Category Archives: property management

carrying moving boxes

Abandoned Property: What Happens When Tenants Leave Items Behind? 

What are the legal requirements when a property management company or landlord finds items that have been left behind? You might be surprised to find that the answer is not as simple as throwing it all out.

The laws regarding the responsibilities of landlords or property managers when it comes to property left behind by former tenants or lease owners are not straightforward or cut-and-dry. 

One would initially think that the most obvious answer would be to dispose of the items. Let’s take a closer look at why that is not the first step in this fairly complicated process. 

abandoned red chair

What Is Considered Abandoned Property? 

Your tenants have moved out, but some of their possessions have been left behind. Now what?  Landlords are faced with the issue of wondering what they can legally do with items once the tenants are no longer in the picture. 

Abandoned property is considered any possession that has been left in the unit, storage areas, or parking spots after the tenant has moved out or been evicted. Property that has been left behind could include: 

  • Things stored in a garage, attic, or basement.
  • Cars or other vehicles parked on the property.
  • Air conditioners or other fixtures that have become a more permanent part of the property. Permanent fixtures added to the apartment such as shelving, grab bars, or ceiling fans often become a part of the apartment and fall under the landlord’s domain.
  • Pets that have been left in the unit or on the outside of the property (yes, it happens). 

couches in an apartment

Steps in the Complex Process of Dealing with Abandoned Items

Depending upon the state in which you own property (or manage the property), you may have different legal requirements to check off before you can dispose of or sell the items in question. Here is a quick rundown of what you may need to do before packing it all up or hauling it to the dump. 

  • Determine why the tenants left. Check local laws for specific rules. Guidelines may be different depending upon if they were called up for military service, were evicted, or their lease came to an end.
  • Review your rental terms for clauses related to abandoned property. Many leases include a time allotment that tenants have for returning to claim abandoned property.
  • Document and inventory the abandoned property and damages. This should include not only pictures of the items but descriptions of them as well. 
  • Give the former tenant legal notice of abandoned property.
  • Sell, dispose of, or store the property, depending on local laws, the amount of time that has passed, and the steps you took to notify the previous tenants of the items. 

As you can see, handling rental properties and the items that were left behind is a fairly complex and legal process where the onus is put on the property owner or property manager to determine that they have fulfilled their legal duty to the tenant. Be sure to check with your legal team for your local laws and regulations regarding abandoned property. 

 

hammer with nails

HOA or Homeowner Repairs: Who Is Responsible For What? 

The regular and thorough maintenance of a condominium community is one of the aspects of living in a homeowner’s association (HOA) that many unit owners appreciate. In fact, many unit owners potentially chose a community because they would not need to take care of typical chores that other homeowners need to deal with, such as mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, regular repairs, plowing the driveway, repairing broken and well-worn aspects of the building, and cleaning of the common areas and amenities. 

While most HOAs have bylaws and governing documents that clearly outline who needs to maintain and repair what areas, it can sometimes be confusing to figure out who handles certain repairs. Therefore, the goal of today’s blog is to educate unit owners, future buyers, and association members about maintenance responsibilities which fall in a unit owner domain versus those of a homeowner’s association. 

How HOA’s Are Divided

Before buying a condo or moving into a community, it is always good to understand how the responsibilities are divided. Association responsibilities are usually divided between the governing board and the individual unit owners. 

Individual unit owners are generally in control of the rights of that unit. Unless otherwise stated in the association bylaws or documents, this includes: the floors, ceilings, and walls of each unit including the airspace and paint on the interior walls. In townhome communities, this area of responsibility extended to the individual piece of land surrounding each individual unit, as well as any other structure/s within it.

Likewise, associations and the governing boards connected to them, have areas that they are responsible for maintaining and repairing. The Declaration, Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs) document should have detailed information that will set out specifics for each community. This document is made available to all community members. 

The HOA handles the maintenance of shared common areas as well as the overall building structure. Limited common areas are the shared responsibility of the HOA and unit owners who benefit from them. 

Specifics to Your Association 

Before you request a repair or start working on one within your individual unit, you may want to consult the CC&R for your association. Here are a few areas that could get confusing so you will want to ask for clarification. 

