Every time I get to a point where I think I have heard or seen everything, I am proven otherwise.
Recently I had a tenant that no longer wanted the hired pool company to service the pool where he lived. He didn't like the fact that they would stop by between 9-4 and instead wanted a 30 minute window. When dealing with big pool companies this is a tough request because they have so many pools they need to service daily on their route. If they have one or more delays it could cause a ripple effect which is why the give such a huge window.
I explained this answer to the tenants and then they offered a separate solution. They would like permission to maintain their own pool in exchange for the cost of monthly pool chemicals (usually 20-30 bucks max). After speaking with the owner we agreed to this but under the condition that they send us a copy of receipts monthly for our records.
After 5 months not receiving any receipts from the tenants, one of the tenants called our office and asked us where their money was. We again explained that we never received any receipts from them, and therefore, we never mailed them any reimbursement checks. Her response was that they lost all the receipts and we should just take their word for it. Obviously in this business we cannot do that because it is irresponsible for our clients.
A few days later I received a phone call from the other tenant saying that the he had the receipts and would send them over. 5 days later I finally received the receipts. The funny thing was that each of these receipts had a similar mark on them from the printing process. As I took a closer look they are were the same receipts with exactly the same info on them. The only difference was that it looked like someone just erased the days and wrote a new date in it.
This is where my detective skills came in. I immediately called the pool store and questioned them about the invoices. They asked that I send the copies over to them for review. When I called to get the result….SURPRISE.... they were indeed the same receipt that had just been altered by someone. They also said that the chemicals listed on the receipts should clear up the dirtiest pool in the world and that if one person was using these on a monthly basis it would be “scary”.
I called the tenants to report my findings in the most sensitive way possible. They vehemently denied everything I was saying and just kept saying that they wanted their money. I explained that after consulting the owner we would only pay for part of each bill. Only then did the tenant reveal the truth. The tenant finally admitted that basically he felt that I should give him the exact amount we paid the previous pool company which is why he altered the chemical bills. According to his bills I would be paying him $5 more per month than I was paying the professional company.
Needless to say, we declined to pay for anything more and insisted that a professional company be put back on schedule to service his pool.
I know this does not reflect every tenant, but it is a funny story of how people try to take advantage anytime you give them a chance. In this business your guard always has to be up, and it is a good idea to go through each bill you get with a fine tooth combs. Sometimes it may just be an innocent mistake, but other times it could be a similar situation to this where people have nothing but bad intentions..
Lately the thing that has become a bone of contention with almost every tenant is security deposits. Tenants are fighting harder to keep every last dollar even though they may NOT deserve to get that money back.
I have had two recent situations that I would like to discuss. I will give you the rundown of each scenario and then at the end I will explain how each situation was handled.
The first was a tenant who was in one of our properties for over 5 years. When the tenant moved into the property he marked everything on his move in report as in "GOOD" shape. Also during the last year of his tenancy we replaced the carpet for him because the others were just getting too worn out. Upon doing the move out inspection we noticed that he did not clean the property after leaving and also that the carpets were not cleaned. We had both of these things done and billed them too his deposits as it states in his lease.
After a few weeks he began writing nasty letters and stated that "he didn't need to clean anything because he did not have a cleaning deposit". This claim brings up a topic that I get asked a lot which is..."what can I charge the tenant for?" In our leases we are very specific that the property be left in the original condition less normal wear and tear or we can charge it to your deposit. We even go one step further by putting a clause which states the carpets have to be professionally cleaned or we will charge you for that as well.
The second issues that came up recently was when a tenant moved out of a property after 3 years. They were model tenants that always paid on time and if there was a repair they would just take care of it out of their pocket. When they move the property looked to be in immaculate condition, and the owner did not have to do any repairs (which is extremely rare). Our leases state that the tenants pay the 1st $25 of any repair. In this tenants case he did call in two repairs that were beyond what he could do, so he had an outstanding balance of $50 which he did not want to have to pay for.
In SCENARIO 1 you had a case where the tenant clearly did not feel accountable for anything. The owner was so disgusted by this that he wanted everything charged to the tenant and said that he would pay whatever costs it took to fight the tenant.
In SCENARIO 2 the owner took into account the quality of the tenant and the fact that the tenant saved the owner a lot of money over his three years by keeping up with the repairs.
This can be a learning lesson for both tenants and landlords.
For tenants, make sure you pay your rent on time and take care of the property. Making the $2 repair without calling and keeping the house in great shape goes along way. It is a lot easier to waive some costs to you when this is done properly.
For landlords, make sure you have a lease in place that spells out the tenant’s responsibilities. It is so easy for tenants to try and use the excuse that "no one ever told me that". Also ALWAYS make sure that you have plenty of photos should you have to fight about this in front of a judge.
