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NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE

System - Wednesday, March 10, 2021
Property Management Blog

NO SUBSTITUTE FOR EXPERIENCE

My wife and I have been in the property management business for almost 40 years. Throughout our careers, we have heard and seen almost everything a tenant could throw at you. Some of the tenant's tricks can be costly or cause problems if not caught in time, so I thought I would share some of my experience in catching these issues.

Tenants looking for rentals that have qualifying issues will usually try to talk directly to owners of rental property rather than go through a rental management company. They look for owners advertising their own properties because they know owners will not be as thorough with the screening process as a professional manager. Credit checks, eviction records, and criminal checks are not as available to individual owners as they are to professional management companies. Beware of pushy applicants wanting to pay cash and move in immediately before there is time to check references or credit.

The application process is another area too be cautious. Of course, it is easy for a tenant to falsify information, so the application must have a statement that voids the lease if the information given is later found to be false. Ask for 5 years of previous rental history and look for voids or inaccurate and unavailable references. Applicants will leave unqualified roommates, pets or family members off of the application with the intent of moving them in after the lease is signed. Of course, this is a violation of the lease, however, when checking references make sure to ask about pets and who lived with the applicant in the previous rental.

During the tenant's occupancy damages caused by the tenant are often hidden. Periodic inspections of the property are necessary and should be done discretely. Tenants have rights of possession when leasing and it is unlawful under normal conditions for an owner to visit the property without the tenant’s permission. When you call and let the tenant know that you are coming to check on the rental, they can temporarily remove an unauthorized pet or roommate, conceal certain damages, and clean up before your arrival. Driving by from time to time and having maintenance technicians inspect for you when performing repairs can often catch a tenant off guard too reveal damages or pets. When driving past your rental, look for extra vehicles, broken blinds, and the condition of the lawn. Unauthorized cars can mean extra people living in the unit. Broken blinds are often caused by pets and if a tenant is not taking care of the outside they most likely aren’t maintaining the inside.

When a tenant moves at the end of the lease make sure the power and water are left on until the final inspection has been completed. Tenants will turn off the utilities to hide damages. Make sure too test disposals, dishwashers, plumbing, and sprinkler systems. Dark rooms can make it hard to see damaged walls and flooring. If there has been a pet, it is a good idea to hold the distribution of the deposit for at least 10 days to allow time for hatching fleas and disguised odors to show up.

An experienced property manager will qualify a prospective applicant and prevent dishonest tenants from taking possession of your rental. Their experience with maintenance, Landlord/Tenant Statues, and financial issues are also valuable to the protection of your rental investment.   


J. Matthew Scheel

Owner | Broker

Sundance Rental Management

WINTER WEATHER PRECAUTIONS

System - Monday, December 28, 2020
Property Management Blog

WINTER WEATHER PRECAUTIONS

As cooler weather approaches, it is time to take the necessary precautions to prevent problems caused by freezing temperatures. Whether you are the owner of a rental property or a tenant, there are many items around a house that need extra attention when the weather turns cold. Many leases make the tenant responsible for the winterization of lawn pumps, pipes and pools. Failure to take the necessary steps to protect these items can result in expensive repairs or replacement costs for the tenant and owner.

Lawn pumps for sprinkler systems that are above ground, and not jet pumps, need to have the water drained out of the cast iron housing before freezing temperatures arrive to prevent water from freezing and cracking the housing. If the pump has an automatic timer, it should be turned off. A plug or butterfly valve is located at the bottom front of the pump housing and needs to be removed or opened to drain the water from the housing. The faucet on the top of the pump should also be opened to allow air into the pump for complete water drainage.

If the temperature is going to dip below freezing overnight, it is a good idea to keep the pool pump running. The water circulating through the pump and pipes will keep them from freezing. Freeze warning devices can be installed on pool pumps to turn them on automatically to prevent freezing. If your pool pump is on a timer you can set the timer to come on during the cold night hours. An outdoor Jacuzzi can also freeze when the temperature falls below 32. If it is not protected from the cold it should be left on at night.

