Marketing Your Property
Prior to placing a property on the rental market or renewing a lease, we do a comparative market analysis and determine the most economical and profitable rental rate that can be charged. After a property has been exposed to the market for two weeks without renting, we look into the possibility that the asking rent is too high. We will consider lowering the rent so that the property will not sit vacant.
See our Article: Do Real Estate Signs Make a Difference in Front of Your Home?
Finding Quality Renters
We pull a credit check and review the results looking at income, rental history, credit, employment, family size, pets, and any other stipulations presented in order to make a good decision upon which tenant to rent to. It is our policy to choose the BEST applicant, not always the first. Credit is not the always the most important aspect of screening an applicant and our goal is to ultimately pick a tenant that will be a good fit for us and the owner of the home.
Tenant Employment and Income Verifications
We verify job title, job status, salary and prospects for continued employment. An applicant needs to earn at least 3 to 4 times the monthly rent in gross income to qualify for rental.
Eviction and Criminal Reports
We pull a background check that has access to public records that tell us if the applicant has ever been evicted. This is a level of scrutiny that most other property management companies do not perform.
We contact past landlords to verify rental history and ask detailed questions about the applicant’s past performance. This information is entered into the results of the application for record and the owner is allowed to view this information.
See our article: Funnel in the Best Applicants for your Rental Home in San Antonio
Yes, our lease agreement states that the rent is due on the 1st of the month. Texas law says that we have to give the tenants a grace period. Therefore, the tenants have to midnight on the 3rd before they are considered to be late with their rent.
So consequently, when we open our office on the (4th), we have a lot of rents that were dropped off late on the night of the 3rd. If the 4th falls on a Saturday or Sunday, or a holiday, in which case we are closed, this will further delay the process. The checks that we receive on the morning of the 4th, we have to post into the property management software. Then we have to do deposit slips for the bank, so then on the afternoon of the 4th (sometimes later), if all goes smoothly, we can deposit any recently dropped off checks into the bank. The bank then has to post these deposits to our account, which again, if it falls on a weekend or a holiday, does not happen until the following Monday, or workday for the bank. Therefore, if the funds for us to send you your money are not credited or put into our account before we send out checks then some of checks we send out could be returned for Nonsufficient funds, causing numerous other problems for all of us.
We process statements and rent proceeds between the 7th and 9th of each month. You should receive your statement and rent proceeds no later than the 10th to the 12th providing the property is occupied and the rent has been paid on time.
Disbursements are made by ACH direct deposit into the owners’ accounts and statement notifications are emailed the next day along with being posted into the Owner Portal.
Each case is unique, and we make our decisions based on what is best for you and the property in the long run. We always proceed with the legal notices required for eviction regardless of any other factors. We will simply postpone the actual filing of the eviction if the tenant is showing favorable effort toward resolution. Evictions in Texas are a simple legal matter as there is no way a tenant can prevail in court if they have not paid rent, and the landlord has properly executed the notices and filing. Full evictions, when necessary, can usually be completed in five to six weeks. If the tenant can fully catch up with rent and late fees during that process, an eviction can be halted at anytime.
See article: San Antonio Property Management Eviction Assurance
Under your system of property management, how informed then will I be about what’s going on with my property?
We have a “ZERO SURPRISE” policy in regards to your home. If a repair request or tenant action comes in, you will be informed about it simply through our automated email system using our management software. Our Portfolio Manager’s and staff do their very best to ensure we stay in constant communication with you about your home.
Related article: Are Furnished Rentals a Good Idea in San Antonio Rental Property?
Do you want your mail delivered by Pony Express or Email to your smart phone? The other property managers are charging you for delivering Pony Express because that is when they established their rates! Larsen Properties has designed our fees around the modern way of doing business. We encourage you to do the math and decide for yourself.
We require a refundable pet deposit between $300 – $500 for each pet. Of course, the tenants are liable for any damage caused by pets. Unauthorized pets found on a property can result in eviction and/ or a numerous additional charges to include one month’s rent and a daily charge. We take un-authorized pets very seriously.
