Top 4 Tips To Smoothly Handle Your Rental’s Emergency Maintenance

How to Handle Rental Maintenance Emergencies

Being a rental property owner leaves very little time for dull moments.

To start, you search out and purchase the “perfect” property, perform upgrades and renovations so your investment becomes a hot commodity, and then interview interested tenants until you find the ideal one.

Once all of that work is done, you may feel ready to rest.

However, after you place tenants in your property and start collecting monthly rent payments, there is always a chance that your tenants are going to call you with an emergency rental maintenance issue. 

In the rental property business, whether you enlist the help of Columbia property management or not, it is your duty to keep your tenants safe, as well as protect your investment.

And, despite your property being in tip-top shape, things can happen when you least expect them to.

Knowing how to handle emergency maintenance issues in your rental property is something all property owners should learn.

Today we are going to outline some of our best property management tips for handling emergency maintenance request so, should the unthinkable happen, you have an idea of what to do.


What is Considered a Rental Property Emergency?

What is Considered a Rental Property Emergency

What you consider an emergency situation, and what your tenants consider an emergency situation, are often very different things.

Here is a breakdown of some of the most serious emergency scenarios your tenants can experience while leasing from you:

  • Loss of heat during the cold months, and loss of air during the hot months, depending on where your property is located
  • Gas leaks
  • Water leaks or floods
  • Broken windows
  • Exterior doors that will not lock
  • Fire
  • Loss of power
  • An intruder break-in


As you can see, all of these situations are very serious in nature and not only require your help, but the help of professionals as well.

If any one of these situations occurred in your rental property, your investment is at risk for damage, as well as your tenants’ health and safety.


How to Handle an Emergency Maintenance Request

If your Columbia tenant contacts you with an emergency maintenance request, there are things you can do to help resolve the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible, no matter how serious it is.

Additionally, there are proactive steps you can take to minimize the occurrence of an emergency maintenance issue at your rental.


1. Inform Your Tenants About What to Do During Emergencies

Informing your tenants at move-in about emergencies is one of the best things you can do to reduce the number of emergencies that occur, and resolve them as quickly as possible if they happen anyway.

Here is some key information you should include in your tenant welcome package that will help tenants know what to do in the case of an emergency:

  • Provide a detailed list outlining what a true emergency is
  • Explain the procedures for putting in a general maintenance request versus an emergency request
  • Include any pertinent contact information (e.g. you, your property management company, the after-hours call center, the maintenance crew, and any emergency vendors you have approved to work on your rental)

Prepare Your Tenants for Emergencies in Your Rental Property

In addition, it’s a good idea to give your tenants some emergency tips for things such as

  • Turning off the main water line to your property
  • How to reset breakers
  • Who to call in the case of extreme emergencies such as fires or home intrusions
  • How to get to safety should an emergency threatening their health or safety occur


2. Discuss the Issue with Your Tenant Before Taking Action

If you self-manage your Columbia rental property, and you receive an emergency call from your tenant, be sure to discuss the issue in full before jumping into action.

This will assure both you and your tenant that the situation is indeed an emergency, and make planning your next steps much easier, since you will both be on the same page about how to move forward.

  • Non-Emergency. If you and your tenant decide the situation at hand is not a true emergency, reassure them that the problem will be handled efficiently. Explain what the next steps are, and when they can expect someone to come by and fix the issue. Always ask if there is anything else you can for them – customer service like that is what makes tenants happy, and is what gets you lease renewals.
  • Emergency. If the situation is an emergency, you should immediately make sure your tenant is safe. Advise them to get out of the house immediately if their health or safety is at risk, and get alternate contact information such as a cell phone number so you can keep in touch. You should also remind them to call the authorities, if appropriate. It’s also a good idea to stop by your property to make sure the authorities, maintenance crew, or vendors are handling everything properly.


In situations like this, it is more important than ever to have the right insurance in place as well.

Homeowners insurance to protect the structure of your investment property is necessary when you own rental property.

In addition, requiring your tenants to have renters insurance prior to moving in to your rental will help mitigate some of the damages (specifically when it comes to their personal belongings), and will help house your tenant if the property becomes inhabitable.


3. Have Your Own Contact List Available

Provide Tenants Your Contact List for Rental Property Emergencies

It’s not enough to provide your tenants with a list of people to contact in the case of an emergency – you too should have your own Rolodex of vendors to call in the case of an emergency.

This is especially true if you don’t enlist the help of a property management company.

If you do employ a property management company, they will either have a maintenance crew for you to contact in the case of an emergency maintenance issue, or a list of approved contractors that you can contact to resolve the emergency.

Either way, having your own contact list readily available will lessen the stress once a call comes in that your property is on fire, flooding, or otherwise falling apart.


4. Stay Proactive

Lastly, as yet another way to help reduce the number of rental property emergencies you and your tenants experience, you should stay proactive.

Take a look at some of the easiest ways to do that:

  • Perform thorough move-in and move-out inspections with every new tenant so you always know the condition of your property, and can tend to small maintenance issues before they become emergencies
  • Conduct routine seasonal inspections to ensure your tenants are caring for your rental properly and no major maintenance issues have developed
  • Work with a property management company to help with anything maintenance-related – inspections, maintenance fixes, after-hours calls, tenant complaints, insurance requirements, and even lease drafting so everyone involved understands their role in preventing property emergencies


Many property owners struggle with maintenance in general, so emergency situations can feel entirely overwhelming.

That’s why having a property management company such as Bay Management Group on your side is so valuable.

We have a 24/7/365 maintenance crew on hand to take care of all maintenance issues – not just the emergencies. We also have highly qualified professional contractors that we work with on a regular basis that provide timely and affordable workmanship.

So, if you need help managing your Columbia rental property’s maintenance requests, contact Bay Management Group today.

The Top 5 Ways to Collect Rent From Your Bowie Tenants

Top 5 Ways to Collect Rent From Your Bowie Tenant

Collecting rent from your tenants in Bowie, MD is one of the most important tasks assigned to your property management company.

After all, once rent is collected from your tenants, you get paid.

Today, we are going to look at some of the steps required to collect rent from your tenants, as well as some ways to go about collecting rent.

But first, we will review the more traditional ways of collecting rent, for a quick refresher.


How to Collect Rent From your Tenants

How to Collect Rent From Your Bowie Tenant

Here is a look at some of the best ways to collect rent from your tenants:

  1. Online. Allowing tenants to access an online portal to pay their monthly rent is typically considered the best way. It is convenient for your tenant, is secure, and it guarantees that the funds submitted are going to be deposited into your bank account.
  2. Check or Money Order. Though some Bowie property managers prefer not to accept personal checks (unless mailed in), a large majority of tenants still prefer to pay with paper checks. If you do not accept paper checks, money orders are a safe and simple alternative.
  3. Direct Deposit. There may be instances where you want your tenant to transfer their rent from their bank account directly into your bank account. Though not very common, it is definitely secure.
  4. Mail-in Payments. You can always go the more traditional route, and allow your tenants to mail their rent to either you or your property management company. However, the risk of your tenant’s check getting lost in the mail exists, and can cause a delay in your getting paid.
  5. In Person. There is also the option of having your tenants drop their rent off in person at your house (which is always risky) or at your property management company’s office. Again, this requires a personal check, a money order, or cash (which is never recommended).


