New Tenant Legal Fee Equality Law

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Legal FeesTouted as a major victory for New Jersey tenants, Governor Christie signed into law a bill that gives tenants the right to collect lawyer’s fees and costs from landlords when they are successful in court.

The rule applies if the landlord has reserved the same right in the lease. The new law applies to all leases entered into on or after February 1, 2014.

Prior to the enactment of the law, landlords could reserve the unilateral right to be compensated by tenants should the landlord prevail in any legal action.

According to Matt Shapiro, President of the membership-based New Jersey Tenants Organization (NJTO), this new law is the most important advance in tenants’ rights in many years. “New Jersey has some of the best tenants’ rights laws in the country, but, until now, not when it came to these unfair legal fees,” said Shapiro. “Nearly every lease in the state has one of these clauses giving the landlord the right to sue for legal fees and costs in addition to whatever else he’s suing for, but it’s been a one-way deal.”

The NJTO successfully argued that the  a one-way legal fees provisions could be intimidating to tenants, who had little bargaining power to change the terms of the lease agreement.

According to Shapiro, a major advantage of the new law is the requirement that landlords inform tenants of the requirement by using bold print in the same clause that gives the right to landlords to collect legal fees.

“Now tenants will finally have a fair shot at having their day in court,” Shapiro says.


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website 

Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

5 Strategies of Successful Landlords

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

It’s no coincidence that successful landlords use the best management strategies. In fact, there’s a direct correlation between these five good habits and the profitability of your rental business:

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1. Quick response to repair requests.

Can a leaky faucet lead to late rent payments? Believe it or not, the two are connected. Landlords who fail to respond quickly to repair requests or fail to maintain the property will find that, over time, tenants lose respect.  That leads to more problem tenants. After all, if you don’t care about it, why should they?

Quick repairs show a high level of customer service, and will lead to better tenant retention, a/k/a profits.

In addition, this habit lowers cost, and protects the value of the property.

And, in the event of an eviction, the good repair record will thwart a bad tenant’s attempt to delay, garner sympathy,  or try to offset unpaid rent.

2. Respect tenant privacy.

High on the list of tenant “don’t likes” is the landlord who drops in unannounced. These landlords face high turnover, and even costly lawsuits for breach of lease or invasion of privacy.

Except for emergencies, you’ll need to provide notice of visits, and you’ll need to have a reason
to be there.

Follow the law and set a good example for your tenants. In return, you will have happy tenants who behave, and who refer their friends to the property.

Making your tenants’ security a priority, whether it’s diligently re-keying locks,3. Focus on tenant security.

maintaining outdoor lighting, clearing weather off sidewalks, monitoring visitor access, or running criminal background checks, will pay off by attracting — and retaining — the best tenants.

4. Stay in touch

It is impossible to build a good relationship with your business customers — your tenants – if you do not communicate regularly. Create a flow of routine communications, like e-newsletters, a website or social media pages, sending rentreceipts and monthly invoices, providing a suggestion box — anything that proves you are present and accounted for.

By building rapport, you will be the first to hear complaints so they can be quickly resolved.  You will find out about maintenance issues, or problem tenants.  You also can generate more tenant referrals and fill vacancies more efficiently.

5. Strive to give back the deposit.

Some landlords believe that there is little risk of losing money over property damage,  so long as they charge a high deposit.

Because security deposits are so strictly regulated, it is impossible to make withholding deposits into a profit center.  Where damage does occur, often the deposit doesn’t come close to covering the full cost.

But if you set your sights on returning the money, you’ll be sure to set management policies that encourage a unit to be returned clean and ready for the next tenant. That means spelling out the tenant’s obligations in the lease agreement, checking up on the property throughout the term of the lease, and doing a preliminary walk-through about four weeks before the tenant moves out. You’ll have their forwarding address, because they’ll want their money back. Then, you’ll ask the tenant to do a formal walk-through with you at move out.

