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.

When the Courts Need to Get Involved…..

Michele - Thursday, June 4, 2015
Property Management Blog

With strict qualification criteria in place, we seldom need to proceed with tenant evictions (typically no more than 1 tenant per year with 250+ managed properties). While we have an excellent attorney on retainer and a swift process to proceed with eviction if necessary, we do want landlords to understand that late or non-payment of rent is always a possible risk with a rental property.

In Prince William County, the eviction process typically takes 6-8 weeks to complete. If we have not received rent by noon on the 5th of the month, we’ll give a courtesy call to the tenant to get a status on the rent payment. If rent is not received by 9AM on the 6th of the month, we will assess late fees and have the Sheriff post a 5 Day Notice of Material Non-Compliance to begin the legal process.

If the tenants have still not made a full rent payment 5 days after the notice has been posted, we will file an Unlawful Detainer with the General District Court and schedule an eviction hearing (typically about 3 weeks later).

At the time of the eviction hearing, if all of the paperwork is in order, the judge will grant immediate...

Annual Maintenance of Your Asset

Michele - Thursday, May 28, 2015
Property Management Blog

If you were still living in the home that has now become a rental property, you would likely be power washing and sealing the deck every 2 years, trimming the trees that begin brushing against the house, sealing the driveway before the cracks get too deep, and painting any peeling trim before the wood begins to rot.

These annual maintenance tasks are just as important on your rental property as they are on your primary residence. Deferring these maintenance items just pushes the cost into the future at a much higher price.

The better the house is maintained, the quicker it will rent and the better positioned it will be for eventual sale. Some of these maintenance items will need to be addressed if they become HOA violations, but landlords should be proactive about maintaining their properties, not just because the HOA requires them to do so, but also because it helps protect the long term value of their asset.

When preparing an annual budget for your rental property, we suggest factoring in expected costs of exterior maintenance over the next 3-5 years.

HOA Coordination

Michele - Monday, May 25, 2015
Property Management Blog

Most of our managed properties are located within communities that are governed by a Home Owner’s Association (HOA) or Condo Association. The lease will require that the tenants comply with all HOA regulations. In order to do so, the owner must provide a copy of the HOA regulations that pertain to parking, trash pick up, use of grills, exterior maintenance, etc.

Some HOAs also require that a landlord notify them when transitioning a home into a rental property and provide the association with a copy of the lease. Owners will need to check with their HOAs to find out if what specific requirements are in place for rental properties.

Owners should also let us know what additional coordination will be needed between our office and the HOA such as ensuring tenants have parking passes, visitor hang tags, pool passes, club house passes, gate entry cards, etc.

Owners must also provide the HOA with their forwarding address to ensure that they are notified promptly of any HOA violations. Many owners choose to have violation notices sent directly to our office so that we can take immediate action when notified.


VRLTA versus Common Law Leases

Michele - Thursday, May 14, 2015
Property Management Blog

In Virginia, if a landlord owns only one rental property, the owner may choose to lease that property subject to Common Law or subject to the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA). While the landlord does have that choice, at RPM Direct, it is our policy to prepare all leases subject to the VRLTA.

There are many differences between the two options, both of which do provide fair protection to both parties. The primary reasons that we’ve decided to use the VRLTA lease exclusively are related to the late payment of rent and the eviction process:

Under Common Law, when a 5-Day Pay or Quit Notice is posted on the tenant’s door, if the tenant decides to “Quit” or leave the property rather than to pay the past due rent, the lease is automatically terminated and no further rent is due from the tenant to the owner. Under VRTLA, when a 5-Day Notice of Material Non-Compliance is posted, even if the tenant leaves the property, he or she is still financially responsible for payment of rent through the remainder of the lease term, subject to the owner’s duty to attempt to find a replacement tenant.

Under C...

Ready to Rent Policy

Michele - Sunday, May 10, 2015
Property Management Blog

In order to maximize owner cashflow and minimize vacancy, our company has the following goals for tenant procurement:

  1. To have a lease signed within 21 days of a property going on the market
  2. To have a tenant move-in within 45 days of a property going on the market

In order to meet these goals, homes must be in “Ready to Rent” condition as defined below. Agents will not begin marketing a home until the home meets the following criteria:

Vacant Homes:

  1. Lawn must be cut and shrubs must be trimmed and maintained in that condition throughout the listing period. During the winter months, the porch, steps, walkway and sidewalk must be free of ice or snow and maintained in that condition throughout the listing period.
  2. All trash must be removed from house and garage.
  3. Home must be free of insects and pests.
  4. Home must be clean and ready for move in – bathrooms, floors, appliances, etc.
  5. Carpets must be professionally cleaned.
  6. All smoke detectors and light bulbs must be in place and operational.
  7. All planned repairs must be completed. If repairs are scheduled, but not yet completed, agent will post a sign...
$$$$ Prepare for HVAC Costs $$$$$

