In this week’s episode, Podcast Host, Property Manager & Business Owner, Andrew Schultz, chats about how to prevent landlord burnout while expanding your real estate portfolio.
Wondering what to do when you find out your tenants have pets without your permission? Look no further, we’ll talk about how to best handle the situation.
Last, but not least, learn about a landlord who found out that their tenant was using a balcony as a source of relief for their pets. Listen in to the latest podcast below.
Andrew Schultz: (00:00)
Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of the Rent Prep for Landlord’s podcast. This is episode number 383. And I’m your host, Andrew Schultz. On today’s episode, we’re gonna be talking about what to do when a tenant has unauthorized pets building systems to help you deal with landlord burnout and expand your rental portfolio, and what to do when balconies become bathrooms. We’ll get to all that right after this.
Voice Over: (00:26)
Welcome to the Rent Prep for Landlord’s podcast. Now your host, Andrew Schultz.
Andrew Schultz: (00:32)
If you joined the free Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group, we’re on the push for 13,000 members. If you have a question or a situation that you’ve never encountered before, or you just need to bounce an idea off a big group of 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: (00:59)
Forum quorum, where we scour the internet for ridiculous posts from landlords and tenants.
Andrew Schultz: (01:08)
We’re starting this week’s episode off with forum quorum. And this week we are talking about pets. This week’s forum quorum comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group. Let’s go ahead and jump right in here. I have a tenant that has a pet violation. I found five cats on the premises. They’ve gotten into the ductwork and pooped. And now when the AC is blowing, the other tenant can smell it through the vents. May 8th, I sent a letter to correct the situation with no reply. I sent another letter in June with no reply. I’ve been trying not to play hardball since they have been tenant since 2017, but there’s an obvious lack of respect for me and the property. So I am ready to evict. Do I file a disposable warrant or a breach of contract? And again, this one comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group.
Andrew Schultz: (01:55)
So this is a question out of Georgia and I don’t know all the ins and outs of Georgia landlord-tenant law. As a matter of fact, I’m gonna preface all of this by reminding everyone that I’m not an attorney in any state. I’m just a real estate broker and property manager here in New York. Uh, and the best course of action when talking about legal matters, especially evictions is to speak with a landlord-tenant attorney that has experience with the eviction process in your state. Um, I’m gonna talk in some generalities here as to how we would handle this in our property management office, but obviously, I just used the word eviction, so you know where I’m headed. Um, but let’s talk about the maintenance issues here a little bit first. So it sounds like you’ve already issued the notice to cure, uh, one in May and again, one in June with no reply to either letter, depending on the state that you’re in.
Andrew Schultz: (02:39)
You may have certain timeframes that you have to give the tenant to cure those lease violations outlined in the notice. So you may have to deliver it a certain way, or you may have to have it personally served in order for that notice to go into effect, we’re gonna operate under the assumption that you’ve already gone through that whole process and done whatever it is that you, you need to do properly in order to serve the notice to the tenant. Uh, and we’re also going to assume here that your timeframe has elapsed. So you need to start dealing with these maintenance issues that the tenant is causing. So we’re assuming now that the tenant has not done anything and we’re past the point of the notice to cure here. I’m hoping that in your notice to cure you listed all of the lease violations that you’re aware of.
Andrew Schultz: (03:19)
Um, you mentioned that you found five cats on the premises. I would make notes of the cats on the notice to cure as well as call out the section of the lease that specifically says that pets are not permitted. In addition, with regards to the animal waste, you should have some sort of provision in your lease about keeping your apartment clean and tidy or being a good neighbor or tenant’s rights to quiet enjoyment, something along those lines you should be including in your letter and right alongside the unauthorized pets. This needs to be in your notice to cure as well. Your notice to cure should specify exactly what you want the tenant to do. In this instance, you obviously want the cats removed from the property and you also want the damages repaired. So in some states, you have to give the tenant the ability to make those repairs.
Andrew Schultz: (04:04)
And in other states, the laws are different. So you’re gonna wanna check and see what the rule is in your state. Personally, I never want tenants doing work on properties, especially when it’s gotten to this point. I want to use my vendors so that I know that the job is done completely incorrectly. I don’t want tenants screwing around with ductwork. If we’re being honest specifically, you mentioned the fact that the cats have managed to somehow get into the air duct system and have left waste inside the air ducts. Other tenants can smell this waste every time the forest air system is used. And this is essentially creating a very serious health hazard for other tenants in your building. It needs to be dealt with immediately. And honestly, I would be talking to an attorney even during your notice secure period to see if this is something that you can step in as the housing provider and rectify right away as an emergency repair, rather than going through that notice secure process and waiting for the tenant to either not do it or not do it to the level that you need it completed to whatever the case may be.
