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Insights on Owning Rental Property During the Pandemic

Insights on Owning Rental Property During the Pandemic

The pandemic has certainly impacted all areas of our lives. What has remained relatively strong amidst the uncertainty has been the housing market. Mortgage interest rates are at record lows. Inventory of homes for sale remains low, resulting in sellers routinely receiving multiple offers on homes quickly after listing. 

The rental market has been a different beast altogether. Mortgage protections are not available to landlords in the same way they are to homeowners. Many rental property owners have tried to get creative with their property management style in order to stay afloat while also working with tenants impacted by the pandemic. 

Given the unknowns of the months ahead of us, these factors will be worth keeping a close eye on in the coming months if you own a rental property:

  1. Changes in government protections for renters. Whether its payroll protections, rent subsidies or a local eviction moratorium, many renters have been supported through the recent hard times when it comes to their monthly financial obligations. While this attempt at stability has been good for many renters, some of these protections may be coming to an end soon, and many renters will face the struggles of disproportionate cost burden in the COVID-19 economy. With all the movement in local and temporary regulations due to the pandemic, it can save a lot of headaches to seek the help of a property management company, so you know you’re a compliant landlord while focusing on your own day-to-day priorities.
  2. Changes in the labor market, and its effect on renters. Job growth is one of the key factors of rental market health in any city. Today’s rental market has been served a major blow by the pandemic, leaving the unemployment rate at record highs. While protections for renters have temporarily provided relief for those who have lost their jobs or have been furloughed by their companies, landlords have absorbed the impact. Additionally, while homeowners have experienced some relief around their mortgage obligations, those same measures have not applied to commercial property owners.

While protections are short for landlords and rental property owners, it doesn’t hurt to take advantage of resources that have your interests at heart during the pandemic uncertainty. The professional property managers at Tradewinds Properties can relieve a great deal of the stress of managing rental property through the pandemic.

Tradewind Properties is here to help you take the headache out of managing your rental property. As a Tradewind client, your most difficult task is checking your monthly statement. Contact us!

 

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6 Common Lease Violations

6 Common Lease Violations

While renting is a rewarding enterprise, you won’t always have model tenants.  Leases are put in place for a reason – whether it is to maintain the value of a property or keep people safe. When renters decide to break the terms of their contract, landlords may be forced to take action.

In order to learn how to handle lease violations, it can be helpful to familiarize yourself with some of the most common violations.

 

1. Unauthorized Pets

Four-legged friends can be an important part of the family – but they can also be quite a hassle. This is why many landlords prohibit pets to some degree. Pets can cause damage to the property and annoy neighboring tenants.

 

2. HOA Conflicts

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If your property falls under the jurisdiction of an HOA, renters must stay up to code. These often involve things such as making sure the property is free of trash and limit your external storage.

 

3. Smoking Indoors

Indoor smoking can be a damaging and dangerous habit. It can discolor home interiors, lead to burns, and leave a lingering odor. 

 

4. Noise Disturbances

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While being noisy doesn’t lead to structural damage, it can damage the atmosphere of your living complex. Loud tenants can lead to unhappy neighbors and visits from law enforcement.

 

5. Long-term Guests

Especially if you offer a flat rate for utilities in your rental agreement, unauthorized, long-term guests can be bad for business. It’s not unusual for a non-renting guest to be overstaying their welcome. Some renters may even take it upon themselves to sublet without your permission. The popularity of services such as Airbnb has made this even more common.

 

6. Damaging Decorations

While there is nothing wrong with making a living space more personal, some decorating can lead to damage. Something as simple as hanging up a couple of pictures can cause countless holes in the wall.

 

What to do if a renter breaks a clause in the lease agreement?

 

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The moment a tenant violates a lease, you should begin taking measures to protect yourself. There are different approaches you can take depending on the severity of the violation.

