Wednesday, August 27, 2014

September 1st Move-In: Guide For Your Sanity and Tenant's Safety

Tips for landlords and property managers to have a safe and smooth move marathon while avoiding common mishaps for tenants and HOA members.

It's almost September 1st and this means the time has come for many to pack up and move on to their new homes.  From our past experiences as landlords and property managers, we've combined a list of helpful tips for move-in day.

Tenants have hopefully avoided rental scams that we detailed in our article how to spot rental scams on the internet. If you're like us, you've probably accumulated a lot of things, and will be leaving your former residence with even more boxes than you came in with.  Start organizing your belongings and your moving day game plan in advance!

Possible Issues for Moving Day in Boston and Other Large Cities

Whether you are the landlord, property manager, a new tenant, or an existing tenant, your sanity and safety can be difficult to maintain - especially if you're living in a Boston condo management property or other large city with a high-turnover period at the start of September. 

If you are implementing official Rules and Regulations for moving, consider the unfamiliarity new residents will have with building facilities and policies.  Addressing them in advance may mitigate the stress and chaos of the day.

Nightmare examples of a chaotic move-in without rules and regulations!
  • Belongings and valuables (or even your rented truck) being stolen while unsupervised. 
  • Tenants getting stuck in the elevator while moving their heavy furniture. 
  • Parking tickets and tow trucks removing double-parked vehicles. 
  • Former tenants who left a mess - or have left themselves past their lease expiration.

Communication between the landlord or property manager with tenants is a great opportunity to build an open relationship for a successful tenancy. 

As a landlord, HOA board member, or property manager, you may run into these issues:
  • Improper or overwhelming disposal of furniture, trash, personal belongings, etc. 
  • Issuance of fines from the City as a result of excess garbage or noise complaints.
  • BED BUGS – this is the number one time of year for infestations.
  • Unwanted persons entering your building while doors are not closed or secured. 
  • Tenants moving at all hours of the day. 
  • Damage to walls and doors that are unprotected or propped open.
  • Elevator wall and mechanism damage.
  • Hostility or confrontations between residents. 

What to Communicate to Tenants Before Move-In Day

To maintain order amongst the influx of heavy foot traffic, it is imperative to prepare by giving all of your staff and residents (current and incoming) information well before August 31st.  Think: "Happy Fourth!  Here are our moving rules."
  • Communicate process and procedures in writing.
  • Clearly state times and areas for staging and moving trucks. 
  • Provide Move-In/Out Checklists to all of your tenants.
  • Give information packets with Resident Handbooks and Renters Insurance brochures to your incoming tenants. 

Tips to Beat the Rush

The basic laws of supply and demand are tested over the Labor Day week.  If you wait until the last minute to find an available mover or janitorial company, you will end up finding yourself out of luck. 
  • Suggest tenants reserve their moving trucks well before 9/1.
  • Offer early move-in options when possible.
  • Make sure dumpsters are empty.
  • Book extra janitorial staffers to address trash overflow.
  • Book early to lock in at lower rates before demand increases.
You will get fined for leaving trash in the street, and let's not even remind ourselves of the potential pest issues that could follow.  In the following weeks, it's hard for waste management companies to remove the debris and bulky items that are mixed and heaping over the top of a dumpster; some companies will refuse removal if they can't access the receptacle. Prepare early and expect the worst.

Safety & Regulations Move-In Checklist

To ensure the well-being of all parties involved during move-in, review your preparation memorandums for all residents and property management staff.

This should include information on:
  • Responsibility for tenants, guests, and contractors
  • Handbook/rules and regulation reminders 
  • Requests for copies of leases and/or apartment condition statements
  • Mailbox tag and intercom instruction
  • Trash/recycling reminders 
  • Elevator reminders 
  • Your contact info

How to Handle High Turn-Over Locations

For high-turnover locations, post a specialized memo that is specific to the actual rules & regulations of that location. Remember, communication is key to maintain order on move-in day.
  • Assign a monitor to the highest turnover locations, for example; a superintendent, maintenance tech, trustee, or occasionally a police officer. 
  • Use signs to direct residents to which elevator or door they should use for moving. 
  • All preferred access points for moves must be clearly marked. 
  • Include signage for areas where tenants can not move through, for example the lobby or main entrance.

