Classic Mistakes to Avoid as a First-Time Landlord


The right property for the right price
Location is one of the most important aspects to bear in mind as a landlord. It’s important to consider the type of rental income you will get in an area as well as the overall return you will get on the property.

While it’s tempting to look for properties in close range of your own home, your particular neighborhood may not be suitable for your unique requirements. It can be worth looking further away for better rental returns, and you can always look to a property management company like Simply Residential Property Management to take care of the property if accessing them personally is too time-consuming.

Remember to balance the demand and the strength of your rental returns against the cost of investing.

Don’t be afraid to ‘upgrade’ your property
Speak to your leasing agent about refurbishing the property and renting it for a higher rate. This could increase your yield considerably with only a little extra spending comparatively. You could also consider renting the property as a multi-unit or house of multiple occupancy.

Be firm on rent payments
While it can benefit you to be flexible on rent levels, it is never advised to be lenient on late rent payments. Remember, as a landlord, your main source of income comes from the rent, so it is vital to make sure this is paid in full and on time. This requires a clear rental agreement and time taken to ensure your tenants are paying punctually and enforcing repercussions if they are not.

Talk to Simply Residential Property Management about taking out an insurance policy against your tenant failing to pay the rent, or rent your property with Simply Residential Property Management and let us deal with late payments for you.

Don’t jump straight to eviction
As a landlord, you must be prepared to work with a tenant when they are required to repay any debts. Opting for immediate eviction will cost you money and time, not to mention the prospect of your property sitting vacant for weeks or even months. Many property management companies will help alleviate some of that stress with an eviction protection plan. Ask us about ours for more information!

Choose a good property manager
As long as a tenant is paying the rent and bills on time, they are entitled to live in a safe and well maintained property. It is vital to maintain a good relationship with your tenants to ensure the rent is paid and they don’t just leave the property in disrepair. If you rent with a property management company like Simply Residential, they can usually guarantee repairs are carried out quickly, efficiently with minimal disturbance to the tenant.

Ensure all repairs are done before renting a property out
As a landlord, one of the most important aspects of your job is ensuring the property is fit to rent on day one. This will reduce overall maintenance costs throughout the tenancy. At Simply Residential, we perform regular checks and send you regular status updates with regards to your property. This way, you can rest easy as the landlord knowing your property, and your investment, is being properly cared for.

Purchasing Your First Rental Property: What to Look For


Investing your money in property can be a hugely rewarding venture. Regular income, consistent potential to increase your monthly yield and the prospect of a major profit when you sell all make for good arguments. That’s not even mentioning the potential tax deductions. But do you know what you’re looking for when considering your first investment property? Simply Residential Property Management has compiled a handy list of the most important criteria to look for.

Obviously price needs to be one of the key considerations. Expensive properties usually give you a higher monthly yield, but less expensive properties can be just as rewarding. If you’re willing to put in some time and effort rehabilitating a property, you could dramatically increase its rent value and improve your chances of a healthy profit when or if you choose to sell. But beware; properties that seem too good to be true often reveal themselves to be just that in time. If you do your research and follow the market trends closely, you have a better chance of finding the right property for you.

This doesn’t just mean finding a property with good views.  A first time property buyer needs to consider what kind of tenant they’re likely to get based on that area. Buildings located close by to schools and hospitals will likely appeal more to young families, so the potential for long-term tenancies is increased. This is usually preferable because it limits the amount of time your property sits vacant, meaning you go less time without collecting rent.

Resale value
Most first time landlords had to take out a mortgage on their first investment property. This means relying on a consistent yield in order to keep up with repayments. If the payments stop or the profit becomes too untenable, you may have to consider selling the property and moving on. But you want to know that you won’t be selling at a major loss. That’s why you always have to take the resale value into account when considering a property. Try to find out about any future plans for regeneration projects or upcoming attractions that could increase the value of your property further down the line. If a unit is situated in an area with increasing levels of crime, it could lead to house prices in your area dropping to a level below your profit margin.

Property condition
The condition the property is in should always play a decisive role in whether you go for it. Ask about every aspect of its structure, plumbing, wiring and anything else you consider relevant. It’s important to know everything you can about a property before purchasing. This can include investigating similar, nearby properties and comparable, as well as establishing potential issues. Anything from potential damp spots to an outdated heating system could go on to become a massive headache if you were to choose to become the landlord of this property.

