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Property Management Blog

San Jose Landlord Advice: Owner vs. Tenant Responsibilities

System - Tuesday, July 22, 2014

With any rental home, there are various responsibilities that fall to landlords and others that fall to tenants. Sometimes, there is arguing and a lot of misunderstanding involved in deciding who is responsible for what. It’s important to communicate openly and have a detailed lease to avoid any of these concerns over who should do what.

Any of the property’s systems are the responsibility of the landlord. This includes the heating, the air conditioning and the appliances. As long as there is not some malicious act involved, those are landlord responsibilities. The law requires that property owners keep their rental properties habitable. That means everything has to work in the property.

There are exceptions to this law when the tenant abuses or misuses one of those systems. We have a story that illustrates this example perfectly. One of our tenants recently had a clogged toilet, so we sent out a plumber. Once the work was completed, the plumber noted on the invoice that a Power Ranger toy was removed from the toilet. The six-year-old living in the home had decided to see if the Power Ranger could swim against the tide, and of course it couldn’t. It got stuck. In this case, the tenant was responsible for that repair.

The best thing you can do as a landlord is to be perfectly clear with your tenants about what you will take care of and what will be the responsibility of that tenant. When you are clear about your expectations before the tenant even moves in, everyone will be on the same page and you won’t have to worry about confusion or misunderstandings.

Something else to remember is that the burden of proof is always on the landlord. If there is ever a dispute about a charge you might be making against the security deposit, you have to know that you are the party responsible for proving why a tenant is responsible for something instead of you.

Be firm and be fair, and you’ll find you are able to develop and maintain good tenant relationships. When you have a good relationship in place, it’s easier to communicate with those tenants and you’ll find you’re able to keep them renting out your property for longer.

If you have any questions about what you need to take care of as a landlord and what you can expect the tenants to handle, please contact us at Aborn Properties.

San Jose Property Management Advice: You Get What You Inspect

System - Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When I was a young Century 21 broker back in the 1970s, we had a group that came out to Century 21 to talk to young brokers. One of the speakers was a psychologist and one was a retired marine office. The psychologist would tell us that we get what we expect. We were told that if we set our expectations high enough, we would achieve them. The marine was a little bit different. He said you get what you inspect, meaning you get whatever it is you are looking at. I always took that to heart, maybe because I am an ex-marine too. It still makes sense to me.

What I am suggesting is that you make sure you have an inspection routine in place for your property. You have to remember that when you move a tenant into your house, you are putting your asset, which may be worth half a million or even a million dollars, into the hands of a third party. You need to protect that asset.

Many tenants will tell you that they would prefer for you not to do routine inspections, but it is not improper for you to insist on it. Most people think that two inspections per year are enough, as long as they occur on a routine basis. If you find a tenant to be resistant to the idea, you have even more of a reason to inspect the property.

Earlier in the week, a potential client called me up to talk about property management services. He had been managing his own property for a few years and the first thing he asked me was whether I knew anyone at the San Jose police department. I thought this was a strange question to be asking a property manager. Evidently, the fire department had called him about his property. The tenant living there had told this owner that his mother was living in the property and she didn’t speak English and got very nervous if people showed up at the house. So, the owner had not kept up with inspections. It turns out the tenant had put a grow house on the property in order to grow marijuana. He was completely taken aback. This is the type of situation you want to avoid. Don’t be worried about telling your tenants you are going to inspect the property, and make sure you get there at least twice a year.

If you have any questions about inspections or property management, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Aborn Properties. We look forward to helping you out.

San Jose Property Management How-To: Roommates Rent vs. Liability

System - Monday, July 14, 2014

In San Jose, there are two large universities in the area; San Jose State and Santa Clara University. Because of those schools, the need and desire for housing that will accommodate roommates comes up a lot. Renting out to roommates has a huge upside. You can often charge a little more in rent when you have three or four roommates. So, it can be a good thing financially.

The downside of renting out to roommates is that each individual student often cannot afford more rent if it becomes necessary. So, if you have four roommates, there’s always a chance that one of them will fall in love and move out or drop out of school. Things happen with young people to change their paths, and when that happens, the whole tenancy can be defeated because the remaining roommates often cannot afford to make up for that one person’s missing rent.

Another consideration with roommates is that young people are often not as skilled with basic maintenance. Their age group will not be able to attend to the repairs that people in their parents’ generation might. Therefore, you can end up with a repair differential.

