By: Nick Griffith & Nicole Fandel, Director of Conventional Housing and Marketing Specialist
Should I Allow Pets in My Pittsburgh Rental Property?
Many Pittsburgh rental property owners want to know if they should allow pets into their homes or if they should avoid them.
Whether you’re a pet lover or not, there are a lot of pros and cons to discuss when it comes to welcoming pets into your rental property.
Pro-Pets: Resident Pool and Pricing
The main benefit of allowing pets is that you’ll get a larger pool of potential residents interested in your home.
When pet owners have access to your property, you’ll get a larger selection of applicants and a bigger audience of people who want to see your property and lease it.
Today, it seems like almost everyone has a cat or a dog or a hamster that they cherish – pets are part of the family. So, it’s ultimately easier to rent out your home when you decide to allow pets.
Another pro of allowing pets in your rental property is additional revenue.
You’ll have the ability to charge pet rent in addition to the rent your resident pays. People are very attached to their animals, and they’ll be willing to pay a little more to have them in the property.
You can reap those benefits when you allow pets and charge a little more each month to cover potential additional wear and tear.
Can I Charge a Pet Deposit?
Owners will often want to know if they can charge a pet deposit in addition to the security deposit when they allow pets.
In Pennsylvania, the law says that we can only charge a security deposit that’s the equivalent of one month’s rent. So, we don’t typically charge an additional pet deposit because a deposit has to be returned to the residents.
Instead, we charge the pet rent, which generates additional income for our owners every month.
Avoiding Pets: Potential for Damage
The biggest reason that property owners prefer to avoid pets is that there’s a potential for property damage.
We’ve all heard the horror stories: pets might pee on the floors, scratch the carpet, and chew up the baseboards. They can make messes.
Yes, these things can happen; but generally, pets are often well-trained and well-behaved.
If your residents take care of their pets and the property, you won’t have any unnecessary damage.
However, there’s no guarantee. When you’re screening residents and deciding whether or not to accept a pet, you have to consider the animal’s breed, size, and weight.
Consider the applicant as well. You’ll need to determine whether that applicant is a responsible pet owner who can truly care for the animal as well as your property.
Service and Support Animals
Another hot topic is the rise of service animals and emotional support therapy animals.
These are animals that are coming into the property to help the resident perform daily tasks, or help them emotionally through their daily lives.
If a resident has a service or support animal, we cannot discriminate against those animals, even if there’s a strict no-pet policy in place.
To protect your property, we will always ensure the appropriate documentation and supporting medical notes are in place to verify a service animal or an emotional support animal. We don’t want residents to try and skirt the rules, or put our owners in an unfavorable position.
In Conclusion: Pets or No Pets?
Ultimately, the decision to allow pets is up to you, the owner.
Whether you choose to allow pets or not, we have policies, procedures, and documents that ensure that we are compliant with the laws.
We’ll charge your residents an appropriate amount for the added benefit of moving in with their furry friends, and make sure your property is protected.
If you have any questions about pets, or anything at all pertaining to your Pittsburgh rental property, please contact us and we’d be more than happy to help.
By: Nick Griffith & Nicole Fandel, Director of Conventional Housing and Marketing Specialist
How We Keep Our Clients in Compliance with the Law
One of the most important facets of property management is maintaining legal compliance. As daunting as that can be for one owner, Arbors has a dedicated Compliance Department to ensure that you and your property are in the clear.
So how do we keep our clients legally compliant? We’ll break that down in this article over these five different categories:
- Fair Housing
- Occupancy Permits
- Reasonable Accommodations and Reasonable Modifications
- Compliance Department Review
1. Fair Housing
First and foremost, we want to make sure your property is compliant with fair housing regulations, one of the most important aspects of managing rental properties. How do we keep you in compliance with fair housing law?
One of the best ways for us to do this is through our screening criteria. We’ve developed our screening criteria over the 40 years that we’ve been in business and abide by that criteria on properties that we manage in order to avoid any fair housing violations.
