Dan and Lara Carroll spent months fixing up a single-family home they’d purchased from Dan’s mother’s estate. They installed new appliances, upgraded the HVAC system and wiring and transformed the modest, fenced backyard into a relaxing, low-maintenance landscape. The home had previously been retrofitted with ADA-compliant features, and the couple decided that their ideal tenant would be an active senior.
They placed an ad online, narrowed the candidates to two favorites, and after running a cursory background check and placing a couple calls to check references, they settled on a widow in her late 70s who moved to the area to be closer to her adult son’s family. (We’ll call her “Mrs. Jones”.)
“She was a very nice lady, the type to dress nicely just to go to the corner store,” said Lara Carroll. “Her husband had passed away the year before, she’d sold their home and, from what we could tell, her affairs were in order. Solid credit, good personal references—though no recent rental history, of course—and she clearly had a sense of dignity and self-respect. We were glad to have her sign a lease and happy that we were able to provide a well-equipped and safe place for her to live.”
The lease the tenant signed was a standard form the couple had downloaded from the internet.
Everything went well for the first several months. Dan and Lara went by for scheduled yard maintenance and normal repairs, and when they did, the tenant would make a point to be around. “I think she liked the company,” Dan said. “She wasn’t seeing her son as much as she had expected, but you know how Moms complain that they never see enough of their kids.”
The Carrolls didn’t mind handling some of the maintenance tasks typically expected of tenants, and Mrs. Jones welcomed the monthly appointments when Dan or Lara would change the furnace filter, clean gutters or maintain the grounds. Mrs. Jones kept a spotless house, but she was gradually having mobility issues. “Nothing serious; she kept a cane handy, and had some minor tremors, but we thought she had years of independence ahead of her,” said Lara. “We really enjoyed her, and felt good about being able to keep an eye on her.” She added that they had the extra benefit of keeping an eye on the property and staying ahead of household problems before they could get worse. “We’d get a check from her by the first of each month, and we’d see her on the Saturday closest to the 15th. We assumed she checked in with her family as well.”
One day, when Lara called to confirm what had become a routine monthly visit, a man answered the phone. He introduced himself as Tom, Mrs. Smith’s son, and he told Mrs. Carroll that his mother was out. After Lara asked Tom to remind his mother of their standing visit, this time to change out the water and furnace filters, there was an awkward silence. “He then said, ‘no, we’re good, I can do it, but thanks.” He then hung up. Two weeks later, Mrs. Smith’s check failed to arrive.
Thus began the Carroll’s nightmare. Mrs. Smith’s landline was disconnected when they called to ask about the late payment, and when they drove by to check on her, nobody answered the door, but there was a utility trailer parked in the driveway, and Mrs. Carroll’s Toyota was parked on the curb with a “For Sale” sign in the window. The Carroll’s recorded the unfamiliar number and called. Tom answered, and then hung up when Dan identified himself.
That night, the Carrolls decided to call the police and request a welfare check. They were concerned about Mrs. Smith and wanted to be certain that the person who called himself “Tom” was, indeed, her son. The police got back in touch with the Carrolls and confirmed his identity. The police said Mrs. Carroll was in the hospital and that the son was house-sitting, and that he’d look after his mother when she was discharged. However, due to patient confidentiality, the officer couldn’t disclose the name of the hospital caring for Mrs. Smith or her condition.
“We didn’t put much thought into the late check at that point. Of course, Mrs. Smith was dealing with health issues, and we didn’t know if Tom had access to her accounts to pay her bills.”
Time went on, though, and when the next check never arrived, and Tom wouldn’t take their calls, the Carrolls became concerned. They drove by to put a 24-hour inspection notice on the front door but when the next day came, the locks were changed and nobody answered. Mrs. Smith’s Toyota was gone, and when the Carrolls peeked in through a window, they noticed that many of her expensive furniture pieces were gone, as well. “Her china cabinet…gone. Artwork…gone. We couldn’t see much from the front window, but we saw enough to realize something was wrong.”
The couple sought out an attorney who advised that they begin the eviction process. “We didn’t know what to do. We figured Mrs. Smith was in long-term care for an illness but didn’t know if she’d be coming back, but her son wasn’t paying the bills. We didn’t want her to be stranded when and if she was discharged.”
Finally, after three months and not getting any help from the police, the Carrolls went ahead with eviction. During this time, Tom filed claims that the landlords were wrongfully evicting a disabled senior and her caregiver, a military veteran to boot. It took four more months of unpaid rent and the cost of investigative services to discover that Tom had separated from his family, moved his mother into a low-income convalescent facility after she broke a hip, and moved himself into the house. When the Carrolls finally gained access after fighting harassment and wrongful eviction claims, costing them thousands of dollars in legal fees, they discovered that Tom had sold all his mother’s belongings, the new appliances belonging to the Carrolls, and had allowed his dog to destroy the backyard. He’d convinced his mother to make him power of attorney and was proceeding to blow through her nest egg.
“The place was a mess,” said Dan. “We paid for garbage pickup, but he’d let everything pile up in the garage, and we had a huge pest problem that carried over into the neighboring property. He’d burned papers and trash in the fireplace at one point without opening the flue, knocked down all the fire and carbon monoxide detectors, and there was soot all over the living room. From the stacked up recycling, we could tell his judgment was impaired by an alcohol addiction.”
Looking back, the Carrolls realized that they should have looked deeper into Mrs. Smith’s background, asking her to name any family members who might spend considerable time at the property, and to ask references about potential issues with relatives. “Her son had a pretty nasty history, but we’d never guess that from meeting his mother.”
Had the lease specified time limits on friend and family visits, the Carrolls might have had more leverage to get Tom out sooner.