At Aborn Properties, we were concerned when we first started renting out properties to college roommates. We worried they would be irresponsible and that they would trash the houses. We have since learned that usually does not happen. They tend to be respectful towards the place they live and college students are also usually brighter than the average tenant. We have not had the additional problems with property mistreatment that we anticipated.

As you consider tenants for your rental property in San Jose, remember that roommates are always a good option, especially if you live close to one of the colleges. There are going to be good and bad tenants in all demographics and situations, and as long as you are screening well, you have an excellent chance of attracting ideal tenants who are looking for roommate situations.

Please do not hesitate to contact us at Aborn Properties if you’d like to discuss this option further. We can help you determine whether this is a good idea for you and your property.

How to Be a Good San Jose Landlord

System - Wednesday, July 9, 2014

There are some very good reasons why you should strive to be a good landlord. For starters, it’s just nice to have a good business relationship with your tenants. There’s also a huge economic reason to be a good landlord. When you follow the rules and make an effort to be the best landlord you can be, you’ll be able to retain high quality tenants for a lot longer, and you won’t have to worry about vacancies. It’s true that a tenant who is happy will stay with you longer. At Aborn Properties, we really respect great tenants and we don’t want them to go anywhere when their leases end. We want them to be comfortable with a great landlord relationship. Those tenants will not think about moving out because they can’t be sure the next landlord will be as good.

There are a couple of rules to being a good landlord that you should pay attention to:

Make sure everything works. In your own home, you probably have things that don’t work, and instead of fixing them right away, you simply work around them. Maybe the thermostat is off by 20 degrees, but you know that and you live with it by working around the problem. You won’t keep tenants happy when they have a lot of work arounds. Everything has to work to be a good landlord and avoid vacancies.

Provide a clean property. Before you even let a potential tenant see the property, make sure it is clean and in excellent shape. Most of the tenants we meet are perfectly willing to clean up their own dirt, but they don’t want to clean up any dirt or messes left behind by a previous tenant. Have that place clean.

Remember that tenants expect a peaceful habitability. They are entitled to it. It’s the law and it’s good landlord behavior. Leave your tenants alone. At Aborn, we inspect properties twice a year and we think that’s enough. It’s your property and you want to make sure it’s being treated well, but no one wants Big Brother – or the landlord – looking over their shoulder.

Think about what your landlord performance looks like publicly. With social media, there is a really good chance that your tenants will review you as a landlord, and that review will be online in places like Yelp and Google. You want people to see that you are a really good landlord, and people will know what to expect when they rent from you.

You are providing tenants with a place to live, maybe even a place to raise a family. It feels good to have a positive relationship in place and to be the best landlord you can be. For additional advice and property management tips, contact us at Aborn Properties.

How to be a landlord in San Jose – Kids – Seniors – Handicapped – Fair Housing Advice

System - Tuesday, July 9, 2013

As a landlord, you have to understand fair housing. This is an area that gets a lot of people who are not professional property managers in trouble. It even trips up some professionals. You do not want the feds at HUD (Housing and Urban Development) on the other side of you during an argument about housing. They have lots of attorneys and it’s never a good thing.

There are a couple of things you can do to protect yourself and ensure you are in compliance with all fair housing laws. First, use Google to look up the Fair Housing Law. You can access great information on HUD’s website, which is about 20 pages. It will tell you what areas you must pay attention to when it comes to avoiding discrimination. You also have to have a written policy of non-discrimination. Follow that policy always. The exception you make is the place you will get in trouble.

Sometimes, we say in our office that no good turn goes unpunished. It will be the one time you give somebody a break from your rules that you get in trouble. You might not consider that making an exception for one person can be seen as discriminatory against another person, who did not receive the same exception. Have a set of logical rules you are willing to follow, and hold all of your prospective tenants to those rules. Put them in writing and make sure everyone follows them. If you make just one exception, you have really undone all your policies.

Another thing to make sure you know when it comes to your application policy and guidelines is your qualifying ratio. Know that number, and also make sure you know what credit score you are looking for. Be very clear and again – have it written down. You want to be in solid position so that if a tester from HUD or one of your local agencies happens to come into your office, or show up at a house where you are doing a showing and asks to see your written guidelines, you are able to provide those immediately. Make sure those guidelines are reasonable and make sure they are not discriminatory. Follow them. It will keep you out of a world of trouble.

If you have any questions about fair housing laws or property management in general, please contact us at Aborn Properties.

