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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

Tenants Beware

System - Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Property Management Blog

TENANTS BEWARE

There are many problems tenants can face if they are not fully aware of the laws or rules when renting. Prior to signing a lease, understanding what is expected of the tenant may help eliminate a problem later.

One of the most common mistakes tenants make is falsifying information on their rental application. This is a serious problem for a tenant if after moving into a rental unit it is found that they did not disclose a pet, or additional roommates, which most likely will result in an immediate eviction. Many of the questions on a rental application can be verified during the screening process, but if a tenant chooses to not disclose a pet or extra renters it is hard to catch until they take possession. A tenant should always review a property completely before submitting an application. Make sure there is room to park all of your vehicles and there are no covenants or restrictions that will restrict your use of the property.

Tenants often will paint interior walls or add shelving or modifications to their rental without permission from the owner or property manager. Although sometimes these items can be considered an improvement, if not pre-approved, they will have to be put back into original condition at the tenant's expense when they move. This is also true of damages caused by the tenant. There is often a misconception of what is considered normal wear and tear. Stains on the carpet, scratches on doors and cabinets, or dirty damaged walls are not normal wear and tear. As a tenant, it is imperative that you document any and all defects of the property with pictures and in writing and furnish this information to your landlord shortly after taking possession. Documentation will prevent disputes on the security deposit when you vacate.

Leases are legal binding agreements between an owner and the tenant. Tenants must understand that if it is written in the lease, it is enforceable. If the rent is late, late fees will be collected. If it says no pets, pets will not be allowed. Tenants sometimes feel they have a right to withhold rent if there is a maintenance issue or a conflict between the owner and themselves. These disputes are handled by the courts, however, rent is still due and should be paid to the court along with a written account of the dispute. 

Another misconception tenants often have is the right of the owner or property manager to visit or inspect the property while they are in residence. A tenant with a lease has possession of the property and anyone wishing to visit must have the permission of the tenant to enter the property under most conditions. However, an owner or property manager has a right to access the unit with reasonable notice to the tenant or in the case of an emergency.

Whether a tenant or landlord, the Florida Landlord Tenant Act protects the rights of both and these laws are accessible online. Written agreements are generally enforceable between parties and disputes should be handled by an attorney or the courts. Honesty, documentation and a clear understanding of what is expected of a tenant when renting will eliminate problems and make leasing a property a pleasant experience for both the tenant and landlord.


-J. Matthew Scheel | Owner of Sundance Rental Management, In  

DIY A/C Maintenance Tips and Tricks

System - Thursday, May 2, 2019
Property Management Blog

As we enter late spring and into summer we will be putting our A/C and HVAC units to work. Staying cool and comfortable as the temperatures continue to rise over the next few months will require showing your cooling units some care with preventative maintenance not only will it keep you cool it can avoid larger issues that could cost you money or leave you without A/C. While you cannot solve every issue with preventative maintenance, here are some do-it-yourself tips you need to know to keep your system healthy:


 Check and replace your filters often:

The most important thing you can do at home is to inspect your air filter. Dirty air filters make your HVAC system less efficient and cause undue strain on its working parts. While the general rule is to change your filter every 30 days, they may need to be replaced more often if you have pets or open your windows often.


 Treat your drain line:

Treating your drain line monthly with bleach or white vinegar this will help remove any clogs and clean the line. If you have a wet/dry vac using it to suck out the drain line will also keep it free of clogs. Follow the link below to see step by step instructions on how to treat your drain line: http://www.sundance-rentals.com/diy-maintenance


Clean your registers:

Keep your registers clean of dust and debris. Be sure to wipe down your registers as often as possible to keep dust and debris out of your system.


Keep your system free of debris:

Clear all debris from your outside condenser unit such as pollen, leaves, vines, sticks, tall grass or other debris. This allows for maximum airflow to the fan and increases your unit’s efficiency and lifespan. In order to ensure the cleanest system possible, remove anything that blocks airflow to the system, leaving about two feet of space around the unit.


Know when to call a professional:

Professionals should be notified of burned or bad wires. If you hear strange noises loud pops, banging, or grinding noises. A strange noise could be only a loose screw, but you should have any strange noises checked by a professional since they could point to major problems. If your home’s air conditioner will not cool below 75 degrees, it’s time to call a professional. Without a properly working air conditioning unit your indoor humidity will rise, especially during the summer which can cause a number of issues. 


-Sundance Rental Management, Inc.

Stay Current and Educated

System - Monday, March 18, 2019
Property Management Blog

STAY CURRENT AND EDUCATED

Blake Costabile, our Corp. manager, and our Daughter and Blake’s Wife, Susan recently attended the Florida State Chapter Conference of The National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM). They spent several days attending inspirational seminars and meetings with our peers sharing information relative to our industry. We try to attend at least one NARPM meeting each year to stay current with trends and new management products. After almost forty years in this business, Pam and I are slowing down realizing it’s not always easy to teach old dogs new tricks, but we are always amazed at the advances in new technology and software available to Professional Property Managers and are pleased to have our Son-in-Law, Daughter and Son moving Sundance Rental Management, Inc into the future.

