Recently, we had an insurance issue where tenants had left for a week on vacation and, when they came back, there was a water problem.
No one knows exactly what happened, but pipes froze, water went everywhere, and it had been leaking for days when it was discovered. Ceilings had collapsed. The tenants’ things were damaged. They couldn’t live in the house and, although the owner prorated the rent they had already paid for the month, they had a real emergency situation.
The hotel wasn’t paid for because their lease didn’t cover that. Their property wasn’t paid for because the lease specifically said if their property was not insured it wouldn’t be paid for.
And they didn’t have tenant insurance.
These were two professionals— they do OK for themselves— but they didn’t have a lot of extra money to spend on all of these things that needed to be repaired or replaced. And they lost some important things.
Not only that, but they weren’t able to come back to the house for a month and a half. They had a very rough time and there was nothing we could do to really help ease any of it. The owner didn’t have the money to pay for everything— they weren’t covered for it all either— and the tenants had been advised in their lease that they needed to invest in tenant insurance.
So a bad situation was made worse because there was no tenant insurance.
Tenant insurance is very inexpensive. It usually costs between $9-$15 a month and it really gives the policy holders a lot of peace of mind.
We had another situation not long ago where there was a sewer backup and raw sewage flooded into a basement. Contractors came out and fixed the issue but the tenant had some of their private property in the basement and it was damaged by the leak.
But that tenant had tenant insurance. An adjuster came out and wrote them a check. They were able to restore what they’d lost.
Tenant insurance can help with hotel expenses if there’s an emergency and oftentimes tenant insurance will also cover animal liability. If you have a dog and it bites somebody you can get sued even if the person wasn’t hurt. Tenant insurance in Cleveland, or elsewhere in Ohio will cover that where an owner’s insurance policy wouldn’t. In addition, it’ll also cover things like damage to the landlord’s property, depending on the policy.
You need your own insurance to cover you and that’s not to mention your personal property. Personal property is only one part of it, but in a bad situation you need some peace of mind that these things are going to be taken care of.
It’s not something you really need to think about all that often, but, trust me, you’ll be happy you have it if and when you need it.
In the past, our leases here at Realty Trust Services didn’t require tenant insurance, but we’ve seen how much more smoothly things go— when something does go wrong— because of tenant insurance.
Tenant Insurance Is A Must
Because of those experiences, we’ve decided that— if a tenant signs a lease with Realty Trust Services— we now require them to have tenant insurance. It’s good for the owners, it’s really good for the tenants… it’s good for everyone involved.
This requirement isn’t something we make any money on, but we do have a vendor that offers tenant insurance and its set up right inside of our tenant software. Tenants can click it and get it. Very easy.
If you’re a Realty Trust Services tenant, you can find the tenant insurance on our website. There will be a little advertisement when you log in.
If you don’t have a login, call our office at 440.427.0423 and ask for a login to your online account.
If you’re a new tenant, we welcome you and we look forward to working with you to have a safe experience renting our houses with total peace of mind, contact us by clicking here or call us at our office anytime.
If dealing with utilities for single family homes in Cleveland, Ohio wasn’t complicated enough, the process for multi-family homes is even more intricate.
Now, you may have a multi-family property where the utilities are split. That is, they’re metered separately for each unit within the property. Multi-family properties like that aren’t altogether different from single family properties.
But you run into a completely different situation if the utilities are not split. And, unfortunately, you’re going to run into a lot of Cleveland, Ohio multi-family properties where this is the case.
For whatever reason, when the vast majority of duplexes, quads, triplexes, and even larger multi-family buildings in the Cleveland, Ohio area were built— 50 to 100 years ago— the people who built them didn’t sub-meter the utilities. So the landlord paid everything as one lump sum.
And, obviously, one of the major differences between when these multi-family buildings were made and now is that utilities back then were a lot cheaper. They weren’t the huge expense they’ve become, especially in the last few years.
So now you have landlords with these multi-family buildings that aren’t sub-metered and they’re actively looking for a way to increase profit by shifting the cost of the utilities to their tenants.
When utilities aren’t split you really only have a couple of options to divide the cost.
Normally when you use RUBS you divide a water bill among three tenants. It can be divided any number of ways: based on the number of tenants; the square footage of the different units; sometimes owners will even factor in a little bit for a common area and they’ll pay a portion and add that in as well.
The benefit of RUBS is that its quick and easy to set up. It can be complicated if you’re factoring in a lot of different figures, but there are a number of property management software that will compute the RUBS formula.
But, by and large, it’s usually best to use as simple a formula as possible if you’re going to split the total charge between the tenants. Primarily because you want it to be as easy as possible for them to understand why they’re being charged whatever they are and you don’t want to invite an unnecessary hassle on yourself by having to explain a needlessly complex formula.
