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January 29, 2013

George asks…

Advice on running a 100 unit apartment complex?

I was just hired as a property manager of a 100 unit apartment. The previous owner slacked on his duties….letting people pay whenever they want, letting previously evicted tenants rent apartments again, shutting off the water of tenants who haven’t paid rent, not fixing maintenance problems, and falling for sob stories from renters who don’t pay rent that he considers his favorites. This is a low income housing complex. Does anyone have any advice on how to get this complex back in shape?

Administrator answers:

A friend of mine out near Riverside, CA did this a while back. In essence, he had to get rid of the non-paying tenants. Think he had about 280 units and they were 40% vacant when he started, with something like 20% late paying. Took him three years overall to clean up.

Doing that required very hard nosed behavior about collecting the rent –

as i recall, he told me that he did the following:

a. Any tenant whose rent wasn’t in the office by the end of the grace period received a notice posted on their door that same morning saying that they were late and reminding tenants that eviction would begin on the scheduled date [i think his lease said due on the 1st, late on the 4th or later, and eviction starts on the 11st -- all at 9am local time]. {he was merciless — the notices were printed on pink paper and everyone in the complex knew what one of those ment.}

b. On the 11th, if rent was still overdue, he issued the required by CA code notice — both by mailing it and by physically posting a copy on the door. [does CA require a "three days to pay or quit" notice -- not sure I ever really knew].

C. Eviction did actually begin on the first business day after the notice period expired. He had a local attorney who would get the filing into court the same day.

Of course, this sort of thing doesn’t work well if you don’t aggressively screen prospects. Always check credit and always check prior landlords. Join the landlords’ association, esp. If they also offer a check to members for past problem tenants.

And you have to get tough with the “keep it clean and repaired rules”. My friend had apparently inoperative cars posted — “move it or lose it”. All tenants’ cars had to be registered. He could and did have non-resident cars towed unless they had resident contact info posted inside the front window. Non-responding cars were towed.

Other nuisances were cleaned up, etc.

btw, check the lease. You may need to have it rewritten by your evictions attorney. What you want is a tight lease that makes clear you’ll take no guff from tenants.

Something else [not sure this is legal in CA -- you'll have to check]. I’ve used leases that plainly told tenants up front that a $200 [or whatever] fee is collected in advance for re-painting after the tenant moves out. Doesn’t matter if they’re there for a month or a year or ten years — I always repainted after each tenant moved out.

And you’ll have to get all of your tenants onto the new lease.

My friend took each unit as it became vacant and did a serious repair and replace job in it. Don’t know if your owners are up for that — and the almost new appliances, new paint, fairly new carpet, etc really got across to prospects that this wasn’t the run down joint it used to be — and reinforced that he wasn’t going to take non-payment from tenants.

Paul asks…

Apartment advice for a college kid?

I’m an 18 year old community college kid still living with my parents. I’d like to move out, but am afraid of not being able to pay rent and utilities due to the instability of my job (I’m a waitress and times have been slow lately.)

I have a friend that is interested in joining in with me, but I am still afraid.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.

Administrator answers:

I shared your fear at one time too. What you need to do is find an inexpensive apartment (we found ours on and figure out the best deals. Some apartments already pay utilities for you. There are some places like ours right now pays waste management and water. We only pay electricity and our rent is 565/month. If your friend is moving in with you and you both have jobs, you don’t have that much to worry about. As long as you each pay your half of the rent you should be fine. Rent is paid once a month. Even if you make a minimum wage job, you get two paychecks a month around say $300 at the lowest. I don’t know your income, but if it’s at least that, then you can pay by the time rent is due $600 and that doesn’t even include your friend’s half of the rent.

Find an apartment that will give you a good deal on a lease. I’ve seen some that the first month is free. That’s how mine was. Find an apartment that will pay some utilities, like water especially. You don’t want to pay for water because that’s more expensive than just electricity. Some apartments have benefits for students.

It all just depends on where you look. My advice is don’t jump into the first apartment you find. Make a list of several and then call them up and ask them questions like what kind of utilities they pay for and things like that. Then choose your top three and visit the three choices in person. Process of elimination is a pretty good approach.

Hope I could help :) Good luck!

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