Andrew Schultz: (05:01)
Essentially, what I’m saying here is that you never wanna leave yourself or your property open to health and safety violations. This is obviously a pretty clear health and safety violation that’s been caused by this tenant. So if they’re not taking care of it, you as the landlord do have an obligation to handle the situation so that other tenants can continue to live in a safe and healthy environment, failure to make these repairs could result in this issue, escalating even further with the other tenants. Now they’re gonna start complaining that they’re sick as a result of the first tenant’s cat crap. So if it’s me in this situation, I’m terminating this tenant’s lease for cause right alongside the notice to cure. Obviously, as I’ve mentioned, different states have different rules. So you need to check into what you can and can’t do here. But this is obviously a pretty serious violation in terms of the lease.
Andrew Schultz: (05:47)
And I would be doing whatever I could at this point to try to get this tenant out as soon as possible. Uh, at this point, based on what you’ve said here, I would probably start working my way down the path toward eviction, contact an attorney in your state that practices landlord-tenant law, and understands the eviction process. There are so many compounding factors out there right now, especially in areas that still have COVID restrictions that you really wanna make sure that you’re not setting yourself up for failure by missing some small detail or misfiling a paperwork, or Miserv a notice, or something like that. I understand that you’ve had these tenants since 2017, but that doesn’t mean that they’re the same tenants now that they were back then people’s lives change sometimes in very drastic ways. In very short periods of time, it sounds to me like something probably happened in this tenant’s life that has impacted their ability to care for the cats or possibly even themselves by the sounds of things. And if there’s an opportunity where you can help connect this tenant with some kind of assistance, you may wanna take that opportunity as well. But from where I’m sitting, you’ve definitely reached the time where it’s time to play hardball. And I wish you good luck as you try to sort this whole mess out
Voice Over: (06:52)
Water cooler wisdom, expert advice from real estate pros.
Andrew Schultz: (07:00)
If you’re starting to feel burnt out as a landlord, or if you wanna grow, but you don’t know how to go about bringing in more people to help this next segment is tailor made for you. This week’s water cooler wisdom also comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlord’s Facebook group. Let’s go ahead and take a look. What have you all done in the past to systemize and prevent burnout? I’m currently reading the E myth over again, and I seriously need to systemize my rental investing business and hire out. So I don’t burn out trying to do everything myself. What have you all done in the past to systemize and prevent burnout? So I like this question because it’s almost a continuation of a topic that we started discussing in our last episode of the podcast episode 3 82. In that episode, we were talking about when it’s time to hire someone in your business to help you grow and expand one of the things that’s taken me a long time to get past, and I still have to work to get past it from time to time.
Andrew Schultz: (07:52)
Is that the thing that holds you back is the fact that you think you’re the only one who can do something or that you are the only one who can do something right? And that’s simply not the case. The solution to expansion is building out systems and processes. When you start talking about building out systems so that other people can come into an organization and help you grow, it literally starts with pen and paper and writing down the step-by-step process, everything that you have to do to complete a process, and there’s going to be multiple iterations of that process. We still refine processes all the time here inside of our company, to make sure that balls don’t get dropped and that loose ends get tied up. It’s a work in progress and it should be a work in progress because you should always be working on making improvements inside your business.
Andrew Schultz: (08:37)
So that was all sort of a rehash from the previous episode. Let’s talk a little bit about how I actually go about developing a checklist. And I’m also gonna include a little bit here on how we keep this particular system organized. So we found that we were having a real issue with our maintenance jobs, small maintenance jobs were taking too long to wrap up, or we’d be told about something while we were standing on a site by a tenant and it just wouldn’t make it back into the office. So the issue would never be addressed, et cetera, et cetera, large jobs that required coordination between multiple contractors always seemed to turn into a communications quagmire. And we just, we needed a system in place so that we could monitor a maintenance job from the initial request to the payment of the invoice and everything in between.
Andrew Schultz: (09:20)
It needed to cover every single job from large to small. It needed to be accessible to key staff members, be easy to use and update. And we had to be able to pull data and reports from it. So we could see where we were at on our maintenance jobs, kind of at any given time. So we started off by looking at our maintenance process and kind of figuring out what all of the different statuses were that a job could be in. And we found that a job could be completely new, where nothing’s been done on it yet. It could be out for a bid from the vendor. We could have received the bid back from the vendor and we’re waiting to get our bid out to the client. The job could be fully bid and we’re waiting on an approval from the client. The job can be approved and we’re waiting to schedule.
