Every once in a while, I’m juggling a few rental property items, and I like to share the effort being put in. While it may be taking some of my energy now, it’s not something that happens often. Usually, Spring is our busy time because we have to manage leases ending or renewing. We have upticks in maintenance requests at the change of seasons each Fall and Spring (usually a plumbing or HVAC issue). For most months though, we don’t have to do much. I’m currently in a season (somewhat self-imposed) where we are busy and the rentals are requiring more-than-usual attention. Here’s that story.
One of the houses that I took over management for didn’t pay rent. I had to reach out to her on the morning of the 6th. She then asked to have until the end of the day. I told her that was fine, but if she didn’t pay by the end of the day, she’d have to pay a late fee (which is technically required after the 5th); she paid a few minutes after that message.
Another tenant let me know that they were sick last month, so they needed more time for rent. I let them know that was fine, and not to worry about the late fee. They paid a day earlier than when they expected to be able to pay.
Interestingly, several lease-related actions have been taken. I had to get 3 leases executed because I took over management of those properties (more on that below).
I had one tenant let me know that she won’t be renewing. She has been in that house since July 15, 2018. She sent me a text letting me know that she’ll be moving out on April 30th. Funny because her lease goes through June 30th of each year. But since she’s been there for so long, gave us ample notice, and so politely picked the end of a month, we’ll just go with it. It’s a 2 bedroom house, so we were surprised she spent as long as she did there. The first tenant we had in this house put us in contact with the current tenant. Ironically, the first tenant had recently asked if we had any 2 bedrooms coming available. At the time, I didn’t. But now we have the same house coming available, so I let her know. The person she knows looking for a house is interested in living there, so we’re going through the application process now!
I had another tenant tell me that they want to renew for another year. It’s for a house that I just took over management for. Since I don’t know them at this point, I didn’t want to agree immediately. Their notification deadline is March 31st, so we’ll revisit that renewal next month.
Then I had another tenant ask if they could renew. Their lease term isn’t up until April 30th, and their notification deadline is the end of February. Every year, they let me know their status some time in January. We reviewed their lease terms and decided to keep their rent at the same rate for another year. We typically increase $50 every two years, and their increase was at the beginning of this current term. She did play their hand and tell me they wanted to stay because rent is so expensive elsewhere, but we’re nice people. 🙂
WATER HEATER ISSUE
At the beginning of January, we received notice from a tenant in VA that their hot water wasn’t working. Being that it was really cold, it wasn’t surprising. However, the unit was installed in August 2021, so we weren’t happy to hear that. We called the company that installed the unit. They scheduled an appointment for the next morning. When the tech didn’t show, our property manager called them and was told they suspended all plumbing jobs and the scheduler shouldn’t have scheduled the job. So our manager got another guy out there that afternoon and discovered that the wires weren’t installed correctly. His report stated: Dispatched to home due to home not having hot water. Found burnt wires in electrical access due to improper installation. Two unlike wire materials, not joined together correctly. Cut and removed burnt wires and reinstalled the correct way.
Now I’m trying to get in touch with someone at the installation company to address this. We’d like our $200 reimbursed for having to call a different plumber out. I called to complain on 1/20. I was told that a service manager would have to call me back. No one did. I called this morning and was told I’d get a call back in a half hour. No one called this morning. At 1:15, I got a call from some guy who poorly introduced himself and wanted into the property right now. Um, no. I politely told him that I didn’t appreciate the way he was talking to me and that I’d speak with someone else. I called someone back in the office, and she had a different guy call me. I emailed him the paperwork from the other plumber. He agreed to process the reimbursement, and am now waiting on that confirmation.
We’ve had some issues with our property manager in KY. Perhaps their actions are completely normal, but they haven’t met our expectations. We were asked to reimburse a tenant for a high water bill because they dragged their feet on timely fixing it, and then took two attempts to even fix it. Our contract deleted the automatic 10% uncharge on all contracted services (meaning, if they hired a plumber, and the plumber charged them $100, then they’d charge me $110). We argued at contract negotiation that their hiring of a plumber is covered in their monthly management fee and removed it from the contract. Their system automatically adds the 10%, which is understandable, but I would have to review every single invoice and ask for the 10% to be returned. That’s a lot of managing-the-property-manager.