We are extremely careful when selecting tenants who wish to bring pets with them.
If you do not allow pets, it may double or even triple the time it takes to rent your property. If you will not allow pets, please let us know in writing, or we will assume that pets are allowed and follow our normal pet policies.
Related article: What is Larsen Properties’ Pet Policy?
This first step is called a Notice to Vacate. If, after approximately two days, the tenant does not respond to these notices, we go to the local Justice of the Peace and file an eviction called a Forcible Entry and Detainer Notice (FE&D). The FE&D demands that the resident appear in court on a certain day. At that time your Portfolio Manager would appear in court to represent your interests and will make a claim for all monies due. The third and most sensitive step of eviction is what is known as asking the court for a Writ of Possession or simply a Writ. A Writ is required when a resident fails to comply with the FE&D ordered by the court. The Writ process requires us to hire a crew (2 men per bedroom according to the local Constable) to set a tenant’s belongings at street side or, during inclement weather, in storage. When you have monetary damages as a result of this process, a judgment is issued by the court. We file the judgment in the applicable county records and with the Credit Bureaus using SARMA (www.SARMA.com). On the average it takes about forty-five days to evict a tenant, and hopefully this will not happen with your property. We do very few evictions thanks to our strict tenant screening. When at all possible, we will attempt to mitigate owner’s losses with encouraging the tenant to leave and in some cases offer a “cash for keys” exchange to assist the tenant in moving.
Larsen Properties offers their owners an option to use a very effective and inexpensive service to have their property documented with pictures and a clear, concise report. This service is recommended before any renewal of a current tenant, and also encouraged after a tenant vacates a home. If the owner desires, an inspection can be ordered every 6 months in some circumstances. This is the best money an owner can ever spend for the following reasons:
- It clearly documents what the home looks like during the inspection with 60-100 color photos.
- Air Filters are Checked.
- Home is checked for unauthorized pets.
- This holds the tenants accountable as they know up front inspections will be very detailed and routine.
- It helps eliminate any legal recourse a tenant may pursue over a security deposit. Often times, if a tenant disagrees with the amount of security deposit refunded it is because they claim they left the home in “perfect” condition – when that may not be the case. Having this document in hand can eliminate any legal disputes very quickly by providing hard evidence to back up any withheld deposits.
When making the decision on whether or not to increase rents, we consider market conditions, neighborhood conditions, resident payment history, length of occupancy, property condition, time of year and anticipated expiration date of any renewal.
Our standard rent raise is on average 2% of the monthly rent. Tenants are informed of this type of rent raise from the very beginning of their tenancy in the application and initial lease.
There are times after the tenants initial lease agreement, where the tenants needs to stay on a month-to-month lease agreement or renew their lease agreement for a shorter period of time because of pending job transfers, purchasing a property, financial reasons, etc… Unless the owner is moving back into the property or putting the property on the market for sale, we will allow shorter periods.
Once a lease is signed, it cannot be changed, so it is very important for you to notify us well in advance of your desire to make any changes.
A Military Clause permits military personnel to terminate the lease when they present proof of a transfer outside the San Antonio metropolitan area. They are required to provide thirty days written notice prior to vacating the house. If orders are not available, a letter signed by their Commanding Officer will suffice.
Occasionally, a tenant’s civilian employer requires them to transfer to another city. In this case, the resident may terminate their lease by following the EARLY TERMINATION procedures in their lease agreement.
The tenant will bear all expenses normally experienced with re-renting the home, and pays the rent until the property is re-rented, tenants may be released from their obligations upon successful completion of the early termination and paying all associated fees involved.
- Example (1). When an owner wants to use a company like Sears to deliver a new stove to a vacant property, and we have to meet Sears at the property, there is a service fee associated with this to take the time, personnel and gas to go to the home and accommodate this request.
- Example (2). If the owner is refinancing the property, and we must meet the appraiser or other person at the property, there is a service fee associated with this.
- Example (3). Sometimes an owner wants us to take pictures of a new fence, new roof or a repair that has been done on the property. We are happy to do this for owners, but we have to charge a service fee for this.
