Recently, I was up late working with the TV on when Spike TV’s “Worlds Worst Tenants” came on. I’d only seen the promo’s before that night, but after watching for a few minutes I thought to myself, “that’s me!” The show features three Southern California property managers handling some nasty tenant confrontations and evictions. As a broker practicing Northern California property management, I’ve been in several situations like those featured on the show. If you are a current or hopeful rental property owner, visit their web site (Worlds Worst Tenants) and check out a few episodes. What you learn from watching could save you money.
I realize that “World’s Worst Tenants” is a reality show that depicts just a few choice moments in the day-to-day life of the people followed, but if you see an episode and ask yourself – “could this stuff be real?” – I’ll answer that yes, this is very real. Sure, the subjects probably mug a little for the camera, but for the most part reality show producers know that there is nothing more theatrical than un-scripted real life. As many of my clients know, I was filmed by MTV’s reality series “Teen Mom” showing Silicon Valley homes to their star Farrah Abraham, who was considering moving to California at the time (she ended up in Florida). When I asked the MTV producer and director how to interact with Farrah they said firmly, “that’s between the two of you, we don’t interfere.” Cameras and microphones where installed on me, Farrah and my car and off we went with a van full of production staff following behind.
Regardless of how well we screen rental applicants, tenants like those shown on “Worlds Worst Tenants” will always be with us. Some mask their intentions to abuse the property when they sign their lease, while others simply develop bad habits over time. Regardless, the best way to monitor how tenants are treating your property is to conduct frequent inspections. Here is a recommended list of when to perform a complete inspection of your rental property.
1. Lease signing/move-in day. Conduct a walk-through with the tenant and note in writing any problems found.
2. Maintenance visits. Each time a repair is made or the tenant asks that something be looked at, the property manager should use the opportunity to walk through the entire property.
3. Whenever there is a complaint. If neighbors complain about noises, odors or anything else having to do with the property or the tenant, a detailed inspection can head off small problems with the structure or with the tenants that could get worse if not handled early.
4. Whenever law enforcement is called to the scene. Problems with rentals can be with the property, with the tenant, or a combination of the two. Tenants involved in illegal activity or criminal conduct should be confronted immediately before the situation gets out of hand. Remember, the cops need probable cause to enter – you only need to give proper notice. Caution: When you strongly suspect criminal activity on the premises, don’t enter without cops on the scene; most jurisdictions are happy to cooperate.
5. Annually or semi-annually. I conduct semi-annual “maintenance inspections” for the benefit of the tenants. I give the briefest possible legal notice so that if there is improper activity taking place, the tenants won’t have a lot of time to hide it. Also, many tenants will never tell you about items that are broken or malfunctioning for a variety of reasons. But they may file a complaint with the State later if you don’t stay on top of things.
6. Prior to move-out. If you’re in California, you are required to notify tenants that they have the right to have their rental inspected up to two weeks prior to move-out. This is to give them the opportunity to fix things themselves that you might charge them for if it isn’t fixed when they vacate. Many tenants won’t request this inspection – but the property manager should encourage it.
7. Move-out day. Make sure to schedule the inspection and then confirm, confirm, confirm the appointment with the tenant. If the tenant has a history of problems, I’ll stop by each of the four days prior to move-out day to verify they are not skipping out early.
Here are a few tips to increase the affectiveness of your inspections.
· Use video and photos to record the condition of the structure, grounds, fixtures and appliances.
· When inspecting items that have model numbers and serial numbers, note those and take pictures of ID plates if possible.
· Record every inspection in writing and ask the tenant to sign it.
· Obtain or create an “Incident Record” form and document all neighbor complaints, law enforcement contacts, or any other situations that might later affect your relationship with the tenant, support an eviction action, or otherwise be useful. Always ask the tenant to sign the completed form (note if they refuse) and give them a copy.
· Some tenants will do significant damage to your property if they think that all they have at risk is their deposit. Let tenants know up front that if the cost of repairing their rental exceeds their deposit, you will seek legal counsel to recover excess damages.
One last piece of advice – obtain the services of a professional property manager. Even if you perform day-to-day management yourself, it’s a good idea to have a pro on-call to work with problem tenants, evictions, and situations that you prefer not to handle. A good property manager can give you reliable advice, protect your rights, relieve some of the emotional burden of dealing with problem tenants, and tell you when it’s time to call an attorney.
If you have questions regarding rental property management and tenant relations, please comment where you read this article or contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org
John A. Souerbry & Associates (DRE 01370983) email@example.com
Tags: northern California property management, Bay Area property management, Silicon Valley property management, rental property eviction services