As you can see, there are a number of ways to collect rent from your tenants.

But the question still remains: what are the steps to collecting rent from your tenants?


The Rent Collection Process

Rent Collection Process in Bowie, Maryland

The process of collecting rent from your tenants is rather simple if you employ Bowie’s top property management company to do it for you.

Here is a rundown of how your property manager should approach collecting rent from your tenants:

  1. Draft an airtight lease agreement outlining the rent rate, due date, and consequences for paying late
  2. Inform the tenant prior to move-in of the rent collection procedures, including the methods for submitting payment
  3. Collect rent each month through the approved methods
  4. Properly document all rent payments collected each month for tenants, property owners, and the IRS to see
  5. If a rent payment is late, begin the eviction process immediately – serve proper notice, file eviction paperwork, and prepare for legal proceedings if necessary


Although the process for collecting rent from your tenants is relatively simple, it is critical to not underestimate its importance.

This is especially true when it comes to dealing with late rent payments.

If, by chance, your tenants fail to pay their rent on time, your property management company should step in and handle the situation right away. You should not let your tenants feel that they can get away with paying their rent late.

After all, this is your rental property business, and you should treat it as such.


Additional Rent Collection Methods

Pay Rent Online Via ACH

There are several ways you can collect rent from your tenants during the course of their tenancy.

And, while some ways are recommended, such as collecting payments online, there are additional options that you can provide your tenants, if the situation arises.


Local Drop Box

This method is similar to allowing your tenants to drop their rent payments off in person to your property management company. However, this method affords both your property manager and tenant some convenience when it comes to the actual time of day that the payment is dropped off.

Rather than hand in a rent payment in person during regular business hours, having a drop box available makes dropping off rent at any time of the day possible.

Many of your tenants may work during the day and may need to drop rent off after-hours. Allowing them this option of a drop box may reduce late or delayed payments.


ACH Payments

ACH stands for Automated Clearing House, and involves the automatic collection of rent payments online.

Using an ACH payment service allows you to collect payments from your tenants electronically either as one-time payments, or as recurring payments by directly debiting your tenant’s savings or checking account.

This method is secure and prevents your tenants from having to use e-checks or credit/debit cards.

In addition, this method can be more cost effective than collecting payments via credit or debit card.

Why is that?

Because accepting credit and debit cards usually involves additional transaction fees in exchange for using the online rent collection service.

Lastly, collecting rent using the ACH payment method is typically faster than any online method, because payment is directly debited from your tenant’s bank account.

Processing this type of transaction is quick and easy.



If your tenant does not have access to a computer, or prefers to pay in person but your property management company does not accept drop-off rent payments or does not have a drop box available, you can always consider offering them a PayNearMe option.

PayNearMe is a way to let your tenants pay their rent in cash to a local 7-Eleven or other business that collaborates with the PayNearMe program.

Using a unique card assigned to them for making rent payments, your tenant simply goes to the local PayNearMe business, pays their rent at the counter, and receives a receipt for payment. In response, you are immediately notified that your tenant has paid their rent in full.

This option is often much easier than getting a money order and delivering it, or mailing a check (complete with envelope, address, and stamp), and is a great solution for those that do not have online payment access.


Collecting rent from your tenants is one of the most important things you will do as a property owner.

And, if you enlist the help of Bowie’s best property management company, you will be placing the responsibility of rent collection in your property manager’s hands, which is a big weight off of your back.

If you own rental property and need a reliable property management company to aid you in the collection of rent from your tenants, contact Bay Management Group today.

We can help you with every step of collecting rent – from the drafting of the lease agreement, complete with rent payment details to the eviction process (if need be) – so that you don’t have to worry about any of the stresses involved in collecting money from your tenants.

What Are the Responsibilities of a Property Management Company?

What Are the Responsibilities of Your Gaithersburg Property Management Company?

If you own rental property in Gaithersburg and self-manage your rental property business, you may be finding that there is a lot more to being a landlord than you originally anticipated.

And with that in mind, you may be thinking it is time to enlist the help of one of Gaithersburg’s top property management companies.

You may also be wondering to yourself what exactly a property management company is responsible for when it comes to your investment property. 

For those that are unsure whether investing in a property management company is a good idea, or for those that simply don’t know what a property manager is responsible for, keep reading.

Today we are going to give you the rundown on what an experienced, highly qualified property management company should offer you in terms of services.


What a Qualified Gaithersburg Property Management Company Should Do

1. Property Advertising

Property Management Company Should Advertise Property

One of the most important responsibilities your property management company has is advertising your vacant property to a high-quality tenant pool.

They should utilize a diverse set of platforms such as Craigslist, MLS, online classifieds, and even direct mail to expose your property to a wide group of prospects. They should also be available for those reaching out with interest.


2. Tenant Screening

All potential tenants should be thoroughly screened by your property manager. This includes background and credit checks to make sure they have no criminal background, previous evictions, or outstanding debts.

Additionally, your property management company is responsible for avoiding any discrimination when it comes to fair housing laws and screening potential tenants.

This is a key reason to enlist the help of a property manager. The last thing you want to do is be sued for unintentionally discriminating against an interested tenant.


3. Tenant Move-In

Property Management Company Handles Tenant Move-in

Here are some of the things your Gaithersburg property management company will handle at the time your new tenant moves into your investment property:

  • Legally compliant lease drafting according to your specific needs
  • Evaluation of local rent rates so your rent will generate income
  • Lease term start and end dates
  • Detailed move-in inspection with all parties, complete with photographs
  • Collection of security deposit and first and last month’s rent

Lastly, your property manager will provide your tenants with the keys to your property, as well as a welcome tenant package, complete with pertinent contact information, maintenance responsibilities, local area information, and possibly a small gift welcoming your tenant to their new home.


4. Maintenance, Repairs, and Complaints

Anytime your tenant has a maintenance or repair request, your property management company is the one to handle it.

And, if you choose one of the top property management companies in Gaithersburg, your tenants will have access to an on-call maintenance crew that is available 24/7.

Not having to take after-hours calls from tenants is one of the best benefits of enlisting the help of a team of property managers. Not only do they have the resources to handle emergencies, they take the pressure off of you and having to be available all the time.

It is also a good idea to look into a property management company that has a 24-hour hotline for tenants that have complaints or non-emergency issues. Again, not having to field these calls all night long is something you’ll love.


5. Rent Collection

Property Management Company Should Collect Rent

Receiving rent payments, tracking down those that haven’t paid, sending out rent reminders, and disbursing payments to you are another huge responsibility you place in the hands of your property management team.

In addition to collecting your rent money and handing it over to you, your property manager is also tasked with the job of initiating eviction proceedings, should your tenant fail to pay rent on time.

This includes filing paperwork to start an eviction, sending out proper notices, representing you in court, and even aiding in the removal of tenants, should the need arise.


6. Property Inspections

Making sure your property is being well cared for throughout the lease term takes a lot of effort.

That’s why having a property manager to conduct seasonal inspections is so helpful. Not only can they check to make sure everything is okay with your tenants (which is a great customer service method), your property manager can make sure your tenant is fulfilling their lease obligations.

Finding small maintenance issues and fixing them before they turn into bigger issues, reminding tenants of their tenant responsibilities, and finding out what would make your tenants happier are all things that will ultimately aid you in your quest for success as a property owner.