Owners often ask us to do things that are outside our normal management services, and we try to accommodate our owners whenever possible.
The First and best line of protection an owner has in the event of a lawsuit brought on by a tenant being injured on the property by faulty wiring or a faulty appliance or anything else is to carry adequate insurance. Additional insured is a person or organization not automatically included as an insured entity under an insurance policy, but for whom insured status is arranged, usually by endorsement.
A property owner’s reason for providing additional insured status to others may be a desire to protect the other party because of a close relationship with that party (e.g., employees ) or to comply with a contractual agreement requiring the named insured to do so (e.g., Property Management Agreement or others working in behalf of the owner).
The Property Management Agreements requires the owners to name the property management company as additional insured because the management company does not hold title to the rental property that they are managing and cannot acquire general liability insurance on property that they don’t own to cover the management company. Ordinarily there is no extra premium charge to the property owner to add the management company as additional insured.
There are exceptions to this rule, but we feel that if an owner wants to see the home – we can arrange it with the tenant so the owner can make a quick walk thru with the tenant present in the home. WORD OF CAUTION: We advise owners not to attempt to engage in a walk thru of their home without pre-arranged permission from the tenant. In addition, at the walk thru, we advise the owners to NOT give any of their contact information to the tenants as this will lead to tenants wanting to contact the owner for something that should be handled by the company the owner has hired to manage their home.
Property Condition and Maintenance
We consistently find that having even one wall that is maroon or green or one bedroom that is blue or pink can greatly increase the time it takes to rent the property each time it becomes available. We strongly recommend that all walls and ceilings be painted an off white or neutrally light color.
New Legislation Texas law HB 1168 requires at least one smoke alarm to be placed in each bedroom, or in the room used for sleeping in the case of an efficiency unit. In addition, if multiple bedrooms are served by the same hallway, there must be a smoke alarm in the hallway in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms; and if the unit has multiple levels, there must be a smoke alarm on each level.
All rental-housing owners in Texas should have been in compliance with the Texas security device statute as of January 1, 1995.
The statute applies to owners of apartments, houses, duplexes, triplexes, condominium units, townhouses, cooperatives, mobile homes, rooms in private dormitories and rooming houses, garage apartments, public housing projects, and all other types of dwellings that are rented.
The safety and security of your residents and their families are at stake – as well as your own potential liability exposure to multimillion-dollar lawsuits. Here is a list of what should have been done: or what will be done when converting a residence into a rental property.
- Keyless deadbolts. You must have a keyless deadbolt on every exterior door, including a door from a garage into the dwelling. A keyless deadbolt is not necessary on sliding glass doors or on doors that open from a garage to the outside.
- Keyed deadbolts. You must have a keyed deadbolt or a keyed doorknob lock on at least one exterior door. You don’t need a keyed lock on all exterior doors. You need a keyed lock on only one exterior door which is normally used for entry. That lock can be either a keyed deadbolt or a keyed doorknoblock. Obviously, a keyed deadbolt is far superior to a keyed doorknob lock because of its one-inch bolt.
- Door-viewers. You must have either a door-viewer (peephole), a clear glass pane or one-way mirror in each exterior door –even if there is a clear glass panel or window right next to the door –and even if the door opens from the dwelling into the garage and even if the door is at the rear of the dwelling or on the second or third story of the dwelling. Door-viewer range must be160o or greater; lens can be made of plastic but glass is better.
- Pin locks on sliding glass doors. You must have a sliding door pin lock on each sliding glass door.
- Security bars or door-handle latches on sliding glass doors. You must have either a security bar (sometimes called a “Charlie bar”) or a door-handle latch that works, on each sliding glass door. You have a choice of one or the other.
- Window latches. You must have a window latch on each window. It can be the original latch or an after-market type.
- French doors. All French doors must have a threshold bolt and upper door jamb bolt (with a 3/4″ throw) on one door. The other door must have a keyless deadbolt and either a keyed deadbolt or keyed doorknob lock.