  • Roof and exterior walls: Depending upon the guidelines of your community, these areas are most often defined as common elements, but the unit might include the interior surface or drywall.
  • Floors or ceilings: Similar to walls, the unit might include just the surface, halfway through, or the whole floor or ceiling. Check your CC&R for specifics. 
  • Windows and doors: As determined by your association contract, the frames, glass, and the hardware might or might not be a part of the unit. It could be considered a common area. 
  • Permanent fixtures: Cabinets, flooring, sinks, and the like are typically considered part of the unit and thus the responsibility falls to the owner of the unit. However, certain fixtures including outdoor porch lights or garage lights might not be included.
  • Plumbing, electric, air conditioning systems: The portions serving air, water, and electricity to the unit may be under the unit owner’s domain, but when these areas serve other units as well, it could be considered a common area.  
  • Decks, balconies, and patios: These might be part of the unit, common elements, or limited common elements. (Source: Nolo Law) 

As you can see, the determining factors of what responsibilities belong to which party is mostly included in the documentation given to unit owners at the time of the purchase of the property. Examine those documents before you begin any repairs to determine who is physically and financially responsible. 

 

outside of a condo

What Landscaping Can Do For Your Condo Community 

Landscaping can have a huge impact on a condo community. Think about the last time that you drove into an association. How well were the gardens, walkways, bushes, trees, and lawns cared for? Were they well manicured, trimmed, and mulched cleanly? Were the hardscapes kept in good repair? These aspects could probably tell visitors and homeowners alike quite a bit about what it would be like to live in that community. 

Landscaping can not only tell a story about what the community looks like aesthetically, but also how well managed the community is as a whole. Well organized and financially structured homeowners associations are able to not only maintain year round landscaping projects but also major repairs and additions to outside amenities like grilling areas, outdoor activities such as pools, tennis courts, and fire pits. 

walkway

Benefits of Having Top Notch Landscaping 

Landscaping doesn’t just send the signal that the grass, trees, brushes, and gardens have been cared for, but also that the community at large is in good hands. Here are a few of the overall benefits of a great landscaping program for your community. 

Safety 

First and foremost, landscaping can send the signal that the safety of the community is a top priority for the Homeowners Association (HOA). Landscaping can include installation and upkeep of walkway lights, motion detectors, keeping debris away from high traffic areas, trimming bushes away from windows, pruning trees for roof and structural safety, and repair and general maintenance for hardscapes to prevent slips-and-falls. 

Home Values

Realtor® Magazine reports that landscaping improves a home’s overall value by as much as 12%. For Homeowners Association (HOA) communities, which on average already have homes valued at 5% to 6% higher than those in non-HOA communities, the increase can be even higher, depending on the landscaping techniques used.

landscaped birch trees

Reassurance of Future Buyers 

Landscaping not only shows off the current condition of the property of a homeowners association. It also shows that finances have been allocated by the HOA for general upkeep of the community. 

Well maintained landscaping that is well cared for on a regular basis shows dedication to consistent maintenance throughout the property. This can be comforting to potential buyers and tenants who want to be sure that building management cares about the quality and upkeep that goes into building, and will take care of internal issues in the same professional manner.

Complete, year-round landscape maintenance takes care of all of these factors. Is your community well tended? A landscaping routine can add so much to your community including: safety, a reassurance that your investment is well managed, and a positive return on your investment. 

 

paperwork

What Happens When A Tenant Breaks Their Lease?

The legal agreement (or lease) between renter and landlord is usually pretty straight forward. The renter or tenant agrees to pay for the use of the property and the landlord or property owner promises to uphold all aspects of the rental agreement. Seems pretty simple right? But what about when circumstances occur that cause the tenant to break the lease? 

In most typical situations, renters stay the entire term of their lease, whether it is 6 months, a year or two years. Unfortunately, life sometimes gets in the way of completing that agreement. A new job, a loss of job, a move, a medical illness, or even a military deployment can cause a tenant to break the lease. 

lease paperwork

Who Is Responsible for the Remainder of the Lease? 

A lease is a binding agreement that’s supposed to protect both the landlord and the tenant. Therefore, depending upon the state in which you live, there are laws that protect both the landlord from being stuck with a vacant property until a suitable renter is found and a tenant from having to pay rent for an apartment that they no longer occupy. 

Depending on the reason, the landlord might be legally bound to release the tenant without damages, or conversely, the tenant may be bound to paying the rent until a replacement tenant is secured. Check leasing laws in your state for more guidance. 

When Is a Tenant NOT Responsible for the Remaining Rent? 

While every case is different and should be examined on its own merits, there are several situations in which a tenant is not deemed responsible for continuing to pay the rent after they have given legal notice of moving out. 

military jets

When Called to Active or Military Duty 

The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act allows those in the armed forces, National Guard, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the U.S. Public Health Service the right to break their leases to start active duty or if their orders take them far away (50 miles is the accepted minimum distance). A 30 day notice must be given to release from the lease. 