7. Bookkeeping

Bookkeeping Handled by Property Management Company

Property management companies have a duty to maintain all financial documentation as it relates to your rental property business.

Here are some things your property manager will likely handle while managing your rental:

  • Proper accounting of all rent payments collected, including receipts
  • Annual reporting of all financial statements, including a 1099 form
  • Monthly income/expense reports
  • Documentation of any payments made on your behalf (utilities, HOA, insurance premiums)
  • All maintenance estimates, work orders, and invoice/payment receipts
  • Yearly tax information for the property itself and the rental property business

While it can be helpful to hire on a separate accountant to help you with your yearly financials as they relate to your rental property business, know that an experienced property management company can handle most, if not all, of that documentation for you.

In fact, some property managers will even help you file your annual taxes so that you don’t have to hire external services.


8. Tenant Move-Out

Just as your property manager helped move your tenant in, they are responsible for helping your tenant move out as well.

When a tenant gives their notice to move out of your property, you property manager will likely inspect the unit as a whole to determine what damages the tenant has incurred.

From there, the following will happen:

  • Provide tenant with a detailed list of estimated damages
  • Return the remaining balance of your tenant’s security deposit
  • Re-key all locks and make any repairs
  • Clean rental property for next tenant that will move in
  • Place vacant property back on the market


This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of Gaithersburg property management responsibilities.

Rather, it gives you a good idea of the scope of tasks a high-quality property manager will gladly take on while managing your rental property.

If you own rental property in Gaithersburg and have realized that self-management of your investment property is not right for you, get in touch with Bay Management Group today. We take great pride in our customer service-oriented approach to property management, and strive to provide you and your tenants the best experience possible.

5 Rental Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Property in Top Shape

Rental Maintenance Tips to Keep Your Philadelphia Rental Property in Good Shape

Taking care of your Philadelphia rental home is just as important as caring for the home you actually live in.

Yet, time and again, property owners either fall behind on general maintenance of their rental properties, or expect their tenants to handle everything – both of which are a bad idea.

Keeping your investment property in tiptop shape is one way of extending the life of your property, as well as avoiding any major repairs.

If you want your property to last, despite people of all kinds moving in and out of it over time, you must commit to implementing a routine maintenance plan.

Take a look at some of the very best ways you can handle rental property maintenance, so that your Philadelphia rental property withstands the test of time, and continues to generate a positive cash flow for you each year.


Maintenance Tips for Keeping Your Philadelphia Rental Property in Exceptional Shape


1. Take Advantage of Pest Control

Take Advantage of The Pest Control For Your Philadelphia Rental Property

There has been a longstanding serious debate as to whether pest control is an issue for property owners or tenants to handle during a lease term.

However, the consensus is that prior to move-in, a property owner is responsible for providing a safe and habitable place for tenants.

This means you must ensure your Philadelphia rental is free of all pests and rodents before a tenant moves in.

From there, it is your tenant’s job to ensure that a pest or rodent infestation does not take over.


Seems fair enough, right?


Of course it does.

However, just because it is your tenant’s responsibility to make sure pests haven’t overtaken your rental property, does not mean they are being proactive about pest control.

And, when it comes to pests, being ahead of the game is the key to winning.

If you want to avoid dealing with the excessive damage that a major pest or rodent infestation can have on the structure of your rental property, consider having an exterminator regularly visit your property (approximately every two months), regardless of whose job pest control is.

Though with this approach there is a cost involved that eats into your bottom line, it is worthwhile in the long run.

A pest or rodent infestation can not only cause you to lose a tenant come renewal time, thus leading to higher turnover and vacancy rates, the damage pests such as termites can do to your property is astounding.

And, even with the best of intentions, your tenants may not be equipped to handle routine pest control on their own.

By helping them out a little, you provide your tenants extra customer service (which can go a long way with a lease renewal), and provide yourself the peace of mind your property is pest free.


2. Perform Routine Inspections

This is a major one.

Routine inspections can have a profound impact on the longevity of your rental property, no matter the time of year you conduct them.

Check for things like water leaks, broken windows, rotting wood, or full gutters while inspecting the exterior of your property.

Tenants are likely to miss these kinds of issues during the course of their tenancy, especially if they are not taking an active role in property maintenance.

After all, many tenants that do participate in property maintenance assume that “maintenance” includes just the interior.

By regularly monitoring the exterior of your investment property, you will be able to spot problem areas before they become major issues.

This will not only help ensure the structure of your property stays sound throughout the year, it will prevent costly repairs down the line that may displace your tenants, and dip into your monthly rent collection.


3. Hire a Landscaper

Hire a Landscaper to Care For Your Philadelphia Rental Property

Unless you are absolutely sure the tenant you have placed in your rental property is capable of maintaining both the front and backyard landscaping, consider hiring a professional landscaper to do the job instead.

Look at some of the benefits you reap by having a well-kept yard:

  • A visually appealing space you, your tenants, and neighbors can be proud of
  • Help cool your neighborhood from sweltering summer heat
  • Absorb surrounding noise
  • Improve drainage and prevent sidewalk cracking, foundation slipping, and flooded areas
  • Trap pollutants in the air, and create more oxygen
  • Increase property value
  • Create an inviting “getaway” that tenants can enjoy year round
  • Prevent major pest infestations
  • Create great curb appeal to attract future tenants

The truth is, no one wants to look at a yard full of overgrown shrubs, trees, and weeds.

And, the fact that your tenants would likely love to have a nice backyard they can enjoy throughout the year makes hiring a professional landscaper even more appealing.


4. Care for the HVAC System

One of the biggest repairs any Philadelphia income property owner can face is the repair (or replacement!) of an entire HVAC system.

This is why routine care is key.

Look at some things you can do year round to help maintain your property’s HVAC system, and prevent a major financial burden down the road:

  • Professional Servicing. Have the system professionally serviced at least once a year. This includes a full cleaning, and the maintenance of any parts that are outdated or worn. In doing so, you will save your tenants money each month on energy costs, improve the air quality throughout your property, and prevent emergency repair needs.
  • Help Your Tenants. It is not enough to simply tell your tenants they are responsible for maintaining something like the HVAC system. Instead, try providing them with replacement air filters so all they have to do is change them out each month. In addition, giving your tenant a welcome package upon move-in is a great way to slip in a routine maintenance checklist, complete with instructions on how to maintain the HVAC system and what to do in case something breaks.
  • Duct Sealing. Every few years consider having your property’s HVAC ducts re-sealed. This will ensure the system continues to work efficiently and prevent any “backdrafting” that may physically harm your tenants. In addition, it will prevent extreme temperatures from plaguing specific rooms, boost air quality, protect the environment, and of course, save you money in the long run.


5. Don’t Forget the Water Heater

Keep Up Maintenance On Your Philadelphia Rental Property Water Heater

Another rental property maintenance issue that is often overlooked is the water heater.

And, if you have ever had to replace the water heater in your Philadelphia rental, you know firsthand how expensive the actual heater is, as well as how damaging a flooded water heater can be to a tenant’s personal belongings, and the structure of your property.

