3 Reasons to List Your Property For Rent Now

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Rental properties can successfully be listed at any time during the year. Years of low rent vacancy rates nationally and locally due to high demand mean renters are looking for housing year-round. But there are three main reasons why spring and summer are clearly the best times to find potential renters.

The Wallet is Full

During this time of year, Minnesotans have yet to dip too deep into their summer funds. They’re likely still basking in the glow of a tax refund, which has added to their financial confidence, if only temporarily. It’s the perfect time for renters to invest some of their money into upgrading their rental housing situation. They may even hire a moving company to complete the transition.

The Forecast Calls For Moving

As Minnesotans, we’re quite aware that life is more difficult in the winter than the spring. Everything in the winter brings with it an added level of difficulty. Spring and summer are the ideal time for renters to not only view properties, but also complete the moving process. While many would agree that moving is not fun, moving with mittens and winter boots is much LESS fun.

Don’t Forget About Families

Families with school-age children are much more likely to move in the spring or summer when their children are in between school years. Moving during the school year is difficult, even if staying in the same school district. But moving mid-school-year to a new school district can be quite an emotional challenge for a child. Listing your property in the spring ensures you’re not neglecting this valuable group of potential renters.

Next Step?

Fortunately, you haven’t missed your window of opportunity. Simply Residential Property Management has seen a flurry of recent rental activity and we’re securing quality tenants even more quickly than in the past. There is still time to get in on the spring fever. Learn more about services that Simply Residential provides by calling 952-893-9900, requesting a free rental analysis or emailing our Vice-President of Operations at amanda@simplyres.com. We look forward to speaking with you!

Real Estate Investment

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photo credit: MarkMoz12 flickr.com/photos/106574022@N04/

Successful investing has two important steps. The first is getting in at the right time, before substantial growth occurs. The second is getting out at the right time, when growth begins to stall and the market is ripe for selling. Real estate investment is no different.

Getting In At The Right Time

Being a landlord has been an attractive venture the past 8 years, following the recession in 2008. Rent.com has reported a steady decline in rent vacancy rates since it began preparing its annual Property Owner and Manager Marketing Report in 2009. (“2015 Rent.com Rental Market Report”, 2015) Rent vacancy is the percentage of unoccupied or vacant rentals of the total number of rentals in a designated market at a specific point in time.

It makes sense a rent vacancy decline would occur after the real estate bubble burst in 2008. It caused many homeowners to become home-renters as a result. The housing market was flooded with new renters. The post-burst economy’s struggles also caused millennials to be wary of the commitment to buy property. They’ve instead opted to rent. Those millennials added to an already large pool of renters.

Fortunately, being a landlord during a time of low rental vacancy is a good thing. The high demand means that market conditions will allow for more frequent increases in rent and there is less need for concessions and negotiations with tenants.

The past 8 years have been strong for landlords and the trends show the strong rental market should continue in 2016.

Getting Out At The Right Time

As an investment property owner, you’re keeping your eyes not only on the health of the rental market, but also the real estate market. Renting your investment property has covered your mortgage and expenses while providing a profit. But there may come a time when the real estate market is just too good to pass up. That time may be now.

Realtor.com reports that homes in April 2016 are moving 8% faster than for this time last year, even with the high asking prices (“Home Prices and Real Estate Market Trends”, 2016). In that same report, Jonathan Smoke, the chief economist of realtor.com, spoke to the current real estate market.

Quote from Jonathan Smoke, Chief Economist at Realtor.com

It’s clearly a seller’s market, as evidenced by the low inventory, high demand and quickness with which homes are flying off the market.

What Does This Mean For You?

With the rental and sales markets both showing considerable strength, you have solid options regarding real estate investment. You can continue to rent your current investment property. You can purchase an investment property and begin taking advantage of the strong rental market. Or you can make the move to sell your investment property. Fortunately, Simply Residential has the versatility to provide clients with both property management and real estate services. We can help you find an investment property to purchase, help manage your existing investment property or we can offer a seamless transition from renting property to selling it.