When Living Conditions Are Unsafe 

Landlords are required by law to provide a habitable and safe place for tenants to live. Heat, hot water, working plumbing and electrical systems, and a generally safe (up to code) environment that doesn’t constitute a health hazard are required or tenants may be released from their lease without penalty. 

When Domestic Violence is An Issue 

Some states allow victims of domestic violence to break a lease without penalty by providing the landlord a written notice. Check your local and state laws and consult a local attorney if you want to learn more about the rights of victims of domestic violence.

The Question of Loss of Wages or Employment

This one gets a little trickier. In the age of covid many renters have found themselves out of work and a way to pay rent through no fault of their own. Some states require that landlords work with renters on making accommodations such as a payment plan or deferred payment. There may also be federal, state, or local laws that temporarily limit or prohibit landlords from evicting a tenant for nonpayment of rent. 

For more information about breaking leases and the Cares Act which currently protects evictions during the global health crisis, click here

 

hammer with nails

Do I Need Approval to Renovate My Condo Unit? 

Have you been bitten by the DIY bug or perhaps have been watching too much HGTV this winter? If so, you may have started dreaming about making some changes to your condo unit. Maybe you are thinking big and considering a structural change, or maybe you just want to change out the color in the bathroom. Either way, you probably are facing the question that comes up when you don’t own the building…Do I need to get approval from the HOA (homeowners association) before I renovate my unit? 

The answer is complex and often includes the words “it depends.” Mostly, however, the answer is that you should get approval from your homeowners association before you start making major changes to your unit. Here is a quick breakdown depending (that magic word) on your HOA and their bylaws. 

paperwork

Where to Start

Most HOAs have tight control over establishing rules that unit owners must follow, especially when it comes to remodeling. The first thing you will want to do is determine for yourself what changes you would like to make on your unit. 

From there consult with the governing documents for your community. You can find these guidelines laid out in the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs).

Do these documents give any insight on what can and can not be done in a unit? Are there stipulations about what scope of work can take place and what contractors will or will not be allowed to work within the building? The bylaws and governing documents should be your first resource before you set your plans in motion. 

Beyond the governing documents, talk to your neighbors and find out if they have had any work done on their unit, how it went and what kind of hoops they needed to jump through before work could get underway. 

circular saw

Don’t Get Ahead of Yourself

Many condo owners feel like the interior of their home is fair game for renovations and they start their projects without approval from the HOA board. Unfortunately, this means that if you don’t follow your HOA’s condo rules, the board may subject you to fees or court time- neither of which are fun to deal with. So to avoid these repercussions proactively stay informed and in accord with the CC&Rs. No one wants to deal with the cost of a renovation and then face fines from their HOA due to that project. 

Consider why these rules exist. If you begin knocking down walls or changing the structure of the building you could potentially harm the integrity of the unit or the units above or below. Always seek approval before you make any structural changes. 

Have you made changes to your condo unit in the past? How did it go? Drop us a line in the comments or check out our Facebook page. 

banana under a boot

Avoiding Slips & Falls in Your Community 

It’s that time of year again, when snow, ice, and all sorts of precipitation or freezing temperatures could wreak havoc on walkways, driveways, and hardscape surfaces. The many ups and downs of Mother Nature is what makes living in the Greater Boston region exciting, but also a bit of a hazard during the winter months. 

If you are a landlord, property owner, or part of a condominium board, you may need assistance during the winter months to keep your hardscape safe in order to avoid any slips and falls that could occur. Here are some simple yet smart ways to keep your community protected from these incidences. 

condo grounds

Condo Living Benefits 

Living in a condominium community has so many benefits, including not having to worry about landscaping and outdoor maintenance. Shoveling snow, de-icing sidewalks and parking lots are two of the perks as well. Tack on some wonderful amenities like access to a fitness room, pool in the summer, or a guest house for parties and you have a trifecta of benefits to condo living.

The benefit we are focusing on today is the responsibility of preventing dangerous walkway and parking space incidents during the winter months, as well as keeping indoor common areas safe year round. 

walkway

Outdoor Spaces 

The responsibility of a condo community to keep its common areas such as the walkways, parking spots, and driveways safe really is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to preventing slips and falls. 

Walkways should be maintained carefully all year long, which means clearing them of snow and ice in the winter months, and leaves and other tree debris in the fall and spring months. These walkways should be treated with non-toxic de-icing products. This is the first defense of protecting your community against slips and falls. 

In addition to clearing walkways of snow or ice, many communities also install hand railings, use anti-skid paint on walkways, and keep all hardscape in good repair throughout the year. This includes repairing any cracks, bumps, or broken pieces to avoid someone’s foot getting caught on the ground and causing a potentially injurious fall. 

