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Property Management Blog

Landlord Inspections

Todd Ortscheid - Friday, April 20, 2018

Todd Ortscheid of GTL Real Estate, talks about landlord inspections that are done with tenants already in place and in the middle of their lease.

While you may be the owner of the property and thus, feel like you should be able to come and go as you please, and to do inspections as often as you'd like, we actually advise against it. There are actually three reasons why you should let a third-party go out there and do the inspections for you:

The first is confrontations with the tenant. This is a very common scenario, often due to disagreements with the tenant concerning late fees, rent increases, or repairs that didn't get done quickly enough for them. It is best to send in a neutral person or home inspector as there are less chances for confrontations.

In line with this, it is best not to conduct the inspections yourself because situations other than heated confrontations could arise, where you find yourself saying things that are against Fair Housing or landlord-tenant laws. This could lead to legal issues that you certainly don't need.

And last, but not the least, to avoid allegations of stealing. If you do an inspection without the tenant present and they come back to find something missing, you could find yourself in a big mess, especially when the tenant decides to bring the police in. It is best to have a company like us or an inspection company who are insured and have attorneys to take care of situations like this.

These are the three things you should keep in mind, in case you are tempted to conduct a home inspection on your own. If you require further assistance, please don't hesitate to call or email us. Thank you for watching!

Upcoming Improvements - Part 2

Todd Ortscheid - Monday, March 26, 2018

In this video, Todd Ortscheid talks about more upcoming improvements you can expect from #GTLRealEstate.

Among those improvements include educational video blogs and virtual tours, which are basically slideshows of your properties with a voice-over description that talks about the benefits of renting your property. It also comes with an introduction that talks about why tenants should rent from us. These virtual tours have been proven to help rent out properties faster, as the description also includes keywords that will help tenants find your properties faster online. They also give us an edge, especially with millennial renters who want to rent with companies that keep up with the latest in technology.

We will also be doing video inspections of your properties. Rather than just taking pictures, we will be recording high-definition videos that will be used to document move-ins and move-outs. These will definitely help with challenges to the security deposits, as videos are irrefutable proof and will most likely stop tenants from challenging any charges. They will definitely lessen any legal costs you might have over disputes and hold tenants accountable for the condition they leave your properties in.

Please watch out for more videos about our upcoming improvements. If you have further questions about our excellent property management services or want to see our available #AtlantaHomesforRent or our #DaytonaBeachHomesforRent, please don't hesitate to call us.

Key Things to Look For in an Atlanta Property Manager

Todd Ortscheid - Wednesday, March 21, 2018

In this video, Todd Ortscheid of #GTLRealEstate, talks about what you should look for in a property manager, if you are considering hiring one for your rental properties.

While not all property managers are created equal, and certainly not one-size-fits-all, there are certain qualities that all landlords should be looking for in a property management company.

First off, you need to find a company that documents both a move-in and move-out because if there were to be any legal challenges that come up, the company will be able to prove that the tenants are being charged the correct amount in damages. Also, a good company will collect a security deposit, so that the owner has something to use for repairs, should they be necessary.

Second, an application with all the relevant details--social security number, date of birth or a driver's license is important in case we need to go after a tenant to collect what they owe.

It is really important to find a reputable property management company that does what they should be doing, which is first and foremost, is to protect their clients. You should also check out the NARPM website, and check out what the other NARPM members are doing. These are what you should be looking out for when you want to hire a property management company, to make sure your properties will be well taken care of.

If you have further questions on property management or want to see all our available #AtlantaHomesforRent or please don't hesitate to call us. Thanks for watching!

Upcoming Improvements - Part 1

Todd Ortscheid - Monday, March 19, 2018

In this video, Todd Ortscheid of #GTLRealEstate, talks about the improvements you can expect this year, as well the new things that are coming soon.

These new changes include the new rent money system, which has been emailed to all our clients. This new cash payment system will get us the funds in two business days, as soon as the tenant has paid the rent at any accredited cash payment location. From there, you should get the funds within 2-3 business days. The new system is faster than the old one and this should be a big improvement.

We will also be having new owner portals on our website. It will now be easier to read statements and generate custom reports for certain time frames you are looking for. These will be coming out soon with completely new formats.

Recent Changes

Todd Ortscheid - Friday, March 09, 2018

In his first video blog ever, Todd Ortscheid of GTL Real Estate talks about the changes that have happened to the company over the past 9-12 months. This video is the first of a series that aims to update our clients and to improve the products we offer them.

