Define and Document ‘Normal Wear and Tear’

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One of the most sensitive topics when a tenant moves out is returning the security deposit. Tenants are responsible for out of the ordinary damage, like a hole in the wall or a door off its hinges. However, they are not responsible for normal wear and tear. The trick is: how do you define it?

When it comes to carpets, light marks from shoes and small stains are to be expected over the life of the carpet. If a tenant has only been in the unit a year, but returns extremely stained carpet, from pets or paint, for instance, that would be a reason to deduct from the security deposit. This is especially true if the carpet was new at the beginning of the lease.

Other floors, such as linoleum or tile, will also get scuff marks as they age. Some cracks in the tile is to be expected. Once again, if the floor was new when the tenants moved in and is heavily damaged at the end of the lease, deducting from the security deposit is reasonable.

Hardware, such as door knobs and drawer pulls, are another judgement call. If they were old to begin with and have come to the end of their life, it’s not fair to charge a tenant.

Walls that are scuffed a bit from furniture being against them or have other marks that can be cleaned off are normal. Big gouges or lots of nail holes that require patching are not. Crayon or marker on the wall that won’t come off is also not considered normal wear and tear.

It’s also normal practice to expect the unit to be clean when a tenant vacates Santa Cruz real estate. Dirty bathrooms or kitchens, grimy carpet, or food in the fridge would all be reasons to charge a cleaning fee.

One of the best things a landlord can do is to document the state of the unit with tenants when they move in. Take digital photographs and give them a copy. Offer a pre-move out inspection to tenants so they can take care of issues themselves without losing any of their deposit. Good communication and clear expectations about how tenants care for and return a unit will go a long way to preventing disputes over normal wear and tear and the security deposit.  Blue Sky can help you with vetting tenants before they move in as a further safe guard for your property.

Schedule Preventive Maintenance to Keep Your Property in Top Shape

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Preventive maintenance is one of the keys to keeping your investment properties in top condition to bring in a good return for your investment. Set up a schedule of regular inspections to catch minor problems while they’re easily remedied and avoid major, costly disasters. There are three key areas to focus particular attention: the bathroom, the roof, and trees.

The worst problem in bathrooms is water damage and mold. Before tenants move into a unit, be sure to check that all the caulking is in good shape. Make sure that there are no water leaks from the faucets or toilet. Encourage tenants to let you know right away if there are any problems.

The roof of your property should be inspected at least every year, and ideally twice. It’s not a bad idea to do additional inspections after bad rainstorms or high winds. Repairing a few broken shingles or getting early notice that mold is growing will save you a ton of money in the long run. Getting the gutters cleared out before the rainy season is another important part of maintaining your roof.

Trees and shrubbery beautify a property, but they need regular care. Be careful about where you plant them. Think long-term to avoid damage to buildings from tree roots. As they grow, prune them so they don’t get in the way of electrical wires.

Keeping up with preventive maintenance will keep your property in good shape for years to come. A Santa Cruz property management company like Blue Sky has built relationships with local contractors for many years. We know whom to trust for inspections and repairs.

Using Email for Santa Cruz Home Leasing Communications

Technology, such as online bill pay and email communication, can make Santa Cruz home leasing a much less time consuming prospect than it once was. Until recently, however, the California state legislature had not considered email as a valid means for tenants and landlords to communicate formal notices. If a landlord needs to serve notice about rent increases, eviction notices, or other legally binding communication regarding the rental terms, a letter must be sent through the mail or delivered in person, either by the landlord or by a service. Many communications must be delivered both ways.

In 2013, legislation was finally adopted outlining circumstances under which certain communications may be made over email and be legally binding. First, security deposit accounting may take place via email, but only if there is a previous written agreement to do so. Secondly, abandoned personal property notices may be sent over email, thought this is considered a supplemental method, and a paper copy of the notice must be delivered, too. Finally, informal communications between tenants and landlords can take place over email.

