The one pest solution I could not do without

English: Ants

English: Ants (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every spring I see them and sometimes in vacant house, they are out and about ANTS!!!
I know they are supposed to be rather clean little guys but I still don’t like them.  So each spring I mix up some of my favorite ant killer.  Whenever we get a new property to manage I put this in the kitchen and basement as well, regardless of the time of year. Here is the link to Maggie’s Magic Ant Killer Stuff

Why does the ‘machine’ pick up most of the phone calls?

English: An NEC office phone

I do have a reason that I most often have the machine, pick up the phone calls. It has nothing to do with not wanting to talk to the tenants; it has to do with my memory.
I really like to be sure that I get the message correct, sometimes there are finer points that one forgets to ask or maybe jots down incorrectly.

For me, I find that it works best to have my tenants call and leave a detailed message, this way I know exactly what the problem is, I can research it if need be, and return their call with all of the answers they require.

I have been very negligent…

For the last several months I have not been blogging, I have missed it very much, and thought about it each day.  Yet something kept me from resuming.

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So here I am today, attempting to get back on track.  It would really be helpful if I knew what types of things you would like to read about, any questions that you have, silly or not so silly concerns about properties, tenants, section 8, mbq, etc.  I know a lot about many different areas, however I don’t want to bore anyone too much with information they don’t need or want.

 

Time shut down the pool, if you have not already

Time shut down the pool, if you have not already

I know, most landlords don’t have pools for their tenants, but from time to time you get an investment property that has a nice pool, tenants want to use the pool if it is there…

I would suggest closing the pool with the tenant, unless you are sure they can handle it on their own, or hiring a company to come out and do it if you are not able to do this task yourself.

Reading my emails today I came across a short article on how to close your pool on BrightNest.  Follow the link and in just a couple of hours you will be done until spring!!

Air Conditioning

English: I took the picture of these Mitsubish...

English: Carolina Beach, NC, October 12, 1999 ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Things always break at the worst times!  Air conditioning units are being put to the test this week with temperatures staying in the upper nineties, and the heat index being over a hundred.

Many renters live in the cities, typically rowhouses do not have more modern HVAC systems, so what is a landlord to do?

Window units are a good alternative.  They are much cheaper to purchase and install than a duct system, and can be replaced easily should they stop working.  You, the landlord will have to help with the installation, upkeep and maintenance however.

First off to save money you should buy window air conditioning units at the end of summer to save some money.  And you will need someplace to store them.

When it is time to install the units, you or your maintenance worker/handyman should install each unit.  You want to make sure that the condensation is dripping outside and that the outlets are correct for the plug.  It could cause a fire hazard it the circuit is overloaded.

When the handyman is there he should review with the tenant the best methods to keep up with the unit, cleaning the filter is a huge thing most tenants do not seem to realize needs to  be done.

The rental office should send a flyer that gives tips to keep the house cooler and the ac unit run more efficiently.  A post card, or phone call monthly or weekly to remind the tenant to clean the filter might be a good idea as well.

The installation of ceiling fans will also help rental units stay or feel cooler as the air is circulated.

Once all chance of too hot of days is over, you will need to collect all the units, label and service for the next season.

BATS!!! It is that time of year again

Bat

Bat (Photo credit: Lee Carson)

With the warm summer nights and the increase in the bats favorite foods, i.e., bugs, mainly mosquitoes, however they eat moths and beetles as well.

Bats like to live in attics, chimneys, under siding, behind shutters, under shingles, inside of walls, in woodpiles, hollow trees, really they can be anywhere.  The like their homes or  ‘roosts’, hot and dark.  Bats can enter a property from tiny little cracks, gaps or holes, they only need ¼ an inch to enter!! That is very tiny.

Here is a link to Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, this page talks all about bats and how to get rid of them, the best times of year (now is not the best time, they are having their pups, and how to keep them out.

http://dnr.maryland.gov/wildlife/plants_wildlife/bats/batsinhome.asp#how

Where bats can get in to your house.

Where bats can get in to your house.

A couple of years ago, my friend rented an apartment in an old building in Anne Arundel County.  The apartment was huge, however very inexpensive, there turned out to be many reasons for the cheapness of the rent, however bats in the unit was one of the problems.

The first evening we were in the kitchen putting things away, we heard a squeaking noise, we both turned to the living room, flying at us was a bat!  We had the door open and I guess it was time for the bat to go out and get dinner.  My friend and I both ran for the open door, pushing the other out-of-the-way.  It took us both a while to get the nerve to go back into the apartment; we ended up just locking the door and hoped everything would be better the next night.

