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Apartment Balcony & Patio Policy Letter to Tenants

18 Mar

Corey and I live in an apartment, so we occasionally receive courtesy letters about upcoming crackdowns. The most recent letter pertained to the cleanliness of exterior spaces – i.e. patios, balconies, and breezeways.

Apartment Balcony

(photo by El gran sueño)

Because lease (or HOA) rules can be subjectively interpreted, the letter included a checklist of possible violations and the consequences for not addressing those violations. I’ve shared the template below for others to use.

I find this “educate-then-enforce” approach both fair and effective. While the management company might have the legal right to slap residents with violations on day 1, it certainly isn’t going to generate good will – especially if there is a misunderstanding about expectations.


[Date]

Re: Balcony/Patio Inspections

Dear Residents,

In an effort to keep [community] an enjoyable place for all, we will be completing a balcony cleanliness tour on [Date].

Please review the checklist below carefully to make sure you are keeping your balcony and breezeway neat and clean! In the unfortunate case our team discovers any of the below items during our tour, we will be charging a removal fee for each violation.

  • Clothing or Rugs – Residents are prohibited from drying clothing or rugs on or over the balcony. Please clear breezeways as this is a common area. Up to a $20 charge per item removed or found by staff will be assessed.
  • BBQ Grills – This is against the fire code and can result in fines from the city! Electric grills are permitted, but gas or charcoal will be removed. Up to a $100 charge per item removed or found by staff will be assessed.
  • Holiday Lights – Please only hang outdoor decorative lights. Up to a $20 charge per item removed or found by staff will be assessed.
  • Trash including cardboard boxes, trash bags and trash cans – Up to a $20 charge per item removed or found by staff will be assessed.
  • Cigarette Butts – Please dispose of cigarettes properly – this is an extreme hazard! Up to a $30 charge per item removed or found by staff will be assessed.
  • Furniture intended for indoor use including couches, recliners, bed frames and futons – Outdoor furniture is acceptable. Up to a $200 charge per item removed or found by stuff will be assessed.
  • Tool Boxes and Coolers – Up to a $50 charge per item removed or found by staff will be assessed.
  • Common Areas – Please make sure any personal items or trash are not in the breezeways or stair wells. Up to $20 charge per item removed or found by staff will be assessed.

If you have any questions regarding this checklist please feel free to call us! Also keep in mind that if any of the above items are found and removed by our team, they will not be held.

Kind regards,

[Community Name]

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Tenant Letter – Notice to Remove Holiday Decorations

2 Feb

Translation: “Come on tenants – those holiday lights. For realz.”

notice-to-remove-holiday-decorations

(photo by Zepfanman.com)

Dear Resident(s),

We appreciate the holiday spirit, but it is now time to take down those festive decorations.

Please be aware that a fine of [$x] will be charged for any decorations that continue to be displayed after [Day], January [x]th.

Thank you for your understanding, and we look forward to seeing them again next year!

Kind regards,
[Community]

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Setting Expectations: Tenant Guidelines for HOA Success

17 Dec

Because HOA rules can be rather subjective, I recently met with an HOA manager to discuss lawn requirements for our rental property. It was a productive conversation, and I left with 5 key takeaways to share with our tenants and property management company. A few of these weren’t on my radar, so I’m glad we could prevent some misunderstanding and frustration.

I also created “Guidelines for HOA Success” that we’ll include with our tenant on-boarding paperwork moving forward. This should be more effective than referring to vague rules buried within pages of legalese. I’ll share the outline below in case this strategy is helpful to others balancing tenants and HOAs.

Finally, I plan to incorporate some light weeding during vacancies to help reign in other plant species that grow faster than the rest of the lawn. Most of the prior violations seem to be related to tall weeds more than tall grass.



Guidelines for HOA Success

These rules have been created to help our residents avoid HOA violation fines. The HOA has final say on violations, but these 5 rules should help you avoid the vast majority of complaints and fines. Please do not assume that you will receive a warning before getting fined; fines are allocated at the sole discretion of the HOA Manager.

If you have questions about compliance or a violation, please reach out to [property management company].

