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Three Things Renters Hate to Hear

As a landlord or property manager, sometimes you have to be the bearer of bad news. Too often, that means your tenants begin seeing you as the “bad guy.” This role isn’t fun for anyone to play, but it’s a necessary evil at times. Some weeks, though, it can feel as though all you do is deliver bad news. It’s no fun playing bad cop all the time, so if you feel like you need some help delivering news in a way that’s not so morose, keep reading! Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi says that virtually every property manager can benefit from these tips. Tenants hate to hear:
“We’re raising your rent.”
 
Nobody likes paying more money for the same rental home or apartment, but there comes a time when a property owner must raise the rent. Delivering this news is nobody’s idea of a good time, but it will be necessary for virtually every property manager at some point or another. The cost of living goes up, inflation occurs and taxes and maintenance costs rise. Even when you try not to pass on this cost to your tenant, it’s bound to happen eventually.
Try delivering this news with your reasons for raising the rent. Most tenants understand that you are first and foremost a business person. They get that you need to make a profit, but you should balance this knowledge with compassion. Acknowledge that the rise in price is less than ideal and be willing to work with tenants on alternative due dates if it makes it easier to pay the rent.
“We can’t return your entire security deposit.”
 
Even the neatest, cleanest and most conscientious of tenants can cause expensive damage to their rental. When this occurs, it’s on the property manager to deliver the news that their security deposit won’t be returned in full. The next time you need to break this news, arm yourself with information. Bring the lease along with you for this conversation and highlight important clauses surrounding damage and negligence.
“We cannot approve your application.”
 
Filling vacancies is hard, but breaking the news to an applicant that they cannot move in after all is even more difficult. When informing the applicant of your decision, be sure you are not violating any Fair Housing laws in your decision. Even though the person is not going to be your tenant, it pays to handle the interaction gently.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Childproofing Your Rental Property

Tenants with kids are generally not a problem. In fact, many landlords rest easy renting to families, knowing that late night parties and loud music aren’t likely to disturb neighbors of such tenants. Renting to families isn’t just a good idea, it’s actually against the law to discriminate against prospective tenants with kids. With that in mind, childproofing your rental property may be necessary.
It’s against the law to warn tenants about potential hazards like stairs and encourage them to choose a downstairs unit for their little ones. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management says that landlords and property managers need to watch out for liability issues when it comes to their rentals. If a child is injured on your property, you could be held responsible. With that in mind, try one of these tips to ensure your rental is child safe:
  • Remove and replace blinds with long, draping cords. Instead, consider installing cordless blinds. They look chic and prevent little ones from injuring themselves.
  • Check out banisters, railings and rungs of stairs. Kids often hang from railings and test their strength with their entire body weight. Even though these things are not meant to be played on, they should be treated as though they might.
  • Ensure all outlets are covered properly, and that broken ones are repaired quickly and completely.
  • Install window locks on all of your rental’s windows, especially the ones upstairs. You never know who might get curious about how a window opens!
  • Put up speed limit signs around your parking lots. While it might seem like common sense to go slow in areas with pedestrians, many tenants without kids aren’t thinking about the risks.
  • Patrol your pool fence. Look for holes, gaps and other places that little ones could squeeze through. If your pool gate does not close automatically, invest in one before opening the pool again next spring.
  • Install no-slip surfaces around the pool area, too. Kids get excited about swimming, and regardless of how many times you ask them not to run, it’s bound to happen. Instead, make the effort to prevent falls and ensure the ones that do occur are minor.
  • Replace batteries in smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors every six months. You can ask your tenants to do this, but be sure to mention it in the lease.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

My Tenant Has Stopped Paying Rent – Now What?

As landlords and property managers, we all dream of tenants who are quiet, friendly and always pay their rent on time. The reality? Most tenants will be late with their payment at least once or twice. It’s human nature to run a little behind schedule. But what happens when your tenant stops paying rent altogether? For new landlords, this is truly a worst case scenario. The reality? You’ll run into this problem sooner or later says Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management.
So what to do first? Don’t rush to evict your tenant right away. Start by talking with them in person if possible. There are a lot of legitimate reasons people struggle to pay their rent. Perhaps the tenant is struggling with health issues, the loss of a loved one or has been laid off of their job. There’s no use in speculating: a simple conversation can clarify what is going on.
After the chat, you’ll have a better idea if you can expect the tenant to eventually pay up. If you want to further clarify, send a “pay or quit” notice. This formal letter or email requests that the tenant pay their rent by a certain date or their lease will be terminated. Suggest a move out date to really light a fire under the tenant.
Legally, the only way to force a tenant out is to file an eviction notice. It’s illegal for a property owner or manager to lock a tenant out of the unit. Instead, go down to the local courthouse and file paperwork necessary to evict your tenant. It may take a few weeks for you to get a court date, but eventually, you’ll be able to explain your situation to a judge. If you win the judgment against the tenant, a sheriff can help remove them from your property.
Evictions take a long time to carry out. The takeaway? Crack down on late payments before they become a problem. If you are too busy to track down each tenant’s monthly payment, it may be time to hire a property manager. As an added bonus, they’ll be able to facilitate future evictions on your behalf – if it should get to that place again!
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Alternative Flooring Options

