Deciding on Pets

Most owners shudder when you mention pets. To be perfectly honest, this is an understandable reaction since there are times when tenants allow their pets to cause considerable damage. However, when facing the issue of pets, property managers and/or landlords often need to use a logical approach. Saying “no” to a pet right away can often lead to illegal pets or possibly missing the best tenant.

The Application
Whether or not a landlord allows a pet, it is always advisable to have an area for disclosing pets in an application-to-rent. It is important to obtain as much information on the prospective tenant, particularly if you want to determine whether they do have or do not have pets. If another landlord reveals that the applicant has a pet, this becomes solid ground for refusing the applicant.

Consider Pets Negotiable
If you are saying no to all animals, consider saying, “pets negotiable.” The problem in stating a definite “no” is the prospective tenant may be the right person for the property. When you say “negotiable,” it allows the landlord to select a tenant who has an appropriate pet or just decline the applicant. Well-qualified applicants generally extend the care for their pets to caring for the property. It would be better to have them list their pets, examine the information, and then make an informed decision.

Do Pets Work in The Property?
This is a logical step to consider. Obviously, a townhouse with a postage stamp backyard generally is not suitable for a German Shepherd, Springer Spaniel, or a Great Dane. The perspective tenants may tell you their pet never makes a mess, has never caused damage, they walk it everyday, always pick up any animal droppings, and it is accustomed to living in a one-bedroom apartment for years. Common sense must prevail when renting the property to someone with a pet or pets. Look at the property objectively and discuss the issues with our management company on what pets are suitable for the property before putting it on the market.

Avoid Some Animals
There are pets to avoid and mostly this comes down to “dangerous and destructive.” Some people relegate this to a Pit Bull, Rottweiler, Doberman, large or small snakes, rats, etc. However, any animal that is vicious or dangerous, large or small, can be a problem. Good tenant screening often takes care of this problem. It is a good idea to have a list of “unwanted” pets that are completely unacceptable. Insurance companies often carry a “dangerous pet” list and you can check with your provider on what animals they could have listed and could cause problems with claims.

It is also important that to determine what defines a pet and if it meets the requirements of the zoning laws for the property. There are areas that allow farm animals, but this is not normally the case – this will eliminate people who may want to raise chickens, a cow, sheep, horses, etc.

Service Animals are NOT Pets
Always remember that if a person is handicapped and they have an authorized service animal, they are NOT pets. You can screen handicapped persons just like any other applicant, but you cannot turn them down just because they have a service animal. Generally, most service animals are fully trained and well behaved. It must be the rental history, not the service animal, that determines whether to accept or deny the applicant.

Additionally, under Federal Fair Housing, you cannot charge any amount of deposit for a service animal. It is illegal and landlords can incur serious fines and damages if they charge the handicapped for a “pet.”

The bottom line
When you are in doubt concerning pets, use common sense and proceed with caution. Discuss your questions and concerns with us and we can assist you on the subject of pets. Then, if you still feel you want to say “no” to a pet, you can.

Posted in Income Properties, Pet Policy, Property Management | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

EPA Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule

Lead base paint has been of utmost importance since March 6, 1996, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) & Housing & Urban Development (HUD) released regulations on the Residential Lead Based Paint Hazard Control Act. Additionally, the EPA invoked the Lead-Based Paint Pre-Renovation Education Rule, requiring notification to occupants in advance of work that could disturb lead-based paint. The danger from lead is that adults, children, and even animals can ingest lead by breathing or swallowing lead-based paint dust or by eating lead-contaminated soil or lead-based paint chips.

Reviewing Existing Law
The law applies to properties built prior to 1978. Sellers, property owners, and professionals must comply. There are exceptions listed below:
 Any rental less than 100 days (such as a vacation home)
 Zero-bedroom units such as efficiencies, lofts and dormitories
 Housing exclusively for the elderly
 Housing for handicapped unless children are present
 Rental housing that has been inspected by a certified inspector and found to be free of paint
 Housing being sold because of foreclosure
 Emergency renovations or repairs; minor repairs disturbing 2 sq. feet or less of paint per component