Here are some easy ways to maintain your property’s water heater:

  • Adjust the thermostat to approximately 120 degrees to prevent scalding, and to save your tenant’s money on energy costs
  • Ensure enough clearance around the tank
  • Drain the tank a few times a year to remove sediment build-up and debris
  • Test the temperature-pressure relief valve yearly
  • Inspect the anode rod every few years
  • Insulate the heater, especially if an older model

Just remember, if you are uncomfortable with performing any of the above-mentioned maintenance tasks, call a professional to help service your water heater.


In the end, maintaining the shape of your Philadelphia rental property largely relies on your ability to work with your tenants when it comes to routine maintenance tasks.

There are also several things you can do on your own to guarantee your property lasts a long time without needing any major improvements or repairs.

If you own property in the Philadelphia area, and want help with routine maintenance of your rental, contact Bay Management Group today and have our professional, qualified, and affordable handymen and contractors help you out.

Not only can we handle any maintenance or repair requests your tenants make during their lease term, day or night, we can help you with maintaining your property in between tenants so that your property stays in great shape year round.

Month-to-Month vs. Yearlong Leases: The Pros and Cons

Philadelphia Property Managers Offer Month-to-Month Leases

Have you ever wondered why your Philadelphia tenants sign 12-month lease agreements? 

While most property owners have tenants sign a yearlong lease agreement that can be renewed for another 12 months come the end of the lease term, there are those that prefer month-to-month lease agreements instead.

If you are curious about the pros and cons of month-to-month lease agreements, and wonder whether yearlong leases are a better option, keep reading.

First, we are going to discuss what it means to offer month-to-month lease agreements. Then, we will examine both the positives and negatives to offering month-to month lease agreements, and instances where a yearlong lease may be your best bet.


What is a Month-to-Month Lease Agreement?

Philadelphia Rental Property on Month-to-Month Lease

Unlike yearlong lease agreements that allow tenants to reside in your rental property for 12 months at a time, a month-to-month lease agreement is a agreement that lasts just one month.

Typically, this kind of lease agreement automatically renews month after month, until the tenant or property owner provides a notice breaking the month-to-month cycle. The amount of notice given (if required) is usually 30 or 60 days, and is outlined specifically in one of the lease provisions.

The Pros of Having Month-to-Month Lease Agreements

Many landlords find month-to-month lease agreements suitable for their rental property business.

In fact, there are several benefits to offering tenants the opportunity to sign a month-to-month lease agreement, rather than the more traditional yearlong lease.

1. Flexibility

One of the biggest reasons property owners like to offer month-to-month lease agreements is because of the flexibility this type of lease offers both themselves and their tenants.

Rather than locking a tenant into a 12-month contracted lease term, month-to-month leases give both landlords and tenants the chance to break the lease in a moment’s notice, without having to find a subletter to finish the lease term.

For tenants seeking a new job in another city, this type of arrangement works perfectly. A tenant that is new to Philadelphia may sign a month-to-month lease while getting familiar with the area, and deciding exactly where to settle down.

There is also an element of flexibility for property owners. If you want to move into your rental property at some point in the near future, leasing on a month-to-month basis provides income until you are ready to do so.


2. No More Stress About Bad Tenants

Property Management Philadelphia Helps Reduce Landlord Stress

There is nothing worse than placing a bad tenant in your rental property. You know − the kind that mostly pays on time, complains a lot, disrupts the neighbors, and yet never quite breaches the lease agreement enough to warrant an eviction.

Imagine having to deal with them for 12 months.

Now, if you happen to place a bad tenant in a property that you only offer month-to-month leases on, you can easily get rid of them by providing them with a 30 or 60-day non-renewal notice.


3. Premium Rent

Tenants looking to lease a property on a month-to month basis are aware that the asking rent rate is going to surpass that of neighboring properties with 12-month lease terms. This premium pricing can help offset any vacancies you experience.

And, if you don’t experience many vacancies, you simply generate more annual income, which is always welcomed.

In addition, since month-to-month leases have tenants coming and going more regularly, you can increase your rent at will once one tenant leaves and another enters. Unlike 12-month leases that lock in yearlong rent rates, you have the flexibility to reap more income, should the market demand it.


4. Vacation Home Ready

Property Management Company in Philadelphia with Rental on Month-to-Month Lease

If you intend for your rental property to be a vacation home, offering month-to-month leases is ideal. You can garner higher rental rates, supplement your income throughout the year during peak traveling seasons, and even enjoy your own property when it is not occupied.


The Cons of Having Month-to-Month Lease Agreements

On the other hand, offering tenants month-to-month lease agreements does not come without its risks.

In fact, for many property owners, month-to-month lease agreements are too risky and are not worth the benefits.


1. Higher Turnover Rate

People who lease month-to-month usually have plans to live elsewhere within a short period of time.

After all, why would they pay premium rent rates if they wanted to stay long term?

That said, finding tenants to lease on a month-to-month basis is not always easy.

If your property stays vacant for long times, you begin to lose a lot of money. And, since your tenant has every right to terminate the lease agreement at any moment, just as you do, the risk of vacancy only increases.

This is why offering year long lease agreements can be more beneficial than month-to-month ones.

Having a tenant agree to stay for 12 months guarantees that you will receive rent income for an entire year. And, if your tenant decides to break the lease early, as long as you’ve got a strict lease agreement in place, you will receive financial compensation for the lost income.


2. Difficulty Placing New Tenants

property management philadelphia month-to-month lease

Offering month-to month lease agreements can create a stressful situation when it comes to placing new tenants in a freshly vacated property.

Since most month-to-month lease agreements only require a 30-day notice to vacate, property owners find themselves facing a loss of income, unless they find a new tenant to move into the property within the 30 days.

Tenant screening and placement not only takes time, but is also a strenuous process if done correctly.

By having a tenant in your rental for 12 months, rather than a few months here and there, you reduce the costs of tenant screening, and reduce the stress of finding a high quality tenant that will pay on time or the stress of having to stage your property for the next set of new tenants on a regular basis.


3. More Wear and Tear

If you are constantly moving new tenants in and out of your rental, your property is bound to experience more than the average amount of wear and tear.

Tenants leasing your property for a few months may not care for your property as well as if they planned to stay for the year. Plus, the physical act of moving can cause damage to your property’s floors, doors, and walls.

Unfortunately, normal wear and tear repairs fall upon property owners to fix. This type of property maintenance can quickly erode any positive cash flow you earned for the year, depending on the extent of the damage and how many tenants flow through your property in a given year.


In the end, owning rental property is not for the faint of heart. Drafting, adhering to, and enforcing a lease agreement can be challenging for even the most experienced property owner, regardless of whether you opt for a month-to-month or yearlong lease agreement.

There are pros and cons to both a month-to-month and a 12-month long lease agreement for your Philadelphia rental property, and what will work best truly depends on your needs as a property owner. However, self-managing your property does not have to be an added stress to leasing your rental.

If you are looking to take a load off your plate, and need help drafting the perfect lease agreements for your month-to-month tenants or yearlong ones, contact Bay Management Group today to help.

We have the knowledge to help guide you when it comes to the length of your lease terms. We also have friendly and experienced Philadelphia property managers that can handle all aspects of renting out your income property.


Should You Offer Move-In Specials to Entice Tenants?


Staying ahead of the competition is tough when you are a property owner in Annapolis. As the capital of Maryland, and home to the United States Naval Academy, there are plenty of tenants looking for a great place to live here.

And other property owners know it.