Accidents happen. Even the neatest, cleanest of tenants can damage your property unintentionally. The good news? There are a number of alternative flooring options that can save property owners money and time. Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi says that while carpet and hardwood flooring might be the most popular options, these alternative flooring options are well worth considering. No-hassle flooring options mean preventing damage and ensuring a long-lasting investment. Check out these three options:
Polished Concrete
Anyone who has ever lived with polished concrete floors will tell you how amazing it is. A special machine uses diamonds to polish the concrete and give it a high shine. Once it is stained, the concrete mimics the look of tile, marble or other high-end flooring options. Stain and water resistant, polished concrete is incredibly durable and can help keep warm apartments cool. The surface is impenetrable, making mold growth impossible. These floors are so low maintenance that landlords will love how easy they are to clean between tenants. Less cleaning means less time the unit has to sit empty!
Epoxy Floor Paint
Typically used for garages and driveways, epoxy floor paint has grown in popularity over the years. Homeowners and landlords are embracing the paint because of how versatile it can be. The paint creates polymer bonds as it cures. That means the floor becomes super flexible and durable once dry. The thick paint bonds well with sub-flooring and creates a waterproof surface. Epoxy floor paint cannot be stained and is virtually impenetrable. Use it on wood flooring to prevent a mold resistant surface, or on concrete to prevent dusting.
Bamboo Flooring
If you’re worried about the environment and want your apartment to be as green as possible, bamboo flooring is the way to go. A type of grass, bamboo renews itself quicker than the trees that provide most types of flooring. When woven tightly, bamboo makes for flooring that is even more durable than traditional wood floors. Because bamboo is water-resistant, it is less likely to warp. It can also be stained multiple colors, giving you some creativity in your design.
It is easy to see why these alternative flooring options are growing in popularity. Affordable and easy to care for, bamboo, epoxy paint and polished concrete are all great choices for your rental home.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Renting to a Hoarder

As a property manager, sensitivity towards tenants and their health issues is incredibly important. When your tenant’s health problems begin to conflict with your expectations of tenant behavior, though, problems can quickly arise. When renting to a hoarder, complaints from neighbors and staff can force a property manager’s hand, but the situation should be handled carefully so as not to violate Fair Housing rules.
Hoarding was officially recognized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association in 2013. That makes hoarders part of a protected class. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management encourages property managers to resist their initial urge to evict the tenant and instead consider employing one of the following strategies:
Conduct Inspections
Protect your property by scheduling routine inspections with the hoarding tenant. These monthly inspections don’t have to feel invasive. Make a standing appointment with the tenant and keep the visits short. Keep an eye out for hazardous waste and resist the urge to police clutter. As long as the tenant is not breaking the lease in any way, they may keep their unit in the order they like.
Understanding Hoarding vs. Bad Housekeeping
Some of us are better at keeping a clean house than others. Dirty dishes in the sink and clothes on the floor may drive some folks crazy, while others see it as reasonable chaos. Hoarders, on the other hand, tend to stockpile items they feel an emotional connection to. They often leave little room for walking through rooms and instead pile items to the ceiling. Knowing the difference between someone who is a bad housekeeper and a hoarder is crucial.
Careful Conversation
 
If your tenant is indeed a hoarder and in violation of their lease, a sensitive conversation with the person and their family can help bring the issue to their attention. Offer concrete suggestions to clean the home up and give the tenant a reasonable deadline to make the changes. Get the agreement in writing and be sure to follow up at the agreed upon time. This is a delicate conversation and one of the most challenging a property manager will ever have. Handle it the way you would want someone to speak to your own troubled family member.
By responding to hoarding tenants with sensitivity, you’ll have a better chance at helping a person struggling with a very real mental disorder.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Home Security Through Landscaping

When a burglar sets his sights on a home or apartment, even the most sophisticated security system or deadbolt can deter him from breaking in. The reality is that millions of people fall victim to burglaries each year. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends a novel approach to securing your rentals: landscaping.

