I often find myself singing this classic 1975 R&B song when I’m around people who aren’t getting along. But when a landlord is stuck between tenants who can’t get along, you need to be prepared with more than just song lyrics. When tenants become entangled in a dispute it can disrupt the tranquility of all your residents. Unhappy residents won’t stick around for long, and that can have a real impact on your bottom line.Being caught in the middle is never easy, but there are steps you can take as a landlord to try and mitigate the conflict calmly.Neutrality is key. Start by hearing out all of the residents involved. Collect as much information as possible so that you really understand the facts of the matter. This will help you get to the underlying cause of the problem.If you find that one resident is doing something in violation of their lease – like leaving rubbish in the common areas or renting their unit out on Airbnb without your permission – then the case is pretty cut and dry. Now that this behavior has been brought to your attention, you should follow an appropriate course of action () as you would if there was no tenant dispute. Ideally, this will stop the behavior and restore the peace among neighbors.But perhaps the case isn’t so straightforward. Maybe there’s no clear “at fault” party. In this situation, consider a compromise that offers something up to both sides. For instance, maybe one resident is annoyed that the other resident always has her boyfriend over and using the visitor parking space that’s supposed to be available to all residents’ guests. There’s no policy that states the boyfriend can’t use the parking space, but if he’s parked there 24/7, it doesn’t leave room for other residents’ guests. A solution in this case might be to limit any one visitor from using the parking space for more than three days per week. This would encourage turnover at the parking space, but would still allow the boyfriend to visit frequently. It is important for the landlord to be respectful to both sides, yet eliminate the problem.Sometimes there’s no easy remedy, or the dispute has bubbled up to a point where you don’t feel like you can resolve the problem on your own. This happens all the time, so you’re not alone! In situations like these, don’t hesitate to call in a professional. There are mediation services that specialize in resolving tenant disputes.One of our go-to resources is the team over at SEEDS Community Resolution Center. The mediation company is based in Berkeley but will work with landlords and residents throughout the Bay Area. SEEDS’ trained, impartial mediators don’t pick sides or decide who’s right or wrong. Instead, they create an environment that makes it easier for the parties to communicate and then helps guide the residents to a mutually-agreeable resolution. And it works: an estimated 75-80% of SEEDS cases end with a satisfactory resolution for all.And that’s really all you want – to end the conflict peacefully in a way that works for everyone. The worst case scenario is evicting an unruly tenant. It’s expensive for you as a landlord, takes time, and can add fuel to the fire between residents already at war with one another. It’s always better to nip conflicts in the bud before they reach that point.Prevention is always the best cure. Remember to screen residents carefully before they sign a lease. This should weed out the troublemakers. When in doubt, hire a responsible property management company to help you find rock star residents. It could save you – and your other residents! – painful headaches down the road!
At one time or another, it’s the one call that every property manager in the East Bay receives - and makes. Sometimes with a little, or a lot of, dread.This is the reference call. It’s a chance to check out prospective tenants from the businesses that know them best: their previous landlords. But giving and getting references is a tricky undertaking, and not just for property managers.Most rental agreements include a section where prospective tenants list references. That can include their employers, friends, as well as previous landlords. And typically, there is a waiver allowing the property manager to call these references.But it does get tricky. Here’s some guidance:
Let’s start with the facts first and then get into that tricky stuff.Here is what’s stated on the standard rental application from the Apartment Owners Association of California Apartment: “Applicant represents that all information given on this application is true and correct. Applicant hereby authorizes verification of all references and facts, including but not limited to current and previous landlords …”So, property managers can make the call. But what about getting the call? What should you say when a rental agent in Oakland calls you and asks about a tenant who lived in your Alameda apartment 18 months ago?It’s useful, we think necessary, to think about the difference between tenant references and employment references. Many employers no longer give references instead just opting to confirm that someone did work for them during a certain time period. The reason: fear of being sued if they somehow say the wrong thing. () But work is often subjective, making good or bad performance more open to interpretation.
Tenancy is more black and white – so keep it that way.So stick to the facts. And make sure you can document what you say. That’s why keeping good records - or having a trusted partner do it - is so important. If the tenants paid their rent on time every month, your records should say that. If they trashed the unit and forfeited the deposit, this is a good reminder of the need to take pictures and log them accordingly.Giving a false bad reference - or one that isn’t backed up properly - opens the gate for a potential lawsuit based on slander. Cases are few, but they happen. Don’t think they can’t happen to you.Similarly, giving a false good reference - in the hopes that a problem tenant becomes some other property manager’s problem - is also grounds for litigation based on misrepresentation.Again, this litigation is rare, but why take the risk?
