintenance and management of real property, or the supervision of such activities for a fee, commission or other compensation or valuable consideration, pursuant to a property management agreement.
(Added to NRS by 1997, 954; A 2003, 932)  (Emphasis added)

Despite  guidance of both law and “common sense,” too often, our responsibility for overseeing the physical maintenance of the properties we manage is handled in a reactive, rather than proactive, manner. We wait for something to break, as opposed to thinking ahead and planning for maintenance and repair, before things go wrong. In the next few posts, we’ll explore residential property maintenance, from the property manager’s perspective.

Policies, Procedures, and Checklists  check mark

Fair Housing concerns are not the only reason for developing procedures, checklists, and written policies in your property management practice. It just makes good business sense to operate off of checklists and standard forms. Not only does this approach save time, it keeps you from forgetting vital components of your management responsibilities. Here are a few maintenance-related forms you might want to consider:

Property Data – information on a newly-acquired management property. Typically, this form will include basic information as reflected on the county assessor’s website (square footage, bedrooms, baths, HVAC type, etc.), as well as information on appliances in the home, services provided with the rental property, a breakdown of utilities and whether landlord or tenant is responsible for payment, and any special conditions of the rental/lease agreement.
Landlord’s Real Property Disclosure – In response to the increasingly litigious environment inherent to the property management business, many property managers across the country have begun to develop (and use!) forms that are completed by the property owner, specifically disclosing any known material facts affecting the property’s value. I don’t yet know of any state that has made such a form a part of law, as of this writing. However, I think that’s probably something we’ll begin to see very soon.
Make-ready Checklist – to help the owner (or manager) prepare a vacant property for marketing. One of the most contentious discussions and owner and property manager can have is around the subject of what constitutes “rent ready.” It’s a great idea to include this information in your Property Management Agreement.
Move-in and/or Move-out Checklist – to document property condition for purposes of reconciling a tenant’s security deposit. Video has become very popular for this purpose, over the last few years. Be careful; it’s impossible to document things like unusual/offensive odors, and details of cleaning efforts in a video. A written checklist is highly recommended, in all cases.
Property Inspection – a form for periodic interior inspections of an occupied rental home. Whether you inspect annually, quarterly, or more often, using a form for this purpose helps the property manager remember to look at all areas of the home.
Drive-by Inspection – for documenting exterior condition of a home and grounds. What we’re looking for with a ‘drive-by’ inspection is obvious signs of damage or neglect. You can tell quite a bit about the interior condition of a home, just by looking at the outside.
Tenant Handbook – not only describes basic provisions of the lease agreement, but includes instructions for some routine maintenance, and reporting maintenance needs to management.
Repair Request – for tenants’ use in requesting routine maintenance. Most online property management software provides tenants the ability to report maintenance needs electronically, thereby facilitating prompt response from management, and easy tracking of requests and work orders.
Vendor Agreement – outlines your expectations from repair vendors, including work order authority, discussions with tenants, invoicing, licensing, and insurance.

This list represents the most often-utilized maintenance forms for residential management, but I’m sure there are more. Can you think of any additional maintenance-related forms that would help streamline your activities in managing the maintenance aspects of your portfolio of properties? Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post.

 

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Client Retention – Property Management Style

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Dog

With so many of our owner/clients falling into the role of Landlord by chance, rather than by choice in the last few years, it’s no wonder we’re facing challenges gaining their loyalty. Often times, the rental property owner doesn’t have the slightest clue how to manage such an investment. In many cases, the property wasn’t originally purchased as a rental. The investment strategy, if one exists at all, is vague and constantly shifting.

 

A single expense, a “bad” tenant, or a month without income, and the “Accidental Landlord” panics. “How am I going to make my mortgage payment?” “I can’t afford to pay for that!” Does this sound familiar? Before you realize what’s happening, this property owner is moving on to what he perceives as greener pastures, with another property manager.

 

Gaining client loyalty is one of the greatest tests of a property manager. Without that loyalty, we cannot succeed. How can we, as professional property managers, create an environment in which the owner/client trusts us enough to remain loyal, even when management difficulties arise?

 

CB026637It starts before the contract is signed…   Continue reading

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When Saving Time Can Cost You Time (and Money!)

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As successful property managers, we quickly learn the importance of streamlining our policies and procedures, by establishing methods to save both time and effort. The profit margin in this business is tight, and if we fail to employ standardization and time-saving strategies, we’ll never succeed. I’ve noticed the average burnout time for most new property managers seems to be about 2 years. That’s how long it takes to realize it’s not a money-making business, unless we have policies and procedures in place that make the job doable.