If you are wondering how to stand out from the crowd of property owners looking to capitalize on the appeal Annapolis provides tenants from all around – think rich cultural history, beautiful architecture, and perfectly maintained landscapes – it is time you consider offering move-in specials to entice renters to lease from you.

Move-in specials have the potential to attract a lot of attention to your vacant property, making sure that you have the largest tenant pool to choose from.

In addition, a good move-in special may convince a tenant deciding between two properties to choose yours over the alternative.

Today, we are going to look at several types of move-in specials to help you decide whether you should consider offering them to your Annapolis tenants.


When a Move-in Special is a Good Idea


Before looking at the various move-in specials you might want to offer your Annapolis tenants, let’s take a look at some of the conditions that, according to RentPrep, affect whether you should offer a move-in special or not:

  • Market Conditions. When the competition is tough, and property owners in the same area are racing for the same tenants, consider offering a move-in incentive. This way you can attract the largest tenant pool possible, and be pickier when it comes to tenant placement.
  • Less people tend to move during the winter season. Not only is it cold and less desirable to move, the holidays play a role in people’s financial decisions, and school is still in session. All these things cause many people to avoid moving, which means filling your vacant property will be more challenging. Offering an enticing move-in special can help.
  • Nearby Construction. If your investment property’s area is experiencing a boom in construction, this will be a good thing for your tenants – after the fact. However, during construction it will be harder to find tenants willing to deal with noise, blocked off areas, increases in traffic, and unfinished buildings near their home. Try offering them a move-in special and convincing them that the construction will be worthwhile.

These are just some of the most common reasons a property owner might consider offering prospective tenants a move-in special.

If this sounds like something you are dealing with right now, keep reading to find out what kind of move-in specials you can offer to boost tenant placement.


Top 7 Move-in Specials You Can Offer Your Prospective Annapolis Tenants

1. Flexible Lease Terms

It is important you draft airtight lease agreements that your tenants understand from the day they move in.

However, if you and your Anne Arundel County property management company work together, there are surefire ways to bend the lease terms just enough to entice prospective tenants, without sacrificing your rental property business.

Here are some great examples of lease provisions you can change to encourage an interested tenant to sign a lease with you:

  • Include an early lease termination clause, with a 30-day notice
  • Allow tenants to have pets
  • Permit tenants to temporarily decorate your property
  • Provide the ability to sublet the property under your direct approval
  • Make room for roommates to add themselves onto the lease agreement
  • Allow for a cosigner

If you can be slightly flexible when it comes to lease terms you are normally very strict about, you will open up the tenant pool significantly, and find someone to lease from you much quicker.


2. Waive the Application Fee


Moving is an expensive endeavor. From moving trucks to security deposits, and application fees to utility deposits, your tenant is going to be spending a great deal of money from the get go.

Try lessening the financial burden by waiving simple things like the application fee. This is especially helpful if your property management company requires every adult in the property to submit an application.

The money you will be saving the interested tenant may be just enough to convince them to go with your property, rather than a nearby competitor’s property.


3. Give Tenants the First Month Free

This is one of the most popular move-in specials you can offer tenants, and is also one of the most appealing.

As mentioned above, moving is expensive. If a tenant knows that they do not have to pay for the first’s month rent, they may feel less stressed about leasing from you.

Although you lose one month’s rent by offering this incentive, the tradeoff can be worth it. Eleven months of rent payments on a one-year lease is far better than a vacant property generating zero rent payments.


4. Online Rent Collection


Though an increasingly popular method for collecting rent payments among experienced Anne Arundel County property management teams, offering online rent collection is still considered a special incentive.

Many people will jump at the convenience of being able to pay their rent online. By saving time, checks, and the headaches that come with mailed rent payments, your potential tenants may be more willing to rent from you if you offer them the chance to pay their rent online.


5. Property Upgrades

Sometimes all it takes to get an interested tenant to move into your rental property is the promise of an upgrade.

Tenants move into rented properties in hopes of making them feel as close to home as possible. This means many will be excited to learn that a permanent and beneficial change will be made to the property upon move-in.

Here are some things you might consider upgrading in order to get a high quality tenant moved in as soon as possible:

  • New, modern, or matching appliances
  • A fresh coat of paint
  • Upgraded flooring
  • Additional parking spaces
  • Bathroom remodels
  • Paid landscaping services

These are just some of the many things you can offer potential tenants in hopes of convincing them to sign a lease agreement with you. And remember, upgrades don’t always have to break the bank.

Oftentimes even small changes are enough to make a tenant feel special.


6. Rent Decrease


If you are in a tight spot and need to place a tenant quickly, one great move-in special you might offer is a decrease on the asking rent.

Again, you will lose some positive cash flow by lowering your asking rent; however, a leased property is always going to make you more money than a vacant one.


7. Offer a Welcome Package

Offering your tenants a welcome package is a great way to build a better relationship, make your tenant feel special, and even encourage them to renew their lease come the end of their term.

In your welcome package, you can offer some generous and thoughtful things such as:

  • Gift cards to nearby restaurants
  • Bathroom staples
  • Kitchen baskets with goodies
  • Tickets to a local sports game
  • Plants to decorate their home
  • Coupons to nearby attractions

Encouraging tenants to move into your Annapolis rental property can sometimes prove challenging. However, whether you’re faced with stiff competition, the wrong time of year, or nearby construction, there are ways around all of it to secure a tenant in your property.

Try offering your potential tenants some of the above-mentioned move-in specials and see how that changes their tune.

And be sure to get Bay Management Group on your side to help advertise your property via multiple channels, to draft flexible lease agreements that satisfy both you and your tenant, and even to collect rent payment online.


Contact us today, and see how we can get your Annapolis property leased in under 30 days on average.

How to Determine Tenant Damages Vs. Wear and Tear


Every rental property owner in the Philadelphia region has had to contend with the term “normal wear and tear” at some point.

While seemingly self-explanatory, the truth is that understanding what constitutes normal wear and tear in your rental property, and what equates to actual damage, is much more difficult than you likely anticipated. And, chances are, the line that exists between normal wear and tear and damage will result in some pushback from your tenants.

In fact, most landlord-tenant disputes arise at the end of the lease term, immediately after move-out.

Why is this?

Because at the time of move-out, your Philadelphia property management company combs through your property, documenting every instance where the tenant has “damaged” your rental property, all in hopes of providing you compensation for the damage.

However, many tenants become furious over claims of damage and refuse to pay up, thus creating a huge financial dispute.

Because this is such a sensitive issue amongst both property owners and tenants, today we are going to:

  • Review the differences between normal wear and tear, and tenant damages
  • See what role your tenant’s security deposit plays in the grand scheme of things
  • Offer some ways you can help prevent damage disputes in the future


What is Normal Wear and Tear in Your Philadelphia Rental Property?


Unfortunately, there is not one definitive definition of what constitutes “normal wear and tear” in rental properties in the United States. In fact, it is the multiple definitions floating around that cause much of the confusion.

The following have been noted as true definitions of “normal wear and tear:”

  • “…unavoidable deterioration in the dwelling and its fixtures resulting from normal use,” as defined by
  • “The inevitable physical decline of the condition of a property from time and usage,” as seen here on Investopedia

Though most definitions appear very similar to the two mentioned above, there is no doubt that the term “normal” is highly subjective, and thus, becomes the point of contention in many security deposit disputes.

