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Tenant-Never Do's

System - Thursday, June 28, 2018
Property Management Blog

There are a number of issues that can result in serious problems for tenants if they are not aware of them when renting. Never sign your leasing paperwork without reading or understanding what you are signing. A leasing agent should go over the requirements and answer any questions to insure your understanding of the lease. Assuming is a common mistake and reading and questions up front will remove the guess work later.

Never lie or falsify information on the rental application which can result in future lease violation and eviction. Not including all of those who will be living in the rental or disclosing pets on the application will almost always result in an eviction if it is later discovered by the landlord. Hiding criminal convictions or falsifying employment and rental history can be reasons for an application to be rejected when screened. There is usually a fee required with the application and it will not be returned if false information is given and you are denied.

Don’t smoke in a non-smoking property. If you move into a community with restrictive covenants, don’t park a boat or RV in the driveway if it is not permitted. Some subdivisions even have rules about mowing the yard and parking on the street. Finding out after the move can cause problems and extra expense if you have to rent additional storage space or move.

Never assume the landlord knows all of the issues and conditions or damages to the rental property and has it documented. Always take pictures yourself and document in writing any damage seen when moving into a rental. Let your landlord be aware of any maintenance issues or repairs. Using E-mail is a good method of establishing a documented trail of communication. Any damages caused by a tenant, not initially documented, will be the responsibility of the tenant at move out.

Sometimes tenants think because a rent due date falls on a weekend or holiday that the rent can be paid late. Rents are due as stated in the lease and late fees are enforceable leading to eviction if not paid. Many tenants hear stories of the eviction process taking months. The truth is, if done properly, only 20 days before a Sheriff will show up with the landlord and physically move the tenant out.

As a tenant with a legal lease, you have legal possession of the property subject to rules and conditions of the lease. The Florida Statutes protect your rights as a tenant and restrict certain actions of the landlord. Questions regarding these statutes can be found on the internet or by consulting an attorney. Tenants often question an owner’s right to enter their home resulting in conflict. The law, with the exception of an emergency, requires the landlord to notify the tenant prior to coming to the property. A tenant is obligated to give a landlord reasonable access, however, reasonable is not interpreted as being a pest.

Don’t assume, be honest, keep communications open between tenant and landlord, document conditions and read your lease to ensure a pleasurable rental experience.


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

A Career In Property Management

System - Wednesday, June 6, 2018
Property Management Blog

My wife and I are often asked how we like working together as professional property managers and how we cope with all of the problems associated with our profession. Working side-by-side for some 35 years actually makes our lives as property managers easier. Tasks can be split between the two of us and one can cover for the other when needed. We actually complement each other’s work and now are blessed to have our Son, Daughter and Son-in-law taking the business into the future as we slow down towards retirement.

Individually, property management can be a very interesting and rewarding career. There are many different fields within property management, most of which require licensing. If you manage property for individuals and are paid a fee in the State of Florida, you must have a real estate license. Specialized training and professional property management designations are obtainable through on-line courses or through trade organizations such as the National Association of Residential Property Managers. Some managers specialize in long-term residential property or short-term vacation rentals and there are those who prefer to handle only commercial properties. Association and condominium management are also specialties. Although some agents want to use their real estate licenses to handle several of these categories as well as sales, we have found that concentrating on one specialty (long-term residential management) makes us the best at what we do.

Property managers usually work regular hours, but they are often on call 24/7. If a problem comes up at any hour, they must be available to solve it. A good office staff and answering service can help ease some of the routine decisions, but the property manager has the ultimate responsibility for the property they manage. Managers have to make maintenance decisions, they must screen and decide who will make the best tenants, and they need to know the market to optimize rent and communicate information to their owners.

Life as a professional property manager is never dull which is why we love what we do. We are constantly learning and solving daily situations with maintenance, tenants and owners. A manager must like to deal with the public and possess good old-fashioned common sense. They must hire competent and licensed maintenance people to take care of repairs and be well versed in all aspects of a property from the construction to the lawn. During inspections, a keen eye can detect potential problems such as roof repair, wood rot, or appliance failure. Proactive decision making and experience are the most important traits of a manager.

The fees for managing rental property vary, but are usually a small percentage of the rent collected. Agents who sell property make large commissions and find it hard to understand why property managers put up with the aggravations of our profession for such a small fee. The answer is steady residual income. The small fees come in each month as rent is collected and continue to grow as the manager’s business and experience increases.

Our family, staff and property managers enjoy what we do. When an investor or property owner comes to us with a problem of non-paying tenants, damages or a maintenance issue, we derive satisfaction in turning the situation around and turning a property into a profitable investment. It is always better to have a professional “middle man” that is not emotionally attached to the property to deal with tenants and issues common to leasing real estate. 

