Posts Tagged ‘Property Management’

How to protect your tenant’s sensitive information

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in data storage, edited, For Landlords, frugal landlord, paid, privacy, rental maintenance, Software, Step 9 - Manage Lease & Collect Rent

The massive Equifax data breach of 2017 revealed that identity thieves are constantly updating the methods they use to steal sensitive information—and they’re getting better.

That should concern any landlord or property manager who collects personal data. Keeping credit card and Social Security numbers out of the hands of thieves calls for advanced IT skills beyond the scope of many property owners and managers. It’s one reason you should consider working with third-party online property management agencies.

1. Use firewalls and passwords

Storing the data you get from tenants in an unprotected file on your computer is like leaving a large sum of money on the hood of your car while you go shopping. If someone doesn’t steal it, you’re having a very good day.

Tenants and potential tenants shouldn’t have to rely on luck. At the very least, you need to enable a firewall on your computer to protect their data.

By itself, however, even that won’t necessarily keep out a determined hacker. You can add a second level of protection by using only a password-protected Wi-Fi connection, but this may mean keeping a second laptop for use in coffee shops and other public places.

2. Understand the malware factor

Hackers continue to devise new ways to lure you to fake sites and persuade you to click on links that download malware onto your computer. Once their software is past your firewall, only your anti-malware software stands between it and the sensitive information you’re storing. Keep your anti-malware software up-to-date. But even if you do that, there’s no guarantee that hackers aren’t one step ahead of you.

To show how easy it is to lure viewers, software engineer Nick Sweeting created a copycat Equifax site after the data breach. It was so convincing that some Equifax employees were fooled into navigating to it. They were “Rickrolled” (re-directed to a video of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up”) when they clicked on one of the tabs—a favorite internet prank. The stunt underlined the disturbing fact that fake sites can persuade viewers to click through. Those that do could potentially download malware without ever being aware of it.

3. Call the pros

It’s better to hire a lawyer than trying to represent yourself in court. In the same way, you can manage your own files, but it’s better to use an online property management system, the most reliable way to avoid having your data compromised. For example, Cozy protects you in these ways:

  • Transmits data using only the secure HTTPS protocol
  • Limits the amount of data it stores (Cozy never stores the results of background checks or credit card numbers.)
  • Encrypts all data it stores on secure servers
  • Submits to regular audits by third-party firms to ensure security

Cozy also only shares information with trusted third parties as required to provide services, prevent fraud, or satisfy legal requirements. All this security comes with an easy-to-use interface.

4. Go it alone

Property management companies charge a fee for the services they provide. If your budget won’t accommodate that, and you choose to store data yourself, you may find the following tips helpful:

  • Access data only when using a secure, password-protected Wi-Fi network.
  • Install high-quality anti-malware software, and set it to update automatically whenever an update becomes available. Set up a firewall.
  • Set up two-stage authentication. For example, have a verification code sent to your mobile phone whenever you log into your computer.
  • Avoid storing credit card and Social Security numbers. If you must keep them, store the numbers separately from the corresponding names and addresses. This may involve establishing a system to link them, which you should keep in yet another location.
  • Activate a tracking/recovery system, such as Lojack or Find My iPhone. This gives you and law enforcement officials a better chance of recovering your computer if it gets lost or stolen.

5. Take privacy seriously

Landlords must provide a safe and secure place for their tenants to live, and they have a responsibility to protect any sensitive information they collect. The consequences of identity theft can be as devastating as a physical accident. If investigators trace the theft to negligence on the part of a landlord, they could be liable. If you don’t have the time or skill to keep data safe, companies like Cozy can help.

How to find a contractor you can trust

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in contractor, edited, For Landlords, landlord, Maintenance & Renovations, paid, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

Planning a large remodel? Needing someone to make an emergency repair? Looking to complete the support team for your rental business? If so, you’ll have many contractor options, but choose wisely.

Hiring someone who has few skills, manages time poorly, or is dishonest wears on your time and resources.

A trustworthy contractor usually has a network of tradespeople who can step in when the need arises. Find the right person and you may never have to search for qualified maintenance support again.

