Woodbridge Property Management Blog

Local Property Management News

New Landlords - we request that you read through all of our blog entries as some of the older posts contain the most important information that we’d like to share.

Authorization Limits – Critical to Effective Management

Michele - Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Property Management Blog

Our property management agreement includes a provision for our staff to authorize any maintenance costs up to $250 on behalf of the owner. This provision is critical to our ability to provide effective management of your property.

If your tenant reports a leaking pipe, a sparking outlet, a gas leak in the oven, or a lack of heat in December, we will need to promptly dispatch an appropriate vendor.  Such licensed or specialized vendors charge between $75-$125 for a service call or diagnostic fee.  Upon diagnosis and proposal of a repair, the vendor is owed the service call fee.  If the overall proposed repair cost is under $250, it does not make financial or logistical sense for us hold off approving these minor repairs when doing so could result in a second service call fee and an increase in the cost of the repair.  

The vendors that we dispatch on a regular basis (Popes Heating and Air, J.E. Black Electric, ASAP Appliances, Repair 99, JC Plumbing, Red & Blue Plumbing Services, Workhouse Plumbing, C&P Plumbing) have been working with us for years, providing us with excellent service and competitive rates.  They have handled THOUSANDS of maintenance calls for us.  We t...

What about adding Mom or Dad as a Co-Signer for the lease?

Michele - Monday, August 5, 2019
Property Management Blog

Nope!  Unfortunately, that will not be an option for our managed properties.

Use of a co-signer is prevalent in the car loan and student housing industries.  

Accordingly, the software, credit reporting systems, and collection practices for those industries include a streamlined process for use of a co-signer.   In the single family rental market in Northern Virginia, the process is not commonplace, our regional leasing contracts do not have a provision for co-signers, rent payments are typically not reported to credit bureaus, and late rent usually triggers the eviction process.

We do occasionally have requests for use of co-signers.  These requests are generally related to young adults who have not yet established credit, not yet developed a rental history, or not yet achieved an income level that will support the qualifying criteria to rent a property on their own.  In these cases, we allow for the parent who offered to co-sign to apply as a tenant on the lease.  The parent would need to sign the lease and be held fully responsible for all terms of the lease. 

 After further discussion with willing parents, and a full understanding of why we do not off...

It Needs To Be In Writing!

Michele - Monday, July 15, 2019
Property Management Blog

The lease (developed by the Northern Virginia Association of Realtors) between the landlord and the tenant is 14 pages long.  Less than ONE page pertains to the topic of paying rent.   There are lots of other details involved in a lease regarding start and end dates, required notices, responsibilities of each party, and rights that can be evoked when certain events or circumstances occur.

Because the lease is the legal document agreed to by all parties, any decision to change terms of the lease should be memorialized in writing.  A verbal agreement is typically entered into based on an optimal set of circumstances.  Should those circumstances change, verbal agreements are often forgotten or remembered differently by each party.

Two years ago, the owner of one of our managed properties stopped in to see the tenant on the day of move-in.  The landlord provided the tenant with a bag of grass seed an instructed her on how and when to apply the seed.  A few months later, the tenant reported to us that she was concerned about the responsibility that the owner had put on her regarding the grass seed and that she would not be applying the seed to the lawn.  As our management comp...

New VA Landlord Tenant Law Requires Action by Landlords to Certify Smoke Alarms

Michele - Thursday, March 21, 2019
Property Management Blog

While landlords and property managers have always been required to test smoke alarms, a new Virginia Landlord Tenant Law now requires that tenants be provided with an annual written certification that smoke alarms are correctly installed and functioning properly.

In order to fully comply with this new requirement, we have hired Stop Loss LLC to conduct the annual certifications.  Stop Loss inspectors are all off-duty fire fighters who have a vested interest in ensuring our managed properties are compliant with state laws and are free of safety risks.  In addition to testing all smoke alarms, inspectors will walk through the home and identify any other fire safety risks.

Inspectors will ensure that smoke alarms must be located in each bedroom and on each level of the home.  Smoke detectors must also be less than 10 years old.   Inspectors will replace any defective alarms and install any missing smoke alarms.  For homes that have natural gas utilities, one Carbon Monoxide alarm will also be installed.

Owners are charged for these certifications.  Tenants will be held financially responsible if they have removed or disabled any smoke alarms.  These certifications will...

Nine Lessons Learned in Ten Years of Management

System - Wednesday, February 20, 2019
Property Management Blog

New landlords often ask me what the most important things they need to know are before they transition their home into a rental property. In response to that question, I usually review the risks associated with vacancy, with late rents, and with deferred maintenance. But most new landlords are already familiar with those risks. So, I'd like to share the Nine Lessons that I’ve learned in the past ten years of management that often take a landlord by surprise.

