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Can I pick the tenant?
Our system is designed to yield the highest quality tenant as quickly as possible. We also ensure that the selection process happens in a way that conforms to all Fair Housing laws.
Attorneys say the best way to reduce the risk of a Fair Housing violation is to have clear, non-discriminatory rental criteria, that is written and transparent. Most owners do not have written rental criteria.
To help keep our owners out of trouble, we developed objective, non-discriminatory, written, rental criteria that is posted on our website.
For more information on Fair Housing laws, please visit: http://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/sdhcd/fair-housing.html
How do you advertise your properties?
Getting our homes rented fast is key to our success and happy clients. We generate as many qualified leads for the home as possible. We do that by:
- Using syndication to list the property on the top rental websites. We design the ads in a way to make it easy for prospects to understand the terms and our rental criteria.
- We take high-quality property photos that appear on our ads.
- We repost the property ads on Craigslist every day so it stays at the top of people’s searches
- When prospects call, we have a live person answer the phone 9am-5pm Monday thru Friday. We walk them through our rental criteria to ensure they are a viable prospect and work to get them to the property for a viewing quickly.
- Properties are available for showings Monday – Saturday with a real estate agent hosting or with our electronic lockbox technology.
I am an out of state owner. I heard you have to withhold rent and send it to the FTB. Can you explain?
The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) requires property managers to withhold 7% of gross payments to owners who live outside of California and submit the withholding to the FTB. You may be exempt from this regulation, eligible for a waiver, or eligible for reduced withholding:
Form 590- Withholding Exemption Certificate
If you are a resident of CA or believe you qualify for an exemption under one of the other categories (please read the form for full details), you can complete Form 590 Withholding Exemption Certificate.
Form 588- Nonresident Withholding Waiver
If you are not a resident of CA, you may qualify for a withholding waiver. Please read Form 588 for full details. If you feel you qualify for a waiver, please complete From 588 and send it directly to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB).
Form 589- Nonresident Reduced Withholding Request
If you are not exempt and do not qualify for a waiver, you may be entitled to a reduced withholding. You may complete Form 589- Nonresident Reduced Withholding Request and send it directly to the Franchise Tax Board (FTB).
If you complete and mail form 588 or 589 to the FTB, you should get a response within 2-3 weeks. Most of our clients, who were not eligible for a waiver, were granted some sort of reduction. All of the above forms can be found online at https://www.ftb.ca.gov
To comply with the FTB requirements, we must withhold the 7% of gross rents, unless we receive form 590 from you OR a letter from the FTB instructing us to proceed differently.
If you have questions regarding the FTB regulations, please visit https://www.ftb.ca.gov and/or talk to your tax representative for more information. We are not tax professionals and cannot give you tax advice.
If you choose to complete 588 or 589, put your Ralston Team Properties as the “Withholding Agent”.
How do you handle repairs?
We are available around the clock for any maintenance situation that might arise at the property. Tenants can request maintenance via phone, email or through their dedicated tenant web portal. This portal allows tenants to submit a work order request by providing a description of the issue as well as upload photos of the issue, when appropriate. Tenants can also track the status of their request online.
When a request comes in, we assess it to see if it needs immediate dispatch or if we can possibly trouble shoot the issue with the tenant. There are many common repair requests our team members are trained how to troubleshoot. If a repair is needed we send a work order to one of our vendors.
Every vendor we work with is a 3rd party contractor or handyman which means that we do not make a profit on the work that they perform and there is no mark up or “service fee” associated with any maintenance performed.
The assigned vendor will contact the tenant to set up a time to make the repair. We make sure the cost of the repair is fair and that the work was completed satisfactorily.
Our management agreement allows us to handle small, normal repairs under $300, without having to inconvenience our owners. Larger repairs over $300 require owner approval. In these instances we will contact the client for approval. Exceptions to the $300 approval rule include emergency maintenance and habitability issues. If we have to act quickly to protect persons or property we will do so, to protect you from liability.
Once a repair is completed and invoiced, we email the tenant a survey asking them to confirm the repair was completed satisfactorily, that the vendor was professional, and to rate their overall experience with the vendor and our team.
