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Central Georgia Realty is a full-service real estate brokerage and property management firm headquartered in Senoia, GA and serving the entire metro Atlanta area and suburbs. Currently managing nearly 500 residential properties for both individuals and investors, we are experts in this part of the state in the property management business. We also offer management services for smaller multi-family properties, up to 30 units.

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Early Lease Termination Clauses

Todd Ortscheid - Friday, May 08, 2015
There are two different schools of thought regarding early lease termination clauses. Some landlords hold that they don’t want an early termination clause in their lease because it makes the tenant feel that that it is okay to terminate early. Others feel that it is better to have the terms of the early termination laid out ahead of time. We fall into that second camp. Here’s why:

1. Courts like to have language to look at it rather than having to make on the spot judgment calls. If a judge can look at a specific clause in a lease that is very clear about what is required to terminate a lease early, then they are much happier about that as compared to trying to determine their own remedy.

2. The absence of an early termination clause leads tenants to believe that they can negotiate this after-the-fact rather than meeting the landlord’s demands.

3. If you don’t have a written agreement about what the penalty is for an early termination, then many courts won’t allow you to collect one. The concept of “liquidated damages” is basically that you can pre-agree on what a fair estimate of your damages would be in the event of an early termination, so that any early termination fees charged are not viewed as a penalty, but rather as reimbursing you for your direct harm. This is important in most courts, where judges will not allow penalties, but will allow liquidated damages if pre-agreed.

We think it’s quite important to have this item agreed upon in advance as part of the lease agreement. To address the concern of those landlords who feel it gives the tenant a green light to terminate early, our solution is to make the liquidated damages a sufficient amount that would discourage early termination. After all, if you have to re-rent the property, it is likely that you will suffer damages from lost rent for a period of time, costs of advertising, lost time in showing the property, etc.

Give us a call and we can take care of all of this for you with our professionally written and constantly updated lease agreements. Then you can just sit back and collect your monthly rent check.

Utility Bills

Todd Ortscheid - Thursday, April 30, 2015
Utility bills can be a real nightmare if the lease doesn’t cover them correctly. We frequently take over the management of a property that the owner had been paying the utilities for and then billing the tenant. Usually, the owner is having us take over because the tenant didn’t pay them for the utilities, and they don’t know what to do.

There’s a very simple way to avoid this: don’t leave the utilities in your name. Unless absolutely necessary (meaning it’s physically impossible for the tenant to have the utilities in her/her name because of a shared meter), ALWAYS make the tenant put the utilities in his/her name. This should be a provision of your standard lease agreement, and you shouldn’t compromise on it. Tenants will come up with all sorts of excuses for why they want you to keep the utilities in your name. Don’t do it.

Our leases require the tenants to have the utilities switched into their name within 3 days of the start of the lease. We make no exceptions to this. If the utilities aren’t switched over, we shut them off. You should do the same.

So what do you do if you have a situation where it’s physically impossible to have the tenant responsible for the utilities, which is frequently the case with duplexes and other multi-family properties that share a meter? Here are a few pointers:

  1. Any payments that the tenant has to make to you for utilities need to be referred to in the lease as "additional rent." If they are a separate kind of charge, then some courts may not allow you to evict for non-payment of those bills or allow you to charge late fees for them.
  2. Always make sure to bill the tenant and notify them immediately after receiving the bill from the utility company. Don’t give the tenant an excuse for non-payment because you waited too long to bill them. It shouldn’t matter, but some courts may take sympathy on the tenant if they are getting late notice.
  3. Have the payment terms specifically listed in the lease. It should say something about how long the tenant has to pay after being notified, and it should say that an invoice from you is sufficient rather than requiring a copy of the utility bill itself.
  4. Take a utility deposit from the tenant at the beginning of the lease along with the normal security deposit. This should cover your best estimate of the total utility costs for a peak month of the year. This ensures that you have not only enough money to cover the rent if you have to evict them, but also the utility bills.
  5. Never do this unless it is physically impossible for the tenant to be responsible for the utility bills!

Give us a call and we can start taking care of all these headaches for you. Being a landlord is a lot more complicated than just taking rent checks. Let us do the hard part for you, and just watch the checks get deposited into your account.
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Central Georgia Realty
42 Main Street Suite 2B
Senoia, GA 30276

(678) 648-1244

Office Hours: 8am - 5pm

Central Georgia Realty, LLC, Property Management, Senoia, GA

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