First up, we are now known by a new name and that's because we now serve two markets--Atlanta and Florida. For those of you who have properties in Orlando and Daytona Beach in Florida, we can now just as easily help you as we help our clients in the entire Atlanta metro area. Our new name reflects our bigger market reach.

In addition, we have also made it easier for our tenants to reach us in case of emergencies, via our 24/7/365 repair hotline. Tenants have two options on how to submit repair issues they may have--they can either go online and fill out a form or they can call our main office line at any time by pressing a button and getting connected to the call center. In case of non-emergencies, the call center will dispatch someone for the next business day.

In line with repairs, we also have also switched to a new repair tracking software. The new software easily tracks all the necessary information, such as when was the repair scheduled, what date were the repairmen coming out to the property, or how old the work order is. It helps us stay on top of these repairs, to make sure they all get done. It also helps us follow up on the vendors who aren't doing their jobs so that we can find new vendors if they prove to be lacking.

In the past we've done only exterior inspections of the properties, but since owners didn't feel that they got the most out of it, we have decided to do scheduled interior inspections instead. We go into a property three months before the tenant's lease is up, to make sure that the property is in good condition. This helps us avoid legal liabilities in case the tenants decide to challenge us for something we charge them for. You also have the option to do inspections twice a year if you wish, just let us know so we can schedule it.

Lastly, we have switched to a new renting system called Rently. This helps us track the number of phone calls, emails and showings we get for your property. It also sends out an automated questionnaire for the tenants who've just seen your property and gets their feedback. This feedback is useful because this is how we determine how to sell or rent your properties faster. Rentals are going great in our markets, with our listings getting rented within two weeks. Tracking the trends with Rently helps us especially when things start to slow down.

We'll update you on all the new products we have in the works and things that we are going to be adding on to further improve the quality of service we provide. Thanks for watching!

How quickly should I return a security deposit?

Todd Ortscheid - Tuesday, September 12, 2017
It's one of the first questions a tenant asks when their lease is getting close to terminating: "how quickly can you get my security deposit to me?" Far too many tenants are irresponsible with their finances, so they don't plan ahead for paying their next landlord a deposit or rent, and they want the deposit you're holding immediately. Some even ask for it before they move out!

For the latter request, the answer is simply a firm "no!" NEVER return the deposit or even give an indication that the tenant will get their deposit back until after they've completely vacated, handed over the keys, and you've inspected the property for damage.

But what about if the tenant just wants the deposit quickly? Should you agree to that? For several reasons, we advise against it. The law in both states where we operate allows a landlord up to 30 days to return a security deposit. While we don't recommend using all of that time, we do recommend not rushing it. We generally tell tenants that we usually get their deposit processed (not refunded, as we'll get to in a moment) within a week or two, but that it could possibly take up to 30 days. This puts the tenant in the right frame of mind that they shouldn't be hassling us a few days after moving out.

So why should you not rush it to make the tenant happy? Let's remember the purpose of the security deposit. The deposit is there to cover any damage to the property or any amounts that the tenant still owes you on move-out. We see landlords frequently forget items when they're actually conducting the move-out inspection (such as re-keying, carpet cleaning, etc.), and then they remember a day or two later. If they've already given the tenant the deposit back, too late! That tenant isn't going to give you money then, no matter how much you're owed it. You want to take your time and make sure you thoroughly review the condition of the property, the move-in inspection, and the terms of the lease. You don't want to miss anything.

Also, you simply have a life of your own to live, and you don't want to commit to a quick turnaround on the deposit. If you promise that up front, and then life gets in the way and you need a few more days, the tenant is going to be hassling you non-stop. Once you've told them that you'll give them a speedy refund, they're going to make plans for the money based on that. So don't promise it. Make them arrange their finances around a reasonable timeline rather than you arranging your schedule around their finances. There's a reason that the law gives you up to 30 days. Lawmakers don't think it's reasonable for you to have to immediately cut a check, so you shouldn't either.

And this gets us to the most important part: there is NO guarantee that the tenant is getting their deposit back in the first place. You should NEVER tell the tenant that they'll be getting a check on ANY date. What you should tell them is that you will "process" the security deposit in a certain time frame. Processing it could mean a refund, or it could mean that they lose their entire deposit and still owe you even more money. Or it could mean a partial refund. It all depends on what the condition of the property is and what they owe you. You don't ever want to give the tenant the impression that getting their deposit back in full (or even in part) is a foregone conclusion. They need to always be under the impression that getting their deposit back is entirely dependent upon them returning the property to you in the same or better condition than they got it, serving out the full term of their lease, and owing you no rent, late fees, or other amounts.