Legally, landlords are under no obligation to give references.But if you think about all of the property managers in the East Bay as being part of a community, there is a shared commitment to helping each other out. An easy way to do that - to be part of the virtuous circle - is to give references when asked. Again, stick to what you know - and what is written down and can be proved if it’s called into question.The reality is that the next day it could be you asking for a reference, and you want the same courtesy -- and information -- from the property manager on the other end of the phone.Extras For more, head tohttp://corporate.findlaw.com/business-operations/mum-s-the-word-landlord-liability-when-providing-a-reference-for.html
A common theme you will see in my monthly column is the passion to help owners of smaller multi-family buildings keep up with the rapidly changing times. New and innovative ways to own, manage, and live in rental property is sweeping the industry – especially in the Bay Area. However, owners of larger buildings and portfolios () currently seem to have a leg up when it comes to adopting new tech that attracts better residents and creates operational efficiency. My goal is to level the playing field and make sure all owners have access to the myriad of new strategies to produce better returns and avoid being left behind by an industry that is moving at the speed of light.We live in an era of hyperconnectivity where virtually everything is “smart.” There are smartphones, smart TVs, smart cars, and smart homes – all of which are designed to do one thing: make life easier for us. With the ever-growing repertoire of smart products comes smart lock technology. Smart locks give you remote access to your door, which provides a whole new level of control, security, and convenience. And sure, keyless entry can be great, but what are the deeper implications and benefits of having smart locks for your rental property?Types of smart locksBefore jumping into the pros and cons, let’s assess what kinds of smart locks are currently on the market. There are essentially two types – one that works with the deadbolt you already have, or one that completely replaces it. Options like August Smart Lock or Danalock are specifically designed to retrofit existing deadbolts. Installation is pretty straightforward for these models. You simply keep all the deadbolt hardware intact and add a level of connectivity over it. All you need is a screwdriver to put the smart lock in place, then calibrate it to sync with your wireless communication protocol – Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, or Z-Wave.Then there’s the option to go with a model like the Schlage Sense Smart Deadbolt or Yale Touchscreen Deadbolt which completely replace your traditional deadbolt locks. Although it may require slightly more time and effort to install, a screwdriver is all you need to set up the these models as well. Simply follow the directions provided by the smart lock vendor to remove existing hardware and replace with the new components. Lastly, connect to the appropriate wireless protocol and sync with the smart lock.There are several variations of smart locks and each comes with its own set of access and control capabilities. Some smart locks are keyless by design, but others aren’t. Some models come with a touchpad while others employ voice authorization. Take a look at the available options and evaluate what kind of smart lock technology is best suited for your rental property’s environment and conditions.One of the challenges with some types of smart locks is connectivity. Certain smart locks like those that Rentey or Code Box use don’t need connectivity and are pre-programmed with enough unique codes to last a lifetime. However, some of the other more sophisticated locks that have more functionality do require a wireless internet connection or a cellular connection. You will have to factor this reality into your decision.
The perks of smart locks go beyond security or convenience. It’s about having total control over your property from anywhere, anytime. Is there a plumbing issue or broken heating system you need to address for residents? Smart locks make it incredibly easy to facilitate repairs with technicians. Residents don’t even need to be home to accommodate any fixes, which is a huge time saver. With smart locks, you can even get alerts or texts that show timestamps of entries and exits, so you get full visibility into who’s coming in and going out. Additionally, you have the ability to give family and friends a set of “digital” keys. Plus, when you have resident turnover, you can re-program smart locks to reset the lock combination which means never having to change locks or make replacement keys again. Imagine not having that large manila envelope or drawer filled with keys to every door and storage locker in your rental properties!You may even charge a little extra for rent, especially if your property is set up with other smart home ecosystem integrations like doorbell cameras, ability to sync with wearable technology, and thermostat compatibility. For instance, you could configure a night mode response that locks the doors at a specific time and also shuts off all the lights and adjusts the thermostat to a comfortable setting.Smart locks can also help you create an audit trail in case you have issues with a difficult resident. In a scenario where a resident claims you didn’t tend to a certain issue, smart locks can help create a record of when vendors visited your building or specific unit. For those of us that have had to deal with these tough resident issues, having facts to support your position is essential.Another key benefit with smart locks is the ability to get insight into renters’ habits and behavior. Although providers don’t divulge granular data to property owners, you can still get a glimpse into overall usage and make savvy inquiries based on them. For example, you can see when residents typically come home during the week, so you know the best times to schedule maintenance orders or other events. Over time, these details can allow you to anticipate residents’ needs and provide better service. As smart technology continues to develop and become more sophisticated, the way we live and operate day to day is in for a seismic shift.