There will always be exceptions in the property world, but if you try to follow these rough guidelines, you could find purchasing your first buy-to-rent property is easier than you think.

Understanding Minnesota’s Cold Weather Rule


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

In Minnesota, when temperatures dip in late fall, a law known as the “Cold Weather Rule” kicks in. The Cold Weather Rule set forth in Minnesota Statute Section 216B.096 is designed to protect tenants and homeowners from having their heat source permanently disconnected in winter (defined by law as October 15-April 15) if they are unable to pay their utility bills. The Rule, implemented by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, provides that a utility may not disconnect and must reconnect a customer whose household income is at or below 50 percent of the state median income if the customer enters into and makes reasonably timely payments under a mutually acceptable payment agreement. It does not, however, prohibit shut-offs, and a tenant who fails to comply with the agreed upon payment agreement could trigger a shut-off which, depending upon the utility involved, could result in damage to the property due to pipes freezing and bursting.

Utility customers whose household income is above 50 percent of the state median income also have the right to a payment agreement to prevent disconnection or get reconnected that takes into consideration the customer’s financial circumstances and any other extenuating circumstances of the household.

The Cold Weather Rule applies to all natural gas and electric utilities. It does not apply to delivered fuels like fuel oil, propane and wood. The Cold Weather Rule requires a utility company to notify its customers in writing before it disconnects their heat. The notice must be in easy-to-understand language and must contain the amount due, the date of the scheduled disconnection, the reasons for disconnection, and options to avoid disconnection.

A regulated public utility must notify a customer of disconnection at least seven working days in advance. An unregulated utility; i.e., a cooperative or municipal utility, must notify a customer of disconnection at least 15 days in advance. A disconnection may not generally happen on a Friday, Saturday, Sunday, a holiday or the day before a holiday, while an appeal is pending, or after the close of business on the scheduled day of disconnection.
For landlords, it is important to note that the Cold Weather Rule does not prevent a landlord from evicting a tenant or refusing to renew a lease that expires during this “cold weather” season. In fact, if the lease requires the tenant to pay utilities and the tenant fails to make timely payments pursuant to the agreed upon payment plan, such nonpayment could constitute grounds for eviction.

For questions about the Cold Weather Rule, contact your local utility or call the Consumer Affairs Office of the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission at 651-296-0406 or 800-657-3782.

For questions about how to handle an eviction during the cold weather months, be sure to contact a knowledgeable attorney.

Jeffrey C. O’Brien is an attorney with the Minneapolis based law firm of Lommen Abdo, P.A. and a MSBA Board Certified Real Property Specialist. He can be reached at (612) 336-9317 or via email at

Temporary Housing for Your Tenants: A Guide


Life as a landlord can be stressful at times. Take the temporary relocation of tenants as an example. Despite your best efforts to prevent or foresee an issue arising in the property, something has come up that requires your tenants to temporarily relocate. You’re already worried about the cost of repairs to the property, but now you have to worry about a whole heap of other things; will they be paying rent while they’re relocated? Where will I be able to relocate them to? Should I keep them happy with a plush hotel room or risk finding them a budget motel, as it’s only temporary? All these questions and more will likely come into consideration, but it’s important to bear certain facts in mind. Your tenants are entitled to temporary accommodation, and as such it is your duty to find, reserve and show them to their provisional property. Simply Residential Property Management has compiled a few handy tips to help you with the process.

Give advance warning
If moving your tenants to temporary housing cannot be avoided, then it is important you go out of your way to limit the disturbance to their lives. Any notice alerting your tenants they will have to temporarily relocate from their property must be given at least 60 days in advance. Failure to do so could end with the tenants refusing to pay your rent for the time they are at the property, or even for that particular month. If the case should go to court, your inability or unwillingness to supply them with adequate notice will reflect badly on you.

Reasonable replacement accommodation
You must provide clean, suitable replacement housing for the entire duration of the property’s reconstruction period. Failure to do so could result in your tenants taking the matter to court, and the state of Minnesota tends to favor the tenants over the landlord, particularly when the relocation is due to a fault with the property. It’s not unreasonable to expect you as the landlord to provide comfortable and safe accommodation, but it is also important you try to find something in close proximity to the original property, so as to cause as little disruption to your tenants’ lives as possible.

