4 Security Deposit Tips for Property Managers

Security deposits are known for causing the most contention between property managers and tenants. They cause contention for numerous reasons, but following these steps will help eliminate errors on your side.

  1. Know the Law: There are laws dictating where security deposit money should be kept, how much you can charge, how quickly funds need to be deposited in the bank and returned to tenant at the end of the lease, and what should be done with interest earned. Also remember that security deposits must to be discriminatory and must be the same for every tenant. Know the laws in your state; they vary.
  1. Don’t Charge Less than Allowed Just to Attract New Renters: It may seem like a good business move to lower your security deposit to fill vacancies faster. But, be warned, lowering your security deposit will invite financially unreliable tenants to apply. Tenants who can’t afford a high security deposit are more likely to get behind and miss a rent payment. Also you may need that full deposit to cover damage costs after a tenant leaves. If you lower your security deposit, you may be stuck paying for damages out of pocket.
  1. Keep Security Deposits Separate: Create a separate bank account exclusively for security deposit funds. Make sure the bank knows the account is for escrow or trust funds, if you company were to experience legal issues, these funds would be protected. It is important to remember that security deposit money is not your money; it should not be treated as rent money. You are just holding onto the money for your tenants and can only touch it if they forfeit it.
  1. Document Your Properties’ Condition: Perhaps the most contention part of a tenant/property manager relationship concerns whether or not a tenant’s security deposit needs to be used to cover damages. Every tenant wants their security deposit back in full, so unless you have irrefutable proof of damages you may have a long battle ahead of you. The best way to avoid disagreement is to fully document (a video is the best proof) the status of the rental before a tenant moves in, and once again right before the tenant hands over the keys. Full documentation will also help you receive compensation from your insurance company if the damages exceed the security deposit.

Of course there will always be disputes, but taking these precautions will lesson those and help you and your tenants to see eye to eye and keep you in line with the law.

6 Tips for Loading Your Moving Truck from the Experts

Now that you have everything packed in boxes you have the even trickier task of getting those boxes to fit into your moving truck in a complicated game of Tetris.

Unfortunately just getting a larger truck rental won’t always solve your problem. Unless you know how to maximize the truck’s space it may not matter whether you have a 16-cubic or 24-cubic-foot truck rental.

Boxes First or Big Items First?

People may give you differing opinions, but both options can work. If you have more boxes than large bulky items, stack the boxes in first and fit the furniture and big items in last. But if you have more furniture you may want to start with those and fit the boxes in around and under everything else.

Take Apart Bulky Items

Take apart anything that can be condensed. Large items such as dining room tables and cribs take up a lot of space, but can usually be easily taken down and stored on the side of the truck–significantly reducing the space they take up.

Pack Vertically

You’d be surprised how much you can fit if you pack vertically. Even your couches can usually stand on end. You won’t always be able to stack things up to the ceiling, so take advantage of instances where you can. Remember to pack heaviest things on the bottom and lighter thing on top.

Distribute Weight Evenly

It may to seem important to pay attention to where you put all of your heavy items, but you’ll soon realize when you start driving. If you don’t distribute the weight evenly, you may have to drive even slower to maintain control of the truck. This could be a huge inconvenience if you’ve got a long drive ahead of you.

Use Drawers and Shelves in Furniture

Store light things in drawers and shelves in furniture to maximize your space. A bookshelf may seem like a space waster, but bookshelves can be extremely useful to store small boxes and light items—just be sure to secure them.

Pack Tightly & Strap Things Down

Though packing vertically is the best way to maximize space, there’s always the risk that something could fall, so make sure you strap things down and pack tightly. There’s such a thing as too much space, if you rent a truck too large, you’ll have a hard time keeping your things from sliding around. Try to rent a truck that is just big enough so everything fits snuggly. To decide what size will fit your needs read “How to Choose the Right Size Moving Truck” from moving.com.

3 Rules For Lawful Entry For Landlords

Even though as a landlord, you own the property, you cannot just enter your properties anytime you wish, and certainly not without notice. Though this may seem inconvenient, the laws are in place to protect the rights and privacy of your tenants. The specific of the law vary from state to state. So you’ll need to educate yourself on the pertaining state’s law. (Nolo.com provides a chart with requirements to enter state by state.)There are however, some basic guidelines to follow.

Rules to Follow for Lawful Entry

  1. Reasons to Enter: You can enter your property to make necessary repairs (in some states you can enter just to verify if repairs are actually needed), show the property to prospective tenants, and to conduct scheduled inspections. Of course if the renter gives you permission you can enter without giving advance notice.
  2. Give Notice: When a tenant alerts you to a maintenance issue you should take care of the repairs as soon as possible. But before you gain entry, you need to give your tenants usually 24 hours notice (though in some states vary). When you need to enter to show the property or to conduct an inspection you should also give ample notice. No one’s home is clean all the time, and everyone deserves the chance to tidy up a little bit before someone shows up to look around.
  3. Emergencies: The only exception to giving notice is when there is an immediate emergency such as a fire or severe flooding. And in these instances you won’t be inconveniencing your tenants at all by entering without giving notice.