Learn more about our property management and real estate services. Email us at Amanda@simplyres.com, visit Simplyres.com or call us at 952-893-9900.

2015 Rent.com Rental Market Report – Rent.com Blog. (2015). Retrieved May 31, 2016 from http://www.rent.com/blog/2015-rental-market-report
Home Prices and Real Estate Market Trends from Realtor.com. (n.d.). Retrieved May 31, 2016, from http://www.realtor.com/data-portal/realestatestatistics/


Simply Residential Maintenance

Owners of investment properties seek out a valued property management partner for many reasons, with maintenance being one of the most common. Maintenance calls from tenants can come at any time of the day and night and typically require some expertise. Some issues are small and easily managed. Others take time and come with costs. Whatever the issue, Simply Residential is happy to take maintenance calls 24/7, 365 days a year. In an ideal world, maintenance issues would be corrected quickly and at minimal cost to our client. But often the reason a project takes longer and costs occur is outside of our control.

Project Time

Simply Residential strives to perform maintenance quickly, efficiently and safely. We’re aware that maintenance can affect liability and a property owner’s ability to maintain a city rental license. Many factors influence the speed maintenance can be completed:

• May-Sept is a busy time for contractors, which may delay specialized work.
•Tenants often want to be home for maintenance visits. Working with a tenant’s busy schedule will slow how quickly we gain property access.
• Retailers like Home Depot often need parts and products shipped from distribution centers, which can mean a delay of 7-10 days.

We do all we can to minimize the turnaround time of maintenance but some delays are beyond our control.

Project Cost

Simply Residential doesn’t relish asking our clients to approve a repair or replacement cost. But maintenance expenditures are often an unpleasant and unavoidable part of doing business in property investment.
appliance lifespanA common cost of doing business is managing home appliances. Like all things, appliances have varying life expectancies that are affected by age, brand, availability of parts and more. Sometimes they break down before they should. Perhaps there is some truth in the saying that, “they don’t make things like they used to.” While there is no definitive guide to accurately predicting an appliance’s lifespan, the graph to the right shows the average life expectancy for various home appliances and equipment. Appliance failure is just part of doing business. We advise clients to set aside 10% of their investment property income to cover maintenance.

Our Approach

It’s important to note that long before any maintenance incident, Simply Residential works to detect problems in advance. We regularly communicate with tenants and encourage reporting of maintenance concerns. We also offer our owners a preventative maintenance service package as a way to get in front of those issues. But we know that not all issues can be predicted nor avoided.
As a valued client, everyone on the Simply Residential team is dedicated to your property. We’re your property’s biggest fans! If your property was a sports team, we’d be purchasing and wearing their jerseys!
So, the next time you hear from our maintenance staff, please be patient and know that we’re working hard to facilitate positive change for your property.

The Basics of Fair Housing Laws

This post was written by
 Jeff O’Brien for Simply Residential Property Management Magazine.

People who work in the areas of renting, selling, lending or insuring homes are subject to federal, state and sometimes local fair housing and other anti-discrimination laws. Recently, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) released guidance indicating that landlords who turn down tenants based upon their criminal records may violate the Fair Housing Act. This article focuses on residential landlords’ fair housing responsibilities and tenants’ rights under the Fair Housing Act, particularly in regards to the statute’s prohibitions against discrimination.