Andrew Schultz: (10:02)
It could be scheduled. It could be in progress. It could be completed, but we’re waiting on info from the vendor. It could be completed and we’re waiting to build a client. It could be completed, we’re waiting payment from the client and it could be done. We also had two special statuses that we came up with called stuck and deferred. And those are basically exactly what they sound like. Stuck means that the job is stuck for whatever reason someone needs to hop on it, to address it deferred means that we know that we’re not doing that job until further on down the line. So we mark deferred status and set a date when we need to look at it again. Now, if you were counting, that’s 13 different statuses that any given job could be in inside of our company. And that sounds like a lot, but each status serves a purpose inside of our operation.
Andrew Schultz: (10:48)
We know what needs to be done on any given job simply by looking at the status of the job. So we can tell where the job is at. It sounds pretty complicated, but if you really think about the way a maintenance operation works, this is kind of a standard workflow. Putting all of this into a system that allows it to be easy to track helps you stay on top of your jobs and not lose track of the maintenance work as you expand. If you’re not doing third-party property management, which is what we do, obviously you don’t need some of these statuses that would require that you would be dealing with if you had outside clients. So for instance, if you’re not sending estimates out to other clients, you don’t need to worry about having those types of statuses built in your system would be a little bit easier that way.
Andrew Schultz: (11:29)
Um, you also would just eliminate those statuses so that when you set your system up, it’s completely tailored to what your needs are for your company. So what you’re doing here is building out a system that makes sense for the way that you operate. We also implemented a priority system, which is pretty straightforward. It’s a total of four statuses, high turnover, medium, and low. And the reason we decided that turnover should be their own status is because turnovers are our biggest priority, short of emergency maintenance type situations. Having a unit sit vacant is no good for us or for the property owner. So it’s a priority that we turn those units as quickly as possible, which is why after high priority and emergencies turnovers is the next highest priority in our list. Once we knew all the different statuses that a job could be, and we figured out how to prioritize our job from most least important, it was time to find a system to organize all of it in.
Andrew Schultz: (12:23)
And we ended up settling on monday.com, which allows us to build out a board with multiple different columns. So we can see the address and the maintenance task, the priority of the task, the current status when it was created, and when its current due date is coming up. And then we also added a column for vendor. So we can see what vendors assigned to the job at a glance. The system also allows us to make notes on jobs, as well as keep a running log of what’s going on. We can also upload images and PDF files and things of that nature to help us organize estimates and invoices and keep some key information available at our fingertips. One of the best features of monday.com that makes the software so valuable is the fact that we can actually automate certain actions to take place at certain times.
Andrew Schultz: (13:06)
So for instance, when a new job is created, the software automatically sets a due date for seven days after the creation, that’s our timeline to turn a small maintenance job. Uh, you could even set it up. So it gives you a tighter time span if you have a high-priority job. And then anytime we change the status on a given job, it automatically filters down into the appropriate grouping of jobs on the board. So for all of our jobs that are in some sort of a bid status, those are all grouped together. All of our jobs that are scheduled and actively going on, that’s all grouped together, jobs that are finished and waiting to be billed, or we’re waiting for funds to come in, all of that’s grouped together. And then when it closes out, it just drops to the bottom of the board and we don’t have to worry about it anymore.
Andrew Schultz: (13:45)
Our deferred jobs have their own section and our stuck jobs typically wind up in the deferred section or back in the needs, immediate attention section, depending on why it ended up, ended up getting stuck in the first place. So when any job in any status reaches its due date, and it isn’t marked as completed, it’s set up to automatically bubble that job back to the top of the board into that section, I just mentioned called needs immediate attention. So we know that something’s happened on that job and we need to review it. It’s either late or the estimate is late, or we need to follow up with our client to see if we’re approved or see, you know, to get our payment, whatever the case is. But what it does is it forces the job back to the top of the board so that someone looks at it and realizes that, okay, this needs to be addressed.
Andrew Schultz: (14:30)
So who works? The system, we have a maintenance coordinator in our office whose job it is to monitor the maintenance board and move jobs from start to finish. Having the maintenance board in place gives our maintenance coordinator a place to, well, I mean, coordinate jobs from, for lack of a better way of putting it at a glance. We can see every job across our entire system who it’s assigned to what the status of it is. And when we need to touch on that job, again, this makes it much, much easier to have someone handle that workload. And because of the automations that we built into the system, they can handle way more than someone that’s operating simply from a pen and paper notebook. And they’re not gonna be losing track of maintenance jobs along the way. We could never put a maintenance coordinator in place without having some sort of a system there for them to operate in. Otherwise we’re essentially setting that person up for failure. The real key here is making sure that every job starts on your job board every single time. That’s how you make sure that you don’t drop the ball. That’s how you make sure you always get your loose ends tied up and good luck to you. As you build out your systems
Voice Over: (15:34)
Feed on the street, real stories from real property managers.
