Spring Maintenance: 4 Common Landlord Concerns

 

Spring Maintenance: 4 Common Landlord Concerns

| 2015 Apr 02 |
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Spring Maintenance: 4 Common Landlord Concerns

 

When you own property, there’s plenty to worry about. When you own multiple properties, there’s even more to worry about. The spring can be a particularly hard time for landlords: tenants come and go, and there’s always something to clean, repair or renovate.

If this sounds all too familiar, don’t worry; you’re not alone. Here we’ll discuss 4 of the most common landlord concerns when it comes to spring maintenance and how to effectively deal with them.

Mold Busters consulted John Richardson, creator of Landlord Relief Property Management, on the following matters:

  • 1. Tenant turnover
  • 2. HVAC maintenance
  • 3. Outdoor/yard work
  • 4. Leaks, mold

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Problem #1: Tenant Turnover

Tenant turnover is a landlord’s biggest cost, says Richardson. Below are 3 ways you pay (in time and/or money) when your tenant takes off:

  • Advertising the unit, finding a new tenant
  • Redecorating the unit (i.e. splashing a fresh coat of paint on the walls)
  • Less rent money (as long as the space is unoccupied)

Treating your tenant like a paying client is the best way to avoid the pitfalls of tenant turnover. Be responsive. Be courteous.

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Problem #3: HVAC Maintenance

Spring is an ideal time to inspect and maintain heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems primarily because of the weather. It’s neither too cold nor too hot that tenants will be uncomfortable when you shut down the systems temporarily, explains Richardson.

Skipping HVAC maintenance will lead to poor air circulation and excess moisture, which–with the right temperature and a food source–will trigger mold growth, a problem very difficult and costly to resolve.

By regularly monitoring and maintaining HVAC systems, you’ll keep comfortable living quarters for your tenants, prevent the buildup of indoor air quality pollutants and, in many cases, spot problems before repairs are needed.

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Problem #3: Outdoor/ Yard Work

It’s no secret that winter weather is hard on the exterior of a building. Exterior caulking, siding, decks and the roof must be inspected thoroughly and, if necessary, repaired in the spring.

One of the most important tasks is tending to gutters and downspouts, clearing the debris from both and making sure there’s proper drainage.

According to Richardson, landlords are usually responsible for outdoor work involving the house; for example, the aforementioned task of clearing debris. It’s not standard for landlords to take on yard work for small single-family rental units, although they probably will for multi-unit dwellings.

There’s no shortage of outdoor work once the snow melts. Because inspecting and tending to the exterior of a home is crucial for keeping your tenants safe, hire help if you need it.

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Problem #4: Leaks, Mold

If there is exterior damage, melted snow or April rain will enter the home–fast. Water damage paves the way for black mold growth and termites, among other problems.

Richardson’s 2 sure-fire ways to prevent moisture intrusion this spring:

  • 1. Inspect and repair the roof
  • 2. Waterproof the foundation–a costly but necessary step

Because it’s not always easy or possible for tenants to spots leaks, annual inspections are important.

If a landlord suspects a mold problem, it must be dealt with immediately. A good time black mold remediation is in between tenants, when the unit is vacant. Of course it doesn’t always work out that way, and still mold must be dealt with immediately.

Conclusion

Staying on top of all your responsibilities as a landlord requires a great deal of time and can be both physically and emotionally taxing. For this reason, Richardson suggests small landlords hire a property manager. This way, their properties and tenants will surely get the attention they deserve.

About John Richardson

John Richardson is a lawyer, educator and real estate investor. He created Toronto-based “Landlord Relief Property Management” to help small investors manage their residential rental properties.

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This has been a guest post, if you have property management information you would like to share, make sure to get in touch.  I especially enjoy sharing stories of personal experiences.

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The home butcher shop

The home butcher shop

I want to share a story about tenant vs landlord communication.  When you lease your property it is very important that both parties are clear about the intended use.

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In this story it appears the tenant lacked some common sense and caught the landlord of guard.  This is not my story, but it happened to a close friend (we will call her Jane).  I was asked what I would have done in the situation, and I have to say I was at a loss for words.

You see Jane had a single family home, rented to a family (the Clampetts).  The house is located on a very busy street.  The Clampetts were long term tenants and paid the rent (mostly on-time).

There were some red flags leading up to the incident, things like a lot of junk, like old trailers, cars, boats, and miscellaneous stuff around the yard.

Nothing prepared my Jane for what was about to happen this one particular day.

You see the papa Clampett somehow secured a full beef cow.  He decided he would butcher the cow in the front yard.  I guess in their defense, there was a great tree with a limb strong enough to hang a cow.

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As I mentioned this house was located on a very busy street.  Imagine driving by papa Clampett covered in blood holding a chainsaw, cutting up a huge body hanging from a tree.