The general guidelines for compliance by landlords and property managers are:
 Sellers and property owners must disclose known paint hazards and provide available reports to buyers and tenants. You do not have to supply a report if there is not an existing report.
 Property managers and owners must give buyers and renters a federal pamphlet titled “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home prior to renting the unit.
 Property managers and owners must include certain language in rental agreements to ensure that disclosure and notification actually take place.
 For rental transactions, the property managers and owners must provide the information prior to accepting an application and complete the disclosure portions of the rental agreement and/or lease prior to renting.
 Prior to any renovation or maintenance, landlords must take steps to notify tenants in writing 7 days in advance of the work to be completed and once again, provide the pamphlet previously referenced.
 Courts can fine Property owners up to $10,000 for civil and criminal fines for each violation. Additionally, owners can pay up to triple damages in a lead-based paint lawsuit if they knowingly violated the rules.
 Opt-out Rule: on April 22, 2010, for further prevention against lead paint poisoning, the EPA issued a final rule in the Federal Register eliminating the opt-out provision. Previously, owner-occupants of homes built before 1978 could certify that no child six years of age or younger or pregnant woman was living in the home and “opt-out” of having their contractors follows lead-safe work practices in their homes.

New Federal Requirements
The EPA has now issued new federal requirements for contractors who renovate or repair housing, child-care facilities, or schools built before 1978. The “Lead: Renovation, Repair and Painting Program” rule was to take effect in April 2010 and prohibits work practices creating lead hazards.

Requirements under the rule include implementing lead-safe work practices and certification and training for paid contractors and maintenance professionals working in pre-1978 housing, child-care facilities, and schools. Beginning October 22, 2009, contractors were to take EPA-accredited training before beginning renovation, repair, or painting projects as defined in the RR& P rule. However, there were several delays into July 2010.

The new requirements apply to renovation, repair, or painting activities where more than six square feet of lead-based paint is disturbed in a room or where 20 square feet of lead-based paint is disturbed on the exterior. The affected contractors include builders, painters, plumbers, and electricians. Trained contractors must post warning signs, restrict occupants from work areas, contain work areas to prevent dust and debris from spreading, conduct a thorough cleanup, and verify that the cleanup was effective. These new requirements are key components of a comprehensive effort to eliminate childhood lead poisoning.

As your management company, we know the importance of lead-based paint compliance. When a tenant rents a property built prior to 1978, we prepare the lead-based paint addendum, giving out the required pamphlet to the tenant prior to renting the property. If there is work required, we contact the tenants and owners in a timely manner with the required notifications before starting work. Then, we use only approved lead-based paint contractors. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/lead.

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Selling Property with a Tenant

Property owners face a tricky situation when they want to sell a property but still maintain rental income. No one likes losing rent, but keeping a tenant in the property while the property is for sale requires careful consideration.

Review the Sales Market
It is important to evaluate the Real Estate sales market first. Ask yourself these important questions.
▪ Is it a buyer’s or seller’s market?
▪ Additionally, what are the interest rates and the availability of financing for potential buyers?
▪ Are properties selling where your investment property is located?
▪ Is this a good property for investors?
▪ Will your property attract buyers in this current market?

In a “hot” seller’s market, there are fewer properties and more buyers. Therefore, in a fast-paced seller’s market, it may be better to vacate the tenant, put the property in the best possible condition, and sell as quickly as possible. However, if the seller’s market is having difficulties and taking a long time to sell a property, keeping a tenant in the property under the right conditions may be a way to put the property up for sale and maintain a more solvent financial situation. It also depends on if it is more suitable as an investment property. Keeping the tenant in a property that is more likely to attract investors than potential homeowners is also a favorable reason for keeping a tenant.

Analyze the Current Tenancy
Before deciding to sell with the tenant in the property, it is very important to check the rental agreement. Is this a lease or a month-to-month tenancy? If it is a lease soon to expire or it is a month-to-month agreement, then you will be able to give notice to the tenant when you sell if it is to be owner occupied. If it is still a long-term lease, then you have another problem and you may want to reconsider selling or investigate if it you can sell the residence to another investor.

It may be that the tenant is a prospect for buying your rental property. If so, have a professional determine if this is realistic, if they truly have the purchasing power, and that they complete this evaluation in a timely manner. If they cannot buy the residence, move on to determining whether it is worth keeping the tenant in the property.