#1 – Keep Lawn Height Under 4.5 Inches

HOA Lawn Height Maximum

#2 – Only Outdoor Furniture is Allowed on Front Porch

HOA Outdoor Furniture Policy

Examples of Allowed Items:

  • Outdoor Furniture
  • Lawn Chairs
  • Grills
  • Exterior Decorations

Examples of Not Allowed Items:

  • Couches
  • Dining Room Chairs
  • Coolers
  • Trash
  • Cans & Bottles

 #3 – Lawn Should Not Cover Cement / Sidewalks

Crab grass in particular is a weed that likes to grow horizontally. Crab grass can be physically removed by the roots or cut back to ensure that it does not extend beyond the lawn.

Lawn Violation Edging Explaination

Edging is recommended, but not specifically required. Regularly removing the crab grass by the roots, edging, or trimming will usually resolve the problem to the HOA’s satisfaction.

#4 – Mow Thoroughly Under Shrubs

Please take extra care to mow under all shrubs/bushes so that the mower can reach any tall grass and weeds in the flower beds.

HOA Violation Weeds

(we removed the stones for easier access)

#5 – Trash & Recycling Should Not be Visible from Front Yard (except on trash day).

Please return all bins to the backyard by the evening of trash day.

Hidden Trash Can

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eRentPayment.com Review: Online Rent Collection

14 Jul

We started using eRentPayment.com with our very first duplex, and we’d probably still be using them today if our property management company didn’t have their own online payment system.eRentPayment logoWhat is eRentPayment.com?
In the most basic sense, eRentPayment.com transfers rent from the tenant’s bank account to yours. At the time I wanted to accept online payments, but other services favored property managers or larger rental portfolios by bundling multiple transactions into a monthly fee. eRentPayment.com doesn’t have many frills (it is not a full-service property management software), but it is a steal of a deal at $3 per transaction.

Automation is Your Friend
I adore how everything can run for months at a time without my intervention… reminders are sent, rent is collected, late fees are assessed, and funds are deposited into the account of my choosing. Even in the age of mobile banking, it eliminates an errand or two that would otherwise be required every. single. month. There’s no way I’d go back to paper checks now.

ssssss

(photo by TMAB2003)

Other benefits and customizations:

  • Collect rent monthly, weekly, or biweekly
  • Rent due on 1st, last, or a specific day
  • Can require automated payments
  • Transaction fee paid by landlord, tenant, or split
  • Return security deposits electronically (separate $3 fee)
  • Automates late fees – making the tool “the bad guy”
  • Can prohibit partial rent payments
  • Prompt and professional customer service

$3 Sounds Too Good to Be True – What’s the Catch?
Admittedly, the reporting interface leaves something to be desired. I printed the email confirmations for my accounting binder, but I couldn’t access an “official” payment receipt from my online account. All the information is there, but transaction details are generated in a bare bones pop-up without ‘print page’ functionality.

eRentPayment

The only significant snafu occurred when a tenant mistyped their bank account number, and the debit was rejected after it had already been deposited into our account. I was confused, the tenants were confused, but with support’s help we successfully reran the payment.

For the most part, everything works like it should. For the best value, stick with the $3 bank-to-bank transactions, but there is a relatively new option to accept cards for an additional charge (1.5% for debit, 2.95% for credit). Also, be careful if you’re going to use eRentPayments.com for other types of payments – even a $25 application charge will incur a separate $3 service fee.

Another angle to consider: now that we’ve got 6 units up and running it would be worthwhile to compare my options elsewhere – I could probably do a little better than $18/month total to collect rent.

For the smaller, independent landlords – I absolutely recommend using eRentPayment.com. It really does help streamline the day-to-day management of rental properties, leaving more time and mental energy for other things.

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Sending a Security Deposit Accounting Letter to Tenants

10 Jun

Security deposits are a necessity, but they also require proper documentation to keep everything on the up-and-up. According to the Texas Property Code, landlords must provide a refund of the security deposit (if any) and an itemized list of all deductions within 30 days of the property being surrendered.

Security Deposit Deduction

An important caveat: the tenant must provide a forwarding address (in writing). In absence of one, we send the letter to their old address using certified mail, return receipt requested. It isn’t common, but there have been tenants who intentionally “disappear” so that it is harder for us to collect for excessive damages. The post office will either forward it on to them, or we’ll have documentation showing delivery was attempted.

Below is the template for our security deposit accounting letter. There are two variations for the “Resulting Balance” section, depending on whether the deposit was sufficient to cover any deductions.


