Top 5 inspections to consider before selling your home

IMG 44401 200x192 150x150 Top 5 inspections to consider before selling your home
Property Inspections

So you are considering selling your home and someone has suggested paying for inspections before listing your home on your own dime.  Should you do it?  Is it worth it?

Well it depends.  Just imagine that you have found a strong buyer who has purchased your home with a condition on the results of the inspections.    And since you are not expecting any surprises, you are packing and ready to move out.  Then comes the shock that your buyer is not happy with the findings of the inspections and wants to cancel the purchase contract.

Now imagine that you could have ordered home inspections and provided these report to this and any other potential buyers.  One popular way is to consider the power of pre-inspections. An inspection simply means you have your home inspected before you receive an offer from a buyer.  Having inspections completed prior to your sale will be able to give you a competitive advantage that your home’s defects are all discovered and the risks.  Also completing these inspections will provide your buyers the opportunity to price the repairs into their purchase offer and make informed decision about your home which will reduce the odds of cancellations.

There are a wide range of inspections that can be performed your home, but  below are the Top 5 inspections that we can recommend for you prior to selling your home.  They include:

1) General Home Inspections -  This is a through inspection including the foundation, roof along with heating and cooling systems.  These inspection should produce detailed reports on all of the systems of the home including photos of heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical.  If your inspector is a general contractor, you could ask them to include repair costs of any damage they have noted in their inspection reports.

2) Pest & Termite Inspection -  Most California home suffer from active and inactive wood destroying organisms such as ants and termites. In addition this inspection should identify such as dry rot and water leaks that could cause mold or other issues.

3) Roof inspections - A new roof is one of the costly repairs for a home.   A roof inspection will evaluate the current condition of the roof and identify any possible leaks and flashing, gutters and downspout that could be costing your buyers a lot of money to repair.

4) Foundation inspections - Foundation inspection will identify any cracks in the cement pillars that could be the results of fractures.    Homes in California are specially vulnerable to foundation cracks due to frequent earth quakes.

5) Pool inspections -  Pool leaks are some of the costliest and urgent repairs needed to protect your home.   Leaking water often can penetrate the foundation and lead to mold and damage the foundation pillars.  A pool inspection will include the pool itself,  deck, pool liner, lighting, heating and pump systems, and filtration systems.

Contact Us if you need help finding qualified inspectors.

Top 3 tips for retaining for your Los Gatos rentals

Happy Silicon Valley tenants 150x150 Top 3 tips for retaining for your Los Gatos rentals
Happy Silicon Valley tenants (source: flagship-pm.com)

Finding new tenants is expensive and can be exhausting.  And when old tenants moves out, the process of repairing the unit, and marketing the unit and holding open houses is time-consuming and costly.  And you will be doing this without any rental income from the now vacant unit.

So, what is the secret for retaining your tenants for a long time. Below are some specific recommendation that should improve your odds of retaining your tenants for a long time.

Communication:  Developing good communication with your Los Gatos tenants is the first step toward encouraging lease renewals. Respond promptly to maintenance needs and check with them regularly about their needs.  For multifamily units we advise you create an email distribution list to notify all the tenants about upcoming repairs and upgrades.  We also recommend hosting occasional community party to collect feedback about how the tenants feel about their unit and your property.

Finally, contact tenants a couple of months prior to the expiration of the lease agreement to avoid any surprises.

Upgrades:  If your Los Gatos rental has old kitchen appliances or bathroom fixtures, you might lose your tenants.  Last year we lost a nice couple who were renting one of our Los Gatos rentals since the owner had decided not to upgrade the counter-top and kitchen appliances.   Small kitchen and bathroom remodel go a long way in helping your tenants renew their lease.

Referral Program:  Previous tenants might be a good source of referral for better tenants.   So, you might want to offer  referral program if you have a large complex.  If your current tenants are well-mannered and responsible, chances are good that their friends will share these traits.

Contact Us if you have any questions about happy Los Gatos tenants.

 

Renters Insurance offers protection for tenants and landlords

renters insurance 150x150 Renters Insurance offers protection for tenants and landlords
renters insurance

Insurance claims covering natural and man-made disasters reached $150 billion dollars in 2013.   Super Storm Sandy was one of the largest disaster which destroyed thousands of homes in New Jersey area.  Good news is that home owner’s private insurance along with government programs help these owners recover their losses.  However, for the renters there is no recovery since more than 60% don’t have renters insraunce.

Insurance industry studies show that nearly 100% of rental property owners are insured. But only about 40% of tenants voluntarily purchase renters policies.  “I know it’s a good idea,” said a professional property manager responsible for over 300 single-family rental homes. “When new tenants sign their lease, I suggest they get insurance because their personal belongings are not my responsibility,” she said. “But I don’t make it mandatory.”

