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4 Pieces of Advice for New Landlords

4 Pieces of Advice for New Landlords

Massachusetts is a very landlord-friendly state, however any new landlord would benefit from some basic advice when starting out. Of course, you’ll want to find good tenants and ensure your property is ready for move-in day, but there’s much to know when becoming a landlord.

Treat Your Rental Property Like Your Business

Renting out a property, whether it’s a house or an entire apartment building, is a business and must be treated as such. Even if it’s not your primary job, if it provides a stream of income, it needs to be taken seriously.

Like with any business, you should put in the effort to keep your paying customers, aka your tenants, happy. Strong communication, clear expectations, and fair prices will all result in happier tenants. In turn tenants pay their rent on time and keep their housing in good condition. You’ll also want to ensure that you properly budget for repairs, keep your tax forms organized, and schedule proper inspections and regular maintenance. It’s a lot of work, but you’ll reap the benefits if you treat it seriously.

Enforce and Follow the Rules

Every place has rules, and your property is no exception. Some of these are official laws that must be followed, while others are more flexible and up to your discretion. However, what’s important is that the rules you put in place are put on paper and discussed with your tenant before they sign the lease and that they are properly enforced once it is.

The general rules of any tenancy tend to be similar for everyone. The tenant pays a set amount of rent at the same time every month, takes care of most minor property repairs out of pocket unless otherwise stated, follows noise ordinances and guest policies, as well as other rules you feel are important for the overall comfort and safety of the building. In exchange they get a great place to live.

You’re not exempt from rules, either, even as the landlord. Massachusetts law states that must provide housing that is safe, clean, and in compliance with the Massachusetts Sanitary Code. You are also required to keep any promises stated in the lease or rental agreement. If your tenancy is based on a lease, you can’t raise the rent until the lease is up. You can forbid pets or require a fee or pet deposit. However you must make accommodations for  tenants with Service Animals or Emotional Support Animals.

When creating a lease, it’s vital that you and your tenant understand your rights under Massachusetts law. This will save you both a lot of hardship if issues should arise into the tenancy.


Make It Easy for Tenants to Pay You

You might think it’s easiest to just ask your tenants to hand you a check or cash each month, but electronic payments will make your life so much simpler. Tenants can set up auto-payments so the rent is never late. As a result you’ll have electronic records that will be much easier to manage. While there might be some exceptions, setting up an online rent portal or using an app will save all parties a lot of hassle in the long run. This is especially useful if you don’t live on the property.

Hire a Property Management Company

You may think you can do it all yourself, and maybe you can. But it’s much easier to keep your payments, tax forms, schedules, and maintenance requests in order when you outsource all that work to the professionals. A company like ours can keep your house in order. This frees up valuable time that would otherwise be spent working on several hours worth of paperwork per day.

Remember that being a landlord is a major responsibility, but it’s one you’ll benefit from immensely. Keep your paperwork organized, your tenants happy, and your rules clear, and you could very well end up being Landlord of the Year!

Pets, Service Animals, and ESAs: What to Know as a Landlord

Pets, Service Animals, and ESAs: What to Know as a Landlord

Animals are a topic that comes up quite often when people are looking for housing. Tenants must consider their pets when finding a place to rent, and landlords need to think about whether or not they are willing to risk potential damages. Many landlords opt against allowing pets. Others require an extra fee to be paid and will only allow certain sizes or breeds of dogs.

However, not all domestic animals that a tenant brings in are pets. There are two other types you need to consider – Service Dogs and Emotional Support Animals (ESAs).

In Massachusetts, Service Animals and ESAs are protected under the Fair Housing Act, and as such, you are required by law to accommodate them. According to, “Under the Fair Housing Act, housing providers have obligations to make reasonable accommodations to allow assistance animals in housing, both in individual units and in common areas.”

Here are some things you, as a landlord, need to know about Service Animals and ESAs so you can both provide accommodations and protect yourself.

How are ESAs and Service Animals Different from Pets?