Millennials currently dominate the renters market and often will pay the highest rents. And technology is an integral part of their lifestyle. A decade from now, the generation following millennials will maintain its dominance in the renters market, and they’ll likely be even thirstier for tech. Soon, connectedness will no longer be a luxury. It will become a necessity. As a property owner, what are you doing to stay competitive and in control?At the company that I used to run (), a program is being rolled out to install smart locks on all 30,000+ single-family rental homes. These locks will provide controlled access, monitor thermostats, and avoid the need to manage tens of thousands of keys. Also, if residents want to reap the full benefits of these smart locks, they have to pay an additional fee each month, which will likely create substantial value for the REIT.Owning property is a great way to secure a steady stream of revenue, but it also tends to give rise to an assortment of issues. From bad renters to late payments to building-related troubles, there’s usually no shortage of headaches to deal with. But, investing in the right technologies now can set you up to be more profitable in the long term.
It’s a question you’re going to have to wrestle with if, if you haven’t already, when conjuring up the terms of a lease and setting the rent: Who is going to pay for things like electric, gas, water, heat and so on? You? The tenant.
We’ll get to the answer soon enough. But first there are some basics you have to consider. Like: Do you have separate utility meters? That will give you the flexibility, right off the bat, to either include utilities or let your tenant take care of the electricity bill.
If not, it may be difficult for you or your tenants to determine who owes what. Of course meters can be installed or retrofitted. But this is going to cost you and it isn’t an insignificant expense. Such devices start at over $1,000 per meter, depending on the building—and could hassle you may want to avoid.
It’s also a good idea to take into account the competitiveness and price sensitivity of the local rental market. Including utilities will obviously require a higher rent. While most prospective tenants will take this into account, many won’t. So if you choose not to include utilities you can market the rental unit at a lower price and draw more interest—especially from renters who look at price first and details later.
The “Plusses” and The “Minuses”
As you will discover, as with anything involving a rental property, there are no free lunches. That said, here are some things to consider:
Plusses: Better Tenants: Some landlords say lodgers who take on gas and electricity, are generally better and more responsible renters. Paying utilities,as it turns out, seems to indicate that renters will pay up on time – or close to it.
Tax Benefits: You can deduct the cost of providing utilities. But don’t try this at home alone. Rent Premiums: You can, of course, charge more for providing utilities. But you can also charge a little extra for freeing your tenants from the tyranny of the utility company.
Minuses: Tenants who don’t pay their own utility bills often lose the incentive to conserve water or electricity. For example: long, long showers. ()The Utility Trap: Be sure to research, and anticipate, pending hikes for electric, water or other services. Otherwise, your profit margins will be rapidly eroded into desert sand. Also: Find out what utilities generally cost for the unit and, just as important, how they vary by season. The property’s previous owner or the local utility companies can give you estimates of monthly expenses.
Girlfriend/Boyfriend factor: Let’s say your studio apartment renter suddenly has a live-in? Do you have a clause in your lease for that? After all, everything from electricity to water will rise and you’ll be on the hook.
AirBnB: Do you have rules for that? You should. What lodger doesn’t take more time in the shower or leave the lights on when they head out for the evening?
In the end, the decision on utilities often comes down to a choice of your convenience versus cash flow. Is the extra cash and tax advantage worth the time you will spend dealing with utilities? Or dealing with tenants who abuse your good will? Do you really need another headache?
And more on Submetering: http://cooperator.com/article/submetering-your-buildings-electricity
California has some of the most expensive housing in the nation, and San Diego is no exception. Since 2002, rents in San Diego have increased 32 percent and now average between $1,500 and $2,800 per month, depending on unit size.Costs are rising, in part, because the city can’t keep up with demand. Developers were expected to bring 5,800 new units online in 2017, but this still isn’t close to enough. According to a recent report by San Diego Housing Commission, the city needs to almost triple the amount of housing it builds each year just to keep pace with demand.And the development that has occurred, hasn’t translated into units that are affordable to the masses. The bulk of the units coming online are affordable to just 15 percent of local renters, according to Marcus & Millichap.