Be prepared to pay for travel/transport expenses
While this may seem like a trivial issue, you have to remember that it is your responsibility as the landlord to provide these things. If the temporary property you have assigned to your tenants requires them to travel to work, college, school, etc., then it is up to you to pay for travel expenses. Of course, a two minute move down the road does not warrant you reimbursing any of your tenants on travel costs, but anything that could warrant an extra bus journey or substantially increased car journey could justify your tenants requesting you cover travel expenses. The same applies to any increase in utility costs or an increase in rent while they are based at this temporary address.

Remember, it is your duty as a landlord to provide alternative accommodation if repairs or reconstruction is required for the original property. How you decide to provide this alternative accommodation is up to you, but it is best to keep the tenants happy, even if this means paying a little bit more money. This eases tensions, shows you’re caring for the needs of your tenants and means future interactions should be a little bit easier.

Who’s Responsible for Home Repairs During a Tenancy?


Determining who is responsible for repairs to a property during a tenancy can be a divisive issue, but it’s important to know where your responsibilities lie. While clear guidelines for the process of repairs should be laid out in a tenancy agreement, these can vary from property to property. If you’re not sure what your responsibilities as a landlord are, you’re not alone. As property managers, we hear this question a lot. If you’re among the many who could use a little clarification on this issue, why not take a look at the quick guide below? The most important thing to remember is that communication with your tenants is paramount, so discuss these matters with them, and lay down your argument for your involvement. It could save you money, time and acrimony further down the line.

What is it that’s damaged?
Mainly, if it’s the tenant’s property that’s damaged, it’s their responsibility to fix it. If it’s your property as the rental home owner, you’re going to want to handle the maintenance yourself of leave it to your property management company. Allowing tenants to do their own maintenance opens up the floodgates of liability in the event they’re hurt or the property is further damaged. We all have that ‘handy’ person in our life who ends up blowing fuses or completely destroying some drywall. That’s much less charming when your property ends up damaged.

How urgent are the repairs?
Another vital consideration is just how badly the tenants need the repairs. Any electrical appliances (such as washer, dryer, oven, etc.) must be fixed by the landlord in order to adhere to the landlord and tenant insurance policies. Do not allow tenants to repair these things if they are damaged, as they could receive injuries which could lead to legal ramifications for the landlord. Likewise, any attempted repairs by an unqualified tenant could lead to further damage to the property. As such, any repairs on fixed appliances must be repaired as soon as possible. If the boiler in your property breaks down in winter, it is important you have it repaired as soon as possible, whereas if a fuse goes on a bulb, this could take a lesser precedent. However, it’s best to be punctual with your repairs in order to keep your tenants happy and prevent any further damage.

How to avoid in-tenancy repairs
You can take steps to avoid making repairs while tenants occupy your rental property by regularly doing pre-tenancy inspections of a property. This is required following a tenancy in order to ensure there is no superficial damage, but it’s good to check the wiring, plumbing and general functioning of a property before renting it out again. This can help avoid any rancor between you and future tenants if a fault is found, although it will mean the cost of repairs fall to you and you alone.

At Simply Residential, we offer a quarterly furnace filter change and lease violation walk through to help us determine if there are any immediate needs or violations to the property. We also offer an annual maintenance walk-through to help us determine what may need work in the coming year so we can help our owners financially plan their maintenance needs in a way that makes sense for them.

The Breakup: When a Tenant Moves Out


Breaking up can be tricky. Sometimes the break can be unexpected and painful to manage. Other times, the feeling is mutual and fairly quick to wrap up. Business breakups are no different. At times the perfect client or landlord changes after the papers are signed, or sometimes life simply alters plans. Have no fear! Here are a few helpful hints to help both parties walk away from a lease scandal free.

The Golden Rule
Be courteous! You would not quit a job without notice and a lease is no exception. Your landlord or tenant signed those papers counting on you to do your part and cancelling the contract takes time to finish, so give the other individual time to take in the situation and proceed accordingly. At Simply Residential Property Management, we require a 60 day notice, in some cases landlords only ask for 30 days. Be specific on the closure. Mention prospective dates to move out, payment details, etc… The more clear the details the less room there will be for argument or nit picking. Once you give notice, be prompt to follow through.