If tenants believes it is realistic they’ll get their deposit back, they are far more likely to get all of their stuff out and clean the unit on the needed time line. You don’t lose any of your own money by returning the deposit, and you get the property back in move-in condition. It’s the ultimate win-win.


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website 

Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

 

Survey Reveals the Best Incentives for Retaining Tenants

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

According to property management reviewers Software Advice, apartment managers are in an advantageous position today–more people are choosing to rent instead of buy, and multifamily construction has grown by roughly 300 percent since 2010, giving renters many more living options should they choose to move at the end of a lease. So, what can property managers do to make their apartments more appealing to residents and gain an edge over the competition?

Retaining residents is far less costly than finding new ones, so we set out to learn which incentives are most effective in convincing existing residents to renew a lease, and when the best time is to offer these perks. To do this, we surveyed approximately 4,600 former and current renters. Here, we highlight the biggest takeaways.

The Most Convincing Incentives for Retaining Tenants | IndustryView from Software Advice

Show Me The Money, Effective Rent Collection

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

pay-rentContacting residents regarding unpaid rent can be difficult for some individuals.  Inspite of best efforts to incentivize timely rental payments.  Rental properties will continue to have individuals that do not pay their rent on time.

Tasking a team member with the responsibity to follow up on the individuals on the list for unpaid rent generally has the following results;

-A notice or door hanger was placed on their door.

-Left a voicemail message.

-Sent an email.

For too many staff individuals, the chance of a face-to-face conversation about unpaid rent creates anxiety.  Its viewed as a potential confrontation, a conflict to be avoided if possible.

imageA resident should understand how the property handles unpaid rent. During the leasing presentation, the process of rent collection should be explained, as well as the steps to collect unpaid rent. Signing a lease is a commitment to pay rent, and provide the payments timely. If a resident does not meet their responsibility, it creates the need for action on the part of the management team.

Management staff must be understand the importance of this function as an administrative responsibility. During the hiring process; a future employee should role play a scenario involving rent collection.  Can they maintain eye contact and ask for the rent?

Additional training will provide guidance and policy but if the individual doesn’t have personal confidence, they may not be the best candidate for the position.

Personal contact will bring results in rent collection. No one wants to be reminded that their rent is unpaid. There are a number of proactive initiatives to assist in rent payments and collection.

-Utilitizing automated payments.

-Posting notices reminding residents of the rent due date.

-Making phone calls or emails suggesting how much residents will save by paying timely.

Efforts to collect unpaid rent are time consuming and costly. Thousands of dollars are paid to attornies and court systems to execute evictions. Can a property establish a goal to reduce the time invested in rent collection as well as the expense. If the amount of time producing late notices, copying files for the legal process and knockng on doors could be reduced by 25%, what could be accomplished with this three to four hours per week?

Improving rent collection provides funding for property expenses, reduces legal expenses and saves time for the team members that prepare the late notices and court proceedings.


Lori_Hammond Lori Hammond | Company Website | LinkedIn Connect |

Lori has 30+ years’ experience in the Property Management Industry, working with both market rate and affordable housing.  Lori has been privileged to work with some tremendous industry leaders during employment tenures with Oxford Management, NHP Management, AIMCO, Alliance Residential, Boston Capital, The Sterling Group, P.K. Housing and currently Management Resources Development.

Property Management and Leasing: Proactive vs. Reactive Efforts

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Proactive vs. Reactive Efforts

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Resident service has two sides. Reactive service is delivered “after the fact,” typically when a resident has a special service request or complaint, or is simply unhappy or dissatisfied. It’s a concept that we are, unfortunately, all intimately familiar with. On the other hand, proactive service begins even before the future resident walks in the door. It’s composed of all the steps we take to ensure that we’re fully prepared to do “whatever it takes” to fulfill the needs and wants of our residents both prior to leasing and after move-in.  This is quality apartment management and leasing and  includes what I like to call “setting the stage.”