The next day, she spoke to the landlord, he told her that he did not think it would happen again, and not to worry.  We took him at his word, huge mistake.  A couple of nights later again we saw a bat in the unit, well it was a couple of them, we ran out and stayed out to the next morning.

When we return in the morning, after a quick Internet search on how to keep bats out.  We started looking for holes and gaps, filling and plugging them as we went along, till we got to the closest in the living room.  We opened this extremely large closet and happened to notice brownish things on the back of the closet doors.  When we looked closer it was bats!  Again she and I could not get out of the unit fast enough, it must have been hilarious to watch us.

The neighbors heard us and came out to see what was the matter, we explained there were bats in the unit, the other tenants said they have bats in their units all the time.  My friend never did actually move into the unit.

Trash Cans in Baltimore

Trash cans (prague)

Trash cans (prague) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I sometimes think I would like to be one of those people that have no trash. I just read an article last week about a family that has less than a quart or garbage a year!! I don’t think my family could do that, I don’t think I could do that alone.As I read through the article, it became very clear that this woman was in some ways being a real pain to others in order to not have trash. Like when she goes to the grocery store she brings her own bags (no issue there), however when she goes to the bakery section she has the staff remove the rolls, or bread, or whatever from their containers and put them in her pillow cases, really that is what she said she uses.
Also she brings her own containers for bulk food. I have to wonder how does the store weigh and charge for that. The same goes for meets and well most all items.
I don’t believe the store can reuse any of the packaging, so it is still being thrown away or recycled, just not at her house. And who how does the cashier ring her up? Everything has bar codes attached nowadays, it must be a nightmare for anyone in the line behind her.

Oh, back to the topic of the post, trash cans in Baltimore.
While researching something else, I stumbled across this in the Baltimore City Housing Code Enforcement – Frequently Asked Questions regarding Owner and Tenant Responsibilities.

Question 9:
Are landlord’s required to provide garbage cans?

Answer:
In a single-unit building, the occupant (tenant) is responsible for providing garbage cans. For all other dwellings, the landlord is responsible for providing a sufficient number of garbage cans for tenants.

Trash, garbage, or debris may not be stored or placed out for collection except in approved storage receptacles.
The owner or operator of every occupied premises must arrange for sufficient number of these storage receptacles to receive and store trash, garbage, and debris from individual units between days of collection.
The receptacles must be maintained in a location accessible to occupants.

Where this information came from:

Strengthening Neighborhoods Housing Code Enforcement
A Handbook for Baltimore City Residents
http://www.hampdenhappenings.org/HCC_WEB/Zoning_Pdf/BALTCITY/Baltimore_City_Housing_Code_Booklet.pdf

Baltimore City Housing Code Enforcement – Frequently Asked Questions
http://www.baltimorehousing.org/code_faq

Electricity on in a vacant house, this time of year?

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What a nice house!

It looks great, showed very well and there was a renter almost right away. The former tenants, took very good care of the house, they gave plenty of notice they were moving, the were wonderful at making sure the house was clean and available when prospective tenants wanted to see it.

So what could go wrong? Electricity, or really the lack of electricity.

The new tenant is being transferred and will not be really to move in for a month, but the property owner was happy with his choice of new tenant, and felt that the four weeks would not be a problem, thinking it was not going to cost anything really. So the old tenants move out and on their way to home ownership, the property owner inspected the rental property, everything was perfect, and refunded the security deposit. Three weeks goes by, everything should be fine, it is not cold, so there is no danger of the pipes freezing, it has not been too hot, and no one has been in the house, so there was no need for air conditioning, everything is perfect!

Joe was hired to mow the grass, tidy up the yard, and change the locks. Because of an off smell, he decided to take a quick walk-through the house.

Everything check out fine on the top floor, and the main floor, so off to the basement. As soon as Joe started down the steps he saw it, water! Not just a bit of water, the entire finished basement. All the carpet and all the linoleum have a 2-inch layer of water.

Today is Thursday, the new tenants are going to be moving in on Monday. All the floor coverings need to be replaced, everything has to dry out, everything needs to be inspected and treated for any mold of fungus.

Without electric the sump pump could not come on, and for whatever reason the battery back-up did not come on. We did have some heavy rains, it might have just run out of power.

The lesson here, no matter how short of a time, you need to make sure there is electricity at your property. The property owner felt it was simply a waste of money to have the power switched over to his name while awaiting the new tenants.

BGE, and I am sure other power companies have the same thing, that when the tenant transfers their power, it will go into your name, so there is not gap in service. You really do not have to worry about the new tenant running up your electric bill. Before giving the tenant keys you can call BGE, or whatever service provider, and verify that the tenant has transferred service into their name.