In an effort to eliminate unfair advantage or preference among applicants, we process applications by the standards set by the Pennsylvania State Law. We also process applications in the order that they are received.
Additionally, our agents representing you have their real estate salesperson license. With this comes continuing education to ensure we stay up to date with all legal requirements and updates pertaining to keeping you compliant with local, state, and federal laws.
2. Occupancy Permits
Another way that we keep you in compliance is by keeping your property in rental housing code compliance with any state, local, or municipality housing standards. One of the items that is included in many of these local requirements is an occupancy permit or a rental registration.
If you do have a rental property under our management, we will take care of occupancy permits or rental registrations required by any local municipality or governments. This includes:
- Payment on our clients’ behalf of rental registration fees
- Coordinating and potentially attending occupancy inspections
- Arranging any repairs needed in order to stay compliant with local municipality occupancy standards
We perform annual inspections – we call them interim inspections. At these inspections, we’re looking for common things at your property that are required by the local municipalities to make sure that you’re able to obtain occupancy permits. The most common things are:
- Smoke detectors
- Carbon monoxide detectors
- Any other obvious safety deficiencies at the property
If we do find that any of these items need attention, we will address them.
4. Reasonable Accommodations and Modifications
Occasionally, a resident may request for a reasonable accommodation or a reasonable modification to your property.
We are trained and well-versed in the requirements necessary in order to approve or deny these requests.
We will handle the proper paperwork and forms to document the request to complete everything, all while making sure – you guessed it – that you are staying in compliance by abiding by fair housing laws when accommodating or denying a request.
Here’s the difference between the two:
Reasonable Accommodation: request for a change in our policies and procedures to accommodate a resident for a need that they have.
*Responsibility of the landlord to pay
Ex: Allowing a service animal to occupy a property with a no-pet policy
Reasonable Modification: request to change the physical nature of the property to accommodate a resident for a need that they have.
*Responsibility of the resident to pay
Ex: Installing a ramp to the front entrance of a property because the resident is wheelchair bound
5. Compliance Department Review
Any new residents moving into your property will be reviewed by our Compliance Department in order to ensure that we met all of the screening criteria appropriately.
A few items that the Compliance Department review are:
- The lease
- Credit and criminal reports
- Photo identification
- Proof of income
If they do find any errors or discrepancies, our management staff will be alerted and those will be corrected as soon as possible.
Arbors Management Keeps You Compliant
With over 40 years of experience in property management in Pittsburgh, Western Pennsylvania, and West Virginia, we’ve learned a thing or two about legal compliance.
When you hire Arbors Management to manage your property, you are also hiring a dedicated Compliance Department that ensures that you and your property are operating within the bounds of the law.
If you have any questions about our professional Pittsburgh property management services, including how our Compliance Department works, please contact us through this form, or give us a call at 1 (800) 963-1280.
Disclaimer: We are not attorneys and the information herein is not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with your attorney for any matters pertaining to your specific situation.
What Kind of Fees Can I Expect From Arbors Management?
Every property management company has a different way of working and a different way of charging management fees.
For example, you might hire a management company that charges one flat rate, or you might find a property manager who charges separately for every service that’s performed.
At Arbors Management, we have three all-inclusive fees. We do not like to piecemeal our costs, and we don’t have an upcharge on our maintenance services.
Today, we’re talking about our three fees upfront and what all you can expect when you work with us.
These fees are also similar to many of the fee structures you’ll find with property management companies in and around Pittsburgh.
Leasing Fees in Pittsburgh
Our leasing fee is the equivalent of one month’s rent, meaning the first month of rent that we collect for you will pay for our leasing services. It’s a one-time fee that’s paid at the beginning of the lease.
This fee covers everything involved in finding and placing a great resident, including:
- Marketing your property
- Showing your property
- Rent pricing
- Preparing the property for rent
We’ll also handle the application process and screen each resident thoroughly and in compliance with the fair housing laws.