“Setting the stage” is one of the best examples of proactive service in action, and it involves making the leasing experience as comfortable as possible for the future resident. This is where the details matter. Reduce the time it takes to fill out the application (after all, banks approve $20,000-30,000 loans based on a name, address, place of employment, social security number, and telephone number. Why can’t we?).  Don’t just stop there… pare down processing time whenever and wherever you can without sacrificing the value of the leasing experience, and prove to your future residents that you value their time as much as they do. Polish the appearance of both your leasing center and staff so that the environment is pleasant and visually appealing, and creates the all-important positive first impression that your residents will carry throughout their relationship with you and your community. The entire leasing experience should begin wit h the message, “We’ve been waiting for you!” and last well beyond “Welcome to your new home!”

Proactive service and retention does wonders for a community’s bottom line. The more special details you incorporate into this proactive approach, the better! Consider such niceties as thanking residents for coming in, even when they have a complaint, or thanking them for simply paying their rent on time.

Value-Added Service

For the longest time,especially when I was first getting started in the apartment industry, “value-added”seemed to be everyone’s favorite buzzword. Every one of my supervisors told me that it was the kind of service we were supposed to be providing to our residents, but no one ever stopped to explain to me what it meant. Frankly, I’m not certain they fully understood themselves. In hindsight, I think the term entered our industry at a bit of a disadvantage.

Service Check List

Way back when our idea of resident service was collecting rent checks and dispatching “maintenance men”,  it would have been a stretch for us to grasp the concept of value-added resident services as much more than providing the bare minimum of courtesy that’s expected of us today. As the concept of customer service evolved, and our residents’ expectations began to grow with each instance of great service that they encountered in their day-to-day lives, we finally began to get the hint and expanded our own service offerings accordingly. As a result, I believe we came to think of providing value-added service as a means of “keeping up with the Jones’s”– the Jones’s being not only our competition, but every other retailer and service provider who was out there serving our residents well and raising their expectations in the process.

Here’s the reality check.Value-added service doesn’t mean simply living up to our residents’ expectations–it means going the extra mile. One of my favorite examples is the”Baker’s Dozen.” You pay for twelve cookies and receive thirteen. If you really want to compete, you throw in a couple more. It’s important to know that value-added doesn’t just mean giving something away for free. Where added value can be clearly demonstrated, the customer is most often willing to pay a bit extra for it. If you offer custom upgrade options to your apartment homes at a fair price; you’ve seen this principle proven time and time again; ditto for that special location with the super view and higher rental rate.

Another of my favorite examples of value-added resident service is the trend toward policies that clearly state: “Resident satisfaction is more important than company policy.” Not only does this empower employees to solve problems on the spot (one of the key factors to great internal retention), but it also helps to guarantee all of the nice things that happy residents bring, like renewed leases and referrals. Conversely, residents who are either overtly told or treated as though company policy stands between what they want and what your team can provide are not likely to stick around for long, if at all. Referrals? Don’t hold your breath.

It’s important to realize that a service needn’t be new in order to be value-added. Take a close look at each of the services you currently offer. A new twist here and an enhancement there can make a world of difference in how your residents perceive the level of service they receive.

Let me close this post by with sharing my feelings towards residents when I was on-site.

PropertyManager_2  I had a built-in feeling or reaction towards every single contact I had with a resident. Most of those contacts were not pleasant because I was always dealing with distressed communities. No matter how busy I was, and I was normally very, very busy. I stopped and gave the resident I was in contact with 110% of my attention, put a smile on my face and focused on making that person feel like the most important person in the world. Each contact was followed up with a hand written note (very impressive today in the electronic world) thanking them for bringing what ever new challenge I was presented with to my attention. These notes were delivered at the end of my day as I walked the community. I always felt that walking the community at the end of the day was another resident retention technique. Letting the residents see me walking the community showed that I had a personal interest in the community. The residents would never see me driving around in the available golf cart unless I was with a future resident or service technician. Managers, give it a try you will be amazed with the results of this simple and cost free way to endear the residents of your community.