Outside areas should also have proper lighting so tenants or community members can see where they are walking and thus avoid a painful fall on ice or by bumping into something blocking their path. 

Indoor Areas 

As New Englanders, we all know that when winter hits it is pretty common to track in snow and ice on our boots. That snow will eventually melt and could cause a slipping issue in hallways or common areas. Property management companies should become experts at knowing what time of year to install moisture-absorbent mats with beveled edges to avoid slips at entrance ways. They should also be quick to send maintenance crews to regularly mop and dry hallways that are not covered with rugs. 

What are ways that your property management company keeps your community safe from slips and falls? Drop us a line in the comments or check out our Facebook page. 

 

man in walkway in the winter

Prepping For Winter in a Condo Community 

Nobody here in New England wants to admit it, but the winter temps and precipitation is on its way. That means snow, ice, and below freezing temperatures for the next few months. Maybe even a nor’easter for good measure too! Are you ready for whatever Mother Nature can throw our way? Here is a quick guide of ways to prep in your community for the colder months that lay ahead. 

thermostat

Interior Unit Preparations

If you are a condo unit owner, there’s really not a whole lot you can do to prepare the outside of your home. That job usually falls to the organization hired by your condo HOA board. 

There are, however, a few steps you can take to ready your condo’s interior for the winter weather. Start by making sure your windows are sealed properly. Add caulking where necessary and maybe even invest in thermal window shades that can keep pesky drafts out. 

If dipping temperatures are a problem, try using a programmable thermostat that can have your unit nice and warm by the time you get home from work, and automatically adjust it back down during the hours you are out and about. If temperatures are a problem in your building, you may also want to protect your pipes on exterior facing walls as they can freeze and burst in the sub zero temps. 

In addition to taking steps to protect your condo unit from temperature fluctuations, you may also want to check the batteries in your smoke detector and carbon monoxide alerting system. The start of winter is a great time to check both of these as blowing and drifting snow can cause a blocking of exhaust pipes, a potential catastrophe in the making. 

While you are checking your monitoring systems, also take a close look at the lint trap in your dryer if you have one within the unit. A good clean out is a great way to avoid any fire risk associated with combustible lint inside a dryer. 

snowy village

Outside Winterizing 

Usually the winterizing on the outside of a building is handled by the homeowners association, (often a 3rd party vendor) who handles things such as: plowing and shoveling, roof repair, and landscaping. 

Winter tasks such as plowing and shoveling hardscape areas falls to the landscaping team and the HOA board. Treating walkways with de-icers is also a main task of the board who is responsible for the safety of its community members both on walkways and on the driveway surfaces. 

Clearing rooftops or decks that are at the mercy of the elements and winter precipitation may also fall in the category of responsibilities taken care of by the HOA. Read the bylaws about how often these areas will be cleared of snow or winterized for the season. 

Your property management team should be able to communicate with your condo community regarding a checklist of tasks that you may want to complete before the weather turns even colder, while they take care of exterior chores. 

 

for sale sign

How To Fill a Vacancy Fast 

Are you a landlord or property owner and feel the pressure every time a renter gives their notice that they are moving on to another location? This is pretty normal and understandable especially if you have been lucky enough to have tenants that pay on time and are respectful to the property. 

Once a renter has given notice there are a few ways that you can work to fill the vacancy quickly. This will result in no gap in payments and allow you to continue the rental agreement with a new person or family. 

key in a lock

Act Immediately

If all goes as planned, landlords or property owners should have about 30 days notice when a renter announces a departure. This doesn’t always happen but when it does this time can be used to prep the unit. Take that thirty days and start marketing immediately. Start placing ads in local media outlets as well as online sites for renting. 

Use this time to assess if the unit needs repairs, repainting, or any new flooring/appliances. The 30 days notice will give you ample time to make these repairs. The better the unit looks, the more likely you will get a good price and find renters quickly. 

Market Appropriately 

Once you have assessed the repair needs of the unit, you should begin marketing the property. Use free online sites, such as Craigslist and Zillow. Use signage in the window or on the lawn of the property so people in the vicinity can be first to know that the unit is available. 

Other options for marketing include: using a real estate agent, word of mouth, property management companies, and a traditional newspaper ad. These can be placed weeks prior to the vacancy and allow you to fill the unit even before the previous owners leave. 

phone apps

Leverage Technology

Use technology such as digital photography, virtual tours, or 360 degree images of the space to help you rent the unit. Consider shooting a video tour of the interior of your property, as well as the outside of your apartment complex and all common areas. 

