Tenant Guide: HVAC Maintenance for Your Rental Home

What You Need to Know About HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning)

Here is your tenant guide to HVAC Maintenance. You may have heard the term “HVAC” at one time or another in reference to heating and cooling systems. Simply put, the term “HVAC” stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. The HVAC system is comprised of an inside unit, an outside unit and a system of interior ductwork. In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about HVAC maintenance for your rental home, and how an HVAC system can affect your living comfort.

Do Rental Homes Require HVAC Systems?

When it comes to an HVAC system versus other types of heating and cooling units, you will find a big difference. First, landlords are not required to provide an actual HVAC system however, heating in a rental home is required in every state. This includes hot running water along with a separate heat source for the home. Air conditioning is another matter though because not all states require an air conditioning unit for a rental home. Please note that every home in our managed inventory does in fact have some manner of air conditioning, typically an HVAC system or in a few cases, window units.

heating, ventilation and air conditioning filter replacement

The Importance of HVAC Maintenance

Why is it important to maintain an HVAC system? Well, if an HVAC unit is not properly maintained, it can affect its overall performance. Whether it’s in the middle of winter or during those hot summer days, the job of an HVAC system is to keep you nice and comfortable in your rental home. HVAC maintenance for your rental home is important!

If the HVAC system is not properly maintained, it can struggle to keep your home at the desired temperature. The unit will run longer than it should and can even increase your monthly utility bills. It could also require repairs which may have been avoided with correct maintenance, and these often-costly repairs could actually be charged to the tenant. Let’s go over some common maintenance issues you may encounter.

Tenant Guide: HVAC Maintenance for Your Rental Home

Tenant Guide: HVAC Maintenance for Your Rental Home

Tenant Guide: HVAC Maintenance for Your Rental Home

As a tenant, two things that you should be on the lookout for in your home are fluctuating temperatures and decreased airflow. If the system struggles to keep your home at the selected temperature and never turns off, it could be a sign of mechanical failure. This is especially true with heat pumps although they typically have longer operating cycles than gas-fired units. If your home has a programmable thermostat, a simple programming issue may be the cause. In this case, the tenant should check the thermostat’s manual to confirm that everything is correct with the daily settings. On the other hand, if you notice reduced air flow from your vents, you probably have a clogged furnace filter.

Leave It to the Professionals

When it comes to HVAC maintenance and repairs, it is always best to leave it to the professionals. Even though a problem may seem easy to fix, you could void the warranty if you try to fix it yourself. You should always leave complicated HVAC issues to a qualified HVAC technician. Should you try to repair it yourself, you will most likely incur the repair cost if you damage the unit in the process. However, it is imperative that you change the filter(s) on your HVAC system (even window A/C units have filters!) regularly, at a minimum of every three months. Failure to do so can cause the system to fail and the cost to repair would again most likely be yours.

When to Contact Your Property Manager

It’s important to promptly submit a maintenance request when you believe that something is wrong with your HVAC system. Once you’ve done so, WJD Management will assign a technician to come to your home and address the problem. For example, if the system is set to air conditioning but it’s not cooling your home, this can be the sign of a refrigerant leak, which should also be investigated only by an HVAC professional.

What Can You Do as the Tenant?

Tenant Guide: Everything HVAC

Tenant Guide: Everything HVAC

Although there are many things you shouldn’t fix on your own, you can do a few things that will help maintain the HVAC system. One of the most important aspects of maintaining an HVAC unit is changing or cleaning the air filter on a regular basis. The manufacturers usually recommend that you change your air filter(s) once a month or at least every three months. Most often there is only one filter which is located inside or next to the furnace. Larger homes may also have filters where the return air vents are located. Regardless, your Property Condition Report will identify where they all are located.

If you fail to properly clean or change the air filter(s) regularly, this can fall under tenant neglect. Changing the batteries in the thermostat is another simple yet important step you can take as the tenant.

Wear and Tear Vs. Neglect

The differences between reasonable wear and tear versus neglect can be subtle. It’s important that both the tenant and landlord know these differences. The goal here is to keep both parties on the same page to avoid any disagreements. Here are some examples of wear and tear compared to neglect:

Wear and Tear

  • Fan belts
  • Motors and bearings
  • Evaporator coils
  • Refrigerant leaks

Neglect

  • Failure to clean or change air filter(s)
  • Failure to replace thermostat batteries
  • Failure to keep weeds and debris away from the outside unit
  • Failure to keep the condensate drain free of debris

How to Keep the HVAC Running Efficiently

As a tenant, it is important to keep the HVAC system running smoothly. By doing this, you’ll be able to control your utility bills and remain comfortable all year long. The following steps can help keep your HVAC system running at an optimized level:

  • Programming the thermostat (where applicable)
  • Replacing the air filters regularly
  • Clearing debris from around the outside unit
  • Keeping the condensate drain open

These are the most important steps you can take to maximize the efficiency of your HVAC system. Remember, maintenance is the key to always keeping your home comfortable during the year. Hopefully, this article has clarified your role as a tenant regarding the HVAC system in your home. If you have any questions, you can always contact us. Just be sure to review this article first.

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3 Reasons Why You Should Rent Through a Property Management Company

If you are looking for a single-family residence, a townhome or a condo rental but are unsure of difference between renting from a professional property management company versus renting directly from a homeowner or renting from a Realtor who is not working with a property management company, look no further as we explain the differences!

Why you should not rent directly from a homeowner

If the homeowner lives locally, he or she may decide to visit unannounced and/or peer into your windows. If he or she is not local, you may have difficulty reaching the owner whenever you need to get something fixed or in the event of an emergency.