Do you have a list of handymen, plumbers, and other trades you use?
Yes, we have a list of preferred vendors we use. To be a preferred vendor they have to:
- Sign our vendor agreement, where they agree to a certain standards and a code of conduct.
- Carry insurance as necessary.
- Deliver great service and quality work.
Does your fee include cleaning or any other repairs?
No. Our fee covers the coordination of needed services, not the services themselves.
Can you refer me a vendor to do work at my personal residence?
We can certainly make some of our great vendors available to our owners. We have plumbers, flooring installers, cleaners, appliance repair, and other trades people who provide great service and we are happy to refer them to our clients. Some trades like handymen, we do not refer out, as good ones are hard to find and we keep them very busy.
Can I use my own vendors / contractors?
Over the years we have worked many different service providers . Cost is always important, but as you know, sometimes you get what you pay for. The contractors we use provide quality workmanship and competitive pricing.
With that said, we are always willing to try someone new. However, we do require that they have appropriate licenses, complete a W-9, and insurance as required by law. If you would like us to consider using your contractor, please provide us their contact information so we can reach out and see if they are a good fit.
Can I do the repairs myself?
If the property is vacant, owners can handle the repairs needed to make the property rent ready, if they choose. In these instances though, to avoid confusion as to who is responsible for what portion of the turnover process we ask that the owner either handle all of the work or none of the work. Once the property is leased, we require that we use only our preferred vendors. This ensures leasing deadlines are met, as we work with these vendors regularly and know what to expect.
Do you always get multiple bids on work?
As long time property managers we have developed a pretty clear idea of the costs associated with the most common repair items. Since that’s the case we do not need to get multiple bids for routine maintenance tasks. On larger projects like replacing an AC unit, replacing a roof, large painting projects, etc., we definitely get multiple bids to ensure you are getting a fair price.
How do rent payments work? Does the tenant pay you then you pay me?
Our tenants pay Ralston Team Properties and we deposit their rent into our Broker Trust Account. Upon receipt we direct deposit the rent, minus our fee, and any other expenses, into the bank account of your choice.
Do you send me a statement each month?
At the beginning of each month we provide you with an owner statement. The statement shows income and expenses for the previous 30 day period.
Should I accept pets?
Statistics show that over two thirds of the population have a pet of some kind. By being open to pets you will increase demand, thus keeping your vacancy rate to a minimum. However, by allowing pets you also increase the risk of property damage. Like so many things in life, this becomes a question of risk vs. reward. If maximizing your annual rental earnings is important to you, you may want to consider allowing pets. If you would prefer to mitigate any risk of damage you may choose to say no pets.
If you are open to a pet, we always use the verbiage, “pets considered”. In this way we can ensure that the pet in question is a good fit for the property.
In all cases we do limit the pets that will be accepted. Aggressive breeds like Doberman Pinscher, Mastiff, Boerboel, Rottweiler, American Bulldog, Presa Canario, Pit Bull and similar terrier breeds, Chow, Dogo Argentino, German Shepherd, Husky, Bandog, Wolf Hybrids, Akita, Fila Brasiliero, and Tosa Inu are not accepted
In all instances if a pet is accepted it will be with a pet deposit to ensure that if there is pet related damage caused by the tenants pet we have funds available to correct it.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Service animals and emotional support animals have become an important part of the rental landscape. Service and support animals are not considered pets under California law. As landlords we cannot deny a tenant’s application because they have a service or emotional support animal. Obtaining paperwork certifying an animal as a support or service animal has become as simple as downloading paperwork from the internet. For more information on service and support animals visit: http://www.dor.ca.gov/DisabilityAccessInfo/Service-Animals.html
What is your normal pet deposit?
We generally charge $250-$500 per pet depending on the type of unit. Hardwood flooring or other expensive finishes would push it to the higher end.
Can we charge a non-refundable cleaning or other type of deposit?
No. The law in California says non-refundable deposits on long term rentals are illegal.
How long should it take to rent the house?