How a San Jose Property Management Company Handles your Finances

System - Monday, July 1, 2013

Today we are talking about how a property manager should be handling your finances for your rental property. The law and proper procedure say that every property manager should keep a brokerage trust account. This will keep the money separate; your money will not mingle with what is in the brokerage account. At any time, the amount of money you have available for your client and the amount of money reflected on the bank statement should be the same. The Department of Real Estate instructs property managers to balance that account to the penny, and that is what every good property manager and broker does.

You want your property manager to properly collect rent and disperse your income. In today’s market, there is no reason to hold on to the rent for a very long time before dispersing it. At Aborn Properties, we try to get the money that is collected dispersed within three business days. As a landlord, you also want to make sure you get a monthly report of every penny that is spent on your property as well as every penny that is earned.

A good property manager will have a modern financial system in place to manage your finances. At Aborn Properties, we have ACH so we can deposit directly into your bank account. No checks are needed. We find this works best for our landlords because there is no delay in the mail and checks cannot get lost in the mail. Everything goes directly into your account. We also have our tenants pay their rent electronically. In fact, we do not accept personal checks as payment. We want to get that money moved quickly from the tenant to our landlords, so we eliminate the delays that can occur when checks are written and deposited. Everything should be electronic now.

If you have any questions about how you can expect your money to be handled when you hire a property manager, please contact us at Aborn Properties. We would be happy to talk more about it.

How to Increase the Value of Your San Jose Rental Property

System - Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Increasing the value of your rental property means getting the most rent out of your property that you can. Not unlike buyers, renters select where they live based on emotion. They make decisions based on how they feel when they are in a property.

At Aborn Properties, we often take over the rental process when an owner has tried but not succeeded. One of the complaints I get most often from owners is that prospective tenants keep standing them up when they schedule a showing. Then, I arrive at the rental property and I notice the grass is high, the shrubs are dead and the front of the house is in desperate need of painting. What’s happened is that once the owner gives the address to a potential tenant, the tenant will drive by the property and decide not to come back. Make sure the curb appeal is working for you instead of against you. It matters when tenants are driving by and looking at the house from the outside.

The quality and the quantity of tenants you attract has a lot to do with how much you are charging for rent, but also with how the tenants feel when they are inside the house. I hear owners promise to paint walls between the next set of tenants, and sometimes they will request that I find them tenants who don’t care about the condition of the paint on the walls. One thing I want you to remember is that tenants who do not care about the condition of your property before they move in are not going to care about keeping up your property, or taking good care of it while they are living there. Anyone who will put up with a property that is not clean and sharp will not work very hard to make it clean and sharp at the time of move out.

You also need to remember who makes the rental choice. In families, it is almost always women. Women looking for homes want a clean kitchen and clean bathrooms. They will notice these details and it has been our experience that women who keep a nice clean house will not mind cleaning up their own dirt, but they do not want to be left cleaning up dirt from a previous tenant. Make sure the house looks and shows the way you would want it to look for your own family.

If you want to ask a higher price, you have to give tenants a property to be proud of. That’s the best way to increase your rental value. If you have any questions about how to price your property or get more rent out of it, please contact us at Aborn Properties.

How to Be a Landlord in San Jose Maintenance Costs and Longevity

System - Tuesday, June 18, 2013

One thing you need to plan for as a landlord is how to handle the maintenance costs in your rental home, and what kind of longevity to expect from your appliances. We were recently talking about maintenance to one of our new property owners and he said his house is about 10 years old, so he didn’t think he would have any maintenance problems or costs. I heard the property manager laugh and that is because most new houses have builder appliances. Builder appliances are things that look good in order to sell the property, but usually only last for about 10 years. So, if there is actually one year in particular that a house has the most need for systems maintenance, it is that house’s 10th birthday. Usually, all the appliances go in together and they have about a 10 year life cycle before they need work.

No matter how old your property is, you have to budget for repairs. Talk to your property manager about what to expect. If you are managing your property on your own, make sure you put aside a percentage of the monthly rental income to cover potential repairs and replacements.

Remember that good tenants really appreciate quick repairs. If the repair is something you are responsible for and it really needs to be done, don’t delay in getting it taken care of. You are going to have to pay for it anyway, so you might as well do it immediately, to give yourself the credit from your tenant for being a responsive landlord. It’s irritating to have to live without a dishwasher for three weeks because your brother-in-law is looking for parts, for example.