Related: How to build a little black book of contractors

1. Look for a trustworthy contractor

You can always find a contractor, but your goal is to find a good, reliable contractor you can trust. Here are some ways:

Through people you know

The No. 1 place to start searching for a trusted contractor is among your friends. Many of the best contractors stopped advertising long ago. They rely on satisfied customers to do their advertising for them. If you’re looking for someone to complete a particular task, find friends who have had that type of work done and ask for recommendations.

Neighborhood review websites

Join a neighborhood discussion group. When you ask for recommendations on sites such as Nextdoor.com, you usually get several leads, phone numbers and all. Yelp is another resource, especially for contractors who specialize in large-scale projects.

Online classified services (Craigslist)

Search the Services tab for your area, or post a job opening. If you post, be prepared to screen responses carefully because scammers are a fact of life in the world of online classifieds. Accept email replies only, ask for contact information, and initiate further contact yourself.

Local hardware and building supply centers

Here, you’re likely to find plumbers, carpenters, and electricians. Ask the customer service representative for business cards. They probably have several on file.

Related: 8 real estate professionals a landlord can’t live without

2. Ask questions…then more questions

Getting in touch with a pro who can handle your job is just the first step. You need to know more before you sign on the dotted line, especially if you’re contracting a big job. A trusted contractor can give you satisfying answers to the following questions:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Have you done this kind of work before and how often?
  • Do you have references?

The last question is the most important one. A reference should include contact information so you can follow up. When you call the reference, you’ll want to know the following information:

  • Did the contractor do the work in a complete and timely manner?
  • Was the contractor well organized?
  • Was the contractor easy to work with?
  • Did personal problems ever interfere with the work?
  • Did the contractor charge a fair price for the work? Were there “extra charges”?
  • Would the person ever hire this contractor again?

Related: 4 tips for first time landlords

3. Schedule a meeting

In the end, trust your gut feeling about a person you’re considering working with. Schedule a face-to-face meeting before you sign anything. During the meeting, you’ll want to go over details of the job, but let the conversation wander a bit to get an idea of the contractor’s attitude to work. You might ask such questions as:

  • How long have you been doing this kind of work?
  • Why did you start doing it?
  • What was your favorite (most troublesome) project?

Touching on appropriate personal issues—such as family—and trivialities—such as favorite movies—might reveal some shared interests, which is a good sign. A trusted contractor, like a friend, is someone with whom you share a certain commonality and who speaks your language.

4. Remember, trust is a two-way street

It isn’t a good idea to micromanage a pro, but it is a good idea to stay in touch and communicate any concerns that arise. Addressing issues such as work standards or punctuality at the outset prevents small matters from turning into bigger problems later on.

If you have an emergency, you need a competent contractor. If you want to create an effective maintenance network for your rental, you need a trustworthy one. In any long-term relationship, even with a contractor, trust works both ways. Be honest, communicative, and reliable, and that’s probably what you’ll get in return.

Related: 8 traits of an ethical landlord

New! Share your rental documents

Written by Lucas Hall on . Posted in For Landlords, For Renters, General, Step 9 - Manage Lease & Collect Rent

We’re excited to announce that now you can share documents, lease agreements, move-in checklists, and more with your tenants in Cozy!

At Cozy, the company behind Landlordology, we build tools to make life easier for our customers and we listen to their feedback. Landlords have been asking us to make it easy to store and share essential rental documents with their tenants, so they can be better organized and more transparent. Now they can.

Quick and convenient

It’s easy to add and share rental documents in Cozy. When you set up payments, you can upload any related documents, which will be there for your tenants when they login to Cozy.

Every time you share a new document, all the tenants on that lease will be notified by email. Then they can access the shared documents from any device. Tenants will conveniently have the lease at their fingertips, so they won’t have to ask you for it again and again.

State law requirements

Every state has its own landlord-tenant laws. Some states have laws to ensure that tenants always receive a copy of the lease. For example, California Civ. Code §§ 1962(4) says that a landlord must provide a copy of the lease to the tenant within 15 days of its execution. In Delaware, a landlord must provide a written copy of the agreement, free of charge (§ 5105 (b)).

