How to Hire Property Management Rock Stars

They say that you are only as good as the company you keep. While it’s not always possible to hire perfect employees, there are a few things to keep in mind when trying to fill vacancies on your staff. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends the following hiring tips for guaranteeing the best staff possible:
Clarify Expectations
While it might seem like common sense to expect an employee to dress professionally and show up on time, you’d be surprised at how many assumptions can be proven wrong. By being crystal clear about what you expect from new hires, you ensure that everyone is on the same page. In that vein, make sure your job description is thorough and clear in language. Include required skills and spell out the compensation you’re able to offer. This allows candidates to easily understand what they are in for in an interview.
Prioritize Skills
When you’re writing up the job description, be clear about the skills necessary for the position. If you’re hiring someone to handle rent payments, organization and a mathematical mind simply aren’t negotiable. By being clear about the requirements for the position, you set yourself up for hiring a candidate who is thoroughly qualified.
Stress Customer Service
It’s easy to say you’re good at customer service, but it’s another to actually handle customer interactions with skill and grace. In the property management world, your employees will likely interact with tenants or prospective tenants on a daily basis. To provide stellar service, you need employees who can clearly and effectively communicate. When it comes to the property management business, customer service trumps skill every time.
Reward Loyalty
Hiring can take time and focus away from your tenants, so you’ll want to bring on someone who is likely to stay. Look to a prospective hire’s resume for insight on their priorities. If they bounce from one job to another every year, chances are good that they won’t stick around your office for long, either. While it is important to hire a candidate who is well-qualified, longevity should always be factored in, too.
No matter how you handle hiring new members of your staff, by being honest and upfront about expectations, you set your team up for success.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Prevent Property Damage This Winter

Whether you live in sunny SoCal or are expecting several feet of snow this holiday season, there are undeniable changes to prep for before winter officially arrives. Even in places where it rarely drops below freezing, it pays to plan ahead and prevent property damage. Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi recommends taking these tips into consideration if your area experiences even one deep freeze a year:
Protect Your Pipes
Experts say that the average burst pipe insurance claim tops $18,000. Replacing pipes is only half the battle: the damage done to floors, sheet rock and personal possessions can be devastating. That’s why it’s recommended that if temperatures are dropping below freezing, you need to take steps and communicate with tenants about best practices. On especially cold nights, ask tenants to leave their cabinet doors ajar to allow heat to reach the pipes. Leaving faucets to drip slightly overnight is also a good choice.
Inspect the Roof
Whether you’re anticipating heavy snow or just high winds, your roof will likely need a little extra attention this winter. Check for loose tiles and tiles, as well as the seal around vents and skylights. While you’re on the roof, take a look at your gutters and ensure they are clear of any leaves that may have fallen this autumn. Anything that could prevent draining rain or melting snow is a problem.
If you live in a place where heavy snow is likely, consider shoveling off your roof after the next big storm. The weight of snow on a roof is more damaging than you might expect. Even light snow melting and refreezing can cause water damage to your home.
Maintain Interiors
While we might traditionally think of prepping for winter by finishing up outdoor chores, it’s just as important to maintain your rental’s interiors. Check smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to see that they are in good working order, and replace batteries as necessary. Have a chimney sweep come out to clean fireplaces, too. While they’re on site, ask them to check for obstructions and venting to prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
While these chores might seem like a pain, they can go a long way to prevent serious damage and injuries. Do your due diligence as a landlord and look out for your tenants and your investment property. Come spring, you’ll be grateful you did!
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Handling the Holiday Package Headache

At the turn of the 20th century, people relied upon the Sears catalog to order everything under the sun. Tools for home repair, decor for the holidays, and yes, even Christmas gifts were ordered by mail. Though the tradition slowly died out over time as malls and shopping centers emerged, the United States has seen the trend come full circle. With the advent of Amazon and other online retailers, Americans are once again ordering much of their clothing, home decor and gifts online. While this is a convenience for most of us, the people working in apartment community offices all agree: package management can be a headache, particularly this time of year.
If you and your employees are feeling stressed by the sheer volume of packages that are delivered to your office each day, Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management has some advice. By creating a system to organize these deliveries, you ensure not only that tenant deliveries will be safe and sound, but you also guarantee a neat and tidy office space.
How should you go about organizing deliveries? Start by selecting a space for storage. If all you can spare is a closet or hallway, you’ll need to be extra careful in how you set it up. Organize deliveries by apartment number rather than last name. That way, people living under the same roof with different names can quickly pick up all packages for their household.
If you have some spare money in the budget, consider looking into a locker for delivery storage. Some communities have found this to be an effective way to minimize the stress surrounding deliveries. Designed to accommodate between five and eight apartments, lockers allow for round the clock delivery and pickup with no real oversight from staff. Tenants are assigned locker combinations allowing them to quickly and easily grab their packages when they have the time. The investment will be worth it, even if you can’t afford lockers for everyone right away.
The reality is that 90 percent of shopping is still done in brick and mortar stores, which means the delivery industry will only continue to grow. As people rely on subscription services for everything from groceries to diapers to pet food, the delivery issues are not going away any time soon. By working smarter and not harder, you can ensure your tenants safely receive their packages while keeping staff from burning out.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management


