Zona Properties, Inc. | P.O. Box 17937, Rochester, NY, 14617
Email: dick.zona@zonaproperties.com | Phone: (585) 506-9430

A Reader question – disputing tenants

Posted on: December 13th, 2017 by zonaprop

A reader sent in a question regarding feuding neighbors.

The first approach is to establish the rules for use of the driveway. Hopefully these rules are written in the lease for every tenant (one of the reasons I recommend a written lease instead of a month to month verbal). If there isn’t a written lease then you could write up an individual notice of the rules regarding parking/use of the driveway etc. and deliver it to each tenant (not just the offending tenant). If a violation of the rules occurs the landlord then should notify the offending tenant that he/she is in violation of the parking rules with a request to move their vehicle immediately. This should be done by phone or in person followed by a dated letter. The landlord should keep all written correspondence for possible future use in court. The landlord could also at the time of sending out the original notice of the rules contract with a towing company to remove cars from the property if notified by the landlord. When this is established the landlord must post a sign on the building stating the name and location of the company that can tow vehicles as warning notice. If the particular tenant keeps on violating the rules you can then issue another written notice and have the vehicle towed. If this procedure does not deter the offending tenant then the final action is to evict the tenant. I would recommend an attorney be used for this type of action.

Does the security deposit belong to the owner, management company or tenant???

Posted on: October 26th, 2017 by zonaprop

This blog subject was prompted by an article written by Roy Hanlin and published in the Journal of Property Management. It is really a simple answer. When a security deposit is submitted for the rental of a house or apartment the deposit belongs to the tenant until either the tenant’s lease is terminated or he moves from the unit. The security deposit is held by the management company or building owner to be used when this event occurs (tenant moving) so that any costs related to damages, non-payment of rent or charges owed under the terms of the lease can be recovered by the owner. At the termination of the lease (voluntarily or not) any amount remaining held for the tenant, must be returned to the tenant.

I have found that this subject is the most common cause of lawsuits by tenants against management companies and building owners. That is why documentation, pictures and eye-witness accounts of items charged against terminated tenants is most important. Also it is important to have a written lease in effect that specifically spells out charges that can be levied against the deposit. Without a written lease that lists items like late fees, attorney fees etc. a judge may disallow those charges against a tenant.

Finally, it is important that security deposits be held in a separate account from any operating funds. This is to ensure that security deposits paid (the tenants money) is not used for any of the owners day to day expenses.

Single family investing vs. doubles & larger buildings

Posted on: March 23rd, 2016 by zonaprop

Single family investing vs. doubles & larger buildings

This is a question that comes up many times in conversations with investors. Which vehicle you choose depends a lot on what your goals are in investing in real estate. Are you looking for cash flow? Appreciation? A combination of both? Tax write offs? My observations come mainly from common sense than management experience. Just to outline some factors:

Single Family:

– Single family is more desirable to renters in most cases
– Price of homes in the city of Rochester can be as low as $10,000
– Tenants usually pick up the total costs related to utilities, lawn care and snow removal
– On resale you not only have other investors to sell to but also owner-occupants
– Management could possibly be handled by the owner without a professional
– When you have a vacancy you have 0 income to make repairs etc.
– Resale in lower income or less desirable areas is much slower as owner-occupant buyers who want to live in those areas are usually less qualified for financing

Multi-family (2-8 unit)

– When you have one vacancy there is still income to cover monthly costs
– Cost/unit is lower than single family on purchase
– Gross Potential Income (GPI) is higher than single family properties bringing in more money to cover costs and for cash flow profit

– Larger buildings are usually less desirables to some tenants (especially families with children)
– The cost of exterior upkeep is usually borne by the owner and not the tenants
– The cost of water is usually borne by the owner
– Parking is sometimes limited causing a problem for tenants with cars
– Resale will be likely limited to an investor instead of owner-occupant

Larger buildings (10-50 units)