- Automatic door closers. You must have an automatic door closer on each hinged door that opens directly into a pool-yard or a multi-unit rental complex (defined as “two or more units”). This requirement is in the 1993 pool-yard enclosure statute rather than the security device statute. Door closers on sliding glass doors are not required. Similarly, door closers on doors opening into a pool-yard of a rent house are not required, but they are highly recommended for safety and liability reasons. Spring-loaded door hinge pins seem to be the best and most aesthetic type of automatic door closers.
- Window screens. Window screens are not statutorily required by the security device statute. But if a window has a screen and the window is in a wall used as part of a pool-yard enclosure of a multi-unit complex, the poolyard statute requires the screen to have a screen latch or be permanently affixed with screws.
Upper floors: the requirements of the statute apply no matter how high or what story the door or window is on.
- Good working order. You must have all security devices working properly when residents move in.
- Rekeying at turnover. At each resident turnover we rekey all keyed deadbolts and keyed doorknob locks on exterior doors if the doors can be opened from the outside by a key. We require owners to use our locksmith. Our locksmith re-keys the property to our key system and makes sure the locks and smoke alarms are up to code.
- Quick repair. You must quickly repair or replace a security device that you or your employees at any time discover is missing or not working–even if the resident has not asked you to do so.
- Prompt response. You must promptly respond to legitimate resident requests for rekeying, repairing, installing or replacing–preferably within three days after receiving the tenant’s request, but no later than seven days.
- Fair charges. You must be fair in billing residents for rekeying, repairs and installations for which they’re liable. Even though it is allowed by the statute under certain circumstances, it is recommended that you not require payment in advance. It’s too easy to mistakenly require advance payment when you’re not supposed to under the statute.
It is illegal for unlicensed locksmiths to install repair and service locks. It also is illegal for businesses needing locksmith services to knowingly contract with an unlicensed locksmith, directly or indirectly through a maintenance company. Both criminal and civil penalties apply. Individuals changing house or personal property locks also are subject to the same law.
We believe we have developed a very sensible approach to handling maintenance and repairs, and that you will realize cost savings that other property management companies simply cannot deliver.
Sometimes an owner will complain that we spent $265(for example) when it was not an emergency. Instead of having the owner incur an additional trip fee just for us to get an estimate, and then having to send the company back out to do the repair it makes more financial sense to agree to the repair at the time the technician is on site. This saves the tenant time, the owner money, and we are all better off because of this. Imagine if you were a tenant – you take off work on a Tuesday afternoon and the tech shows up to look at your garbage disposal. It needs approximately $265.00 worth of work to be fixed. If we were unable to approve this job, the tech would have to leave your home and then come back another day to do the work….again making the tenant take off work to accommodate a $15.00 technicality. Come renewal time – tenants remember these things and could cost both of us an excellent tenant.
We always tell the maintenance companies to alert us if the repair is going to be over $250. Sometimes the maintenance company may think that the repair will not go over $250, but after they get working on the repair, they find that there is more to fix than they could see before they started the job. It would not make good sense and it could be a safety issue if the company had to leave an air conditioner or dishwasher, etc. torn apart while we waited for your permission to ok the additional $50.00(for example) and then the maintenance company could charge another trip charge on top of the extra money for the repairs. This would not be in your (the owners) best interest – or the tenants.
The Justice of the Peace (JP) court system only permits us to evict for nonpayment of rent. Because of this eviction restriction, we must collect any delinquencies first which causes the unpaid amount to be for rent only. Hopefully, you will receive the balance of your income in the next monthly collection cycle.
NOTE: Owners should not expect tenants to perform the type of upkeep that owners would do such as leave removal, fertilizing, heavy trimming, mulching, and annual type of clean ups. Tenants will usually cut the grass and trim. Unfortunately, the courts have taken the same opinion in the matter. Judges would not expect tenants to pay thousands of dollars to trim trees on the property they have lived at for 12 months.
During the lease term, we may have occasion to enter the property for repair or maintenance reasons and will use that opportunity to examine the property. In addition, upon request, we can schedule a 6-month property inspection to see how the tenants are maintaining the property. We make sure the air filter is being changed, that the smoke alarms have batteries, and that there are no unreported problems at the property.
