In this week’s episode, Podcast Host, Property Manager & Business Owner, Andrew Schultz, chats about the necessary steps to ensure that pet odor has been eliminated from a rental property.
Sometimes, you’ll come to a rental property that offers oil heat. For those used to gas or electric, this can be, well, scary. Find out what to expect with oil heat.
Last, but not least, what are some early warning signs that a tenant may not be rental ready? Hear some funny stories from landlords.
Andrew Schultz: (00:00)
Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Red Prep for Landlords podcast. This is episode number 414 and I’m your host, Andrew Schultz. On today’s episode, we’re gonna be talking about rental homes with oil heat, eliminating pet odors from your rental property, and early warning signs of problem applicants. We’ll get to all that right after this.
Voice Over: (00:25)
Welcome to the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Now your host Andrew Schultz.
Andrew Schultz: (00:30)
Before we jump into today’s episode, if you had a chance to join the free Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group, our group members get access to our Sherwin Williams and PPG paint discount programs can ask questions in our monthly ama sessions and if you have a question or a situation you’ve never encountered before or just need to bounce an idea off a group of over 13,000 housing providers, this is the place. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do it today over at facebook.com/groups/rentprep. Don’t forget to mention the podcast when answering the questions so we know how you found us
Voice Over: (01:08)
Forum quorum, where we scour the internet for ridiculous posts from landlords and tenants.
Andrew Schultz: (01:16)
We’re gonna start things off this week with our forum quorum segment. This one comes to us from our Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. As a matter of fact, all three of our segments this week come to us from the Pent prep for Landlords Facebook group. Let’s go ahead and jump right in here. How do you handle an oil-heat house where the tenant is responsible for the heat? This is my first time dealing with this scenario and I’ve been doing this for 15 years. I’m kind of scared thoughts, I should get some ideas now instead of waiting until winter hits. So for us here in western New York, we typically don’t run into a lot of homes that are heated with oil-based heat. That said, once you start getting out into the more rural sections of Western New York, you do encounter a lot of oil-burning furnaces and boilers.
Andrew Schultz: (02:00)
As a matter of fact, the house that I grew up in, we were on a state highway, but we lived out in the sticks and I can remember the gas company literally running gas lines down the side of the highway. And that’s when we finally got a gas furnace and a gas hot water tank and switched off of our oil-burning stuff. You also tend to encounter a lot of propane-burning appliances out in more rural areas as well, and a lot of the advice that applies to fuel oil is also going to apply to propane as they’re both fuel sources that are stored on-site. Essentially. There are a couple different ways to handle a scenario like this. The most common way to handle it is to record how much fuel is in the tank prior to the tenant moving in and have the tenant sign off that they agree to that level of fuel at the time of move-in.
Andrew Schultz: (02:41)
Then the tenant would be responsible for ensuring that they have the tank filled with fuel as needed throughout the heating season, and then when they go to move out the unit, they would need to return the fuel tank with at least as much fuel in it as was inside when they took possession of the unit. Now obviously this presents some issues in the event that the the tenant doesn’t leave the tank filled to the correct level. For instance, if the tank is underfilled, you now have to charge the tenant to fill the tank back up to the appropriate level. Chances are that it’s gonna come outta their security deposit and depending on if there are any damages that were done to the unit, you may not have enough money to cover all of the expenses. The flip side to this could also be a concern.
Andrew Schultz: (03:19)
If the tenant had the tank filled up towards the end of heating season and they move out in the springtime, but there was only a half tank when the tenant moved in, you may now be in a situation where you need to pay the tenant for that fuel. It may be a situation where you can write into the lease that any excess fuel left in the tank won’t be prorated back to the tenant, but you would have to check your state laws and your morals to see how you feel about something like that. I’ve also heard of some landlords taking it to one of the two extremes as well. Essentially provide the fuel tank with zero fuel in it or provide the tank completely full. Then there’s no question as to what level the fuel tank needs to be returned at. But again, if you provide a full tank, it doesn’t mean the tenant’s going to fill it all the way up on the way out the door.
Andrew Schultz: (04:01)
So you may be stuck in that same position where you wind up not being able to cover the expense from that security deposit and leaving a tank completely empty is not always a great idea because that may require having the furnace rep-primed once the tank is filled back up. In addition, letting a tank go completely empty will allow for any sediment in the tank to sit in the bottom and potentially clog the line that feeds from the tank to your furnace once that tank is filled back up. Most HVAC companies did not recommend allowing the tank to go completely empty. There’s also the option of having or handling the heat yourself and including it in the cost of rent. So a typical scenario like this would be a situation where the landlord sets up an account with a fuel delivery service and they automatically come out and top off the tank based on whatever schedule is required to keep the tank from running too low or running out.