Below is a slide-show of what the property looked like when the tenant moved out. Keep in mind that he felt that the property was left in good condition.
The following may not be what you want to hear but it is the TRUTH!
I get the following phone call about once a week.
"Hi, my name is ______ and my Realtor has been trying to sell my home for ___ months without success. He suggested that I rent it out until the market gets better. What do you think?
Now I am grateful when we get a referral because it usually means someone trusts you and I always take that very seriously.
The problem is that every person is not made to be a landlord. There are a couple of things that most people do not tell you up front that you need to be aware of before making this major decision.
This is what I usually tell people:
As you make the decision to become a landlord you have to cut all personal ties to the property. You can't think of the guest bedrooms as the place your kids grew up, or the kitchen as the two year remodel that came out perfect. If you happen to drive by or do an inspection and see that the occupants are not living in the home exactly how you did...you have to accept that (deep breath). DO NOT CONFUSE THIS WITH ACTUAL PHYSICAL PROPERTY DAMAGE. I am simply talking about messy rooms, dishes in the sink, or the overgrown grass in the backyard. Too often people get hung up on the fact that the home doesn’t look the same as they remember it. If you cannot take the emotional connections out of the equation then you should not be a landlord.
Make sure that you have AT LEAST 6 months of mortgage payments (if not more) in savings to cover any vacancies, repairs, etc. If you are counting on the rent check alone each month to cover the mortgage payment then you should not be a landlord.
Be prepared...renters may not pay and/or a major repair or damage could occur. Like any investment there will be ups and down. If every tenant stayed forever, paid top rent, and never need repairs, then everyone would be a landlord. The fact of the matter is that issues/hardships will come up and you need to be prepared to deal with them.
Now a lot of this is easier said then done, and I realize that a lot of people are being forced into being landlords. That is why it's important to hire a reputable property manager that with oversee your investment and collect the proper deposits to try and mitigate your damage should something go wrong.
If you or someone you know wants to discuss this further please contact me.
10 years ago I could never imagine being able to access my entire office from my cell phone. In all honesty, I probably wouldn't have thought about it 5 years ago. Today (if I absolutely needed to) I could access my office from anywhere is the world. It still baffles me to think of that.
The other side of technology is not so pretty. Major companies have found it more cost effective to have computerized menus. Customer service has completely disappeared or become more impersonal. I hate the fact that I can't just call Verizon or APS and have a real person answer the phone. You have to go through a computerized menu to filter you to the right area. Once you finally reach a "real person" you are beyond frustration.
The other thing that happens more often nowadays is getting sent directly to voice-mail, which in my opinion is even worse. You are literally at their mercy as to when you will get a call back. Generally when they finally do call you back you are in the shower, bathroom, or in a meeting. I applaud companies like Southwest and Apple who realize the value of their customers opinions and have setup up a call back feature which actually allows you to schedule an exact time frame with them. I think this is the best of both worlds.
How would I handle technological advances at our company? Well...our business is run a little bit more old fashioned when it comes to that. We aren't always perfect, but if you call our office Mon-Fri 9-4 we will always be there to take your call. You may have to hold if we have other calls, but eventually someone from our staff will be on the line to handle your questions, concerns, etc.
We also offer to be contacted by email or through our website for the people that choose to communicate that way. This does account for a lot of our business, but at the end of the day I would always prefer to speak to people in person or over the phone. I feel that it creates a better relationship and dialogue for doing business. I realize that as the years pass this way of thinking will become more rare.
What does everyone else think? Are you OK with where we are heading as a society, and the fact that we use e-mail and texting as our primary form of communication...where no emotion can be seen or heard? This is a hot topic and I would appreciate some feedback.
Great link to article that bring up the same points I touched on.
Your favorite blogger is back with another adventure to share with you!
It's not only tenants that we have funny stories about. Vendors can also do some amazing things when they need money quickly. I have seen everything from padding their bills, to trying to slip in invoices for properties that they have not even serviced yet. That is why you have to keep a really close eye on not only who you hire, but what is actually being charged to you and whether you ordered everything that is on the bill.
About eight years ago we had a painter who desperately needed to get paid on a project. He called us and stated that he had in fact finished the exterior and we explained that we would be doing a drive by later in the day and that if everything looked good we would be able to pay him for the job the following day.
We went by the property and the front of it looked GREAT! We gave the painter a call and let him know that his check would be ready the following morning. That night we received a call from another agent (regarding the newly painted property) asking us if the back of the house was going to be finished getting painted. We were in shock. We immediately drove to the property and saw that the painter had indeed tried to trick us into paying him after only half the job was done.
The next day the painter came by the office to pick up his check for that job as well as several other jobs. He was surprised to find out that we discovered his little ploy and that we were holding all of his checks until he finished the job to our standards.