As you can imagine, the downside to RUBS is that tenants have a tendency to distrust it due to the fact that it’s not based on true usage. So if they get an extra big bill you’re probably going to hear, “I know I didn’t use extra water this month,” “I think it’s a leak and I shouldn’t have to pay for this,” or, “I think that the tenant upstairs had a boyfriend that was staying overnight and using all this water,” or, “It’s [RUBS] not on the lease and it wasn’t calculated properly.”
So there’s a definite downside in the fact that it can seem unfair.
When we’ve done it here at Realty Trust Services, we’ve had a lot of push-back from tenants. And that happens because you’re fighting against two things…
Personally, I don’t recommend RUBS. It’s something you can do, but you have to be very careful with how you do it.
Now, depending on the utility company— because the fine details are always different— that may or may not be possible.
If it is possible, it’s probably going to be very expensive. Prohibitively expensive. To the point where you might as well just continue doing whatever you’re currently doing. You may be required to get city permits, special permits, variances… and sometimes it’s just not possible. There are properties where it’s just not allowed to put a new meter in.
Sub-metering is much less expensive. Sub-meters are put in after the main meter that links back to the utility supply. You can sub-meter for electricity, water, and gas, but— more often than not— you just do it for the water because that’s the one that tends to become a big issue when meters aren’t split.
You can usually get a water meter for $90-$100. So, if you have a triplex, you’re going to be out around $300.
You need a licensed plumber to install a sub-meter because there’s usually more to it than just cutting out a piece of pipe and dropping a meter in. There’s some rerouting that has to be done and you may have to bring the main line down closer to where the water line is to make it split accurately. So there’s some extra plumbing work there in some cases, but oftentimes the actual metering itself can be pretty inexpensive.
There are also options where you can get online readings. To get access to these you can add a module to the meters and that makes the readings available through a WiFi system. And this helps a great deal with the fact that, when you’re sub-metering, you have to split the bill based off of the readings. The proper way to accurately gauge each tenant’s utility charge is to apply the ratios of the different usages on the sub-meters to the main bill. Online readings help you get that much closer to accurate.
One thing that we’re experimenting with here at Realty Trust Services is a billing method where, when the water bill comes in, we split it equally between the tenants and then whichever tenant wants to will take a picture of all the meters, mail it to us, and we’ll issue credits based on the ratio. We write that agreement into the lease and then everything is fair and equal and you also know if there’s any unusual water usage. It allows you to quickly ferret out issues with leaks or what have you.
We’re also experimenting with free cellular WiFi that’s put into the meters. You just pay for the unit and, if you go over a certain amount in a month, you’re notified immediately. Another upside is that it doesn’t use that much data, either.
So there are a number of ways you can work with our clients— and we work with ours here at Realty Trust Services— to split utilities and make your properties very profitable.
To learn more about how we can help you with your property management needs contact us today by clicking here or call us for a free consultation at (440) 220-7300.
Let’s face it, property management tends to be a backwards industry. Both in the USA and even mores so in Cleveland Ohio. In fact there maybe one or two property management companies that have been in business more than 5 years in this area.
At Realty Trust Services we are constantly looking at ways to be more effective and innovative.
In the last 30 years major innovations in manufacturing have been coming to united states from Japan, which incidentally got its start from the leading united states statistician Edward Demings. Toyota innovated Deming’s teachings into the Toyota Production System (TPS) and as American companies have adopted techniques from the Toyota Production System this series of ideas and techniques has been called “Lean” because of the obsessive focus on eliminating inefficiencies / waste or any financial or energy expenditure that doesn’t directly provide value to the end customer.
As business becomes more competitive and transparent and consumers more demanding, service companies are also starting to look at the techniques and philosophies from Lean Manufacturing to bring Lean Service offerings.
At Realty Trust Services we have begun a journey towards improvement using lean techniques. All though any mode of improvement is a never instant we wanted to talk about some of the things we are working on to improve.
What allows lean to take hold in a company is that it is part of the culture. To that end it is something that we talk about daily we study it together in daily meetings.
According to Paul Akers, author or “2 Second Lean” the highest pillar of lean is the ability to “see waste.” Lean systems all are designed so that waste and inefficiencies are immediately visually apparent company wide. This then allows the workers within the company to immediately respond and keep processes running smoothly and allows us to make full use of the “human resources” of the company. Examples of how we are exposing the business processes in a visual way is that have 4 LCD’s displays on our main office walls as dashboards for essential company processes. Data connectors to display tenant charges, maintenance work orders, indicators of email backlog for each employee, and rental market times are all being created so that the entire team is up to date on every part of the business
Lean companies use cross functional teams arranged together in work groups to increase efficiency in communication and we too have adopted this in our work force.
Let Us Help Your Grow Your Portfolio
As a Real Estate investor your goal is to grow your portfolio of income producing Ohio Rental Property and generate more monthly cash flow.