Prevent Slips and Falls This Winter

Temperatures are dropping, and if there is one thing a landlord should do this time of year, it’s take extra precautions to prevent slips, trips and falls on their property. Premises liability law requires property owners to take the initiative and provide as safe an environment possible for tenants and their guests. Failure to do so can result in legal action says Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi. To prevent injury and resulting lawsuits, add these chores to your to do list:
  • Inspect railings. When a person finds themselves slipping down a stairway, their first instinct is to grab onto a railing. After all, that’s what it is there for, right? Unfortunately, though, some accident victims find themselves clutching at railings that have not been well-maintained. Property owners and managers should do seasonal checks of their stairwells to ensure that they will not give out under the weight of falling accident victims.
  • Texturize your walkways. Even in warmer climates, winter can sneak up on property owners. Whether you live in California or Maine, your property could do with a little de-icing. Add texture to your walkways, whether in the form of salt, anti-slip tape or sand.
  • Declutter your property. After a busy fall, it is easy to overlook the chores that might have gone unfinished around your rental property. Leaves that have gone unraked, branches that litter the ground and shrubs that have become overgrown all create very real trip hazards for your tenants. Take the time to clean up these branches and shrubs to prevent any serious trips or falls.
  • Pick up debris. Beyond shrubs and branches, even leaves can cause an unsuspecting tenants to slip and fall. Through crisp when they first fall from the tree, autumn leaves can become slick and slimy when rain falls. Have your grounds crew do their part to prevent accidents and clear leaves as soon as possible.
There is no surefire way to prevent every slip, trip or fall on your property, but with a bit of foresight, you can ensure the most obvious hazards are taken care of before the coldest months hit. Your residents will certainly appreciate it, and you’ll protect yourself from legal action should an accident occur.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Plan a Holiday Party Your Residents Will Love

Building community is an important part of working as a property manager or landlord. It’s also an important step that’s often forgotten or dismissed as unnecessary. While it’s true that throwing the odd party here or there isn’t likely to convince unhappy tenants to sign their lease for another year, it’s possible that the parties you host could help residents form lifelong friendships and build a true sense of community.
Rather than planning parties for every holiday this season, Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends one general holiday-themed event sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years. While you can decorate with Christmas trees and menorahs, keep the rest of the decor as secular as possible. There are a lot of religious holidays this time of year, and it would be impossible to represent them all. Stick with winter-themed decor like snowflakes, snowmen and gingerbread cookies instead.
When planning, choose a location for the party that is family-friendly. No need to rent out a nightclub when your community clubhouse will do just fine! Plan games that are fun for all ages, and be sure to buy exciting prizes for the winners. Pin the antlers on Rudolph becomes so much more competitive when there’s an Amazon gift card on the line.
If you have concerns about the party being fun for residents, consider bringing on a few tenants to the party planning committee. Not only will their insight be incredibly valuable, you’ll also practically guarantee attendance from them and their friends.
Whether or not you serve alcohol at this party is up to you. It depends largely on your budget, how family-friendly you intend to make the event and whether you think your tenants will respond positively to booze being present. A few beers and glasses of wine won’t hurt, but resist the urge to serve boozy liquor-based cocktails.
There is no exact formula to follow for a successful holiday party, but working as a team to determine what would appeal to the majority of your tenants is a good place to start. Delicious food, yummy drinks and fun games are sure to attract people of all ages. Building community is what this is all about, so don’t fret about how many people come to your first party. As word spreads about how much fun folks have at your events, their popularity is sure to grow!
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Affordable Bathroom Upgrades for Your Rental

