HousingLink Blog

  • Landlords - How Do You Handle Late Rent Notices?

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    What do you do when the first of the month flies by and any grace period you offer has passed, but the rent has not arrived?

    In this situation, the goal of most landlords is to avoid the expense and hassle of eviction and get the rent and any late fees paid ASAP. This requires effective communication and a good process.

    First, let's talk about sending reminders before the rent is due. People feel busier than ever, and a simple reminder could go a long way to getting the rent paid. Set up an automatic email that reminds renters a week in advance that the rent is due. If you have a Facebook, Twitter or other social media account for your property, post a rent reminder message.

    Second, let's talk about how residents can pay the rent. Increasingly, flexibility and convenience are the expectation when it comes to making payments. Buy with one click on Amazon, pay by tapping your phone with Apple & Google Pay, and texting someone money with apps like Venmo & Cash are a few examples. In fact, many people no longer have a checkbook! Increase the convenience and options for paying the rent, and you may get paid on a more timely basis. 

    *Here are a few options to consider:

    • Accept ACH payments and e-checks for free using QuickBooks.
    • Accept ACH payments using a service like Dwolla.
    • Accept payments using the Venmo app.
    • Accept payments using the Cash app.
    Of course, you can still accept paper checks, but you may want to consider giving more convenient options a try!

    *HousingLink does not endorse or officially recommend these services but shares them as ideas to consider.

    Third, let's look at grace period communication. During the grace period, send an email/text or drop off a note that says, "Wow, the 1st flew by! We haven't received your rent yet, get it in by the X (end of your grace period) to avoid the late fee." 

    Finally, let's discuss how to deliver the late rent notice. Depending on how your renters prefer to communicate, and how many units you manage, here are some options to consider:

    • Slide a late rent letter under the door.
    • Send a text message.
    • Send an email. 
    • Send a private message on Facebook (if you are connected on Facebook or your property has a business page).
    • Make a phone call and leave a voicemail.
    • All of the above.
    What should the message/letter say? Keep it friendly, clear and actionableFor example, 

    Hi NAME,

    This is a reminder that your rent of $X was due on 'X' date and the grace period has passed. You now owe:

    $X - Rent Amount
    $X - Late Fee
    Total - $X (rent + late fee)

    Let us know right away when we can expect payment. If we don't receive your rent by 'X' date we will move forward with an eviction filing. If you need to make a payment arrangement or want to discuss this further, contact us at XXX-XXX-XXXX or email landlord@ourcompany.com. 
  • Tips to Avoid Fair Housing Complaints

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    Getting a Fair Housing complaint can lead to expensive legal bills and fines for landlords. Follow these customer service tips to avoid complaints:

    • Focus on the renter's wants and needsSometimes a landlord will show available units based on his or her needs instead of a renter's. This can lead to steering and discrimination. Find out what the renter wants and meet his or her needs first.
    • Protected classes are not selling points. Remember that great vacation you took to a foreign land? Sometimes it is exciting to meet a prospective renter with whom we feel a special connection. However, attempting to connect with someone based on a protected class (e.g. national origin, race) increases the risk that you will get a Fair Housing complaint. What if the renter thinks you are making an issue of their national origin instead of just being friendly?
    • Let each renter know all of their options. If a renter is looking for a two bedroom and you have multiple two bedroom units available, let him or her know about each one. Fair Housing is about equal choice and treatment. Let renters know all of their options!
    • Return every phone call and email. Fair Housing requires that you treat all renters equally. Therefore, make sure you return all phone calls so nobody thinks you are not calling them back based on discrimination. If your advertised unit is no longer available and you don't want to call people back, put a message on your voicemail that states the unit is not available and phone calls will not be returned.
    • Treat everyone the same. Treating everyone the same requires that you take a professional approach to interactions with renters. It is a business relationship where you are required to treat everyone the same, regardless of your personal preferences.
    • Script your tour. Have a pre-planned, set process by which you show all renters your property and follow it every time. This way nobody receives special treatment and you don't leave room for a complaint from someone who feels like they were provided a lower level of service.
  • What Insurance Do Landlords Need

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    As a landlord you want to make sure you have the right insurance protection. What insurance do you need? According to the Minnesota Multi Housing Association, at a minimum you need the following:

    • Liability Insurance
    • Property Damage Insurance 

    You may also want to consider an umbrella policy. Additional coverage options include landlord contents and loss of rent insurance.

  • An Alternative to Eviction - Joint Termination of Tenancy

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    Joint Termination of the Tenancy

    It is expensive and time consuming to legally evict a renter. Though sometimes eviction is the best route, there are other strategies to get renters who have violated their leases to move out. One option is to jointly terminate the tenancy.

    To jointly terminate the tenancy, a landlord can let the renter know that the lease was violated. Instead of the renter getting evicted and having that on their record, they can move out early on a date agreed upon by the landlord. No time is spent in court or on legal fees, and both parties can move on to a better arrangement!

  • Proper Application Fee Procedures

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    If you collect an application fee, by MN state law you must:

    1. Provide your rental criteria in writing.

    What income, credit, criminal, and/or rental history requirements must a renter meet to live at your property? Provide this to all potential applicants in writing. Some landlords put this on the back of an application, or hand it to prospective renters on a separate document. 