Pets are domesticated animals kept for companionship or pleasure. On the other hand, Service Animals and ESAs are assistance animals needed by a person with a disability. As such, they are not considered pets and are not restricted by typical pet rules.

Service Animals are typically dogs, though on rare occasions a miniature horse can be registered as a Service Animal. If you’re concerned about a badly-behaved dog chewing up furniture, barking constantly, or making a mess, you don’t have to worry – service dogs receive intensive obedience training as well as specialized training. They are taught to do specific tasks that their owner cannot do on their own, which makes them fairly easy to identify.

ESAs are companion animals that provide therapeutic benefits to those with emotional trauma or mental disabilities. They also aren’t limited to dogs, as rabbits, cats, birds, and other varieties of domesticated animals can be considered ESAs.

Service animal

Can I Ask for Proof of Disability?

Yes and no. You can ask for proof that your tenant’s service animal is “prescribed” by a medical professional, and usually they will give you a letter from their doctor stating that they have a disability that benefits from a service animal. For an ESA, you can ask your tenant for a letter from their therapist or mental health care provider.

However, you cannot ask your tenant about their specific disability or diagnosis, as medical details are protected information. In Massachusetts, Service Animal and ESA owners are not required to possess any certification or identification, either. Besides the letter from their doctor, they are not required to provide you with any other form of “proof.” To avoid landing yourself in legal hot water, it’s best to take them at their word and not pry.

Can I Charge a Pet Fee?

If you were thinking about charging a pet fee or deposit, under the Fair Housing Act, you cannot. That being said, the tenant is obliged to keep their Service Animal or ESA under control. They must also follow all applicable laws regarding vaccinations, noise disturbances, and picking up after them. You can charge a reasonable rate for any property damage done by the animal. You can also evict a tenant with a Service Animal or ESA if said animal turns out to be aggressive. However, it is best to get in contact with a lawyer who specializes in tenant rights before moving forward with this decision.

Pets might be a risk to a property, but Service Animals and ESAs are a benefit to your tenants. Knowing the difference and what rights they have is vital to providing the proper accommodations and maintaining good tenant-landlord relationships.

Thayer Treasurer Runs the Boston Marathon

On April 17, 2023, our very own Treasurer, Ken O’Brien, took a vacation day to participate in the 127th Boston Marathon! The last time he had run in the marathon was in 1987, where he ran as a young 23 year old “bandit.” Back then he had an unofficial time of 3 hours and 45 minutes. The Boston Marathon first began in 1897, with only 15 people participating. This year, the Marathon featured nearly 30,000 athletes from more than 100 countries, with Ken among them. With sporting bib number 29481, he finished Marathon Monday with the official time of 4 hours, 34 minutes and 55 seconds.

Having served as the Treasurer for Thayer & Associates since 2001, we are extremely proud of Ken’s achievement. He oversees the financial stability of our company and our 50+ commercial, multifamily, apartment and homeowner association clients. He and our accounting staff manage over $25M in client operating budgets. He also manages the investment and security of capital reserve funds whose collective balance typically ranges from $10M-$15M.

rent payment

Payment Options for Tenants

Paying rent is crucial in the landlord-tenant relationship. They are expected to pay a monthly fee to live on your property. In exchange you use that money to keep the property maintained and updated. However, this relationship works best if the way you receive rent is simple, easy, and direct for both parties.

Neither you or your tenant should have to worry about missing payments. Having a system in place that both of you can understand is the best way to keep your relationship positive.

Here are three options for ways your tenants can pay their rent.

Physical Check

Though physical checks aren’t used as often as rent payments in this day and age, they do still have some benefits. If you live in the same building you manage, it’s easy for tenants to simply hand you the rent. On top of that, you can deposit it in your bank account at your convenience, especially as most banking apps have mobile check deposit options. There is some accountability as when you cash a check, a physical image of it will show in your tenant’s bank statement.