When it comes to bathrooms, luxury rules. Even in low-end apartment rentals, tenants have become accustomed to multiple sinks, deep bathtubs and shiny fixtures. The good news? Even if your rental doesn’t include a fancy bathroom, it’s easy and affordable to spruce up the room. Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi says that inexpensive bathroom updates are the key to increasing your property value and appealing to new tenants.
Don’t want to take on a big project right now? Painting the bathroom a new shade can bring an older bathroom into the 21st century. Neutral colors are always a good idea, or try a soft pastel that will appeal to virtually any renter. A little paint can go a long way!
Replacing light fixtures is also a great way to modernize an outdated bathroom. Watch for a sale at your local home improvement store. Many times, you can get sleek and shiny fixtures on sale for under $20. The replacement process is easy, too. There’s no faster or affordable way to bring up to date!
Upgrades to the shower itself can be a big draw to prospective tenants. Rainfall shower heads are more popular than ever right now, but opt instead for a dual-head shower head that’s hand held. It’s as functional as it is fun to use. Even a basic bathroom can feel like a spa with one of these shower heads.
Green upgrades to the bathroom can make you and your tenants feel better about the resources you use. Low-flow toilets and shower heads are both good options for inexpensive and relatively easy upgrades that help make the world a little greener.
Even replacing hardware around the bathroom can spruce up the room. Swap out old towel racks and drawer pulls with something sleeker and shinier. You’ll be amazed how these tiny changes can update a rental’s character.
No matter how you choose to update your rental’s bathroom, doing so is sure to increase the value of your property and draw in some new prospective tenants. Just be sure not to bite off more than you can chew. From a financial perspective, these investments can be minor and gradual. If you’re not the handiest of landlords, make sure you have help from the maintenance staff before installing anything you’re not confident about.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Helping Tenants Understand Grace Periods

Grace periods are great. Who among us hasn’t forgotten a deadline for a payment and breathed a sigh of relief when we realized we were still in the grace period? Unfortunately, though, tenants frequently misunderstand grace periods and how they work in relation to holiday weekends. Helping tenants understand grace periods is the key to a successful and profitable relationship says Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi.
If the rent is due on the first of the month, and the lease allows for a three day grace period, can you pay without penalty if the grace period falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or holiday? While this question might be giving you flashbacks to algebra class, the answer is simple: no.
Tenants are given three days of a grace period as a courtesy, though most leases say that rent is due on or before the first of the month. The grace period exists so that tenants do not have to rush to the bank, post office or apartment complex office to take care of their rent payment on the weekends or on a holiday. Landlord-tenant laws exist to ensure that rent is only required to be paid on weekdays and non-holidays.
Some tenants will try to pull a fast one when the first falls on a Thursday before a long holiday weekend. They will insist that the grace period includes the weekend, plus the holiday Monday, leaving them until the 6th of the month to pay rent. The reality is that as a minimum, the grace period should extend to the third day of the month.
Common sense should reign supreme when educating tenants about grace periods. Be kind but firm when reasserting due dates. Rent is due on the first day of the month, and to give folks some wiggle room to include weekends and holidays, the grace period extends the deadline an extra three days.
Find yourself in a dispute about grace periods with a tenant? Make sure your lease spells out in explicit terms when rent is due. It’ll be easy to point to down the line should anyone try to interpret the rules in their own way. At the end of the day, grace periods exist as a favor to your tenants. Anyone trying to push your limits needs to be dealt with sooner rather than later. Assert your authority as property owner and/or landlord and fight the grace period revision as soon as it becomes an issue. Appeasing tenants who are trying to get around the rules will only result in a headache.
If the grace period violations become a regular problem, try to work with the tenant. Not everyone is paid at the beginning of the month. Offer reasonable accommodations for renters struggling to make ends meet. They will appreciate the kindness!
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management