Worse, the Carrolls hadn’t photographed the new appliances or landscaping after it had been installed. They’d assumed the receipts would have been appropriate. Neither did they have adequate photographs of the house before Mrs. Smith took occupancy. “That hurt us in pursuing action against Tom, and it made dealing with our insurance nearly unbearable.”
Had the Carrolls required that Mrs. Smith take out a renter’s policy, they might have had more protection.
“Our lawyer wasn’t up to speed on the laws in our city concerning tenant rights, either,” Lara Carroll said. “We had to interview several real estate attorneys before finding the right one for our situation, and that took a lot of time and frustration.”
The Carrolls regret a lot during their first foray into managing their own rental, but what they regret the most is losing touch with Mrs. Smith. “Nobody in her family was able to come forward to contest Tom’s competence as her Power of Attorney. Technically, we can’t even visit her, on his instructions, and we know he doesn’t care about her. It’s so sad.”
Eventually, the couple managed to repair the house and get it back on the rental market, this time with the help of a property manager licensed by Property Management Pros. Professional property managers have the experience and training to understand local laws regarding eviction and welfare checks. In addition, they have access to more detailed lease and rental contracts and know how to properly and thoroughly screen prospective renters to avoid the kinds of problems Mrs. Smith’s son caused the Carrolls.
With inventory checklists and software, professional property managers are better equipped to record property condition before, during and after tenancy, making recovery through litigation or insurance far easier.
“The commission we pay now more than makes up for the stress and anxiety involved with managing our own property,” said Lara Carroll. “We now have two more rental properties that cater to independent seniors and disabled veterans, and while we’re still free to be as involved as we like in the process, they keep us from making mistakes based on emotion.”
For more information on the services provided by Property Management Pros, contact us. We can help you earn the most returns from your income property while protecting you from the financial and emotional risks involved.
As a long-term property manager you will be happy to know that there are digital tools available to help make your job a little easier. Maybe even a lot easier, depending on the number of units you manage. This article will show you how valuable and powerful this technology is and why you should start using it as soon as possible.
What is a property inspection app?
It is a computer software program installed on your phone or tablet, making it portable and convenient. It lets you inspect properties, create reports, and deliver them to your client from anywhere.
Why should I use a property inspection app?
It saves time over the traditional way of writing up an inspection and report on paper forms. This frees you up to take on more clients or concentrate on other work.
You can be sure that the inspection is done thoroughly, using checklists, photos, videos, signatures, and more.
You can access it from any device, including mobile (iPhone or Android), tablet, or computer.
The entire record is safely stored in the cloud, always there when you need it for any reason: legal disputes, tenancy issues, property records and other related details.
You’ll appear more professional, have less stress, and won’t lose or forget anything.
Using a scalable program allows you to grow your business from just you as an independent contractor starting out to hiring employees such as other inspectors or property managers.
What can I do with a property inspection app?
If you are ready to take your property management to the next level, contact us today. At PropertyManagementPros.com we specialize in helping you achieve success as an independent rental and property management professional.
If you are considering renting your property, you may be thinking of going it alone. Maybe you are considering hiring a property management company, but are unsure whether it is the right move for you. In this post, we’ll talk a bit about the major benefits of hiring a property management company and about how doing so can give you some much-needed peace of mind versus handling everything yourself.
Attract Better Tenants and Keep Them Longer
A property management company has years of experience in properly screening tenants. The importance of this cannot be overstated. Not only can improper tenant screening open you up to rental scams or discrimination lawsuits, it can also stick you with nightmare clients. Letting a professional handle the screening process means that you’ll have quality renters that pay on time, cause fewer problems with the neighbors, and put less wear and tear on the property during their stay.
After your new, quality, renters have moved into the property, a good property management company can help keep them there. A good management company will an established tenant retention policy that increases the amount of time that a given renter stays in the property. This means less time searching for renters and more money in your pocket.
More Efficient Rental Processes
Getting your property rented quickly and for the best price takes experience. A qualified property management company will have the experience to maximize your rental income. A management company will make suggestions on improvements and rental preparations that you may have overlooked to help maximize the revenue from the rental. They will also be able to help you set the best rental rate for your property. Set the rate too high, and you’ll have a hard time renting the property out. Set the rate too low, and you are leaving money on the table every month. An optimal rental rate is key to maximum profits and a professional management company will have the tools and knowledge of the market to get the rate just right.
Once the property is ready for rental and the rate is set, it is time to get the word out to potential renters. A good management company will offer superior advertising and marketing to ensure that your property is rented fast. A property management company will have the experience of having written countless ads. They will know what does and doesn’t work in ad copy and will be able to optimize your ad for the quickest possible sale. They’ll also have experience with the various advertising outlets in your local market and know which ones provide the best value. This experience is invaluable in ensuring that your property doesn’t sit idle for longer than necessary when it could be earning you money.
Collecting rent, dealing with late payments, and being available for maintenance emergencies are all a drain on your resources. Hiring a property management company takes all of that weight off of your shoulders.
Dealing with rent may be easy when things are going well, but when things go south, having a professional company handling the work can take a load of stress off of you. With a management company handling the collection of your rent, you won’t have to worry about sending delinquent notices or hounding your renters for late payments. This has the added benefit of putting a buffer between you, your renter, and the people collecting the rent. As a result, your relationship with the renter will not be strained if they are late making a payment. The management company becomes the bad guy so you don’t have to.
Tenants may also have maintenance issues crop up at all hours of the night. With a property management firm, you won’t be woken up in the middle of a slumber, disturbed during dinner, or even have your favorite TV show interrupted when something goes wrong with the property. The management company will handle taking all of the complaints when they come in so you don’t have to. They can even handle routine maintenance for you to take even more work off of your plate.
If you would like to take advantage of all of the benefits above, or if you have any questions regarding the services that a property management company can provide, please contact us today!