According to insurance industry the average person renting a two-bed room apartment has over $20,000 in personal property.   Considering the replacement cost of an entire wardrobe, a smart phone, an iPad, a laptop computer, flat screen TV, X-Box game console, and even some furniture could quickly add up.  In addition to property loss during a natural disaster, tenants can get coverage for burglary and temporary housing due to disaster if they buy renter’s insurance.

So, protect your investments and your tenants possessions by adding renter’s insurance requirements to your rental lease agreements.

What you should know rental security deposit

 What you should know rental security deposit
Tenanat Disputes

Do you have rental properties in Silicon Valley? Do you know the right amount of deposit to charge on your rentals? Well, then you might want to read on.

The amount of rental security deposit should be determined based on the amount of funds needed to restore the property to it’s original state if your tenants cause a lot of damage. Typically, the amount of security despot is determined by one month of rent which is the industry average. But you can ask for additional funds if you have expensive finishes in your kitchen and bathroom that are one-of-a-kind. But whether you use a property manager or not you will need to know the laws governing the ll be returned to the tenant are also clear.

Security deposit amount and collection:  State laws may limit the amount of a security deposit. For example, the Landlord Protection Agency states that Michigan law limits it to 1.5 times the monthly rent.  Some states also have laws may describing what the landlord must do with the deposit. Landlords may be required to deposit it with a bank, for example, in order to ensure that tenants who meet lease requirements can receive their refund.

Returning security deposit:  In California, the state law requires you to return the security deposit within 30 days of the tenants leaving your property.  The law also requires you that you can only deduct funds from the security deposit for damages beyond the normal wear and tear.  To avoid disputes over deductions from your tenant’s security deposit, you would be smart to develop a check-list of each room’s condition and have it signed by the tenant before they move out.   You can then compare this condition check-list with the one’s you had filled out with your tenant prior to their move-in.  Any discrepancies would be clearly and easily identified eliminating any dispute.

Defining security deposits:  In some states, any refundable up-front fees count as part of the security deposit, regardless of what they are called in the lease. In others, the lease may be used to define the security deposit, so keep language clear and specific.

We help our clients with the Move-in, Move-out checklist that can help prevent disputes over security deposits.

Contact Us if you need help with your renal property lease agreements and laws governing security deposit.

Top 7 signs you Silicon Valley rental is a Meth lab

generic meth lab 150x150 Top 7 signs you Silicon Valley rental is a Meth lab
California Meth Lab

If you suspect your Silicon Valley tenants are producing meth or designer drugs in your rental home; then you 1st need to fire your property manager.   After that you need to worry about confirming your suspicions that your tenants are indeed producing meth in your rental property. To develop a meth lab requires  a lot of toxic and dangerous.  Certain ingredients are necessary to make meth. So, you might want to schedule visits to the property on a monthly basis and look for:

  1. Containers of anti-freeze, white gas, ether, or starting fluids.
  2. Cold, diet, or allergy pill boxes.  Any over the counter ephedrine or pseudoephedrine that can be used in developing Meth.
  3. Sheets or filters that are stained red or have a white, powdery residue.
  4. Watch for containers of drain openers, freon, paint thinner, acetone, or alcohol.
  5. Coolers containing Ammonia or propane tanks, anhydrous ammonia.
  6. Camp stove fuel containers or other compressed gas cylinder.
  7. Jars or bottles with rubber tubing attached.

The chemistry lesson for spotting a meth lab is that to produce one pound of methamphetamine, six pounds of hazardous, toxic waste is produced.  Besides ending up in the walls, floors, HVAC system, carpet and other places, some of the waste is often dumped on the ground, so also look outside for dead grass or plants, and stained soil. As you can see monitoring your rental property now becomes an interesting challenge specially if you are living out of State.

Perhaps hiring a property management company is better than losing the property as part of a criminal and civit court case that your neighbor could file.  Contact Us if you have any questions about managing your Silicon Valley rentals properties.  We manage rental properties in San Jose, Campbell, Los Gatos and Saratoga.

Why include pet policy in your rental lease agreement

petpolicy 150x134 Why include pet policy in your rental lease agreement
rental pet policy

Having a pet friendly rental lease agreement could provide you with much bigger pool of tenants for your Silicon Valley properties.   A 2003 study reported that having pet friendly rentals brought higher rents, longer length of stay.  In fact, rentals with pet policy averaged 48 months compared to 18 month.

Bottom line is that rentals properties that permit pets, have lower vacancy rates as compared to rentals that prohibit pets.

But does allowing pets have a down side as well?  Most rental property owners are concerned about the physical damage to the property in addition to complaints from nose and odor.  The other draw back for pets is the insurance requirements specially if the dog is an aggressive breed which might attack other tenants or neighbors.

This is why you need to develop an approach to your pet policy on a case by case basis.