Blood and guts everywhere.  Many people knew who owned the property, so the calls started coming in.

Jane did not know what to think, it was one of those things where you are in shock, then realize, you need to take action.

She was not sure what the laws were around such an event.

She decided the bast thing to do would be to make a phone call, so she did.

Papa Clampett answered the phone and explained how they had an opportunity to get this cow, but had to act fast.

He apologized for all the commotion, and said he was almost finished cutting it up, and would not do it again.

The big question is, did this tenant violate his lease agreement.  That could be debated, however, common sense would state, this was a poor judgement call on the part of papa Clampett.

Municipal, town and city by-laws generally require all residents to abide by current laws, rules and by-laws (applies to tenants and owners).

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Most residential communities have by-laws in place that specifically mention the guidelines around back yard slaughter, urban farmers,  and back yard butchers.  There has been a lot of recent media about people wanting to keep chickens in urban areas.

It also may cross over into the rules around food safety and handling.

What makes this situation unique, is that it was a one off case.  The Clampetts never butchered any other animals in the yard after that day.

To answer the question of what I would have done, would likely have been what Jane did.  Confronted the issue, and receive assurance from the tenant that it would never happen again.

The house was in a location that had by-laws in place prohibiting the actions of the tenant.

The overall lesson is to make sure to always stay close to knowing what is happening at your properties, either by a personal weekly drive by, or having someone else do it.

Also when you are going over the lease agreement with a new tenant, It is good practice to go over the rules of the neighborhood. Although cow butchering in the front yard may not come up.

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10 Tips on how to buy a tax sale property

Ten tips on how to buy a tax sale property

I wanted to write a follow up or addition to my previous post about buying properties at tax sales.  Other than how to find and purchase foreclosure properties, the tax sale purchase process is what I am asked most about.

Lets get started.  It is important to realize that every municipality, state, parish, region or area will likely hold a tax sale at least once per year.  It is also important to realize where ever you are, they set there own rules around property tax collection and disposal of properties that have unpaid taxes owed on them.

There was a tax sale this past week in my home city, so the experience is fresh, and I figured I would summarize what to do, to give you the upper hand when buying tax sale properties.

It is definately a high risk way to purchase properties, however, it can also have big rewards.

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#1 Print off a list of the properties that will be offered at the tax sale from your areas website, well in advance and on the day of.  Make note of any changes.

#2 Locate the properties you are interested in buying and drive to the sites.

#3 Understand what “as is” means in your area as related to properties sold by way of a tax sale.  when you arrive at the site, causiously take a look around.  Smell the air close to the building, if you smell oil, mold, gas, etc.. you might want to walk away.  View the overall condition.  Is the property occupied, is it in an area you want to own a property in?  What is you first impression, and can you achive what you want based on the appearance.  In my area, the city takes zero responsibility for any environmental, physical, or occupant issues with properties sold at a tax sale.

#4 Determine the maximum price you will pay for the properties you selected, and make sure they will meet your investment criteria for the purchase.  Is it a flip as is, flip renovated, buy and hold with current building or a tear down vacant land hold, or if the property is vacant can you get it rezoned, or is it worth holding as vacant land.

#5 Make sure you are aware of the accepted forms of payment at the tax sale you plan to attend.  The one I attended this past week only accepted the following:

TERMS: PAYMENT OF CASH, CERTIFIED CHEQUE, MONEY ORDER , BANK DRAFT, IRREVOCABLE LETTER OF CREDIT OR LAWYERS TRUST CHEQUE AND NOT OTHERWISE. A purchaser at tax sale shall IMMEDIATELY pay the purchase price or deposit an amount equal to the TAXES, INTEREST, OTHER LIENABLE CHARGES AND EXPENSES. The balance of the purchase price, if any, MUST BE MADE WITHIN THREE (3) BUSINESS DAYS OF THE SALE BY CASH, CERTIFIED CHEQUE, MONEY ORDER, BANK DRAFT OR LAWYERS TRUST CHEQUE AND NOT OTHERWISE. COMMERCIAL PROPERTY WILL BE SUBJECT TO HST CHARGES. PURCHASER WILL BE REQUIRED TO PROVIDE AN HST REGISTRATION NUMBER AT THE TIME OF SALE.

#6 Keep your emotions in line:  The best idea is to bring a bank draft made out to the city for the required starting bid of the property or properties you have seleced.  If you do not buy them, you can take the cheque back to the bank.  Then do not let bidding emotion take over.  The reason it is an auction is to make it fair, and competitive.  Keep your emotions in check.  If you do not get a property, that is ok.  You are better to not get a property rather than pay too much.