Put everything in writing! Your landlord or tenant may be the sweetest person on earth, but do not leave the transaction undocumented. Give notice on paper. Give forwarding address on paper. Give monetary details on paper. Do you see the trend? Paper, paper, paper! Even if you notify the other individual online, always follow up with printed documentation and make multiple copies. This way, if any argument erupts, you will have hard copy evidence to bring the conflict to a close. These copies are also great for future reference (taxes, new clients, etc…)

Many states require landlords to perform an inspection of the property before the tenant officially vacates. Again, this goes along with common courtesy. You would not return a borrowed shirt or dish while it is still dirty, and you should not return a rented home without cleaning it either. This does not need to be a long or expensive process. A good spring cleaning and general touch ups will be a good start. Once the inspection is complete, the tenant will have a good idea what else to fix before vacating. Again, make certain that all the details are documented and copies made! Once the exit is complete, a second inspection should be conducted (the tenant may or may not be invited to participate). Landlords should take careful notes and photos (be sure they are dated). Photographs add visual documentation to the other paperwork. The tenants should have copies of these as well for their files.

Wrapping up
Once the inspections are complete and the tenant moved out, the landlord will have a bracket of time to return the tenant’s security deposit along with the compilation of the deductions resulting from the inspections. This should all be provided promptly so as to avoid conflict.

As with any breaking of a relationship, communication is key to a peaceful and cordial parting. Treat the other individual well, and parting will be simple and pain free for everyone involved.

Common Eviction Mistakes to Avoid: Dealing with Abandoned Property After an Eviction


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

It’s no secret that Minnesota’s landlord-tenant laws are weighted heavily in favor of tenants. As a result, a seemingly straightforward eviction action is fraught with legal pitfalls for an unsuspecting landlord.

Perhaps the worst provision of Minnesota landlord/tenant law pertaining to evictions is Minnesota Statute Section 504B.271, which sets forth a landlord’s obligations in dealing with a tenant’s belongings after the eviction. This law essentially requires landlords who have already lost money on non-paying tenants (by not receiving rent payments per their lease and having to pay for an eviction) to take time – and possibly additional money – to deal with an evicted tenant’s remaining belongings in a manner other than simply disposing of them.

When an evicted tenant leaves behind personal property in the leasehold premises, there are options for the landlord to deal with those belongings. The property can be moved and stored at the tenant’s expense and eventually sold or discarded. Commonly, this is done after an eviction with the assistance of the Sheriff who will be a part of the processing of the unclaimed property.

The property can be stored in the original leasehold premises. Remaining property must be inventoried on a form provided by the Sheriff. That inventory must list the tenant’s items in the landlord’s control and a description of their condition. The reason it is important to document the property present and its condition with the Sheriff present is that the landlord is liable for any damages to the property caused during moving or storage if reasonable care was not exercised under the circumstances. The form must also have the date and signature of the landlord with the contact information of a person authorized to release the property. The name and badge number of the Sheriff or deputy present must also be provided. The Sheriff will retain a copy of the inventory list and another must be sent by First Class Mail to the last known address of the tenant. Also, a good faith effort should be made to reach the tenant by telephone.

The property can also be stored off site in a storage facility of reasonable security. Any moving should be done by a licensed and bonded moving company. The moving company will likely do the inventorying for the landlord and return a copy to the Sheriff. If the property is stored off the premises, the costs of moving and storing can be charged to the tenant. Additionally, the landlord has a lien on the property if stored off-site, but not if it is stored on the premises.

Anytime prior to 28 days after the property was abandoned, the tenant can mail a letter to the landlord requesting a date and time to retrieve their property. Since the property rights are in favor of the tenant, landlords are prohibited from withholding ex-tenants’ property in lieu
of past rent, damages or other expenses, except that a landlord may apply a reasonable amount of proceeds to their costs incurred in removing, storing and caring for the tenant’s personal property.