If the homeowner does not use a property manager or a real estate professional when finding a tenant, he or she is evidently unwilling to incur that cost, so the home is most likely infested with DIY fixes and/or those done by questionable contractors. And you will probably be nickel and dimed to death with repair deductibles.

In addition to these issues, the owner most likely used a lease found on the internet which may not afford you adequate protection. Worst of all, your security deposit probably ended up in his or her personal checking account.

Why you should not rent from a Realtor who is not working with a professional property manager.

If you are considering using a Realtor to help you find a rental home, the individual may be the consummate professional who can find the ideal residence for you. However, if the Realtor is not working with a professional property manager, as soon as the ink is dry on your lease you’re going to be on your own and probably subjected to the  issues mentioned in the previous section. The Realtor in this case only had a contractual relationship with the homeowner for as long as it took to find a tenant. Once the lease was signed, the relationship concluded and the Realtor no longer had the authority to come to your defense should you experience and of those issues.

Why you should not rent from a professional property management company that also sells real estate.

While nearly all local professional property management companies provide a similar suite of services, believe it or not, not all property management firms are created equal! The primary difference among these firms in our area has to do with whether or not they offer real estate sales services. Typically, real estate firms focus mainly on real estate sales. The real estate industry is mostly commission-based and listing homes for sale has the potential of generating a large volume of revenue. The firms which offer professional property management as well unfortunately do this primarily as a way to create income when the sales market becomes depressed. And because property management is basically a means to an end in that regard, these firms generally allocate minimal resources for it. The property management wing of these firms is often understaffed so the property managers are constantly racing around putting out fires and trying to keep up. And their inventory of managed homes suffers accordingly as do the tenants living in these homes. Because of the vast difference between sales revenues and property management revenues, the focus of firms that offer both services will always be on sales. This is especially true for the firms which manage fewer than 100 homes. Faced with addressing a leaking dishwasher or a million dollar sale falling apart, you know what their priority is going to be.

What sets WJD Management apart from all the other professional property management companies in our area.

Of course, you can imagine we’re telling you all this to convince you that WJD Management is the best residential property management company in Northern Virginia to rent from. But the truth is, we are the only licensed real estate brokerage in our area that does not have a real estate sales arm. This means that our focus is 100% on managing the rental homes in our inventory, as our many five-star tenant reviews can attest to!

What tenants love about WJD Management 

  • Online Maintenance Request Process
  • Convenient Online Rental Payment System
  • Long-Term Renters Welcome
  • Pet-Friendly homes
  • 24/7 Emergency Service
  • Security Deposit Held in an FDIC Insured Escrow Account
  • Only Class A General Contractors Used, No “Handymen”
  • Telephone Calls Answered By A Live Staff Member

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Tenants: 18 Ways to Get Your Security Deposit Back

Tenants, are you looking for 18 ways to get your security deposit back? When everything is ready and a tenant can get 100 percent of that deposit back, it’s a big win for everyone. We want to see every tenant get their full security deposit back–and it’s important to note that WJD has no financial incentive to withhold any part of tenants’ deposit money.

For us, it’s a matter of making sure the homeowner is protected against surprise out-of-pocket maintenance expenses, repairs, or cleaning costs, and it helps guard against delays in getting the property back on the rental market.

To help make sure things go smoothly, and to help you get your deposit back, here’s our ultimate advice guide for getting every cent of your deposit back.

Please note that these are only suggestions. The process of returning a deposit is individual to each tenant, and following all of the below steps will not necessarily result in a full refund.

Immediately After You Move In

1. Review Your Property Condition Report (PCR), sign it, and return it to the WJD office within 10 days of move-in. The report states that your home is in the same condition we want it to be in at the end of your lease and will be used as a point of reference when you move out. Be sure to make detailed remarks on the form should you note any problems with the home, such as malfunctioning appliances, carpet stains, paint blemishes, etc., so that you are not charged for these issues when your security deposit is refunded.

Pro Tip: Always keep a copy of your Property Condition Report on file.

Throughout Your Tenancy:

Do yourself a favor by making sure your required maintenance is up to date. That way, when you move out, you won’t be facing a massive list of “to-do’s” that have resulted from a year of neglect. See below for suggested maintenance tips. You can also check out our  maintenance guide here, which can be found in your Tenant Handbook as well.

2. Ensure all maintenance is requested online. If something breaks, you must immediately submit a Maintenance Request from our website as we cannot take this information over the phone. Be as detailed as possible about the problem so that we can determine who to send to fix it. Do not try to fix it yourself!

3. Keep up to date on your fireplace cleaning and inspection. This must be done even if you never use the fireplace. Also remember that you are responsible for cleaning the ashes that result from burning wood, as the fire inspection company does not usually do this.

Tips to Get Your Deposit Back

4. Make sure to keep your gutters clean throughout the year. The cost of a gutter cleaning usually ranges between $50 and $200 depending on the size of your home and the amount of guttering it has. Be sure to use one of our recommended gutter cleaners for best results!

Pro Tip: At the beginning of your lease, immediately add a calendar reminder to get your gutters cleaned periodically. Try to schedule a final gutter clean about a two weeks before you move out, just to make sure they’re clear and you’ve left yourself plenty of time.

5. Replace light bulbs. We recommend getting LED lights at the beginning of your lease. LEDs have plummeted in price recently (three of them cost about $10), so you’ll definitely get your money’s worth by reducing electric bills. Also they should still be going strong at lease’s end!