The right for us to make routine inspections of the property is part of the tenant’s lease agreement and can be exercised by the owner or the property manager at any time. Courtesy would dictate we offer some sort of approved notice to the tenant.
We realize it can be rather upsetting when you receive an unexpected bill from us for repairs made to your property; however, some repairs are urgent and must be corrected immediately. Emergency repairs are made in accordance with our Residential Management Agreement. Normally, the tenants pay a portion of the repair expense but if, in our opinion, the expense was due to their negligence, the tenant will be billed and become liable for the entire amount. We do not do bids or estimates on repairs under $250.00. On larger jobs, a bid will be presented to you for approval before work can begin. In addition, we would require a 50% payment up front to cover any costs of material to begin the work.
We ask that owners deposit $200.00 for a maintenance reserve upon signing the Residential Property Management Agreement. A copy of any bills will accompany your statement explaining the type of work/repair accomplished on the property and posted to the owner portal.
There is a HUGE problem in the home warranty industry, and the public is becoming savvy to it.
Try searching Google with the name of your favorite home warranty company and the word `complaints’ or `fraud’. You will be amazed. Find out how many people feel like they got burned, turned down wrongfully, or got seriously bad service. Furthermore, feel free to visit www.my3cents.com for even more examples of this currently growing problem THERE ARE MANY OTHERS…..
Almost Every time we call a home warranty company for a problem, they deny the service either on grounds of lack of maintenance or abnormal wear and tear. How do you define abnormal wear and tear and lack of maintenance? When it comes to exclusions and small print, Warranty contracts say a claim can be denied for lack of maintenance, improper maintenance, improper installation, pre-existing problems, code violations and numerous other reasons.
Warranties are typically purchased by home sellers or their real estate agents to avoid lawsuits if something breaks in the first year.
Not to be confused with a builder’s warranty, a so-called home warranty — Actually a service contract — is typically purchased for existing homes, especially homes sold by real estate agents. These service contracts generally cost $400 to $600 for a year-long basic-coverage plan that includes items like ceiling fans, water heaters and furnaces.
The contracts come with loopholes. You need to carefully read your service agreement to determine what is and what isn’t covered. Coverage for plumbing, for example, typically ends at your home’s foundation, so leaks or breakages beyond that would be your responsibility. “Pre-existing” problems typically aren’t covered, nor are breakdowns that result from poor maintenance or improper installation. The contract also may require that a system be upgraded to current building code standards — at the homeowner’s expense — before they agree to consider repairs. People who have had problems with the home warranty companies say that the more expensive the repair or replacement, the more likely home warranty companies are to invoke these exclusion clauses.
You don’t have control over who does the work. The home warranty provider contracts with local service companies to perform the actual inspections and repairs. You don’t get to choose, and scheduling repairs can sometimes be a trial taking days for immediate service.
The service technician may also try to sell you unneeded services.
So what is a homeowner to do? Many consumer advocates would say it’s better to “self-insure” — setting aside a reasonable sum each year to cover routine maintenance and finding reliable local contractors to do the work. You can’t shift all the risk of home repairs to a home warranty company because, as noted above, many repairs won’t be covered by your agreement.
So when might a home warranty make sense? If you are trying to sell a house, a home warranty can give buyers some peace of mind and may reduce the chances of your being sued should an appliance or system break down after the sale.
We have had hundreds of problems with home warranties.
An example: we had a bathroom faucet go on the blink; we called the Home Warranty Company. After paying the $55 deductible, their contractor refused to make the repair. So we had our plumber go out and they made the repair for $65. We have experienced this over and over where the owners are spending money on deductibles and then we have to send out our maintenance people to fix the problem.
Our next problem came in the form of a malfunctioning air conditioner. After 2 days with the tenants having no A/C and paying a $60 deductible, the service technician reported that there was lack of maintenance and therefore it had to be replaced and cannot be covered under the Home Warranty. They gave us an estimate of $4,000 to replace a 6 year old A/C system. Also the tenants are staying in a Hotel and want to be reimbursed for their expenses. We sent out our A/C vendor and he said the A/C unit is perfectly fine except that a small part had to be replaced; total cost from our vendor was under $250 to fix the problem while on site!