He made right on this and finished the job that day. We also kept this policy with him for the rest of the time that he painted for our company which was only a few jobs. When you lose that trust with a vendor it is hard to get it back, and I am sure he didn't like being constantly under the microscope.
It really is amazing the lengths that people will go through in order to get money, and it is important to keep this in mind. Make sure you hire reputable people that have plenty of references. This is the age that people hire a lot of their workmen through Craigslist, Yellow Pages, etc. Just make sure that all their work is done properly and to your standards prior to paying any money out to them.
In my opinion not every home needs a home warranty.
For example, if your home is brand new then you probably get a builders warranty for at least the first year. If you purchase a resale home then it may make sense in cases to look into purchasing a home warranty. Some Realtors and clients swear by home warranties. I tend to lean in the other direction.
In my line of work I have often seen the warranty company either not cover everything that they said they would or make you jump through so many hoops that it is not worth it. An example of this is a client owned a home built in 1959. From about 1994 she started using a home warranty. Every year she renewed this until she finally sold the home in 2009. During that span of time she had two big ticket claims. One was for an a.c. unit and the other was for a furnace.
Most people reading this are probably thinking "she got her monies worth then". At first glance I would think the same thing, but upon taking a closer look at the numbers below you can see what a bad deal she got.
15 years at an average of $400 per year equals $6000. Even $6000 over a long period of time would be ok, but then comes all the other issues. This a.c. was clearly at the end of it's life in 2004, yet they still refused to replace the unit. It took 11 more service calls at $55 a piece before they finally agreed to install a new unit. This added up to $550 on top of all the time and frustration wasted trying to get them to do what they promised in their initial contract. When it got replaced they installed a smaller unit based on square footage only and didn't take anything else into account. To top that off they made the client pay for the crane. This cost the client over $1000. By the end it cost my client spent around $8000 for coverage that I could have paid $4000 for.
I would only recommend getting a home warranty in a few occasions. The first is if you don't have the money to cover a major expense like an air conditioner or heater. The second is when your buy a resale home and the seller is willing to add that in as part of the purchase contract at no cost to the buyer. The reality is that you can find more reliable vendors through friends or networks like Angie's List!
Of course, this is just my opinion on the topic. If you have any examples (good or bad) that you would like to share I would love to hear them!
The feedback has been great from this series, so we have decided to keep this series going.
Tenants are a funny thing. As mentioned before, we hear just about everything from people in order to avoid paying rent. When I first started working here, I always believed what everyone said. At some point (when you have heard the same story over and over) you start realizing that you can't help everyone and that they need to follow what their lease states.
One tenant still makes me laugh to this day. From almost the day she moved in, she had a problem paying the rent. Rather than come clean and admit her difficulty, she would always call with an excuse. One month she was in a car accident, one month she was mugged, one month she broke her leg, etc. This pattern held true for 5-6 months.
It was just frustrating. I think everyone has a heart and wants to help, but if you can't be honest with us, then why would we try to help? Furthermore, if you're not honest we may not even know that you need help.
This particular lady never really came clean until she was caught red-handed. She called (on the same day as usual) and said that she was going to be late paying the rent because she was in the hospital currently and very ill. A few minutes after we took the call we needed to called her back. The only number we had was her home phone so we figured we would just have to leave a message.
The phone rang.....and the "hospitalized" tenant answered the phone. My jaw hit the floor!!! At that point we confronted her and asked what was going on. She explained that she was embarrassed and confirmed our suspicions. We tried to work with that tenant from then on out, but eventually the lies just became too much.
If you or someone you know is going through similar hardships, I would recommend to get your landlord on the phone and try to work something out. Most times that is the best solution for both parties. It just requires good old fashioned communication
A lot of times i am quick to write funny or frustrating stories on this blog, but today I wanted to share a story that highlights why I love what I do.
In addition to being a property manager, I also handle many other real estate transactions. A friend of mine recently hired me to sell his "bachelor pad" so that he could buy a new property with his girlfriend.
As I stated, I know this couple, and they are very meticulous. They did a lot of research prior to hiring an agent, so I was flattered that they chose me. They also did a great job preparing the home for sale. In fact we were able to sell his home in less than a month. The only issue was that we were faced with the task of finding that perfect home and the faster the better.
We were able to narrow the hundreds of homes down to one pretty quickly. After months of negotiating with the bank their offer was accepted and we made the necessary steps to close on this property. During the inspection period it was revealed that what we thought was "desert preserve" was really zoned for future commercial development. Obviously the couple was not thrilled with the thought of a Walmart in their backyard so we canceled the contract. I just remember feeling so heartbroken for them. They had grown so attached to this property and were in love with the floorplan.
I think we all took a few days for grieving and then got right back on the hunt! We went to a newer development that featured the exact same floorplan. When we pulled into the builders parking lot I just got the sense that "this was it". We found out that the community was closing down and this meant huge savings!!!