Then we had a huge issue with them last May. I covered the first part of the issue through the Tenant Abandonment post. The second part of the issue was how their accounting manager handled the rest of the conversation. They took their management fee off of the security deposit. I had questioned this on the last property turnover, and they agreed to give me that money back. I thought it was the same across the board – that it was an accident in their system, with it counting as “income” so they took their share. The conversation disintegrated from there. They claimed that since the security deposit was being applied as rent for the month the tenant abandoned, so they could take their share. I said that a security deposit’s purpose is to cover damages, and there was A LOT of damage that I need to pay for, so I shouldn’t be at their whim to decide how the security deposit is going to be applied (not to mention it was their lack of management and effort that created the vacancy). He then started to claim that their level of effort was more than the $90 I was arguing over (1. false. 2. that’s not how my paying you works… what about all those months I paid you $90 for you to do literally nothing). It turns out that I put all my effort to respond to this person’s initial statement of “This security deposit for the tenant has been applied toward rent.” While he said that, that wasn’t actually the reason they took a fee from it, and in actuality, our agreement would have allowed them to take their commission out of the security deposit. But where the relationship really went sour was when this accounting manager started looking through all our charges and decided to hit us with two $500 charges, that we had already paid. We got the owner involved, stating we didn’t appreciate this “desk audit” to try to “get us” on something, even though we had already paid it. Mr. ODA went to meet with them, and everyone apologized for this one person’s brash actions, but that was the last straw for me.
We now live here, so I can take on management of the houses instead of paying people who I have to argue with every time a charge comes in. Unfortunate for the timing, we then purchased a house that we put a lot of work into over the summer, and then I was very pregnant, so we didn’t terminate the agreement immediately. Mr. ODA decided that the beginning of the new year would be a clean break, but by the time I got the letter out, it didn’t terminate until January 31st. They’ve been great about turning over all the finances and information thus far.
So as of February 1st, I took on 3 more properties to manage. I had to establish my own KY lease agreements, which meant referring to the leases currently in place through the property manager and my own templates from VA. I then had to meet the tenants for their signatures. I went to each of the houses, which was a reason to see their living conditions. I didn’t call it an inspection, and I didn’t require a tour of the house. I simply used the initial experience as a gauge on how they’re treating the property. For one, we turned it over after the tenant abandonment, so we didn’t expect it to be too bad. But we hadn’t seen the other two houses since 2019.
Over two days, I met with the tenants and executed the new leases. Two of the meetings were a half hour each, and one was a while longer because we were talking about some of the issues they had with the management company’s maintenance. Of course, meeting with tenants in person usually ends with a to-do list on my end. So once I got home, I put together their leases and the to-do lists for me. I now need to schedule going out there to do their fixes.
On December 27th, I received a call from one of my tenants letting me know that water was pouring out of the house next door (that’s also ours). The tenants had turned off the heat… when it was 6 degrees for 3 days straight. The water heater is in the attic and a pipe cracked during the freeze. When it started to thaw, the constant water running filled up the house. Our property manager went to the house and found two inches of water throughout the entire house, along with a collapsed ceiling in the master bathroom. Over the next two days, the ceiling in the adjacent laundry room and the master bedroom also collapsed.
The tenant’s renters insurance was responsible for removing their belongings. They created quite the speed bump, and the tenant’s items weren’t removed for 5 weeks. We finally got their things out, and now we’ve been working with contractors to get the house put back together. We agreed to a contractor who worked with our insurance to get their full amount of work covered (there was about a $6k difference between the insurance adjuster’s estimate and the contractor’s estimate). The insurance company agreed to the new estimate.
We’re now working on the contract with the company who will put the house together. The initial contract required 50% payment up front, which we didn’t feel comfortable doing. Now we’re waiting on an updated contract with a new pay schedule that will split the payment into thirds.
Our next step once the contract is executed is to pick out all the replacement things. On top of them fixing the bottom 2′ of drywall throughout the entire house and all the ceilings that collapsed, along with replacing insulation, fixing the crawl space, etc., we have to make selections for new bottom cabinetry in the kitchen, new vanities in the bathrooms, and new flooring throughout the whole house. I’m hoping that once these selections are made, it’ll be smooth sailing. The contractor is 3 weeks out to begin, and the contract says it’ll take 40 days to complete.
While there’s a lot of things being juggled right now, it’s still not equivalent to a full time job. Since insurance is paying for the replacement of damaged items in the one house, it’s not a high spending month. It’s just requiring more brain power than usual.