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The Most Common Tenant Complaints

Mar 05 2017

Managing one or more rental properties means you will naturally have to handle a variety of tenant concerns and complaints. Below are some of the most commonly stated tenant complaints, with tips on how to avoid or deal with each. From disagreements about the return of a security deposit to property access, and even commonplace repairs and maintenance, here’s what tenants gripe about most:

Security Deposit Refund Disputes


According to Zillow.com, refund of the initial security deposit is one of the biggest complaints tenants file against landlords. Since this sum is generally a significant amount, it is essential that you detail how security deposits are handled in your lease and that you clearly outline how items or repairs will be deducted from the tenant’s deposit. Charging for general wear and tear, building a profit into repairs, or not specifying exactly what the charges are could lead to complaints and even legal action.

Bedbug or Pest Infestation


Bedbugs are difficult to deal with and strike fear into the heart of any property owner. Since they are easily transmitted via bedding and other laundry, your unit could acquire these pests at any time, and you’ll likely end up being the one responsible for having them professionally removed.

Mold and Environmental Hazards


Black mold and related environmental issues are common in older buildings and you may not even realize the mold is there until it breaks through or an appliance is moved. A true environmental hazard needs to be addressed; mold and related issues need to be identified and mitigated by a specialist; simple cleanup won’t work.

Conflict with Other Tenants


From noise complaints to actual aggression and conflict between neighbors, problems can arise between those in adjacent units or even in neighboring buildings. Some of the most common complaints are nuisance related; barking dogs and/or tenants who play music, television or other entertainment systems at top volume can wreak havoc on an otherwise peaceful community. While these issues may not be your direct responsibility, your tenant will often expect you to handle this type of complaint. If the “problem” tenant is also yours, working out the issue is relatively simple, but dealing with another homeowner is more complex and time consuming, and may require some creative problem-solving skills.

Landlord Entry or Harassment


Following your lease is a must if you need to enter the unit or wish to show it for sale. Make sure you are familiar with how much notice you need to give tenants if you need to enter the apartment — and follow the rules in the lease to the letter. Showing up unannounced, entering without permission or even showing the property for prospective tenants could trigger a complaint if you don’t follow the procedures prescribed by your lease.

Response to Repairs Needed


From major plumbing and HVAC concerns to more minor repairs to appliances or cabinetry, tenants complain about how promptly their concerns are answered. Replying quickly to tenant requests is a must, even if your reply indicates there might be a delay. By keeping the lines of communication open and acting in good faith, you can ensure that you limit the amount of repair and maintenance complaints you receive.

Move-In Condition of the Home


How clean is the unit — and is everything truly ready for the new tenant? If you are renting out a flawed home, expect some complaints. Taking the time to paint, doing minor or even major repairs, and ensuring that the place is truly livable and turnkey cuts your risk of complaints — and takes a lot less time and money than you think.

Eviction and Lease Termination


These are two different actions, but both trigger excessive complaints and sometimes even legal action. If you are forced to evict a tenant or end a lease, make sure you do it properly and abide by both your lease and the laws of the city or town where your property is located. This is not an enjoyable process for anyone, but doing things by the book can help put the task behind you and reduce many possible tenant complaints you have to cope with.

Not every tenant complaint falls into one of these categories, but the vast majority of issues probably will. By learning more about what you can expect from tenants and how to manage these common issues, you’ll be better equipped to whatever issues arise.

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If you’ve ever considered investing in a few rental properties in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA now might be a good time. Prices are still low in Philadelphia, but have been on the upswing. According to the National Association of Realtors, the median price of an existing home in a US metropolitan area grew 13.7% between July 2012 and July 2013, the latest in a 17-month streak of year-over-year price increases. 

New landlords can choose from properties that are likely to appreciate and a large pool of potential renters.Licensed realtor Pat Mueller cites a few reasons for this trend: “Many families have lost their homes to foreclosure and are entering the rentals market for the first time in years. Mortgages are also harder to get now, so fewer people are qualifying for a new one.”The more skills you bring to the table to get into Houses for Rent in Philadelphia Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA and the more time you have to devote to your properties, the faster you can make a return on your investment. 

But investing in rentals can also be disastrous (or too stressful to be worthwhile) without expertise. Here are three professionals you may consult about your new rental properties, and what you can do to mitigate how much they cost you:Handyman:  You may need to hire a specialist for some work on your rental. If you need new outlets or new pipes, for example, hire an electrician, plumber or licensed contractor. Handymen usually tackle smaller, more manageable tasks, like:

  • Painting and paint removal
  • Drywall repair
  • Minor appliance repairs (fixing a leaky toilet or faucet, among others)
  • Installing tiling or flooring, moldings, windows, doors
  • Refinishing decks, cabinets and other wood items

When You Could Skip It: You could do any (or all) of these projects yourself if you have the time and interest in learning. Of course, this only works if you live relatively close to your rentals and are flexible enough to service them on short notice. And if you’re willing to respond to the occasional 5 AM basement flooding.

Average Savings: Any base rates or costs-per-hour vary from location to location in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA , but nationally, you can expect to spend an average of $60 to $85 per hour for repair costs. It general costs less to hire an individual handyman than a handyman employed by a company. Expect an additional charge if your job requires a trip to the store for materials.

Resident Property Manager As the owner of a handful of rental properties, you may be able to manage them yourself, but if you want help, a single resident manager would probably be more cost efficient than a property management company. Resident managers may:

  • Serve as a handyman
  • Advertise vacancies in your units
  • Show apartments to prospective tenants
  • Review rental applications
  • Collect rents

When You Could Skip It: Again, the closer you live to your properties and the more spare time you have, the less likely you are to need a manager. The obligations of being a boss will also cut into the time you save on maintenance.

Average Savings: The national median wage for residential managers is just over $25 per hour. Research the wages in your community and adjust according to how much responsibility your manager will take on. 

Real Estate Agent: Once you’ve gotten your financials in order and done your own research on the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, you might contact a realtor to show you potential properties. You can also arrange for a realtor in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA to show rentals once they’re ready to rent.

When You Could Skip It: It depends. Even if you’re a local, or have thoroughly researched the neighborhood(s) you’re considering, a realtor is a great resource for a first-time rental buyer. Realtors have access to data and statistics not necessarily available to the general public and first-time buyers may not know all the right questions to ask. Using a realtor to fill your Houses for Rent vacancies is less of a no-brainer, depending on your other time commitments or whether you plan to hire a resident manager who could do the same thing.

Average Savings: As a buyer of rental properties, as when buying your own home, sellers typically pay most, if not all, of the buyer’s realtor fees. In this case, Mueller points out there’s little reason not to work with a realtor. For help in filling your units in Philadelphia or Bucks County, PA, the services of a realtor would set you back between 10-20% of the unit’s rent per month.  Mueller recommends interviewing with several brokers before making your final decision to invest into Houses for Rent .

The Bottom Line: As a new landlord, you can’t necessarily control the flexibility of your schedule or the amount (and cost) of unexpected repairs to your properties. Rentals are a long-term investment. However, to maximize profits from your Houses for Rent, new rentals, you can buy close to home and start small. It is best to begin with just one or two properties. This will allow you to maximize the time you spend on your properties’ needs, and minimize the amount you’ll have to pay anyone else.

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