Management Tips

Blinds are no longer as cheap as they used to be. One landlord who used to always use mini blinds now uses and prefers curtains instead in her rentals. She shared the advantages to using curtains:

Blinds Vs. Curtains

  1. With blinds we had to change most of them after every move-out for one reason or another: broken, dusty, old-looking. We charged off the blinds to the resident if they were broken, but dusty and old-looking is on us.
  2. With curtains on the sliders, I can get room-darkening light or dark grey with grommets, at about 84H x 100W, for $25 or so.
  3. Curtains go with the paint and don’t show dirt. Since we don’t allow smoking anymore the smell isn’t an issue either. Febreeze is my friend.
  4. Curtains last way longer than blinds. I’ve had a few curtains up now for YEARS without issue.
  5. We switched to curtains for energy reasons in some of the spaces.
  6. Blinds are so expensive. I think we will be replacing them with curtains at move out time from now on. It’s a bit more expensive at first, but much longer lasting.

Destructive Residents

Landlords across the country face the challenge of trying to protect the property from destructive residents. A recent, local news story in Colorado Springs reported on how local landlords have to deal with things from meth labs, unknown residents, property damage, and how renting out your property can be an intimidating task, even after selecting applicants who look good on paper.

So, what can landlords do to protect their investments? One thing to do is what I like to call “Courtesy Service Checks” every six months in each rental. We inform the residents that during the Courtesy Service Checks, we are checking smoke alarms, possible water leaks and air/furnace filters. Of course, the real reason for stopping by the home is to check for any sign of property damage. The news article also suggests that landlords conduct regular property inspections.

Back-Up Heat

You may have already experienced a phone call this winter from one of your residents, informing you that their furnace or heating system is not working. As a landlord, do you offer a “back-up” heat option for the resident until whatever the main problem is fixed? Here’s what a couple of landlords have done in regards to back-up heating options that seem to be working:

“I keep a ready supply of space heaters handy and drop them off until the problem is fixed; then I go pick them back up as time permits. This creates an extra stress and time hassle factor, though. So, a few years ago I started installing baseboard electric heaters in bedrooms whenever I had extra space in the electric panel. It’s not enough to heat the whole house to toasty warm, but it’s enough to ‘limp along’ to where I don’t have to drop off space heaters. Seems to have worked well.

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I also have a few places that are electric only (furnace, heat pump, or baseboard). And if they have gas service I install one of those “blue flame” ventless fireplaces that run around $200-$300 for a unit that will heat up to 600 sq. ft. Residents are instructed that this is not a primary heat source and it should be used as a supplement to keep electric costs low as they are 99% efficient (they have to burn clean since they are ventless), but it also serves as a back-up if electric power goes down due to snow / ice / tree limbs / someone plows their car into an electric pole, etc. They work without electric power as there is just a gas valve and a sparker to light the pilot flame.”

A second landlord suggested the following:

“Each year, I wait for the small electric heaters to go on sale and buy a cartload. $15 each with auto shutoff when tipped. These little heaters will make a bedroom HOT if they keep the door closed. Two of these will take the chill off a small house. I tell them to move everyone into the living room and have a slumber party!

I keep two in my truck and my helper keeps two in his during this season. Not worth the trip back to pick them up. We tried storing some in attics but they did not have a ladder to reach them. Additional Tip: For liability issues, we deliver them in a sealed carton and do NOT write our company name on them. They are UL listed and WE did not install them.”

Text Messages for Court

Since more and more communication between the landlord and resident is being done by text, one of the questions now being asked is, “How do I save and/or print text messages so that they can be used in court?”

Several landlords suggested taking a screenshot of the phone, emailing it to yourself, and then printing it out. There were also a couple of other innovative suggestions which are shared below:

“The problem with screen shots…is that if the text message strings are extensive then they don’t fit on one screen so you end up screen-capping multiple pages which is hard to follow. There are a number of apps that can save text message strings to a PDF or in other formats. I find PDFs most useful because my JP allows us to send them via email to the court to be entered into evidence. You can also save the PDF on your phone or computer to print later if you need it. Pinit is one of the apps I’ve heard of but I’m sure there are lots of others.”

“I have an Android phone and I have a program called Legal Text Collector that saves conversations to a file which I can send to my computer or directly print from my phone. I print all my text conversations and attach them to a file when the lease ends.”

“On a Mac, click to open iMessages. Click on a conversation, go to the menu, and select ‘open conversation in separate window,’ then print that window. But instead of printing, select “print to PDF” to dump it to a PDF file. You can also select ‘show times’ to list the times each text was sent.”

Require Renter’s Insurance

I recently read a news story that reported about a major water pipe break in an upstairs multi-unit that caused a lot of damage to the unit below. This news story reminded me of why it is so important, especially in a multi-unit building, to require and to explain to your residents why they need to have renter’s insurance. It can be purchased for less than $200 a year (as low as $15 a month) and can help them recover thousands of dollars for damages. Another option landlords can consider is to buy a low-cost Tenant Protector Plan for your renters that can help both the renter and the rental property owner, including coverage that reimburses you for lost rental income up to $1,000 for unexpected vacancies, skip-outs, or evictions.

The tips in this column are shared by regular contributors to the popular MrLandlord.com Q&A forum, by real estate authors and by Jeffrey Taylor, [email protected]. To receive a free sample of the Mr. Landlord newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit their informative Q&A Forum at LandlordingAdvice.com, where you can ask landlording questions and seek advice of other landlords 24 hours a day.