If you notice the violation during the renting period;

  1.       Keep Evidence: Always be sure to save original copies of all of your contracts and get proof of any relevant information. This includes taking photographs of the property before tenants arrived.
  2.       Notify the Tenant: Send a letter to your tenant alerting them of their violation and offer them time (minimum a week) to correct the problem. This is a legal obligation if you decide to take matters further.
  3.       Eviction: When violations aren’t corrected or are continuously repeated, you are within legal grounds to file for an eviction.

If you only recognize the violation (or failure to correct the violation) during the inspection following the end of a contract, you may withhold all or a portion of the security deposit. If the amount is not enough to cover damages, you can consider taking your case to small claims court. 

Tradewind Properties is here to help you take the headache out of managing your rental property. As a Tradewind client, your most difficult task is checking your monthly statement. Contact us!

 

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Finding Utility In Your Utilities. Monitoring And Managing Utility Usage.

Monitoring and managing utility usage.

If you own a property, you know that managing utility usage can feel like nothing short of a headache at times. Owning an income-based property might make this headache feel like a full-on migraine. With a little bit of planning, knowledge and know-how you don’t have to let utility expenditures balloon out of control.

Troubleshooting a water leak

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Water leak
  • A water or plumbing leak is something no one wants to experience; however, they happen. Train yourself, maintenance staff and tenants alike to identify and report things like a dripping faucet or running toilet. Additionally, be on the lookout for paint that is peeling or a musty/wet smell in an area that should be dry. Finally, a spike in the water bill is a pretty good sign there’s a potential leak.
  • If you suspect a leak, it’s time to call a professional, but you can potentially confirm a hidden leak by turning off every water fixture, faucet and appliance that uses water (for say six hours or so) and noting whether or not the property’s water meter readings rise during the time these are turned off.

Smart thermostats

  • Living in Minnesota means your heating system is probably working overtime for at least six months of the year, then of course your cooling system has got to kick it into gear. A smart thermostat can be a worthy investment. They are designed to make temperature adjustments based on a resident’s detectable patterns, that way you’re not paying to heat an unoccupied property. Further, you can always fine-tune manually and monitor as necessary so you or your tenants are not surprised with a huge bill.

Efficiencies with energy consumption

  • Whether you’re renting your property or not, the efficiency of your utility usage should be high on your priority lists to improve costs. Fortunately, there are both quick and easy ways to reduce costs as well as those that require a little more initial investment.

Installing LED fixtures

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LED Lightbulb
  • Want an easy win, win? Consider changing old, incandescent lightbulbs to LED. Not only can they cut the electric bill by almost 25 percent, they last almost 10 years requiring much less maintenance.

Upgrading to Energy Star appliances

  • If your appliances are old, it might be time for an upgrade. Initial costs of replacing these appliances (think refrigerators, stoves and dishwashers) might seem high, but you’ll save on energy costs and new appliances could help drive more potential renters to your door.

Consider air leaks

  • You can probably guess that air leaks are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to energy inefficiencies, but how do you find them? While a visual and physical inspection can easily tell you where your building is leaking air, you can hire a professional to do a thermographic test that uses an infrared camera to locate those more invisible areas of air leaks. 

Tradewind Properties is here to help you take the headache out of your rental property utility management, Contact Tradewind Properties. We are here to help!

Rental Property Management Solutions

Rental property management taking over your life? Time for a rental resolution!

There’s a chill in the air, holiday decorations are up in stores, and you are thinking about what resolution to make this year. Anything from losing weight, a better work-life balance, or saving more money for retirement. With the income from your property, you already are investing in your retirement future. However, do you feel like these investments are taking over your life and leaving you with little to no time for relaxation with family and friends?

It’s easy to think the best person to care for your rental properties is yourself. But the truth is, while owning income-based property can be tremendously rewarding, it’s also stressful and incredibly time-consuming. It seems like those maintenance phone calls always happen at 2:00 a.m. and they are starting to wear on you–especially if you have multiple rental properties.

For many income property owners, the thought of giving up control of their properties can be difficult. However, Tradewind Properties Rental Property Management Services could give you the balance you desire.

Tradewind Properties makes life easier by helping rental property owners to achieve their goals. Working with our professional property managers means less stress and more life balance. Here are several practical services that Tradewind Properties offers to deal with common rental owner property stresses.