Actions:

What other ways can you be proactive in the service you provide to your residents? What can you do for them before it needs doing, so they will want to continue living in your community? Write down ideas, add them to your plan, and then try to implement one or more of these fresh ideas every month. Your community’s bottom line will be rewarded with the results.

Take 10 minutes and walk the community at the end of every day. Give it a try for one month and you will be amazed at what you see, learn and the difference it makes with your residents. PLUS imagine the health benefits you will receive!

2013 Year-End Shows Sustained Rent Growth for Apartments

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

RealFacts_logo

Our year-end apartment round up shows sustained nationwide rent growth.  However, the distribution is heavily weighted towards the California markets.  Six of the top ten ranked are in California, as are the top three.

RealFacts annual review of the best performing rental markets of 2013

RealFacts_RentGrowth2013

Other strong performers in 2013 are Austin, TX up $56/yr. from $949/mo. to $1,005/mo. and Atlanta up $54/yr. from $880/mo. to $934/mo. 

Overall the rental market performed well with 32 markets out of the 40 published by RealFacts at or higher than inflation, CPI and cost of living—all three indices for 2013 are approximately 1.5%.  The national average rent was up 5.1% or $53/mo. from $1,040/mo. to $1,093/mo. yr./yr.  Over a four year period, the national average increased by 12.3%, from $952/mo. to $1,078/mo. or $126/mo. gain in absolute dollars.

Over the past four years, apartments grew to be very popular with investors because its returns are predictable and stable. In 2010, when the economy was sluggish, rental housing was thriving.   Turn the page to 2014 to find apartments competing with far more lucrative investment opportunities.  In 2013, the stock market grew by 29% and 35%.  For- sale housing is rebounding–trading at levels not seen since 2006.  Meanwhile, San Jose, arguably the most aggressive rent growth market we track posted a four year average increase of 35%.  The San Francisco MSA was up, 29%; Denver 24% and Seattle 19.4% over the four year period.   Annualized those rent increases range from 4.7% to 8.7% for our strongest markets in the nation.

private-money-real-estate-investing

So, what do these statistics suggest about the direction of rental housing in 2014?  RealFacts predicts it will bode well for renter and investor alike.

Investors should set their sights on those markets that haven’t fully appreciated in terms of rent growth such as Greater Los Angeles.  A recent RealFacts report shows its four year average increase is just 11% or 2.8% per year.  Los Angeles also has a high barrier to entry.  That means it’s expensive and time consuming for developers to bring new supply to market.  High barrier markets rarely become unbalanced, at least not to a degree that would accelerate a market bust.

For the renter, there are still many affordable options in the heart of the Bay Area with plenty of units available to rent.  If one finds San Francisco too pricey at $3,056/mo., cheaper housing is available in the city of Richmond at $1,305/mo. on average.  It’s a seventeen mile drive or easily accessible by public transit.  Or, for those who prefer Berkeley, but can’t afford its price tag at $2,502/mo. they can opt for a quick commute to the city of San Pablo, just under ten miles away, and pay around $1,266/mo.


SarahBridge_RealFacts

Sarah Bridge | Founder/Managing Member of RealFacts LLC

REALFACTS apartment data is created, maintained and sold by a small staff of hard working people. You talk to us on the phone. You respond to our telephone surveys. You order reports. You ask when our new data will be uploaded. Now you can put a face to the voice; take a closer look at the RealFacts staff.

How to Tell That Your Lease is Working

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Lease_RenewalMany of us think of a lease agreement as the ultimate weapon, wielded only when there’s a legal dispute.  The rest of the time it sits dormant in a file drawer.

But a lease needs to do more than that.

Fortunately, few of us will have to put our lease to the ultimate test. Yet all of us need it as a day-to-day guide to managing the rental property. Tenants need it, too, as a daily reminder of what is expected of them.