Discrimination Claims Under the Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act (the “Act”) is codified at Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq. The HUD regulations implementing the Act are at 24 C.F.R. Parts 100 through 125. The HUD regulations “ordinarily command considerable deference…” Gladstone Realtors v. Village of Bellwood, 441 U.S. 91, 107 (1979). The Act, which applies to both government and private defendants, makes it unlawful to discriminate because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, national origin
or handicap. 42 U.S.C. § 3604(a), (f). (The words “disability” and “handicap” are used interchangeably.) “Familial status” refers to households with a child or children under 18 or a person who is pregnant or in the process of securing legal custody of a child under 18.

hud-fair-housing FINALThe Act broadly prohibits the refusal to sell, rent, or negotiate for sale or rental, or acts that “otherwise make unavailable or deny” dwellings. It also specifically prohibits making statements indicating preferences (§ 3604(c)) or discriminating in terms, conditions, privileges, services or facilities (§ 3604(b)). It applies to “dwellings,” including vacant land offered for sale or lease for dwellings. The Act has been held to apply to mobile home parks, homeless shelters, and summer homes. See United States v. Columbus Country Club, 915 F.2d 877 (3d Cir. 1990), cert. denied, 501 U.S. 1205 (1991); accord, Hovsons, Inc. v. Township of Brick, 89 F.3d 1096 (3d Cir. 1996) (nursing home). The U.S. Supreme Court has held unanimously that the language of the Act is “broad and inclusive,” implementing a “policy that Congress considered to be of the highest priority,” requiring “a generous construction” of the statute. Trafficante v. Metropolitan Life Ins. Co., 409 U.S. 205, 209, 211, 212 (1972).

It is important to note that intent is not required to establish liability under the Act. Prima facie liability can be established by a showing of disparate effect. The courts of appeals have adopted different standards for determining disparate effect. The Eighth Circuit (which includes the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota) set forth its test to establish a prima facie FHA disparate impact claim in the case of Oti Kaga, Inc. v. South Dakota Housing Dev. Auth, 342 F.3d 871 (8th Cir. 2003). Under the Oti Kaga test, the plaintiff must demonstrate that the objected-to-action results in, or can be predicted to result in, a disparate impact upon a protected class compared to a relevant population as a whole. Oti Kaga, 342 F.3d at 883; see also Charleston Housing Auth. v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, 419 F.3d 729, 740-41 (8th Cir. 2005). Under the second step of the disparate impact burden shifting analysis, the defendant must demonstrate that the proposed action has a “manifest relationship” to the legitimate non-discriminatory policy objectives and “is justifiable on the ground it is necessary to” the attainment of these objectives. Oti Kaga, 342 F.3d at 883; Charleston Housing Auth., 419 F.3d at 741.

The courts recognize two kinds of discriminatory effect: greater adverse impact on one group than another or harm to the community by the perpetuation of segregation. (Arlington Heights II, 558 F.2d at 1290) Greater adverse impact need not mean that more minorities have been affected; if a larger percentage of minorities has been affected, the standard is satisfied.

In some situations there is direct evidence of intentional discrimination. Where there is no direct evidence, a prima facie case may be established by indirect evidence. Some ways of proving intent by indirect evidence are set out by the Supreme Court in Arlington Heights I (Village of Arlington Heights v. Metropolitan Housing Development Corp., 429 U.S. 252 (1977)). Another, formulaic way to establish a prima facie case is by showing that: (1) the claimant is a member of a protected class; (2) the claimant applied for and was qualified to rent or buy the property at issue; (3) the claimant was rejected; and (4) the housing opportunity remained available.

After the prima facie case of intentional discrimination has been established, the defendant must produce a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for its action. If the defendant does so, the burden of production and persuasion shifts to the plaintiff to show that the proffered reason is pretextual.


42 U.S.C. § 3613 authorizes a court to award actual and punitive damages, equitable relief, and, to a prevailing party, a reasonable attorney’s fee and costs. In an administrative proceeding, HUD or the state agency may award actual damages, a civil penalty, and injunctive or other equitable relief. 42 U.S.C.§ 3612(g). HUD is authorized to award damages for emotional distress as well as other forms of loss.

The New HUD Guidance

HUD’s basis for its position that landlords may violate the Act by rejecting applicants based upon their criminal records stems from its view that because of widespread racial and ethnic disparities in the U.S. criminal justice system, criminal
history based restrictions on access to housing are likely disproportionately to burden African Americans under the “disparate impact” analysis.