  1. Gas hot water heaters are expensive to replace. Due to permit requirements and the need to bring venting up to current code, the cost to replace a gas hot water heater could easily exceed $1500. Tenants want hot water now. While not considered an actual emergency, lack of hot water that is not addressed promptly usually impacts the relationship between landlord and tenant. If you have a gas hot water heater that has exceeded its life expectancy, please incorporate that into your planning budget.
  2. The home warranty company is not going to replace your HVAC system. Many landlords with older homes maintain a home warranty with the expectation that the warranty company will replace the system. Warranty comp...
Our Responsibility to Educate and Advise Unintentional Investors

Michele - Wednesday, January 2, 2019
Property Management Blog

Attending NARPM® events and participating in online property management discussion groups is a great way to get ideas from around the country on how to handle challenges, grow your business, develop policies and procedures, and brainstorm with fellow property managers. As I’ve participated in these events and discussions over the past eight years, I’m always surprised when I hear property managers refer to some of their clients as accidental landlords.

The accidental landlord moniker is often used to describe a homeowner who purchased their home recently, or at the top of the market. That landlord is typically moving out of the area due to a job transfer and cannot sell the home without bringing money to the table. But the term accidental landlord conjures up an image in my mind of a landlord tripping and falling, getting his or her knees scraped or arm broken, as they stumble their way through the risks and pitfalls of owning a rental property. As property managers, we shouldn’t want, expect or tolerate anything accidental.

Rather than referring to our landlords as having accidentally entered into their relationship with a tenant and their responsibility to the...

An Aversion to Vacancy

System - Monday, December 3, 2018
Property Management Blog

When discussing a target rental rate with landlords, I typically describe the need to balance between the competing goals of maximizing their cash flow and minimizing their vacancy. Setting a higher listing price will hopefully result in a more positive cash flow, while setting a lower listing price will more likely result in more interest from prospective tenants, a quicker move-in date, and a decreased likelihood of extended vacancy.

Personally, when setting a listing price for my own rental properties, I lean toward the lower range of the suggested listing price because I have a complete aversion to vacancy! Vacancy not only equals lack of cash flow, but also introduces many risks.

First, a landlord’s insurance policy may require additional coverage for properties that are vacant for more than 30 days. Landlords should always check with their insurance provider to understand their policy’s requirements regarding coverage during vacancies.

Vacant properties can become a “hang out” for teens to congregate around or break into. We’ve had several instances of teens breaking into vacant properties during the winter months to find a warm place to smoke. In some areas of our...

Do We Need to Accept a Tenant with a Service Animal or Emotional Support Animal if We Have Already D...

System - Monday, November 12, 2018
Property Management Blog

You probably saw the video that went viral when an airline did not allow a woman to take her emotional support peacock on a plane. You may have also heard that miniature pot-bellied pigs are gradually becoming a popular choice for emotional support animals because they are highly intelligent, attentive, and extremely affectionate.

You may not have heard, but need to be aware, that new Fair Housing regulations provide clear guidance that service animals and emotional support animals are not considered pets and therefor cannot be considered by a landlord or property manager when making a decision regarding accepting an application for tenancy. In addition, a pet deposit cannot be required. Fair Housing guidelines also stipulate that applicants must provide appropriate medical documentation showing the need for the emotional support animals.

An emotional support animal provides companionship, relieves loneliness, and can sometimes help with depression, anxiety, and certain phobias. These animals do not have any special training or certifications.

A service animal is typically a dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.

This week, we...

Can I Kick the Tenants out to Sell the House? Or can I Sell the House with the Tenants in Place?

System - Thursday, November 1, 2018
Property Management Blog

As many of our landlords are not professional investors, when market conditions are more favorable, or when something happens in their life that makes owning a rental property difficult, landlords sometimes ask us if they can terminate the lease in order to sell the property.

The lease is a contract between 2 parties (tenant and landlord). Each party depends on the other to fulfill their end of the contract. There are only 2 provisions in the lease that allow for early termination without penalty:

  1. A tenant who receives Military Orders has the right to terminate the lease without penalty.
  2. A landlord who lives outside of the area at the start of the lease may also terminate the lease if he/she is transferred back to the area and intends to move back into the home.

Except for these two reasons, the lease cannot be terminated cleanly. If it is important for a landlord to explore the selling the home, we can offer the tenant the option to move out early, or incentivize them to do so. This year, two of our landlords asked tenants to move out early and tenants took immediate action. Two other landlords asked tenants to move out early and those tenants were not open to moving due to financ...

What If a Tenant Wants To…Or Needs To… Break a Lease?

Michele - Monday, October 8, 2018
Property Management Blog

The lease is clear, it is a contract between two parties, and the tenant is responsible for paying all rent through the lease end date.

There are only two provisions in the lease that allow for termination without penalty. First, the landlord may terminate the lease with a 60-day notice if he/she is being transferred back to the DC area by his/her employer and intends to move back into the home. Second, a tenant who is in the Military may terminate the lease when he/she receives orders. In some scenarios (if negotiated in advance), a non-Military tenant may also terminate the lease due to a job transfer.

Due to the realities of life, there are many reasons why a tenant would request to break their lease - a sick mother in California that needs to be cared for, a job opportunity in Cleveland close to where the grandkids live, low interests rates opening up unexpected options for a home purchase, the loss of a job, or a family emergency. While we realize that everyone’s reason may be different, seem justifiable, or require special accommodations, we treat all requests for lease breaks in the same way so that we are sure to be in compliance with Fair Housing Laws.

If a tenant requests a lease brea...

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