What Do I Do?

Answers to Common Landlord Questions

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Do I Have to Allow Pets on My Property?

While you have no obligation to allow pets to live in your rental properties, the trend is definitely moving more in the direction of pet friendly rentals. While you may be worried about damage to your property, allowing pets can actually bring in more tenants and more money. The key is having a comprehensive pet policy, charging a deposit that will cover you if any damage should occur, and charging monthly pet rent that does not have to be used for damages, but can be additional income.

The additional income can come from charging higher rent if there aren’t a lot of pet friendly properties in your area, keep tenants longer because it can be more difficult for pet owners to find pet friendly places to live, and you have a wider tenant pool.

 When Can I Raise My Tenants’ Rent?

Rent can only be raised when a tenant’s current lease period has ended; for month-to-month tenants this is one month in advance. These policies vary depending on the type of rental, so if you are renting on a weekly basis or in a boarding house, there are different notification rules.

There are no rules governing how much a landlord can raise a tenant’s rent, but you aren’t allowed to raise rent punitively or retroactively.

When Do I Keep a Renter’s Security Deposit? How Much Do I Refund if I Think there’s Damage to the Property?

Money can be deducted from a tenant’s security deposit for unpaid rent, unpaid utilities, damage beyond normal wear and tear, or breaches of the lease agreement (actions like early termination of the lease agreement, painting or making changes to the property without permission, etc.). The requirements for deducting money from a tenant’s security deposit vary from state to state with requirements ranging from providing an itemized list with amounts of deductions to doing a walk-through of the property with the tenant before they move out to go over any charges that would result in security deposit deductions.

Even if your state doesn’t require you to walk through the property with the tenant, this can be beneficial so that the tenant is aware of the deductions, knows what to expect when they receive their security deposit refund, and there are fewer surprises.

What is Normal Wear and Tear on a Property?

When it comes to returning a tenant’s security deposit, it is important to know the difference between damage to the property and normal wear and tear. Normal wear and tear on a property cannot be deducted from the tenant’s security deposit, but actual property damage can be deducted.

Normal deterioration of a property from living in it is limited to minor damages like small carpet stains or scratches on wood floors, dirty grout, wearing finish on metal fixtures, minor chipping or worn paint, and other similar signs of typically daily life.

Damage to the property includes things like broken windows or mirrors, large stains on the carpet, broken fixtures, holes in walls, and other damages that are caused by abuse or neglect of the property.

Do I Have to Tell Prospective Renters if a Death Occurred in the Rental Unit?

This really comes down to what state you’re renting in. States have different laws when it comes to disclosing what happened in a unit before the tenant moved in. In some states, property owners need to voluntarily disclose if there was a death in the unit before the renter moves in, while in others there is no requirement to disclose this information. You should always check the local laws where you’re renting to find out what needs to be disclosed to potential renters.

When Can I Enter My Rental Units?

Landlords have the keys to every unit that they rent and can enter the properties for maintenance, sales or rental, safety or health concerns, or by court order. It is important to note that tenants are not allowed to change the locks without permission from the landlord, so the landlord should always have the means to enter the unit.

For routine maintenance or any repairs or work requested by the tenant, the landlord must give the tenant at least 24 hours’ notice before entering the property.

In the case of emergencies or court orders, landlords can enter at any time without notice to the tenant. Even in these cases, the landlord must announce themselves by name and state the reason for entering before they enter the property.

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Affordable Upgrades to Maximize Rental Property Income

Making improvements to your rental property can have a big return on investment, but you want to make sure that you’re spending money on the things that tenants look for and that will ultimately make you more money. When updating your rental property, you don’t want to over-renovate. The space should look inviting, but even though it may be difficult, the property doesn’t need to be updated as if it is your home.  All of these updates should allow you to charge higher rent and attract more tenants.

One final note, once you invest in updating your property you want to make sure that you present the property in the best way possible when showing it to prospective tenants. Make sure that it looks clean and well-lit – you want the people viewing the property to see themselves living there.

Cleaning

Clean, Clean, Clean.
When tenants look at a rental property, they want it to look like no one has lived there before them. We recommend hiring a professional cleaning company to scrub the inside of the property from top to bottom. Clean all of the obvious areas, but don’t neglect the baseboards, inside of cabinets and drawers, tops of window frames, and other more hidden places. Even without any other improvements, thoroughly cleaning the space will add automatic value to your property in the eyes of the tenants.