Once we’ve approved a resident, we’ll take care of:
- Collecting the move-in funds
- Conducting a move-in inspection of the property to document its condition
- Executing the lease agreement
Management Fees in Pittsburgh
Then, you’ll have the monthly management fee, which is typically 9 percent of your monthly rent.
The management fee can differ depending on a few different factors:
- How many units the property has
- If we will need to employ onsite staff
- How many total properties we’re managing for you
- How much those homes are earning
- The neighborhoods in which those homes are located
Your management fee will come directly out of the rent we collect from the residents. It includes everything that’s covered in our management services, from lease enforcement to inspections to maintenance.
The management fee also covers:
- Our resident and vendor communication
- Any notices that need to be served
- Our accounting and bookkeeping
- The portals we provide for residents and owners
Lease Renewal Fees in Pittsburgh
Our final fee is a renewal fee, which is a flat $250 charge that you’ll pay each time we renew a resident.
When you think about the cost of resident turnover and vacancies, it’s easy to see what a value $250 is.
We’ll work hard to retain your residents, and the renewal fee will cover our negotiation and signing of the new lease. It costs you a lot less than it would if you were paying a new leasing fee.
There is no single right way to charge management fees, but the most important thing is that the company you’re working with is transparent and honest.
The last thing you need as an owner and investor is to be surprised by extra charges, and it’s important to review your management agreement before you sign it.
Contact us at Arbors Management if you’d like to know more about our services and their costs. Our Portfolio Managers and Leasing Specialists would be happy to provide a personalized quote that’s based on your property and its unique needs!
By: Nick Griffith, Director of Conventional Housing at Arbors Management
What Exactly Do Property Managers Do?
Today, we’ll be speaking about a very simple question that has a complex answer: What exactly do property managers do? The way we see it here at Arbors Management is that property management can be broken down into two main categories – leasing and day-to-day management, and two sub-categories – accounting and compliance.
But, just as important as what property managers do, is what we don’t do; we’ll cover that, too.
How Do We Handle Leasing?
An important part of property management is getting your property leased to a quality renter. Here at Arbors, we believe that most problems in real estate investing can be solved by placing the right, high-quality resident into each property. We perform several types of screening in order to accomplish this; criminal, credit, income, landlord, sex-offender, terrorist, and pet screening, just to name a few.
In order for us to attract the best quality residents, we need to properly market your property by highlighting its features as well as pricing it appropriately.
A good property manager will look at the surrounding market and comparables to determine the best price to rent the property quickly while also giving the owner the best return on their money. We also handle all the inquiries and showings of the property, saving you a lot of time and money.
Once the property manager has found a qualified applicant, they should have a rock-solid lease to ensure that the owner is protected. Here at Arbors, we have a completely online lease signing process, making renting from us easy and efficient.
Once the lease is signed, deposits are paid, and move-in is scheduled, a good property manager will perform a move-in inspection to record the condition of the property at the time the resident moves in. We record the inspection with photos that we can reference again later when the resident decides to move out.
Speaking of inspections, routine inspections are important to ensure your property is well maintained. At Arbors, our leasing specialists perform an interim inspection several months prior to the lease expiration to ensure we know the condition of the property prior to renewing the lease. We share that inspection with our clients along with our recommendations so they can make the best decision for them.
Day-to-Day Property Management – What Does it Look Like?
After the property has been leased and the resident has moved in, we turn to our second category of property management: the day-to-day management.
Perhaps one of the most important items a property manager can do is collect the rent. After all, rent is what allows you to maintain the property and make a profit!
At Arbors Management, we provide several ways for residents to pay their rent; through a convenient online portal, by mail, by drop box at our main office, or by electronic cash payment at several convenient-store locations.