6. Regularly replace furnace filters. If you change filters monthly as recommended you’ll reduce your heating bills, make the home more comfortable during the cold weather, and avoid add-on charges for replacement at move-out.

Pro tip: Write down sizes, or take pictures of your filters so you can easily reference them (sizes are included in the PCR). Also, you might want to consider buying in bulk through Amazon.

7. Keep your HVAC system clean and well-maintained. Check to see that all supply and return air vents are clean and unobstructed and make sure the condensation drain is not clogged or obstructed. If the property has a radiant heat system, make sure there are no leaking valves or radiators.

8. Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Battery-operated models will begin making an intermittent chirping sound when the battery runs low, and you can easily replace the battery. Hard-wired models will do the same but have no bettery–so when one of these units goes bad you must submit a maintenance request to have it replaced. In either case, test the units periodically to make sure they are in working order.

When You Move Out:

By following the steps below, you’ll make our job easier, which makes everything go much more smoothly.

9. Schedule carpet cleaning. If you have a pet, be sure to order a tick and flea treatment. Our lease requires this at move-out, even if you have no carpets in your home. Be sure to use an approved vendor to clean your carpets. Should you use an outside vendor and their work is determined to be sub-standard, we will have to have your carpets cleaned again by one of our approved vendors, at your expense. Avoid paying for this service twice!

10. Clean! And clean thoroughly. thoroughly.​Remember that when you move out, the property should be left in the same condition as it was when you moved in. This is why it is imperative that you return your PCR right after you move in noting any discrepancies, otherwise you might be charged for pre­existing problems! Common cleaning items that are missed include:

  • Under the refrigerator
  • On top of the refrigerator
  • Inside the oven, oven drawer and underneath the oven
  • Under stove burners
  • Sides of toilets
  • Range hood and exhaust fan filters (Note that you can put them in the dishwasher to make things much easier!)
  • Crumbs in cabinets/drawers
  • Washer and dryer lint.

Pro Tip: Remember to clean the gutters one last time and have the fireplaces cleaned and inspected. Make sure to provide a copy of your receipt for each service.

11. If you hire a cleaning service, make sure you ask for “detail cleaning.” To make sure your money is well spent (and to get all of your security deposit back), be sure to use a recommended WJD vendor. Also, remember to ask for detail cleaning and not surface cleaning.

12. Double-check to make sure you’ve replaced all light-bulbs and furnace filters one last time. Even if you forget to replace just one light bulb that was working when you moved in, we will have to send a contractor to replace it. So, even though the actual light bulb may just cost a couple of dollars, your cost is going to be a minimum $75 trip charge plus the cost of the bulb. The same holds true for furnace filters.

13. Take out the trash. It’s such a simple step, and it would be silly to forget and cause a minimum service fee

14. Perform all necessary lawn care. This is going to differ for each tenant, so check your lease for specifics of what to include (i.e. mowing, pruning, weeding, raking, etc.) Again, if you want to hire someone to take care of this for you, please use one of our recommended vendors for best results.

Tips to Get Your Deposit Back

15. Make the final inspection an easy process by preparing beforehand. Once inspection begins, tenants are not allowed to clean, add finishing touches, etc. Leave all keys, fobs, placards, remotes, and receipts on your kitchen counter; and have the property ready for inspection when the inspectors arrive. It will make everything go much more smoothly.

16. Stagger the work being done, beginning two weeks out from your move-out date. This will keep you from becoming overwhelmed, and will allow you to do one last cleaning spree before inspection. By getting everything done beforehand, we can come and do our job and help you check out quickly and smoothly.

17. Schedule services before the day of check-out. If you’re hiring professional cleaners, don’t have them come the same day as your check-out inspection. Remember that carpets should be dried from carpet cleaning prior to inspection. Essentially, you want to ensure the home is in the exact same condition it was when you moved in. This is most easily accomplished by getting the big stuff out of the way in advance.

Pro Tip: To keep track of everything, we suggest you print off our Move-Out Checklist and post it on your refrigerator or counter. This checklist can also be found in your Tenant Handbook.

18. Ask questions. Ask questions. Ask questions. Communicate ahead of time if there are any issues you have questions about. For example, if you aren’t sure how to clean a fixture or appliance that you’re responsible for or if you are having difficulty accessing light fixtures in high-ceilinged homes, let us know! We can probably recommend just the right tool or cleaning tips.

Concluding:

Moving out is a time-consuming process, but there’s no need for it to be expensive as well. By following the above guidelines, you will dramatically reduce the possibility of having to lose some of your security deposit. And by making it easier for us to do our job, you’ll probably speed up the refund process. Thank you, and we hope you find these tips helpful.

Tax Advantages for Rental Property Owners

Looking for some tax advantages for Rental Property Owners? Owning an investment property or rental property in Northern Virginia is a wise investment – and there are tax deductions that you can use to your advantage as a rental property owner.

Consider this: Your investment property is an income-generating business. Typically, ROI comes through the rental income you get from your tenants.

But there might be costs you incur on an ongoing basis to make that rental income. Whether paying property taxes, doing repairs, or hiring a property manager, these expenses help you rent your property out to good tenants–but they add up!

Many of your expenses and costs ARE tax deductions. These costs can be deducted against your rental property income and should be on your radar to make the rental property an even more worthwhile investment.

Rental Property Tax Deductions

There is a multitude of tax deductions. Every property is different, and there are various costs associated with the upkeep of your rental property. These are the most common deductions you should have on your radar as a rental property owner.