Andrew Schultz: (04:51)
You would essentially determine how much you think you’re going to spend in fuel for the year and factor that into your property analysis when you’re determining what your rent needs to be. Keep in mind that fuel costs fluctuate sometimes wildly, which we’ve certainly seen in the past couple years, and that you could be agreeing to something during the warm weather months that turns into a real problem during the cold weather months when you actually have to pay for that fuel oil or that propane. If you’re gonna consider a lease where the heat costs are built into the rent, you may wanna talk to your fuel provider to see if you can lock in a rate for a certain period of time. I would also make sure that the tenant understands that their rent is going to be adjusted on a year-by-year basis based on whatever the cost of fuel is.
Andrew Schultz: (05:31)
So fuel, oil, or propane, going up substantially in cost means that the rent is likely going to go up to compensate for that. That may help in situations where the tenant feels like they wanna open the windows and sit with the heat blasting at 80 degrees and yeah, we’ve seen exactly that scenario play out in buildings where utilities are included, so it’s definitely something that warrants consideration. Essentially. There are a few different ways that you can work a situation like this depending on what makes the most sense for you and your property, just be sure that whatever you choose to do you document it clearly and be sure that the tenant completely understands their obligation as it’s a little more complicated than just paying a gas or an electric bill.
Voice Over: (06:10)
Water cooler wisdom expert advice from real estate pros.
Andrew Schultz: (06:19)
We’re gonna keep right on rolling into our water cooler wisdom segment. Let’s go ahead and jump right into this one. Our last tenants in one of our rentals had two big dogs. We clean the house but it still smells like dog. It’s faint, but we’d like to get it out. Any product that you like for dog smell, any place that we might not have thought about where we should clean the floors are laminate. It’s not a year-end smell, but from having two big hairy dogs in the space, any thoughts would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, and this one comes to us again from the rent prep for landlords Facebook group. Getting tough odors out of an apartment can be a real challenge for landlords as they’re completing their turnover repairs and getting a unit ready for the next tenant. Fortunately, there are a few different techniques and products that you can use to help reduce and eliminate odors throughout your rental property.
Andrew Schultz: (07:03)
Now, you mentioned that the previous tenants had two big dogs and after cleaning you’re still smelling dog throughout the property. Chances are you’re going to need to go a little bit further with your cleaning first if you haven’t already. Make sure that you’ve really gone through and deep-clean the home as much as possible. Don’t forget to do the inside and outside of cabinets as well as underneath and behind your appliances such as the stove and refrigerator. Also, things like window sills and woodwork and walls should be wiped down to try to remove any sort of pet dander that would might be in the home. There’s also a lot of debris and hair and dander and things like that that can get caught under the appliances, and oftentimes those things are what ends up getting missed during a cleanup. You did mention that it’s not a urine smell, which is awesome.
Andrew Schultz: (07:48)
However, if there was a urine smell that you were dealing with, those oftentimes require a more in-depth cleaning than just a surface-level clean. For instance, if you have a carpet that has had pet urine on it, it may not be the carpet itself that smells, it may actually be the pad underneath, and depending on the carpet shampooer that you’re using, you may not be penetrating all the way through the carpet and into the pad, and also depending on the carpet shampooer that you’re using, you may not be extracting all of the water and shampoo from both the carpet and the pad. If you’re not extracting all of the water and shampoo, you’re really just creating a bigger problem for yourself because not only are you not eliminating the smell, you’re introducing moisture, which usually ends up making the smell worse and could also lead to molder mildew, which obviously have health concerns.
Andrew Schultz: (08:35)
In addition to creating their own unique odors, depending on how badly a carpet is damaged, you may need to remove the carpet and pad and replace them altogether, and in some extreme circumstances, you may even have to treat the subfloor underneath the pad with some sort of a cleaner or it may need to be cut out and replaced altogether. The odor can’t exist in the home if it’s physically cut out and removed, and that’s pretty much the most extreme option, but depending on how much urine the carpet has had in it over what period of time, you may find out that that’s what you need to do. Another thing that we’ve had a lot of success with, especially when dealing with urine and things of that nature is there’s a company locally that has a product that it’s basically, I don’t know if it’s an enzyme or what it is, but it essentially causes the urine to bubble out of whatever surface it’s in.
Andrew Schultz: (09:24)
They’ve done it for us in a concrete basement floor where someone had let their pet go down there and use it as a bathroom, and they were able to get all of the urine smell and odor out of that house using that product, and it’s basically, it just causes the urea or the urea acid or whatever it is that’s in the floor to bleach out and bubble out. So that was a pretty cool product as well. One cleaning product that we’ve had a lot of success within our offices, or should I say I guess a line of products, is the Odoban products, and that’s spelled O D O B A N. They offer a wide variety of different cleaning products and deodorizers and odor absorbers and their products have seemed to work really, really well, especially when dealing with tough smells. No, this isn’t sponsored or anything like that.