#7 Understand the redemption period (if one exists) In the sale I attended this past week there were 17 redeemable and 1 non-redeemable properties.  What that means is that even if you were high bid and purchased a property if it was labled redeemable, the deeded owner has 6 months to pay the tax bill, interest on your money, cost of  insurance, and any nesessary cost to secure the building during the redemption period (boarding up windows, patching the roof, mowing the lawn etc.)

If you renovate the property, you will not get reinbursed for the cost of the renovation.  Also if the roof is leaking, it is best to patch it, rather than replace the whole thing.  You can cut the grass, but not trees.  You can collect rent if it is tenant occupied, but it will be deducted from your costs at the time of redemption.

You basically need to get insurance, change the locks, cut the grass, make the property safe and secure and wait the six months.  At the six month mark, the paperwork to transfer the deed will be provided.

If the property is non-redeeemable then you get to take full ownership right away.  It also means it likely has been vacant for a long time, and likely has a reason for not selling at a previous tax sale.

#8 Understand the rules around current occupants in the property:  When you buy a tax sale property they are truly as is.  That means they could be occupied by tenants who are willing to pay rent, tenants who are unwilling to pay rent, a family member to the deeded owner who cannot pay to purchase the property, but have been living in it for several years (possibly with mental or physical limitations).  It could be occupied by squatters (people who just decided to move in), you might be buying a crack house occupied by drug users, drug dealers and prostitutes.  It could have rodents, or other animals living in it.  In the case of the tax sale I attended the other day it is up to the buyer to work with the local residential tenancy board, police, pest control, and animal control to deal with current occupants.  The good news is that you can start working on your evictions or new lease arangements right away.  That will allow six months to clean up the occupant issues.

#9 Make a plan for the property, when you purchase a tax sale property you may think you know what you want to do with it before the sale.  The plan may change based on the true condition of the property once you own it.  It may change from a buy and hold to a complete tear down.  You may discover that, it is a poor fit for your investment portfolio and decide to sell it.  You may decide to fli it as is.  What ever you decide to do, you will likely have a redemption period to plan and decide which direction your project is going to go in.

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#10 Understand your personal risk tolerance.  When you buy a property from a tax sale, it is a risky investment.  Like most high risk investments, if they work out they have high returns.  If they do not work out, it is almost always a negative result.  Make sure you think about the emotional impact of paying thousands of dollars for a property that you cannot properly inspect before you purchase.  When you buy from a tax sale it is gamble.  Property investing can often feel like a gamble at the best of times, however, to buy from a tax sale, you have to keep your emotions under control, so you do not get into a bidding war and over pay.  Then you end up with a vacant property that you will need to check on regularly during the redemption period to please the insurance company.  The other side is you may end up with an occupied property, where the occupants are not paying rent.  You will need to figure out how to get rid of them.  You may also think you got a great deal, then realize the place is full of mold and asbestos.  If you are a risk adverse investor, I would not recommend buying from a tax sale.

I hope you will find these 10 tips have helped you prepare for your next tax sale.  The first step is to get educated.  I would recommend you go to Google right now and find out when the next tax sale is in your area.  Then attend as an observer.  I have found that the people working the tax sales are very helpful.  They want people to attend, so they can start generating tax revenue once again (you are responsible for the tax right from day 1, even during the redemption process).  As long as they get the starting bid amount, all back taxes will be paid.

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Thank you for reading

Mike

 

30 Day Notice To Landlord

When you become a landlord the first step is understanding leases.  I am often amazed when I am interviewing potential tenants how many do not have a documented lease.  How can a tenant be expected to know how much notice to provide.

I agree a verbal lease will work in most places, however, it offers very little protection for the landlord or tenant in the case of a dispute.

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The state or provincial rules will be enforced.  The problem is, that this will likely work in favor of the tenant.

For example: Joe landlord makes a verbal agreement to lease an apartment for one year to Bob tenant.  In my area, if Bob tenant wants to leave at the end of a one year lease, he would have to provide three months notice before the end of the year, or it would automatically renew for another year.

During Bob tenants second month of tenancy, he decides he wants to leave and move in with his girlfriend.  He calls Joe landlord and provides a verbal 30 day notice to quit.  Joe landlord points out that they agreed to a one year lease.

Bob tenant disagrees, and claims he only agreed to a month to month lease, and all he needs to provide is 30-day notice to quit.

Here is the challenge:  They do not have a written agreement.  If it goes to a residential tenancy hearing, Joe landlord will likely have trouble with his side of the story.

He will automatically lose some credibility with the tenancy board, due to the fact that he did not have a written lease.

In my opinion landlords and tenants should always have a written lease agreement.  It is the responsibility of the landlord to explain the lease to the tenants.

I hope you enjoyed my 30 day notice to landlord post.

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