We are Steve and Jodi Williams, the owners of Steady Properties, a full service Milton property management company. We want to take this opportunity to introduce you to who we are and what we do. Our company has been in business since 2012, but together we have been in the rental game for over 15 years, starting with our own personal rentals. We found we had friends asking for advice, and we thought starting our own company was a great idea. So here we are, owning and operating Steady Properties. (more…)
No investor wants to receive a call from a property manager that legal action could be or is necessary. As your property management company, we spend a lot of time and energy trying to avoid this kind of call. Our efforts include updating our education, preventative maintenance, placing qualified tenants in your property, and handling the many details involved with your property in a timely manner. However, avoiding litigation requires teamwork. Property owners and managers can follow these ABCs to avoid legal action.
Always follow the law
Many important laws and rulings affect rental property today, such as Fair Housing, habitability, retaliation, lead-based paint, mold, etc. Every year even more legislation occurs due to litigation. We continually update our knowledge by attending industry events and reading important publications. We also make a conscientious effort to keep you, the investor, informed, by sending important notifications and providing informational articles in our newsletter. If a legal situation arises, we will make you aware of what is happening, what action is necessary, and explain why.
Why is it important that you know legislation or rulings that affect your property? It is crucial you know the penalties and costs that could affect your bottom line. You cannot plead “ignorance” of the law and place blame elsewhere. The court’s attitude is and always will be that you, the property owner, are responsible for knowing what governs your property. Knowledge empowers investors to make intelligent decisions.
Taking a proactive approach will avoid the majority of legal issues. It is necessary for property owners and managers to follow Fair Housing laws and rules while marketing and renting property. Providing well-maintained properties to residents is another crucial area where the investor and property manager must work together to avoid future problems. It is always easier to think “preventative,” avoid difficult situations, and possibly incur financial losses.
Consider all options in seeking resolution
The fact is that no matter how much property owners/managers work on education, good tenancy, and preventative maintenance, problems can still occur with the tenancy or the property. Even good tenants can have unusual problems. Unexpected maintenance and external forces, such as a natural disaster can cause other difficulties and legal threats. No matter what happens, property managers and investors should work together and consider all options to resolve issues with the tenants and/or the property.
When an issue does arise, there are often alternatives to going to court. It is imperative that you evaluate the costs and results of proceeding with any legal tenant action. For example, the former tenant may dispute their security deposit deductions. Although their claims may not be justified, it can be more costly to refuse to compromise or make a concession and chance a court decision.
There are times that legal action is the only choice. If this happens, it is important to move as quickly as possible to prevent even further losses. As your property management company, we will do our best to avoid having to call you regarding a legal matter. We ask you to work with us to avoid litigation whenever possible.
What Do Your Tenants REALLY Want?
Everyone has heard horror stories about bad tenants. They make movies about them because melodramas sell at the box office. While there are bad tenants who cheat owners out of rent and can be destructive, the majority of renters are simply good people. What investors really want is good tenancy, as well as the best return on their investment. These are the very reasons why property owners should care about what good tenants want.
Most people are thrilled when they can get a great deal or an underpriced commodity, but the bottom line is that everyone wants a fair price for their expenditure. Therefore, it makes sense that tenants want fair market rent, not only when they rent but throughout their tenancy. Most tenants, when satisfied with their residency, will adjust to a reasonable rent increase. It’s when property owners raise the rent drastically or unfairly (i.e. retaliation), that it becomes a problem.
A Safe Environment
The best way property owners and managers can contribute to the safety of any community is by obtaining good tenants and by working with neighbors and law enforcement when necessary. However, in any neighborhood, investors need to provide a safe residence for their renters. . There are many ways to do this, such as adequate locks, working doors and windows, safe electrical, good plumbing, well-maintained flooring, etc. Fire safety in and around the property is extremely important. Tenants want to know that they can enjoy a safe and reasonable living environment.
Like fair pricing, people want fair treatment. Below are common areas where many investors fail.
- Tenants want what property owners and/or managers promise them. They have the same expectations if they report maintenance calls. When there is failure to follow-through on promises and nothing happens, it creates bad landlord/tenant relations.
- Tenants do not want rude surprises. Generally, this means they do not want property owners or managers to show up unannounced at the property. They want everyone to abide by the federal and/or state housing laws on the right-to-enter. While the tenant does not own the property, this is their home and they want owners and managers to respect this.
- Tenants want a fair return of their security deposit. There are times when tenants should lose all or part of their security deposit. However, property owners need to have reasonable expectations regarding deductions because there is going to be normal wear and tear in any property.
- Tenants want a reasonable guarantee they will not lose their home during the agreed upon period of occupancy. There are circumstances that do arise where property owners have to sell a property or lose it due to financial circumstances. If this happens, property owners need to do their best to extend fair treatment to their tenants during this process.
You know how this song goes, “R – E – S – P – E – C – T, find out what it means to me.” Good tenants want respect and appreciation from property owners and their managers, just as they expect on-time rental payments and proper care of the residence from their tenants. When property owners provide fair pricing, a safe environment, and fair treatment to their tenants, they give them what they really want. In turn, investors are setting up the best possible scenario for a successful tenancy.
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 or liability. 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.
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 every day, 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, anyanimal 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 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 cannotturn 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.