Technology such as social media can also help you get the word out about the vacancy. Sharing of posts can quickly spread and make for light work of renting the unit. 

Create Incentives 

If you have multiple units, some property owners give incentives for other renters to attract good renters by bringing in someone they know and can vouch for. Obviously, background checks and credit checks should always still be run for each applicant, but this can help attract good renters. 

How do you fill vacancies fast? Drop us a line in the comments or check out our Facebook page. 

fitness center man working out

Common Problems in Common Areas 

As community members, we love our common areas. These areas in any condominium association tend to be the amenities we cherish so much such as the walkways, tennis courts, fitness centers, pool areas, entertaining/fire pit areas, and gardens. Unfortunately, with every common area there are some pretty typical problems, especially in a community living situation. 

conference room

Cleaning Up 

Common areas are meant to be used by all who live in the condo association. It may also be permissible for these areas to be used by unit owner’s and their guests, depending upon the HOA rules in your association. 

While sharing these spaces makes it nice for all to enjoy the amenities, it also means that cleaning up should be done by all. Usually every association allows for an outside vendor to complete regular cleanings either weekly or bi weekly for trash and general cleaning. However, the day-to-day cleaning should be done by those who use the spaces. For instance, if you head to the pool, tennis courts, or fitness area, be sure to carry out any trash that you brought in. Put items back where you found them and tidy up the space you used. 

Locking Up 

If your community has a key or coded entry for each amenity and common area, you will want to make sure that once you have used the area, that you lock the location. This means that homeowners should ensure that no people outside the community can gain access to common areas without permission. It is actually a safety measure that can ensure the protection of all who live in the community. Your HOA may have specific rules about when each common area can be accessed and what the lock up procedures are for each area. Please try to follow those. 

man with finger to mouth

Noise Level 

Noise ordinances vary from community to community. Check with your association about what your obligations are in regard to having music, entertainment, or loud parties in any common areas in your community. The rules may designate hours when music or guests are permitted, or it may mention distinct noise levels. A general rule to follow is to check with neighbors and others who are using the common area if the noise level is acceptable. 

Pet Problems

In addition to dealing with clean up, locking up, and handling the general noise level, every community member should be sensitive to the rules of common areas when it comes to pets. Review whether they are allowed in common areas and if they are what rules apply. For instance, does Fido need to be on a leash, is there a designated time that permits pets on walking paths, or are there specific guidelines for your community? Check with your HOSA before you allow your pet into a common area. 

For more articles on common areas and issues that may arise in your community, check out our website or articles on our Facebook page.

landscaped garden

Benefits of Landscaping & Property Maintenance

Picture it. You turn the corner into your association and you are greeted by flowering shrubs, grass that is freshly mowed, and parking lots that are swept and newly lined. Each of these things can lend themselves to an aesthetically pleasing environment. There are, however, many benefits to having the landscaping completed by your association. 

landscaped homeLifestyle Benefits 

Other than people who truly love gardening and tinkering in the yard, landscaping tends to be a tedious chore that homeowners look forward to “checking off” on their list of things to do every weekend. For many, it can take hours of manpower, and even cost a pretty penny to buy all the equipment to keep your lawn, shrubs, trees, and flowers looking beautiful every week during the spring, summer, and fall. 

Living in a community that provides the landscaping, both in terms of lawn maintenance in the spring and summer and snow plowing during the winters months, can be both a time saver and a cost effective benefit of community living. 

landscaped birch trees Aesthetic Benefit 

Along with the time and cost savings, community landscaping can be a major advantage to the overall aesthetic to any association. Usually associations contract with third party vendors who have the proper equipment and landscaping professionals who can keep your community looking professionally landscaped all year. 

Arborists, mowers, and gardeners can keep your association environment looking clean, manicured, and brightly blooming! The aesthetic benefit can be a mood booster and can make you truly love living in your condo association. 

If you love seeing the flowering plantings and trimmed bushes without any of the work, you know what it feels like to live in a well manicured community. 

Lower Liability 

Landscapers usually handle both the organic areas of a community as well as the hardscapes.  This means that your walkways, parking areas, and pavers will be kept spotless and in good working condition. Walkways and parking lots are often areas where liability claims come into play with slips and falls or uneven pavers causing hazardous conditions. Using a third party vendor to clean, edge, and repair these areas can mean that their insurance and the Master insurance of the condo association will cover any personal liability in this area. 

What do you love most about the landscaping in your community. Drop us a line in the comments or visit our Facebook page.