Elevator and Door Safety on Move-In Day

In many old brownstones, tenants are often surprised to find that the elevators are shut down on move-in day. The small passenger elevators cannot withstand the weight and frequency, and in order to avoid repairs due to improper overuse, landlords will often shut them down – even to top floor residents.

For elevators that are in use, repeatedly holding the door open or sticking your arm out to stop the closure is obviously dangerous to your body, but can easily throw the elevator out of alignment and break it. Trust us, the last thing you want is to get stuck in an elevator full of your belongings with a group of sweaty moving personnel.

Additional building safety tips include:
  • Distribute moving rules and regulations to all residents and off site property owners or landlords.  Don't forget to include a clear fine schedule for rule infractions. 
  • Adequately display notices posted around common areas and slide notices under doors. 
  • Makes sure tenants do not block egresses during moving times.  
  • Keep fire hydrants accessible at all times. 
  • Propped doors require a security monitor to prevent unwanted guests or intruders. 
  • Install or check that security systems/cameras are functional. 

Help Wanted: Clean up, Movers, & Extra Hired Help

The tenants can't do it all themselves, and that's okay. The convenience for additional help provided to the tenants moving in will help bring relief and start the tenant/manager relationship off right.

Tips on hiring extra help and cleaning up after move-in:
  • Trash/janitorial contractors should sweep the properties repeatedly that weekend, in addition to their normal contractual obligations. 
  • Depending on the amount of units you have turning over, you may want to rent an additional rack truck for trash removal of your own. 
  • Hired movers are the responsibility of the tenants/owners, but you should consider requesting proof of the moving company's insurance policies. Make sure the certificate names the property additionally insured.  Some condominium buildings will actually require properly insured movers to facilitate a tenant's transition. 
  • Incur the expense of hiring dedicated staff and do it early.  Hiring the same staff every year is ideal so they are familiar with the building and policies.

Final Thoughts on Move-In Day

Preparation is key for ensuring a successful move in for all parties. Investing in a clean up crew, in-house movers, and security will keep the process clean as well as moving smoothly. Did we forget a key tip for landlords and property managers to add to their checklist or guidelines for high turnover days like Sept. 1?

Tell us your thoughts or share your checklists!

Friday, August 8, 2014

How To Spot Rental Scams on the Internet

This article will help you find scams in rental property and apartment searches on the internet with sites like craigslist, roomster, as well as the credit checks, application process, and countless emails with landlords.

How to Decide if it is a Legitimate or Shady Landlord During Your Apartment Search

As we approach the end of Summer 2014, that means one thing for many: starting anew by picking up all our belongings and moving to a new apartment, house, or condo. The transition of moving in itself can be quite tiring, but the process of searching for a new place can be just as exhausting.

Renters cite frustrations via online outlets like Craigslist, Roomster,, as well as going through the application process, credit checks, et cetera.

In the mind of a renter, the following criteria usually comes into question:
  • What is the neighborhood like?
  • Is the rental rate per month affordable?
  • Is there a lease or is the living space rented on a month-to-month basis?
  • If there are multiple living spaces in the apartment, what are the other roommates like personality-wise?
  • What is the landlord/owner like in terms of personality and efficiency?
  • Does the landlord use a property management company to promptly handle tenant inquiries?
  • Is he/she reliable for future incidents within the living space that require their care? (i.e. running out of hot water, broken thermostat central air/heat during the warm/cold months)
During the search for a new living space, one must be aware of the scams where people pose as landlords looking to swindle would-be security deposit money from the potential renter. 

Keep reading to learn how to discern what makes a listing and landlord legitimate versus what makes them a scammer, and how to protect yourself. These online thieves prey on renters who look to fulfill this criteria for their new living situation.