That’s right: designing landscaping to prevent burglaries is just one of the latest home security trends sweeping the nation. While locks and alarm systems are great ways to secure your home, planting a few strategic bushes and trees could help keep burglars from targeting your place.

The kind of plants matter a great deal. To determine which you should buy, consider the kinds of plants you wouldn’t want to climb through to break into someone’s home. Thorny bushes like holly or roses can be excellent deterrents.

Of course, there is something to be said for increasing your visibility, too. Creating clear sight lines from your windows through the yard and out to the street is critical. You’ll be able to quickly spot anyone who shouldn’t be on your property. Pruning vegetation also rids criminals of spots to hide.

Consider installing gravel beneath your windows. Criminals need silence to carry out many of their misdeeds, and the crunch of gravel could tip off anyone at home that someone is lurking nearby. Installing overhead lighting outdoors is a great way to make burglars feel insecure. Motion-activated lights are perfect for this strategy.

If your home has a back door, look into reinforcing it. The back door is often less protected that the front, so criminals often try the back door first. Install accent lighting to illuminate the landscape out back, too. This will help to eliminate hiding spots of those lurking in the shadows. If you have a gate, make sure it is locked. While this sounds like common sense, you’d be surprised how many people fail to check even the most basic home security measures.

Finally, invest in partial privacy fencing. While you might prefer solid fences, they protect intruders and help them go undetected by your neighbors. However you decide to reinforce your home security, taking a hard look at your landscaping can help.

– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Wildfire Prevention Tips for Your Apartment Community

Is your property prepared for wildfires?

If you don’t live in California, chances are good you don’t worry about wildfires much. But the reality is that wildfires can and do occur in every state in the country. Wildfire season is 2.5 months longer than it was 30 years ago, with each season seemingly worse than the last. Even if you’re not overly concerned about wildfires, Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi recommends taking these steps to prepare for the worst case scenario:
1. Landscape with fire in mind. Gravel walkways can separate vegetation and stop flames in their tracks. Plants that are high in moisture are also great choices. Avoid flammable trees like conifers. Maintenance is critically important: keep your lawn mowed, your trees trimmed and your leaves raked. Limiting what is available to catch on fire is key!
2. Replace building materials with fire-resistant versions. Roofs, decks, siding and fencing can all be replaced with fire-resistant material. Of course, you’d ideally have this in place from the moment your community is built. If you can’t afford to replace it all at once, look into flame-retardant coating you can add to existing materials.
3. Create an emergency plan. Work with staff and neighbors to create a plan for emergencies. Whether fire starts in a residence or spreads naturally, you should have an idea in mind of how to best evacuate the community.
4. Invest in ceiling-mounted sprinklers. Adding these to your residences can dramatically reduce the damage fire does to the apartment homes. Though not exactly affordable, they are a great investment. There’s even FEMA grants to help with the cost, making ceiling-mounted sprinklers something every landlord should look into.
5. Get covered. What does your insurance policy have to say about fires? Do your tenants have renter’s insurance? Will their property be replaced if a wildfire does indeed occur? These are all questions to ask yourself, your tenants and your insurance agent when prepping for wildfires.
6. Store flammable materials safely. If you’ve got a gas container sitting in a shed that’s bound to get tipped over, you could be the one to inadvertently start the next raging wildfire. Store gas containers and other flammable materials in a safe manner.
However you decide to plan for wildfires, do so now. You never know when danger might strike your community.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Settling Conflicts Between Tenants: A Guide

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Multifamily communities offer a lot of perks: affordable housing, shared amenities and the chance to create a neighborhood. But for some tenants, the drawbacks of apartment living can jeopardize their willingness to fulfill or re-sign their lease. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management knows how critically important it is to nip conflicts between tenants in the bud. Here’s his guide to common conflicts and how to settle them peacefully.

Loud Music
 
In most apartment community leases, policies state that tenants may not make noise that might disturb neighbors. Unfortunately, though, this is easier said than done. For apartments with hardwood floors and blank walls, there’s not a lot to absorb sounds coming from a TV, the radio or even from conversation. What is a property manager to do?
The key lies in respectful negotiation. For the most part, people tend to be flexible about noise during daylight hours. If you can start a conversation between the warring neighbors about what is or isn’t reasonable for them, you can begin working towards a compromise. Of course, the lease rules all. If you made a promise to prevent noisy neighbors from intruding into your tenant’s daily life, you’ll be the one to have to enforce the rules.
Pet Drama
 