Web based software has allowed our owners and property managers to access information on their properties through cell phones, tablets and home PCs. The latest maintenance software will provide documented maintenance, inspections, and repairs with pictures and invoices for the life of a rental. This information is instantly retrievable by date, address or name. A new phone app lets a property manager answer their personal cell phone using the office number to receive and send calls saving their personal number for personal business only. Security and tracking apps make it much safer for agents in the field showing property.  Electronic banking has revolutionized the collection of rent and the distribution of owner’s proceeds. E-mail has made correspondence quick and allowed through Docusign instant lease and document signatures.

To keep up with the implementation of new programs it is helpful to have young employees familiar with new technology. They understand the day to day changes in the internet technology and keep our Business current. As Licensed Real Estate Professionals, we are required to take continuous education courses to keep our licenses active. But as Professional Residential Property Managers, it is great to have an organization such as NARPM to help us keep up to date with the industry and provide the tools to be the best at what we do.

Now that Spring 2019 has arrived, we are very encouraged with the local rental market. The F-35 training program at Eglin AFB continues to bring a steady flow of personnel to the area. More aircraft and Airmen with their families are coming to Eglin from Tyndall AFB as the Air Base is rebuilt following the devastation of Hurricane Michael. Hurlbert Field is also experiencing a shift in some of their aircraft and personnel. Along with The Army Special Operations Post in Crestview, Duke Field and Hurlburt the Military continues to understand the importance of Special Ops. and supporting these operations.

Spring is the time to do a maintenance check of your rental property. Trim hedges and trees, fertilize lawns, and pressure wash mildew and dirt from the siding and concrete. Repair wood rot and paint where needed. Sprinkler systems need priming and check for broken sprinkler heads. It is a good idea to have the A/C serviced and check for a clean condensation drain.

Keeping up with new trends and information pertaining to rental property is important to Professional Property Managers to help them better manage their inventories and serve the owners that employ them. Contact your local REALTOR or Professional Management Company to help you with your rental investment and keep you up to date.

-J. Matthew Scheel | Owner of Sundance Rental Management, In  

Tenant's Need Renters Insurance

System - Thursday, January 31, 2019
Property Management Blog


We have been fortunate to escape damages from major hurricanes for the past few years.  Hurricane Micheal’s devastation to Panama City and East should be a wake-up call to all of us living in Florida. Whether you are an owner of rental property or a tenant, it is important to understand your need for insurance protection. Living in an area where hurricanes, tornadoes, or floods are possible, it is risky not to understand insurance coverage as it applies to tenants. 

Although there is some advertising promoting renter’s insurance, we find that most tenants are unaware of its availability or don’t understand their liabilities and the importance of protection for their personal property. The low cost, roughly the cost of a large pizza per month, is a smart investment which could off-set a substantial loss if a disaster, accident, or theft occurred while renting. There are many additional situations involving insurance and renting that should be explored.

Take an inventory of all of your possessions including clothing, appliances and furniture. Don't forget jewelry and pictures. These items can be expensive to replace. It is a good idea to take pictures or a video of your property to document it. Put a replacement value on everything you own to make sure the amount of renters insurance you purchase will cover their loss.

Another important part of renter's insurance coverage is liability. If a tenant causes a fire or lets the tub overflow resulting in a loss, they could be held liable. Many times the owner's insurance policy will cover the loss for an owner, but their insurance company will go after the tenant to recover the loss. Renters insurance will protect the tenant from this situation. Liability coverage also protects a tenant from accidents or the cost of an injury to an invited guest.

Insurance companies offer several types of coverage and it is important to investigate discounts for items such as deadbolts, sprinkler systems, and security. If you purchase insurance from the same company that has your auto or other insurance you could receive a discounted rate. Policies can be either for cash value (which usually depreciates an items value) or replacement cost (allowing for the purchase of a new item). Replacement coverage usually cost more but can result in a quicker and more satisfying recovery from a loss.

Tenants must understand while the owners of a rental property have insurance on the building, any personal items belonging to the tenant are not covered by the owner's policy. It is estimated that over 70% of tenants do not have rental insurance. This is surprising especially in an area subject to hurricanes.

Homeowner insurance rates continue to climb in Florida. An owner or tenant should review their coverage to meet changes in value and not let coverage lapse. Most insurance companies now have large deductibles for hurricane damages caused by a named storm. It is wise for landlords to set aside funds to cover the deductible in the case of a major loss. Insurance companies also are dropping older homes and those that are of higher risk. It is not advisable to put in frivolous claims which could trigger a rate increase.


-J. Matthew Scheel | Owner of Sundance Rental Management, In 


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

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