Reducing rental turnover

Tradewind Properties can help to reduce tenant turnover by providing these services.

  • 24/7 maintenance coordination
  • Routine maintenance inspections
  • Supervising all tenant relations
  • Comprehensive rental screening
  • Owner’s assurance program
  • Free lease renewals

Helping to fill vacancies

Tradewind Properties can help fill vacancies fast by providing these services.

  • Property evaluation & market analysis
  • Aggressive marketing, MLS listing, and rental showing
  • Move-in inspection reports with photos
  • Final move-out inspection

Keeping compliance with the law

Tradewind Properties stays up-to-date on local, state, and federal law and ensures your rental properties are compliant by providing these services.

  • Negotiation & execution of lease
  • Preparation of CRP and MISC-1099
  • Tenant applications and rental agreements applications
  • Collection of 1st month’s rent and deposit(s)
  • Collection and disbursements of monthly rents
  • Enforcing rental and lease agreements

Tradewind Properties would like to help you reach your work-life balance resolution in 2020 and beyond. Learn more about our comprehensive rental management plan including all the services listed above.

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How do I care for my home while I am gone for the winter? Tips for Minnesota Snowbirds

Heading South for the winter? If you’re one of the fortunate retirees who has smartly chosen to sit out the grueling Bold North winter in a more temperate climate, you’ll want to make sure your home here in Minnesota is thoroughly prepared for your absence and cared for while you’re away. Here are some expert tips on prepping and safeguarding your temporarily vacant home that will give you the peace of mind you deserve while enjoying that warm lush life.

Protect Your Pipes to Avoid Water Damage by Turning Off Your Water Supply

  • A burst pipe could cause significant damage. Consider completely turning off your water supply if you will be away for an extended period of time. If your home is heated by steam heat, consult with an HVAC specialist to determine if it is safe to turn off your water supply for your particular heating system. Also, if your home is protected by a fire sprinkler system, make sure that you do not turn off the water to this system.
  • If you do turn off your water supply, drain your pipes of all water by opening the faucets, and flush your toilet to clear the water from the tank and bowl. Many snowbirds pour antifreeze in toilet tanks and bowls to prevent any remaining water from freezing, but if you opt for this, make sure to use non-toxic antifreeze rated for plumbing systems.
  • You may wish to hire a licensed plumber to complete these steps. The plumber can also confirm that the pipes have been fully drained by blowing compressed air through the pipes.

Take Steps to Protect Your Home from Thieves

  • Make sure your alarm systems are working and activated.
  • Secure doors and windows with deadbolts, and install slide locks on sliding glass doors.
  • Store valuables in a safe deposit box or other secure offsite location.
  • Avoid posting your vacation or travel plans on social media sites, as potential thieves can use that information to learn when your house will be vacant.

Keep Your Home and Plumbing Warm

  • If you decide not to turn off your water, keep your furnace running to ensure your home stays warm and your pipes don’t freeze.
  • Set the temperature at 55°F to 60°F to help keep the interior above freezing temperatures. Leaving cabinet doors open can also help heat circulate and warm the areas where pipes are located.
  • Shut off the water to washing machines and dishwashers to avoid any leaks or broken hoses while you are away.
  • Turn off hot water heaters (if separate from your boiler).
  • Consider shutting off and draining outdoor faucets to prevent water damage due to freezing.

Prevent Your Home From Appearing Unoccupied

  • Forward your mail and stop newspaper delivery.
  • Arrange for someone to remove snow after storms.
  • Put motion-sensitive exterior lights and interior lights on timers and set them to come on at varying times to discourage prowlers.
  • Consider using an experienced snowbird property management firm Tradewind Properties who will make sure that issues like mail and package delivery, plowing and shoveling and lighting are managed so that your home looks occupied and active while you’re gone.

5 Small Changes to Your Rental Property that Appeal to Every Potential Tenant

Considering renting out your property? When it’s time to spruce up your rental, attract potential tenants with these quick, simple improvements.