Cozy makes it easy to share a lease with your tenants securely and for free.

To learn more about what state laws require, check out our state law rental guides.

Your tenants will thank you

Most tenants want to be self-sufficient. They don’t want to ask you multiple times for a copy of the lease, or find a place to store a stack of important rental documents.

By using Cozy to send and store these documents, you’ll help foster trust and transparency with your tenants. It’s a great way to start a relationship with a new tenant, that hopefully will help pave the way for a long-term resident who treats you and your property with honesty and respect.

Foundation for success

At Cozy, we make renting easier for everyone. Hundreds of thousands of landlords have built their rental business with Cozy, and now they have another tool to make their lives easier. Document sharing in Cozy is one more way you can create a better, more efficient, and more profitable rental business.

If you’re not already using Cozy, give it a try. All our core features are free for landlords, including collecting applications, screening tenants, and collecting rent online.

Spring maintenance checklist for landlords

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, Maintenance & Renovations, paid, rental maintenance, spring, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

communicationWhen March goes out like a lamb, it’s time for landlords and tenants to look at property matters that developed during winter’s deep freeze.

Spring maintenance items that affect habitability are most important, but it’s also the best time to address small defects that could turn into big ones, if they’re left unaddressed. Summer is coming, the best season to make repairs.

Warming temperatures create a good opportunity for landlords and property managers to inspect rental units and make a plan for spring maintenance. Tenants could handle some of the maintenance—especially in the yard or garden—but leaks, burst pipes, and other problems that affect habitability most likely need professional attention.

Related: 8 home repair tasks every landlord should learn how to do

Exterior inspection

Walk around the property to see the extent of winter damage. On this walk, try to do the following:

  • Check the roof and siding for deterioration. You don’t have to get on a ladder to see roof damage. Missing or broken shingles are usually visible from the ground.
  • Look for gutter leaks. Ice and snow are hard on gutters, and any leak you see should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent damage to the siding or erosion around the foundation.
  • Test the outdoor faucets. If water froze in the pipes, they may leak.
  • Inspect the walkways and driveway for cracks. This could happen from earth movements during freezing weather. These cracks need to be repaired or water will seep through them and cause further erosion.
  • Note any rot. Look on wood siding, trim, fences, or decking. A small amount of rot isn’t an urgent problem, but if the rot is extensive, now is the time to deal with it.
  • Pay attention to the condition of the lawn, garden, and surrounding foliage. Spring is the best time to prune back any branches that threaten to block windows or overhang the roof later in the summer.

Related: How to easily track maintenance requests and repairs

Interior inspection

If winter weather has caused any interior damage, tenants will probably know about it, but they might not let you know. It’s a good idea for a landlord or property manager to do a quick walkthrough to check a few things:

  • Assess the damage caused by roof or siding leaks. This could range from soggy drywall and mold to warped flooring or compromised electrical fixtures.
  • Note the condition of the floors and carpet. People tend to track salt-laden snow through the house on cold winter days.
  • Turn on the air conditioners. You want to make sure they work. Now is a good time to replace the filters.
  • Check for pests. Look for termites, cockroaches, and rodents. Critters tend to hunker down in the walls during winter, and they’ll still be there when spring comes.

Related: Ask Lucas 030: How do you perform an annual property inspection?

Handling spring maintenance

When it comes to repairs that affect habitability, such as major leaks and resultant water damage, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to do them or hire someone to do them.

The responsibility isn’t as clear-cut when it comes to defects that only affect the tenant’s enjoyment of the property. Peeling paint and displaced walkway pavers may be unsightly, for example, but they don’t stop life from going on. It may make sense to give tenants the option to make some of these repairs themselves. To avoid confusion over the issue of who’s going to pay, include a lease clause or amendment that covers it.

Lawn and garden maintenance is one area that the lease should cover. Many tenants like landscaping and may even consider a green light to do it themselves a perk of living on the property. But other tenants prefer this job be done for them. Landlords might consider charging more per month if they need to provide landscaping services.