Since you have determined the selling market means you want to keep the tenant, you have to consider if the property will realistically sell with the current residents.
▪ How does the property currently look with the tenant in the property?
▪ Will they keep the property in a marketable condition?
▪ Will they be cooperative with showing the property and working with the listing agent?
▪ Will they cooperate with necessary maintenance and inspections?

Evaluate Your Financial Outlook
It helps to sit down and realistically pencil out if you can afford to sell or if it is better to wait until the sales market improves. If the situation warrants selling, then you must figure out how many months you can sustain the property with or without rent. Add in any possible “financial incentives’ that you may have to offer the tenants for their cooperation. Then tie that in with the current sales market and the current tenancy. There are two simple questions to answer.
▪ Can you afford to sell in the current market with the property vacant?
▪ Can you afford to sell in the current market with the current tenant occupying the property?

Selling with the Tenant
If you have determined that it is worthwhile keeping the tenant in the property while putting it on the market for sale, it is very important to have a clear understanding for all parties involved, especially with the tenant, and in writing. There are too many cases of “he said, she said” that have taken place while trying to sell tenant-occupied properties and the seller ends up in litigation with the tenant. Consult your property manager and sales agent on the right way to proceed and their roles during the listing period. It often helps to offer incentives to the tenant, but be sure to give them “after” the tenant cooperates.

Contact us at www.NashDomRealty.com so that we can help you find the right solutions. Selling an occupied property may be a worthwhile venture but it is important to listen to professional advice, have a clear understanding with all the parties involved, and approach it realistically.

Posted in Income Properties, Income Property Sales, Property Management, Real Estate, Selling income property | 2 Comments

Plan Fall/Winter Maintenance Early

Thinking about fall/winter maintenance needs for your investment before the season hits can often save you money. An extra benefit is that it can help to keep your tenants happy. For example, if you wait until the rains or winds come and the roof leaks, you will be competing with everyone else to have the work done because roofing contractors are at their busiest. This can mean major delays and higher costs. When the weather is better, contractors may not charge as much because their workload is lighter and they want more work. Tenants can become unhappy with the inconvenience of a leaky roof but if the problem is severe enough, there can be loss of rent because of uninhabitable or unsafe conditions.

There are many areas where early maintenance can be a benefit. Here are items to consider during summer and fall months to see how you could avoid unnecessary repair expense or tenant problems.

Heating

Heating is simply a necessity and in the eyes of the legal system, it is a requirement for health and safety for tenants. You could experience loss of rent if the tenants are without heat for an unreasonable amount of time. Having the heating system checked out yearly before cold weather hits could avoid bigger maintenance problems and making necessary repairs can prolong the life of the heating unit.

Walls, foundations, windows, doors, and plumbing

Checking walls, foundations, windows, doors, and plumbing can reveal problems with moisture, leaking, cracking, drafts, and more. It is truly important to avoid water and moisture problems that could lead to toxic mold – one of today’s biggest liabilities for investors.

Gutters

Having gutters and downspouts cleaned and if necessary, repaired after leaves fall and before heavy rains hit can reduce damage and avoid other problems. Many landlords want tenants to do this but it can become a safety issue. Having a qualified vendor handle the problem can be safer and more cost effective.

Roofs

It pays to have the roof checked for missing materials, hanging branches, and any other damage. Have repairs completed before winter weather hits to avoid unnecessary damage and expense inside of the property. You may not be able to avoid winter storms but the roof may hold up better if maintenance is completed. Proper maintenance can also extend the life of the roof.

Chimneys, fireplaces, and smoke alarms/detectors

If your investment has a fireplace and chimney, having a yearly checkup can prevent fires and/or other safety issues. Of course, a working smoke alarm/detector is an absolute must.

Driveways and sidewalks

Damaged, cracked driveways and sidewalks can be a safety issue. Many times you cannot repair them during bad weather, leaving it open to more liability. Contractors are more likely to give you a better price during better weather.

Porches, patios, decks, retaining walls, fences, and landscaping

Again, these are items where necessary repairs can extend their life. Major tree roots can cause many problems, such as broken sidewalks, raised driveways, and problems with sewers. You can often avoid these liabilities.

You may not be experiencing any maintenance problems with your investment property at this time. However, it pays to review where you could avoid larger expense and avoid liability by addressing them early. You can start planning for winter maintenance now and then plan an earlier start next year as well.

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