Today’s Date: [MM/DD/YYYY]

Tenant’s Name: [Name]
Rental Property Address: [Address]
Lease expiration date: [MM/DD/YYYY]
Move-out Date: [MM/DD/YYYY]

Dear [Name],

The purpose of this letter is to account for your security deposit as detailed below.

Credits Received
• Security Deposit – $x
• Itemize any additional credits – $x

Total Credits – $x

Deductions
This is notice that the owner of the leased premises is deducting the following charges and expenses from your security deposit:
• Itemize individual deductions here – $x
• Itemize individual deductions here – $x
• Itemize individual deductions here – $x
• Itemize individual deductions here – $x
• Itemize individual deductions here – $x
• Itemize individual deductions here – $x

Total Deductions – $x

Resulting Balance
The balance due to resident of $x will be returned via [enter payment method].

Sincerely,
[Name]


If deductions exceed the deposit, use this text instead:

Resulting Balance
The balance due to Landlord of $x must be paid upon receipt of this statement.

Please make checks payable to [Name].

Mailing Address:
[Name]
[Address]
[City], [ST] [Zip Code]

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30 Day Notice of Non-Renewal Letter + Move Out Instructions

9 Apr

Because necessity is the mother of invention, I recently created this 30 Day Notice of Non-Renewal letter. It was posted on the tenant’s door and an identical copy was sent via certified mail. Feel free to use or modify as needed, but please be mindful that landlord-tenant laws can vary by location.

Notice

Date: MM/DD/YYYY

[Name]
[Address]
[City], [ST] [Zip code]

30 Day Notice of Non-Renewal

[Name],

Our records indicate that your lease terminates as of [Date], at which time you will begin leasing the premise on a month-to-month basis. This letter is your 30-day notice that your month-to-month tenancy will not be renewed. Please make arrangements to vacate the property by midnight on [Date].

When you are ready to vacate the property, return all keys using the included lockbox (left on porch) and attach the lockbox to the fence gate. Lockbox code: [XXXX]

The expense of cleaning or repairing damage, if any, will be charged against your security deposit of $xxxx. To ensure the maximum security deposit is returned to you, please return the premises to the same condition as you found it upon move-in, normal wear and tear excepted.

You may use this list as a guide to help reduce security deposit deductions:

• Thoroughly clean the unit
• Repair any damage
• Replace burnt out light bulbs
• Replace HVAC filters
• Lawn care – mow, trim, and remove weeds
• Remove all food, debris, pet waste, and personal belonging
• Utilities must remain connected in your name until March 31st, 2014 regardless of the date you vacate the unit
• Leave the provided fire extinguisher in kitchen

If you end up needing a few extra days, please contact [Name] at email@email.com to coordinate an extension. You may also use this email address for any questions.

Sincerely,
[Name]

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New Texas Law Could Create Headache for Landlords

13 Mar

A Rental Realities first – today’s guest blogger is my husband, Corey! He is a frequent participant of our rental hijinks, antics, and tomfoolery.

Whatdaya mean my lease is unenforceable?
Beginning January 1, 2014, Texas landlords have a new hurdle in enforcing their rights under a written lease: proving they provided a copy to their tenants. The new law requires that within 3 business days of signing a lease, a tenant must be provided a copy by their landlord.

residential lease

What happens if you don’t do this? 
For starters, you won’t be able to evict a tenant for any reason other than non-payment of rent. The statute also allows a tenant to stop a lawsuit until the tenant has been provided a signed copy of the lease. In such an event, a judge would almost assuredly reset your court date – creating loss of time and rent that could have easily been avoided.

What should you do about this? 
Create documentation to prove that you provided a copy of the lease to your tenant. The statute permits this to occur three ways:

  1. Via a paper copy
  2. In an electronic format if the tenant requests it that way
  3. By email if you and your tenant have communicated by email about the lease.

I would suggest that you handle this situation by having your tenants sign a form at the time they sign their lease indicating that they received a copy (example letter below).



NOTICE OF RECIEPT OF LEASE PURSUANT TO TX PROP. CODE §92.024

I __________________(insert Tenant’s name) acknowledge that I have received a true and correct copy of _________________ (insert title used for your lease) as of the ___ day of ________________, 20XX.

_____________________________
(Insert Tenant’s name and have them sign above)

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Transitioning to a Property Management Company + Letter to Tenants

11 Feb

This post is a continuation of my Property Management Company series which details our property management selection process and experience.

