5 Time Management Tools to Help Busy Landlords

You enjoy the experience of being a landlord, especially the income generating part of it.

However, if you don’t have the time to enjoy the money, what’s the point?

Your property management duties take up a lot of time, especially when you’re starting out.

You’ve got technology on hand to help you work smarter and more efficiently, such as accounting software, work order management, and electronic document signing.

1. Accounting Software
Filling out your taxes with income generating properties is quite a different experience from filling out a 1040-EZ.

If you come from a wage earner’s background, getting help with bookkeeping and taxes is a must.

QuickBooks is a common accounting software that is loaded with features and grows with your business.

If you prefer app-based software with a lower learning curve, try Expensify.

It automatically uploads pictures of receipts (taken with your phone) and syncs that expense amount with the app and supported accounting software.

2. Cloud-Based To-Do List
Is your property to-do list scribbled down on a piece of paper you lost in your car?

Step into the modern era by using a cloud-based to-do list, such as Wunderlist.

Cloud-based solutions are hosted on third party servers, so you can access them from any device with a web browser.

You write your to-do list once and it’s available and synced on your smartphone, desktop, and tablet.

Wunderlist allows you to create multiple to-do lists, so you can sort your tasks by category, property, or another organizational system.

3. Work Order Management Software
 Work order management software, such as LandlordStation’s tenant portal, allows tenants to send maintenance requests online or via mobile.

Work order management software streamlines the process on getting tenant problems handled, since you don’t have to check your voice mail for requests or keep paper copies of which property is having issues.

In addition, if it’s easy for the tenants to report problems, they’re more likely to let you know when something is wrong instead of ignoring it.

4. Electronic Document Signing
You found the perfect tenant, but their work schedule isn’t working with your availability when it comes to document signing and drop off.

Electronic document signing takes care of this issue by allowing the tenant to sign it online.

You use an electronic document signing service to upload your lease agreement and add marks that show where the tenant needs to sign through their software.

Once that’s squared away, you can send the document to the tenant’s email and they are directed to the electronic document for their digital signature and completion of the lease agreement signing.

If you already have your lease agreement typed up as a document, the only extra work you need to do is sending it through the electronic document signing system.

5. Automatic Backup Software
You deal with valuable documents as part of doing business as a landlord.

If you store everything on your local computer, keeping everything backed up is essential.

You don’t want to leave data redundancy up to chance, so use an automatic backup software so you always have your data available.

Some backup software also saves the data off-site, so you are safe even if your computer is damaged or destroyed in an accident.

Some backup software options include Carbonite, Seagate Backup Plus, and Microsoft Backup and Restore.

 

How to Verify Military Service

Claiming military service is an easy way to try to get benefits, discounts, and other perks.

Many will simply take a person’s word on their military service and issue the appropriate discount.

In some industries, such as real estate or employment, the claim of military service must be verified.

Here’s how you can do it.

 

1. Request an Official Record.

You can obtain the dates of service, a person’s rank, and even their duty assignments and status just be officially requesting them.

This request is made through the National Archives and is available through the Freedom of Information Act.

Make sure to include the reason why the information is necessary.

National Guard records can be obtained through the National Personnel Records Center.

2. Ask for Their Class Number.

Smart folks know that there are some bits of information that are classified, even from public information requests.

They’ll claim to be a Navy Seal or an undercover operative.

Every Navy Seal is issued a class number, so just ask the person for this information.

It’s a treasured number and will be instantly repeated.

If not, then you’ve just verified that they probably didn’t serve.

3. International Service Can Also be Verified.

Several nations keep thorough rolls of their military service members that have information that is sent with a simple request.

Just contact the nation’s version of the US National Archives, state the reason for verification, and then wait for the answer.

Most records date back to World War II.

4. Check the POW Network.

One of the more unique claims of military service is that someone was a prisoner of war and that their records may have been wiped clean for political purposes.

There is an independent database keeps track of the POWs that were known from wars since Vietnam called the POW Network.

It lists all those who were declared MIA or POW since 1952.