Security deposits are some of the biggest problem areas for do-it-yourself landlords. So if you don't want to deal with these issues, give us a call and let us take the worries off your hands!

My tenant died! What do I do?

Todd Ortscheid - Tuesday, September 05, 2017
There are many difficult circumstances to deal with as a landlord (which is why it's important to have professional management of your property), but this is one of the most difficult. On the one hand, you have sense of empathy for the surviving family, but on the other hand, this property is a business for you, and you have to treat it like a business. So how should you go about handling it when a tenant passes away?

Hopefully it isn't something that is sudden and you're aware that it could be coming on the horizon. This is frequently the case with elderly tenants going through treatment and they let you know ahead of time what is going on and who you should talk to in their family if anything should happen to them. Unfortunately, even many people in this situation don't let you know, because they aren't eager to discuss their own mortality. And then there are the people who die unexpectedly. So you have to be prepared on how to handle it if you are notified of a sudden death after the fact. You won't always have advance warning.

Usually the way you find out is when the rent doesn't get paid. You make a phone call, send an email, and send a letter, and then you get a phone call from a relative who breaks the news to you. Obviously, it is important to be understanding and express your condolences. While this is a business, even businesses shouldn't be heartless. But after expressing condolences, you do need to get down to business. Carefully ask the family how they intend to handle the deceased person's lease. Many times they'll have someone who wants to move in so that they can spend some time organizing their loved one's possessions and tying up loose ends. When that's the case, it's as simple as writing an amendment that changes the name on the lease to the family member's.

If they do not have anyone wanting to take over the lease, though, it becomes more complicated. They're probably going to want time to put everything in order, but again, this is a business, so you can't simply allow them to take their sweet time to move the tenant's belongings out of the property. Carefully explain to them that you'd be happy to give them all the time they need (within reason) if they pay the rent. If they do not want to pay the rent, though, then give them a reasonable deadline for when to have the deceased's belongings out of the property. I would recommend something between 7-14 days. This is a reasonable period of time so that you don't seem heartless and unreasonable, but also expeditious enough so that you aren't being significantly harmed financially by the delay.

Keep in mind that you'll be entitled to keep the security deposit since the lease isn't being served out for its full term, so that will help with the financial loss of the rent if the property is in good condition.

This is a sensitive situation, so you want to treat it as such. But you also need to be somewhat firm because this is a business and not a charity. Your financial interests still matter, so don't allow yourself to be pressured into being too accommodating, but also don't be cruel to people who are going through a difficult loss.

Finally, and unfortunately, there are times when the tenant's survivors simply don't care about your situation and are in no hurry to remove the deceased's belongings. When they simply refuse to cooperate, you'll have no choice but file an eviction. The eviction would be filed against the deceased tenant "and all others"or "et al." This will ensure that the survivors who may be occupying the property are included in any judgment that gives you possession of the property. While no one wants to take a family dealing with a loss to court, sometimes they give you no choice.

If you'd like to hire a company that is used to dealing with these sorts of uncomfortable tenant situations so that you don't have to, please give us a call!

Leaving Belongings in a Rental Property

Todd Ortscheid - Friday, September 01, 2017
Sometimes a landlord is expecting that he'll only be renting his property out for a year or two and doesn't want to move all of his personal property out, or perhaps he just doesn't have storage space elsewhere, and the basement on his rental property is a good place to keep it. Is this a good idea? NO!

This creates a whole lot of problems:

1. You have to remember to specifically designate this area, whether it's a room, the basement, the attic, etc. as an area that is not included in the lease, otherwise the tenant is guaranteed access to it, even if you lock it. When a tenants signs a lease to that property, he's getting the right to possession of the entire property during the term of that agreement unless it specifically says otherwise.

2. You have to keep a very specific inventory just in case anything turns up missing. Let's be honest, putting a padlock on a door isn't very secure. If the tenant wants to get into that attic, he's going to do so. And then if your $1,000 in electronics is missing when the tenant moves out, unless you have a very detailed inventory list that the tenant signed off on at move-in, then it will be impossible to hold the tenant accountable.