The City of San Diego does have an inclusionary housing ordinance. The ordinance, adopted in 2003, requires housing developers of two units or more to set aside at least 10 percent of their projects for low- and moderate-income residents.However, since 2009, the portion of the ordinance has rarely been enforced. In 2009, a state appeals court ruled that a similar affordable-housing set-aside requirement in Los Angeles was effectively an illegal expansion of rent control.Instead, in 2011, the City of San Diego began collecting one-time impact fees “in-lieu” of developing affordable units on site. The current fee varies, from $1.41/SF to $7.03/SF depending on the project’s size. The city then uses those fees to provide loans to support affordable housing projects. In practice, though, the ordinance allows for a number of exemptions, waivers and variances – which means that this provision of the ordinance has had a limited impact on the city’s affordable housing stock.
Last fall, Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1505 into law. In doing so, he provided cities like San Diego with another tool to combat the housing affordability crisis. Under the legislation, cities can establish inclusionary housing requirements as a condition of development—regardless of whether the development receives governmental assistance ().AB 1505 specifies that cities and counties may adopt ordinances that “require, as a condition of the development of residential rental units, that the development include a certain percentage of residential units affordable to, and occupied by” households at or below moderate-income levels.AB 1505 took effect on January 1, 2018.
San Diego City Councilor Chris Ward is urging his peers to waste no time. AB 1505 opened the door, he says, and the city should act swiftly. In a letter to the Mayor, he urges the city to “take advantage as soon as possible of the opportunities available from the implementation of AB 1505 and to maximize tools for the immediate production of new affordable housing.”Specifically, Councilman Ward has proposed the following slate of changes to the city’s inclusionary housing requirements:
It remains to be seen whether these changes will be adopted and if so, what the specifications around the changes will be. The City Council has tasked city staff with exploring these options, and others, to come up with a more comprehensive plan on improving housing affordability.We will continue monitoring proposals such as these, as any changes to the city’s inclusionary zoning requirements could certainly impact San Diego property owners and investors.
Well over one-third of Americans today are renters, whether by choice or because home prices are too high in their communities. So, if you’re one of the many Americans living in a rental property, how can you get through the coronavirus as a renter?The most important thing you can do now is to pay attention to your health and well-being. Take care of yourself, both physically and mentally. If you exhibit symptoms of the virus, follow the protocol outlined by the (). The advises that you stay home, except to receive medical care. If you are mildly ill with COVID-19, you should self-isolate at home. Further limit your exposure by avoiding public transportation, taxis and ride-sharing services if at all possible.
The World Health Organization has also released a set of guidelines on how to protect yourself from contracting the coronavirus. The organization even provides tips for traveling safely during this pandemic.
Take some time for self-care if you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed. You can book an appointment with a therapist or talk to one on the phone. There are also several on-demand mental healthcare providers available online if you need to talk to someone. Reading this blog by One Medical that explores the facts vs. fiction surrounding the virus may also help you sleep better at night. Consider watching the news once a day or less frequently than you currently do to further calm your nerves. Our CEO and co-founder Doug Brien is a firm believer in meditation to help you remain focused and calm. In fact, he recently started hosting guided, online meditations for Mynd employees last month.
While taking care of yourself should be a top priority, here are 13 actionable tips to get through the coronavirus as a renter:
So far, the coronavirus has taken a severe and unfortunate toll on the elderly. There have been more deaths among the elderly than any other group. According to multiple published reports, there have been no reports of deaths among younger folks or children, thus far. If you’re a healthy young renter, you might want to consider helping your elderly neighbors. Check-in on them to make sure they’re safe or to see if they need any essential items, like groceries. If they go shopping, perhaps you can bring in their groceries from the car or help them carry their groceries upstairs to their apartment. These are small actions you can take to help contain the coronavirus as a renter.
Part of Mynd’s mission is to create happy homes, so we are dedicated to making sure your home is a safe haven. If you’re interested in renting one of our properties located in markets all over the country, check out our latest rental property listings.
As a matter of fact, you can schedule a self-showing (). At Mynd-managed properties, we use smart locks to make self-showings easy. Once someone has verified their identity, they’ll schedule a self-showing through our online portal. A few minutes before their appointment, they’ll get an email or text notification containing a unique code to unlock the lockbox. If you’re an existing resident, our resident portal also allows you to pay rent online and create maintenance and service requests, all from the comfort of your own home. If you have any questions or concerns about the coronavirus as a renter, contact our rental property expert, Gina Taylor, at email@example.com.
