Monthly Archives: September 2013

Property Management Questions

 By Jerry L’Ecuyer & Frank Alvarez

Dear Maintenance Men:

I manage a number of properties that use a master key system. Do you have a plan or solution to prevent vendors from losing master keys? This is becoming a problem and an expensive risk.
 — Janet

Dear Janet:

Never, ever, ever give a master key to a vendor or anyone else not employed by your
company. If the building is on a budget and cannot afford state of the art systems for key
control or access, try this simple and cost effective approach:

Install a temporary lockbox with the unit key inside and hang the lockbox on the door
knob or a water pipe near the unit. Any locksmith and even some hardware stores sell
these boxes. If a vendor needs access to a unit, give him access to the lockbox only.
Should they lose the key, you are only out the cost of a key. Save yourself a trip and
install the lockbox when you visit the property for the move out inspection. Note: The
locks should be changed or re keyed after completion of work.

If your vendors need access to a unit where on site personnel is available, the unit must
be opened by your employee or provide the vendor with the unit key only, not the master.
If your main office is centralized and your portfolio is dispersed throughout a particular
region with buildings under 16 units (which do not require onsite managers)
appointments should be made in advance and coordinated between the vendor and the
resident (keeping you in the loop). This will put the burden of entry, missed
appointments, etc. on the resident and the vendor, freeing up your valuable time.

If entry is needed due to an emergency, you should respond to the building to assess
damages or necessary mitigation at the same time allow entry. Take a lock box with you
and a unit key incase the repairs will be prolonged and access will be needed by others.
Never give a master key to a vendor!

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have a conundrum! I am thinking of charging an automatic cleaning fee to my new residents. (Of course, after executing a fully signed disclosure with the new resident at the time of contract signing.)

The issue has arisen because when a resident moves, they expect their cleaning deposit to be returned if they clean the unit. However, I find I must clean again at my expense as the unit is really never clean enough.

Is the automatic cleaning deposit a good idea or will the residents just leave the unit in far worst conditions, since they feel they have already paid for the cleaning?
 — Kelly

Dear Kelly:

Due to the fact that individual units may differ in the size, construction, appliances,
finishes amenities etc., establishing a one size fits all cost or fee may hurt you in the long
run. People have different ideas of what “clean” is and this is why property owners and
managers must set the standard of how clean the unit must be. Give the resident a
description of what management considers a clean unit to be and have the new resident
fill out and sign a move-in inspection form as to the move-in condition of the unit.

When you are given a notice to vacate, inspect the unit and document the conditions. Do not discuss the cost or what you will be charging or deducting from the security deposit with the resident at the time of the inspection. However do let the resident know what is
expected when the unit is returned and supply the name of your preferred cleaning

The rational in supplying the name of your cleaning service for your tenant’s use
is that the cleaning service knows what is expected and how management wants the units
cleaned. Upon move out, if the vacant unit does not meet that standard, charge the
resident a cleaning fee, backed up with vendor receipts and take pictures of the
substandard unit should the matter go to court.

Keep in mind that there are always costs in turning a unit such as normal wear and tear, smoke/Co2 alarm batteries and other cost of doing business associated with being an owner or manager of an apartment building.

Dear Maintenance Men:

I have rented a unit to a retired building contractor and he has offered to do work around the building in exchange for a rent reduction. He says he knows what he is doing and the arrangement will benefit both of us in the form of lower rent for him and lower apartment maintenance costs for me. He views it as a win win for both of us. Is this a good idea?
 — Gloria

Dear Gloria:

This is a management and maintenance question all in one! Both will have the same answer and it is a firm NO! You will lose all leverage over the work since you are not directly paying for the work and you are blurring the lines between resident and landlord.

Do you evict the tenant because he did a bad job installing a garbage disposal unit or
because he is short on his rent? It would be better that your resident work for someone
else and keep your maintenance and rent separate. Also, please keep in mind the liability
and workman’s compensation issues that may be involved by hiring a resident to do work
at your building.



We need more Maintenance Questions!!!

To see your maintenance question in the “Dear Maintenance Men:” column, please send
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Please call:

Buffalo Maintenance, Inc for maintenance work or consultation, or
JLE Property Management, Inc for management service or consultation

Frankie Alvarez at 714 956-8371
Jerry L’Ecuyer at 714 778-0480

CA contractor lic: #797645, EPA
Real Estate lic. #: 01216720
Certified Renovation Company