Make Small Upgrades.
Without spending a lot of money, you can make upgrades to little things on your property that can have a big return. Repair or replace anything that is broken; this includes linoleum tiles, a drawer that constantly comes off the track, or blinds with missing slats. For relatively low cost, you can replace door knobs, switchblades, and vent covers which can improve the overall look of your property.

Kitchen

Update Kitchen & Bathroom.
If you are going to spend money updating any part of your property, spend it in the kitchen and bathrooms. These areas are the primary selling points of your property and it pays to spend a little bit of money to make them more attractive to tenants. At the very least, bathrooms need to look extremely clean or new. To achieve this result at a very low cost, repaint the bathroom in a clean white or light blue and replace the shower and sink fixtures. Installing a curved shower curtain rod and painting the vanity cabinets is a quick and relatively inexpensive way to make your bathroom look newer more updated.

If you have some money to invest after updating the bathroom, spend money updating the kitchen appliances. New appliances allow you to charge higher rent and attract good tenants. If you can’t buy new appliances for the kitchen, clean the appliances very well and replace any knobs, burners, or oven shelves that cannot be cleaned to look like new. Painting the kitchen cabinets and updating the sink fixtures can quickly liven up an older kitchen.

Modernize.
A lot of rental properties look old and lived in. You can make your property stand out by putting a fresh coat of light-colored paint on the walls. You don’t have to go with the standard light tan – choosing a different color will make the space look more modern and help you to stand out when tenants compare your property with others that they looked at. Consider adding an accent wall in the main room to make the property look more inviting.

It also pays to update older lighting fixtures to something newer which can make the property look more updated. To make the living spaces feel more modern, install expensive-looking curtain rods and new blinds. These little changes will make new tenants feel like the space is more comfortable and they will be better able to see it as their home.

Doors

Update the Outside.
Minor landscaping like cutting the edge of the grass, weeding any flowerbeds or putting mulch down can improve the curb-appeal of your property. If the front door is looking worn, you can give it a fresh coat of paint, but don’t use paint to cover up actual damage to the door. This is the first thing that renters will see when they look at your property, so you want it to look good and safe. You also want to make sure that the outside looks safe by checking the locks and latches on gates.

 

Pool Safety Tips

Swimming pools can be the perfect addition to a summer barbeque or a great way to cool off during the hot summer months, but if not maintained properly they can be a big liability for property owners. This summer, keep these tips in mind so that your tenants can safely enjoy the pool!

1. Make sure that there are fences with locked gates around the pool so that only adults can enter the pool area.

Kids getting into the pool area when it’s closed is the number one culprit in child pool drownings. Make sure that you take every precaution possible to assure that they can’t get into the pool during off hours or without a parent.

2. Provide all recommended life-saving devices and have a staff member on duty that knows CPR.

If there is an accident, you don’t want it to be made worse because onlookers were not able to provide the best first aid possible. Take the extra time to make sure that your pool complies with local laws and that you’ve done everything you can to protect your tenants.

3. Post water safety rules in a place where all swimmers can see them.

Though it may not fully protect you in the event of an accident or legal action, it’s always best to make sure that everyone who enters your pool area is aware of the rules and safe swimming practices.

4. If you don’t employ lifeguards, have staff monitor the pool area during high traffic times.

While it is up to tenants to swim at their own risk, it’s always better to have an extra set of eyes on the pool when there are a lot of people in the pool area. This helps to protect you and your tenants.

5. Test chemical levels in the on a regular schedule based on published standards.

High chlorine levels can cause irritated skin and eyes for swimmers, but low levels can cause a build up of algae and other organisms which can make swimmers sick. It’s important to understand pool cleaning protocol and implement a schedule so that the pool chemicals are always kept at desirable levels.

15 Ways to Make Your Rental Feel More Homey

Sometimes moving into a rental apartment can feel a little bit sterile and there will certainly be aspects of it that you don’t like or would change if you owned the property. That doesn’t mean that you have to just live with these annoyances – there are a lot of things that you can do to make your rental space more personal and inviting.