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

Lawn Pumps and Sprinkler Systems

System - Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Property Management Blog

Being in the rental management business has made us aware of the many people moving to this area that are not familiar with lawn pumps and sprinkler systems.  This article is not meant to be a complete course on the subject but should provide basic information.

Not all properties have pumps and sprinkler systems. Some small yards or planting areas are not large enough to justify the cost. Some local areas are not able to have a well due to rock or deep water tables or other physical restrictions. The type of well and pump can be determined by these restrictions also. Although it is preferable to have a well and pump (saving the cost of water), some sprinkler systems run off of municipal water sources requiring paying for the water on the monthly water bill.

Lawn pumps are usually found near the house and are wired to a control panel with a timer. Depending on the size of the area to be watered, there are usually several zones or sections of the yard that are on a valve system allowing each section to be watered independently. This allows maximum water pressure to the sprinkler heads in each zone and explains why there is usually several PVC pipes connected to the lawn pump. Timers can be programmed to water on specific days and times. They also control how long the sprinklers will run on each zone and are programmed to operate automatically but can be operated manually if extra watering is required.

There are many types of sprinkler heads depending on the area to be watered. Most heads are pop-up that extend up from the ground when water pressure is applied.  This keeps the sprinkler system out of sight unless it is operating. Once up they spray in patterns depending on the type.  Some heads rotate to cover larger areas and can be adjusted to run from 5 to 360 degrees. Most of these heads are made of plastic and can easily be damaged if run over by a vehicle or lawn mower. They also can get clogged by sand or debris from time to time and have screens that need to be removed and cleaned to allow proper operation.

Northwest Florida can experience freezing temperatures in winter requiring many lawn pumps to be shut down and drained in November. Pumps that have motors horizontal to the ground are connected to cast-iron housings that hold water. These housings will break if allowed to freeze. They have a drain plug or valve on the lower front used to drain the water. The pump will require priming when it’s time to start watering again in April.  This can be done by running water back through the pump with a hose. Once the system is primed and the timer is programmed to operate the system, manually operate all zones and visually check heads for proper operation and coverage.

Lawn pumps and sprinkler systems are common in our area because the sandy soil does not hold water and the warm often dry weather requires lawns and plants have additional watering to what Mother Nature provides. Additional information is available on-line or through the many lawn care specialists in our area. An understanding of the operation and maintenance of your sprinkler system will help maintain a healthy and beautiful yard.

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

Painting Rental Property

System - Thursday, February 8, 2018
Property Management Blog

Managing the painting of your rental property can save hundreds of dollars over the life of the unit. Anything that can prevent having to repaint after a tenant vacates is money in your pocket. Maintaining the wall and trim paint will keep a rental unit rented and produce more rent.

Selecting the right paint is the first and most important step. Off- white walls in a satin or flat finish are the best choice. There are hundreds of whites and selecting one with a little pigment will make it easier to touch up and maintain. Darker colors are harder to match and fade over time. Using off-white paint will keep your rental neutral and not cause a conflict if a prospective tenant has wild or brightly colored furnishings. It’s a good idea to select a popular brand of paint in a stock off-white color which makes it easier for a tenant to find and makes it readily available. Always document the brand, color and location to buy the paint you choose. It is a very good idea to leave a gallon of paint in your rental at all times to allow a tenant to touch up as needed.

Paint all of the walls the same color. Mixing different paints in bedrooms, halls and living areas gets very confusing when trying to touch up. It is OK to paint high moisture areas such as bathrooms and kitchens with a semi-gloss paint which is more resistant to moisture and easier to wipe down. Again, keep to the off-white colors. Trim and woodwork should also be painted in semi-gloss and using a pure white paint will be easily matched and complements the off-white walls well. 

Tenants should be expected to fill nail holes and touch up the paint when vacating their rental. Documenting the condition of the walls and trim when a tenant moves in makes it easy to see what damage has been done while the tenant rented the unit. Nail holes can easily be filled with a tube of spackle, found at any home improvement or paint store. Magic Eraser works wonders on hand prints and wall smudges.  

Having the correct paint available for the tenant to touch up is so important to insure the walls are maintained and will not have to be repainted between tenants.  Be sure to thoroughly stir the paint before painting. Apply the paint to only a few spots or areas at first and allow them to dry before proceeding through the entire house. After the paint dries, check to make sure the color matches and the patch or touch up has blended with the paint on the wall. A huge mistake is to assume the paint matches and continue to touch up the entire house only to find out it dried a different color resulting in an expensive total repaint.

If there is no record of the paint used, a small sample can be cut out of the wall with a utility knife and taken to a home improvement store or paint store and have a computer match made of the paint. This is not foolproof and again the match should be tested on a small area and allowed to dry before proceeding.