In a matter of days we had everything wrapped up. As we speak, the home is being built and they should (hopefully) be moving in by the end of August. The best part is that they were able to get the same floorplan, on a better lot, custom built to what they want, for less money!!! I guess good things do come to those who wait.
Another cool detail of the story is that a few weeks ago the happy couple were engaged at the building site of the home. How cool is that? I am truly happy for my clients and friends Parker Stevens and Stephanie Schlachter. Thanks for choosing me as your agents, and congrats on your engagement!
About a year ago a rather peculiar older lady contacted our office about renting a studio apartment. This lady gave us a story about how hard she was struggling to make it while attending night classes at a local junior college. She stated that this was the perfect rent amount and that she needed it right away.
After careful examination of her application we decided that we would let her move into the property. Like most residents, she came into our office to sign the lease. I went in to sign with her and I noticed that there were lipstick marks ALL OVER the office window. I also happened to notice that it seemed to be the same color she was wearing. I could not prove anything and in fact I asked her if she had been the culprit, which she denied. She just seemed like the sweet older lady that could have been anyone's grandmother. It was just something about her that had me on edge. Little did I know that this lady would be my worst NIGHTMARE!
I informed my staff to be careful at that point because something about this person was "off". It only took about 5 days for this lady to start showing her true colors. She called our office repeatedly during than day (over 20 calls) and asked "who we worshiped". Obviously this was a questions that had most of my staff scared to answer one way or the other.
Finally my staff transferred one of these call to me and and explained to her that she needed to stop with the harassing phone calls. At that point she screamed a few obscenities at me an hung up. I was mortified.
It seemed I was not the only person that she was yelling it either. We started to get calls by the masses from residents in her community saying that she was asking the same questions to them. In fact, she sprayed one tenant down with Windex and claimed that she was cleansing him in the name of the Lord. This ended with her going to jail overnight.
I would like to say that things got better after the assault scare, but it didn't. Things got even more weird when she called and stated that she was having electrical issues. I asked her to explain the issues, and she said that aliens were living in the attic and controlling her power. She also said that these aliens were breaking into her apartment at night and opening all her water bottles and filling them with flavoring. My guess was that she bought flavored water, but either way it was clear that this tenant needed help.
We tried to help her find that help over the next few weeks, but she refused. She also refused to pay rent and her utilities due to the fact that "aliens" were controlling her utilities. We even went so far as to send an electrician over to the unit with her home and show her that no one was controlling her power, cable, etc. Despite seeing this she still refused to pay rent!
Obviously if you don't pay rent, you can't stay in our properties...so she was eventually evicted. She actually went to the court and tried to fight with the judge over the alien issue, and the judge simply said that aliens were not an excuse for not paying rent!
Let this be a lesson for anyone out there....even if aliens have invaded your house, you still need to pay the bills! In hindsight, this tenant may have been better off trying to get the aliens to split the bills with her.
Just another day in the life of a residential property manager!!!
For awhile I have been toying with the idea of creating a book based on the funny situations I have experienced while managing properties. These are the types of things that take place and leave you asking the question...DID THAT JUST HAPPEN???
Instead of trying to create a book I have decided to share some of these stories on my blog. This first story is probably my favorite. It is the prime example for tenants who will do everything they can to stay in their property (besides pay their rent). Around 3 years ago, we placed a tenant in one of our properties. She has great credit, excellent references, solid job history, income, etc.
The one issue that caused some concern was that she was in the mortgage industry which at that time was at the APEX of instability. Everything was going fine for a few months, and then BOOM...she couldn't pay her rent.
Most tenants in this situation will offer to pay some of the rent if we can work with them. Not this tenant. She always promised to come in tomorrow with the entire amount. This went on for the entire 50 days it took to get her out of the property. 50 days is a key number here because usually it never takes that long.
The last part of the legal process is to serve a "Writ of Restitution" which basically lets the tenants know that they are being evicted and possession is being given back to the owner of the property. When the constable went to the property to serve the Writ, he could not find the address anywhere. We kept explaining were the property was but he explained that the address was incorrect and that he could not serve them the notice.
We immediately sent a representative from our office to the property and could not believe what we saw. The tenant, in an effort to avoid being evicted, had glued another hand made address plate over the existing one. We had to send all the data back to the court and it allowed the tenant to stay for an extra 7 days.
It seemed we were not the only victim either. When I went to check the water box in the front yard she had filled it with rocks and inside was a note asking the water man to "Please don't turn off the water" and promised "I am on my way to pay right now". Needless to say she also left a huge outstanding water bill with the city.
It just shows that you can screen people up and down, yet if they really want to deceive you they can. This person clearly knew what she was doing, and it is very sad because it caused nothing but trouble, stress, and major expenses to the owner.
Realtor, Property Manager, New Blogger