Finding military service information can be difficult at times not because of classified materials, but because of fake claims.

These options will help you be able to sort out the facts from the fiction.

5 Ways Landlords Save Money By Making Homes Eco-Friendly

Many individuals, landlords included, are opting to “go green.”

By making a property more eco-friendly, a landlord reduces the environmental impact of that home, but in addition to this benefit, there are a variety of ways it can also save them money.

1. Utilities Savings
While some landlords leave it to their tenants to have all utilities turned on, many also offer certain utilities, such as water and gas, as part of the rental agreement.

By installing water-saving technologies, such as low-flow shower heads and toilets, landlords can greatly reduce their water costs.
Similarly, investing in better insulation and new furnaces can reduce natural gas costs.

These are only a few options, as there are numerous home energy audits a landlord can perform to reduce a property’s environmental impact.

2. Tax Breaks
Although tenants are the ones who will inhabit a property, they’re not the ones who will have to pay taxes on it.

Because of this, it’s important for landlords to try to reduce their tax burden in any way possible, and fortunately, it’s easy to do this by simply going green.

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency (DSIRE) offers a resource that lists federal, state, and local tax incentives for home upgrades that are more environmentally sustainable.

3. Reduced Supplies Costs
Even seemingly minor costs can quickly add up for landlords who maintain more than one property. Paper waste, for instance, can quickly add up over the years.

Fortunately, a fair amount of this waste can be eliminated by simply using property management software that allows tenants to pay their rent online and landlords to perform background checks right over the internet.

4. Lower Repair Costs
Making a few eco-friendly changes around a property can also greatly reduce the repair costs that landlords see during a typical rental agreement.

Installing efficient insulation, for instance, will provide a home with better temperature regulation.

By doing this, HVAC systems will experience less strain from trying to maintain a comfortable temperature in a home.

Reduced HVAC running time equates to less wear and tear, and in the end, this means longer periods of time between necessary repairs and replacements.

5. Savings on Waste Removal
It’s also possible for landlords in certain areas to save money by reducing the amount of waste generated in their rental properties.

Many cities and counties, for instance, actually charge for waste removal based on the weight or volume of what’s removed from the property.

This means that, by simply eliminating some of the garbage created by tenants, landlords who cover waste removal can save money.

Unfortunately, it’s not easy, or sometimes even possible, to force tenants to reduce the amount of waste they produce.

It is possible, however, to increase the likelihood that they’ll do their fair share.

By providing composting areas for tenants, for instance, it’s possible to eliminate some of the waste generated in the average home by 25 percent.

Additionally, providing recycle bins can reduce waste even further.

In the end, these measures can result in substantial cost savings for landlords who pay for garbage collection by weight or volume.

There are countless environmental benefits of going green, but that’s not where the benefits end.

Whether a landlord is focused on saving money or saving the world, taking eco-friendly measures in their properties will help them succeed in their goal.

When your lease is silent or unclear

There are a lot of reasons landlords give tenants standard leases.

Sometimes it’s just faster and easier to use an existing or standard lease.

Standard leases help get a tenant in the space quickly, but they can also have drawbacks.

Even when a lease is customized to meet the needs of both landlord and tenant, unclear language or unforeseen circumstances can derail a smooth rental experience.

Before Signing a Lease

Many part-time landlords face these situations.

It is difficult to foresee in advance all the possible scenarios that may arise.

It is important to use a checklist of important issues relating to your property so you can make sure all those issues are addressed in the lease.

If you are using a standard lease, read through it to make sure that you understand what it is saying.

Don’t use language if you don’t understand what it means.  

Make sure you are familiar with your state’s landlord-tenant laws.

There may be laws that are automatically added into every lease.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website contains links to current state laws.

For example, Florida’s laws can be found at the following location: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/states/florida/renting/tenantrights

After Signing a Lease

You may need to amend your lease if you discover issues that need to be addressed.

You may need to define words in the lease or assign responsibility for maintenance of the property.

 If the change requires your tenant to do something that is not already required by the lease, the tenant must sign off on the change.  