  1. Focus on that Kitchen
    Today’s renters are putting a lot of emphasis on one room in the house: the kitchen. The layout, details, and functionality of the kitchen can make or break a property. While you don’t have to do a complete remodel or change the layout of your existing kitchen, there are a few quick improvements that can make the kitchen wow your tenants.Install new cupboard hardware, a shiny new retractable faucet, and a hidden space for the trash can. Repaint the walls if they’re looking dim, and spend some time thinking of smart storage solutions for the kitchen. Making the kitchen inviting, clean, and modern will help potential tenants imagine themselves in this important space.
  2. In-Home Laundry
    Carrying around loads of laundry is a pain, and in-home laundry is one of those items that shows up on most tenants’ wish lists. Even if it is a small washer and dryer, stacking or side-by-side, see if you can fit in these appliances to make your tenants’ lives easier.
  3. Allow Pets
    There are pros and cons to allowing pets or not allowing them, but being open to dogs and cats can open up your rental pool significantly. Read more on this subject.
  4. Clean It Up
    This may seem obvious, but deep cleaning all parts of your rental space is crucial. Don’t skimp on washing windows, floorboards, door frames, blinds, and every inch of the bathrooms. Hire a carpet cleaning service to make sure your carpets are fresh. Although most people won’t notice that your place is spic-n-span, they will notice if it’s not.
  5. Improve Your Curb Appeal
    Taking time to amp up your exterior can range from repainting the entire façade, to planting flowers or putting an afternoon’s time into the lawn. Try any of these simple ideas to make your property more inviting: spray for weeds, scatter grass seed on bald spots, plant shrubs or flowers, repair cracks in the sidewalks or driveway, and repaint trim or shutters.

For more assistance with renting out your property―including vetting and finding tenants or conducting a Home Rental Analysis, contact the real estate experts at Tradewind Properties: 763-657-1957. We are here to help!

Upgrade or Ugly? What Landlords Should Allow Renters to Change in the Property, and When to Say No


As a landlord, you have two major concerns: keeping your rental property occupied, and keeping it in good shape so it appeals to tenants. Tradewind Properties takes care of the first concern for you, so let’s focus on the second.

Each tenant will have ways to make your rental property feel like home to them, as they should. But as the landlord, what changes should you allow and when should you say no?

To put it simply, think about which changes will be either reversible when current renters move out, or a clear upgrade that will improve the value of the property.

 

For example, changes that will make tenants happy, but are reversible, could include:

  • Changing the blinds.
  • Swapping out light-switch covers.
  • Painting the walls. This one can be a triumph or a disaster. It is best to either approve any colors the tenants are suggesting, or arrange a fee for the walls to be painted back to original upon them moving out.
  • Replacing shower heads, specialty light bulbs, or other easy swaps.
  • Light fixtures, although it is recommended that a licensed electrician be hired for this job.
  • Custom built-ins for the closets.
  • Any baby-proofing.

Generally-speaking, most major upgrades should come out of your wallet, as the owner of the property. But small changes to the rental can be the tenants’ choosing (and on their dime), and will help give them a say in how their living space feels. Assuming they gain your permission and that the upgrades improve the value of the property, consider giving a thumbs up to these:

  • Replacing drawer pulls and other hardware.
  • Deep cleaning the carpets, power spraying the deck, or other major cleaning endeavors.
  • Painting walls or cabinets (see above).
  • Installing shelving in the garage, mud room, laundry room, etc.
  • Upgrading the kitchen sink to include a retractable kitchen faucet, an in-sink soap dispenser, or adding a garbage disposal.
  • Bringing in their own appliances that they will leave behind (assuming they’re a step above what you currently have).
  • Bathroom upgrades like towel rods, towel hooks, or a medicine cabinet.
  • Installing ceiling fans (again, with the help of a professional).
  • Planting herbs, bulbs or flowers in garden.

 

When to Say No

Sometimes what seems like a fabulous idea to some is either too permanent, too hazardous, or too ugly to allow in your rental property.