Also important is the cultivation of vendor relationships. You want to have a pool of great vendors who will work quickly and reasonably for you. Don’t just choose someone to do the work because it happens to be the lowest bid. That never works out. Look for a vendor who has great references and will do high quality work quickly. When you develop a relationship with your vendors, you will get all the attention you need from them, and you will find yourself being able to manage the necessary repairs quickly and comfortably.

If you have any questions on maintenance costs or property management, please get in contact with us at Aborn Properties.

How to Be a Landlord in San Jose Pet Policy Part 2 – Companion and Service Animals

System - Tuesday, June 11, 2013

There has been some confusion about what t is a pet and what is really a service animal, or a companion animal. Since the passage of the American with Disabilities Act, which is several years old, the idea of refusing anyone the ability to rent your property because they have an animal is no longer so cut and dry. This law says that if a person with a disability needs a service or companion animal, you need to make all appropriate allowances for that. So, while you can have a no pets rule expect that the pet policy will need to accommodate companion animals.

There are some tools you can use to ensure the prospective tenant really does have a companion animal, and not a basic pet. You can ask for reasonable requirements, such as a letter from a doctor or a psychologist. You can also ask the prospective tenant for an explanation of the disability that the animal assists.

It’s not that we are anti-animals at Aborn Properties. In fact, one of our property managers is training a guide dog for the blind, and it’s in our office every day. However, we know that animals absolutely shorten the life of your property. They shorten the life of carpets and paint especially. I love dogs, but I know that they do damage. For those who have cats, they unfortunately urinate when they are unhappy or fearful or sick. So many times, cats can cause even more damage than dogs. We don’t really advise keeping pets in your property. There are certain properties that are good for pets and you can get more money out of them but in a general sense, we say no to pets. If it is a companion or a service animal, however, the rules are different.

About a month ago, we had a tenant call and ask for a pet. When we explained he was calling on a no-pet house, he tried to tell us it was a service animal. Naturally, we asked what it was and found out it was a 14-foot boa constrictor. He claimed he had to have this pet, or he just wouldn’t feel well. We didn’t deny him; instead, we asked for a letter from his doctor and a description of the ailment the snake was being prescribed for. Fortunately, he withdrew his request. Sometimes, asking for some reasonable documentation will protect you from having people simply claim their pet is a service animal.

If you have any questions about pets or the law as it pertains to companion and service animals, please contact us at Aborn Properties.

How to Be a Landlord in San Jose Pet Policy Part 1 – Liability

System - Monday, June 3, 2013

There are a lot of people who have pets, and they want to keep the pets, even when they move into your rental home. The question of whether to allow pets comes up for landlords all the time. Some houses are laid out perfectly for pets, but most are not. I think there is no question that pets will shorten the life of some of your systems, such as paints and carpets. People who tell you they only keep their dogs outside are probably not telling you the truth. One of the reason we have dogs is because we love them and we want them in our lives.

So, you always have to consider the risks versus the benefits. State Farm Insurance Company has a great ad out talking about how one-third of their liability claims come from dog bites. I don’t know if that data is correct, but it would not surprise me. So, you need to know that if there is a dog bite issue on your property, the responsibility will not be only with the tenant. Any time there is a lawsuit, lawyers will always go and look for another deep pocket, so you will likely be involved whether you want to be or not.

Many landlords ask if they can get more money by allowing pets. You can increase the rent. Some people get $100 to $200 per month extra for certain pets. Other landlords increase the amount of the deposit, but I strongly recommend increased rent instead of a larger deposit. A deposit will only be argued about later. With additional rent, you will have that money in your pocket every month with no argument or discussions. If you can get a little extra each month, it will help you pay to get the carpets redone if necessary and take care of other expenses. Don’t think this is all just profit; you will use that extra rent on the additional repairs and maintenance that may be necessary due to animals.

Know your breeds. There are several breeds I would not advise you to permit. For example, know the breed Staffordshire Terrier. This is the type of dog people might tell you they have because it sounds harmless, but it’s actually a Pit Bull. There are a total of seven breeds that most insurance companies will not allow you to have on your property. Know what those breeds are, and take them into consideration when drafting a pet policy. Don’t let your tenants bring any animal they want into your house. Do screening the same way you would with your tenants – ask for pet references.

If you have any questions about how to handle potential pet liability, please contact us at Aborn Properties.

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Aborn Properties
2660 John Montgomery Dr., Suite 1
San Jose, CA 95148

Office: 408-272-4100
Fax: 408-272-2095
California Bureau of Real Estate #00409494

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