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Landlords are not mind readers!

Tenants – your landlords and property managers are not mind readers! All too often we only hear about a maintenance issue after a tenant has reached their breaking point.

It may be frustrating to have to deal with a repair that has gone uncompleted for some time, but it is just as frustrating for your property manager to receive a letter or phone call complaining about certain conditions in the apartment that he or she has had not been previously made aware of. We hear this most often when a tenant is notifying us of their desire to move out/break their lease or as a defense for their rent being late. Keeping your landlord informed about issues that may come up in your apartment goes beyond just having maintenance problems resolved quickly – It is critical to your own overall level of satisfaction with the apartment.

You may also think that withholding rent is the best way to get the attention of your landlord – it’s not! Believe it or not, your property manager wants to take care of you and any issues that arise. Keep them informed so that repairs can be made and you can enjoy the apartment fully during your tenancy.

Lastly, calling the Board of Health prior to informing your landlord of any issue is not a viable solution. The purpose of the Board of Health is to enforce the laws and health codes for each city and state – they are not meant to receive repair requests or complaints, specifically if you have not previously made these complaints to the landlord or property manager.

Landlords – make it a point to check in with your tenants on a routine basis. Quarterly or bi-annual inspections of the property and all units are a great way to keep you aware of the status of any repairs that may be needed. (It’s also a great time to check on your utility consumption and take preventative measures to cut down expenses!)

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. The contents of this blog should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with an attorney.

Saving on Utility Expenses

If your properties are metered correctly, it is likely that your tenants are responsible for their own electricity, gas or oil. There are some utility expenses, though, that a landlord cannot avoid. Common area electricity and water/sewer charges are always paid by the building owner – there are a few steps you can take to help reduce your expenses on these utilities, adding to your bottom line almost immediately.

  • Electricity: Most buildings have some form of exterior or common area lighting paid for by the landlord. While you’ll never be able to avoid these expenses, small efforts will pay off in a big way when it comes to saving energy.
    • Changing all lights to LED bulbs is the best place to start. While they are more expensive up front, their longer lifespan and lower energy consumption combine to save money – and pay for themselves – in the long run. An average LED bulb lasts 50,000 hours, or 11 years when used for 12 hours per day. This is approximately 50 times longer than a typical incandescent bulb or 20-25 times longer than a typical halogen bulb. At a price of $2 per halogen bulb, you would spend $100 over the same time period vs $4-$8 for an LED bulb.
    • While exterior lights should be left on in the dark for safety, interior light fixtures can and should be installed with motion sensors. This will activate the lights only when it detects movement in the area, cutting down on electricity usage and increasing the safety of residents


  • Water: Water charges will be directly affected by the number of residents living in each unit/property. Similar to the measures taken to save on electricity, there are small improvements that can be made to reduce water consumption.
    • Low flow shower heads: a conventional shower head uses approximately 3.5 gallons of water per minute, equating to 35 gallons per shower for a 10 minute average shower time. By installing low flow fixtures in your rental unit, water consumption will be reduced to 2 gallons per minute, or 20 gallons during a shower of the same length. Over the course of a year that’s a savings of 43% of water used in a shower alone.
    • Sub-metering water for each unit: with a greater up front cost of a few hundred dollars per unit, this is a rare choice for many landlords, but still an option. Another drawback is the requirement for the landlord to pay the full water charge and then bill each resident separately for their own consumption. This is not a viable option in most markets.


  • Heat: While tenants will be responsible for their heating charges, when there is a vacancy during the heating season the landlord will be paying for heat in order to safeguard the property from frozen/burst pipes. Setting the heat at between 55 – 58 degrees keeps the apartment warm enough to prevent any potential damage while keeping your heating utility expenses in check.


Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. The contents of this blog should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with an attorney.

How To Get Tenants to Pay on the 1st

It’s the first week of the month, which means bills (mortgage and loan payments) are due for landlords and property owners alike. We landlords count on timely rental payments coming in before the first (1st) of the month in order to pay our bills. Below are a few tips that we’ve learned from owning a 250 unit portfolio spread over 100 properties throughout the years. For the landlord owning several rental units down the street or upstairs on the second or third floor, these below tips may not be as helpful, as there is no better way than face-to-face payments. Unfortunately, for landlords and owners with more than several units, this becomes an uneconomic option due to the time commitment.