A Listing Too Good To Be True? False!

We can't say "friend-or-foe" in theses types of cases because landlords are not there to be friends. Rather, these scenarios we can classify as “spend-or-faux” in making the right decision to invest on your next move without succumbing to shady scammer that poses as a landlord.

These are examples of scenarios in which you have likely come across a rental scam in your new home search online:

  • E-mail Scamming While On A "Mission"
  • Communication with an E.T. (Elusive Thief) & Your Inability to Phone Home (owner)
  • Stealing Personal Information Through an Application
  • A Fake Owner Showing A Home That is Not Theirs

Listing offers a great low price, for too many unimaginably nice amenities 

This is a case in which a renter can be duped by a scammer by being drawn in by the price of an apartment that has a workout facility, "superb" property management, brand new hardwood floors, a kids play area and other top-of-the-line amenities for a low monthly rate? It seems tempting, but you have to consider that in today's real estate market, what landlord or property manager would be so nice enough to charge their tenants with so many expensive items for a low monthly rate? That literally just does not add up.

E-mail Scamming While On A "Mission" 

So you found an ideal living space on a apartment search website that seems really afforable for your monthly budget, and has great amenities in an ideal location. Also, the home's supposed "owner" emails you with a long-winded message with details about the apartment being vacant due to reasons that make it seem either plausible or absolutely unconscionable based on the writing.

The lie could be about a real estate agent looking to broker the apartment to potential tenants for the landlord, giving you a ridiculously long questionnaire to fill out that is a makeshift application, and telling you that keys to the vacant home they are willing to send to your permanent homes address only after you send the deposit for the new apartment.

Communication with an E.T. (Elusive Thief) & Your Inability to Phone Home (owner)

Shady people thrive in hiding, but you know how they say that things in the dark will eventually come to light? If you have contact information from the owner on an apartment search listing site such as Craigslist, but you only have the multi-letter email as contact information with either no name and nor phone number of the owner listed. The email address is neither within the response email to continue the negotiation process or set up for a showing time. Many of times without being seen, they will text you without the willingness to call you direct nor see you in person for the showing.

Stealing Personal Information Through an Application 

If you see a questionnaire in an email response to you asking for your personal information (i.e. credit card information to debit a security deposit amount, social security number, then don't waste your time and money disclosing your identity and bank information

A Fake Owner Showing A Home That is Not Theirs 

Many faux-landlords understand that nobody wants to rent a site unseen. So they take advantage of a foreclosed house and somehow steal keys from homeowners or the property managers to copy in order to open the home's entrances and show you the place.

How To Protect Yourself From Scammers When Searching for an Apartment or Rental Property 

  • Do your research on the local area and you will see how comparable the prices should be to discern what makes a legitimate listing from a real estate agent, landlord, or property manager.
  • Only exchange information with the person showing the apartment after you agree to stay in it, and have had a conversation with a neighbor in the building. As they ask for references upon your application for the home, identify the landlord's or agent's name online, or check into the HOA or the agency they are a part of.
  • Ask the neighbors of the home you are looking at about the landlord's reputation. Also, you can refer to the local county property records office for verification.
  • The worst question is the one that you don't ask. Make sure you are as inquisitive as possible when assessing if this investment in a new rental home is right for you.
  • Meet at a rental office if in the apartment complex.
  • Make sure that the home for rent is not in foreclosure.
  • Contact the FTC, to file a complaint for any suspicious behavior.

    Final Thoughts on Rental Property or Apartment Scams

    Do not give out contact information to a land lord or property management company unless you are sure it is a legitimate listing. Contact a reliable property management in the Greater Boston area for real property listings so you can avoid the negative experiences of internet searches through cragislist and other online rental property listing sites.

    Have you experienced these types of scams? How did it make you feel when you came across these scams in your apartment search? Please talk about your good or bar rental property search experiences in the comments below. Thanks for reading and good luck in your apartment search!