Andrew Schultz: (10:07)
That’s legitimately the product that we use in our property management offices. We actually keep it on hand for sewer backup situations and stuff like that as well, and if we have a sewer that backs up into a basement, Ubon has become part of our cleanup process as it helps eliminate the odors leftover as a result of that sewer backup, which obviously aren’t super pleasant if you’re trying to track down the source of a difficult to find odor, don’t forget to check your furnace filters, your vents, and your duct work. If you’re running a traditional forest air furnace, all of the air circulated through the home passes through the air filter first. So if you have a filter that’s dirty or stinky, you’re passing air through that stinky filter and then pushing that stinky air throughout the rest of your house. So swapping out the furnace filter is also a good first step here.
Andrew Schultz: (10:52)
You may need to look into having the vent covers or ducts cleaned as well. Vent covers are pretty straightforward and easy for anybody to clean you basically just remove them, clean them up, and reinstall them. But duct cleaning is something that you would probably bring an outside service in to do outside. If you decide to go the route of having your ducts cleaned. My recommendation would be to find a local company that has good reviews as well as talk to friends, family members, or other real estate investors to see who they’ve had the best luck with. There really seems to be a wide range in the quality of duct cleaning companies and some of them really go above and beyond and others really just do the absolute bare minimum after you’ve been through the entire process of deep cleaning the home. If you’re still having trouble eliminating the remnants of an odor, my recommendation would be an ozone generator.
Andrew Schultz: (11:36)
We’ve talked about ozone generators a few times, but essentially the way that an ozone generator works is that it generates ozone in the apartment and those ozone molecules will bind to the scent molecules and help to neutralize them. Generally speaking, you cannot run an ozone generator in the space where someone or something is actively living because it strips the oxygen out of the environment in order to generate the ozone. Breathing an ozone is a pretty surefire way to screw up your respiratory system very, very quickly, and ozone can absolutely kill you. So if you decide to get an ozone generator, be sure to know what you’re doing. Read through the instructions thoroughly and understand how to use the device before you plug it in. For instance, the unit that we have in our office has a two hour run cycle and then we can’t reenter the unit for an additional two hours after that, so we make sure to put a sign on the door to the unit stating no entry until after that time just to prevent somebody from walking into a real nasty situation.
Andrew Schultz: (12:33)
Keep in mind that this applies to pets and houseplants as well. If you can’t breathe, they can’t either. So remove pets and house plants before running an ozone generator if you still want them to be around after you’re done running the ozone generator. There are a ton of different ozone generators out there on Amazon ranging from $50 to $200. Just make sure you’re being safe when you use it. Eliminating tough odors is a process and often requires multiple different tactics to be used in order to get the end result of a fresh-smelling home. Bad odors are the first thing someone’s going to notice when they walk through an apartment, so be sure to tackle this before you put your apartment up for rent
Voice Over: (13:14)
Feet on the street. Real stories from real property managers.
Andrew Schultz: (13:23)
Our last segment this week is our Feet on the street segment. Let’s go ahead and jump right in here. Just a funny observation. I’d like it when I hear a potential tenant’s voicemail, especially when it gives me an idea of their life. Just heard a voicemail message saying, leave a message, and if I think you’re important, I’ll call you back. Nope, skip, do you have any funny stories of early or early warning signs not to accept a tenant? This seems like a really, really good opportunity for us to talk about some potential early warning signs or some potential red flags that you might come across as your screening applicants for your apartments. Pretty much everything that I’m going to bring up during the segment is something that I’ve experienced in my time as a property manager. All of this is being drawn from something that I’ve seen in the past.
Andrew Schultz: (14:09)
I’m sure there are a ton more red flags out there and really I’m just sort of scratching the surface here, but here are just a few things that drive me nuts when I have an apartment listed for rent and people are inquiring about it. The first thing that I wanna mention is using fake names when they go to contact you about the apartment. I understand that some people will use a first name and a middle name instead of a first name and a last name to help hide their Facebook profile a little bit. I see that a lot with teachers, people who work in social services, things of that nature. That’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about people that are using just completely obviously fake names, and the one that sticks in my head most clearly right now was someone who messaged me in about an apartment within the last couple weeks.