If your home has an off-grade foundation or if there is exposed plumbing to outside temperatures, precautions should be taken to prevent the pipes from freezing and causing expensive repairs. The best permanent freeze protection for pipes is to wrap them with insulation. Outside faucets can be covered with an inexpensive foam insulation cap available at any hardware store. If you are unable to insulate your plumbing before cold weather arrives leave a faucet running slowly to keep water flowing to prevent the pipes from icing up.

Delicate plants and shrubs around the exterior of a home should be covered with sheets or plastic to prevent frost or freeze damage. Don’t forget your animals. Outdoor pets can freeze when the mercury dips below freezing. Allow you pets to sleep in the garage or place a light bulb in the dog house to provide extra warmth.

There are a few things you can do to keep your home warmer in the winter. Have the heater checked for efficiency and safety. Change or clean the filter on your central heating system to allow better air flow. Seal doors and windows with insulation strips and cover leaky old casement or jalousie windows by taping plastic over them. If you have ceiling fans that reverse, turn them on low and reverse the rotation to bring the warm air at the ceiling down into the room. Turning the thermostat down a few degrees and wearing warmer clothing will help reduce your utility bills.

Taking a minute now to make the necessary precautions for freezing temperatures will save money and aggravation when the thermometer dips below 32.


J. Matthew Scheel

Owner | Broker

Sundance Rental Management

GARBAGE AND RENTING

System - Tuesday, October 13, 2020
Property Management Blog

GARBAGE AND RENTING


            I am not an expert on recycling or the effects of trash pollution to our environment but as a professional property manager I am well versed on how garbage and cleanliness relate to renting and rental property.  Tenants and owners alike have financial interests in their rental property and keeping the property clean and free of trash and accumulated debris saves money. Most residential areas on the Emerald Coast provide trash collection services and many include recycling.  In most areas these services are billed monthly with the water bill and can be mandatory.  If you live in an apartment or condominium, trash is usually handled by large dumpsters and recycling may not be available.  Yard debris (grass clippings, tree and hedge trimmings, and large item removal) are usually provided on a separate schedule.  Excessive trash such as construction or moving debris can be scheduled for special pick up with additional charges.


            Trash accumulation and not keeping up with cleaning can result in costly pest control and clean out.  Pests are attracted to food and dampness.  Areas under appliances and cabinets that go unattended for long periods without cleaning will often be infested by roaches and can attract rats and mice.  Boxes stored in closets and garages are also attractive to these pests.  Move refrigerators, stoves and washer/dryers once a year to clean under them.  It’s amazing what you will find under there. Look in those boxes that have been stored for years.  If they contain items never used, get rid of them before you
 have to pay to move them again.  Tenants should be aware that they are usually responsible for pests and cleaning and could be charged for these expenses at move out if they are an issue.  The cost of removing trash or items left by a tenant are also charged to their security deposit when they vacate a property.


            Leaves and bushes around a home’s foundation can cause moisture which will attract bugs and cause mildew.  Termites usually need a wet environment to survive and are found most often around the foundation in damp wood.  Trimming hedges and trees and raking the leaves will let the air and sun keep these areas dry.  If your mower has a mulching attachment it will finely cut the clippings and allow them to fall back into the lawn.  This returns nutrients to the lawn and eliminates bags of clippings in the trash.  Mildew removal by pressure washing is cost effective however neglecting a moisture problem can result in expensive wood replacement and painting.


           If recycling is available it is a simple way to save costs and prevent the huge volume of trash filling up our landfills.  The collection of paper, glass, metal and plastic in special recycling containers sends these materials back to manufacturers who turn them into new products saving the cost of reproducing the materials for a second time. It is always cost effective to keep up with trash removal and cleaning.  It is natural to save something thinking that we will need it later.  At some point, the cost of storing items that continue to accumulate exceeds their worth and selling them or having a garage sale might return some of their value.  Anything that needs cleaning will need more cleaning if left unattended resulting in greater cost or effort.