  • Rent Invoices with Self Addressed Envelopes: Even as technology progresses, there is something to be said about the effectiveness of sending out paper invoices. We recommend sending rent invoices every month 2 weeks before rent is due with a self-addressed envelopes.
    self addressed envelope

    Simple, Effective, yet Underrated

  • Email Reminders Before the 1st day of the month: Emails take less than 5 minutes to compose and send out to all your tenants with email addresses on file, yet very few landlords take the time to do so.
  • Providing Multiple Payment Methods: You want to make sure that it is convenient for tenants to pay their rent. We’ve all heard the excuses that tenants have brought up. Offering payments solely by money order or personal check allows tenants to “forget” to run to the bank. Additional payment methods such as direct deposit ACH, debit card, and credit card should all be offered to increase the probability of payment. We use a software run by AppFolio that allows the above types of payments.
  • Calling Tenants on the 3rd day of the month: Hopefully your tenants have paid their rent by this point. But if they have not yet paid rent, we suggest that you call and remind them that rent is due by the 1st and if it is not received by the next 3 business days, they will receive a notice and legal action will be taken.

Follow these tips to ensure that a tenant is never late on their rent again!


Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone. The contents of this blog should not be taken as legal advice. Always consult with an attorney.



Tenants and Utility Payments

If not handled correctly from day 1, utility payments can quickly become a touchy subject for both tenants and landlords alike.

As long as they are correctly metered, tenants are (unless specified otherwise) responsible for their own utilities. Occasionally we run into a situation where a tenant fails to transfer the utility into their name when they move into the unit.

Picture for a moment that you are a tenant who has just moved into a new apartment. You’ve just paid your landlord first month, last month, and a security deposit, hired and paid the moving company, called your cable company to set up cable and internet and finally settled into your new home… what’s left? Don’t forget about electricity and gas. “Tomorrow” you say… there’s been enough activity for one day. Tomorrow turns into next week, maybe even next month. If you’re a landlord or property manager who is on top of every one of your units, you’ve probably caught onto this oversight and began calling your new tenant to remind them of their obligation early on. Most of the time this is all it takes; one friendly reminder and the issue is resolved. What happens if you don’t catch it? It could be months before anybody realizes the error. By this point, depending on the season, your tenant may have racked up hundreds (maybe thousands) of dollars’ worth of utility bills that they have not been paying. The good news: utility companies can backdate bills to a requested date and you’ll be credited for any overpayment. The bad news: Good luck convincing your tenant to make this happen. They are legally obligated to do so, be firm and keep pushing.  When it’s all said and done, they will be fully responsible for whatever charges they’ve accumulated over that period of time.

We recently had a tenant who had been living in an apartment for over a year and never activated one of the utilities in their name. Strangely, the landlord was not receiving the bill either; it is as if this account was just sitting in limbo. In all likelihood, the service provider left the account active as a courtesy given the time of year and the cold weather. It was overlooked by many people for many months and finally… shut off. Tenants call the utility the next day and have service restored and a few weeks later, the bill arrives… Over 1 years’ worth of heating charges in one bill.

The takeaway: this can easily be prevented by both tenants and landlords if correct measures are put into place.

Landlords – Make sure it’s part of your property managers move in process to require that tenants provide proof that they have set up utilities in their name prior to signing a lease. You can also call utility companies in advance to notify them of the tenant moving in and to request a termination services effective on the move in date. They’ll always leave it on for a few extra days as a courtesy and to allow your new tenant time to call for the activation. If you catch the mistake late, do NOT terminate utilities on your tenants after they’ve moved in. This is a violation of a tenant’s right to quiet enjoyment and is illegal (be sure to consult with your attorney for legal advice). Most importantly, monitor your bills! Catch a mistake early and you’ll have a much easier time resolving it.

Tenants – understand your responsibilities and obligations! Ask questions up front to avoid surprises – Do you know how your apartment is heated? Who pays for electricity? Make sure you know in advance what utility companies you have to call and for what services. Utility companies will allow you to call in advance to set up a transfer on a future date, eliminating an unfortunate surprise.

Like many property management situations, a bit of preventative action can help avoid a major headache down the road.

Nothing in this blog is to be taken as legal advice. Always consult with an attorney.