Examples of Normal Wear and Tear

All rental properties will experience some deterioration as tenants reside in them. This is the nature of living in a property for a period of time.

Here are some commonly accepted instances of normal wear and tear you might notice during your rental property’s move-out inspection:

  • Worn flooring, whether carpet, tile, linoleum, or hardwood
  • Faded or cracked paint
  • Warping of doors and windows
  • Cracked light switch plates
  • Worn or loose door hinges
  • Loose grout or tiles on countertops
  • Partially clogged sinks
  • Dusty blinds
  • Nail holes in the wall from hanging pictures/art
  • Loose faucets

As you can see, these issues can easily attribute to the normal, everyday use of your rental property by high quality tenants who maintain the property as though it is their own.


So, What Is Considered “Tenant Damages?”


Just as with “normal wear and tear,” defining the term “tenant damages” can be equally as frustrating and challenging.

Here are the definitions most often provided to property owners, as clearly stated by All Property Management. “Tenant Damage” is:

  • The loss or harm to property caused by excessive abuse or misuse
  • Misuse or neglect that results in reduced value, usefulness, etc. of the property

The problem with these definitions is this: it is nearly impossible to prove whether your tenant excessively misused or abused your property to the point that their neglect actually reduced your property value, overall profits, or usability of the property.

Examples of Tenant Damages

However, as a property owner, you can make the argument that the following are obvious misuses of the property, and, are in fact, damages caused by the residing tenant:

  • Stained or burned carpeting
  • Tears in the linoleum
  • Unauthorized painting
  • Torn or missing curtains or blinds
  • Broken windows or missing screens
  • Clogged or damaged toilets
  • Smoke marks from smoking or candle burning
  • Broken cabinet doors
  • Large holes or dents in the walls
  • Neglected landscaping that requires complete replacement

Here, you will notice that the severity of damage has increased dramatically from normal wear and tear with these examples. Therefore, as a property owner, you can make a solid case that these scenarios are tenant damages, as opposed to simple wear and tear.


When Can You Deduct From Your Tenant’s Security Deposit?


There are strict rules in place that your Philadelphia property manager should know and understand when it comes to the collection, management, and use of your tenant’s security deposit. If you are self-managing your rental properties, it is crucial you become familiar with the rules and regulations regarding security deposits.

However, in general, if you can make the case that your tenants actually damaged your rental property, you can deduct from their security deposit the amount required to repair the damages that exceeded normal wear and tear of the property.


How to Prevent the Normal Wear and Tear versus Tenant Damages Dispute

Prevention is usually the key to avoiding most issues with your rental property. Here are some critical things you can do as a property owner to prevent facing contention with a tenant disputing your damages claim.

Conduct Thorough Move-in and Move-Out Inspections

Thoroughly documenting the state of your rental property when your tenant moves in and out will help best determine whether there was damage done to the property.

You should keep written and photographic documentation, if possible, so that if a dispute finds its way to court, you have ample evidence to make your case.

Additionally, giving your tenant the opportunity to fix any damages at the end of their lease term can save everyone involved a lot of money and hassle.

Maintain Your Property at All Times

Throughout the lease term, help your tenant maintain your property. Here are some great tips for doing just that:

  • Provide your tenant with a welcome packet at the start of the lease term that includes ways they can keep up on property maintenance issues
  • Encourage maintenance and repair requests to prevent small issues from turning serious
  • Make sure your tenants know who to contact for all minor and major maintenance issues
  • Conduct routine inspections of both the interior and exterior of your property throughout the lease term, and address any issues right away
  • Make sure to outline in the signed lease agreement your tenant’s maintenance responsibilities

By doing any (or better yet, all) of the above-mentioned tips, you will save yourself a lot of trouble when your tenant moves out of your property. Not only will your property be in better condition, there is also less likely to be a dispute, thanks to the positive relationship you forged with your tenant during their stay.

There is bound to be some wear and tear on your Philadelphia rental property after a tenant moves out. This is the nature of living in a home. However, understanding the difference between normal wear and tear, and actual tenant damage is what is going to help you guide through the move-out process without a hitch.


If you do not want to deal with matters related to wear and tear on your Philadelphia rental property, contact Bay Management Group today and have us deal with them for you. Focusing on serving property owners, Bay Management Group has the knowledge, experience, and customer service skills to handle all wear and tear versus damage issues. Moreover, we also manage everything else related to your property such as tenant screening, rent collection, 24-hour maintenance issues, and even legal disputes, if it gets to that point.

Entrust Bay Management Group with your Philadelphia investment property, and save yourself the headache of having to decide whether your tenant has actually damaged your property.

Top 5 Things to Emphasize in Your Tenant Welcome Packet


It is no secret that first impressions are a big deal when it comes to anything business-related.  In fact, the impression you give your Baltimore City tenants upon first meeting them may just have enough of an impact to convince them to renew at the end of their lease term.

So why not put your best foot forward and really “wow” your tenants upon move-in?

Providing your new tenants with a welcome package as they accept the keys to your Baltimore City rental property can help set the tone for the rest of the lease term.  It is a friendly gesture and helps build a solid relationship between you, your property management company, and new tenants.  It can even help your tenant navigate through minor issues throughout the lease term.

In all, putting together a simple tenant welcome package isn’t going to cost you much and will not take that much effort, yet it can end up being one of the best things you ever do for your tenants as they take that first step into your investment property.

Today, we are going to look at some key things to include in your tenant welcome packages, as recommended by Baltimore’s best property management company, Bay Management Group.


Important Things to Include in Your Baltimore City Tenant Welcome Package


1. Vital Contact Information

Before your new tenants move into your rental property, ensure they have all the contact information they could possibly need throughout their lease term.

In fact, discussing this information directly with your tenants, as well as including it in your tenant welcome package, will help clarify for them exactly who and when to call regarding general inquiries, maintenance issues, and emergencies.

Detail for them in the welcome package information, such as names, phone numbers, emails, and office hours.  Make sure to set clear expectations for your tenants from the start, so they understand what type of responses to expect from each point of contact.  In addition, consider forwarding this contact information to them via email, should your tenant prefer communicating that way.

Giving your tenants necessary contact information ahead of time will help them in times of need and lessen the stress and hassle everyone experiences when a serious maintenance issue or emergency happens.


2. The Paperwork


No one wants to deal with excessive amounts of paperwork.  However, including all of the important documents your tenant should have during the lease term in a small binder in your welcome package is a great idea.  Here are some things to add to your paperwork binder:

  • A copy of the signed lease agreement
  • Rent payment procedures outlining how much to pay and when
  • Utilities included with the rent and the ones your tenant is responsible for, along with contact information for setting the utilities up
  • Maintenance and repair request procedures, including who to contact and how, especially if your property management company requires specific forms to be filled out
  • Move-in inspection papers and scheduled routine inspections that you plan on making
  • Any important restrictions you would like to emphasize, such as decorating rules and pet policies


3. All Small Necessities

One of the best ways to become a successful landlord is to provide your tenants with everything they need right at move-in.

