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Landlord Best Practices

BEST PRACTICES FOR LANDLORDS-2019

Part of the mission of Narragansett2100 is to provide a forum for landlords and property managers to share their thoughts, concerns and ideas to better improve the quality of life in Narragansett. In this regard, Narragansett2100 also serves as a resource for landlords by providing information about what is going on in town.

We continue to receive many great comments and suggestions from our members and are re-issuing this document of Best Practices for Landlords for 2019. We offer suggestions that you may want to consider to improve your rental experience. If you cannot get to the links provided, just cut and paste into your browser.    

(Narragansett2100, Inc. makes no representation concerning the legality or effectiveness of these suggestions offered by landlords and property managers. The contributors simply wish to share their experience in dealing with tenants and educate other landlords on protecting property and neighborhood quality of life.)

One of the most important aspects of renting property is the rental lease. It protects both the landlord and the tenant. For those of you who do not use a property manager/rental agency, we have reviewed realtors’ leases and provide these important items for you to consider in your lease. If you do not want to interact with students, then it is best to hire a local property manager/rental agency. (We have provided the benefits of using a local property manager/rental agent and a listing of them in Appendix 2) Do not rent your house and just return at the end of the year. Be a responsible landlord.

GENERAL

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  1. You must complete a Narragansett Rental Registration form each year. Look for updated forms and fill them out completely. Go to www.narragansettri.gov, click on departments, building inspections and rental registrations and the form is the first link. This form is due by December 31 of each year. If you miss the deadline, you will incur a $300 fine. The form is now required to be notarized.
  1. If you live out of state and own rental property in the state of Rhode Island, the State of Rhode Island requires that you complete the designation of agent for out of state landlord form. It is found athttp://sos.ri.gov/documents/business/misc/34-18-22.pdf. It should be mailed to the Narragansett Town Clerk, Narragansett Town Hall, 25 5thAve., Narragansett, RI 02882.
  1. If you rent your property for less than 30 days and collect the income yourself, you need to register with the state, file an annual report and submit the 7% R.I. State sales tax and 1% hotel/motel tax on your rental income. This tax must also include the income collected for cleaning and pet fees. Use this link to review Q&A’s about the law and to obtain the application you need to submit. http://www.tax.ri.gov/Tax%20Website/TAX/notice/Short-term%20residential%20rentals%20--%20FAQs%20--%2007-24-15%20revised.pdf.
  1. Ensure that your rental home meets all town regulations. ALL bedrooms must meet fire codes in terms of egress, and smoke and CO2 detectors. This is not only for liability, but also, to provide a safe environment for your tenants. Should you have any questions about codes and regulations, please call the Narragansett Building Inspector or Fire Marshall.