HUD’s recently released guidance should give landlords pause as to their exposure to discrimination claims under the Fair Housing Act. In close cases, consultation with an attorney knowledgeable about the Act is a must.

Jeffrey C. O’Brien is an attorney with the Minneapolis-based law firm of Lommen Abdo, P.A. voice of the “Legal Minute on Minnesota Home Talk, heard Saturdays on 1500 ESPN, and a Minnesota State Bar Association Board Certified Real Property Specialist. He can be reached at (612) 336-9317 or via email at jobrien@lommen.com.

Spring Honey-Do List


Photo Credit: Kate Ter Haar; flickr.com/photos/katerha/

April showers, May flowers and outdoor chores.

Sprinkler Systems
After a winter hibernation, it’s time for those sleeping irrigation systems to wake up. But the process involves more than just turning on the outdoor faucet. The soil should be thawed 12 inches below the surface and the air that has built up in irrigation pipes over the winter needs to be slowly released. Simply Residential’s expert technicians can ensure the process is smooth, safe and stress-free.

Cleaning gutters is a nasty bi-product of home ownership. But Simply Residential is happy to help. Just in time for spring showers, we’ll get those gutters flowing and pushing rain drainage away from the property’s foundation.

Property and Lawn Care
When winter gives way to spring, lawns aren’t usually left in the best condition. April is a good time to spruce up property. Simply Residential is your source for cleaning up fall/winter debris, weeding, seeding, planting and insect control. We approach your lawn delicately, ensuring that raking and even general foot traffic doesn’t disrupt wet soil or harm new grass roots.

Spring Appliance/Equipment Tune-ups
Schedule tune-ups for those warmer-weather appliances/equipment, like the air conditioner, lawn mower and weed trimmer. Lean on Simply Residential to get those appliances and equipment ready to go for when they are needed.

It’s spring and Simply Residential is here to help! Contact us today by email at maintenance@simplyres.com or by phone at 952-893-9900!

When It Comes To Dealing With Defaulting Tenants, DIY = SOL


Photo credit: Got Credit; flickr.com/photos/jakerust/

This post was written by Jeff O’Brien for Simply Residential Property Management Magazine.

I frequently receive calls from clients who own rental properties seeking assistance with regards to tenants who are in default of their lease obligations (such as failing to pay rent). These clients obviously wish to move quickly to resolve the issue(s); however, care must be taken not to engage in “self-help” that not only could hinder attempts to remove the defaulting tenant, but could also result in liability for the landlord relative to the tenant.

Self-help involves the landlord taking the law into his or her own hands to forcibly remove the tenant from the property. While the tenant is in legal possession of the premises under the lease, no other person can occupy or take possession of the premises by force. Minn. Stat. § 504B.281. Minnesota has historically followed the common-law rule that a landlord may rightfully use self-help to retake leased premises from a tenant in possession without incurring liability for wrongful eviction provided two conditions are met: (1) The landlord is legally entitled to possession, such as where a tenant holds over after the lease term or where a tenant breaches a lease containing a reentry clause; and (2) the landlord’s means of reentry are peaceable. Berg v. Wiley, 264 N.W.2d 145, 150 (Minn. 1978), citing Mercil v. Broulette, 66 Minn. 416, 69 N.W. 218 (1896). Under the common-law rule, a tenant who is evicted by his landlord may recover damages for wrongful eviction where the landlord either had no right to possession or where the means used to remove the tenant were forcible, or both. Berg at 150; see also Poppen v. Wadleigh, 235 Minn. 400, 51 N.W.2d 75 (1952); Sweeney v. Meyers, 199 Minn. 21, 270 N.W. 906 (1937); Lobdell v. Keene, 85 Minn. 90, 88 N.W. 426 (1901).