So, why not add these small items in your tenant welcome package so that you know for sure your tenant receives them, as suggested by Rentalutions:

  • Give your tenant all the keys to your rental property immediately upon move-in.  This way, you don’t end up with a call in the middle of your day off because your tenant doesn’t have a key to the backyard shed.  House keys, pool keys, shed or storage unit keys, and any other keys that could be used while residing in your property should be given as a set to your tenants.  It is also a good idea to have the number of keys and what they are used for documented in the written lease agreement, so your tenant knows exactly what is to be returned at the end of the lease.
  • Gates, alarms, garages, and even pool or gym rooms often require codes to access them.  Make sure any codes your tenants need to know are clearly written down and included in your tenant welcome package.  After all, your tenant wants to live in your property because it is safe and secure, among many other things.  Not being able to enjoy this security because you fail to provide the codes to them is a poor customer service move on your part.  Plus, it can cause a lot of frustration for your tenant when they realize they don’t have the code to access something important.
  • Sometimes the neighborhood gate or garage door requires a remote control, and making sure you give your tenants the proper openers upon move-in will prevent problems in the future.  After all, a tenant that cannot access the garage, especially at move-in time, is going to be a problem.

Save yourself a great deal of hassle, and include all the small necessities your renter needs in the tenant welcome package to ensure nothing is overlooked or forgotten.


4.  A Gift Card to a Local Restaurant


One great thing to add into your tenant welcome package is a gift card to a local restaurant.  Moving is tough and is often very time consuming.  Think about it: How many times have you moved into a new home and had everything put away by the end of the first day?  We’re guessing your answer is “never.”

And even if you did, by some miracle, get everything put in its place on the first day, who really wants to cook after a long day of moving and organizing?

Giving the gift of dinner to your new tenants is a sweet gesture that shows you care.  Not only that, but it gets your tenants to one of the nearby amenities you surely promoted while your property was vacant; one that is sure to convince your tenants that their new rental home is in a prime locationCan you say lower turnover rate?


5. Other Great Options

In addition to getting your tenant settled in with all of the important contact information, small necessities, and dinner for the first night, you might want to consider adding some of the following items in your welcome package:

  • A handwritten welcome letter and an information packet that includes local amenities, such as restaurants, schools, places of entertainment, and nearby stores
  • Bathroom staples, such as toilet paper, bar soap, tissues, and even a curtain liner so that your tenants can freshen up after a long day of moving without having to rummage through moving boxes
  • Cleaning items, such as a mop and bucket, broom, toilet bowl scrubber, and an all-purpose cleaner
  • Kitchen items, such as coffee mugs and coffee or tea, baked goods, a box of donuts for their first morning breakfast, or even a nice appliance such as a toaster or blender
  • Plants that are easy to care for, don’t typically flower, and are hard to kill


In the end, offering your tenants a welcome package that not only provides the important things like keys to the property, gate codes, and contact information, but fun and helpful things like coupons, gift cards, and bathroom staples can go a long way when it comes to your new tenants’ impression of you and your property management company.

If you are looking for an experienced property management company in Baltimore City that also provides great management tips, such as giving new tenants a welcome package, look no further than Bay Management Group.

Not only do we have Maryland’s top property managers, we are also knowledgeable in how to quickly and efficiently handle all tenant issues, and take all stress away from our Baltimore City property owners.

10 Tips for Preparing Your Rental Property for Winter

preparing-rental-property-winter-marylandUnless you live in a tropical locale, there is no avoiding the fact that it is winter—complete with icy roads, frozen pipes, and the requirement that you wear mittens and earmuffs just to make it to your car without freezing.

With that said, the time is now to start paying close attention to your rental properties.  After all, cold, wind, snow, and ice often show no mercy and have the potential to cause a lot of damage to your property.

How should you prepare your rental for the winter ahead?


10 Things Landlords Can Do Today to Prepare for the Coldest Months of the Year

10-things-maryland-property-managers-prepare-winter-rental-property 1. Prune Your Yard

Snow and ice have a tendency to weigh down trees and large shrubs causing them to break quite easily.  If you value the landscaping you have worked so hard to maintain throughout the rest of the year, scan the perimeter of your property and trim any hedges, shrubs, or branches that may be vulnerable to the upcoming snowstorms.

2. Seal the Cracks

Snow and ice can easily pool in your property’s walkways or driveways as it thaws from the “warmer” afternoon sun.  Then, when temperatures drops again in the middle of the night, this water will freeze and expand, causing even more damage to the already-existing cracks.  This eyesore will need fixing at one point or another to maintain your property’s appeal, so handling it when it is minor is the best option.

In addition, this excess frozen water will make your tenants more susceptible to slip and fall, which is a safety hazard that you could potentially be liable for.

3. Winterize the Sprinkler System

In addition to pruning your yard, it is important that you winterize your property’s sprinkler system to prevent water build-up in the pipes that leads to freezing and possible bursting.  If you are not sure how to do this, enlisting the help of a professional will be minor in terms of cost as opposed to re-doing your entire sprinkler system come springtime.

4. Wrap the Outside Pipes

While you are winterizing your sprinkler system, it is recommended that you or your tenants wrap any non-insulated pipes that may be vulnerable to the cold.  Frozen pipes easily burst and can create a major water damage crisis.  In addition, detach any garden hoses from their spigots and drain them of excess water to prevent them from freezing.

5. Care for the A/C and Heating Systems

Living in an area with lots of snow that can potentially cover an outdoor A/C system is dangerous to your pocketbook.  Safeguard your A/C unit by clearing away any debris and properly covering it.  This way, when the warmer months come, you can kickstart the unit easily.

Additionally, prepping your property’s heating system before the dead of winter is a good idea.  You definitely don’t want your tenants to go without heat in the middle of the winter because of a faulty heating system.  These types of maintenance calls increase significantly during the winter, so getting a professional to service the system quickly may be difficult.

Something you can encourage your tenants to help with is to replace any required system filters and ensure all vents open and close properly.

6. Clear out the Ducts

It is suggested that all property owners have their rental property’s ductwork cleared out every few years.  Since debris can build up over time and strain both the heating and A/C systems, you will want to vacuum that mess out so air can flow smoothly throughout the property.

7. Inspect the Chimney

If your property has a chimney, it is likely that it hasn’t been used since last winter.  Have a professional inspect and clean your property’s chimney before your tenants use it for the first time.  Not only is a dirty chimney unsightly, it quickly becomes a health and safety hazard if not cared for properly.  Make sure there is no debris build-up within the chimney and ensure everything is in working order before allowing tenants to light a fire.

8. Conduct a Window and Door Inspection

In order for your rental property to stay warm for your tenants, you must check to see that heat is staying within the home and not seeping through any loose caulking, torn weather stripping, or gaps in both windows and doors.  Not only will this keep your tenants warmer throughout the cold and snowy months, it will save them on their heating bill.

9. Plan for Snow Removal

Property owners have their own way of dealing with snow removal.  Some do it themselves, some employ a professional snow removal service, and some may even require that their tenants take care to remove snow as needed.  Whatever the case may be for you, have a plan in place before the first big snow.  This way everyone is aware of their individual responsibilities when it comes time to remove snow.

10. Check Safety Alarms

One thing many property owners fail to do, or fail to have their tenants do, is regularly inspect fire and carbon monoxide alarms.  Although it should be outlined in the lease agreement that your tenant is responsible for maintaining working alarm systems, it is not a bad idea to remind them during the winter months to check on them for added security.