3. Even if you do get a detailed inventory list and a lease that designates a private area, you're still left with trying to enforce it if the tenant steals something. Police will tell you that recovering stolen property is incredibly difficult. The tenant will claim that he didn't take anything, and the district attorney is unlikely to want to take up a case over your $1,000 in lost property. You'll probably be left to go to civil court. If you use an attorney (which is always recommended), then it will probably cost you more in attorneys' fees than the value of the last property. Sure, you may get awarded the attorneys' fees in the judgment, but then comes the next step: trying to collect on the judgment. You'll probably need to get an attorney to handle this for you also, or you'll need to turn it over to a judgment collection firm, and they will likely keep between 35-50% of what they're able to collect on your judgment.

In short, it's just not worth it. You're better off, by far, just paying for some storage space and leaving the rental property completely vacant for the new tenant. This is what we require of the properties we managed, and it's advisable for all landlords, whether they use a management company or not.

Is it too late to collect what I'm owed?

Todd Ortscheid - Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Sometimes we take on a new client who had a bad experience with a previous tenant who left the property owing money for either rent or repairs, and wondering whether it's still possible to go after that money.

Generally, as long as too much time hasn't passed, and you have documentation of what was owed, you can still go to court to try to collect what you're owed. There are two things you need to consider:

1. How much time has passed? You will need to file your case against the tenant in court before the statute of limitations for contract disputes has passed. In Georgia, for written contracts, this is six years. We won't even discuss verbal contracts, because they're pretty much useless for all intents and purposes in real estate matters. So, if it's been less than six years from when the tenant incurred the charges that you're owed, you should be good to go on this item. If it's been longer than that, then you're probably out of luck, but can always consult with an attorney to see if there might be some sort of special circumstances that would apply.

2. Assuming you're within the statute of limitations, the next element is evidence. As the plaintiff, the burden of proof will be on you to show that the tenant owes you the money. Depending on what exactly the tenant owes for, that evidence could be different things. If he owes you rent or late fees, you would probably need to present a copy of the lease and your rent ledger to the judge at trial. If the tenant claims that he made payment, he would need to show receipts, bank records, or some other form of evidence to refute your ledger. If you don't have a copy of the lease and a detailed ledger, though, you're pretty much out of luck trying to collect rent. For repairs, you'll need to have evidence of what the condition of the property was on move-in, and what the condition was on move-out. This could be as simple as a signed form that both you and the tenant signed on move-in and move-out, or it could be more detailed, such as date stamped photos or videos. The judge will probably also want to see receipts, invoices, or some other form of proof showing that you actually did incur the expenses for the repairs.

If you have all of that, you'll probably be filing in magistrate court, as the balance is likely to be under $15k. If your balance exceeds that amount, you'll need to file in superior court, which means you'll need to hire a lawyer. In magistrate court, you can represent yourself, although we would always recommend seeking out the help of an attorney if the money you're owed is significant.

Better yet, hire us and we can take care of this all for you with our in-house experts and our attorneys we always have on retainer! Give us a call.

Daily Late Fees

Todd Ortscheid - Friday, August 25, 2017
Sometimes a client asks us about daily late fees, perhaps because they've charged them themselves when managing their property on their own, or perhaps because a previous property manager charged them. We do not recommend daily late fees for several important reasons:

1. A late fee should hurt. It shouldn't be something minor that the tenant doesn't mind incurring so that they can pay someone else before you with their limited funds. You want them thinking of you as their primary person to pay on time every month. Making the late fee hurt as much as possible is a great incentive to make them pay you before paying their other creditors. So charging a modest fee up front and then a smaller daily fee defeats this purpose and could encourage bad behavior from the tenant.

2. Courts generally won't allow you to charge more than 10% of the rent as a late fee in total for the month. This means that if you want to charge a daily fee, you're severely restricting the up-front late fee that you charge on the first day the rent is late. This is bad, as it reduces the incentive for the tenant to pay on time. You want that first late fee to hurt.

3. The administrative burden is a pain. It's pretty easy to charge a flat late fee on a set day of the month. But keeping track, accurately, of a daily late fee is a lot more difficult. And you don't want to make mistakes, because that gives the tenant something to argue if you file eviction. Going before a judge, you want to make sure that you've done everything perfectly and the tenant's behavior is the only thing in question.

For these reasons, we recommend charging one late fee, on the 3rd of the month, and making it the maximum generally allowed of 10%. This provides a powerful incentive for the tenant to pay on time, it's easy for you to keep track of, and judges like the simplicity.

If you'd like us to worry about these things so that you don't have to keep up with it, please give us a call or send us an email, and we'll be happy to manage your property and take care of all the headaches for you so that you can just collect your check.

GTL Real Estate
120 Village Circle
Senoia, 30276

(678) 648-1244

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