On another property, a dishwasher repair was needed. The home warranty company took 3 months and had make 15 trips out to the property to repair the dishwasher. If you were the tenant how would you feel? Would you be renewing your lease with this landlord anytime soon?
On one property the A/C went out in the summer and it took 21 trips and 3 months before the warranty company finally replaced the A/C. You can be sure the tenants moved as soon as their lease agreement was up. Other tenants would have gotten an attorney and been suing the owner.
Often they will leave tenants hanging without heat or A/C for days while they go through their “second opinion” process.
If, as a property management company, we wanted to damage our reputation with as many tenants as possible by providing the lousiest repair service possible, there is no better way to accomplish that than by using a warranty company on all service calls. They simply are not compatible with the level of service we demand of our vendors.
Our owners have been burned so many times in years past that we finally decided we had enough, and said “no more”. Nothing affects the reputation of a property management company more than the manner in which repairs are handled. Tenants judge us by almost no other measure. It therefore makes little sense to entrust vendors we don’t know, whom we have no relationship with or control over, with the reputation of our company and the relationship with your tenant. Instead, when repairs are needed, we will send our trusted vendors with whom established relationships exists, and they will provide the quality service we require in a professional and timely manner. That said, if we determine through our own vendor that a covered mechanical item in your home has failed, or is in need of costly repair, we will endeavor to get whatever Home Warranty company you have out to honor the warranty, provided that they accomplish the service call and repair in a time frame and manner that is reasonable and just to all parties.
Take a look at Paragraph 18 section F of the tenants lease agreement 18. REPAIRS:
F. NOTICE: If Landlord fails to repair a condition that materially affects the physical health or safety of an ordinary tenant as required by this lease or the Property Code, Tenant may be entitled to exercise remedies under §92.056 and §92.0561 of the Property Code. If Tenant follows the procedures under those sections, the following remedies may be available to Tenant: (1) terminate the lease and obtain an appropriate refund under §92.056(f); (2) have the condition repaired or remedied according to §92.0561; (3) deduct from the rent the cost of the repair or remedy according to §92.0561; and (4) obtain judicial remedies according to §92.0563. Do not exercise these remedies without consulting an attorney or carefully reviewing the procedures under the applicable sections. The Property Code presumes that 7 days is a reasonable period of time for the Landlord to repair a condition unless there are circumstances which establish that a different period of time is appropriate (such as the severity and nature of the condition and the availability of materials, labor, and utilities.)
Tenants have more rights now than they ever have had in the past and Judges are normally on the side of the tenants and if repairs are not made timely, owners can find themselves on the wrong side of the legal system. It is hard enough to try to use a home warranty on the home that you live in. It is not cost effective or practical to use a home warranty on a rental property.
Insurance: You must advise your insurance company that the property will be a rental unit, and Texas insurance regulations require that any existing Homeowner policy be cancelled. You will need to take out ‘Fire and Extended Coverage’ and also notify your agent the property will be a Rental Property. In order to protect your investment the amount of insurance should equal the replacement cost of the property.
Also, be certain that you have adequate Property and Liability Insurance coverage.
The Residential Property Leasing and Management Agreement requires the owner to carry insurance adequate to protect all parties.
IF YOUR RENTAL PROPERTY IS VACANT BEYOND 60 DAYS, REQUEST THAT YOUR INSURANCE AGENT ADD A VACANCY CLAUSE TO YOUR POLICY. WITHOUT THIS CLAUSE YOUR INSURANCE IS INVALID.
Have your agent name Larsen Properties as an additional insured, or property manager in your liability policy. We need this proof of insurance in our files. We must be provided copies proving coverage no later than thirty (30) days after signing the Residential Property Leasing and Management Agreement.
Some Rental Facts
- Monday is the busiest phone day.
- Renters visit three to five properties before making a decision.
- Over 75% decide to rent in the spring or summer.
- 78% of the prospective tenants use the Internet.
- The female is the primary decision maker.