An example of prohibited self-help would be a landlord who, after determining that a tenant has abandoned the property prior to an eviction, changes the locks to the property. While common sense may suggest that this is a reasonable course of action as it would minimize the chances of damage to the property, the landlord would be in violation of Minn. Stat. § 504B.281and liable to the tenant for wrongful eviction. In fact, the Berg case referenced above dealt with this very issue and the Minnesota Supreme Court found for the tenant as to its claim of unlawful eviction.

The only recourse to remove a tenant from the property is to use the legal process of Unlawful Detainer to have a court rule that the tenant is there illegally and ordered to leave. The benefit to using this process is that the tenant is removed by a law enforcement officer if they do not comply, which removes the landlord’s liability in the action.

Also, regardless of whether you think that what you are doing would be considered “peaceable entry”, or if you are not certain of what to do when your tenant defaults, do not use the “DIY” method, as it usually winds up with you being “SOL”. Contact someone knowledgeable about Minnesota landlord-tenant law as to how best to resolve the matter.

Jeffrey C. O’Brien is an attorney with the Minneapolis-based law firm of Lommen Abdo, P.A. voice of the “Legal Minute on Minnesota Home Talk, heard Saturdays on 1500 ESPN, and a Minnesota State Bar Association Board Certified Real Property Specialist. He can be reached at (612) 336-9317 or via email at jobrien@lommen.com.

April is Keep America Beautiful Month

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The month of April is dedicated to celebrating and maintaining America’s beauty.  The Keep America Beautiful Foundation is a non-profit organization founded in 1953 with the mission “to inspire and educate people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment.” The foundation has a number of large U.S. corporations, including UPS, Coca-Cola, Lowes, Anheuser-Busch, McDonalds and more.

Along with larger corporate and municipality support, it’s important to note that every person is capable of beautifying their community. A few examples include cleaning up property debris, planting a garden, re-purposing/recycling unused items or adding fresh paint to a deck or fence.  Look no further than your local community for a plethora of volunteer opportunities.  It can’t be said much better than teacher and musician Inavat Khan.

“Some people look for a beautiful place, others make a place beautiful.”

Simply Residential Property Management is dedicated to beautifying our own neighborhoods this summer. Please join us in making the same commitment. When we measure impact, the whole will be even bigger than the sum of its parts.

Planning Ahead for Tax Day in 2017

taxes- simon cunningham

With mid-April comes a sigh of relief. Take a deep breath, you’ve earned it. Tax Day has come and gone. Your 2015 tax filing is now in the rear-view mirror. And while it’s too late to make changes to your 2015 filing, it’s not too early to begin thinking about your 2016 return. Sounds crazy right? We literally JUST celebrated the passing of another Tax Day and we should talk about next year? Know that Simply Residential thinks about taxes year round as we carefully track and document the required tax information for our property owners. You should think about taxes as a year-round opportunity as well, because by following these three simple tips you will ensure your tax filing in April of 2017is easier than the last.

Meet with Your Tax Professional

Tax professionals are so busy leading up to Tax Day that they barely have time to see immediate family, much less discuss next year’s taxes. When the 2016 Tax Day passes and tax professionals begin to regain some semblance of their former life, schedule some time to talk with your tax professional. We at Simply Residential keep in close touch with our tax professional. It’s important to learn about the processes that will make 2017 easier, ensure no important opportunities are missed and stay updated on happenings in the tax community. In between sleeping hibernation and reuniting with family, I’m sure your tax professional would appreciate an off-season meeting over a cup of joe.

Keep Important Tax Deductions in Mind

Investment property owners are eligible for a number of tax deductions. Examples to keep in mind during the year include mortgage loan interest, rental property travel expenses, utilities, maintenance, repairs and legal/management fees. Simply Residential provides its owners with 1099’s each January, but also sends monthly statements during the year.