Following these three rules and know your specific state requirements will keep your out of hot water with your tenants.

Why Renter’s Insurance is Important for University Students Too

School is back in session and university students must adjust to juggling class schedules, homework, papers, part time jobs, budgeting, a social life and apartment living. Whether you’re a newbie freshman or a seasoned senior, it’s a lot to handle. So why take the risk of making your life more difficult? In the craziness of college life a lot of apartment doors are left unlocked and your expensive and vital electronics become easy theft targets. That is just one of the instances that renter’s insurance would come in handy for students.

Unfortunately, renter’s insurance may not be something that you’re even aware that you need to have. A lot of people mistakenly believe that their landlord has their back or that their parent’s home owner’s insurance policy will cover them. But that is not usually the case, especially if you live off-campus. Although your landlord is responsible for anything that came with the apartment, they are in no way responsible for your personal belongings. If a disaster or theft does happen and you haven’t invested in renter’s insurance you’re on your own for replacing your stuff.

At first glance, a renter’s insurance policy may just seem like an added expense that’s not in your budget. But replacing your computer, smart phone, flat screen, etc is really not in your budget. You can get great coverage for much less than any of those items for an entire year’s worth of coverage. You can get your basic policy for roughly $10 a month, or the price of a pizza. Every student can stand to give up a pizza a month to make sure they’re not put in a tight spot should something happen to their belongings.

Last April, students renting a home that went up in smoke due to an electrical short lost everything. If they‘d had renter’s insurance they would have been reimbursed for the value of their belongings. Don’t get caught in this situation, look into a renter’s insurance policy today.

7 Steps to File a Renter’s Insurance Claim

When the unexpected happens be sure to follow these steps for timely compensation from your insurance company.

1. File a police report if applicable: If the reason for your claim is due to theft, vandalism, fire or other incident that puts you at risk, contact the police or fire department immediately. The authorities will document the damage—give them as many details as possible and keep a copy of the report for yourself to use when filing your claim. However, there are many other claims that will not require the aid of police, such as a flooding bathroom.

2. Contact Your landlord/property manager: If you are experiencing an emergency contact your property manager pronto, even if it’s in the middle of the night. Many property managers have a list of go-to contractors, restoration companies, etc that they prefer to use for repairs, so even if the basement is flooding call your property manager first. Renters are responsible for filing a claim if their own belongings were damaged, but if the damaged property belongs to the landlord, that will be their responsibility.

3. Once the incident isn’t pressing, contact your insurance company: There is a time limit for submitting claims. So don’t wait too long to call to report a loss, preferably within 24 hours. When you call, be prepared with details of the incident and your policy number.

4. Document damages: Document everything. Take pictures or even video of damages before cleanup and restoration begins. If you don’t your insurance company could claim that there wasn’t any damage. Ideally, you had an updated home inventory with pictures so you can show before “before” and “after” pictures in your claim.

5. Itemize your Losses: Rather than list losses as one lump sum, itemize the losses. You’ll want to be as exact as possible; this will help the insurance company see the true extent of the damage.

6. File your official claim: Send in your claim form with your documentation as soon as possible. You’ll also probably want to send it certified, so you have proof that the claim reached the insurance company.

7. Ask about the payment schedule: Don’t be shy about asking when you’ll get your money, and continue to be vigilant until you’ve received payment.

Even though it’s no fun to have damages and have to make a claim, the best thing you can do is prepare for it. Chances are, at some point in your life, you’ll need to make an insurance claim. You can prepare by ensuring you’re up to date on repairs, follow basic home safety, have an updated home inventory, and have good renter’s insurance.

Should You Have a Property Management License?

If you are a solely a landlord you are not required to have any specific certification, but if you manage properties that you own rather than hiring a professional property manager, you’ll need to look into the requirements by state.

A property manager’s first duty is to the law, then to the landlord and then to the tenant — this means a property manager needs to know exactly what the law requires of them. The best way to educate yourself is through a property management certification. Some areas may even require you to receive a license or even several before you start managing properties. There are many options available to you, some you can even complete online.

The top 4 certifications for property managers

1. Government Issued Real Estate License & Realtor License from realtor.org

2. Certified Manager of Community Associations (CMCA) by the National Board of Certification for Community Association Managers (NBC-CAM)

3. Certified Property Manager (CPM) by the Institute of Real Estate Management

4. Certified Apartment Manager (CAM) by the National Apartment Association (NAA)

Check with your state’s requirements to find out exactly what certification you need to get started. Not only is it required in some areas, but it will also make you more credible in areas where certification isn’t required. If you want to find out more about the above certifications check out the article “Top 5 Property Management Licenses & Certifications” by landlordology.com.