  • Cut-outs for an A/C unit.
  • Fire pits or other fire hazards.
  • Waterbeds.
  • Basketball hoops installed on the exterior. Chances are good the next tenants might not be as keen on a game of hoops.
  • Anything that diminishes the functionality or character of a place, such as painting over original brick, closing off a fireplace, or adding an awning which only keeps light from getting in the windows, etc.
  • Changing the locks or security system. Unless you mutually agree to change the locks, and the landlord takes the lead, this is obviously a big no-no.

Please note that safety issues, repairs and major upgrades are part of a landlord’s responsibilities. The staff at Tradewind Properties can help you manage all of these, including emergency handyman visits for repairs.

Final Tip:

Keep an open line of communication with your tenants, and be open to suggestions for how they can make your property feel like home. It’s beneficial to both parties if tenants and landlord are satisfied and in agreement.

If you have any questions about becoming a landlord, or renting out your property, Contact Tradewind Properties. We are here to help!

Allow Pets or Don’t Allow Pets? A Landlord’s Guide to The Pet Question


If you’re a pet owner, you know how difficult it can be to find a rental home that allows pets, and how out-of-the-question it would be to leave them behind. But as a landlord, should you allow pets in your rental property or just say no? Consider these points when deciding whether you’d accept dogs, cats, other pets, or none at all.

 

Pros to Allowing Pets

  • Higher Rent: If you’re open to allowing pets, increase your rent/month or establish a monthly pet fee. Pet owners are usually asked to pay more per month in rent than non-pet owners due to the probability of extra clean-up or property damage.
  • Higher or Additional Deposit: Similarly, landlords should require an additional or increased deposit to cover any pet-related costs.
  • Appeal to Pet Owners: Opening your property to pet-owners widens your pool of potential renters, many of whom may be having trouble finding a place for their whole household.
  • You’ve Been There: If you’re a pet owner yourself, you know how it feels to have your animals be a part of your family. You would be helping a similar family find a home that suits their needs.

 

Cons to Allowing Pets

  • High Risk of Damage: Between claws, teeth, and the habit of urinating inside, pets can bring a whole range of damage to your property. Young puppies, kittens, and older pets who have trouble with incontinence can be especially risky.
  • That Smell: Dog and Cat smell is nearly impossible to avoid, and even harder to get out of a home. Especially if they’re having accidents on the carpet or spraying like male cats can do, ridding your rental of that odor can be difficult and can make it hard to rent out again.
  • Barking or other Nuisances to Neighbors: If your renters’ pet is being noisy, roaming into others’ yards, or worse, being aggressive or a danger to others, you as the landlord will have to deal with it. It is much harder to tell a family they have to move out or get rid of their pet than just saying no to pets in the beginning.
  • Taking someone’s word for it: Experience says that even though renters will promise that their pet doesn’t bark, doesn’t bite, doesn’t have accidents, and is an absolute angel, they may just be trying to get into your rental. As a property management company, Tradewind Properties vets your potential renters to be sure that you know what you’re getting into. We ask for updated veterinarian records on the pet’s health and behavior and request a detailed pet rental reference from a current and/or past landlord.

 

If you are going to allow pets, consider these tips:

  1. Add a monthly pet fee or an additional pet deposit. The experienced agents at Tradewind Properties will help you determine the right deposit or pet rent to ask for based on the individual home and market.
  2. Check with your city ordinances, HOA, and landlord’s insurance to see if certain breeds are not allowed or not covered by insurance.
  3. Landlords may want to require dogs and cats to be over one year old, potty-trained, and up to date on all shots. Puppies and kittens can do significantly more damage than trained adult pets.
  4. If you’ve decided not to allow dogs and cats, what about birds, reptiles, or small pets like hamsters, rabbits, or guinea pigs? Think of the above pros and cons, but on a smaller scale.