Examine/Revise Expense Processes

If a folder full of receipts is your current process for bookkeeping, a change is in order. There are two reasons to create a cleaner, more organized approach to tracking your spending. The first is to make preparation for Tax Day in 2017 easier. The second is that properly organized receipts will allow you to maximize your tax savings by spending on certain purchases.  Reducing stress and saving money are two reasons I have a hard time arguing with.

Congrats on surviving another tax day! Simply Residential looks forward to helping our property owners in the year ahead.

Disclaimer: This article merely provides information, rather than advice and should not be viewed as a substitute for the recommendations of a tax professional.
Photo credit:Simon Cunningham; flickr.com/photos/lendingmemo

Appliance Life Expectancy

Photo credit: Trace O; flickr.comphotostracy_olson

Photo credit: Trace O; flickr.com/photos/tracy_olson

One of the biggest leaps from being a renter to a property owner is the responsibility to maintain and replace household appliances. Think about the finances dedicated to those often-used, convenient pieces of equipment in your kitchen, laundry room and other parts of the house. The health of these appliances is impacted by the initial quality of the product, the amount of care and proper maintenance you provide and of course general wear and tear. Some good luck doesn’t hurt either.

Replacing those items is not only financially burdening, but also stressful and time-consuming. The best approach to being prepared for the demise of appliances is knowing their life expectancy. No appliance lasts forever. Here is a ballpark life expectancy guide for appliances:

Refrigerator: 15 years
Dishwasher: 8-10 years
Washer/Dryer: 10-12 years
Water Heater: 8-10 years
Stove/Oven: 15 years
Garbage Disposal: 10 years
Microwave: 10 years

Of course, these are all estimates. No single timeline will apply to every home. But this list should help you financially plan ahead for replacing appliances.

When Should a Homeowners Policy Become a Landlord Policy?

question mark head- jinx!
Photo credit: Jinx!; flickr.com/photos/span112

This post was written by Eric Skarnes for Simply Residential Property Management Magazine.

Whether you are currently renting out your home or considering the option, it’s important to know about the differences between a typical “Homeowner’s” policy versus a typical “landlord” insurance policy. It’s common for property owners to make the mistake of keeping their homeowner’s policy even after they have moved out and start using the property as a rental. Should you ever need to file a claim, it’s important to make sure that you have the proper coverage. Unfortunately, people often find out after it is too late, that they should have changed their coverage to a “landlord” policy.

Most homeowner policies state that your home must be “owner-occupied,” or the insurance carrier has the right to deny you any potential claim. You and your family must be living there. For example, if your home incurs fire damage and it is discovered that the fire was caused by a tenant or renter, it gives them an easy-out to deny your claim. Leaving you responsible for the entire cost of repairs!  This can also apply to the “liability” portion of your policy.  If your tenant forgets to shovel the sidewalk and someone slips… falls and gets hurt, or should their dog bite the neighbor, your insurance company will be quick to deny the claim. Once again, you will be left holding the bill. Insurance companies are not in the business of paying out money when they don’t have to.

Another difference between homeowners and landlord insurance is the need for “Loss of Rent/Income” coverage.  This coverage is included in a landlord policy and pays you rental income should your tenant have to move out while the house is under repair due to a claim. Typically during this time period, the tenant will stop payment until the property is restored and they are able to move back in.  For example, if a water pipe breaks or a kitchen fire occurs, should your tenant have to move out while the damage is repaired, you are paid the rental income by your insurance company.

And finally, just because your current insurance company had a good rate for your homeowner’s policy, it doesn’t mean that they will have a good rate for your landlord policy.  Every company has their “niche” and that niche often changes over time.  Now that your property has become a source of income and a positive cash flow is the goal we recommend reevaluating your insurance on an annual basis. So, do yourself a favor and shop several different companies to make sure you are getting the best coverage and price.

Eric Skarnes is the president of the Twin Cities-based Insurance Warehouse. They offer auto, commercial, life, home, business, and umbrella insurance. He can be reached at (612) 354-2040 or via email at eric@skarnesagency.com.