Before entering into Santa Cruz home leasing agreements, it’s important for potential landlords to consider all the duties that will be involved and how much time they will take. Hiring a property management company is a great way to get the benefits of renting our your Santa Cruz real estate, while knowing that an experienced team of professionals is handling the legal details. Please give our office a call when you are ready to discuss renting out your Santa Cruz property.

How Screening Tenants Helps Landlords

In the hot Santa Cruz real estate market, it’s easy to imagine making a pile of money by renting out your property. But one bad tenant can put a match to that pile of cash and make your profits go up in smoke. It’s easy to think that you have a good ‘people sense’ and that you can spot a con man easily. Unfortunately, many landlords have ended up in court, suing plausible-sounding tenants for back rent and damage to property. There’s a simple way to avoid the difficulty and expense of eviction or a lawsuit. Screening tenants can help weed out prospective tenants with previous evictions or a history of bad checks or missed payments.

Hiring a management company like Blue Sky can help landlords avoid unreliable tenants. The best way to check on a tenant’s history is to run their information through a database like Experian RentBureau. This service is updated every 24 hours and includes information like past rental payments and other rental issues. Combined with a credit history, landlords can get a clear financial picture of a potential tenant. No system is perfect, but these reports, along with tenant interviews and references will give thorough information for making an informed decision. An impartial source, like RentBureau, can also save landlords from renting to the cousin of a friend’s hairdresser, who seems nice enough but left a terrible mess at the last rental. Screening tenants in advance of offering the property will save a lot of hassle and headache down the line.

Why Cultivate a Good Landlord Tenant Relationship?

There are all sorts of ways tenants and landlords can protect themselves, from screening to contracts to lawyers to written communications. All of these are important for making rights and obligations clear and known to all parties. However, all the legal documents in the world can’t substitute for a good landlord tenant relationship. Landlords should actively work to cultivate a mutual respect with their tenants. Basic human decency demands this, but it also makes good business sense. Tenants who feel that their landlord is responsive to their reasonable requests are more likely to take good care of the property. They’re also more likely to report small issues that can be taken care of quickly, rather than waiting for an emergency, if they know their concerns are taken seriously.

To develop a good landlord tenant relationship, landlords should make sure the unit is clean and everything works correctly before the tenant moves in. This says that the landlord takes care of the property and that the tenant’s comfort is valued. There should be clear means of communication between tenants and landlords. Email is a good way or a phone number with voicemail. Returning messages promptly is also vital, especially for maintenance issues. Make sure tenants know when maintenance issues will be dealt with, so they can plan around the repair professional.

One way Blue Sky helps Santa Cruz property owner with tenant communication is with our integrated online system for making maintenance requests. We take good relationships seriously, both with our clients and their tenants.

7 Ways Santa Cruz Property Owners Can Conserve Water

 
 
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Water conservation is a big deal in California these days. With our on-going drought, it’s important to conserve water as much as possible. Studies have found that apartments and multi-family buildings have done the least water conservation in the state. We’ve assembled seven ways Santa Cruz property owners can turn that trend around.

 

1. Update sinks, shower heads, dishwashers, and toilets to water-saving models. If you provide laundry facilities, get energy and water-saving clothes washers. There are often substantial rebates for these changes, making them cost-effective. If you’re upgrading slowly, start with toilets. The water savings is most substantial there.

2. Encourage tenants to report dripping faucets or leaks as soon as they notice them. Get a service professional out to fix drips and leaks promptly.

3. Every Santa Cruz property should landscape with native, drought-resistant plants. There are often rebates for these changes, too.

4. Add a few inches of mulch to landscape beds to help retain moisture.

5. Check sprinklers to make sure they are watering plants, not concrete. Make sure they don’t leak. Go over water saving measures with your gardening service.

6. Consider replacing a sprinkler system with drip irrigation. This cuts down on water lost due to evaporation.

7. Discourage tenants from washing their cars on the property. Car washes are able to recycle some of the water and dispose of soapy water without letting it run into storm drains.

Be sure to check in regularly with tenants about water-saving measures. Consider incentives for cutting down the water bill, like a building barbecue or gift cards to a local coffee shop or restaurant.