If you are having problems with your tenants, than your lease may not be working.

That’s why it’s important to be finicky about how your lease agreement reads. The more specific the lease is to your rental property, the more credibility it has with your tenants.

Using generic lease forms that set out the rent requirements and barely more than that leaves everyone in the dark. That can generate conflicts.

Likewise, a lease with too much legal mumbo jumbo is like having no lease at all. If the tenant can’t understand it, they are more likely to ignore it.

View the lease less as a legal document, and more as a road map for the relationship with the tenant. It will be a more effective tool if you hold your tenants to the rules, but also meet your own responsibilities, like quick response to a repair request or noise complaint.

Be prepared to enforce any policy stated in the lease. Don’t use tough language if you don’t plan to enforce it — like threatening to evict a tenant for getting a pet, then turning away when it happens. Otherwise, the tenant will soon call your bluff, and problems will spiral.

Similarly, don’t accuse tenants of breaking the lease when they do something that’s not in there.

Stay in your tenant’s mind during the term of the lease. Something as simple as a rent receipt or email can remind tenants they are under a lease agreement.

Make sure your lease agreement is something you can live with — and it will be much easier for your tenants to live with it, too.


logo_aaoa American Apartment Owners Association | Company Website 

Rental property management can be very demanding. Our job is to make this day-to-day property management process smoother. AAOA provides a host of services ranging from tenant screening to landlord rental application forms and contractor directory to apartment financing. 

Timeless Interior Design Elements That Are Ideal for Rental Properties

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By: Bryan Ives | Appfolio

2014-Modern-Apartment-Design-Living-Room-and-Kitchen-Set

The key to increasing your rental rates or market value may lie within one simple concept – establishing a timeless look with your rental property renovations. When you think of classical designs, thoughts of Roman architecture may come to mind, or perhaps you’re remembering a common oldie: that checkerboard patterned black and white tile floor. Classical yes, timeless – not by a long shot.

Notice how outdated shag carpet and avocado green appliances looked ten years ago, but now these are often “special order” items that cost far more than comparable items. Retro is “in” now, but it likely won’t be in a decade, and wise investors keep this in mind when considering investing in profitable rental property renovations.

Whether you plan to remodel bathrooms, the kitchen, or update the flooring or other areas, keep these tips for timeless design elements in mind.

Natural Materials Never Go Out of Style

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Revamp free standing stairs, countertops, and flooring with an installation crafted from natural materials. Wood slabs are a particularly attractive option for stairways, cabinets, and shelving that can authentically add a touch of timeless class to any home. Consider using “clear” wood species such as alder or maple enhanced with medium stains boasting a natural look that will retain their timeless look for decades to come.

Countertop and flooring renovations add both beauty and value to rental properties, and quartz, tile, and granite make ideal selections; however, choosing timeless hues and patterns is vital. Back in the 70s yellow and gold tints were wildly popular. Today, these colors represent expressions of the past and you don’t want your decor to date your property, so stick with neutral, natural grains and patterns, especially when dealing with major design components such as flooring renovations.

Keep it Simple, Stay in Style

The saying goes, “the devil’s in the details” and this motto certainly holds true when it comes to creating a timeless look for rental properties. Adding details is costly, time consuming, and typically a fruitless effort on behalf of property investors. Getting too ornate and stylistic with trendy updates can bring that devil to the surface – and he likes to bite into your income. Keep rental property renovations simple to save money, time, and ensure that renters will be attracted to your property regardless of what’s “in style.”

Choosing a Theme – Leave it up to Residents

Bedroom_design1The elements of style and taste greatly vary, so before delving into making big changes to rooms in efforts to give the place a little character, consider the fact that renters may not share your vision. A prime example of good intentions gone wrong is when home or rental property investors choose to update bathrooms and kitchens for the fantastic return on investment, yet the rest of the house goes untouched. Establishing a design trend in one or two rooms without carrying it throughout the house is a huge no-no. By all means make the necessary repairs, but reconsider using these renovations as a chance to establish a theme.