J. Matthew Scheel

Owner | Broker

Sundance Rental Management

PREPPING A RENTAL TO RENT

System - Tuesday, September 1, 2020
Property Management Blog

This summer has returned to the normal surge in rental activity that we are accustomed to. Inventories are down as we come out of the Corona Pandemic and new listings are going on the market and renting on a 30 day cycle. The housing market on the Emerald Coast is active with Military orders coming down again and businesses bringing employees back to work. Property values are increasing and interest rates are low contributing to a shortage of homes for sale.  

This has caused some potential buyers to rent and increased Military training in the area is bringing a steady supply of renters looking for the best rentals available. Make sure your rental is the best available. It is important to make sure your rent is competitive with like properties on the market. I see many rentals that sit on the market for extended periods of time because the owner is greedy and hasn’t done a proper market analysis. Many owners make the mistake of setting their rent by what is on the market in their neighborhood.  A true comp counts only when the property rents.  

Condition, size and features must match. If a unit rents at a much higher rate than other similar comps, it was probably rented to an undesirable tenant willing to pay more to have an owner overlook previous rental history, credit or job status. In a strong rental market it doesn’t hurt to initially add $25-$50 to your rent. You can always back off if the competition increases or if showings slow down.  Remember, you can only get what someone is willing to pay. If your property sits empty while you hold out for an extra $25, it doesn’t take long to lose that extra rent. The condition of a rental is the single most important factor in the amount of rent you can get and the caliber of tenant that will rent your unit.  

A thorough cleaning of your rental paying attention to detail such as carpets, appliances, bathrooms, blinds and windows and cabinets will make the property more competitive.  The paint must look fresh with no holes and should be a neutral color. Once the inside is in top condition, don’t neglect the exterior. First impressions are important. The yard should be clean, mowed and edged. Trim hedges and remove trash or clutter. Pressure washing a house can remove mildew and often prolongs the need for exterior painting. Leave the utilities on while the unit is vacant. Running the A/C-Heating unit will keep the air moving and avoid the musty smell of a closed up home. Lights on always make a rental more inviting, and if it sits empty for a couple of weeks, it is a good idea to run the faucets and flush the toilets to keep the washers and seals from drying out and leaking. Power will allow you to keep the sprinkler system going which can save the yard during a dry spell. Be sure to keep all receipts for any work completed on your rental while getting it ready to rent as most expenses are valid tax deductions.
 
Lastly, this is the time to make sure all of your insurance is in order. Once a named storm enters the Gulf of Mexico insurance cannot be updated or purchased. Cut back rotten tree limbs and clear unneeded items that could damage your property in a storm. It is a good idea to set aside funds to help defer the large deductibles of hurricane insurance coverage. 

The best tenants are looking for the best rentals. Get your rental investment in the best condition and priced right to enhance your landlord experience. 


J. Matthew Scheel

Owner | Broker

Sundance Rental Management

Being Prepared for Hurricane Season

System - Wednesday, June 3, 2020
Property Management Blog

The official hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin (the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico) is from 1 June to 30 November. The peak of the season is from mid-August to late October. Unfortunately if you live on the Emerald Coast, five months out of the year we live in fear of hurricanes.  Newspapers and the media are full of preparedness stories and those of us who have been here awhile and experienced the devastation of a hurricane think we have a grip on what to do.  But are we as prepared as we should be?

A professional property manager’s worst fear is a hurricane.  Our business recently reviewed our hurricane preparedness procedures as we head into the season.  My wife is a Fort Walton Beach native and we have been in the residential management business for over 38 years going through many hurricanes, but we still learn something new each time we look at our policies or share information with fellow property managers.

The first order of business should be to prepare a list of supplies, procedures, and family contact information.  Supplies such as food, water, batteries, medications, etc. should be purchased and stored prior to hurricane season.  Your procedure list, such as boarding windows, filling up the car with gas, turning off utilities, etc. will vary depending on the expected intensity and landfall of the storm.  However, with the uncertainty of hurricanes, waiting until the last minute to see what is going to happen is never a good idea.  Always have a plan with family members, where to meet, how to communicate, designate someone out of the coastal area to be a central contact or destination point in case of evacuation.  Plan what will be done with pets.