Mortgage Interest

Your mortgage payment includes two parts – one part goes towards paying down your loan, and the other is the interest you pay on borrowing the money. The interest that you pay on your mortgage can be deducted against your tax bill every year.

Any fees that you paid to get your mortgage, like origination fees, are not deductible when you paid them. But you might be able to deduct them over the term of the loan.

Property Tax

Property taxes are an ongoing cost of owning a rental property. The amount of property tax you pay will differ based on the location of your property in Northern Virginia, and the value of your property.

You can deduct the amount you pay in property taxes on your tax return against your rental property income.

Depreciation

Over time, you might consider improving your property – repairing a roof, adding a new room, or a patio – which might be a large sum of money. But they may help you rent out the property at a better rent.

These are capital improvements, and they often increase the value of your property.

While you cannot deduct the total amount in your taxes in the year you paid them, you can deduct them over time. Every year, you may be able to deduct a small portion – called depreciation – to reduce your tax burden.

Some capital improvement items are:

  • Replacing the roof
  • A new furnace
  • Changing the flooring
  • Repairs

As a property owner, you will incur many ongoing expenses with your property. It could be refreshing the paint job, fixing lightbulbs, patching holes in your walls. These constant repairs are often needed to maintain your property so you can rent it out to good tenants.

You can take a tax deduction for the full cost of the repairs in the same year as you paid for them.

Some typical repairs include:

  • Getting the furnace cleaned or repaired
  • Painting the rooms
  • Mowing the lawn
  • Advertising and Professional Services

As the owner of an investment property, you may not have the time to wear all the hats in your rental property business.

You might enlist a property manager to help run the ongoing operations of your property smoothly. Maybe you want to get professional help to market your property to get better rent.

Or you might choose to get help in other administrative areas of your business – such as tax or legal.

These costs can be deducted against your rental income to reduce the taxes you owe on your rental income business.

Some common professional services are:

  • Property Manager
  • Accountants
  • Tax Preparers
  • Lawyers
  • Real Estate Professionals
  • Other Expenses

Every investment property is different. The expenses you incur may depend on where your property is located or how the rental property is structured. Some other expenses that many property owners have are:

  1. Insurance – to avoid any risk or liability related to your
  2. Utilities – if you pay the utilities – not your tenants – you can deduct an additional cost.
  3. Supplies – maybe you DIY some easy repairs. The cost of the supplies can be deducted as an expense.
  4. Keeping tabs on the different expenses in your business and knowing the tax rules can help you make the best return from your rental property business.

Tips for Property Tax Advantages

Keep good records

When filing your taxes, it is essential to keep good records to help prepare your tax returns and to support the items you want to deduct on your tax returns.

Supporting items such as receipts, invoices, and agreements can help you or your accountant prepare accurate tax returns. They can also give you a better idea of how your property is doing financially and whether there are areas for improvement.

Repairs and improvements

Both repairs and improvements can be expensive. It is vital to keep on top of them to ensure that your rental property is smoothly and in good shape.

There is a distinction between repairs and improvements for tax purposes, and when you can take advantage of these deductions for tax purposes.

It is vital as a rental property owner to know the differences or ask a professional so that you can best take advantage of the tax rules without being penalized.

Loss Rules for Passive investor vs. Professional

Depending on the state of your property, the location of your rental property, or general economic times, there may be months that your property remains vacant. At the same time, you might continue to incur expenses like utilities or property taxes.

The IRS places no limits if you are considered a real estate professional, but if you are a passive investor, there are limits for how much of the loss can be deducted.

It is essential to know whether you are a passive or professional investor in the eyes of the IRS. A tax professional may be able to help avoid tax penalties.

Rental Property Tax Advantages

A rental property can be a source of additional income. If you can fully take advantage of the tax rules in place, it can also offer tax deductions. Knowing the tax deductions and rules can help you generate income from your rental property for years to come.

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your home, feel free to take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

7 Tips for Retaining Good Tenants

Any landlord who has been renting out for a while can tell you of bad experiences they had with problematic tenants. Of course, not all tenants are like this, but the bad ones stick out, and we tend to remember them more. Another thing they can tell you is that good tenants are worth their weight in gold. Once you find reliable renters who never cause problems and always pay on time, you should go out of your way to make sure they feel welcome and stay with you for a long time. Here are 7 tips for retaining good tenants.

A happy couple eating in bed

Be responsive to their requests

First of all, you need to be easy to reach, so try to establish good communication and be available to receive calls and messages. When your tenants approach you with any issues, you need to respond quickly. Address maintenance issues in a timely fashion and fix things on the property without making the tenants wait for days without any reason. However, you need to be wary of tenants who constantly damage your property. If calls for repairs are too frequent, there might be an underlying issue that you need to address. However, when it comes to regular maintenance, you need to let your tenants know that you are there and willing to help.

Make new tenants feel welcome

First impressions matter, so do your best to start off on the right foot. A good way to do so is to help your new tenants get settled. You can even help them move in by recommending the movers from fairfaxtransfer.com and be there to greet them when they arrive. Being there for the move-in is a way to ensure none of your property gets damaged. It’s much better to have professionals carrying the heavy stuff than clumsy tenants who don’t know what they are doing.

Give them a tour of the property and the surrounding area and perhaps a welcoming gift. It doesn’t need to be anything special, just some cupcakes or a welcoming drink. This will set your relationship off to a good start. It’s definitely much better than just doing a move-in inspection and giving them a list of dos and don’ts. If you are looking for tips for retaining good tenants, you need to make renters want to stay in your property from day one.