 

When you work with Tradewind Properties, we will help you set your preferred pet policy (within the guidelines of your HOA). At a minimum, we require all pets to be 1 year or older, be up-to-date on all shots, and be licensed within the city (if applicable). When a potential renter applies, we will verify the vet records and behavior of the pet for you, and will perform a routine inspection of the property 1-2 months after a new tenant moves in to ensure no lease violations are occurring.
Generally, we at Tradewind Properties have found that allowing pets is beneficial as it broadens your pool of potential renters, and we’d love to help you prepare for renting out your property, pets or no pets!

**Please note that the above tips are strictly related to pets and do not pertain to the laws governing service animals.

If you have any questions about becoming a landlord, or renting out your property, Contact Tradewind Properties. We are here to help!

Landlord Insurance: What’s Covered?


When considering becoming a landlord and renting out your property, you may be wondering how insurance will help you manage the risks of your new arrangement.

Landlord Insurance is a specific type of coverage for this situation, and, along with working with a good property management company, is one of the best ways to be fully prepared to be a landlord.

 

What’s Covered by Landlord Insurance?

Each insurance company is different, and coverage will differ. Talk to your insurance agent for full details. But in general, Landlord Insurance may help you in the following situations.

  • Fair Rental Value Coverage. This is the biggest difference between home insurance and landlord insurance. If your property becomes uninhabitable for a reason that is covered, Landlord Insurance should cover your lost rental income while repairs are being finished, usually up to 12 months.
  • Dwelling Coverage of your rental property from fire, hail, vandalism, and other dangers.
  • Coverage of other structures on the property, such as garages, sheds, etc.
  • Coverage of Items that you own on the property, like appliances, furniture you’ve provided, or even tools you keep there.
  • Liability Coverage; Legal Counsel and Medical expenses should someone become injured on the property.

 

Landlord Discounts

Some insurance companies will offer discounts for certain circumstances, such as:

  • New/ Recently-Renovated Home Discount, for rental properties newer than approx. 13 years old, or newly renovated.
  • Multi-policies Discount, for those covering several properties, or a property and car, for example.
  • Protective Devices Discount: may apply if you use a security alarm, a sprinkler system, deadbolts, fire extinguishers, etc.

 

Other Questions Insurance Companies May Ask

In order to determine the right coverage for you, your insurance company may want to know some additional information.

  • Do you currently live in the same home as your tenant?
  • How many properties are you renting out?
  • What type of unit are you renting out?
  • Do you rent out your property intermittently, or on a regular basis for longer periods of time?

If you have any questions about becoming a landlord, or about landlord insurance, Contact Tradewind Properties. We are here to help!

When Should a Landlord Hire a Property Management Company?

Congratulations! Now that you’ve made the choice to rent out your property, think about whether it’s best for you to take on the role of landlord and manage your rental yourself, or hire a property management company for help.

Depending on your skills, free time, and experience, it may be best to hire a property management company if:

1. You’re not up for the detailed organization and upkeep of managing a property.

City ordinances, affordable housing programs, and local practices can overwhelm some landlords when it comes time to rent.

2. You’re not sure how to draw up a rental agreement, or run the proper background checks.

Management companies will perform the necessary credit and background checks on possible renters, and will supply the legal agreements as you enter into your new landlord/tenant relationship.

3. Your daily life keeps you busy and you’d like to leave the management tasks to professionals.

Being a landlord can be a breeze one month and require more hours of troubleshooting and on-site visits the next. If you maintain a full-time job and have a busy schedule, you can pass along these tasks.

4. You may be renting out several properties, but you’re not looking to make “landlord” your day-job.

If you’re looking to take on several properties, a property management company can definitely help with the volume.

5. You’re not going to be living nearby.

Many savvy homeowners who are moving out of town will choose to rent out their home instead of selling. But being far away can prevent a landlord from being able to show the space, meet potential tenants, or do home repairs.

6. You’re not looking forward to taking on the risks associated with managing a property.

If the thought of tenants missing payments, finding new tenants, or dealing with unexpected home repairs makes you cringe, there’s an easier way to meet your real estate and renting goals.

Contact Us to Learn More

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Tradewind Properties is locally and veteran-owned, and can assist new landlords with all aspects of the renting process.