Realty Trust Services is continually improving ourselves so that we can help improve your business and profitability. We are not comfortable simply being better than the very low standard this industry has set.
Doing all of this means that you (landlord) can count on us to help you efficiently grow your portfolio of rental properties in Westlake Ohio and generate more cash flow from those properties than you may have in the past.
From our innovations we have even created an alpha version of a program that we are releasing here which we believe could change the way businesses use the internet. See the video on this below and a link to the website for this product here: http://Snapextual.com
We aren’t perfect and we have plenty of “waste” to eliminate. However if you’re not satisfied with your current property management company, or are frustrated with managing your Ohio Rental Property yourself, consider joining a company that will continue to grow and improve with you and consider your suggestions.
Get Ohio Property Management
To learn more about Realty Trust Services, or how we can help you contact us today by CLICKING HERE to connect with us through our website or by calling (440) 220-7300.
This past winter was a difficult one for a lot of landlords in northeast Ohio. I’ve seen ice dams, water backups, freezes on houses while tenants were away. And damages ranging from a few hundred dollars all the way up to $30,000 plus in terms of what insurance would pay.
So I figured now would be a great time to talk about insurance for landlords.
In the past, here at Realty Trust Services, we didn’t always require owners to provide us with copies of their insurance policies. However, we’ve learned from experience that it’s vitally important that owners have a copy of their policies on file with us. That way, if we have an emergency, we aren’t having to make a guess about which contractor use and delaying essential services that need to take place ASAP to stop any further damage to the property.
If we’re not sure what contractor to use and we’re calling around trying to get in contact with a property owner late at night or get in touch with an insurance agent about what’s covered and what’s not… that’s eating up precious time and potentially costing everyone more money.
Not an ideal situation at all.
So, by having that policy information available, we can make better informed decisions.
Regardless of whether there’s a policy on file or not, the first step is normally doing whatever may be necessary to prevent further damage to the property. Then there’s restoration. Information makes both much easier, more efficient, and more easier to afford.
One thing that we offer here at Realty Trust Services— that we recommend to other property management companies— is a 24-hour dispatch for emergencies. If something happens, we’re ready to go and we have a network of contacts with restoration contractors that work with insurance companies. That’s proven to be invaluable for us.
A while ago, we started contacting owners and asking them questions about their insurance policies for our database. As it turned out, most of them didn’t really have very good information about what their insurance even offered. They didn’t know the deductible— what they paid out of pocket before the insurance kicked in— or what their insurance covered and they didn’t know that they weren’t covered at all when their property was vacant. Some didn’t know if they had insurance at all.
Which is to say that now might be a good time to call up your insurance agent and have them look at your policy to find out what’s on it.
One thing that’s nice to have is loss of rent coverage. It’s a little more expensive, but, if you can get it, at least if something happens and you lose rent for 5 months, you’ll have a cushion.
Another thing you really need a firm grasp on what happens when a tenant moves out because coverage changes and— more often than not— you need a new policy for a certain period afterward.
And you should make it a priority to find out if the policy has water damage coverage because we do have a lot of issues— especially with older homes— with water in northeastern Ohio.
There’s no getting around the fact that sewer backups happen. Roots grow in the drains or what have you. It’s just the nature of owning a home in this area.
Insurance is a classic issue for landlords because a lot of insurance underwriters don’t even want to touch rental properties. It’s a specialized niche and you definitely want to find an agent that has some knowledge and can assist you and educate you a little bit about what you’re getting and what you should get.
Something we’ve just recently added as a standard policy— based on our experiences— is that we’re requiring all tenants to have tenant insurance. Here at Realty Trust Services, we offer tenant insurance through our software. It’s quite a nice policy and it runs between $9 and $15 a month. So it’s a nominal fee that enables us to make sure that the tenant has named the landlord in the policy.
And for owners, there’s even coverage for damage to your property caused by tenant negligence.
Let’s say, hypothetically, that there’s damage to the roof from a storm which causes the house to leak and the tenants have to go to a hotel. You can set up a policy so the tenants aren’t asking you to pay for that hotel stay.
Having that insurance in place keeps you from getting sued for the price of that hotel stay. And the possibility that the tenant might sue— in some instances— to be reimbursed for that trip, even if you’re not contractually obligated to provide for that.
So you can certainly see the appeal of insurance in that case… and there’s a lot of cases that are very similar to those circumstances.
Insurance companies have learned the hard way that some tenants will use tenant insurance as an ATM machine to get money for their stuff in situations like the one above. So the insurance companies have stopped providing for that and personal belongings are no longer covered.
For all of those reasons and more, we strongly recommend any owner— whether they’re with Realty Trust Services or not— require tenant insurance. It just makes good sense.
If you’re unsure about your insurance policy, the team here at Realty Trust Services would be happy to refer you to several professionals that can give you quotes and talk you through the best policy for your needs contact us today by calling (440) 220-7300 or click here to contact us through our website.