Help your tenants move in and get settled

Help your tenants move in and get settled

Have the right amenities

Make sure your property is properly equipped with everything your tenants need. If you have never lived there yourself, you can consider talking to the tenants to see if anything is missing. Update the appliances, but don’t leave mismatched sets. The home will look and feel much nicer if everything is new and matches together well. You can organize a garage sale to get rid of the old unwanted items. If you want to keep your tenants happy, you can do so by keeping an eye out for their needs and requests.

Carefully approach the lease renewal

Before it’s time for the current lease to expire, talk to your tenants and remind them in advance that they are up for renewal. Most landlords have a habit of increasing the rent when the lease is renewed. Your tenants will probably expect that; just be careful not to go overboard and increase the rent too much. This is where most landlords make mistakes and scare off good tenants. One of our most important tips for retaining good tenants is to be competitive with the rent. If you have tenants that you want to keep around for a long time, you can place your rent below market value.

You can sweeten the deal and offer tenants a discount on the next month’s rent if they renew the lease. Other things you can offer them are a choice from a list of upgrades when they renew. If you realize you are having trouble setting the price or preparing the lease, you can use our leasing service to help you out.

Enforce rules fairly

Any landlord will have a set of rules, which they need to outline in the lease agreement. Besides letting your tenants know what the rules are, you need to be sure that you are enforcing them fairly and equally. Treating multiple tenants differently will only cause confusion and further conflicts. It is your job to act in a uniform manner and treat everyone the same. Sometimes you will need to remind some tenants of the rules, but remember to do so calmly. If you start losing your temper every time something goes wrong, you will have a hard time retaining good tenants.

Build a relationship

Get to know your tenants, talk to them when you meet them and ask how they are doing. Strive to keep things professional but relaxed. The foundation of any functional relationship is trust, and one of the best tips for retaining good tenants is building trust. Let your tenants know that you see them as people and that you care.

Settle disputes with other tenants

In case there are any problems between your tenants, you should try to arbitrate and settle the issue. Don’t let a few problematic tenants drive all the other ones away. Respond to noise complaints and solve similar minor problems before they grow into full-blown animosity. Don’t wait until some of your tenants start moving out before you decide to act. If you feel uneasy about such things and don’t want to take sides, you can hire a property manager to take charge of the situation.

The bottom line

As a landlord, over time, you will find that it is much better to keep reliable tenants around than to have a revolving door policy and change who is living on your property every couple of months. We’ve given you 7 tips for retaining good tenants; now it’s up to you to put them into practice.

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your home, feel free to take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

What to Know About Renting to College Students

Do you own a rental property located in the vicinity of a college campus like George Mason or Marymount? If you do, then you are in the prime market for student renters. Student housing is considered a massive, multibillion-dollar real estate sector. Much of the smart money out there knows it and is hungry to occupy this space. Still, there can be plenty of room for individual investors interested in making a mint on this side of education. But what makes this niche so attractive? What are the real ups and downs? Below we discuss what there is to know about renting to college students.

What to Know About Renting to College Students

Pros of renting to college students

Demand for housing is high (and stable)

As long as the university keeps accepting students, the market for your unit will be stable. For starters, most schools do not offer four years of housing. Also, due to high home prices and strict lending policies, homeownership is out of reach for many Americans. So, not only will thousands of college students be on the hunt for a place to live, but also professors and staff during their tenure. For you, this means reduced vacancies and competitive rates.

You don’t even have to work that hard on promoting your listings. The costs of advertising can be extremely low or even free if you advertise where students are looking. You can try Craigslist, Zillow, and Trulia or post for free on student websites. Just be sure to mention the most in-demand amenities in your property adds and offer competitive rental rates.

Higher rents

There are two reasons why this is so. The first one we’ve already mentioned – high demand means you can get away with charging more (just not too much more). Secondly, college students are looking for affordability. For this reason, many choose to live with roommates and split the rent. Having multiple tenants in your rental who are paying rental on one lease means you can up the price a bit but still keep it affordable.

Two roommates eating pizza

Having multiple tenants in your rental unit means you can probably up the price a bit.

A stable third-party payment

The thing about leasing your property to college students is that they’re probably not the ones paying the rent. Typically, either a parent figure or financial aid covers the cost of housing and living expenses. With a more responsible party involved, you will likely receive your rent on time and in full each month.

Students aren’t generally looking for anything fancy

Say you do opt for this tenant base – what this means is that you will likely end up with a lot of low-maintenance renters. You don’t need to be as concerned about attracting new renters with premium updates such as stainless-steel appliances or kitchen backsplashes. What you need to know about renting to college students is that they’re typically perfectly happy with less as long as it is clean and in decent condition. This, in turn, can help you save a lot of time and money.

There are certain amenities they look for in a property, though

Still, there are several things you will need to take care of to make sure your listings match the students’ expectations.

  • Proximity to campus. Students spend most of their time on campus, working, studying, or going to their extracurricular activities. In light of this, it is only natural that they’d prefer to be as close to their campus as possible.
  • A washer and dryer. Having to go to a laundromat can be a serious hassle for a college student. Given they’re so busy juggling their schoolwork and jobs, spending hours waiting to wash and dry their clothes is probably the last thing they want. If there’s something you must know about renting to college students is that they for sure will appreciate an on-site washer and drier.
  • Safety. Both students and their parents, who are most likely footing the cost of rent, want to be sure where they’re living is safe. Adding security features to your property may be your best bet to get a parent to approve of your rental. These may include a deadbolt lock, an alarm system, external security cameras, ample exterior lighting, etc.
  • Wi-Fi. High-speed internet may be one of the most sought-after amenities for college students. Not only do they use Wi-Fi to get their schoolwork done, but also for all kinds of entertainment and cutting down on data usage on their cell phone bills (which we all know can get pricey!) So, if you’re looking to gain an edge over the competition in your area, providing quality internet service is a perfect way to do that. You could also consider offering free Wi-Fi services as a bonus amenity or wrapping it up in the rent price.
A college student writing in her notebook

High-speed internet is one of the most in-demand amenities.

