Engaging Tenants in the Winter

As we finally move into cold weather and the winter travel season, consider taking some time to educate your tenants on the simple measures they can take to prevent a lot of headaches.

Temperatures are going to continue to drop lower as we move further into the winter months, and with that comes the potential for water freezing in pipes. The potential for this is made even greater as tenants travel and consider turning the heat in their units either way down or completely off. By doing this there is no heat in the unit to keep the pipes thawed. Talk to your tenants before temperatures drop and set expectations to prevent issues before they arise.

Be a resource for helpful information to your tenants. As temperatures drop, consider sharing cost-saving techniques to keep their utility bills low. Discuss the benefits of keeping the temperature at reasonable levels and wearing layers indoors to stay comfortable with cooler temperatures.

Remind tenants to check their smoke detectors. Are they in working order? Do the batteries need to be replaced? A working smoke detector can be the difference between stopping a fire early and losing a unit.

What do you do to engage your tenants and help them operate their units more effectively?


Summer Heat Property Maintenance Tips

As we roll into August, which represents the tail end of summer and the hottest part of the year, there are a few maintenance items you should keep in mind to ensure your properties are running at peak performance and keeping tenants happy.



Replace air conditioner filters. The air filter on your heating and cooling system needs to be replaced somewhere between every 1-3 months to keep the air in the home clean and flowing freely. Forgetting to change the filter can cause a strain on the air conditioner, causing it to work harder, and potentially create bigger problems.



Test your smoke detectors. You typically want to do this once a quarter.

Check windows and doors for proper sealing. Replace weather-stripping as needed. Once temperatures drop you won’t want to be caught weather-stripping in the cold.



Clean the fridge. Use a vacuum with a narrow nozzle to clean condenser coils on the back and underneath your refrigerator. This will both extend the life of your appliances and lower your utility bills.




Continue regular lawn maintenance. Keep up with cutting the grass. If the weather dries up and starts to dry out the grass, you might want to consider watering it from time to time. While you’re at it make sure that you are also maintaining bushes and weeds. Neglecting this maintenance may lead to fines.




Take a quick look at the gutters. Although the majority of maintenance will come in the fall, now is the prime time to ensure that you don’t have debris built up providing the perfect environment for weeds to grow.



Enjoy the remainder of summer while it is still with us. But in the midst of all that summer fun, do not let your property maintenance fall by the wayside.

How to Properly Hire a Service Provider

Most people hire a service provider for their property through word of mouth or websites such as Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor. Regardless of how the business is established, you can’t take their online presence as gold. Property owners must do their own due diligence by doing more research.

Here are a few tips that we suggest:

Are you insured?” is the first question that should be asked when hiring a contractor to do work on your property. This covers you from having any liability if an accident should occur. Ask if the contractor is registered with a PA business license. This is how you determine whether they run an accredited operation.

What is their contact information? If they give you a PO Box address and a cell phone number, how will you track them down if you have any problems with their work? If they are not willing to give you a physical address for you to do business with them at, this could be a sign of danger.

Get referrals. Good and bad ones. Checking referrals can be important because you can get an idea of how the service provider behaves and what the end product is like. Ask to not only talk to people that were happy with their work, but also with people that either chose not to use them or that were unhappy with their work. Anyone can give you names of people that like them. To get a well-rounded view, you should talk to a variety of customers. You can go a step further and check online for any lawsuits that were brought against the contractor through the Department of Court Records.

Get multiple estimates. Generally, two or three estimates will give you a reasonable idea of what the price should be. Request an estimate in writing but be aware that not all companies will do this and there may be some cost associated with getting one. For more information, see our post:  Are “Free” Estimates Really Free.

Lastly, review the project at the end. Have the service provider walk you through the work that was completed. If there are any warranties on the products, make sure you are given the information on that material. Is there a warranty on the workmanship? If the service provider promised you a warranty on the work before it was completed, make sure you get the details on it before they leave the work site.

Hopefully, these steps can help prevent you from potential problems. There are many horror stories out there of people hiring service providers without doing their research in the interest of saving a buck or two.

New Carbon Monoxide Detector Law

fig1_danger_coAs you may or may not be aware, Pennsylvania passed a new carbon monoxide law (Act 121) as of December 18, 2013 that has a direct effect on how rental properties are operated. Although the verbiage in these laws can be confusing, we are going to break it down a bit to make it digestible.