Andrew Schultz: (14:51)
The name that they were using was Lala Blitzed, and I’m willing to bet that the person behind that profile was not actually named Lala Blitzed. I would’ve loved to have seen their idea if they were, but that was the name that they were using to message me under. Another one that sticks out in my mind from a few months back was Ya Boy Living Life. And I don’t think that people understand that the image they’re presenting when they do something like this is not that great. It’s kind of like having an email like an inappropriate email address back in the early two thousands. I kind of look at having a name like that on Facebook in the same, in the same vein. Maybe they don’t care, maybe they do. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just an old fogey and behind the times at this point, but the next red flag that I wanted to bring up is applicants that get aggressive with you when you’re simply answering their questions about an apartment or people that fire off nonsense messages complaining about the rent being too much or the unit not being worth what we’re asking for it or anything along that line.
Andrew Schultz: (15:51)
The nice thing is they’ve already self-selected out of the process by letting us know that they’re not interested, but I have had somebody literally insult the unit, complain that it was too much for the area that it was in, and then turn around and wanted to see it anyway. Absolutely not go find some other landlord to harass at that point. If you have someone approach you that wants to try to bypass your application process, that should be a great big red flag to you and you should never proceed with someone who wants to work with you outside of your normal procedures. If someone’s trying to get you to avoid going through an application process, it’s 100% of the time because they have something that’s going to pop up during that application and screening process that they don’t want you to find. If you have nothing to hide on your credit and background, and if you have sufficient income, there should be no problem completing the application process just like anyone else.
Andrew Schultz: (16:40)
Typically, as soon as you tell these applicants that they have to go through the same process as everyone else, they fall off the face of the math and self-select outta the process. A very common tactic for people who are trying to get you to skip the application process is to flash a bunch of cash at you or tell you that they have the security first month and last month’s rent ready to go. This works on a lot of landlords who need to get that unit filled right now today or they’re not gonna be able to make their mortgage payment tomorrow, but pretty much anyone who is flashing a wad of cash or offering to pay you more than what you’re requiring to move in is doing so because again, they’re trying to get you to overlook something that would disqualify them from the apartment. If you were to do your normal screening, don’t fall for these tactics and make sure that you screen every applicant the same way every single time.
Andrew Schultz: (17:26)
The last red flag that I wanted to mention is when you have multiple adults show up to a showing and only one of the adults applies for the apartment. We see this a lot where we’ll have a couple come in and look at a unit together, but then we only receive an application from one of the two people. Typically, we end up being told that, oh, we don’t live together, or somebody’s only there on the weekends, or something along those lines, and more often than not, it turns into a situation where you have two full-time residents when you were only expecting one. This is one where you really have to pay attention during your showings as well as during your screening process to make sure that you’re collecting applications from everyone who’s going to be living in the unit. Our policy is that anyone over the age of 18 living in the unit at least half the time, has to complete a rental application and go through the credit and background checks.
Andrew Schultz: (18:13)
A lot of times you’ll see this in situations where someone won’t qualify for the apartment or their application would reduce the overall quality of the other person’s application or something along those lines. You really need to know who’s going to be living in your building, so getting a complete rental application from everyone over the age of 18 who’s going to be living in the unit is super important to making sure you have information, accurate information on who you’re renting to. There are all sorts of red flags that pop up during the tenant screening process. Having a good set of written fair housing compliance screening criteria and using that criteria every single time you screen a tenant goes a long way in helping you avoid situations where discrimination can be in factor even inadvertently.
Andrew Schultz: (18:58)
Are you dealing with a tenant situation that you think is heading towards an eviction? Rent Prep recently released their tenant cost eviction calculator. For those landlords that wanna know how much it’s going to cost before jumping into an eviction, find the eviction calculator under the resources at rentprep.com. That pretty much wraps up this episode of the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Thank you all so much for listening. We truly do appreciate it. Our goal with the podcast is to help as many people as possible make educated decisions when it comes to real estate and you can help us to reach our goal. If you heard anything in this week’s episode or any other episode that will help someone you know, please do us a favor and share it with them. If you’re looking to get in contact with me, I can be reached over at whatsdrewupto.com.
Andrew Schultz: (19:41)
From there, you’ll find links to everything going on with me at Own Buffalo, as well as other projects that we’re working on. Grab a copy of our free deal analysis tool today over at whatsdrewupto.com. There’s no obligation and it comes with a companion video showing you how to use it. If you’re looking for top-tier tenant screening services, head on over to rentprep.com. There are multiple products to choose from, including a tenant-paid option. If you’re over 50 doors, ask about the enterprise-level programs and pricing. I’ve been an enterprise user at Rent Prep for over a decade now, and it’s absolutely changed the way that we screen our tenants. Check that out today over at rentprep.com. Again, thank you all so much for listening. We’ll be back in two weeks with an all new episode that you won’t wanna miss. Until then, I’m Andrew Schultz with ownbuffalo.com for rentprep.com, and we’ll talk to you soon.
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