We lease the vast majority of our rentals in 3 weeks or less. If a property is available longer than that time period it tends to be an indication that the price is out of line with the current rental market. As your manager we will keep you apprised of all activity (calls, emails and property showings). If after multiple showings the house or condo is still not rented we usually recommend acting quickly to adjust the price. Vacancy, not lower rent, tends to be the number one factor in killing a rental properties profitability.
Can I meet the tenant?
We advise against the owner having contact with the tenant. One of the biggest benefits of having a property manager is that we act as a buffer between you and the tenant. By opening up a dialog with the tenant you increase the likelihood that they will contact you directly, usually in instances where the intent is to ask for a “favor” (Can I pay the rent late this month? Can I make this or that repair and deduct it from my rent? Can I break my lease without penalty?). Tenants typically don’t request “favors” from property managers. When they do, and that favor is outside of the agreed upon lease terms, we say no. By relying on us to be the main point of contact you never have to say no.
What if I know someone that wants to rent my place?
TIf you think you have a great tenant lead send us their information. All tenants must go through our application process, even if you know them. Keep in mind, renting to friends or family can get complicated, so proceed with caution.
What is this eviction protection you offer?
We are so confident in our ability to pick quality tenants that we back up all of our tenant placements with eviction protection. If we have to evict a tenant we chose, we will cover the first $500 of any court costs and legal fees.
How long is our management contract?
Unlike our competitors, we do not charge an upfront tenant placement fee. In fact, we have absolutely no upfront fees. We are committed to the idea that we only get paid when you get paid. We ask that our owners sign a 12-month agreement with us. This allows us to offer our clients the best possible rate, without additional fees.
What type of insurance do I need to carry?
As a rental property owner you will need to carry a Landlord Policy. This has specific coverages important to landlords, so it is important that you have this type of policy in place.
Why do I need to add The Ralston Team Properties as an additional insured to my insurance policy?
Let’s imagine a scenario where a tenant trips at the property, breaks her leg, and decides to sue. It’s most likely that she and her attorney will sue you AND Ralston Team Properties. Your insurance will defend you. Since we are acting as your agent, we need that same protection. Our management agreement, like all management agreements, has an indemnification clause that says you agree to indemnify Ralston Team Properties, unless we are found to be negligent. This means, if your insurance does not cover us we have to hire an attorney on our own. In this scenario our attorney would be representing us against your attorney and the tenant. If we are found not guilty, our attorney would pursue you for the attorney fees. Had we been added as additionally insured on your policy, your insurance company would defend us both equally. Most major insurance companies do this for no additional charge. The added benefit is that should a there be an issue at the property that requires you to make an insurance claim, we are authorized to work with the claims adjuster on your behalf.
What type of insurance do you carry?
We carry General Liability, Workers Compensation, & Errors & Omissions insurance.
How are showings handled?
We show properties using a combination of agent hosted appointments and self-directed tenant viewings. Agent showings, where one of our agents will meet prospects at the property, tend to be a great way to ensure that tenants get quick answers to any questions they might have. Self directed showing can also be accommodated using a technology called Rently. This technology allows tenants to view vacant properties on their own schedule, after putting a valid credit card on file. This is a great option for prospective tenants who can only view the property after normal business hours. The combination of these 2 methods is the best way to quickly rent the propery.
Do you have a tenant and owner portal?
Yes! The majority of our tenants pay their rent online. They can also submit maintenance requests through their tenant portal.
The owner portal is where we publish monthly financial statements. Owners can also make contributions to their account for repairs and keep important documents like leases, all in one place.
I want to get out of my lease with the tenant. How do I do that?
A lease is a legally binding contract and cannot be cancelled unilaterally. Only with the agreement of both parties can a lease be terminated early.
Can I make changes to the management agreement?
The terms in our management agreement are integrated into our management systems. It is hard for us to change terms without having to change our processes. Most of the time we cannot change our agreement. If you have a specific concern, we are always open to addressing it with you.
How do I switch property management companies?
OIf you are considering making a change in property management services, give us a call. We are happy to walk you through the process. In most instances, as long as you are outside of the term of your initial property management agreement we can help you to facilitate the transfer of management responsibilities to Ralston Team Properties.