The document that the tenant signs will then become a part of the lease.

If you and your tenant do not agree on the meaning of the lease or if the lease is silent, it is best to try to find a solution that is satisfactory to both of you.

 For example, If the dispute relates to repairs, you and the tenant could agree to split the cost of repairs or you could agree to rely on a decision of a third party as to who caused the damage.

Reaching an agreement allows you to preserve your landlord-tenant relationship, keep your rental income and avoid the time and expense of court.

If you believe that a lawsuit is your only recourse, then consider how a court would interpret the lease.

How Leases are Interpreted

In order to address these types of issues, it is important to understand how leases are interpreted by courts.

Some of the techniques courts use to interpret leases include:

  • The four corners of the document – What does the paperwork actually say regarding the disputed provision? Courts look at the whole document for answers, not only in the section that contains the disputed provision. Any specific details take precedence over any general language.
  • The intent of the parties – When the document itself doesn’t offer sufficient information, the court may be able to look outside the document for such information as the parties’ previous actions and other written communications between the parties.

Equally important is the need to maintain a good relationship with your tenant.

Tenants should feel like they are partners in the process of maintaining the property. Their involvement and interest in their home help landlords save time and money.

 

How to Insulate Yourself from Expenses with a Great Lease

Owning a rental property can be expensive, and if you’re not careful, you can end up footing the bill for repairs or damages that should be the tenants’ responsibilities.

One important way to insulate yourself from such expenses is to write a great lease that covers as many contingencies as possible and clearly specifies the financial responsibilities of all parties.

While regulations vary from state to state, there are some important items that should be included in any lease or rental agreement.

Names of All Tenants and Limits on Occupancy

Every adult living in the unit should be named and should sign the lease.

This way, each person becomes responsible for the rent and any other terms of the lease.

If one tenant leaves or can’t pay for some reason, you can legally collect the entire rent from any one of the tenants named in the lease.

You, as the landlord, have the right to screen and approve who and how many people live in your property.

So, the lease should clearly indicate that only the adults who signed the lease and their minor children can occupy the unit.

This way, you can evict a tenant who moves someone else in or sublets the unit without notifying you.

Rent and Deposits

The lease should clearly state the amount of rent, when it’s due and how you expect to receive it, such as by mail or delivered to you personally.

Make all details as clear as possible, including the following:

  • Acceptable forms of payment
  • Amount of late fees and whether there’s a grace period
  • Charges for bounced checks

The handling of security deposits causes a lot of conflict.

Avoid any misunderstandings by defining the following things:

  • The exact amount of the security deposit
  • How it can be used by you (to repair damages) and how the tenant can use it (to pay the last month’s rent)
  • When and how it will be returned to the tenant
  • Where the deposit will be held and whether the tenant is entitled to any interest earned

Repairs and Maintenance

Unless the specifics about your responsibilities and those of your tenant are unambiguously spelled out, you could find yourself paying for a lot of damage and repairs caused by a tenant’s abuse or neglect.

Specify things like:

  • Your expectation that tenants maintain a clean and sanitary unit and pay for any damages they cause
  • Their responsibility to notify you of any damages or defective conditions
  • Clearly explained procedures for submitting repair requests to you
  • Limitations on what kind of alterations they can make in the unit without your permission, such as painting or installing appliances.

Pets

If you allow pets, be specific about the size and number of pets allowed and what your expectations are for cleaning up waste in the yard.

Also, include requirements about repairing damage from pets in the repair and maintenance section of the lease.

Other Restrictions

Other terms that should be in the lease include:

  • It goes without saying that you don’t want your tenants doing anything illegal in your property, but to prevent property damage and avoid expensive legal problems, it’s still best to specify this in the lease.
  • Specify what, if any, businesses the tenant may run from the property.
  • Learn about all local laws and health and safety codes, and make sure your lease is in compliance.
  • Specify use of parking and common areas.

A lease is a legal document that is intended to protect you and your tenants.

Include these items in any of your leases to protect yourself from having to pay for something that should not be your responsibility.