Money management is also a very important part of property management. A property manager will need to pay the expenses on your property, oftentimes from the rent that is collected and bill the residents for any appropriate expenses for your reimbursement.
Once all the expenses are paid, the property manager should have a way to get the investor their money. Here at Arbors, we do a direct deposit into your bank account at the end of each month.
Another aspect of property management is working directly with residents. On occasion, residents will have maintenance requests, emergencies, and general questions or problems while living at the property. These could range from leaky plumbing, heating issues, loss of employment, income changes, additions to their family, or neighbor disputes.
A property manager communicates directly with residents to solve these issues so that you don’t have to. Enforcing a lease can be difficult, so it’s the property managers job to walk the line between being compassionate while also enforcing the agreement. A good property manager should bring you solutions, not problems.
Addressing maintenance issues is another important part of property managers’ duty to maintain the value of your asset. Emergencies can happen at any time, day or night, and even on the weekends.
This is why a good property manager needs to have a plan on what to do when an emergency does happen. Here at Arbors we have a 24/7 dedicated phone number for maintenance emergencies and a network of contractors that can respond quickly in order to resolve any issue that might arise.
How Do Accounting and Compliance Come Into Play?
Two other categories of property management are accounting and compliance.
As an investor, you’ll want to see where your money is being spent and when rents are collected by your property manager. At Arbors, we have a full accounting staff that generates reports so that you can easily see the income for your property, expenses, and any invoices or bills associated with those expenses.
Transparency is important, but so is legal compliance! When renting out a property, there are a lot of laws, rules, and regulations that come with it. Your property manager should know the ins and outs of what is needed at the property to ensure you stay in compliance with these requirements to keep you protected. At Arbors, we have a compliance department that makes sure we cross our t’s and dot our i’s to make sure everyone is protected.
So What Don’t We Do as a Property Management Company?
Almost as important as what property managers do, is what we don’t do. From the information above, we can safely say property managers wear many different hats.
Even though we have many different roles, we are not tax professionals, attorneys, or debt collectors. Oftentimes a property manager can recommend a specialist in each of these areas. We may know a thing or two about each of these topics, but your property manager shouldn’t get involved in areas outside their expertise.
All in All…
The answer to the question “what exactly do property managers do?” is complicated. We discussed how a property manager should handle leasing, day-to-day management, and all aspects involved in those two main categories.
We also discussed that property managers should be transparent with your money through good accounting reports and remain compliant by staying up to date with rental property requirements.
While property managers wear many hats, as they should, they are not tax professionals, attorneys, or debt collectors.
Hopefully you now have a better idea of everything that property management encompasses.
If you have any questions about property management and how Arbors Management might help you with your property(ies), please don’t hesitate to reach out to us!
Should I Renew My Pittsburgh Resident’s Lease?
To Renew or Not To Renew Your Resident’s Lease?
Near the end of every residency, you need to ask yourself whether or not you want to renew your resident’s lease.
Today, we’re talking about what you should consider when you’re making this decision.
Is Your Resident Paying Their Rent on Time?
One factor to consider when you’re thinking about renewing a resident’s lease is if they pay their rent on time.
If they pay on time consistently each month and you’ve never had to send a reminder or ask where their payment is, that’s great – it’s a good reason to renew the lease!
However, if your resident doesn’t pay rent on time each month, you’ll need to decide if you’re okay with that.
If they pay a few days late every month but they always pay, you might find it tolerable since you’d get to collect a late fee.
The tardy payments may be inconvenient, but if you like the extra income that late fees provide, renewing with a resident who pays a little bit late may work out well for you.
Is Your Resident Taking Care of the Property?
Another point to look at is how well the resident keeps up with property maintenance and cleaning.
If you’re consistently receiving maintenance requests because things are breaking or are being damaged, you might not want to keep such residents in your property.
It’s a good idea to do an inspection before you decide on a lease renewal – this will give you an opportunity to look at the condition of your property and evaluate the resident’s living conditions.