However, checks are small and easy to misplace. If you don’t live in the same building as your tenants, they might have to mail you the check, which could easily be lost. Another problem is that with a personal check, you can’t verify if there is enough money in the tenant’s account to actually pay until you try to cash it. This can lead to bounced checks and overdraft fees.

Checks are frankly only really a viable option if your tenants are elderly and have a hard time with the current wave of technology. Even then, it requires a degree of trust.

Phone Apps

There are a lot of money-sending apps out there. Zelle, Venmo, and PayPal are some of the most popular. You can request money from your tenants and they can send it to you, using either a credit card or direct deposit from their bank accounts. The funds are withdrawn instantly and are usually transferred within a day or two. It’s easy and convenient for both parties.

You might have an issue if your tenant loses their phone. Yet most of these apps do have a website they can log in and pay from as well. The real downside is keeping track of all the payments. If you only have a few renters, it’s not hard, but if you manage an entire building, you’ll have to be extremely organized to ensure you receive payment from everyone every month.

iPhone with credit card

Online Rent Portal

Online rental payment sites are one of the most convenient ways to accept rent. They have basically all the benefits of phone app payments, with the added bonus of tenants being able to schedule automatic payments. This gives you both the peace of mind of knowing reminders won’t need to be set and it’s all taken care of. This is especially useful when you have more than a handful of renters whose payments you would need to keep track of.

The downside to these is that many of these services charge processing fees. Most are a mere 3%, but that’s money that could be in your pocket. Automatic payments can also be a problem if the tenant doesn’t realize there isn’t enough money in their account.

No matter the payment method you use, be sure to have some kind of system in place to keep track of who is paying what and when. You may even want to take advantage of our financial management services.

3 Reasons Why Landlords Need Administrative Services

Being a landlord comes with dozens of responsibilities. You need to communicate with tenants, keep up with building maintenance, ensure your budget is balanced, keep track of deposits, and more. It’s a full-time job, and not as easy as it might seem. Luckily, there is a way to keep yourself from becoming overwhelmed, though. Employ our administrative services.

You may think it’s an unnecessary expense and that you can do everything on your own. But part of being a great landlord is knowing when to delegate tasks to experienced, efficient professionals to save yourself time and energy. 

Here are three reasons why you should make use of our administrative services.

1. Administrative Services Keep You Organized

Tenant payments, maintenance requests, schedules, budgets, and tax forms. That’s a lot of paperwork that piles up on your desk. Even more fills up your email inbox. It can be overwhelming, and with so much going on, it’s concerningly easy for something to slip through the cracks.

Using our administrative services means that we’ll take care of it. We’ll maintain original copies of your records and correspondences and record routine documents at the Registry of Deeds. Do you need an annual operating budget and necessary supporting schedules? We’ll take care of it. You won’t have to worry about overflowing file cabinets or full inboxes with us helping you manage everything.

lease paperwork

2. Administrative Services Protect You

While being a landlord can be a lucrative job, it’s not one without risks, especially with how quickly laws and regulations can change. That’s one of our services is regularly confirming that you are complying with applicable federal, state and local regulations and restrictions. In the event of a legal issue, we can arrange for experienced attorneys and accountants to aid you while we prepare and file the required reports.

Perhaps the most critical administrative service we offer is coordinating your property’s insurance. Renter’s insurance can save you a ton of money in the event of a disaster or medical emergency, so you can’t afford to go without. To help, we sort through the bids of qualified insurance carriers, then help you choose the policy that works for you. We also keep track of original files on all insurance records and oversee claims settlement and the restoration of property should a loss occur.

3. Administrative Services Free Up Your Time

As a landlord, you are responsible for the entirety of your building and keeping your tenants happy. But be honest; you would love to have more free time available to do the things you love. That can be spending time with your family, picking up a hobby, or just getting to relax and do nothing. Well, think of all the time you’ll have on your hands when you’re not bogged down by paperwork.