When painting over a darker paint or a heavily soiled wall, prime the wall with a good high hiding primer before painting the finishing coat. This will insure the paint will cover without the old paint bleeding through. Also use a primer if you are painting over higher sheen paint (flat over semi-gloss). The lower sheen paint will usually not adhere to the slicker finish.

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

Screening a Prospective Tenant

System - Tuesday, October 24, 2017
Property Management Blog

Screening a Prospective Tenant

Without question, the most important part of any rental transaction is the screening of a prospective tenant through the rental application.  Verification of rental or housing history, credit, and employment virtually ensures a tenant that will pay on time and maintain your rental property.

The names, ages, relationship, and social security numbers of all those applying to live in the property must be on the application.  This information is necessary to be able to do a credit check along with the signature and permission of those applying for a credit check to be completed on them.  There are several ways of getting a credit report on a prospect. Professional Management Companies usually belong to a credit reporting agency that will provide them with a tenant’s credit report.  A report can be obtained through the internet by the applicant or they might already have a recent copy to give with their application.  A credit report will not only show a tenant’s payment history but it will verify other information such as employment and previous residences.

The prospect’s previous address is needed so that a background check can be made.  If the prospect rented, the previous landlord can be called to find out if they paid their rent on time and if they took care of the property and received the deposit back.  If they sold their home, the REALTOR that sold the house or the individual that purchased it can be contacted to find out if the house and yard were left in good condition.  Military tenants who lived in government housing have to pass an inspection at move out.  The inspection results can be verified by contacting the housing officer at the installation they moved from.  A background check of the tenant’s previous residence is the most important step of the screening.  You want to know how these people take care of property.  They will almost always treat your rental the same way they treated their previous one.

You must verify the employment of all prospective tenants.  Call their supervisor or employer and make sure they are in a stable job and if they are Military, find out if they are due PSC orders, deployment, or retirement.  The Military Clause will allow them to break the lease with a 30 day notice if any of these situations occur. 

It is a good idea to ask what type and how many vehicles the prospect has and get the license plate numbers.  This comes in handy later if other cars are present it can indicate unauthorized persons living in the rental.  If there is limited space available for parking there could be serious problems for the tenant with multiple vehicles and you don’t want them parking on the grass.  Some areas have restrictive covenants that don’t allow boats or RV’s and this should be addressed up front.

Ask for nearest relatives or emergency contacts of prospective tenants.  This information is very helpful if you have future problems and have to locate your tenant.  Don’t hesitate to ask pertinent questions such as if they have ever been evicted or late with the rent and if their current lease has expired?  If you have carpet and a lawn better ask if they own a vacuum and a lawn mower.

You must have the applicant’s permission to verify any information given on the application.  The tenant should also declare that the information given on the application is true and correct. If you later find that the tenant falsified the application, it can be a cause to terminate the lease agreement.

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



Trash Talk

System - Thursday, July 20, 2017
Property Management Blog

 

TRASH TALK

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 affective to keep up with trash removal and cleaning.  It is natural too 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 of Sundance Rental Management, Inc.

 

 

 


Our New Office Location

System - Tuesday, July 18, 2017
Property Management Blog

We are excited to finally unveil photos of our brand new office location! 

Our new office building includes an expansive lobby area with stations for using computers to access information on our current rental inventory, a public restroom, beautiful 140-gallon freshwater tank complete with a sunken pirate ship, individual offices for each employee to offer privacy when meeting with any member of our team, a full kitchen and coffee bar, employee lounge and so much more!

You can view the complete gallery of photos by clicking HERE! We welcome you all to stop by and see us, we'll be happy to give you a tour to show off our new home of Team Sundance!


Getting Ready for Hurricane Season

System - Wednesday, May 31, 2017
Property Management Blog

 

Getting Ready for Hurricane Season

 

June 1st starts the 2017 hurricane season and the weather experts predict another moderate year for hurricane activity.  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 sealable 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

The Rental Rate

System - Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Property Management Blog

THE RENTAL RATE 

Your basic rental rate will already be determined if you have previously rented your property.  However, there are several ways to insure that you are getting the maximum rent for the area market.  Many factors can affect the ultimate rental rate.  The condition of the property is extremely important along with features such as refrigerators and dishwashers, garages, fenced yards, patios and pools.  The size or square footage of the rental unit along with the number of bedrooms and baths will have a direct impact on the rental price.  Be sure to compare your rental to one with like features and don’t use a property that has not rented as a comp.  The true rental rate is the rate that an occupied property leased for.