The Breed Selection:  Size and weight limits on dogs are a common method “blacklisting” certain animals or breeds. Other rental property owners forbid some animals. For example, specific breeds of dogs considered aggressive will be excluded, and often include:

  • Alaskan Malamute
  • Boxer
  • Chow Chow
  • Doberman Pinscher
  • German Shepherd
  • Great Dane
  • Pit Bull
  • Siberian Husky
  • Rottweiler
  • Papillon
  • Old English Sheepdog
  • Jack Russell Terriers

You can also prohibit  more exotic and unusual animals such as :

  • Large Snakes or Pythons
  • Poison Dart Frog
  • Boa Constrictor
  • Alligator
  • Caiman

These animals are considered dangerous, and could pose a significant threat to property and to people if they were to escape. Other pets, such as certain rodents and insects, could cause an infestation if they were to break free of their enclosures. Some pets, such as birds, could cause noise problems.

Excluding certain pets offers a bright line rule and seems like a simple and easy policy to enforce. However, your list could get rather lengthy, and you could inadvertently eliminate some great tenants.

Finally your pet policy should include:

  • Identification: Clearly state that you will allow only tenants’ pets.
  • Pet Fee: Based on our client’s requirements,  we some times charge a pet fee or pet deposit.   Pet Deposit is refundable but a pet fee is not.
  • Poicy Violations: Make it clear that if the  pet policy is violated you have the option to have the tenant remove the pets and terminate the lease.
  • Code Compliant:  Some jurisdictions require the pets to be registered.  And you should ask your tenants to register their pets if the local government requires it.  require that dogs, cats and other pets be properly licensed, as required by local ordinance. Require that vaccinations are kept up to date. Ask for supporting documentation.
  • Responsibility: Pet owners must be held responsible for the clean up after their pets.  Feces, urine, infestations, cat litter or any other mess have to be removed and the unit has to be returned to it’s orginial condition.  Require chain or leash on animals when they are outside and document the requirements for these pets to be spayed or neutered.
  • Insurance: Require your tenants with pets to carry renters insurance that covers damage caused by pets.  You can also use this insurance to cover additional liability suits if your tenants dog harms someone else.
  • Damage and Refundable Deposit: You can require a damage deposit should take into account any possible pet damage.
  • Changes: Allow for changes to the pet policy at any time (or with 30 days notice).

Having a pet-friendly Silicon Valley rental will reduce your vacancy and tenant turnover rates.  Contact us if you need help with a Pet Policy for your San Jose, Campbell, Los Gatos and Sartoga rentals.

Are your Silicon Valley tennats operating a meth lab?

generic meth lab 150x150 Are your Silicon Valley tennats operating a meth lab?
California Meth Lab

Have you ever watched the award-winning TV series Breaking Bad?  The series is about a former teacher who sets up a meth lab and become a powerful drug dealer.   But running a meth lab from a home is no longer only a hollywood fantasy.   In fact, in some parts of California like Mendocino County Meth labs have overwhelmed the police and the district attorney’s office who have to prosecute these crimes.

Meth labs are often set up in rental homes.  So as a Silicon Valley landlord you have to be vigilant to monitor the activity of your tenants and make certain that your home is converted into a Meth Lab.  Specially since the chemicals used in meth labs are highly flammable and explosive. And meth residue is extremely toxic and considered hazardous waste.

In fact, if your home has been used as a Meth Lab, you are responsible for the clean up which could be a huge cost specially if your tenants have been dumping these toxic material into the ground.   And if that was not scary enough, some jurisdictions can prosecute you since they can claim that you as the landlord have been receiving the rewards from a criminal enterprise by collecting rent.

Tenant screening is the best prevention method we can recomemnd since right tenants wil not convert San Jose, Campbell, Saratoga or Los Gator rental property into a meth lab. So be certain to

  1. Develop sold tenant screening practice or hire a property management company.
  2. Call previous landlords to inquire about the applicaants you are considering as tenants.  Confirm they are indeed landlords and not just friends of your applicant posing as their landlord.
  3. Avoid applicants who are offering to pay cash for rent.
  4. Verify employment references including income by getting a full credit report.
  5. Include in regular inspections with 24 hour notice in your Silicon Valley rental lease agreement
  6. Meet the neighbors and ask them to contact you if they spot any unusal activity on your Silicon Valley rental property.

Routine inspections are a great deterant in your Silicon Valley tenants being tempted to develop a meth lab at your rental property.   So, insist on it.

 

What terms to include in your Silicon Valley pet policy

Angry Dog 150x150 What terms to include in your Silicon Valley pet policy
Silicon Valley Pet Policy

Depending on the location of your Silicon Valley rental, you might be losing some potential tenants if you don’t accept pets.  However as we have written in the past, you could be creating some liabilities for yourself by accepting them.  So, what is the right balance and what terms you need to include in your Silicon Valley pet policy.