Owners of rental property, or property managers, should let tenants know what is expected of them in the event of a hurricane. If the owner provides hurricane shutters the tenant should be advised how to put them up.  Tenants should understand that an owner’s insurance coverage does not in any way cover their possessions.  Get your rental insurance coverage in order now.  Once a storm has formed and is named, insurance companies will stop writing new policies.  If your policy is up for renewal send the renewal information and payment back immediately.

It is also a very good idea in prepping for hurricane season to video your home and create a detailed list of your valuables, back up your computer files, and put documents such as wills, deeds, passports, etc. in seal-able plastic bags. If you evacuate the area, take these items with you.  They are hard to replace and the video makes insurance claims much easier.

One other often overlooked aspect of hurricane preparedness is too have items on hand to assist you in protecting your home if a hurricane does damage your home.  Items such as tarps or plastic, extra shingles, gas-powered chain saws and generators, wet-vacs, etc. will be hard to find after a storm moves through and should be on hand prior to hurricane season.

 We all hope we are spared a hurricane’s visit, but making a list and checking to make sure everything has been taken care of beforehand helps prevent panic as a storm bears down.  I wish everyone a safe and uneventful hurricane season.  For additional information on hurricane preparedness, visit:www.nhc.noaa.gov



J. Matthew Scheel

Owner | Broker

Sundance Rental Management

COVID-19 AND THE RENTAL MARKET

System - Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Property Management Blog

COVID-19 AND THE RENTAL MARKET

Three months ago we were in a very normal rental market for the Emerald Coast.  Military movement and the arrival of Snowbirds were keeping the long-term and short- term rentals active for the December/January time frame.  As we moved through  February and March and the Corona Virus became a threat the rental market made an abrupt reversal as activity slowed to a crawl. This trend has continued as tenants have been confined to their homes, Military orders were halted, vacation renters cancelled reservations and non-essential employees are laid off as businesses close.

Our office has been able to operate by closing our doors and working remotely through the internet and phone system.  Rents are paid through ACH or direct deposit and can be dropped off in our secure drop box outside our offices.  We are only able to show vacant properties and applications and leases are handled through the internet, video streaming and doc-u-sign. Although inventories are low and those looking for rentals are few, there are some properties renting.

Rents are due regardless of a tenant’s situation.  Those unable to pay rent can usually work with the owners of their rental if they notify their property manager or owner prior to the due date.  Some owners get temporary mortgage relief or are willing to delay rent payments until stimulus checks arrive or their tenants return to work, however, the rent is not waived and must be paid.  Evictions are delayed for government backed loans and at this time eviction processing is not a priority with the courts.

The lasting affect of the Corona Virus on our area is unknown.  The economy, especially as it relates to our tourist industry, has been and will be devastated.  Rentals, restaurants, attractions and any business dependent on tourism will take time to recover. Our other industry, The Military and the businesses related to it, have not been affected as greatly.

Military and Civil Service payrolls have continued, many of the local businesses in support of our Military are essential and have remained operational.  Our long-term rental market will again be active as PCS moves return.  The housing market on the Emerald Coast will return to higher rents and home values as we move past COVID-19 and the demand for housing continues to rise.

We are so blessed with this beautiful area and those who live and visit us and the strong presence of our Military Installations and those that serve.  As we recover from this pandemic, please give thanks and gratitude to all medical personnel, police and our military who are such an integral part of our community.
 

- Sundance Rental Management 


Staying Productive During Self-Quarantining and Social Distancing

System - Friday, March 20, 2020
Property Management Blog

How many times have you said I wish I had more time to get things done? With many of us now self-quarantining and practicing social distancing we have more time than we normally to do get things we have neglected done around our homes.  Take this time to organize your closet, rake leaves, mow your lawn, make sure your lawn pump is primed, start spring cleaning or attend to any other project around your home that has been put aside. Also remember to include some self-care read a book, do an at home work out, embrace a hobby or learn something new. As we continue to practice social distancing remember to get up, move around and remain positive. For more productive ideas of things to do at home check out this great article from the Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/home/12-productive-things-you-can-do-to-feel-better-about-being-stuck-at-home/2020/03/17/e71ad09c-678d-11ea-b313-df458622c2cc_story.html


-Sundance Rental Management, Inc. 