Smoking Restrictions for Renters: The When, The Where and The Why

As restrictions on smoking have become tighter and tighter, some renters may wonder if they can even smoke in the privacy of their own home. Well the answer is that it is entirely up to your landlord and what the lease states.

When?

However, landlords cannot just spring new policy on renters, they must wait until the lease is up for renewal or a tenant moves out to make changes to the lease. Then the landlord can make changes to the lease, and it will be up to the renter to accept the terms and agree to them or move out.

If the renter chooses not to heed the new policy, the landlord will have grounds for eviction.

Where?

While, it is up to the landlord to decide where tenants are and aren’t allowed to smoke, most policies currently prohibit smoking in common areas such as foyers, laundry rooms, pool area, parking lot, etc. Yet, more and more landlords are changing their policies to a strict no-smoking policy—including individual units. This could significantly uproot smokers and force them to search for a more smoker-friendly rental.

Why?

There are many reasons why landlords are restricting smoking. It costs a great deal more to clean a smoker’s rental, and they smell generally lingers, no matter how much you scrub.

Thanks in part to the greater understanding of the risks of smoking, less people are smoking. Smoking rates have gone down by more than half in the last 50 years. Also as more people educate themselves, the more people are worried about the health risks of second-hand smoke—which can travel all too easy from apartment to apartment when in close quarters.

In addition to maintenance and health issues, there’s always the risk of a home fire from smoking. Smoking is the leading cause of home fires, and it makes sense that a landlord would want to rule out that additional risk altogether. Insurance companies often offer discounts for non-smokers because of the reduced risk.

What can smokers do about it?

Unfortunately for smokers they have very few rights when it comes to smoking. If your landlord chooses to adopt a smoke-free policy, there’s nothing you can do about it. When you’re looking for a new place to live, chat with the landlord about their feelings concerning smoking and what they plan to do in the future—do so could help eliminate the need to move once again. Of course, this could be another incentive to become a home owner.

The Do’s and Dont’s of Renting with Roomates

There are problems aplenty between landlords and renters, but imagine the problems you would have if you shared the rent with a roommate or two?

More people means more possibility for problems. Okay, who are we kidding, even among the best of friends there will be problems. However, a lot can be prevented if you follow these do’s and don’t of co-renting.

Do:

  • Make sure your roommates are responsible with their money. This is probably the most important part of roommate hunting. You may not have the same interests, but at least you’ll know that you won’t get stuck with their portion of the rent.
  • Try to find roommates with the same lifestyle, if you can. Although this isn’t key, it will impact how much you like your roommates and how long you will or won’t be staying in the same place. You don’t want to end up resenting your roommate because they are a slob or like to party more than you do.
  • Decide how to split the rent before signing the lease. If the bedrooms and amenities are pretty much equal, then it’s easiest to split the rent equally. However, if they are not equal, you’ll want to make sure that a roommate with a small bedroom and shared access to a hall bath is not paying the same rate as the roommate with the master suite. To avoid bias, it can be helpful to assign a rent value to each room and then assign rooms based on financial capability. If you would like more ideas about how to split the rent see the usnews.com article, “The Best Ways to Split Rent with Roommates.”
  • Designate one person to pay the bills. Assign a responsible roommate to be in charge of the utility, internet, cable, and renter’s insurance bills. They can collect money from the other roommates and make sure the bills are paid on time. As it is a big responsibility that will take time and effort, consider offering some sort of compensation (perhaps a small discount.)
  • Create a roommate contract. Although it may not be legally binding, creating a roommate contract can help set some ground rules and prevent problems from happening. Be as specific as possible. You might want to include in the contract what is expected from each roommate in regards to chores, food policy, payment specifics, guests, overnight guests, quiet hours, shower times, moving notice, etc. You want as few surprises as possible, so discuss everything that might cause problems. There may still be problems at times, but at least this way everyone is on the same page and knows what is expected.

Don’t:

  • Jump into a lease with people you don’t know. Not only do you know if you can get along with them, but you also don’t know if they are responsible. Renting is serious business and can have a big effect on your credit, so don’t take this lightly.
  • Pay your portion of the bills before seeing the actual bill. Don’t just take your roommates word for it, look at the bill to make sure that you are paying your equal share of the bill. Roommates have been known to scam their roommates by not splitting the bill evenly.
  • Go to your landlord to solve problems between you and your roommates. Your landlord is not your parent or your mediator. If you have a problem, you have to sort it out between yourselves. Even if your roommate doesn’t pay their portion of the rent.
  • Forget that everyone is responsible for the entire rent amount. If one of your roommates decides to flake out and stop paying rent, the landlord must still be paid the entire amount, otherwise he will have grounds to evict. When you co-sign a lease everyone is responsible for the entirety of the rent.