Twenty-eight days after notice of or reasonably apparent abandonment, the landlord can sell or dispose of the unclaimed property. Two weeks prior to the sale of the property, the landlord should make a reasonable effort to contact the tenant. The landlord should personally give written notice, or send notice by certified mail with return receipt requested to the tenant’s last known address or likely living quarters if known by the landlord of the sale. The sale must also be posted in a conspicuous location at the premises.

The profits of that sale can be used to compensate the landlord for storage, back rent, damages and other debts of the tenant. After the landlord’s costs are deducted any excess profits belong to the tenant if he or she writes to request them. The profits cannot be held from the tenant as leverage for other actions because the tenant has the right to that property and the profits gained. If possession of the property is taken illegally, before the landlord could reasonably believe it was abandoned, the landlord is responsible for the costs. Also, if the premises is not abandoned and the landlord does not have reasonable belief to think so, removal of the property is considered an unlawful exclusion and will be dealt with accordingly.

Minnesota’s eviction laws are complex, frustrating and time consuming. If you are unsure of what to do when your tenant is in default of the lease, it would be money well spent to engage competent legal counsel to navigate the choppy legal waters.

Jeffrey C. O’Brien is an attorney with the Minneapolis based law firm of Lommen Abdo, P.A. and a MSBA Board Certified Real Property Specialist. He can be reached at (612) 336-9317 or via email at

A Landlord’s Guide to Security Deposits


Security deposits are a vital part of the rental process. Without a security deposit, there is little to stop your tenants from leaving your property in a state of disrepair; forcing you to foot the bill. That’s why every rental home now requires a security deposit. Aside from the assurance that if there is any lasting or even superficial damage to the rental property, this means you can detract money for failure to ensure your investment is left in a clean state. For this reason, we’ve compiled a handy how-to guide for using the security deposit to both your property’s and your tenants’ advantage.

Clearly explain the cost of damages in the lease agreement
This is important as it lays out exactly what is expected of the tenant in terms of personal maintenance while renting the property. By laying out how much you will charge for damage or loss to each individual aspect of the rental property, the tenant will understand how to properly maintain it, and will be held accountable for that maintenance. This will also act as an incentive to the tenant, showing them in real figures the cost for refusing to ensure proper care is taken when in the property. It’s important to do a full walk through of the property with your tenant before they move in, allowing them an opportunity to point out damages that you had not registered. This prevents misinformed accusations and increasing tensions with the tenant at the end of their tenancy. This is also for the tenant’s protection, ensuring you have to justify each deduction you made from the security deposit and assuring them you are not taking more than the damages actually warrant. Make sure this process is documented and signed by each party.

Photograph everything
When deducting money from a tenant’s security deposit, you will need physical evidence that the damage was caused during their tenancy. That’s why, before and immediately after each tenancy, it’s important you photograph any existing damages, and even areas with no damage whatsoever. This prevents the tenant from claiming the damages were already there, or that they were inflicted after they left the property.

Have a little leeway for wear and tear
While nobody wants their property damaged without being properly compensated, it is likely that some aspects of the property will become worn, through no fault of the tenant. That’s why it can be beneficial to allow for a little wear and tear on the property. The intention of the security deposit is to insure against major structural damage or a costly cleaning job at the end, not minor bumps and scrapes in areas of the property that would inevitably see a little damage.

As a landlord, it’s important to remember you have a reputation to uphold. While some are tempted to take a little extra from the security deposit, your ethical integrity will always win you more business — which translates into more money in the end. It isn’t just a question of ethics, it’s illegal to take more than is owed. Alternatively, rent your property with Simply Residential Property Management and let our independent team of specialists handle the entire security deposit issue; allowing you and your tenants to rest easy in the knowledge only the appropriate compensation will be paid.

Why Hiring a Property Management Company for a Single Rental Property is a Good Idea


For many rental property owners, a common question that they ask is if they need to hire a property management company for a single rental property. The answer from property managers and rental property owners alike is a resounding “Yes.” The fact is that a professional property management service can be a real asset and the services offered are likely much more complex than you might imagine.

Property management companies do much more than simply collecting rent checks and fixing broken appliances – their real value lies in risk mitigation, which should be your top priority when renting out a property. For example, Simply Residential signs the lease with the tenant, taking on some of that risk and allowing our owners to remain anonymous to our tenants. We also offer protection services like our Eviction Protection Plan and our Quarterly Furnace Filter Change and Lease Violation Walk-Through. These services protect our clients from the dangers of evicting a tenant, and help us identify any problems with their property before they become full blown emergencies. This also allows us to provide an efficient and regimented way to ensure that our properties are fully protected.