Security Deposits

System - Monday, December 9, 2019
Property Management Blog

SECURITY DEPOSITS

Security deposits are one of the most misunderstood items related to rentals.  They are highly regulated by the Florida Landlord and Tenant Statutes and are the number one cause of disputes between owners and tenant.
One of the misconceptions many owners fail to realize is that the security deposit paid by a tenant when renting a property belongs to the tenant.  Deposit money must be held in a Florida bank in a separate account not co-mingled with an owner’s personal account.  If a deposit account earns interest, the tenant is entitled to 75% of the interest earned unless they sign a waiver of the interest.  Most professional property management companies hold deposit money in a non-interest- bearing account to simplify the accounting and distribution of interest earned on security deposits.

It is also important in how security deposits are classified or the wording of the deposit in the lease.  If the deposit is called a rental deposit, it can only be used as rent.  If it is called a cleaning or damage deposit, it can only be used for cleaning or damages.  A deposit classified as a security deposit can be used for rent, damages, cleaning or most purposes providing the proper claims are made on the deposit after a tenant vacates a rental.
Don’t confuse deposits with fees.  Fees are normally not refundable and are commonly charged for pets, cleaning and processing.  Fees are normally disclosed in the lease and collected up front.  If a carpet cleaning fee is charged for $75.00 and it costs $100.00 to clean the carpets when the tenant vacates the additional $25.00 can not be claimed on the deposit.  Pet fees vary by size and number of pets and damages caused by pets are not limited to a fee or deposit.  There is usually a fee charged when a tenant submits an application for rent used to cover the cost of credit checks, background checks and processing.

The amount charged a tenant for a security deposit on the rental can vary greatly among owners and property managers. It is usually close to one month’s rent and it is important to make it consistent with the norm for the area.  If most properties in an area are charging a month’s rent as a deposit and you are charging double that, the tenant will likely rent the property with the lower deposit.  It is also important for owners to understand that the claim against a deposit and tenant can exceed the amount of the deposit and will likely have to go to litigation for resolution and collection.

Remember, security deposits belong to the tenant until they vacate a property and the proper claim is made against the deposit.  If there is no claim, a tenant’s security deposit must be returned within 15 days of the tenant moving out of the property and turning in their keys.  If there is a claim, it must be made in writing no later than 30 days from move out and the amount and description of what is being withheld must be disclosed to the tenant.  Tenants have the right to contest the claim within 15 days which can result in litigation.  Owners of rental property often fail to follow procedures with security deposits and find themselves in disputes with their tenants.  The improper disbursement of deposits can result in fines and penalties for an owner.  Be sure to use caution when dealing with a tenant’s security deposit.  

J. Matthew Scheel

Owner | Broker

Sundance Rental Management


RENTAL RISK – HIRE A PROFESSIONAL

System - Monday, November 4, 2019
Property Management Blog

RENTAL RISK – HIRE A PROFESSIONAL

Many owners of rental property choose to manage their rentals themselves. This usually works out if they are lucky enough to find a good tenant and have relatively few maintenance issues. If there are problems, legal hassles, or vacancies, the experience can be a nightmare. A licensed professional management company can take the headaches of owning rental units away and make it a trouble free and profitable experience. Professional Management Companies that charge a fee for their management services are required to be licensed Florida Real Estate Companies.

Screening prospective tenants is the most important function a professional property manager does for an owner of rental property. Most professional companies are members of credit reporting agencies that allow them to perform credit checks on prospective tenants. They also share rental histories of tenants with one another and can access criminal records. Managers can also verify income and employment information to make the screening process more comprehensive. A manager’s experience screening tenants can often catch a potential problem and eliminate headaches later.

REALTORS who are property managers offer greater exposure of your rental when trying to find a potential tenant. As members of the MLS, the listing information is available through all member Real Estate Offices and through the internet at: REALTOR.com. Many professional management companies also belong to professional organizations and use software that list properties on multiple internet rental sites and the Military Base Housing rental system AHRN. Most renters look for property on the internet in the comfort of their home. Successful management companies must stay current with modern technology to access these clients and direct them to their property inventory on a company website.