Say “Yes” to These Timeless Design Elements

Storage space never goes out of style, so if you’re itching to make a rental property improvement, consider installing shelving along bare walls. Functional and stylish, storage space is much appreciated, particularly in the kitchen cabinetry department. Painting, carpeting, flooring, and appliances should be neutral in color, so as to not deter potential renters interest simply because your decor doesn’t “match” or “fit in” with their existing components.

The key to success when renovating rental units is to stick with the timeless, classical look, leaving the design elements up to the tenant.


appfolio Appfolio | Company Website | LinkedIn Connect |

AppFolio, Inc. develops Property Management Software that helps businesses improve their workflow so they save time and make more money.  Appfolio submits articles & blogs including topics of Resident Retention, Improved Owner Communication, Time Management, and more.

How To Improve Your Property’s Reputation In 2014

Written by Landlord Property Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

The best part of the transference into a new year is the opportunity to start anew. If you’re a property manager or multi-resident complex owner who has had some reputation issues crop up online in 2013, the coming year offers an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and convert that negative image into a positive and appealing one.

You’ll have to take action rather than disregard those negative remarks on the web, however, it’s not necessary to hire a reputation management consultant to begin the healing process. With a little bit of patience, diligence, and the assistance of a good property management software application, it’s possible to improve your property’s reputation within the first quarter of 2014 with your own efforts.

Reputations Management Do’s and Don’ts for Multi-Housing Properties

According to an article by Onsites Insites, a leading publication for apartment property management information, more than 85% of consumers read online reviews of rental properties before even bothering to drive by the property or inquire about availability. These professionals also offer some tips on how to manage any negative online reviews that may be cropping up about one of your properties.

Reputation Management Do’s

  • Take time to respond to every review.
  • Think before responding negatively.
  • Encourage reviewers to move the conversation offline by offering your contact info.
  • Remember that anything can end up online with every action you take on property.

Reputation Management Mistakes

Don’t make the mistake of only responding to reviews left by current residents. Remember, it’s the ghosts of the past that can haunt your future, and the Internet is forever. Avoid responding to negative comments with an emotional stance or believing that resident complaints won’t get any further than a complaint form letter or a phone call – understand it can end up on the web.

Streamline Communication with Current Residents for Better Retention

Happy residents are repeat customers so to speak, and their word of mouth referrals can make or break your property’s reputation. Resident’s love knowing that you’re receiving their complaints, compliments, requests, and payments for rentals or homeowner association fees. The days of putting stamps on envelopes are gone for most of us, and people like the freedom to handle all of these tasks online. Immediate gratification of, “you’re message has been sent” or “your payment has been processed” is comforting.

Streamlining accounting, the processing of tenant requests, and making property details and notifications online is easy a with an online property management software program data basing all this information. Tenants are happier, leave better comments online, and are more inclined to refer your property when their needs are being heard and met quickly.

Use Social Media to Jump Start Your Reputation Management Campaign

Social media is a simple and free way to tap into a completely new set of potential residents. Use the most popular apps and social media circles to promote any new additions or improvements from 2013, or talk about any changes to look forward to in the New Year. Pool updates, newly surfaced tennis courts, or freshly renovated interiors are desirable improvements that can drive the most desirable clients into your rental office.

While using all this technology to your advantage to improve your property’s reputation in 2014, don’t forget the power of the human touch. Nothing beats good old fashioned courtesy and fairness when it comes to enhancing tenant satisfaction, so be mindful to not overly automate tenant services while taking advantage of modern conveniences.


appfolio Appfolio | Company Website | LinkedIn Connect |AppFolio, Inc. develops Property Management Software that helps businesses improve their workflow so they save time and make more money.  Appfolio submits articles & blogs including topics of Resident Retention, Improved Owner Communication, Time Management, and more.