It’s important to maintain a good work-life balance, and landlords are no different in that regard. That’s why it’s critical that you take advantage of our administrative services so that you can live a happier, less stressful life. Contact us today to get started!

landlord keys

Are Long-Term Tenants Better Than Short-Term?

It’s an age-old question. As a landlord, tenants are your source of income, so this is a business question to consider carefully. When you sign on a long-term tenant, you’re typically committing to at least a one-year lease as opposed to the nightly or weekly contract with short-term renters.

So it’s time to think about some of the pros and cons to signing on a long-term tenant over a short-term renter.

apartment bedroom

Pro: A Steady Source of Rent

A long-term tenant can be a fantastic financial decision. Throughout the lease period you will receive monthly rent, and generally they are responsible for taking care of utilities, internet, and certain upkeep expenses. This makes planning your budget for the year much easier and can provide you with peace of mind. You won’t have to worry about gaps in income because no one decided to rent out your property for a week or two.

Con: Less Flexibility

So market values are going up and you think it’s time to increase the rent. There’s a snag, however; your long-term lease states very clearly that you will only charge a certain amount every month. If you want your tenant to pay more, you’ll have to wait until it’s time to renew the lease.

You also won’t be able to sell, use, or move the property during the period of your tenant’s lease. So any major changes will have to be put off until the end of the lease.

Pro: Tenant Screening

With short-term tenants, you don’t really have time to screen every one. Interviews, credit checks, and references seem rather pointless for someone who won’t be staying more than a week or two. That means you’re basically rolling the dice when it comes to who you’re letting into your property.

With long-term tenants, you do have the luxury of choice, and it’s frankly essential to ensure you thoroughly screen potential renters to find quality tenants. After all, this is a commitment for both of you. You can meet them, check references, ask and answer questions, and decide if this is a person you feel comfortable entrusting with your space. But it means you have a much better chance at getting a renter that will properly maintain the property, pay on time, follow the rules, and communicate with you.

plumbing repair

Con: Harder to Get in for Maintenance and Renovations

If you’ve decided you want to go with a long-term tenant, you unfortunately don’t have the luxury of just popping in unannounced to add a new coat of paint or spray for pests. It can be a logistical headache coordinating with the tenant a period of time for them to be out, moving furniture and belongings, and you might need to compensate them in some way for the inconvenience, especially if they have to stay elsewhere during the process. With short-term tenants you have far more flexibility scheduling maintenance and renovations, as you can simply get these things done in-between rentals.

In the end, it’s up to you whether a long-term or short-term tenant suits your needs. Both have their benefits and pitfalls, so think it over and determine what will be in your best interest.

circular saw

4 Renovations to Consider Before Move-In

So a long-term tenant has moved out of your property and you’re getting ready to show potential new tenants. As you do your walkthrough, a thought strikes you; this place could use an update.

It doesn’t matter if the property is a house, condo, or apartment; it’s simply easier to make major renovations when a property is empty. No one is inconvenienced and you can take as much time as necessary to get it done properly. Even better, the improvements will attract more tenants who will be drawn to upgraded features.


Put in New Floors

There is literally no better time to install new flooring than when a house, condo, or apartment is empty. There will be no personal belongings or furniture to move or store, and the tenant won’t have to stay at a hotel for a few days to a few weeks. It’s also a great way to give the property a fresh start, as floor wear and tear is common but not always easily fixed.

You can make the call on whether you want to install new floorboards or carpet. Carpet can provide insulation for your tenants but can be harder to clean and limit decorating options. Meanwhile hardwood or linoleum floors can get scratched up by furniture but it’s easier to sweep up dirt and mop up spills.

A Fresh Coat of Paint

Freshly-painted walls can really brighten up a room. If you have a room that’s smaller or doesn’t get much natural light, the right color can make it appear larger and brighter, and thus more attractive to potential renters. But no tenant wants to have their walls painted while they’re living there. It’s messy, they’ll have to move their belongings out of the way, cover their furniture and rugs with plastic, and of course live with the smell until the paint fully dries.