What happens if the tenant does not pay the rent?
Rent is due on the 1st and late on the 5th, giving the tenant a 4 day period during which time they can pay rent without penalty. If the rent is not received by close-of-business on the 4th we contact the tenant to find out what is causing the delay. We then deliver a 3-day notice to the tenants to pay rent or quit. Serving the 3-day notice is the first step in the eviction process.
If we do not receive the rent after the 3-day period expires, we notify you. We will give you our recommendation on how to best proceed. Options include moving forward with the eviction process or working out a deal with the tenant.
What happens if the tenant ruins my property?
We’ve all heard the horror stories. The truth of the matter is that instances where tenants cause catastrophic damage to a home are extremely rare. We strictly screen tenants upfront, so tenant damages are typically limited. However, even with the strictest of criteria, things can happen. Only a small percentage of our move out dispositions have tenant damages exceed the security deposit. In that event, we try to collect the sum from the tenant. Should the tenant not pay, you can sue them in small claims court for the balance owed. We do not act as debt collectors, but can refer you to companies who can assist you.
What happens if the tenant wants to break the lease?
The tenant is required to pay rent until the property is re-rented. Our lease agreement covers this topic so the tenant knows upfront.
Who holds the security deposit?
Ralston Team Properties will hold the tenant security deposit in our non-interest bearing Broker Trust Account. By law, those funds belongs to the tenant and can only be used for past due rent or damages.
Do I need to provide a refrigerator and washer/dryer?
As a landlord you are not required to provide a refrigerator, washer or dryer, but there can be some advantages to including those items. If you are trying to decide whether or not to leave your refrigerator, washer or dryer let us know and we will be happy to walk you through the advantages and potential drawbacks.
Can I rent my property furnished?
Ralston Team Properties does not handle furnished rentals. Should you choose to rent furnished, we can refer you to a company who can assist you.
Can I leave some personal property at my home?
We do not recommend leaving personal property. There is no good way to protect your personal items, nor is there a good way to prove the tenant damaged it. In most cases the tenants would prefer not to have your personal property at the house as it takes away room to store their own property. Additionally, the tenants don’t want to be responsible for the property owner’s personal property. It is acceptable to leave a reasonable amount of household items (paint, sample flooring, special cleaner, etc…) neatly tucked away in one corner of the garage.
What lease term do you recommend?
We generally offer tenants a 12 month lease term.
Should I provide a gardener?
If your property has high maintenance landscaping, you should include a gardener. If your yard is relatively low maintenance it can make sense to have the tenant care for it. We have a few landscapers we work with who provide great service at reasonable prices should you decide to offer the property with landscaping included.
Should I provide pool service?
If you have a pool you always want to include the cost of pool service with the rent. Pool equipment is very expensive. It’s best to have only qualified professionals handling regular maintenance and repairs when necessary.
Can you pay my mortgage, HOA, and other bills?
We do not pay mortgages, but are happy to pay your other bills like monthly home owners association dues at no extra charge. Per our agreement we require that you carry a reserve fund equal to the total of the recurring bills.
Can I sell my property while the tenant is occupying it?
If you decide to sell, please alert us before you commit. There are a number of things that we can do on our side to make it a successful transcation. While you can sell a property while the tenant is living there, there are some distinct disadvantages.
Occupied homes generally do not show as well as vacant or professionally staged homes. These homes are also harder to show as agents must work around the tenant’s schedule and give 24-hour notice to show. If the tenant has multiple months left on their lease, the only prospective buyers will be investors. This cuts out the largest majority of buyers, the owner-occupant. If the lease is coming to an end, the tenant keeps the home in great shape, and the tenant is easy to communicate with, then it may make sense to list it for sale while occupied. We can guide you on the right approach for your situation.
Do you sell homes too?
We are member of the San Diego Association of Realtors and National Association of Realtors and we often work with our owners in listing their properties when the time comes to “cash out”. We even offer our management clients some unique incentives. If you’re thinking of selling talk with us first. We’d love to let you know how we can help.