1. Use plants to decorate your living room, bedrooms, and outdoor spaces

2. Start an indoor herb garden in your kitchen

3. Find throw pillows and blankets with interesting colors or patterns to add a splash of color to your couch

4. Cover boring colored carpet with throw rugs

5. If your apartment lacks natural light, use lamps to add lighting and personality to the space

6. Hang curtains on the windows to liven up your room or to give the walls some color

7. Cover old radiators or fuse boxes with pictures, curtains, or a well-placed piece of furniture

8. Choose interesting furniture that can serve as decorative pieces

9. Use your bed as a focal point of decoration in the bedroom by getting a nice comforter and lots of decorative pillows

10. Decorate your bathroom with colorful rugs, towels, and shower curtain to bring color to usually beige or all-white apartment bathrooms

11. Put pictures in cute picture frames out on bookshelves and other surfaces to make the space feel more like a reflection of you

12. To minimize hanging pictures on the walls, prop larger art pieces up against the walls using bookshelves, mantles, or counters

13. In a small space, use room dividers to separate spaces

14. If you have an outdoor space, use small lights and some outdoor furniture to make it a place you can escape to

15. Find a home for all of your things and get rid of the things that you don’t need to keep your space open and free of clutter

5 Things to Consider When Hiring a Property Management Company

You will be trusting a property management company with making decisions on your behalf and in managing the day-to-day operations of your property investment. It’s important to know what you want out of a property management company, to interview multiple companies, and to make sure that you make the most of the interview time that you have with the company. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – this is your investment and you want to make sure that you feel confident in the people you choose to protect it.

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1. Handling of Funds

It’s important to know how the company that you are talking to handles your money. Never be afraid to ask any and all questions that you can think of. You will be trusting whoever you choose with your investment, so make sure to ask when you will be paid, if the company will be writing checks on your behalf, payment policies for vendors, and how the accounting will be handled. It’s also important to know what reports the company will provide for you and how often they will send them. Feel free to ask for examples of the reports that they provide – sometimes it helps to see them in front of you.

 2. Rental Rates

It can be difficult to know how much rent to charge your tenants, and that’s one place where hiring a property management company can really help you. You want to look for a company that has extensive knowledge of market data and uses that knowledge to determine rental rates for your property. It’s also important to ask how often they raise rent, how they handle late rent, and how they handle delinquent rent and evictions.

3. Maintenance

A quick response to tenant maintenance issues is important to keep tenants happy, adhering to laws, and keeping your property investment in good repair. You want to make sure that you know how the company that you’re interviewing handles maintenance requests. There are different ways that maintenance is paid for by the property management company and you should ask for all of the details about how maintenance payments work and what the company will be doing on your behalf. You will also want to ask how often preventative maintenance and property inspections are performed and what kind of reports are sent in regards to the condition of the property and maintenance that has been done or will be needed.

4. Price

Even though price may be the first thing that you want to think about, it’s actually one of the last things that you should consider when selecting a property management company.  Before you look at how much a property management company will cost, you should make sure that they are going to provide the services you need at the quality that you’re looking for. Sometimes companies that are lower priced may be overloading their managers, may not provide top-of the line service, or are not including all of their fees in the upfront cost. When making this important decision, you need to make sure that the company you choose will protect your investment and is not just offering the lowest price.

5. Communication

The details of how your property will be managed and how your money will be handled are obviously important, but don’t let these things overshadow the importance of being able to communicate well with the company you decide to hire. You should always feel comfortable asking questions and voicing concerns. If the person that you are talking with constantly interrupts you or if you don’t feel like you’re getting answers to your questions when you’re interviewing companies, this will likely be the same experience that you will have when dealing with this company after you hire them. In the end, it’s important for you to have confidence and trust in the property management company that you hire.

How to Fill Vacancies in Your Rental Property

Vacancies in your rental property are at best a hassle and an annoyance and at worst a huge financial burden. Effective marketing is critical to filling vacancies – you need to advertise online, in local establishments, and put signs up on the property to attract locals. But there are some other things you can do to increase your chances of getting a good tenant moved into your property quickly.