If you allow pets on your property, chances are good you’ve heard complaints about barking or about waste being left in the grass. While this is all to be expected, to some degree, more extreme conflicts between neighbors can upset the peace of your community. If you have a tenant accusing another of being negligent with their waste management or with the noise their pets make, have a conversation with the pet owner. Explain your concerns and work on a solution together. You’ll find most pet owners love their dogs and cats enough to make changes necessary to keep them living on your property!
Children’s Behavior
 
This is where neighbor disputes can get tricky, even for seasoned property managers. While no parent likes being told how to raise their kids, the reality is that some busy parents aren’t always supervising their kids behavior as closely as they could. Children running and yelling around a property is not okay, so if a tenant complains, it’s your place as property manager to step in.
Having community rules to point to can help. Consider enforcing rules regarding supervision, noise and property damage and place them in the lease. It’ll make conversations with parents that much easier.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

7 Deadly Sins of Property Management

There’s no right way to manage a property, but there’s definitely a wrong way to do so! This week, Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi hones in one the seven deadly sins of property management. Avoid these sins at all costs!
1. Not getting it in writing. By it, we mean everything. That’s right: any conversation you have with a tenant about your policies and procedures should be reflected in writing somewhere. The same goes for your interactions with contractors and employees. Without backing up your word in writing, your word is truly useless. That doesn’t just make leadership difficult, it means you could face potential legal trouble down the road.
2. Not using the latest technology. Some people are early adapters of the latest gadgets, while others wait for new technology to become mainstream before buying in. Whatever you do, resist the urge to hold off for too long. Tenants are often on the cutting edge of technology, and learning that your community won’t let them pay rent online can be a deal breaker for someone who lives their entire life online.
3. Not renting to the right tenants. The difference between an amazing community and a terrible one lies within the folks who live there. That’s right: you can have all the incredible, expensive amenities in the world, but if you rent to awful tenants, nobody will want to move in. Take the time to screen out problem tenants. It’ll save you money and time!
4. Not valuing the tenants you already have. Far too many landlords neglect to show appreciation for the tenants they already have. You know the ones – the folks who have quietly, peacefully lived in your rental for years, have always paid their rent on time and give you virtually no trouble whatsoever. It’s easy to put those kinds of people out of sight and out of mind. You’ll miss them when they move to a community where they’re valued.
5. Procrastinating on maintenance. You know you need to replace those HVAC systems before they finally give out. Do so before that happens, and you’ll save your tenants (and your staff) a world of trouble.
6. Ignoring bad reviews. Bad reviews happen to us all, but how you deal with them says a lot to prospective tenants who read your response. Address them politely and quickly!
7. Ignoring your website. Even if you’re not into web design, your website is your first and best chance to show off. By letting your website collect dust, you neglect your property’s reputation.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Summer Maintenance Projects: Your To-Do List

Temperatures are scorching, kids are out of school and your community pool is crowded from open until close. That’s right, it’s summer time! For many summer lovers, this is the most wonderful time of the year. For property owners, summer means time for heavy duty maintenance projects. Need some help creating your to do list? Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi has the ideas you need to get started. His list includes:
General Inspection. You should be inspecting your property thoroughly about once each season. These quarterly inspections can help prevent any unexpected maintenance surprises like a broken HVAC system. Get your tenants in on the job and ask them to change their air filters, check their gutters for clogs and look to see that their HVAC systems are indeed working as they should. Preventative maintenance can save you hundreds of dollars and countless hours of stress down the road!
Pool Maintenance. Your pool is likely getting a lot of action this summer. Since we’re about halfway through the season, now is the time to conduct a thorough cleaning of the space. And we’re not just talking skimming leaves off the top. Instead, ensure safety signs are clear (and not faded from the sun), clean up any trip hazards and power wash your deck areas. You’ll be thankful you did a midpoint clean up when it comes time to clean the pool to close up in August or September!
Prep for Forest Fires (Just in Case!) There’s a lot that property managers can do to prepare for forest fires. Remove debris from your property and trim down any vegetation on the borders of your property. If you have communal grills, post safety reminders about avoiding out of control embers. Consider also trimming down vegetation near the grills, too. Make sure you’ve got a great irrigation system going to ensure your grass isn’t drying out. Programmable sprinklers are a great way to conserve water and make sure your grass is green throughout the season.
Tenant Morale. There’s no better time than summer to remind your tenants why it’s so great to live in your community. Host barbecues, pool parties and other community events to encourage folks to renew their leases! While you’ve got tenants chatting over burgers and hot dogs, check in with them about their living experience. It’s a great, low-pressure way to garner feedback you can really put into use!
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

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