This isn’t just limited to the interior. A fresh coat of paint on the outside of the building can vastly improve its curb appeal.

Install New Windows

With the rising cost of heat in Massachusetts, both you and your tenants would much rather not have to worry about a massive utility bill due to drafty windows. Inefficient windows can lose up to 30% of your home’s energy. That’s why it’s important to inspect your windows and, if necessary, get them updated or replaced. These renovations will also benefit you and your tenants in the summer as good windows will keep the cool air in, meaning fans and air conditioners won’t be sending the electricity bills up either.

Make Electrical Upgrades

If you’re renting out an older property, it is essential that you get your wiring regularly inspected. This is easiest to do when you have easy access to walls and can rip them open if necessary. This could very well save a life, as you’ll have peace of mind that an electrical fire isn’t waiting to happen.

Also, with our dependence on technology, from kitchen appliances to computers to phones, it’s important to go in and ensure there are enough wall outlets to appeal to new tenants. If it feels like there aren’t enough, call up an electrician to install more. 

The time to act is now, so don’t wait until it’s too late! Get these renovations done before showing the property off to new tenants. Your future renters and your wallet will thank you.


Dos & Don’t of Newsletters in Associations 

Good communication is a hallmark of being a good property manager. From connecting personally on lease signing day or move-in day to keeping renters apprised of happenings around the property throughout the year, communication is key to keeping the property running smoothly. 

One method of communicating that we have discussed at length over the past few years is the use of email blasts and newsletters to keep all unit owners informed of what may be going on whether it is a repair ongoing and that workmen may be around the property to notification of parking rules during the snowy season. Newsletters can convey important information in a concise and accurate manner that can be referred back to over and over. 

There are some rules to sending newsletters, however, that property managers should be aware of. Here is our quick list of what to include in your newsletter and what to avoid each time you send a community newsletter. newsletter

Do …

Things that you will want to include in your newsletter or email blast should be timely information. For instance, if any information has changed with your community amenities such as swimming times at the pool or tennis sign-up times during the summer weather or contractors who will be snow plowing in the winter months. This helpful info should be included in your newsletter. Community members want to know what their rent/HOA dues are being spent on and this will help them understand. 

Additionally, include in your newsletter a list of important dates such as the last day to pay rent before a late fee is added on or the day that landscapers will be on the property for regular maintenance. Community members should be made aware of third-party contractors who will be on the property. 

As you write these newsletters be sure to write well and be pleasant with any requests or reminders. Don’t forget to proofread! stop

Don’t …

Newsletters are not a place to list grievances about the property such as litter or unpaid bills. Leave those items off your newsletter but use gentle reminders instead. 

Do not get personal on a community newsletter that is being sent to the whole community. There is no need to call someone out for late payment or other infractions on a community newsletter. Keep that information private. 

On that same note, newsletters should be informative but avoid sticky situations such as mentioning any issues that may be between two tenants. Keep that private as well. However, if the root of the problem was a miscommunication, this would be a good place to remind everyone of the guidelines so that there will be no misunderstanding, such as quiet hours or trash collection rules.

The ultimate goal of a community newsletter is to be informative, and helpful, and keep your tenants in the loop. If you stay in that realm while you write, your newsletter should be a positive communication device for your property. 


rent payment

How To Encourage Prompt Rental Payments

To manage a successful property or community, it is critical that all payments are made in a timely manner whether they are meant for rent, HOA dues, or property maintenance fees. Property managers, landlords, and HOA boards have quite the task set out before them to ensure that their tenants and unit owners make payments promptly. 

Property managers wear many hats and collecting payments is one task that many would love to hand off to someone else as it can become a loathsome chore when payments are perpetually late or forgotten. Unfortunately, it is often the job of a property manager to collect payments and manage the financial affairs of the community. 

Here are a few methods you may find useful to help encourage your unit owners or renters to make their payments on time. credit card

Make Paying Easy 

Gone are the days of using “snail mail” to physically mail a bank check for rent or HOA dues. Although many property managers do still allow this method, many have moved on to more efficient and easier ways to pay rent or fees associated with the property. 