There can be dire circumstances if you get stuck with some lousy roommates. Sometimes all you can do is try to get out of your lease and move on. Take your time, and look for responsible roommates that you get along with—renting is hard enough without all the extra drama.

4 Myths You Should Know about Renter’s Insurance

Thinking about skipping renters’ insurance? Think again.

There are some common misconceptions about renter’s insurance that you might want to reconsider before you opt out.

Myth #1: I don’t own enough stuff to justify paying for renters’ insurance.

Reality: You’d be surprised. It’s not so much about how much you own or even about the quality of what you own, but how much it would cost to replace what you own. Even if you have a very modest possessions, secondhand furnishings, and a so forth, it could cost you thousands to replace everything if you lost it all in a fire, flood, or robbery.

You must also consider how much you care about your belongings. For example, if you are just out of college and renting a fully furnished apartment with few personal belongings that you care about, perhaps renters’ insurance isn’t a necessity. However, if you are more established in your place, with more things that you care about or that belong to you, renters’ insurance is something to highly consider.

Myth #2: Since I am a renter, my landlord will cover my property if something happens.

Reality: This is just plain false. The landlord is only concerned about their property, not yours. Their insurance covers the land, the house or apartment, and liability insurance in case they are sued. Were a fire to occur or a robbery to take place, the landlord would be responsible for the broken windows and damaged floors, not the fact that your $2500 computer is gone. You cannot depend on your landlord to cover your property after an incident. In fact, most leases explicitly state this and encourage renters to carry their own insurance.

Do you think that’s what these people thought as well?

renters-insurance

Myth #3: Renters’ insurance only covers my property.

Reality: Happily, this is also false. Renters’ insurance can also provide liability coverage for the renter as well, much like homeowner’s insurance does a homeowner. For example, if your tub were to overflow and damage property in your downstairs neighbors apartment or your dog were to get loose and chew apart all your neighbors award winning roses, your renters’ insurance could cover you up to your liability limits.

Myth #4: Renters’ Insurance is too expensive.

Reality: Probably not true, depending on what you consider expensive and where you buy your insurance. Unlike other types of insurance, renters’ insurance doesn’t add a huge additional monthly expense. Depending on the provider, the cost could be as little as $200 a year or less. Many companies also have multiple policy discounts so combining a car and renters’ insurance with the same company could save you some money. Be warned though—not all renters’ insurance policies are treated equally. Shop around and make sure you know what you are getting and what is covered before you buy.

EDeposit Can Make Your Life Easier

One of the toughest parts of moving into a new rental property is coming up with that big lump sum security deposit.

Consider: renters are already paying for moving vans, which could be anywhere from $50 to $250 to rent and that doesn’t count the gas for the van; moving supplies, such as boxes, tape, dollies, and vacuum pack bags; and possibly multiple rents if they’re moving out early from their old rental and are having to pay rent for both that place and the new one. That’s not to mention the bother of changing addresses on all their bills and their driver’s licenses, unpacking an uncountable number of boxes, and trying to learn their way around the new community.

Attract more renters

Having been a renter myself, I know the pain of coming up with hundreds of dollars out of the blue. We once moved between apartments when I was 8 1/2 months pregnant and we were leaving our previous lease early, which meant we got nothing back from our original deposit anyway. Coming up with multiple rents and multiple utility bill payments was nothing compared to coming up with $400 for a security deposit, considering we were both college students at the time. This program would have made the whole process much easier for us, and could help many more such families who want to move but don’t have the means necessary to do so.

Reduce the multi-state hassle

This service is especially helpful when landlords own complexes or rental properties in multiple states. The Realty Times interviewed Mark DiCamillo, a spokesman for one such security deposit insurance company, and he said, “If you’re a multi-state property owner, it’s much easier to deal with than the various regulations for security deposit escrow accounts, interest bearing accounts. If you have properties in eight states it’s a headache to deal with all the regulations.”

Small amounts for renters rather than lump sums

Right now, ePremium Insurance is offering this service to apartment communities interested in signing up for security deposit insurance. Their renters pay a small amount each month and the apartment complex is insured for some amount of money in case repairs need to be made. The amount can vary widely depending on where the apartment is, what its property value is, and how expensive the rent is.

Great advertising campaign

With all this in mind, it is clear that large security deposits can be just a little too much to bear. That’s why ePremium Insurance offers eDeposit, a way to get rid of that chunk of money. It’s great for the landlord–imagine advertising your property with the caption: “No security deposit.” And it’s great for the tenant–that’s a lot less money to pay all at once.