Both Massachusetts renters and their landlords are finding themselves hard hit by the cold weather. This year Boston.com reports more tenants upset with their property owners, and taking action than before. Unfortunately real estate investors and income property owners aren’t entitled to take off for ‘snow days’.
In Boston alone the Code Enforcement department is reporting figures coming close to 1,000 complaint calls about landlords each day. In just 3 weeks in February 2015 this hit almost 3,000 more calls than normal.
Tenants are turning in their landlords for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common in 2015 appear to be failing to clear snow from sidewalks, and addressing leaks. Functional heating and frozen pipes can also be a major issue at this time of year. Mass. landlords are legally bound to provide safe and acceptable housing. In fact, they have just 3 hours to clear snow from sidewalks after a storm passes. That’s not much when a DIY landlord might have several properties around town, and the snow could stop in the middle of the night.
Failure to stay on top of property maintenance, even during severe weather and cold can bring a world of expensive problems for real estate investors. Ongoing leaks, the weight of snow on the roof, slips and falls, and resulting structural damage, damage to tenant belongings, and even health issues from mold can bury multifamily, retail, office building, and single family rental property owners under mountains of paperwork and costs quickly.
Aside from the calls to the authorities and ensuing fines and liens, and lawsuits, tenants can withhold rent, while a property is falling further into disrepair daily. Many renters will also be forced to up and move, and they’ll choose better maintained apartments and premises, even at a premium. Some perhaps could cut their landlord’s some slack, especially when the area is dealing with historical weather conditions. Yet, sooner or later they’ll look for new landlords, and one who shows they are serious about providing good housing by employing a professional property management firm from the start.
For existing landlords and real estate investors seeking to make new MA income property acquisitions while interest rates are low there are two smart tactics that can aid in minimizing risks and financial loss. The first is to retain professional property management ASAP. This will relieve the maintenance burden on yourself, and instill confidence for tenants, while avoiding the costs of not keeping on top of maintenance. Secondly it is worth considering how you train tenants. Do you train tenants to know that they’ll only get a reply or help if they stop paying rent, call the city, or file a lawsuit? If so you can’t really expect them to do anything different. Or do you show them that you are immediately attentive to their needs and concerns and voluntarily work to do all you can to remedy issues without the threats? If you do this, this odds are that if you are a little late clearing that snow they’ll cut you a break.