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Tenants Beware

System - Wednesday, July 10, 2019
Property Management Blog


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:

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


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 

2018 Looking Forward to 2019

System - Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Sales of residential property increased in 2018 as interest rates rose slightly and property values were on the rise. Investors were looking for foreclosures and good deals to turn a quick profit or move to income producing rentals. There is still a shortage of resale residential property and new construction was just starting to take off during 2018. With property values increasing and a shortage of residential properties, many of those with upside down mortgages were finally able sell their home for a profit.  

Fortunately, our recovering economy and the continued strong Military influence locally has helped keep our rental inventories low. This demand has also allowed for increases in rent over the past year.

The short term rental market (tourist market) has once again had a strong year. Although we had a rainy Summer Season, the tourist continued to flock to our beautiful beaches. This contributed to stronger seasonal condo and commercial tourist related property sales. We were so fortunate to avoid the damaging winds and rain from Hurricane Michael which devastated Panama City and Tyndall AFB.

We have always been blessed with a very strong Military presence which has contributed to a favorable local rental market. Looking ahead, a new strong Military budget and the rebuilding of Tyndall AFB with F-35 fighter units will benefit our economy in the coming year. Our missions at Eglin AFB, Hurlburt Field, Duke Field and the Army Special Forces Post in Crestview seem to be secure. The F-35 training at Eglin and increases in Special Operations programs at Hurlburt should result in increases in Military personnel over the next couple of years.

The local economy has had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the state and new businesses are moving into the area. Many of these businesses are buying commercial property and building new facilities which leaves a surplus of the older commercial property for rent. Many small business owners have benefited from the tax cuts and deregulations and are hiring and expanding as the local economy grows.  This will contribute to the recovery of the commercial market in the coming year.

The North end of Okaloosa County has seen significant growth over the past year. Lower Real Estate prices and rent in the Crestview area are attracting increases in population and business. However, as with many areas of the Emerald Coast, congestion and the lack of proper planning to provide for this growth causes people to rethink where they are willing to live or invest.

Thanks to our strong Military presence, our beautiful beaches, schools, and a wonderful family environment, Okaloosa County’s outlook for 2019 looks fantastic. Contact your local REALTOR or Professional Property Manager to help you invest in the future of this paradise. Have a very prosperous and happy New Year.

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

The Good, Bad and Ugly of Leasing

System - Wednesday, August 8, 2018
Property Management Blog

There are good tenants and bad tenants. A tenant that is paying his rent on time and taking care of the property is valuable and every effort should be taken to retain them. Dramatically raising the rent or deferring maintenance can cause a good tenant to move and you are left with a chance of lost rent or not finding a replacement tenant as good as the present one. If there has been a thorough screening of a prospective tenant (credit check, references and verification of income and employment), then they are usually going to be a good tenant. It is important to remember that bad things can happen to good tenants. They can lose their job, get divorced, or have an emergency and if you are helpful and understanding of their situation they will often be willing to assist with getting the property re-rented.

Bad tenants (usually those not thoroughly screened) are those that continuously pay late, sneak pets and unauthorized roommates into the property and don’t take care of their responsibilities of maintaining the rental unit. Written requirements addressing these issues should always be included in the lease agreement. Eviction for non-compliance of the lease is always costly after the tenant has possession of the property and can result in lost rent and damages.

There are good and bad owners of rental property also. Good owners appreciate a good tenant and quickly address maintenance issues. They will reimburse a tenant for materials who is willing to make minor repairs themselves. A good owner will upgrade appliances, carpet and paint as needed. Bad owners are those that do not keep up with needed repairs and maintenance or those that expect a tenant to pay for the replacement of aging or worn out items not damaged by the tenant. The Florida Landlord Tenant Act protects tenants as well as owner’s rights. Despite these Laws, sometimes issues need to be resolved in the courts when an owner and tenant can’t agree on a deputed issue.

Believe it or not, there are good and bad property managers. The best property managers are those that have been in the business for a long time and have kept up with their education and belong to professional management organizations such as The National Association of Residential Property Managers. Florida managers must hold a Real Estate license and it helps if they specialize in property management and not sales. There is so much to learn through experience and seasoned managers have seen the tricks and know how to avoid problems that can be costly to an owner of rental property. Bad managers do not concentrate on management, do not communicate with their owners and are not proficient in the rules and statutes of rental management. They do not diligently screen tenants and properly enforce the rules and statutes entrusted to them.

What about the ugly? An ugly property will not rent. Clean and paint, replace worn out carpet and appliances, and make sure the yard is cut, edged and hedges trimmed. A clean well maintained property will reflect a good owner and produce a good tenant that cares about where they live. An ugly run down rental unit reflects a bad owner that doesn’t care about his property or a tenant relationship.  Usually, anyone wanting to rent a property in poor condition is probably going to be a bad problem tenant.

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

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.

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

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