Service Animals and Rental Properties

There’s no denying it: pets can cause serious damage to a home or apartment. That’s why so many landlords opt not to allow animals in their rentals. While wear and tear is to be expected from virtually any tenant, pets present unique challenges for anyone hoping to keep a property pristine.
As service animals are becoming more common, though, landlords and property managers need to be aware of the legalities surrounding such pets. Tenant requests for service animals are increasing every year, and folks in the rental community need to stay abreast of the local laws regarding such pets. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends brushing up on your knowledge of the Americans with Disabilities Act, or ADA.
It helps to understand the three different kinds of service animals. There are service dogs, which are covered under the ADA. These dogs are allowed into public establishments and may live with their disabled owners even in rentals that do not allow pets. Therapy dogs, on the other hand, are not protected under ADA and serve primarily as emotional support for the patient. Property owners are not required to allow therapy dogs to live in their rental. Emotional support dogs are also not covered under the ADA. They provide companionship to their owners and should be allowed to live in properties even if a no pets policy is in place.
Landlords must offer reasonable accommodations to people living with disabilities. To qualify, the tenant must have a physical or mental impairment that limits their activity in some way. They should have a history of their impairment and be regarded as having the impairment. The range of impairments and disabilities is wide, but landlords should not feel as though they need to be experts on the issue. An attorney can help clarify any questions they might have about their tenant’s rights.
Keep in mind that landlords may not charge a pet deposit or pet fee for service animals living on their property. The tenant can be held liable for any damage done by the pet, though. Make this clear to the tenant before they move in and you’ll likely avoid any real problems.
It’s not always easy understanding the unique needs of tenants, but handling requests with compassion and empathy are critical. Patience goes a long way in dealing with service animals and the people who rely upon them.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Phone Etiquette Tips for Property Managers

Phone calls should be second nature for professionals, but in this era of texting, instant messaging and social media, we rely upon the phone for communication less and less. It’s easy to get out of practice when it comes to easily and effectively communicating over the telephone. It’s a skill that should not be neglected, says Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi. When a prospective tenant calls, property managers and landlords need to be ready.
When your to do list is a mile long and you’ve got people coming in and out of your office constantly, it’s hard not to sound rushed, stressed or distracted on the phone. Using these tips, property managers can slow down and ensure they are presenting their best selves on the phone. Tips include:
Use names
Getting someones name and then using it is a great way to ensure you’re giving stellar customer service and paying attention. Using people’s names lends a personal touch to the conversation and allows you to showcase your memory for details. Though it may seem like a minor thing, people respond to the use of their names!
Stop. Breathe. Listen.
When you’ve got a thousand things on your to do list, it’s tempting to multitask the day away. Prospective tenants don’t care about your list of things to do, though. They care about receiving great service and the answers they are looking for. If your phone is ringing, stop whatever else you’re doing and focus solely on the person on the other end of the line. You’ll answer questions more efficiently and be onto your next task in no time.
Save time for the prospective tenant and yourself by prequalifying over the phone. Ask quick, easy questions about when they’d like to move in, how much they are looking to pay and where they work. From these answers, you’ll likely have a good idea whether or not to spend the time showing an apartment or home to the prospective tenant. If it’s not a good fit, you’ll know right away.
Sell, sell, sell
Just because you’re on the phone doesn’t mean you don’t have to be a great salesperson. Talk up your rental’s amenities and make it hard for the prospective tenant to turn down a tour. Of course, it’s never a good idea to be too pushy. Take it easy and be friendly!
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

What Landlords Need to Know About Raising the Rent

Raising the rent isn’t easy. It’s a task that requires business savvy, market research and the people skills to navigate negotiations with tenants. Whether you’re contemplating raising the rent for the first time in years or new to real estate and questioning how much to charge, the process of raising the rent needs to be handled delicately. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends doing your research before making any big decisions.
So how do you conduct that research? Start by investigating rent prices in similar apartment communities in your area. Check out at least five other rental property prices within two or three miles of your property. When you compare, make sure you are looking at units with the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms as your own. Use rentals that are of a similar age as your property, too. For best results, be sure to compare properties that are visually similar to your rentals.
When you’re ready to raise the rent for your existing tenants, be sure to give them plenty of advance notice. Put the notice in writing and keep a copy for yourself. It’s a good idea to send the notice via certified mail. That way you know the tenants received the information. Hand delivery is also an option, if you’re open to a discussion at their door.
It’s possible that the tenant will get upset at the change and in price and want to negotiate with you. The best course forward is to remain professional and explain your reasoning for raising the rent. Your tenant may choose not to renew their lease, but that is a risk you have to take. Negotiate if you want, but remember to always keep things light, professional and friendly.
Of course, there are times when landlords should avoid raising the rent. It is illegal for landlords to raise rent in retaliation or to discriminate against a tenant. If you have a history of conflict with a tenant, be sure to document your desire to raise the rent and your logic for doing so.
There’s no magic formula to make raising the rent easier. That said, if you do your homework and handle the change as professionally as possible, you’ll reap the rewards and few of the drawbacks.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management