General indoor cleaning is another lease topic for areas such as hardwood floors (that can suffer damage from salt and water), an unfinished basement, and the fireplace or wood stove. Whether it’s spring maintenance or year-round maintenance, it helps to clarify responsibilities in writing.

Related: Should a tenant be paid for doing yard work?

Get your game on

Once you’ve made your game plan, itemize the repairs you need to make with some urgency, and take care of those as soon as possible. Leave the others for later, but keep the list as a reminder. Priorities tend to change as the weather warms up and summer arrives, but winter will come again, and problems you don’t handle this year will be there next year. And they’ll be that much bigger.

 

Revenue, Retention, Reputation: Why the Traditional Landlord Approach is Changing

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

by Charlie Wade | VTS

Historically the primary focus of the vast majority of office landlords was to secure enough tenants to fill their buildings as quickly as possible. Their modus operandi was simple: persuade an occupier to sign as long a lease as possible, with a minimum rent-free period and on a maximum pounds per square foot rent, in the quickest way possible. Once the tenant signed on the dotted line the landlord could essentially not worry about that tenant/building until a lease event loomed large on the horizon.

2018’s Hot Item: Online Rent Collections

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

by Becky Bower | ApplyConnect

Let’s face it – physically collecting rental checks is outdated. It requires you to invest a lot of time into recording the payment into your tenant ledger, and standing in line at the bank to deposit it. This process doesn’t even include enforcing late fees, bounced check fees or any time spent talking to a tenant that doesn’t have the rent. Bring your rent collections into the future by switching to a convenient, easy, and hassle-free online solution in 2018.

Pet-Friendly Rentals: Pros and Cons

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

Shared post by  | Appfolio

Property managers have to make some hard choices when they decide to establish rules for their rental units. According to a helpful report from Michigan State Extension, deciding to allow or prohibit pets might be one of those tough decisions. Before deciding, it’s a good idea to carefully examine the pros and cons of running a pet-friendly rental property.

Probiotics for Property Plumbing – Nature’s Cleaning power

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

MegaMicrobs-Header

DRAMATICALLY REDUCE MAINTENANCE COSTS BY USING MEGAMICROBES!

A common challenge for multi-resident, multi-story buildings is the frequency of plumbing repairs needed to keep waste water flowing freely out through drains, pipes, and outflow stacks. This problem can be especially acute in residential complexes where fats, oil and grease from in-home cooking accumulate all the way from kitchen drain traps to the common ground level drains.

Additional deposits of soap, hair, and other waste residue from bathroom showers, tubs, sinks and toilets add to the ongoing problem. Typically, this issue is dealt with as a maintenance budget line item for both plumber snaking at the unit level and the much more expensive jetting service applied to the inside of the common vertical outflow pipes, known as stacks. The annual cost for these services can easily top $10,000 or more, even in a modest-sized building with less than 100 units.

THERE’S A BETTER WAY!

The critical role of construction in property management

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Ruben Walker | CAM Construction

Construction is more important than you think

If you own a commercial building or complex, you are either managing it yourself or have a property manager. So you know there are many responsibilities and tasks associated with managing your property. But you may have never thought about the role of construction in property management. This post takes a look and gets you up to speed on what you need to know about this important aspect of the job.

What’s so Great About a Real-Estate Fund?

Written by Apartment Management Magazine on . Posted in Blog

By Kathy Fettke | RealWealthNetwork.com

You had a tough time getting to sleep. Then, the phone rings. You think it’s the doorbell as you stumble out of bed, in your dreams, and suddenly realize your cell phone is doing it’s ringtone vibrating dance on the nightstand.

“Hello? … The heater. … Right now? … Your kids are crying? … Let me call you back in five.”

Okay, that’s one possible scenario in the life of a landlord, if you manage your own properties. Or, you could have a property manager. In that case, the phone call would come the next day telling you of a difficult night with tenants, and requesting permission to spend a certain amount of money to remedy the situation.

PayRent.com