Professional property managers make sure you are operating within the law. They provide legal leases and insure the rules of the lease are enforced. A manager collects the rent and disperses it to the owner in a timely manner and provides detailed accounting statements to track all income and expenses. If there is a maintenance problem, the manager usually has competent service personnel to take care of the problem or will obtain estimates for the owner.

Experienced professionals can do a market analysis to determine the optimum rent for a rental unit. They can also compute earnings ratios for investment properties and keep owners advised of market conditions. Professional organizations such as the National Association of Residential Property Managers help keep members up-to-date with industry trends and offer continued education opportunities.

Management companies can offer a variety of rental services to owners. Some specialize in long-term or short-term rentals and some only deal with commercial property. Fees or commissions are negotiable depending on type, rent, and number of properties managed and they are tax deductible. Various services are usually available and most professional managers will allow an owner to choose how involved they want to be in the management process. Hiring a professional management company is insurance for an owner reducing the risk of owning investment property.  Visit Sundance-rentals.com for leasing information help.


J. Matthew Scheel

Owner | Broker

Sundance Rental Management

Being Prepared for Hurricane Season

System - Monday, August 26, 2019
Property Management Blog

Being Prepared for Hurricane Season


The official hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin (the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico) is from 1 June to 30 November. The peak of the season is from mid-August to late October. Unfortunately if you live on the Emerald Coast, five months out of the year we live in fear of hurricanes.  Newspapers and the media are full of preparedness stories and those of us who have been here awhile and experienced the devastation of a hurricane think we have a grip on what to do.  But are we as prepared as we should be?


A professional property manager’s worst fear is a hurricane.  Our business recently reviewed our hurricane preparedness procedures as we head into the season.  My wife is a Fort Walton Beach native and we have been in the residential management business for over 38 years going through many hurricanes, but we still learn something new each time we look at our policies or share information with fellow property managers.


The first order of business should be to prepare a list of supplies, procedures, and family contact information.  Supplies such as food, water, batteries, medications, etc. should be purchased and stored prior to hurricane season.  Your procedure list, such as boarding windows, filling up the car with gas, turning off utilities, etc. will vary depending on the expected intensity and landfall of the storm.  However, with the uncertainty of hurricanes, waiting until the last minute to see what is going to happen is never a good idea.  Always have a plan with family members, where to meet, how to communicate, designate someone out of the coastal area to be a central contact or destination point in case of evacuation.  Plan what will be done with pets.


Owners of rental property, or property managers, should let tenants know what is expected of them in the event of a hurricane. If the owner provides hurricane shutters the tenant should be advised how to put them up.  Tenants should understand that an owner’s insurance coverage does not in any way cover their possessions.  Get your rental insurance coverage in order now.  Once a storm has formed and is named, insurance companies will stop writing new policies.  If your policy is up for renewal send the renewal information and payment back immediately.


It is also a very good idea in prepping for hurricane season to video your home and create a detailed list of your valuables, back up your computer files, and put documents such as wills, deeds, passports, etc. in seal-able plastic bags. If you evacuate the area, take these items with you.  They are hard to replace and the video makes insurance claims much easier.


One other often overlooked aspect of hurricane preparedness is too have items on hand to assist you in protecting your home if a hurricane does damage your home.  Items such as tarps or plastic, extra shingles, gas-powered chain saws and generators, wet-vacs, etc. will be hard to find after a storm moves through and should be on hand prior to hurricane season.

 We all hope we are spared a hurricane’s visit, but making a list and checking to make sure everything has been taken care of beforehand helps prevent panic as a storm bears down.  I wish everyone a safe and uneventful hurricane season.  For additional information on hurricane preparedness, visit:www.nhc.noaa.gov



 
 

J. Matthew Scheel

Owner | Broker

Sundance Rental Management


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Sundance Rental Management, Inc.
650 N Beal Parkway
Fort Walton Beach, FL 32547

Tel: (850) 863-3292

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