WINTER LEASES

  1. 1. An important resource for landlords is the URI Off- Campus Housing webpage…. http://web.uri.edu/commuter-housing/. It contains a sample lease, information on scams, Narragansett Codes and Regulations and information for students about town ordinances. This site also allows a landlord to advertise their home on this site for a fee of $75 for a 6 month period. Read the ‘Living in South County’ to see what URI is telling students about renting. It is quite informative and may provide ideas you want to emphasize too.
  1. Town ordinance requires that you post next to the front door a copy of the page of the lease which identifies the renters as well as copy of the completed rental registration form.
  1. Provide students with an Initial Condition Check List where they can note any issues they find with the house. Request they complete and return it to you within 72 hours of move-in. This protects you at check-out against damages which students claim were issues when they checked-in. It also protects students at check-out for damages which were present when they checked-in.
  1. State the TOTAL value of the lease so students know that they are responsible for the full amount should any of them leave school beforehand. Even though one student may cause damages, all students on the lease are accountable.
  1. Most realtors structure their leases so students pay by semester (due in August for 5 months and due in December for 4 months). This eliminates having to chase students for monthly payments. End the lease one or two days after graduation to prevent students from remaining at your property with nothing to do. Consider allowing your students to stay one extra day after graduation as an incentive to have no issues during the year.
  1. Identify ALL tenant activities which you prohibit in and around your home and which would result in non-compliance of the lease. Items such as smoking, pets, parking on the lawn, candles, climbing on the roof, kegs, waterbeds, fraternity/sorority parties, etc. This will allow you to legally pursue non-compliance of the lease and eviction if necessary.
  1. Have parents co-sign/guarantee the lease.
  1. When students apply for the lease, review the student’s class, major, G.P.A., and references. These can be a predictor of behavior. Review their social media accounts like Facebook as well. Speak with their past landlords.
  1. In the lease, highlight the specific times of the year when you will be inspecting the house (October, November, December, March, May). Also, allow access at any time by giving a 48 hour notice and immediately if emergency repairs are needed. If you can, drive by your house(s) on a regular basis. Choose Friday or Saturday nights along with special dates like Homecoming, Halloween, Greek Week, Cinco de Mayo, Senior Week, etc.
  1. If your home has oil or propane gas service that the students are responsible for, require that the students sign up for an automatic delivery plan to ensure that they do not run out of fuel so the pipes don’t freeze. If you don’t specify a company, have them provide you with the name of their service provider. Be an involved landlord.
  1. Many landlords are requiring that students pay for a monthly cleaning service to clean the common areas. This will help maintain the condition of the house and provide you with a form of regular inspection. It also shows that you are serious about keeping your house neat, clean and in good condition.
  1. Include a clause under ‘fees’ which indicates that if the landlord is fined by the state or town for any ordinance violation, the fees will be passed on to the students.
  1. Put a clause in the lease stating that if an orange sticker is received or if there is action by URI., you reserve the right to void the lease and keep all deposits. Also, consider putting a fee in place for tenants who receive an orange sticker.
  2. 1 Include a clause in the lease stating that if, upon inspection, the house needs to be cleaned, you can have it cleaned at the renter’s expense.

If you find the above suggestions complicated or cumbersome, we HIGHLY recommend you hire a professional property manager. These professionals handle all of the items identified above and more.

TIPS ON STUDENT RENTING

Remember that you are competing for the student’s rental business. Student always look at several houses before they make their decision. The houses in the best condition will rent first.

  1. Charge tenants upfront for the 9 months of in-yard trash pick up to eliminate tenants forgetting to take their trash to the curb. Provide fenced in areas (corrals) for garbage bins with attached lids to prevent animals and unsightly trash on your property. You can be cited by the town for trash left on the lawn. Provide recycle bins marked with your address. (Neighborhood Quality of Life issue).
  1. Provide a fully furnished home including an ample supply of dinnerware, glassware, pots, pans and cooking utensils all in good condition. Consider leaving small appliances for students (microwave, toaster, toaster oven, coffee maker, blender). This will save students from purchasing these items and make your home more attractive to students.
  1. Bedrooms should have mattresses in good condition, lamps and bureaus. Queen size beds are a plus. Consider placing your mattresses within a plastic encasement. Wooden beds and box springs are easily damaged. Consider using metal platform beds with 8inch foam mattresses as an option.
  1. Provide a vacuum cleaner, brooms, mops, dust pans, cleaning supplies, light bulbs, snow shovels, and sidewalk salt. This will encourage cleaning by the students.
  1. Use semi-gloss wall paint as it is easier to clean and usually won’t be pulled off with tape. When painting bathrooms or rooms prone to dampness, use mildewcide or mix a mildewcide additive into the paint.
  1. Tie in bathroom fans to the light switch to make sure fans goes on and eliminates the moisture.
  1. If you have a room below a bathroom, make sure there is caulking around the tub to prevent leaks through the floor.
  1. Make repairs quickly as needed. It lets tenants know that you care about your home.
  1. If tenants or guests are parking on your lawn, install corral fencing to stop them. They are cheap, easy to install and improve the aesthetics of your home and the neighborhood.
  1. Provide up to date, functioning smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Replace batteries every year (tenants won’t replace them and often disable them). Replace smoke and CO detectors every 5 years.
  1. If you replace a refrigerator, do not provide an ice maker as they break and could leak.
  1. If pipes freeze, insulate pipes and get heat to the area going forward.
  1. Make sure renters know the location of water shut offs, circuit breakers and fire extinguishers.
  1. Hang tvs on the wall so they won’t be knocked over. Most landlord now leave tvs for students as an added benefit.
  1. Do not use pedestals tables as they break when sat on.
  1. Provide locks on bedrooms doors to eliminate items stolen by guests.
  1. Do not provide lawn furniture with glass tops.
  1. Include a list of things students should do during school breaks such as…. Leave an indoor light on a timer to avoid a completely dark home. DO NOT lower thermostat below 62 degrees. Leaving the heat too high will burn lots of fuel and it may run out. Make sure all doors, windows and garage doors are locked. Take home computers and other valuables. Throw away all perishable food items. Unplug tvs and computers in case of a power surge. If you have oil or propane gas fuel, make sure the tanks are full to avoid running out and pipes freezing. If you have holiday decorations up, remove them to avoid a fire risk. Ask neighbors to keep an eye out on your house.
  1. Post a list of dont’s in red on the refrigerator or on the back of an entrance door. Describe what behavior is NOT acceptable.
  1. If you have a deck, post a sign on your deck stating “Not more than xx people on the deck. Use at your own risk.”
  1. Install outdoor motion detector or dusk to dawn lights to provide additional safety and security for your tenants and your house.
  1. Drain outdoor shower pipes to prevent winter freezing.
  1. Post a “Welcome” note to students on the refrigerator which tells them about the house, important numbers and specific check-in instructions. (See sample-Appendix 3)
  1. Provide the students with an “end of year” notice informing them what steps they will need to take at year end and what steps you will take once they leave. (See sample-Appendix 4)