If you see damage, pests, or indications that the resident may be violating your lease agreement, there’s a good chance that you may not want to renew.
But if everything looks like it did at the beginning of the lease term, a renewal probably makes sense!
Will You Increase Your Rent?
Lease renewal is a good time to increase rent, which is another decision you’ll have to make when you’re renewing your resident’s lease.
How much can you increase without chasing the resident out?
You’ll need to do a market analysis to know what other residents are paying in rent for properties similar to yours.
If they’re not paying significantly more, you might want to leave the rent where it is so you can retain your high quality residents and avoid turnover expenses.
How Does Arbors Management Help?
Here at Arbors, we conduct a physical inspection of a property 120 to 150 days before the lease expires.
Then, we send the report to the owner through our online portal. You’ll have a chance to review the inspection report and our recommendations for how much rent should be increased.
You can review that information and decide if you agree, if you’d like to make a different rental increase, or if you don’t want to do one at all.
You can also tell us if you’d rather not renew the current resident’s lease – we’re here to move forward with what you want to do.
Once we have confirmation on how to proceed, we’ll coordinate with the resident and send them the paperwork to successfully complete the renewal process, if you so choose.
All in All…
Deciding whether or not to renew your current resident’s lease can be challenging, but when it comes down to it, you really just need to consider 3 big questions:
- Does your resident pay their rent on time?
- Is your resident caring for your property?
- Do you plan on increasing your rent?
Once you work through those questions, whether it be on your own or with professional guidance from Arbors, you should be able to reach a sound decision.
If you need help deciding whether or not to renew your resident’s lease, contact us at Arbors Management – we’d be more than happy to help!
By: Nick Griffith, Director of Conventional Housing
At Arbors Management, we believe the best way to avoid the eviction process and troublesome residents is by conducting a strict screening process before a resident even moves in.
Our resident screening process includes a close look at income, criminal histories, and credit histories. We have a rent collection process that works, and if eviction becomes necessary – we have a process for that, too.
Collecting Rent from Pittsburgh Residents
Before the residency even begins, we set the expectations with the resident about how we anticipate rent being paid. We let them know that rent is due on the first. They know when and how to pay it, and they know what the consequences will be if it’s not paid on time.
If payment is not received after the fifth of the month, we assess a late fee. We also send formal letters to the resident notifying them that rent is late. We tell them how much they owe and that we expect an immediate payment. This letter is sent to document the late rent. In addition to the letter, we also call, email, and text residents throughout the month to make sure they understand what they owe and why we are trying to collect it.
Filing a Landlord Resident Complaint
In the event a resident doesn’t pay rent, we file a Landlord Resident Complaint at the local magistrate. Typically, we will file this during the first week of the second month of rent being late. This means it will still be less expensive for the resident to catch up with rent than it would be to move out and find a new place to live.
We receive a court date, and we’ll go to court on your behalf to obtain a judgment in the amount owed plus court fees. Once this judgment is issued, the residents have 10 days to pay the rent. If they don’t pay the full amount within those 10 days, we can file an Order of Possession. Once we do that, the court gives the resident an additional 10 days to pay the rent. The eviction can only commence on the 11th day after the possession order is filed.
Professional Pittsburg Property Management
If the resident appeals the judgment, the case could go to a higher court level. At that point, we would need to involve an attorney. We are professional property managers, but we aren’t attorneys, so we cannot represent you at a higher court.
Many owners want to know what we charge for these services and the time we spend on paperwork and court appearances. The answer is – we don’t believe we should charge you for a bad resident or someone not paying rent. Our philosophy is that you should only be charged on the rent we collect. So, there’s no fee for us filing the Landlord Resident Complaint. The courts do have fees that you’ll be responsible for paying, but those will be passed along to the resident for your reimbursement.
We avoid evictions and late rental payments whenever possible. If you have any questions about our professional Pittsburg property management services, please contact us at Arbors Management.