It used to be (and still is) that tenants renting an apartment could generally expect a clean unit with working appliances when they moved in, locksmith services for free and 24-hour emergency maintenance.
But if a tenant chose to rent a single-family house instead of an apartment, the arrangement was usually a little different. Landlord/owners might have owned only one or two houses and each owner offered a unique lease and felt responsible for none, some or most repairs and maintenance depending on how that individual saw the arrangement. That’s the observation of Vadim Kleyner, CEO of Brilion, Crowd Real Estate Investing, a locally based company.
“The general expectation was that tenants renting a single-family home were mostly on their own,” said Kleyner. “You had to buy and maintain your own appliances, and you did to the house whatever it needed for you to be able to stay in it.”
Then when the housing crisis began almost a decade ago, prices of houses plummeted and homeowners found themselves with foreclosed houses on their hands.
“When the crash came, way more inventory came on the market. Properties owned by displaced people were being bought up by investors in big numbers,” said Kleyner. “And there was no way the investors could handle the management of all those single-family homes all by themselves. So they hired property managers to find and place tenants in those houses.
“But the property managers changed the perception of single-family rental houses.
Many were professionals, and they expected investors to apply the same level of attention to the houses as they did the apartments,” said Kleyner. “They wanted to bring higher standards to the single-family rental.”
In time, Kleyner said the expectations of single-family house renters has also changed. More renters in this type of housing arrangement now expect the same things that apartment complex tenants have. That includes 24-hour maintenance and houses that are move-in ready. Kleyner, whose company is also involved with property management, hesitates to say whether this development is good or bad, but hints it is both.
“Some people are a little more high maintenance than others. Some tenants will say, ‘The light bulb needs to be changed. Can you send someone to change it?’
Of course we can’t do that. It’s clearly spelled out in the lease agreement what the responsibilities of the tenant and landlord are,” said Kleyner.
And then there is the question of insurance and liability and who should do the repair and maintenance work. Kleyner believes most property managers and property owners would rather have their own crews or choose licensed professionals do the work rather than have the tenant or someone the tenant selects. It’s also a safety issue. Would you want a tenant with no training and no license playing with the electrical?
“As landlords we would rather change our filters, maintain the hot water tanks and come out on an annual basis to clean out the gutters,” explained Kleyner. “We can’t really leave it up to the tenants because if they don’t do it, we are not prolonging the life of the house.”
Kleyner said the idea of a landlord being responsible for the majority care of a rental house wasn’t initially met with enthusiasm. But “now that they understand the pros,” it is accepted by many, even though it may cost more. Kleyner also said he does not pass that added expense onto tenants.
Kleyner said it is important for potential tenants to find out the quality of a property manager’s crews before they sign a lease. Ask how many crews are available for how many houses and how crews are screened, he suggested.
“With so much social media available, no one can fly under the radar anymore. Property managers have to be at the top of their game,” said Kleyner.
Angela Shuckahosee, executive director of the Cleveland Tenants Organization, also believes there are pros and cons having property managers involved with single-family rental houses. Shuckahosee sees property managers as being “accessible and responsive – meaning that a tenant can expect to know exactly who to call if something goes wrong and who to hold accountable.” And that’s a positive.
“(Otherwise it) can present problems if you have an unscrupulous landlord who is dodgy with communications,” said Shuckahosee.
“The con for the tenant is that a lot of (property management) companies follow blanket policy, such as late fees or evictions for non-payment. Sometimes these policies offer no latitude for the tenant if one-time help is needed, whereas the mom-and-pop landlord might be more willing or able to have a conversation about a payment arrangement,” said Shuckahosee.
Renters in the United States are getting older, according to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies. Almost 51 percent of renters are 40 years old, which dissolves the argument that all renters are young. Single-family houses are also a growing share of the rental pie, according to the study. The increase in rental houses and the aging of renters may have additional influences on the uptick of property managers and single-family houses.
The Cleveland Tenant’s Organization lists these obligations on its website,www.clevelandtenants.org”
- Put and keep premises in a fit and habitable condition.
- Keep the area safe and sanitary.
- Comply with building, housing, health and safety codes.
- Keep in good working order all electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems and fixtures.
- Maintain all appliances and equipment supplied by the landlord.
- Provide running water and reasonable amounts of hot water and heat unless the hot water and heat are supplied by an installation that is under the exclusive control of the tenant and supplied by a direct public utility hook-up.
- Provide garbage cans and arrange for trash removal if the landlord owns four or more residential units in the same building.
- Give at least 24 hours notice, unless it is an emergency, before entering a tenant’s unit and enter only at reasonable times and in a reasonable manner.
- Evict the tenant when informed by a law enforcement officer of a drug activity by the tenant, a member of the tenant’s household, or a guest of the tenant occurring in or otherwise connected with the tenant’s premises.
- Keep the premises safe and sanitary.
- Dispose of rubbish in the proper manner.
- Keep the plumbing fixtures as clean as their condition permits.
- Use electrical and plumbing fixtures properly.
- Comply with housing, health and safety codes that apply to tenants.
- Refrain from damaging the premises and keep guests from causing damage.
- Maintain appliances supplied by the landlord in good working order.
- Conduct yourself in a manner that does not disturb any neighbors and require guests to do the same.
- Permit landlord to enter the dwelling unit if the request is reasonable and proper notice is given.
- Comply with state or municipal drug laws in connection with the premises and require household members and guests to do likewise.
“(Property managers) wanted to bring higher standards to the single-family rental.” – Vadim Kleyner, CEO, Brelion, Crowd Real Estate Investing