 

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING WITH STUDENTS

  1. Meet with the students when they sign the lease or when they move in. Go over your expectations of them and any unique details about the house that they should be aware of. Let them know that this is ‘your’ home.
  1. Provide your tenants with a house you would want to live in yourself. This means a clean and neat interior, good curb appeal, decent furniture, appliances, etc. If the house is a dump, it will be treated that way.
  1. Be present on move-in day to meet students and parents. Make it known ahead of time you want to meet them. Set a time. 
  • Be personable and offer to assist with moving.
  • Walk through the house with the students and their co-signers and highlight important items (i.e. breaker panel, washer/dryer operation, thermostats & recommended winter heat setting, lids on garbage cans, garbage pickup days, etc).  If you have a locked room for personal storage that's off limits to them, show what's inside to not only help establish mutual trust, but also so they don't wonder.
  • Have a formal discussion during or after the walk through to establish mutual expectations. Refer to your house as a home.
  1. Expectations from students include proper behavior and basic home maintenance and care, respect of neighbors/neighborhood, prompt communication with you or property manager regarding ANY issues or concerns.
  2. Expectations they should have of you as the owner, including prompt response to concerns they raise, respect for privacy and right to have fun in a responsible way. Also, reinforce that you will not make unannounced visits. This is another good way to establish mutual respect and trust.
  3. Leave documentation behind which includes the "important items" as mentioned above. Include garbage and recycling info, important contacts (your contact information, utilities, garbage), local parking ordinances, noise ordinances, etc. Put these in a checklist form and have them all initial it after you have reviewed it with them.
  • Treat students as mature individuals until they give you a reason not to. Always maintain a respectful and professional demeanor, regardless of the circumstance.
  1. Post a list of the house rules (Don’ts) in red ink inside next to the front door of the house.
  1. Post a list of the local ordinances including the procedure they should follow should a party get out of control. Include the police and fire numbers. Narragansett2100 can provide you with a refrigerator magnet which contains these items. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. should you want a magnet.  
  1. Parents are a wonderful resource when it comes to problem students.  Call them with issues and consider starting the conversation with: "I'm not calling to complain, I'm calling for help."
  1. Ask students to complete the Initial Inspection Check List and take pictures of anything they discover to be damaged or in need of repair (i.e. a door knob hit the back of the wall and made a hole that went unnoticed) and have them send it to you in email and picture form within 72 hours of move in. This documents existing conditions and eliminates questions at the end of the year. It is also suggested that you photograph all rooms shortly before they move in with dated photographs.
  1. Provide students with a move-out notice before final exams at the end of the school year (See Appendix 4 for a sample).
  1. Should the students receive a police report or orange sticker, meet with them immediately and explain the consequences and the behavior you expect. Conduct an inspection of your house for damages. Go over the restrictions in the lease with them.

NOISE CONTROL (Neighborhood Quality of Life issue)

  1. Be in touch with police. Let them know you want to work with them and find out what they need from you. Be sure they have your contact information or that of your property manager, and make sure you and your property manager are on the same page as to what you expect of them if a problem arises.

