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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Landlord Tip #95

Tip #95: Do You Have My Back?
From bedbugs to building flaws, landlords get blamed for everything, and trigger-happy tenants are eager to stir up legal trouble in the hopes of wiggling off the hook for rent. Profit margins are already tight, and defending a lawsuit can blow a landlord right out of the water — even if they ultimately prevail.
Insurance coverage is a must-have for landlords.
It’s a good idea to meet with your insurance agent periodically to go over your specific coverage. Get them up to speed on any changes you’ve made to the property, any planned repairs or remodeling, and seek their advice on lowering your risks in this climate of lawsuits.
That way, you will have the coverage you need when you need it. And who knows–you may even find some ways to reduce your costs.

Repair or Buy: How to Decide Whether to Fix Your Appliances

There’s a time in the lifespan of every appliance when you’re forced to ask that dreaded question: Is it really worth fixing? While ultimately that decision is between you and your dryer or dishwasher or hot water heater, there are a few ways to determine if a quick call to the repairman is better than dipping into savings.

How old is the appliance?

Most major appliances are designed to last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. While no guarantee that your appliance is going to last that long, if the equipment is far below its life expectancy, you may want to consider fixing. Even older machines may still have a lot of life left, but keep in mind that parts may become harder to find in the future.

How much will it cost to fix?

The repairman’s rule of thumb is that if repairs will cost more than half of the cost of a new appliance, go for the new one. But when considering the costs, remember that the new appliance cost soars above the sticker price when you add on delivery, installation and removal of your old appliance. It’s not uncommon to pay $100 or more for installation. On the other hand, remember that new, energy-saving models can help recoup the investment of a new machine in utility bills.

Are the new models made as well as your old one?

Modern appliances are decked out with innumerable gadgets and features. And while the leading technology can make appliances even more convenient, it can also amount to a costly and intricate repair. If your simple and older appliance can still do the trick, it may be worth the TLC to get a few more years out of it. By the time you are ready to buy, manufacturers will have worked out any kinks in that cutting-edge technology.

Can you repair it yourself?

Naturally, some jobs are best left to professionals—any time you smell gas, for instance. But many fixes don’t require a repairman. Check pilot lights and fuse boxes. Clean vents and coils of dust and debris. Replace belts and unclog blockages. Home improvement stores offer classes in do-it-yourself home repair and there are how-to resources online. If you do call a repairman, be sure to get a warranty for the work.

This information is provided by Jacob Martinez, Spokane Appliance Repair, open 24/7, providing major appliance repair, air conditioning and heating service in Spokane and Coeur d’Alene. Service call is free with the repair. Call 509 207-7138 for more.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Lanlord Tip #88 Information Overload

If you are forever trying to remember passwords or wasting time logging on to website accounts, consider RoboForm – one of PC World’s “25 Things We Can’t Live Without.”
This service allows property managers to store tenant and vendor contact information, passwords and security codes, and other data for frequently-visited websites.
This system remembers all of your logins so you don’t have to. Access your favorite sites quickly and securely.
Save time with easy one-click form filling. RoboForm Password Manager will automatically fill in your data on almost any web form. No more needless typing.
Whether you are on your desktop, laptop, netbook, or mobile device, you can always securely access RoboForm Password Manager from anywhere.
And don’t worry about security: RoboForm is itself password-protected.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Meet the Neighbors

Landlord Quick Tip
Posted: 19 Dec 2010 02:46 PM PST
Tip #86: Meet the Neighbors
One of the best ways to retain good tenants is to allow them to develop a sense of community within the rental property.
Meet The Neighbors is an “intranet” provider that allows tenants in apartment communities to stay in touch with one another.
Designed by the creator of the Lunch Club in NYC, this free service offers a secure homepage for each community or apartment complex, and allows tenants the opportunity to meet one another, connect on common interests, and feel like they are a part of a neighborhood.
The format offers a notice board to alert tenants of upcoming events or rule reminders.
Participation is voluntary. Landlords can register the building and offer the link to new tenants, or put an interested tenant in charge.
Go here to see a demo: http://imsource.com/betas/mtndemo/demo1.html.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Landlord Qick Tip #56 Join the Circle