Cons of renting to college students

No rental, credit, or employment history

Likely, your tenants haven’t had the chance yet to build their credit history. It is also possible that they have no experience with renting or paying a debt. This can pose a problem for you as a landlord since screening such a candidate may be a lot more challenging. You are highly unlikely to find the information you need to decide if they would be good renters, cause few or no problems, pay rent on time, etc. However, calling all of their references might help you get some clue about their character. Moreover, you can check if the student in question has previously been expelled from student housing since it’s similar to an eviction. Finally, requiring a cosigner is the best solution for many landlords out there whose tenants have insufficient credit histories.

Students can get loud

With stories about wild parties and students trashing their house, you might feel hesitant to rent your property to students. And you are right, to some extent. Although the majority of students aren’t partying every weekend, they sure are notorious for being noisy. For this reason, be sure to include a Quiet Hours policy in your lease agreement. This way, your tenants would know that there are certain times when they’re free to have their fun and other times when they should be more respectful to others. While you’re at it, consider enforcing a guest policy or any other rules that may seem obvious but still necessary for this group.

Students studying together.

Include a Quiet Hours’ policy in your lease agreement.

They’re inexperienced in maintaining properties

Another thing to understand about college student letting is that your tenants are likely first-time renters. They may have neither the experience nor the maturity to handle basic property upkeep or maintenance issues. Moreover, occasional parties and a high number of guests accelerate normal wear and tear. Finally, you shouldn’t exclude the possibility of returning to the rental at the conclusion of the lease only to find more significant damage. The solution?

Security deposit. Protect yourself against any damages by charging the maximum amount you legally can.

Cosigner. Having a cosigner is bound to discourage negligence since a parent will be on the hook to pay for all repairs.

Walk-throughs. It’s important that everyone is on the same page about the condition of the rental. Also, by conducting routine inspections every few months, you will make sure the unit remains in good condition. Only, make sure to note this in your lease and give your tenants 24 hours’ notice in advance.

Furnished or unfurnished? Many landlords opt for unfurnished student housing for this reason. If you have the same worries, going for an unfurnished unit may be the answer. There are even instances in which the tenant wants to bring his/her own furniture. In this case, having a unit at your disposal is always a good idea. This way, you can have the furniture out of the way (and safe and sound in a storage unit) for this tenant, yet within reach when the time comes to welcome the next one.

Frequent turnover

Yearly turnover is not uncommon with college renters. They may enroll in a four-year degree program. This, however, doesn’t guarantee that their housing plans will remain the same year to year. They also may not be open to signing a lease for longer than a year. Another result of frequent turnover is that you will have to not only make repairs but also find new tenants annually. Otherwise, you run a risk of prolonged vacancy if your unit is vacant the time semester begins. In such an event, it will be pretty challenging to fill your unit until the next semester starts.

Another thing you should know about renting to college students is that they typically sign short-term leases. Since these leases usually run the length of the school year, you might need to find different renters for a summer term. Offering perks for repeat tenants or referrals can be the solution. Have your tenants sign leases for the entire year, even if they do not intend on living in the unit for all the summer months. Another solution is to offer year long-leases with the summer months on discount.

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your home, feel free to take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

Your Guide to Property Management

Are you looking for an easy Property Management guide to help you understand what questions you should be asking a prospective Professional Property Manager? Well first, let’s review some of the reasons why you may be considering this in the first place. Perhaps you’re a homeowner who is moving out of state, but you plan to return to your current home at some point in the future. Maybe you’ve been called overseas for a tour of duty and want to ensure your home is well taken care of while you are gone. Or possibly you’re planning to upgrade and purchase a new property but keep your current one as an investment. Or you might be an investor who simply needs help managing your portfolio.

Whatever your reason may be for possibly engaging a Professional Property Manager, this is clearly an important decision and there is a lot to think about! Property managers can be a terrific asset or a real detriment if you don’t choose one wisely. Use our quick hit list to help you consider everything you need to do to make an informed decision about hiring a Professional Property Manager. You can also check out our other detailed guides such as “Why Hire a Property Manager” and “How to Find the Best Property Manager for You.

What does a Property Manager do?

  • Locates qualified tenants.
  • Negotiates leases.
  • Resolves tenant complaints.
  • Handles tenant violations.
  • Maintains the property.
  • Ensures that the property and the lease both comply with the law.
  • Manages expenses and collects rent.
  • Does the required IRS income reporting.
  • Performs regular property inspections.
  • Does everything you will have to do if you try to manage the home yourself!

When to Hire a Property Manager

  • You own multiple properties and are unable to manager all of them yourself.
  • You live far away from your rental property.
  • You don’t have any experience managing a rental property.
  • You can afford the monthly management fee (typically 8%).
  • You don’t have enough time to manage the property by yourself.
  • You are willing to delegate this task to a professional.

How to Find the Right Property Manager

  • Ask friends and colleagues for referrals.
  • Research property managers online.
  • Check licenses and certifications.
  • Look for experience and stability of staff.
  • Ask lots of questions!