Andrew Schultz: (15:43)
Our final segment of the week also deals with pets and what to do when your tenant has zero respect for your building or for other tenants. We’re gonna go ahead and jump right in here. My tenants on floors one and two are complaining that urine is dripping down their balconies. Uh, it turns out that the tenant on the third floor puts his dog on the balcony to whiz. I’m bringing in a better class of tenants. And as a young clean managerial couple was eating their breakfast. The second week into their lease, it starts raining dog urine into their eggs and toes. Um, this person’s not even on the lease, we disallow animals and his behavior has chased out the clients both above and below him. Add to that. Not only has my maintenance guy completely failed as a professional, but we now have signs of bugs in that building that we’ve never had before.
Andrew Schultz: (16:29)
So this is a unique one. I’ve actually had almost this exact scenario play out in a building that we were working on updating unit by unit. We had a ton on an upper floor that had been there for years and they had no proper lease. And they essentially thought that they owned the place and they did what they wanted had animals and whatever else. Um, the building had rear fire escapes that had also doubled as balconies. They were actually pretty nice. They were made out of all hardwood construction and they were replaced shortly before we took on the management. So it’s not like they were janky metal, you know, balcony, fire escapes, or whatever. They were actually very usable and they had a decent view. Our headache tenant would let his dogs go out on the balcony and use the bathroom without realizing that there were people on the balcony underneath of HYM.
Andrew Schultz: (17:14)
So we went through the whole process of a notice to cure and tried to push the tenant in the direction of getting rid of the animals as they were not being properly taken care of. And ultimately, unfortunately, we were not successful in getting the tenant in compliance. The result was an eviction. Uh, it was a messy one and frankly, I’m betting that you’re probably going to be heading down that exact same path that we were based on what you mentioned, the unauthorized tenant, the unauthorized pets, zero concern for the property. I’m betting that this is a situation that does not resolve itself without the court system getting involved in some capacity. You may also encounter a situation where the tenant claims that the animals are emotional support animals. We literally could have an entire podcast episode on emotional support animals, and I’m not gonna get into all of the ins and outs here.
Andrew Schultz: (18:00)
But one thing that I do wanna mention is that emotional support animals are considered a medical device, similar to a CPA or a pair of crutches, and they’re not considered a pet. So you have to treat them differently. If your tenant tries to claim that they are ESAs, there is paperwork that they need to submit to you from their medical professional. But really what I want to mention is that the animal needs to be cared for. And the tenant is still responsible for that animal at all times, including any damage that the animal creates beyond reasonable wear and tear urine damage is never reasonable wear and tear in any instance that I’ve ever encountered and the tenant should absolutely be responsible for any damages caused as a result of their animals. If your tenant walks their ESA dog outside, they still have to pick up the poo that’s part and parcel for how ESAs work your tenant’s ESA also cannot create health and safety issues for other tenants, or be aggressive or bite other tenants or anything along those lines.
Andrew Schultz: (18:57)
Essentially. Yes, the emotional support animal is exempt from a no pets policy, but the animal still needs to be cared for properly by the owner to qualify for the exemption. I’m not an ESA expert, and you should speak to an attorney that has some knowledge on ESA law, check the HUD website for additional resources, uh, and be very, very careful. If you think you can deny a tenant who has an ESA if you’re screening a tenant and that comes up. So how do you prevent something like this from happening in the future? Good tenant screening does go a long way. You’re never gonna be able to screen out every crazy tenant. As a matter of fact, you didn’t screen this tenant at all because they’re not a tenant, but tenant screening is something that is critically important. When it comes to trying to stop these issues before they become an issue, you’re never going to be able to screen out every crazy tenant as I had just mentioned, but, and tenant screening is looking at someone’s past as a snapshot of time.
Andrew Schultz: (19:52)
It’s never a fully accurate predictor of what’s gonna happen in the future. But tenant screening does go a long way in preventing situations, just like this one. Good luck to you. As you sort this out, I hope that you are able to avoid the courtroom, but I have a feeling that that’s where you’re headed. Are you thinking of renting a room out in your home, but don’t know where to start Rent Prep recently put together a guide on how to run out a spot in your home for extra income. Check that out today, over at rentprep.com/blog. That pretty much wraps it up for this episode of the Rent Prep for Landlord’s 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.
Andrew Schultz: (20:34)
If you heard anything in this week’s episode or any of our other episodes 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 from there, you’ll find links to everything going on with me over 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 to show 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. And if you’re over 50 doors, ask about the enterprise-level programs and pricing. I’ve been an enterprise user of Rent Prep for years now, and it’s definitely 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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