    2. Provide the contact information of the screening company in writing.

    If you use a tenant screening company, you must provide their name, adddress, and telephone number to the applicant in writing.

    3. Accept or deny applicants on a first come, first served basis.

    You cannot collect multiple applications from prospective renters and then choose the best one. You may only accept one application fee at a time, and accept or reject the applicant based on whether or not they meet your rental criteria that was provided in writing.

    4. Notify rejected applicants of the criteria they did not meet.

    Did you deny an applicant? You must notify them within 14 days the criteria they failed to meet.

    5. Refund the application fee if the applicant is denied for any reason not listed in the written screening criteria.

    Did you reject the applicant for a reason that was not listed in the criteria you provided in writing? Then you must refund the application fee.

    6. Only charge a fee equal to what it costs you to obtain the screening report.

    If the screening company charges you $50 for the report, you can charge a $50 application fee. If they charge you $25, you can charge $25. In other words, you may only cover your costs.

    7. Provide a written receipt for the application fee.

    If a landlord violates this procedure, he or she is liable to the applicant the amount of the screening fee, plus a civil penalty up to $100, civil court filing costs, and reasonable attorney fees incurred to enforce this remedy.

    If an applicant provides materially false information on the application or omits material information requested, he is she is liable to the landlord for damages, plus a civil penalty up to $500, civil court filing costs, and reasonable attorney fees. 

  • Tenant Responsibility During Winter

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    Tenant must give cold weather notice before vacating

    Except upon termination of the tenancy, a tenant who abandons or vacates a building that contains plumbing, water, steam, or other pipes liable to damage from freezing, without first giving the landlord three days' notice of intention to move, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

    Read the law here.

  • Beyond Section 8 Vouchers: Other Voucher Programs Landlords May Encounter

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    A number of rental assistance programs other than Section 8 Vouchers exist to help low income people. Understanding the differences can help landlords decide which programs they will consider.

    Buckle up! Here are some common Tenant Based Rental Assistance programs in Minnesota (other than Section 8):

    VASH Vouchers

    Individuals served: Homeless veterans

    How it works: Veterans receive rental assistance from local housing authorities with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  These services are provided at VA medical centers and community-based outreach clinics. Renters pay 30% of their income for the rent.


    Bridges

    Individuals served: Mentally ill

    How it works: Individuals with chronic and persistent mental illnesses receive rental assistance from local housing authorities and supportive services from mental health providers.  Renters pay 30% of their income for the rent.

    Shelter + Care

    Individuals served: Homeless with disabilities, serious mental illness, AIDS, and chronic problems with alcohol and/or drugs.
     
    How it works: Individuals receive rental assistance and supportive services from nonprofit organizations or community mental health agencies. A landlord can lease the unit directly to the renter or lease it to the nonprofit agency. Renters pay 30% of their income for the rent.

    There are also other programs where nonprofits access state and federal funds to implement rent assistance programs. Sometimes these programs serve specific populations like veterans, those with mental illness or long-term homelessness. In other cases the only qualification is to have a low income.

  • Increase the Life of Your Pavement & Parking Lot

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    With proper maintenance, parking lots are designed for a 20 year life cycle. But Minnesota weather is brutal! Here are some tips from Civil Engineer Matt Duenwald of MFRA, Inc. to increase the life and look of your pavement.

    Isolated Potholes

    Potholes occur because of abrupt changes in freeze/thaw cycles. The most common way to address this repair is to saw cut around the pothole, repair the aggregate sub-base below the pavement if necessary, and patch with approximately 3 1/2 inches of new asphalt. Timely pothole repair will add 3-6 years to the pavement life.

    Asphalt Overlay

    If a large area of the parking lot needs repair, asphalt overlay is a cost effective solution. Here is how it works: The existing parking lot is milled 1"-2" and a new 1"-2" lift of asphalt is put in place. Small defections and cracks are sealed where the pavement was milled before the new asphalt is put in to place.

    Seal Coating

    Seal coating protects the pavement from sun and water. You should seal coat every 3-5 years as part of a maintenance plan. Seal coat is used to waterproof the surface to keep out water, sunlight, gasoline, oil, and de-icers. It seals small cracks and reduces oxidation of the pavement surface. This also improves the aesthetics of the pavement.

  • Resolving Conflict with Renters

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    Conflict with renters often happens when the rent is not paid, or there are behavior issues. Sometimes these problems point towards something larger happening in a person's life. 

    As a landlord, it is helpful to know of programs in the community where you can refer renters who need help. Sometimes this means the difference between a costly eviction and having a long-term tenant. 

    One of these programs is called the Family Homeless Prevention and Assistance Program (FHPAP).

    It provides short-term assistance to people who are at risk of becoming homeless. The assistance generally takes the form of payments to cover rent or utility costs to prevent an eviction.

    Take a look at the FHPAP program in your county

  • 6 Property Maintenance Tips to Save Landlords Money

    by Josh Dye | Aug 27, 2018

    From The Balance:

    Performing regular maintenance on your property can help you catch a small problem before it turns into a large expense. Here are some property maintenance tips that can help you save money in the long run.

    • Exterminate monthly.
    • Check for water damage and leaks.
    • Examine shower caulking and grout between tiles.
    • Test all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors regularly.
    • Change the filters in your forced air systems.
    • Flush your water heater.

    Click here to read more.