Can I Change the Locks?
The tenant from #3 called, and she was very concerned. She said that her co-tenant had moved out, but she was worried that he might return, un-announced. She said that she had no particular reason to fear him, but just did not like the idea that he still had a key to the apartment.
She asked if she could change her locks.
It has long been our policy to carefully avoid taking a stand between a tenant and their feeling of need for additional security. In general we do not allow “security doors” (you know, the metal kind), but certainly any upgrade in locks would be encouraged if a tenant wanted to change the locks.
Her concern was so deep that she also asked that she have the only keys. As her now ex-co-tenant was also on the lease, we could not keep him out, or refuse to give him a key if he asked for one -if we had keys.
We permit our tenants to make such changes, but do not get involved with the changing of the locks. It is and remains between the two tenants.
There are two complications when we, as the managers, do not have direct access to a unit. The first is ordinary repairs. Our agreement with this tenant, and any others in her situation, is to be clear that if ordinary maintenance is needed within the unit, that she will need to be there to accommodate entry, even if this means that she must miss work for several hours. The second is if an emergency entry were needed (as with a fire or flood). In our agreement with these tenants, they agree to take full responsibility for any resultant damage in the event that a forced entry was needed.
This approach has worked well for us, caused few real problems, and provided the tenants with a greater sense of security.
Seven Suggestions Regarding Pets
Unit #4 has been vacant for almost three weeks. This unit is in a six-unit building. An applicant showed clear interest, but was concerned that the property was clearly advertised as “NO PETS”. She had owned her dog for nearly six years, and just could not part with her.
This has always been an interesting subject to me. When we first started in this business, the Unruh Act was in effect, and it prohibited discrimination based on sex, race, color, religion, ancestry or national origin. In those early days for us, discriminating against families with children was permitted, and “ADULTS ONLY” buildings were somewhat common. Although subsequent court rulings and legislation changed all of that, our company back then made it a policy to not discriminate against families with children.
The logic was more than just altruistic. By accepting families with children, we were taking customers from other owners who did not want them. Because we had more customers ready to rent from us, we know that we filled our vacancies faster, and made more income for our owners.
Now, apply that same logic to pets. From our application records, we have found that roughly 25% of our applicants either have a pet or would want one. Some of our owners allow pets, some do not. Those who do, it would seem, have a significant marketing advantage over those who do not.
As I mentioned earlier, in this example, the building is just six units – there is no resident manager. As such, it is only by “luck” if we were to discover that a tenant had a pet. Sure, we could issue a 3-Day Notice to Conform, but all a tenant has to do is move the pet elsewhere for a few days, and then the process starts all over again.
Some owners are, and always will be firm in their conviction about NO PETS. I have no problem with that. However, in these times of higher vacancies, others may consider allowing pets. The trick here is to do “right”. As to what is “right”, I have seven suggestions.
- Charge a pet deposit. It does not have to be huge, as it will be coupled with the security deposit. Actually, combining it with the security deposit gives you more options at move-out.
- Avoid “puppies” if at all possible. Regardless of breed, they just tend to be more destructive.
- There is no “magic” to small dogs. They can be more destructive, and noisier than larger dogs.
- Insist that dogs be “walked” off of your property, and that the dog-owner clean up after his or her dog.
- If it is a cat, it must always be kept indoors.
- NEVER, NEVER, NEVER permit known dangerous breeds, such as pit bulls.
- Have a contract provision that is signed by your tenants to the effect that if they violate the pet rules, the owner will have the unilateral right to void any lease with 30 days notice. This will alert the tenant to the fact that you are very serious about your pet rules, whatever they may be.
In these days of high vacancy rates, anything you can do to say “yes” to the needs of your tenants (and tenant-applicants) should be good for your business. It has worked well for us.
Finley Beven is with Beven & Brock Property Management Co., Inc. The contents of these articles are merely opinions of the writer. They are not intended as specific legal advice and should not be relied upon for that purpose. For more information, call (626) 243-4145 or visit www.BevenandBrock.com.