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Raccoons

Raccoons can be a big problem for any homeowner, but property owners need to be made aware of their existence to rid their property of this critters.

Raccoons may love living in a hollow tree, ground burrows, brush piles and other such places, but they also enjoy the chimney, attic, garage, basement, or the crawl space under your property.

In general Raccoons eat both plans and animals. Meaning they eat the just about anything. And they really love our trash!

In the springtime seems to be when you will notice them more inside your property. One of the reasons is because they are nesting or raising their young, so they are extra busy and protective.

So what should you do so these are not your new, non-paying tenants, which will frighten off your paying tenants?

Prevent raccoons from getting in the chimney by securing heavy screen over the top of the chimney and use of a commercial quality chimney cap would be a good start. Even if the chimney is not used, you need to do this.

Any access points, from the outside, vents, fans, eaves, into the attic should be covered with heavy screen. I know it is a lot of work, but better to do it now than have these critters in the property.

Check around the foundation of all the buildings on the property, for signs of burrowing. If you find signs you may want to hire someone to come and check it out for you. Raccoons can be fierce, remember, they believe this is their home, and could carry rabies (in Maryland 60% of rabies cases are from raccoons), also they can transmit canine distemper and parvovirus to domestic dogs.

Trash and garbage is one of the biggest things that will attract these critters. Make sure that your tenant uses metal or heavy plastic trash cans with tight-fitting lids. I make this part of my leases.

By the way, did you know an adult raccoon could weigh up to 35 pounds? Typically they are 20-30 inches long and weigh 10-35 pounds.

I am rarely a fan of killing any sort of critter, so I will not recommend that. Removing the critter from the property can be a challenge, and you may want to hire someone to do that.

Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has contracted with the USDA Wildlife Services to establish a public access nuisance animal hotline. Wildlife Service specialists are available to provide technical guidance or facilitate contacts with professional Nuisance Wildlife Cooperators. Individuals that are experiencing problems with raccoons or other wildlife species are encouraged to call (877) 463-6497.You can also find tips on how to avoid nuisance raccoons in your backyard on the Wild Acres website.

Raccoons are Furbearing Animals, same as with most other states, and may require a license to trap http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Hunt_Trap/furbearers/index.asp

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Acknowledgments:
Photos courtesy of National Geographic’s and US Fish and Wildlife Services
http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/raccoon/

Information from Maryland Department of Natural Resources http://www.dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Plants_Wildlife/Raccoon.asp

Information from The Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management http://icwdm.org/handbook/carnivor/raccoons.asp

UPDATE from March post – Property Owner Saving Money doing own Turnover

Today’s post is mostly photos as I am really speechless. I know, really hard to believe, but true.

Back in March, on the 6th I think, I told you that you can same money on doing your turnovers yourself IF YOU KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. The Debacle I was using as an example just keeps getting better.
Our Property Owner, felt that he could turnover the property better for less than our estimate of $4,600.00. In March he was out-of-pocket $14,050, and still had another $2,800.00 in floor coverings to go.

It is not May 15th, the owner calls us and say everything is ready to go, flooring guy came out and everything is done, take some photos and let’s get this place rented! I should note that he did save $500.00 buy using his flooring guy, so he only spent $2,300.00 on floor coverings (so far). My husband went to the house right away, to take photos, and once he arrived called the owner. Joe asked the owner a couple of questions, did you pay this person, and have you seen the finished product. Of course our property owner said, ‘of course I paid the contractor right away, and I trust him, he does stuff for me all the time at other properties, I don’t need to check behind him…’
The property owner went on to tell Joe that he does a great job and his tenants have never said anything negative, Joe asked the property owner if he had ever asked tenants how the work went, he admitted he had not.
Well, here are some of the highlights:

The closets were not carpeted or tiled, or even the old padding taken up;

For some reason the carpet AND sheet vinyl is cut a few inches short in every room;

One of the bathrooms was forgotten,

Only one kind of real seam was made to join carpet;

This is a cleaned up job??

Shoe molding is missing;

Bubbles in the carpet, which really is hard to notice will all the brass strips used to join carpet in the middle of the rooms, halls etc,

Lack of brass strips in normal places like doorways,

Lastly the carpet is not really attached to the steps, if you are not careful you will side right down the stairs.

We had to tell the property owner, we can not list this property in this condition.  This property will not pass any sort of inspection, not to mention no one will even consider paying to live here, and I would never ask them to.

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Image 39Please note these are our photos, however we did not do the work shown in them.  We have no idea who the contractor was, a “friend” of the property owner is all we are told.