Top 10 Questions to Ask a Property Manager

  1. How much experience do you have managing properties?
  2. How quickly can you rent my property?
  3. How do you establish rental prices?
  4. How will you market/advertise my property?
  5. How do you screen tenants?
  6. What are your leasing and management fees?
  7. How often do you do property inspections?
  8. How do you handle tenant delinquency? Late payments?
  9. What are my landlord responsibilities?
  10. Can I cancel my contract with you if I’m unsatisfied?

What to Look for in a Property Management Contract 

Services and Fees

You must understand what services the property manager has agreed to perform and how much they will charge for these services.

Your Responsibilities as Property Owner

The contract should clearly define what your obligations are as a landlord.

Equal Opportunity Housing

The contract should state that the Property Manager follows both the federal, state and local fair housing laws.

Liability

Pay close attention to what limits have been placed on the property manager’s liability.

Termination Clause

Make sure the management agreement has a clear termination or cancellation clause.

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your home, feel free to take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

Flat-Rate Property Management in Northern Virginia: The Pros and Cons

Wondering about Flat-Rate Property Management in Northern Virginia? Most owners have wondered at one point or another whether flat-rate property management in Northern Virginia is worth it, and we are here to tell you, like anything else, there are pros & cons.

So you’re going to be out of town for the next few years, and you’ve decided that instead of selling your Northern Virginia home, you’d like to put it on the market for rent. You’ve already decided that professional property management is a strategic cost in which you’re willing to invest (for reasons including peace-of-mind, tenant screening, marketing, maintenance, etc.); and you’re on the lookout for a property management firm.

Read more

Utilities in a Vacant Rental? Keep ‘em On!

“Should I cut off the utilities in my vacant rental property?”

My answer? No way.

It’s one of the first questions my homeowner clients ask me—and my emphatic answer often surprises them. After all, none of us is eager to have higher bills—and my maintenance staff and I pride ourselves on looking for ways to conserve energy and lower costs for clients.

Yet, at the same time, I know it’s the best advice. Don’t turn off the utilities in a vacant rental. It’s a shortsighted solution—and one that can be enormously wasteful of time, money, labor, and fuel in the long run. On the other hand, keeping everything running as though the house were occupied isn’t the best answer either.

Keep your future tenants in mind.

The most successful landlords know how to think beyond short-term costs to put themselves in a tenant’s shoes. Remember that when prospective tenants walk through the door, the very first thing they do is to imagine themselves living in the home. It’s only natural to want to turn lights on, run faucets, and generally feel comfortable just being in the house.

Especially if you’re looking for tenants in the coldest part of the year, your best bet is to welcome a prospective renter into a setting that feels cozy—or at the very least, doesn’t require donning a hat and mittens. Spending a little extra money on creating that welcoming setting is ultimately the most cost-effective way for a landlord to prevent extended vacancies. And good communication between leasing agent and property manager will guarantee that the house can be checked and made ready a couple of hours before the showing—and then restored to an energy-saving mode afterward.

Which brings me to my next point.

Yes, you need all utilities on (not just electricity).

Sure, the temptation is great to leave only the electricity on; but 30 years of experience as a property manager has taught me that all utilities should remain in service for every vacant rental home. Keeping water running is just as critical as keeping the lights on. And for those property owners who fear possible water emergencies causing disaster in their vacant home, I remind them of this: Preventing most water emergencies (and burst pipes in winter) is as simple as turning the water off at the main valve. I recommend taping commode covers shut—and, as I mentioned above, turning water on temporarily for tenant showings.

Keep the AC running in summer—and winterize in fall.

Another big temptation for landlords looking to control utility costs is to set the thermostat around 80 degrees during the hottest part of the summer—and then around 60 degrees in the winter. While those settings will lower the utility bills for your rental, they will also guarantee the house is pretty uncomfortable for anyone who walks in during a heat wave or a cold snap. If it’s the summer season, the air conditioning should be set no higher than 75 degrees. If it’s the winter season, the heat should be set no lower than 65 degrees.

Having said this, I’ll add that vacant homes should definitely be winterized prior to the cold season. Draining hose bibs where residual water lies—as well as ensuring water is turned off at the main valve—is really all that’s needed to prevent pipes from bursting in a deep freeze.

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your home, feel free to take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Finally, don’t forget to connect with us on social media! Follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedInInstagram, and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.

Home Warranty for Rental Property? Save Your Money…

Wondering if you should purchase a home warranty for rental property? We say save your money… In our years working in property management, this question “should I purchase a home warranty for my rental property” continues to be a highly queried question. We first began writing on this topic about five years ago. I will tell you, as an owner of multiple rental properties, I used to think having a home warranty for rental property was a great idea. Managing over 400 properties for Northern Virginia landlords, though, has taught me a different lesson. Keep that cash in your pocket–here’s why that “good idea” is a waste of time and money. (And potentially even bad for your home.)

I had a rental property warranty on each of the 14 rental units I owned–and I even had one on my personal residence. You pay a reasonable annual fee and a nominal deductible for each repair, and the warranty company pays for everything else!
Who wouldn’t find such an arrangement attractive? It seemed a matter of sheer common sense.

Yes, I thought this was a great idea – until things began breaking. Then, the red flags started waving like mad. And the frustrations, difficulty with contractors, and wasted hours started accumulating.

Red flag #1: Rental Warranties Give You No Choice

One of the advantages of running a property management company is that our years of serving landlords have led us to assemble a great crew of licensed contractors, across all specialty areas. WJD has had a long and comfortable history with vendors who specialize in everything from HVAC to plumbing. However, in going through the home warranty for the rental property, we were not allowed to use any of our WJD contractors. The home warranty company assigned the vendor depending on what the issue was.