Michele - Thursday, April 30, 2015
Property Management Blog

Repair or replacement costs of an HVAC system are major contributors to the maintenance budget of a landlord. With recent requirements on the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) imposed the the Department of Energy (Click Here for More Details) coupled with the conversion from R-22 to R-410A refrigerant dictated by the EPA (Click Here for More Details) costs to repair or replace an HVAC system are likely to catch landlords by surprise. In most cases, installation of a new system will cost over $5K. Any major repairs will also be costly as the may require a conversion kit/process or the capture/recovery of refrigerant.

We suggest that landlords be aware of the age of their HVAC system and its the projected life span. With the rising costs of system repairs and replacement refrigerant, we suggest landlords put an annual HVAC contract for spring and fall cleaning/check in place to prolong the life of their systems.

If an air conditioning unit stops functioning during the peak summer temperatures, tenants will be requesting (actually ex...

“As-Is” Appliances End Up Adding to Long Term Costs

Michele - Thursday, April 23, 2015
Property Management Blog

Occasionally, a landlord transitioning his or her home to a rental property will ask about the option of providing the appliances to the tenant in “as-is” condition. This means that the owner is providing working appliances at the beginning of the lease term, but if the appliances fail, the owner will not be required to repair or replace the appliances.

While this seems beneficial to a landlord on the surface and while a tenant may agree to this scenario at the time of lease signing, I believe that this dynamic can easily backfire and cost the owner more than the cost of the repair that he or she is trying to avoid.

Say, for instance, that the owner decides to provide the washer and dryer in “as-is” condition. If the washer fails during the first few months of the lease, the tenant will typically suspect that the owner knew that there was a potential problem. This sets the stage for lack of trust and will likely impact the tenant’s commitment to keep the property well maintained. If the washer fails later during the lease term, the tenant may not feel that the owner knew of a pending problem, but would still be upset about the prospect of living i...

Late Rent Realities

Michele - Thursday, April 16, 2015
Property Management Blog

Due to consistent administration of rental qualification criteria, we are presenting qualified applicants to our owners and have not initiated eviction proceedings against a tenant in over a year.

We do occasionally experience late payments by tenants. With 250 properties currently under management, we average 3-4 tenants per month who pay rent after the 5th. Typically these tenants will have informed us in advance that they will be paying a portion of their rent late, and typically full payment is received by the 15th. If we have not received rent from a tenant by the 6th of the month, a late fee will be assessed and the tenants will be sent a legal notice demanding payment within 5 days to avoid initiation of the eviction process. Late fees collected will be forwarded to the owner. Any exceptions or additional grace periods must be approved in advance by the owner.

We also experience approximately 3 returned checks per month. We initiate rental funds transfers to the owners on the 7th of the month. Sometimes, a tenant's rent check is returned for non-sufficient funds after we have already transferred the rent payment to the owner. In this case...

Month-to-Month Leases - Good or Bad?

Michele - Thursday, April 9, 2015
Property Management Blog

Many local Realtors prepare leases so that after the initial lease term, the lease converts automatically to a month-to-month lease at the same rental rate. We typically advise owners against month-to-month leases and suggest annual leases with specific lease end dates.

If a lease does not have a specific end date, neither the landlord nor the tenant can appropriately plan in advance for an optimal course of action when a 60-day notice is given. Additionally, the rental market slows down significantly during the winter months, so allowing a tenant to provide a termination notice during the slow time of the year is not in the landlord’s best interest.

To further construct leases to take advantage of the spring/summer markets, if an owner is moving out during the winter months, we will suggest starting with an 18 month initial lease in order to get the property onto a spring/summer lease schedule.

Military on the Move!

Michele - Thursday, April 2, 2015
Property Management Blog

Almost every time that I sit across from a new landlord and ask about their goals for transitioning their home into a rental property, they mention that the perfect scenario would be for a Military family to rent their home for 3 years. Landlords expect that Military families would make perfect tenants based on the housing allowances provided and the level of financial accountability that is expected/demanded of a service member.We do market our listings on the Military targeted web sites and about half of our tenants are Military, so many of our owners do end up signing long term leases with active duty Military families.

It is important that landlords are also aware of the protective clause that is included in our lease. All Virginia leases include a Military Clause as required by the Service Members Civil Relief Act which allows Military tenants to break their lease without penalty with a 30-60 day notice if they receive orders to transfer to a new duty station or retire or leave the service. This week we received early termination requests from 3 different tenants who received orders and will be terminating their leases early after less than one year in the property. Since the ma...

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