1. Take Good Photographs, Set the Right Rental Rate, and Don’t Waste Time

There are a lot of things that you can do as the property owner to decrease the amount of time that yours units stay vacant. Acting quickly is critical. Start looking for a new tenant as soon as you get notice that one of your units will be vacant, and have a maintenance crew ready for the day that the current tenant moves out.

Always use the best photographs that you can to attract the best renters to your property. Try to take pictures of the property when it is clean and empty – prospective renters prefer clean, empty units to those with other people’s belongings in the photos. Once you take pictures, file them away so you don’t have to take new photos every time you need a new tenant.

Setting the right rental rate is critical to finding good tenants. Study comparable units for rent in your area, look at websites that have developed algorithms to help estimate rental pricing, and talk with fellow landlords about what they charge and how they set their rental rates.

2. Offer Referral Bonuses to Current Tenants & Maintenance Crews

You’ve put in the time to make sure that you have good, reliable tenants, so use this asset as a way to find new tenants. Offer your current tenants an incentive for finding you new renters. You can offer a gift card to a local restaurant, $50 cash, or money off their rent if they give you a referral that results in a viable tenant.

Maintenance and cleaning crews that work on your property can be an untapped resource for finding quality tenants. Ask if they know anybody who is looking for a place to live and offer cash or gift card incentives if they refer someone who ends up renting one of your units.

3. Put a Financial Perk in the Rental Listing

Potential tenants may choose your property over other properties if you offer an incentive. It can seem counterintuitive to put up your own money to get renters, but the small investment can pay off in a big way if you can shorten the time that your unit is vacant. You can offer things like free cable for 6 months, $100 off the first month’s rent, a $100 gift card to a local restaurant, or a 30 day guarantee that allows the renter to break their lease and move out if they are unhappy with the property in the first 30 days of their lease.

Enjoy Albuquerque!

Fall & Winter

Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

Albuquerque is known as the hot air balloon capital of the world, and you can experience the excitement firsthand at the International Balloon Festival. The festival lasts a full week with almost 600 balloons launched every morning and balloon glows to enjoy every night. This is absolutely a must see!

Check out the Food & Brew Scene

Sopapillas are a traditional dessert in New Mexico and you can find great sopas in tons of places all over the city. For a great treat, check out Sadie’s, El Pinto, or the Church Street Café.

After your sopas, head out for some craft beers which you can find all over Albuquerque. Check out the patio at Marble Brewery or free yoga on Sundays at Red Door Brewing Company. If you’re more in the mood for dinner and drinks, you can try Nexus, Kelly’s Brew Pub, Chama River, and Canteen Brewhouse which all feature full dinner menus.

Luminaria Tour

Enjoy a bus tour of this New Mexico tradition instead of having to deal with the traffic of driving through the neighborhoods yourself. If you can’t get tickets for the bus ride, there are driving tours in Old Town, Country Club, Ridgecrest, South Valley, Barelas, North Albuquerque Acres, Nor Este, North Valley, and Sunset Memorial that you can enjoy on your own.

 River of Lights

Experience New Mexico’s largest walk-through light display with over 150 light displays, animated sculptures, and synchronized music.

Spring & Summer

Biking

 

Balloon Rides

If watching hot air balloons at the International Balloon Festival isn’t enough, you can take a balloon ride of your own in the hot air balloon capital of the world. There are more than 300 resident balloonists flying hot air balloons every day all year long.

Grab a Cup of Joe at Bike-In Coffee

This coffee shop is not your average place to grab a coffee. In order to enjoy coffee or the signature “scookie” (the marriage of a scone and a cookie), you have to arrive at the coffee shop on a bike. The shop is located just off the Paseo del Bosque Multi-Use Trail at Old Town Farm and can only be accessed by bike.

ABQ Food Fridays and Movies on the Plaza

On Fridays in the summer, Civic Plaza hosts ABQ Food Fridays that offer dinner from a different selected restaurant each week. While you’re eating dinner, there will be live bands or you can enjoy a free movie on the plaza. Different family-friendly movies show weekly. There is some seating available, but moviegoers are encouraged to bring their own chairs or blankets to sit on.

Albuquerque Isotopes Game

Summer isn’t summer without checking out a game at Isotopes Park. Most games have promotional giveaways, there is always entertainment, and you get to cheer on the home team! Plus, who can resist a team named after a Simpson’s joke?