Availability, supply and demand, plays a huge roll in selecting the ultimate rate for a rental property.  There are a number of ways to determine the availability of rentals in a market area at any given time.  The best source would be the number of rental listings on the internet rental listing sites.  The MLS rental listings in the area and the listings in the local newspaper or magazines will also show the numbers and types of rentals currently available.  It is important to understand the demand.  Tracking inquiries or the activity of the rental market will indicate the demand.  Late spring and the summer months are traditionally the busiest turnover time for long term rentals here on the Emerald Coast.  Since most leases expire at the end of the month, and tenants are required to give a 30 day notice when moving, more listings usually will show up at the beginning of any given month than towards the end due to property being rented and withdrawn as the month goes along.   Set your rent in line with those like properties on the market.      

In a strong market, one in which there is a lot of activity, it doesn’t hurt to initially add $25-$50 to your rent.  You can always back off if the competition increases of if calls slow down, lower the rent.  Remember, you can only get what someone is willing to pay.  Don’t be greedy.  If your property sits empty while you hold out for an extra $25, the lost rent from a vacancy is hard to recoup.

The activity or inquiries you receive will be directly related to the amount of exposure you give your rental.  Most prospective tenants now look for rental property on the internet.  There are numerous rental sites available to list a property.  Posting pictures and details is essential to attract clients to your rental listing.  Professional Property Managers have access to many of these sites and have a good understanding of the local market.

The long-term rental market here is closely tied to the military activity.  Traditionally, most families like to move while school is out during the summer.  Our local Air Bases are home to many training schools and move personnel year round in and out of classes making the market always busy.

Raising the rent on a good tenant when they choose to renew their lease is not always the best way to maximize the profit/loss of your rental property.  A good tenant that always pays on time and takes care of your rental is very valuable when you consider the cost changing tenants.  Unless the market shows a sharp increase in the rental rates, an increase could cause the tenant to move and make it hard to recover the increased rent. 


J. Matthew Scheel
Broker | Owner
Sundance Rental Management, Inc.

Questions To Ask When Hiring A Property Manager

System - Monday, March 6, 2017
Property Management Blog

 

Questions To Ask When Hiring A Property Manager

Being a successful property manager requires both skill and experience but also the offering of tools to help you market your property to rent quickly and be maintained professionally to protect your investment and generate the desired income. Here are 5 questions you should always ask when interviewing or hiring a company or agent to manage your rental property.

 

  1. How many rental properties do you manage?

 

Knowing the volume of a management company’s inventory can be a telltale sign of the sheer amount of experience a company has had with managing property. At Sundance we currently manage over 1,700 properties spanning 3 counties along the Emerald Coast and our agents collectively hold over 50 years of property management experience.


  1. What steps do you take to market rental properties?

 

Knowing a company’s marketing avenues and strategies is essential to ensuring your rental property will reach it’s target market, rent for top dollar, and rent quickly! Sundance advertises on 30+ websites and our website is the first to come up when you search ‘property management company on the emerald coast’ which means our website will be among the first that prospective tenants will visit when searching for a rental home. We also take great lengths to direct prospective owners and tenants to our website through many social media platforms.


  1. How do you ensure qualified tenants are placed into the properties you manage?

 

Vetting a prospective tenant is one of the most important steps in the process of managing rental properties. This step ensures that a qualified tenant is being placed into your property that will be most likely to pay rent as agreed and take care of the property. Our application process includes verifying the rental history, criminal history, credit history and income of every prospective tenant.


  1. Do you handle or facilitate maintenance of rental properties?

 

It is important to know, especially if you are not local to your rental property, how maintenance issues will be handled. We have a knowledgeable and dedicated maintenance department that handles each and every maintenance call from all tenants. They gather information about the issue, solicit estimates from our licensed and insured vendors, and oversee repairs. Our maintenance professionals handle every aspect of maintenance issues from the initial call from the tenant to report and issue to the invoice being paid to the vendor all while keeping you, the owner, informed every step of the way.


  1. How often will my home be inspected?

 

It is imperative to preserving the condition of your property that your property manager have regular inspection procedures in place. For every property that Sundance handles full management of a property manager will drive by monthly to do an exterior check or assessment of the property. During monthly assessments of the exterior your property manager will note the condition of the exterior of the home, condition of the yard/landscaping, and note if any card that are not authorized are being kept at the property. In addition to monthly exterior assessments we conduct annual full property inspections inside and out of every property we manage, usually at the time of a lease renewal or final inspection.


 Your rental property is a very important investment and nothing is more important to us than protecting and preserving that investment to the best of our ability. Through our experience, technology avenues, marketing procedures, tenant screening process and attention to your home we strive to provide nothing short of excellent services to all owners and tenants.



Amber Scheel
Sundance Rental Management | Marketing Director

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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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