Before we discuss the rules to this new law, let’s first be sure that we understand the definitions of the items it refers to.

“Apartment”  A room or suite of two or more rooms, occupied or leased for occupation, or intended or designed to be occupied, as a home.

“Multifamily dwelling”  Any house or building, or portion thereof that is intended or designed to be occupied or leased for occupation, or occupied as a home or residence for three or more households living in separate apartments, and doing their cooking on the premises.

“Residential building”  Detached one-family and two-family dwellings and multiple single-family dwellings that are not more than three stories in height with a separate means of entrance and exit, which includes accessory structures.

“Fossil fuel” Coal, kerosene, oil, wood, fuel gases and other petroleum or hydrocarbon products which put off carbon monoxide as a by-product of burning.


Ok, here is the meat and potatoes of the law as it applies to rental housing.


carbon_monoxide_detector_placementMultifamily dwellings.–Each apartment in a multifamily dwelling, which uses a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance, fireplace, or an attached garage, must have an operational, centrally located and approved carbon monoxide alarm installed in the vicinity of the bedrooms and the fossil fuel-burning heater or fireplace within 18 months of the effective date of this act.

Put carbon monoxide detectors in the area of the home where the bedrooms are, in the kitchen, near the heater, fireplace, AND the garage if the home has one by June 18, 2015.

Section 5.  Carbon monoxide alarm requirements in rental properties.

(a)  Owner responsibilities.–The owner of a multifamily dwelling having a fossil fuel-burning heater or appliance, fireplace or an attached garage used for rental purposes and required to be equipped with one or more approved carbon monoxide alarms shall:

(1)  Provide and install an operational, centrally located and approved carbon monoxide alarm in the vicinity of the bedrooms and the fossil fuel-burning heater or fireplace.

(2)  Replace, in accordance with this act, any approved carbon monoxide alarm that has been stolen, removed, found missing or rendered inoperable during a prior occupancy of the rental property and which has not been replaced by the prior occupant before the commencement of a new occupancy of the rental property.

(3)  Ensure that the batteries in each approved carbon monoxide alarm are in operating condition at the time the new occupant takes residence in the rental property.

The owner of the rental property must provide carbon monoxide alarms in the bedroom area, the kitchen if it has gas appliances, near the fireplace and heater and near the garage. The owner must be sure to provide and install working carbon monoxide alarms before renting the unit to a new tenant if the prior tenant has not replaced or maintained the previously installed alarm during their lease. If all of the alarms are still in place, the owner must make sure that all the batteries in the alarms are working before putting new tenants in the unit.

(b)  Maintenance, repair or replacement.–Except as provided in subsection (a), the owner of a multifamily dwelling used for rental purposes is not responsible for the maintenance, repair or replacement of an approved carbon monoxide alarm or the care and replacement of batteries while the building is occupied. Responsibility for maintenance and repair of carbon monoxide alarms shall revert to the owner of the building upon vacancy of the rental property.

(c)  Occupant responsibilities.–The occupant of each multifamily dwelling used for rental purposes in which an operational and approved carbon monoxide alarm has been provided must:

(1)  Keep and maintain the device in good repair.

(2)  Test the device.

(3)  Replace batteries as needed.

(4)  Replace any device that is stolen, removed, missing or rendered inoperable during the occupancy of the building.

(5)  Notify the owner or the authorized agent of the owner in writing of any deficiencies pertaining to the approved carbon monoxide alarm.

Once the tenant has signed the lease and is in possession of the rental unit, the tenant is then responsible for the carbon monoxide alarms. These responsibilities include the maintenance of the alarm, regularly testing and replacing the batteries as needed, replacing any missing or broken alarms and keeping the owner informed of any broken alarms during their lease.

If you would like to read the entire law you can read it here. Do keep in mind that you have 18 months to get these carbon monoxide alarms in place, but you don’t want to wait until the last minute to get them installed. Consider sending your maintenance technician with the alarms if they are going to do service at your units and just add it onto the service call. You could also add these alarms onto the list of things that need to be completed when the units are being turned over. Just create a tracking sheet of your properties and mark off the units as you go with the date that the installation was completed and have whoever completed the installation initial off on it.