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New Fair Housing Class – Available Nationally

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justiceThe finishing touches have been applied, and it’s ready to go! A brand new class entitled “What’s New in Fair Housing: Cases, Settlements & Trends for Property Managers” is the result of many months of research, analysis, and compilation of information about the steadily-evolving trends and cases around the Federal Fair Housing Act, today. As a property manager, you’re undoubtedly aware of the huge impact this body of law has on our industry. Still, you may find yourself confused about such things as

  • The differences between a “service animal,” “therapy animal,” “companion animal,” and “assistance animal.”
  • What you can and cannot ask a prospective resident about his or her disability.
  • Whether you could be held liable for a discriminatory statement made by someone else.
  • Whether you can continue to use the same tenant qualification criteria you’ve always used, without risking a fair housing claim.

This course was designed as a 3-hour program, but can be extended to as many as 6 hours, depending on the needs of your organization. Believe me, there’s plenty of information to fill the time!

Not only will this class be an eye-opener for all who attend, you’ll actually take away some very practical tools for use in your day-to-day business – stuff you can put to work for your company right away!

Want more information? Ask away, by leaving a comment below!

 

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Assistance Animal Fair Housing Case in Reno Nevada

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BassetHot off the presses! The U.S. Department of Justice just announced a settlement with a Reno, NV apartment complex regarding the management’s treatment of residents with assistance animals. From the DOJ’s press release:

“The department’s complaint had alleged that the owners, employees and management company of Rosewood Park Apartments violated the Fair Housing Act by limiting individuals with certain assistance animals to a particular section of Rosewood Park Apartments; subjecting such individuals to pet fees; requiring assistance animals to be licensed or certified; and barring companion or uncertified service dogs altogether.”

The settlement in this case was $127,500, payable to a family who was denied housing (because of their assistance animal), Continue reading

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Property Inspection – During Tenancy

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Poor Planning

I can’t quite put my finger on it, but something’s just not right…

Whether you inspect your occupied property management homes annually, semi-annually, quarterly, or more often (Careful here! How does your state define ‘harassment?’), you undoubtedly use a form for that purpose.

 

Is there a perfect form for an “interim inspection” of a rental home? Maybe. But, in most cases, the property condition issues vary with the locality and climate. Would you stress AC operation and maintenance a bit more strongly in Las Vegas, than you would in Bozeman, MT? Probably so.

 

The art is not in the form itself. It’s in knowing what to look for – with your own inventory, with your particular geographical location and weather conditions.

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Nevada’s AB194 – Tenant Damage to Property

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evictionShort, and sweet, Nevada’s AB 194 was passed by both houses of the legislature, and signed by the governor this week. It becomes law on October 1, 2013.

 

The new law specifically calls for criminal liability for renters who willfully damage or destroy the rental property:

“This bill clarifies that a person who holds a leasehold interest in the real property of another person may be criminally liable for the willful or malicious destruction or injury of that real property.”

 

The text of the bill is nice and simple:

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEVADA, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEMBLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

Section 1. NRS 206.310 is hereby amended to read as follows:
206.310 1. Every person who shall willfully or maliciously destroy or injure any real or personal property of another, for the destruction or injury of which no special punishment is otherwise specially prescribed, shall be guilty of a public offense proportionate to the value of the property affected or the loss resulting from such offense.
2. It is not a defense that the person engaging in the conduct prohibited by subsection 1 holds a leasehold interest in the real property that was destroyed or injured.”

 

Tip for Nevada Property Managers: This might be good language to add to your residential and commercial lease agreements, as a deterrent to willful property damage. At the very least, you’ll want to remind your tenants of this provision of law if you become aware of any tenant-caused damage to the property.

 

 

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Tenant Death – The Property Manager’s Guide

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This is a revival of a post from a few years ago. I’ve had a couple of emails recently from property managers across the U.S. who are dealing with this issue right now, and they’re looking for answers. So, what does the property manager need to know (and do) when a tenant of ours dies in one of our rental units?  

Yes, I know. This is a rather depressing topic. Not something we ordinarily want to discuss. Yet, if you’re in this business long enough, eventually, someone’s going to die in one of your rental units. It happens. In my 30+ years as a property manager, I’ve had three deaths. The first was a drug overdose; the second a “peaceful” death, and the third was suicide.

No matter the circumstances, there isn’t anything much more disturbing than to find a dead body in an apartment or rental house you manage. The event can haunt you for months. At the moment you discover the death, it’s easy to make critical mistakes – confusion takes hold, and we don’t always think clearly about what we should be doing.

 

Following are a few guidelines to help you deal appropriately with a death in one of your rental units:   Continue reading

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Judy’s Bill Watch List – Nevada 2013 Legislature

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NevadaThis is shaping up to be a very light year for bills impacting the property management industry in Nevada. Both landlords and tenants have little to watch, in terms of new legislation on the horizon. Property Managers may be interested in a few of the items on my watch list, however.

 

Unless something changes significantly in the next few weeks, this is the last of my posts on the Nevada 2013 Legislature. I’ll keep you informed, however, should circumstances warrant a “heads up” for Nevada Property Managers. For now, in no particular order, here’s what I’m watching. You’ll note that each bill number listed links to the bill information itself:

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