This is especially important when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning.  It is not unusual for tenants to keep all windows and doors shut tight throughout the entire winter season, especially if located in an extremely cold region.  This makes carbon monoxide detectors more important than ever since the lack of fresh air flowing through the property creates more of a risk should a leak occur.


Winter will be in full force before you know it. That is, unless you are already experiencing the cold, wind, snow, and ice that is winter.  Making sure to prep your rental properties before the cold snap attacks is the best way to ensure that your property remains as damage-free as possible and your tenants remain as warm and safe as possible.

Though there is always the possibility that something may occur during the cold wintry season that you could not possibly have forecasted, preparing for what you can now will ultimately save you time, stress, and money.

You Banned Pets in Your Rental, But What About Service Animals?

service-animal-montgomery-county-rental-propertyAs a Montgomery County rental property owner, you are entitled to implement your own pet policies.  In other words, you get to decide whether to allow your tenants to have pets while residing in your property.

But what if you have decided not to allow pets in your rental property and one of your tenants has a service animal? 

Rather than face charges of housing discrimination, you and your Montgomery County property management company should work to become educated with the federal, state, and local laws regarding service animals in rental homes.

The bottom line is this: the law states that you must allow service animals in your rental home, regardless of how you feel about pets.  Because of this law, today we will look at the different types of service animals and how this “reasonable accommodation” is bound to affect you when it comes to placing a tenant with a service animal in your investment property.


What is a Service Animal?

According to the Americans with Disability Act, a true service animal is defined as a dog that has been trained to assist its owner with a disability.  In addition, any tasks the dog performs must be directly related to the person’s disability.  Examples of tasks service animals may perform include:

  • Assisting owners who are blind with navigation
  • Alerting owners that are deaf of people or sounds
  • Providing non-violent protection or rescue work
  • Pulling a wheelchair
  • Assisting owners during a seizure
  • Retrieving items such as medicine or the phone
  • Alerting owners to allergens
  • Providing owners with physical support and stability

A service animal will have special certification that training has been completed, proper documentation identifying the animal as a service animal, and will typically wear an identification harness or collar.

But What About Companion Animals?

Companion animals, otherwise known as emotional support animals, are animals that simply provide comfort to the person they are assigned to.  And, while studies have shown that companion animals have a positive effect on people suffering from anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress, since they have not been trained to perform a specific task, they are not considered “true service animals” under ADA rules and regulations.

However, this does not mean property owners like yourself can prevent companion animals from residing in your property.


Disabled Tenants, Service Animals, and the Law

disabled-tenants-montgomery-county-rental-propertyIn addition to the rules outlined in the ADA regarding service animals, the Fair Housing Act and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) treat both service animals and companion animals the same.  Here are the conditions that your tenant must meet in order to require you to allow the companion animal into your investment property:

  • The tenant must have a diagnosed disability that impacts major life activities
  • The tenant must have a disability-related need for the animal and the animal must fulfill those needs

So long as those two conditions are met, you are legally obligated to allow a companion animal into your rental home despite it not being a true service animal.  Even if you have a “no pets allowed” policy in the lease agreement, tenants with companion animals are allowed to have them in your rental.

Both the ADA and Fair Housing Act (FHA) have strict rules in place to prevent discrimination against tenants with disabilities that require service animals.

In fact, both statutes together maintain that property owners must provide reasonable accommodations to any tenant requiring a service or companion animal while leasing a rental home.

In order for a tenant to qualify for reasonable accommodations for their disability, including the allowance of a service animal, they must fulfill the following conditions:

  • Have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities (such as walking, seeing, working, cleaning, dressing, and so forth)
  • Have a history of such impairments
  • Be regarded as having such impairments

Because you are limited when it comes to the information you can require your tenant to disclose, these rules and regulations become difficult to follow.  Many states have taken further action in protecting those with disabilities to ensure they receive fair housing opportunities.


Property Owners and Service Animals

illegal-discrimination-tenants-needing-service-animal-montgomery-county-rental-property.If a prospective tenant has a disability and requires a service or companion animal, you and your Montgomery County property management company are not allowed to discriminate against them.

Take a look at the basic guideline property owners and their property management companies must follow when it comes to allowing service or companion animals into your Montgomery County rental home:

  • Service animals are not considered pets, therefore any “pet policy” in place does not apply
  • Service animals are allowed wherever the disabled person goes, including establishments with restricted animal areas
  • Property owners cannot collect pet deposits or charge additional monthly fees for service animals
  • There are no breed restrictions or weight limits allowed
  • Property owners can request written verification from a tenant’s healthcare provider that they are disabled, but cannot ask for specifics regarding the disability
  • Property owners can request written verification from a tenant’s healthcare provider that the service animal is medically necessary
  • If a service animal is disturbing others, posing a threat, or damaging property, a property owner can write warnings or evict a tenant with a service animal
  • Any damage caused by a service animal is the responsibility of the tenant and can be deducted from the security deposit at the end of the lease term
  • Property owners can request a service animal’s health records to ensure good health and updated vaccinations

Common Problems Property Owners Face with Service Animals

Due to the restrictions in place regarding verification of both disability and service animal necessity, many property owners find themselves confused when it comes to dealing with tenants requesting reasonable accommodations for their service animal.

Below are some of the issues you may be faced with:

  • The ADA has no clear guidelines on the size, breed, or number of service animals that are allowed in rental properties
  • There are no rules regarding how a tenant chooses a service animal
  • Though training and certification is often the norm, there are no requirements surrounding training, socialization, or behavior of service animals
  • Property owners cannot question the level of training a service animal has received
  • Anyone qualified to treat a disability can prescribe a service animal, and receiving written verification is an easy process
  • Property owners cannot suggest other options for treating a specific disability to avoid a pet residing in their property

There are a few instances where you may be able to deny the presence of a service animal in your Montgomery County home.  However, you and your property management company should be very careful to avoid housing discrimination in doing so.

  • The tenant is not legally disabled and cannot prove in writing he or she is
  • The service animal will create an undue burden on the rental
  • The service animal is otherwise illegal to own in the United States or at the local level (g. it is an exotic or dangerous breed)
  • The service animal creates an undue financial burden on the property owner
  • The tenant refuses to take responsibility for the service animal while in the rental

In the end, regardless of your Montgomery County rental property’s “pet policy,” there are instances where you must legally allow pets into your home.  And, while there are some small measures when it comes to verifying the validity behind a disability claim, you must be very careful not to overstep your boundaries and discriminate against tenants with disabilities.


In order to avoid getting yourself into legal trouble when it comes to prospective tenants with disabilities requesting to bring a service animal into your rental property, consider employing Maryland’s leading property management company to handle that for you.

Knowledgeable in all rental property rules and regulations, at both the federal and state levels, you can rest assured Bay Management Group will not discriminate against any potential tenants.  In addition, you can feel confident that due diligence will be done in order to fully verify any prospective tenant’s disability and need for a service animal.

And that’s not all!

Bay Management Group is equipped to handle all of your property management needs from tenant placement, to lease drafting, to rent collection and eviction procedures.  Working solely in property management, Bay Management Group has what it takes to handle the daily grind when it comes to your rental property. So, contact us today and see how we can help take some of the burden off you so you can enjoy your life and the benefits of your rental property business, without all the hassle.