TOWN ORDINANCES (Appendix 1)

Please review the town ordinances with your tenants. They will be strictly enforced.  

RELATIONSHIP BUILDING WITH NEIGHBORS (Neighborhood Quality of Life issue)

  1. Develop a genuine relationship with your neighbors. Give them your contact information and allow them to contact you at any time with any questions or concerns. If they do, address them immediately.
  1. Encourage students to introduce themselves to the neighbors shortly after move-in. Neighbors can be a great asset to you. Narragansett2100 provides ‘Hello Neighbor’ cards which students can give to their neighbors that includes their names and phones numbers. This way neighbors can contact students directly if there are any issues before they call the police. If you would like a Hello Neighbor card, just email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
  1. Encourage students to solve any issues they have with neighbors directly, and whether or not they are successful, to notify you immediately of the issue and the outcome. Follow up with the neighbor.

SUMMER RENTALS

  1. Include in your lease total, the 7% RI sales tax and the 1% hotel/motel tax which is applied on the rental amount. This 8% tax must be applied to cleaning fees as well as pet fees, if applicable to your rental.
  1. Make sure you register with the state if you are an out of state landlord. If so, you must designate an in-state rental agent.
  1. If you rent your property for 30 days or less and do not use a rental property manager, you must apply for a Sales Tax permit from the RI Division of Taxation and file sales and hotel/motel tax returns monthly. If your rental property manager collects the rents, he or she is responsible for remitting sales and hotel/motel taxes.
  1. Although issues occur during the winter student rental period, they also can occur during the summer. Summer issues sometimes involve overcrowding, loud noise and damages, so be sure to include any restrictions like no pets, no smoking, no RVs, no boats, no parking on the lawns, no fireworks, etc. in your lease. 
  1. Damages can occur during the summer as well, so charge a security deposit.
  1. During the summer when activities are outdoors and when more owners occupy their homes, there is an increased concern in the neighborhoods about loud noise. Emphasize this with your tenants. (Neighborhood Quality of Life issue)
  1. Summer renters should be informed of the town ordinances too since they can also receive an orange sticker.
  1. Renters are now looking for free wireless internet, cable, flat screen HD tvs, air conditioning, queen size beds, gas grille and beach chairs and toys. Providing these will increase the attractiveness of your rental.

 

APPENDIX 1

Narragansett Town Ordinances

 ORDINANCE FEE

  1. Disturbing the peace (disturbing neighbors)    $500/person
  1. Being a public nuisance    $500
  1. Urinating in public    $500
  1. Public consumption of alcohol OR possession of an    $500

           open container

  1. Serving, providing or allowing alcohol (social hosting    $500

           violation)

  1. Transportation of alcohol by underage person    $500
  1. Orange stickers may result in fines and court appearances.

    Second police visit to orange sticker home.                 $500/person     

  1. Parking violations will result in towing of vehicle

 

APPENDIX 2

Benefits of A Property Manager/Rental Agency

What a property manager/rental agency does:

  • Interact with tenants, parents, URI officials, police officials, fire officials, and the building inspector if issues arise regarding your rental.
  • Provides first line of defense with students and police to resolve issues quickly.
  • Checks tenants in and out at the beginning and end of rental periods and communicates with them during the year.
  • Collects all rental deposits and balances.
  • Collects and submits all necessary RI sales and hotel taxes.
  • Collects and administers security deposits.
  • Arranges for expedited repairs/service using their vast portfolio of various LICENSED & INSURED local service vendors/business affiliates. This will only take place after owner consent is received.
  • Physically inspects rentals each semester during the winter rental period.
  • Coordinates cleanings between summer check in/out.
  • Conducts weekly property inspections in the summer rental period.
  • Reports major issues/concerns to you.

Contact List of Property Managers

  1. Ann O’Brien Realty, 196 Ocean Rd, Narragansett, RI 401-782-3900
  2. Durkin Realty, 817 Pt. Judith Rd, Narragansett, RI 401-789-6659
  3. Lila Delman, 41 Ocean Rd, Narragansett 401-789-6666
  4. Narragansett Property Management, 140 Pt. Judith Rd, Narragansett 401-783-1155
  5. Residential Properties, 750 Boston Neck Rd, Narragansett 401-783-2474
  6. Sunrise Properties,            401-932-9548

APPENDIX 3

(Sample) Student ‘Welcome Letter’ Posted

Welcome!

