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
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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.
Prequalify
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

 

Simple Updates For Your Rental’s Kitchen

Keeping your rental modern, up-to-date and fresh is critical for ensuring your tenant’s happiness – and your ability to seek the maximum rent possible. Unfortunately, though, kitchen trends change near constantly and renovations can be expensive to undergo. The good news? There are easy, affordable ways to update your kitchen in just a matter of a day or two! Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management recommends tackling only one of these projects at a time, but one success will build your confidence and allow you to take on more renovations soon.
Here are three of the most affordable and quickest ways to update your rental’s kitchen:
1. Reface your cabinets. More cost-efficient and easier than replacing the entirety of your kitchen’s cabinets, refacing allows you to cover exposed frames with affordable veneers of wood or plastic laminate. It’s affordable and can be done in just a day or two. Refacing isn’t a magical cure all – it won’t fix the bad layout or design of a kitchen. It will, however, add some modernity to an older kitchen in need of a facelift.
2. Replace old fixtures. Adding a new faucet or cabinet pulls can also help update a rental’s kitchen. These statement pieces can add style and freshness to an older kitchen. Replacing a boring faucet with a graceful swan’s neck faucet is a quick way to bring your rental’s kitchen into the 21st century. The best part? This project can be done in a matter of an afternoon.
3. Consider a new countertop surface. Granite, laminate and corian countertops are all fantastic options for a kitchen in need of an update. Considered the gold standard for counters, granite is heat and cut resistant and comes in a wide variety of colors. Laminate is more affordable and is moisture and stain resistant. Corian, on the other hand, is stain resistant and won’t fade in the sunlight. All make for great options when renovating.
No matter how you decide to upgrade your rental’s kitchen, even the smallest of projects can pay dividends. Be sure to do your research before committing to any renovation and hire contractors you trust. Create a budget and be honest about what you can and can’t afford for the project. By crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s before the project begins, you’ll ensure the best possible results for your rental.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Greater Profitability with Long-Term Tenants

Owning or managing a rental property has plenty of perks, but virtually everyone will agree that the leasing process can be a headache. Advertising availability, holding open houses, taking guests around the property for tours and the complicated background checks necessary to conduct before signing a lease are nobody’s idea of a fun time. Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management says that some landlords fail to recognize how much of a hassle – and how expensive – this process can be until a long-term tenant has already moved out.
Long-term tenants save landlords a lot of money. How? Think about all the time and work that goes into attracting a new tenant. You’ll have to write up a new lease, advertise the vacancy, correspond over phone and email with prospective tenants, pay for repairs and maintenance to upgrade a unit that may have fallen behind the times and conduct interviews with folks interested in renting.
Even when you hire a quality property manager, this process takes time. Instead, knowing the worth of a long-term tenant can save you money and stress. The less turnover you have in your community, the less work you’ll need to do and the less money you’ll need to spend. But how do you convince long-term tenants to stick around?
Happy tenants are tenants who feel taken care of. One of the main reasons good tenants leave their rental is because of frustrating experiences with the management. Be proactive and check in with tenants regularly, not just when something has gone wrong. Have a positive attitude when dealing with complaints and go above and beyond what is expected of you to solve problems.
Keeping rent increases to a minimum can also help you keep long-term tenants. Unless you have made significant improvements to the rental or community, dramatic rent increases make it hard for tenants to justify staying another year – especially in competitive markets. While cost of living increases are understandable, it’s important to keep rent increases reasonable. Reward long-term tenants with discounts when possible. After all, you want to reward loyal tenants, not punish their dedication!
Treating tenants with respect and kindness can go a long way and pay off in big ways. Handle issues with professionalism and you’ll see more and more of your tenants staying long-term! That’s not just good manners, that’s good business advice.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

How #housingforgoogle Will Impact San Jose

What happens when a multibillion dollar corporation moves into a neighborhood amidst a housing crisis? San Jose is about to find out.
Google is planning an 8 million square foot campus and tech village in downtown San Jose. The space is equivalent to half of the entire downtown area. East Coast investors have already begun purchasing office space nearby for more than $500 per square foot. That is a record for the area, locals say.
Some are excited for the evolution of the downtown area. Small business owners are hoping to capitalize on the 20,000 Google employees expected to work on the new campus. New shops and restaurants will open soon.
Unfortunately, though, not everyone is thrilled with Google’s move. San Jose is already experiencing a housing crisis, with many homeless people living on the streets downtown. Given Google’s net worth, some argue that the company has a moral obligation the city of San Jose. The president of a local affordable housing network recently told Mercury News that Google should be held accountable to doing no harm.
Activists say Google should create homeless encampments on the property of the new tech village and work with the community to provide 20,000 units of affordable housing. The mayor of San Jose, Sam Liccardo, says the city has only just begun working with Google to address the affordable housing issue.
Scott Safadi of Cal Bay Property Management has seen the way tech companies have revolutionized the Bay area and understands why locals are concerned about housing. The Google effect on San Jose could be transformative in ways both good and bad. While progress is exciting, society must not forget about the less fortunate who may struggle to find anywhere to live once Google comes to town.
High-rise condos and ground floor restaurants will certainly see Google’s move to San Jose as a good thing, but the rising prices of real estate could eventually drive out even middle class workers hoping to make their home in San Jose. No matter how you feel about Google’s move, there’s no question about it: downtown will be forever changed by this move.
We’ll be keeping a close eye on the progress of both Google and local activists as they work towards a compromise and attempt to keep housing affordable for everyone in the San Jose area.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management

Staging an Apartment for Rent

Staging has long been a favorite technique of realtors everywhere. After all, showcasing how beautiful a home can look is made easier with trendy furnishings. Human beings love a story, and the best staging provides a narrative. When the narrative is enticing enough, visitors touring the home can easily envision themselves as part of that story.
Property managers can channel that storytelling into the model apartments they show to prospective tenants. Even the smallest of units can become charming with the right flourishes. Clearing out clutter and diving into a deep clean is a great first step. Once you’ve got a clean slate, choose neutral colors to decorate. By appealing to a wide variety of tastes, your staging will resonate with more visitors.
In your staging, include visual cues to suggest how a space could be used. A sunny window can easily become a cozy reading nook with the right chair and end table. The master bedroom can be luxurious and relaxing with the right fabric choices. Even the bathroom can become spa-like with some accent lighting!
Be careful about overloading small spaces with too much furniture, experts warn. If the unit in question is small, it can be made to seem even tinier with oversized furniture. Instead, stick to a minimalist decor and optimize open spaces. The quality of the furniture matters less than you might expect, too. Remember, these are spaces people will spend ten minutes in, not months. Some professional staging companies will even blow up air mattresses and fit them into bed frames rather than buy a real mattress. After all, under pretty sheets and a comforter, who can tell the difference?
Add in some fresh elements to really liven up the unit. A potted plant or two can go a long way!
Short on cash? Or maybe you just don’t have the space to allot for a permanent model unit. Cal Bay Property Management’s Scott Safadi recommends new landlords work with a professional staging company. Rent furniture just long enough to take photos to display on your website. Virtual tours can be a great way to give visitors an idea of what the space is like.
Whether you hire a professional staging company or choose to do it yourself, staging a model apartment unit can be your recipe for landing new tenants with ease.
– Scott Safadi, Cal Bay Property Management