There are currently a number of secure online rental apps that many communities are using not only for security reasons but to encourage an easy and prompt way to pay rent. These apps provide notifications when payments are due and allow for digital payment, often in a few simple clicks. 

Email Reminders 

Much of our world has become automated, so remembering a monthly payment should be easy, right? 

Well, for those tenants that need a little nudge, property managers can utilize an automated email reminder in the days leading up to the rent due date. This will be an unobtrusive way of reminding that may help some get their payment in on time. software on a laptop

Reward Promptness

While rewarding renters or unit owners who consistently pay on time may not be financially possible, this is a method that many find beneficial. These rewards, discounts, or small prizes are positive reinforcement and should be a good method to get this prompt payment behavior to be habitual. 

For those who are late with payments, the opposite side of the coin may also be a motivator. Let your tenants know that while there may be a grace period once or twice, after that there will be a late payment charge added to their bill. This may be just the encouragement some may need to get the next payment in on time. 

Use Clear Communication 

Some late payers may need to be retold the guidelines of when and how to pay. Keep good communication going between yourself and your community members. Reminders are great but you may need to touch base personally by phone, text, or in-person to set expectations and communicate your rules about payments. 

Get Legal 

While this step is always the last resort, some tenants fail to make payments at all or habitually make late payments causing the property manager financial stress on their end. In these cases, it is a wise idea to catalog all late payments and let the courts know the situation so that it can be handled in housing court. 


What Is Renter’s Insurance & Do You Need It? 

We’ve all heard about car insurance and homeowners insurance to protect our automobile and home, but did you know that if you are leasing or renting a space to live you may want to consider another kind of insurance called renter’s insurance? 

Renter’s insurance is relatively inexpensive and can provide financial security in the case of a catastrophe. Let’s take a closer look at what this insurance is, what it covers, and how many Americans utilize this as they rent or lease living space. 

What is Renter’s Insurance? 

According to leading national insurer Nationwide Insurance, renter’s insurance “protects your personal property in a rented apartment, condominium, or home from unexpected circumstances such as theft, a fire or sewer backup damage – and will pay you for lost or damaged possessions. It can also help protect you from liability if someone is injured on the property.”

Many renters mistakenly believe that a landlord’s insurance, which covers the structure of a building, will also cover their belongings and medical bills in the case of an accident such as a fire or flood. This is not true, but the renter’s insurance could make up the difference and allow the renter to replace or repair their possessions as well as cover liability in the case of injuries sustained on the property. 

How Does Renter’s Insurance Work? 

Now that you know a little more about what this type of insurance is, let’s focus on what it covers and how it works. 

Most renter’s insurance covers four main areas: loss of property, loss of use, liability, and medical expenses. In the case of a disaster causing the destruction or loss of your personal belongings, the insurance would cover the replacement of your clothing, furniture, electronics, and other belongings that were inside the property during the incident. This could be a huge financial strain if you have to buy out-of-pocket to replace all that you own including expensive technology.

In the case that your apartment or rental unit was uninhabitable, the renter’s insurance would cover the payment of hotel stays, restaurant meals, or other expenses if you have to live elsewhere while your home undergoes repairs.

As for liability, the renter’s insurance can pay out if it is determined that you are responsible for injuries to other people or damage to their property. It can also cover injuries to other people or yourself in your home, regardless of fault.landlord keys

How Many Americans Utilize Renter’s Insurance? 

According to Simply Insurance online, only “only 57% of renters in the United States had renters insurance, compared to 42% in 2018.” This relatively low number is shocking to most insurance providers since the cost of this type of insurance is relatively low, averaging just under $200 a year in 2020.

Given the relatively low cost of this insurance and the fact that over 40% of renters are not taking advantage of this option, we suggest that you talk to your insurance provider and add this little bit of peace of mind to your current automobile or other insurance.