Once we decided on a company, there was a healthy list of logistics to sort out before handing over the reins, including:

  • Home Questionnaire – this clarifies property-specific details, including listing specifications, bank account numbers for payments, HOA information, our desired pet policies, trash pickup day, utility providers, included appliances, and neighborhood amenities.
  • W9s – enables the property management company to issue a MISC 1099 to document annual gross income (gross = before expenses).
  • Unit Documentation – copies of the existing lease plus any extensions or amendments, and also the inventory and condition form completed at move-in.
  • Tenant Documentation – copes of the paperwork compiled when vetting the existing tenants: rental applications, background checks, proof of income, and signed rental criteria.
  • Keys – we both have a complete set of keys now. When the locks are changed I request a copy so that I can still access the units for repairs and future make ready work.

 


 

Good Morning [Name],

I wanted to let you guys know that we are hiring the services of a property management company to help us with some of the day-to-day demands of the duplex.

[Company Name] will be sending an introduction letter in the next couple of days. They will manage a lot of the behind-the-scenes work – repair requests, rent collection, lease renewals, etc.  We might still handle some of the repairs we can do ourselves, but they will be the point person.

Of course, [Name] and I are only an email away if you feel like there is a concern that needs to be escalated.  🙂

Thanks,
[Name]

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Lease Renewal Letter with Reasons to Renew

5 Dec

Below is a recent letter we received from our apartment complex (who we rent from), with a heavier emphasis on discouraging move-out compared to our own tenant renewal letter. While the copy could use some fine-tuning, I found it an interesting approach and worth sharing.


 

Month DD, YYYY

^Rates and Lease terms subject to change.
Below rates are good through MM/DD/YY.

Street Address
Apartment #XX
City, ST Zip Code

Dear Name,

Our records indicate that your lease is due to expire at the end of Month DD, YYYY. At this time, we wish to reaffirm our commitment to you to provide outstanding service and to maintain your community as one in which you take great pride. We sincerely enjoy having you as a resident. It is our desire to make certain that you are happy in your apartment home and that you are receiving the best value for your rental dollars.

When considering your options please remember to keep the following in mind:

Moving is expensive! Costs include:

  • New application fees and deposits
  • Hiring movers
  • Transfer fees from utility providers
  • Taking time off from work

Moving is inconvenient!  Hassles include:

  • Lost mail (late fees from creditors)
  • Forwarding your mail
  • Packing and unpacking
  • Cost of moving $$$$$

Keeping this in mind we are pleased to offer you the following renewal options:

 12 Month Renewal Month-to-Month Market plus $250
$xxx $xxx

These rates do NOT include carport or pet rent. New rates are: $x monthly pet rent (per pet) & $x monthly carport (per carport).

The above rates will be effective Month DD, YYYY.

Please call or come by our office to discuss your renewal needs or circle your desired lease term and return this letter to our signing office. A copy of your renter’s insurance certificate carrying $100,000 liability coverage will be necessary when signing your renewal.

Please remember you MUST sign your new lease by January 15th. If you have not renewed your lease prior to the expiration, effective Month DD, YYYY, your lease will go Month-to-Month.

Please remember that should you decide to leave our community (and we certainly hope you do not), a 60-day advance written notice is required.

We appreciate your residency, and look forward to being of service to you in the future. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact us at (xxx) xxx-xxxx or email@email.com.

Kind regards,

Name

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3 Day Notice to Pay or Vacate

17 Jun

My personal red line for late rent is the 10th of the month, which is when I post a 3-day notice to pay or vacate on the inside of the front door. Typically my hope is that this serves as a sufficient scare tactic for them to pay rent, but if needed it will also allow me to begin the eviction process. Below is an a example of this letter that you are welcome to modify for your own purposes.



NOTICE TO PAY OR VACATE

 

[Date]

 

Via Hand Delivery

[Tenant Name(s)]
[Rental Address]
[City], [ST] [Zip Code]

Dear [Tenant Name(s)]:

This is notice that you have failed to pay rent of $x for the month of [Month Year].  Currently you owe rent of $x and late fees of $x.  You must tender this entire sum of money by [Date].  If you have failed to pay rent by this date, this is your NOTICE TO VACATE the property by 11:59 p.m. on [Date].

Regards,

[Landlord Name(s)]

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