Electronic rental payments are a win/win for both renters and property owners. For renters, online rental payments are much easier, more convenient–and safer–especially during these pandemic times. Online rental payments help renters securely pay their rent on time, avoid late fees, reduce stress and limit contact with people. Meanwhile, owners receive their monthly rental income as quickly as possible, so they can take care of the expenses they must pay to keep their property running smoothly, such as a mortgage, utility bills, property taxes and more. Property owners also prefer online rental payments because they’re the fastest way to collect monthly rental payments from renters.
Paying rent the old-fashioned way–via a personal check that requires a stamp and envelope–is time-consuming, tedious and inefficient. Paper checks are much slower than e-payments. Generally speaking, they take at least five days to clear, and involve significantly more manual work to process. Oftentimes, an essential worker from a property management firm risks life and limb by going out in public to collect the check, figure out which rental unit to apply the funds to, and in some cases, make a trek to a bank to deposit the check.
E- rental payments provide residents with a stress-free, time-saving experience that helps them avoid late fees and mitigate anxiety. Put simply, “Paying rent online allows residents to hit the ‘Easy Button,’” explains Steve Rozenberg, Head of Investor Education with Mynd Management. “It makes their lives much easier.”
A good property manager implements a multi-channel outreach program via digital and print campaigns at the onset of their lease term and throughout the course of their occupancy. According to Kunal Shah, VP of Product for Mynd Management, one effective marketing technique for his firm has been to send flyers in the mail to people who are paying by check with step-by-step instructions and visuals to get their online account set up to make e-payments.
“We are always trying to help our residents move to e-payments to avoid late fees and avoid the headaches of manual paying,” says Shah. If worth their weight in salt, that same property management firm is also available to answer any questions about how to create a user account via email or an online portal.
A tech-forward property manager makes paying rent simple and seamless by developing an easy-to-use residents portal. Providing a user-friendly portal or website that allows renters to use any type of device to pay their rent: a mobile phone, iPhone app, Android app, PC, laptop, desktop, etc., is they key to making online rental payments simple and accessible.
As part of this portal, a tech-savvy property management company should have the ability to accept all forms of rental payments on the back end: ACH, as well as all major debit card and credit card payments.
Short for Automated Clearing Housing, the ACH is a clearing and settlement house that facilitates network-to-network electronic financial transactions. In other words, it’s a safe and secure way to move money between banks without the use of paper checks, credit-card networks, cash or paper checks.
Tenants can rest assured when using the ACH to pay their rent: The organization certifies that the money is insured by passing through the Federal Reserve. According to the Nacha Network, an electronic payment system that safely and reliably moves tens of billions of payments annually, electronic payment volume reached nearly 23 billion payments in 2018, a year-over-year increase of 6.9% and the highest growth rate since 2008. That equates to nearly 70 payments for every person in the United States.
A study issued by the Identity Fraud Consumer Report states that online banking and bill-paying are considered safer than paying by check. The report goes on to assert that consumers should use electronic statements and online bill payments “whenever possible.”
Additionally, paying rent online eliminates the chance of bank information ending up in the wrong hands, which can happen when a paper check doesn’t reach its intended location.
The Balance Small Business confirms that online rental payments are the best option for landlords.
Besides making it easy, safe and secure for their residents to pay rent, a top priority among leading property management firms is to collect their owners’ monthly rental payments as quickly as possible and distribute them whenever they would like to receive them. That includes giving property owners the ability to select how often they receive their monthly rental income, or distributions. Some owners prefer to receive distributions once a month or once a quarter, for instance, while some owners want to receive their distributions weekly.
“At Mynd, our weekly distribution cycle is intended to get our owners their money throughout the month as soon as it arrives in our system,” remarks Shah.
When a property manager receives a personal check in the mail, there are so many manual steps that must be taken to clear that check and deposit into an owner’s account. A rental manager’s accounting team has to see if it is managing any expenses for the owner, or if it has to pay a vendor. A property management team must also check to see it needs to put money aside for the owner to pay their property taxes. “In short, there’s a lot of manual processing from when the money is sent to us until we can get the distribution to the owner,” Shah says.
“With an ACH payment, rent payment can clear within 48 hours and gives us more time to get that processing done,” notes Shah.
The security, safety and well-being of renters and owners should always be the top priority of a qualified, tech-savvy rental management company. Whether we’re living in pandemic times or enjoying a thriving economy, collecting rental payments electronically is one of the best ways to create happy homes and healthy investments.