These terms are:

 1) Select Breeds:  When it comes to dogs, you need to make sure you meet the dog nd it’s one of the friendly breeds.  After all, you don’t want to responsible for any harm that might come from an aggressive dog on your rental property.

2) Leash Clause:  Document the requirements that the dog needs to be leashed at all times when the dog is not inside the rental unit.   You don’t want to see the repeat of a tragic attack in a San Francisco apartment building where a neighbor was killed by  a tenant’s aggressive pit ball which was not on a leash.

3) Right to Change:  Your Pet policy should allow you the option to change the policy if you get reports of any risks associated with your tenants pet ownership.    This allows you to change the terms of your pet policy and allow your tenant the option to remove the dangerous pet.

4) Termination Right:  Your Pet Policy should clearly identify your right to terminate the lease if the terms are violated.

5) Liability Coverage:  If you are not comfortable about the liability coverage associated with your own rental property, you can require tenant to purchase additional coverage to help you mange the risk associated with their pets.

Bottom line is that a little bit of planning could go a long way to avoid huge problems with allowing pet on your rental properties.  We can help you with drafting a storng pet policy for your San Jose, Campbell, Los Gatos or Saratoga rentals.

 

 

All you needed to know about tenant evictions

Eviction 150x150 All you needed to know about tenant evictions
Tenant Evictions

We have been managing properties for more than a decade and have never resorted to evictions, but the night is young and it could still happen.    In fact, the more time and energy you devote to your tenant screening, you will not have to worry about evictions since you won’t face it.

But just in case you needed to evict any of you Silicon Valley tenants, we wanted to document the necessary steps to take prior to evictions to make sure you are not creating more problems for yourself.

1) Violation Notice:  You need to serve notice to your tenants that they are in violation of the terms of their lease agreement.   You can offer them “reasonable” time to remedy the violation.   For instance we recently discovered that one of our Los Gatos tenants was keeping Chickens on the property in violation of their lease agreement which strictly prohibits keep live stock on the property.

We emailed the tenant with proof of these voilations which were pictures of these Chickens on the property and offered them 60 days to cure this problem which is  plenty of time to remove 3 Chickens from the property.   We also noted in this notice that failure to remedy the violation could lead to evictions, but that we were not seeking evictions.

Eviction reasons, processes, periods, and participants vary from state to state. Below is a general overview.

2) Reasons to Evict a Tenant:  Your reasons to evict a tenant has to be clearly defined.  These reasons can range from non-payment of rent to lease violations.

3) Eviction Process:  After your tenants have failed to remedy the violation of their rental lease agreement; then you file papers with the county court  to evict this tenant.  Then if the tenant does not respond to your court complaint, the sheriff can post an eviction notice on the door. The sheriff can then remove the tenant if they do not respond to the eviction notice.

In California, landlords are responsible to store their tenants personal belonging for at least 30 days and provide notice for them to collect these items.  It’s only after this hold period that you can dispose your tenants personal property.

Needless to say, evictions can get emotionally draining and challenging.   You would be well advise to focus more on tenant screening to avoid evictions.

 

Are you liable for your tenants’ pets? Maybe

Angry Dog1 150x150 Are you liable for your tenants’ pets? Maybe
Angry Dog

Dependin on the demand you have generated for your Silicon Valley rental properties, you might not have an option to exclude tenants with pets.   In fact, according to a recent study by All Property management,  landlords who exclude pets suffer vacancy rates as much as 4% higher than those who don’t.  But allowing pets into your Silicon Valley rentals could also create liability problems.

For instance, if one tenant’s dog bites another tenant, you would likely face a law suit and possibly covering the damages for any injury to victims. In fact, dog bite incidents in large rental complexes are so frequent they’ve almost become a legal specialty.  While a dog’s owner is initially liable for the actions of his pet, the landlord and property manager could be named as defendants in these cases.

In fact, landlords may be on the hook if:

  • it is reasonable to assume that the property owner or property manager should have known that a tenant’s pet was vicious and did nothing about it, or
  • the property owner or property manager should have foreseen a problem and didn’t take care of it, such as by failing to maintain a fence that enclosed an animal

This means that if one of your tenants has a very aggressive dog breed, you might be well advised to require this tenant to obtain additional rental insurance with liability coverage. The liability coverage needs to list the landlord and the property manager as parties that are subject to the liability protection.

In most cases, the lawyers will come after the party which has the deepest pockets.  If a tenant who owns a vicious dog is of modest means and doesn’t carry sufficient renters insurance, lawyers will come after the property owner and property management company.  The time and money you will spend defending yourself as a property manage and owner will add up quickly.

So require liability insurance if your San Jose, Campbell, Los Gatos and Saratoga renters have pets.  And speak with a lawyer to get advice on how to protect yourself and your tenants.