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On the Spot Thought: Only the Landlord Should Be Able to Change the Locks on a Rental

November 11, 2013 Leave a comment

1

All sorts of bad things can happen when a tenant changes the locks, especially when the landlord or property manager doesn’t have a key.

Among them:  the tenant might refuse access to the apartment for inspections, there could be an emergency within the apartment (fire, water overflows, medical issues) and the landlord can’t get in to address it, or the tenant could move out leaving the door locked behind him.   These scenarios leave the landlord with little option but to break the door down, or take it off at the hinges… neither of which is preferable over being able to just use a key.

Changing the locks poses another possible problem in that sometimes a tenant might undertake the process himself, even though he’s not particularly skilled… and the door gets so badly damaged that replacing it entirely becomes necessary.  So who has to pay when that happens?  The tenant won’t be happy, but how can it be the landlord’s responsibility to pay for a damaged door under these circumstances?

Make certain to add this requirement into your lease!

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I Want to Find an Apartment for $350, Part 2.

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment
Part two.
 
In order to keep my previous blog reasonably short and readable (a prospective renter was looking for a $350 per month apartment in her town – a town where Fair Market Rents for FY 2010 were $705 per month, or twice what she was looking to pay), I didn’t go into some possibilities the prospective tenant could look into.
 
I’ll offer some thoughts here.
 
Note: the prospective renter did not explain why she only had a $350 per month budget.  It could have been that she and her fiance were choosing to save as much money as possible for some big event (such as getting married), or it could be that they just plain don’t have the money.
 
Either way, an apartment that fits the budget she’s offered will be hard to find.  There are options, though and I hope one of them works out for her.  Obviously she’s trying, since she posted her request on line.
 
a) The renter and her fiance could move into a larger apartment with some friends, and all could split the rent.  This has been happening more and more lately, as families and friends double up.  While some landlords don’t like it, others are okay since they believe they have a better chance of keeping the unit rented.
 
b) The renter and her fiance could consider moving in with a family member temporarily.
 
c) The renter and her fiance could go to General Assistance for short-term help or Section 8 (I know… there’s a waiting list).
 
d) The renter could try to find a family willing to rent out a room or two, even if it weren’t an actual apartment.  She might do well to post on church bulletin boards or meet with her pastor regarding her situation.
 
e) I’m presuming she wants to stay in her current small town for work or other reasons.  If not, then it might be worth moving to a less expensive town or county; again, it could just be temporary.
 
I suspect the prospective renter has considered all of these option, but wanted to throw them out anyway.

I Want to Find an Apartment for $350 per Month in My Town

February 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Question & Answer on a Real Estate Site:

My fiance and I want to rent an apartment in our town for about $350 a month.  Can anyone help?

My amended and de-identified response (and I sure wish I’d been able to offer some hope for this couple):

Good morning,

My husband owns a property management & leasing company (http://www.onthespotrentals.com), and hears this kind of question several times a day. “Where can I get an apartment for under $500?” “I want to rent a 3 bedroom house, utilities included, for $700 a month”, etc. Many people will add that they’re “handy” and can fix the place up in exchange for reduced rent.

The unfortunate reality is that there’s almost nothing out there that’s that cheap (and if it was, you truly would not want to live there).  Last year (Fiscal Year 2010), the Fair Market Rent for a one-bedroom apartment in your county was $705 per month. That’s twice what you want to pay, and means it will be almost impossible to find anything in your price range.

I’ve heard tenants complain that the landlords are overcharging, and gouging the tenants with their prices, but mostly that’s not at all true.  It’s very expensive to own & maintain an apartment building (I know this from personal experience because I used to own several). Depending on the size of the building and its orignal cost, the mortgage, taxes and insurance can easily be a couple of thousand dollars a month. Then there’s heat, and common electricity, and water/sewer, and maintenance, and snow plowing and lawn care… many buildings lose money on a monthly basis – the landlord is just hoping to make money in the long run.

I do hope someone else has a different answer than I can offer, but I’m afraid you’re going to find it extremely difficult to get an apartment for as little as you’re looking to pay.

Good luck,
Linda Snyder
Marketing & Development
On the Spot Rentals

Another Slam on Landlords

January 22, 2011 Leave a comment

 
John owns a rental lease-up and property management company.  He deals with pet issues every day; landlords who don’t allow pets, or insurance companies that won’t allow certain dog breeds, or tenants who desperately want to keep their one cat or 6 rottweilers….
 
It’s already difficult enough to match people with pets and landlords who allow them.  To now make the landlord responsible if a dog bites, or inadvertently knocks someone over, or breaks a plant pot, or pees in your bushes, will mean landlords will just plain stop allowing any pets at all.  And tenants will be compelled to give up their pets, further choking the animal shelters which are already dealing with more unwanted pets than they can handle.
 
So John contacted the legislator sponsoring the bill and was told “I don’t like the bill either, nor do I agree with it, but a constituent asked me to sponsor it”.  The legislator allowed as to how the bill probably would not pass, but reiterated over a couple of e-mails that he was asked to sponsor it.  The implication was that he had no alternative but to present the bill because a constituent had asked him to.
 