I hope you have a great school year. My house is yours to enjoy but also to respect! I expect that it will remain in its current condition when you leave in May. 

Here are a few CRITICAL things to remember:

  1. You must call National Grid (800-322-3223) before XXXXXXXX to put the electric service in your name. If you don’t, it will be disconnected.
  1. Call National Grid (800-322-3223) before XXXXXXX to put gas service in your name. If you don’t, it will be disconnected.
  1. There is ample parking in the driveway for your cars so DO NOT park on the lawn. DO NOT PARK ON NEIGHBORS DRIVEWAY OR LAWN!
  1. NO SMOKING IN THE HOUSE.
  1. POSITIVELY NO PETS ALLOWED.
  1. Respect the neighbors. THIS IS YOUR CUMMUNITY TOO! I would suggest that you introduce yourselves to your neighbors.
  1. Please re-read your lease about parties and penalties/fees for them. I have posted the Town ordinances and fees on the front door.
  1. Please keep shower curtain in the tub so as to avoid damage to floor tile and ceilings in the rooms below. I recommend that you use a towel or floor mat on the floor.
  1. If you hang things on the walls, please use the ‘putty’ adhesive which can be easily removed.
  1. Make sure you clean the area around the outside of the house and keep trash in the cans. Neighbors will call the town building inspector should the area become unsightly. This will result in a hefty fine to you.
  1. Garbage pick-up will be on XXXXXXX from your side yard. Keep the barrels in their corral, keep lids on and bag all garbage. DO NOT bring trash cans to the curb. Put the blue recycle bin out near the street so it will be picked up.
  1. A cleaning woman will contact you to set up your monthly cleaning.
  2. If you have any problems, please call your (property manager or owner if no property managers) at XXXXXXX.

Enjoy the House!- OWNER  

APPENDIX 4

(Sample) End of Year Student Notice

IMPORTANT NOTICE-PLEASE POST

As the semester comes to a close, here are things that you need to do before you leave in May.

  1. If applicable, call National Grid (1-800-322-3223) to take the gas service out of your name. (If oil or propane service, fill the tanks).
  2. Transfer electric service out of your name into owner’s name effective the last day you are there. National Grid (1-800-322-3223).
  3. Cancel your cable/internet service and return all equipment.
  4. Clean up ALL trash from the back and front yards and from between the bushes or you will be charged to have it cleaned up.
  5. Start to throw away extra rubbish each week. This will minimize the last large rubbish bill which occurs when you throw everything away before you leave.
  6. Remove ALL items that are yours..computer desks, bureaus, etc. If not, you will be charged to remove them and dispose of them. Return all beds, bureaus, etc. to their original place where they were in September. If not, you will be charged to move them back.
  7. Return all house keys to [Property Manager].
  8. After you leave, the house will be inspected. The following will be done and assessed against your damage deposit. You will be given a detail of these. The goal is to return the house to the condition it was in when you moved in less ‘normal' wear and tear.
  1. Replacement of missing light bulbs, broken/missing blinds, broken screens.
  2. A complete professional house cleaning including cupboards, appliances, bathrooms, furniture, etc. to return the house to the condition it was in when you came in September. This will include cleaning any trash from the yard.
  3. Carpet cleaning/repair if needed.
  4. Repair/repaint any walls due to holes/marks occurring during your stay.
  5. Additional cost of rubbish pick-up assessed by Narragansett Rubbish . (They charge for extra trash and charge $50 each to take computers, mini refrigerators, tvs, etc.)
  6. All repairs required..ie .replacement of damaged doors, repair car ruts in the yard, etc.
  7. Repair/replacement of all furniture damaged or missing.  
  1. PARTIES

As you approach graduation weekend, just a reminder that the Town of Narragansett issues a $500 fine for the following ordinance violations…disturbing the peace, urinating in public, public consumption of alcohol, serving or providing alcohol (social hosting), transportation of alcohol by a minor OR with a minor in a vehicle, and being a public nuisance (This is defined as “a gathering of five or more persons in a manner which constitutes a substantial disturbance of a neighborhood).

Good luck on exams.