Well, you may be thinking, how bad could that be? Either way, you get a well regarded local specialist out to the property to fix the problem, right? Well, not exactly….which leads me to the next red flag.

Red Flag #2: Who Are Those Home Warranty Contractors Anyway?

I have been in the property management business (a/k/a fixing stuff in homes) for a long time, so I know most of the residential contractor specialists in my area. At least, I know the ones I have come to have a high regard for–and the ones my clients have worked with already or my colleagues recommend. And, surprisingly enough, had never heard of any of the vendors they assigned to address any of the problems in our properties.

While it may be that some perfectly good contractors end up on the list of home warranty preferred vendors, my guess is, the warranty companies tend to just go for the low bidders. Which doesn’t necessarily bode well for the average landlord looking for expert help.

Nor does it bode well for getting repairs done in a timely manner.

Red flag #3: Slow, C.O.D. Service Puts Your Property at Risk

This next red flag began waving furiously when I was told the rental warranty contractors have up to 48 hours to respond to a problem. What? What about water emergencies?

Well, as I found out in one extreme instance of water leaking all over a beautiful hardwood floor in a rental property, water emergencies have the same response timeframe as anything else.

But wait, it gets worse.I was told by the home warranty company that their contractors would not begin the repair until after they had been paid the deductible.

Yikes. So now we are dependent upon a tenant paying the deductible at the time of service. What if the tenant doesn’t happen to have that money available? Or doesn’t want to pay out of pocket? (Even when a lease requires them to pay it, that doesn’t mean they always will.) You got it. The water (or other emergency you were trying to get fast service for) just sits…and waits until someone shows up with the payment.

Occasionally our tenants were unable to pay the deductible (as required by their lease) which meant the WJD staff had to scramble to somehow get payment to the vendor.

Fortunately, in the incident of the water on the hardwood floor, the contractor accepted our company credit card and the leak was repaired before irreparable damage had been done. But not all contractors accept credit cards over the phone. And not all will go to the trouble of contacting you if they fail to collect the deductible from the tenant.

Red Flag #4: They Fail to Contact the Tenant!

A fourth red flag came to light the first time I experienced a complete communication breakdown. Even though it should be obvious that a home warranty for rental property means dealing with tenants, neither the warranty company nor the assigned vendor contacted the tenant for access to the property.

Instead, they kept calling the WJD office to schedule the service—even though they had been given the tenant’s name and telephone number. In the midst of all of these communication failures, the repair got delayed even further.

We later determined that because the warranties were all in the name of WJD Management, everyone concerned thought they needed to speak with a property manager in order to get into the property. Our takeaway? Having a home warranty on many rental properties did not give us extra clout or better service. Whether you’re an individual landlord or a large property management company, you have to wait. First you wait 48 hours for the contractor. Then, perhaps, you wait (and stress) over the deductible payment snag. Then, after all of that, you get to wait while they call everyone but the tenant for access.
In the meantime, the needed repair waits, your tenants are inconvenienced, and you (possibly) wind up with more damage.

Red flag #5: Racking Up Those Deductibles

We saw this red flag pop up when one of the home warranty vendors had to make repeated trips to a property to deal with a heating issue, each time collecting the deductible. The tenant was becoming very agitated with this cost and the fact that his heat kept failing in the middle of the night. I was becoming equally agitated with the fact that the home warranty’s policy was clearly to continue to apply cheap band-aid “solutions” rather than to replace the appliance, which was obviously at the end of its useful life.

The furnace was eventually replaced, but not before I had to place a number of irate calls to the vendor and the home warranty company. In all fairness, I can’t lay the blame for that situation entirely on the warranty company. But the problem certainly related to the quality of the contractors they chose to affiliate with.

As time progressed, I came to realize that the home warranty simply used substandard contractors. No matter what specialty area I needed service in, that was the case.

Lesson learned, you get what you pay for.

Red Flag #6 (The Final Straw)

The sixth giant red flag came when a fluorescent light in the ceiling of my personal residence stopped working. The vendor assigned by the home warranty company arrived two days after I placed the service call. After pulling the light apart, he told me that it couldn’t be repaired.

I said, “Okay, then go ahead and replace it.”

His reply? The contract I’d purchased did not cover replacement of electrical fixtures, only their repair.
Apparently, this was some contractual fine print that I had overlooked. The next morning I called the home warranty company and cancelled all 15 of our contracts. These were annual contracts which I had only recently renewed, but I was told they would not rebate any of the cost.

By that time, nothing about the worthlessness of owning a home warranty surprised me. The sea of waving red flags had convinced me. I accepted the loss of my premiums and said good riddance to bad warranties.

Are you a Northern Virginia landlord looking for an effective way to manage risk for your home or investment properties?

A more cost-effective and convenient solution than taking out a home warranty is to work with a property management firm like WJD that specializes in residential management. Landlords who work with WJD Management get the benefit of our long relationships with top local contractors in in Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax Counties–and throughout the Northern Virginia region. We keep eyes on your house, doing our best to catch problems before they become emergencies.

And you’ll never have to wait 48 hours for a response, play phone tag with a vendor, or rely on a tenant to pay the bill!

If you would like to learn more about WJD Management, please review our comprehensive Management Program guide. If you are ready to rent your home, jump right in and take advantage of our exclusive FREE Rental Market Analysis. Also, be sure to follow us on FacebookTwitterLinkedIn, Instagram and Pinterest for tips, ideas and updates.