Choosing a property manager for a single rental property, or even for multiple rental properties, can be a challenge for first timers. The key to this choice lies in knowing what you want and need from a property management company. Some of the specific services you should look for are:

  • Finding high quality tenants.
  • Determining how to advertise your rental property.
  • Screening all tenants, including background checks and credit reports.
  • Drafting legal leases that will hold up in court.
  • Collecting evidence and documentation to reduce chances that property owners will have to pay for tenant caused damages.
  • Maintenance of the rental property.
  • Handling tenants who don’t pay.
  • Evicting tenants without violating their rights.

While property owners can complete their own research and learn how to do the things listed above, this is an extremely time consuming and legally convoluted process that can often land owners in a difficult situation, especially when evictions are a factor.

A knowledgeable property management service can also ensure that rental property owners understand legislation changes and how it will affect them, as well as their tenants. This can be extremely complicated and difficult to understand, and keeping up with the changes requires dedication and time. However, when you hire a property management service, they will know what the legislation means and ensure that you, and your property, meet all new or changed requirements.

One of the most important services offered by a property manager is the ability to respond to emergency situations in a timely manner. This will prevent property owners from having to halt their day – or night – in order to handle a tenant issue or emergency.

Hiring a property manager can eliminate the possibility of your rental property turning into one of the horror stories you have likely heard. In fact, a reputable property manager will handle all aspects of managing and maintaining your property. If you have questions, we’re happy to help. Call us today at 952-831-5300 or email me!

[Photo credit: Rental Realities on Flickr]

Who and What is Protected by the Fair Housing Act?

fair housing act protection for landlords and tenants

The Fair Housing Act affects every single person in the state of Minnesota in one way or another. For this reason, it’s important for our employees and our clients to know what the 13 protected classes are for our state, and how we can make sure we’re abiding by the standards set in the FHA.

According to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, “Every person in Minnesota is protected by the Human Rights Act as every person, based on their personal characteristics such as a person’s race or sex, belongs to one or more of the Protected Classes: Race, Color, Creed, Religion, National Origin, Sex, Marital Status, Familial Status, Disability, Public Assistance Status, Age, Sexual Orientation, and Local Human Rights Commission Activity.”

Discrimination based on any of those characteristics is strictly prohibited by law. But what constitutes discrimination? The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development says an owner cannot:

  • Refuse to rent or sell housing
  • Refuse to negotiate for housing
  • Make housing unavailable
  • Deny a dwelling
  • Set different terms, conditions or privileges for sale or rental of a dwelling
  • Provide different housing services or facilities
  • Falsely deny that housing is available for inspection, sale, or rental
  • For profit, persuade owners to sell or rent (blockbusting) or
  • Deny anyone access to or membership in a facility or service (such as a multiple listing service) related to the sale or rental of housing.
  • Threaten, coerce, intimidate or interfere with anyone exercising a fair housing right or assisting others who exercise that right
  • Advertise or make any statement that indicates a limitation or preference based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap.

This prohibition against discriminatory advertising applies to single-family and owner-occupied housing that is otherwise exempt from the FHA. There are additional protections in place for potential renters or buyers with disabilities. A landlord or property owner cannot:

  • Refuse to let a renter make reasonable modifications to their dwelling or common use areas, at their own expense, if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing. (Where reasonable, the landlord may permit changes only if the renter agrees to restore the property to its original condition upon moving out.)
  • Refuse to make reasonable accommodations in rules, policies, practices or services if necessary for the disabled person to use the housing.
    Knowing the basics of the Fair Housing Act is an absolute must for rental property owners. It’s in your best interest to protect yourself, and it’s also the right thing to do to make sure you’re being fair to potential renters. After all, discrimination is a terrible business practice.

At Simply Residential, we make sure our staff maintains the highest levels of integrity, especially in regards to promoting equal opportunity housing. The owners we work with can rest assured that their marketing and rental processes are up to the standards set by the FHA. Questions? Send me an email and let’s chat!