When John contacted a legislator friend of ours regarding this, he was told essentially the same thing… that it’s not unusual for legislators to sponsor bills they don’t believe in because a single constituent wants it.
 
Does this make sense?  Isn’t this a serious waste of taxpayer money, and one that bogs down Maine’s legislative system so that they can’t work on the important issues?
 
What do you think?
 
Note: This blog is essentially identical to one posted on ReGroup Biz titled “Why the Legislature is So Expensive…”
 
Should legislators feel compelled to submit a bill to the legislature even if they know it’s stupid, just because a constituent wants them to?
 

My husband John noticed a bill before the Maine legislature that would be a killer for landlords and tenants alike if it were to pass:  Essentially, the responsibility for a pet’s behavior will no longer be just the pet owner’s but also the landlord’s. 

Seeking Apartment, Have Bad Credit. Should I Tell?

January 20, 2011 1 comment
 

My husband has a property management & rentals company (On the Spot Rentals in Maine).  His biggest complaint is not that people have poor credit, but that they are not upfront with him about it.
 
He will sit down with potential renters and explain to them that he will be doing credit history and other background checks, and that he’s aware that this economy has damaged the credit of a great many people. 
 
He will explain to them that his biggest concerns are a) have the potential renters blown off utility bills and b) have the potential renters been evicted for cause, blown off rental payments or left apartments damaged, etc.
 
He tells them that now is the time to let him know if he’s going to find these kinds of problems when he does the background checks.
 
It is disheartening how many potential renters will look him in the eye and say “No problem”.  Then he does the background check and finds a history of evictions, unpaid utilities, etc. – the very things he told those potential renters he’d be looking for.  You can believe there is no way that person is going to ever get an apartment through his company.
 
And (if he hasn’t collected the money upfront for the credit check, which he now does), he has a company that chases down the dishonest potential renters for the cost of the background checks, which just adds to their negative credit history.  So it’s a no win situation for both sides.
 
Think about it: he’s a small business person with no employees who’s trying to make a living just like everyone else.  He WANTS to find apartments for renters; that’s his income, how he pays his own bills.  If you’re a moderate to excellent risk, he’ll bend over backwards for you. 
 
So when a potential renter says, “This is what you’re going to find… I’ve had these problems and am putting my life back together”, and he does the background checks and finds that what the potential renter tells him and what he finds on that background check is essentially the same… Well, he’s going to try very hard to see if he can make it all work and find an apartment for that person.
 
Honesty is, of course, the best policy.

 

Sad to Say, Some Prospective Tenants Will Lie Even When There’s No Reason To.

January 2, 2011 1 comment

01.02.2011. 

My husband John (“Johnny On the Spot” of On the Spot Rentals) is always very clear with prospective tenants about background checks. 

The application is not a formality, he will do the background checks, and if they have anything he should be aware of, they’d better fess up now—since if they tell him their background is clean, and he finds out otherwise, that will immediately disqualify them.

John is also upfront with prospects that he knows the economy has been horrendous and that many people now have poor credit records as a result.  He says his biggest concerns are a history of evictions or skipping out on rent and utility bills… past behavior is indeed a predictor of future.  He gives prospects the opportunity to discuss what he will find before he undergoes the credit & background checks. 

You would think that most people would be relieved, and would own up to past hits or black marks.  Amazingly, he’s run across just a small minority of people willing to offer up the truth—even knowing he’s going to find out within the next 24 hours. 

A surprising number will look him right in the eye and say they understand, but actually they aren’t ready to make a decision on an apartment yet, even though they’ve just completed all the application forms.  Worse, quite a few have looked him right in the eye and said, “Of course… but you’ll find nothing to worry about.” 

For example, there was the State prison guard who laughed and said, “I’m a State employee.  I couldn’t work for the State if I had a criminal background”.  Yet she did, and three (3!) recent evictions, too.

And there was the couple who said, “Yes sir, we understand” and turned out to have a string of evictions, had skated repeatedly on utilities bills, and had even moved from another state, apparently to avoid the court system because of non-payment of more than $17,000 in child support… and in the past 3 years had skipped out on another $18,000 in child support.

It was this last couple who was the final straw.  John, who had wanted to avoid asking prospects upfront for the $25 per person fee it costs for the credit history & background check (this does not include his time chasing down employers and former landlords for references), immediately implemented the same policy that many other property management companies have. 

Now, before he will submit an application for a background check, he gets the $25 per person fee upfront.  No $25, no background check; and therefore no way the prospect will be allowed to rent the house or apartment.

It’s been an eye-opening and expensive lesson for a small businessman who believed that if he were open and honest, that others would be in return. 

Thank goodness for such wonderful people as the young wife who recently said, “My husband has a felony assault charge from several years ago, but he’s stopped drinking since then”, or the couple who had a plausible explanation for the eviction John would find. 

It’s so cliché, but still…. the truth is always the best route to take.

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