Landlord Quick Tip
Posted: 17 May 2010 07:50 AM PDT
Tip 56: Join the Circle
Imagine having a cup of coffee every morning with a nationwide expert on marketing residential rentals, or having lunch twice a week with a professional who can show you how to determine the optimum amount of rent.
You can meet these industry powerhouses from you home or office computer by joining the networking group Multifamily Insiders free of charge, as you drink your morning coffee.
Multifamily Insiders is the interactive social hub for the apartment industry, providing a place for landlords, multifamily professionals and investors to network, coordinate more effectively, share ideas, experiences, and knowledge with each other, all for free!
The site has the largest collection of multifamily-specific blogs and discussion groups, as well as document sharing, job listings, and other networking opportunities. Whether you self-manage, or are purely an investor of apartment properties, Multifamily Insiders is a valuable resource in your business.
As an AAOA member your free Multifamily Insiders membership will provide you with instant access to the advice and comments of multifamily professionals from across the country.
Supercharge your property management knowledge by taking advantage of your free Multifamily Insiders membership today.
Click here to register your free account: Multifamily Insiders Registration Page

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Using Facebook as a Tenant Screening Tool by Janet Portman

Using Facebook as a Tenant Screening Tool
Posted: 10 May 2010 08:34 AM PDT
Rent it Right
by Janet Portman, Inman News
Q: When I screen potential tenants, I talk to their current landlord and their employer, ask for references, and order a credit report. Some of the landlords in town are also regularly looking on the Internet, to see if the applicant blogs, has a Facebook page, and so on.
One friend told me that when he looked at the Facebook page of an applicant he was about to rent to, he saw that the person is really into partying and drinking. My friend didn’t rent to him.
Should I be looking at Facebook pages, too? –David R.
A: Your question calls for two answers: a legal one and a practical one. From a legal point of view, should you be checking applicants’ Internet postings? And, from a practical point of view, is it a good idea?
The steps you’ve been taking when screening tenants are the tried-and-true methods that careful landlords have been using for years to weed out risky applicants: those whose past actions indicate that they may not pay the rent or may not be considerate residents and neighbors. Although these methods are commonly used, they are not legally required.
It’s possible that a court might rule that these tools are the “industry standard,” which might make them quasi-mandatory, but it’s unlikely. Running a residential rental business (unlike, say, car manufacturing) is engaged in by too many people, in too many varied ways, to conclude that it’s an “industry” with common metrics and procedures.
So because you’re not legally required to do even what you’re already doing, it’s very unlikely that a judge would consider checking for Internet postings to be a legally necessary step in the screening process. Consider, for example, the issue of screening for those who are legally required to register as convicted sex offenders.
No state requires landlords to go online and look for their applicants on these lists, and California specifically forbids them from doing so. If you’re not required to consult the Internet for information as serious as registration for one of these crimes, it’s not reasonable to think that you’d have any duty to search for evidence of partying.
This conclusion has to be adjusted, however, for one situation: If you’re hiring a resident manager, you are screening not only a tenant, but a future employee, who will have access to tenants’ personal information and even their homes. You have a duty to make sure that you do not place a dangerous tenant manager in that position — in other words, your duty to screen has changed significantly.
Careful landlords do investigative background checks for tenant managers, with the legally required advance notice to the applicant. These investigations may turn up relevant information, including the applicant’s postings on the Internet.
So much for your legal duty. What about the practical value of hopping online and checking out your applicants? It’s hard to resist, and indeed you may learn information about your applicants’ lifestyle and habits that would reasonably lead any landlord to say, “No thanks on this one.”
As long as you’re looking at Web postings that are available to the public, your applicants will have no legitimate beef if you reject them based on what you see and read. But be careful — you can safely reject any applicant only when your reasons for doing so, no matter where you found the information, are legally justified, and not based on that applicant’s membership in a protected class, such as race and religion.
For example, suppose you have an applicant who passes every good-tenant test you have, but who also has a Facebook page that proudly announces her membership in a particular religion. If you reject her, and rent to someone whose qualifications were less sturdy, you’re setting yourself up for a fair housing claim.
The rejected applicant may argue that your knowledge of her religion, gleaned from your visit to her Facebook page, must have motivated your decision — why else would you choose someone less qualified?
On the other hand, if your visit reveals that this person is a party animal who loves to host regular “keggers,” plays the kettle drum, and collects stray cats, you have solid grounds to reject.
Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of “Every Landlord’s Legal Guide” and “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide.” She can be reached at janet@inman.com.
Copyright 2010 Janet Portman
See Janet Portman’s feature, Higher Risk, Higher Deposit.