– Many units, thus increasing monthly income
– Cost/unit is lower on purchase
– Smaller units cater to mainly single people or couples (see below)
– Resale will be only to investors

– Smaller units cater to mainly single people or couples (see above)
– Resale will be only to investors
– Management will usually require a professional
– All costs are the responsibility of the owner usually including the costs of heat and electric
– There is usually at least always at least one vacancy
– In most cases the cost of an on-site superintendent is recommended

Offering Rental Incentives

Posted on: April 3rd, 2015 by zonaprop

Rental incentives are used by many landlords to help keep their properties full. Some landlords are against using incentives at any time, some use them only when rentals are slow and some use them all of the time, no matter what the vacancy rate is on their properties. Below are some options you may want to consider.

– Free months rent on approved applications (never allow the first month’s rent to be free)
– Last month of lease free if all conditions are met
– 50% rent reduction of month #6 and 50% reduction of month #12 if all conditions are met

Usual conditions: All rent payments made between 1st and 3rd of the month
No bounced checks or problems with payments
No problems with tenant conduct or residency

– Reduced security deposit for approved applications

– Additional perks
– upgrade of apartment amenities (carpet, cabinets, ceiling fans)
– free or reduced cable TV
– free or reduced internet access

Remember the purpose for offering incentives is to attract good prospective tenants from your competition and keep your property filled.

Can a Tenant Sue the City (government) for being evicted???

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015 by zonaprop

There was an interesting case in the city of Rochester. A tenant was recently evicted from her apartment because the police were called to the building for domestic disturbance too many times. The crux of the matter is that the City of Rochester has a law on the books (that may be also on other municipalities records) that states that if the a property owner has a building that is deemed a public nuisance the city can place ‘points’ on the property. If a property is assessed too many points in a short period of time the property can be confiscated by the city (in the extreme) or possibly shut down from doing business. The original purpose of the law was so places that harbor drug houses, prostitution and other crimes could be shut down. The most common measure the city uses to establish placing points on a property is by the number of times the police are involved in the property and the seriousness of the calls.
In this case we are led to believe (by newspaper accounts) that the tenant was a long term tenant, a good tenant that always paid her rent on time. She had a boyfriend that abused her. The police were called numerous times and finally informed the landlord that the issue had become a nuisance and they were placing points on the building. The landlord cancelled her lease with a 30 day notice. She moved from the property and subsequently began a lawsuit against the city because (I believe) she was evicted for no reason other than she was a battered woman. Is this fair? Is this legal? Is this the right thing to do morally?

Working Out Payment Plans with tenants

Posted on: March 23rd, 2015 by zonaprop

Different landlords have different views on this subject. Some feel that if a tenant doesn’t pay the rent in full on the first of the month he/she should be evicted by the 2nd. This is a good concept but doesn’t always find itself in reality. First, in most states it is required that a landlord goes through a full court procedure before a tenant can be put out (a 3 day written notice does not suffice by itself). Also if you are dealing with middle-low income tenants (or any tenants) sometimes financial problems arise that make it not possible to have the rent right on the first. It might be wise to take into consideration several factors when making your decision/policy on late payments. First, is this a good tenant that has just had a one-time problem or is this a tenant that has caused problems repeatedly and is likely taking advantage (again)? Is it worth working out these problems with a payment plan or financially would it be better to get the tenant out and start over?

Take into consideration these factors:
Evcition costs: (in my part of the country)
– Eviction filing fee: $45.00
– Service of papers: $30.00 – $60.00
– Attorneys fee: $225 – $350
– Marshal to serve warrant: $50.00 – $100.00

Make-ready costs:
– Clean & paint & repair apartment: $200.00 – $800.00

Loss of original rent: $???????

Advertising for new tenant: $00.00 – $200.00

Loss of rent while apartment is vacant: $???????

If the tenant is generally a good tenant and agrees to a reasonable (in your eyes) payment plan beginning within a week it might be better to work this out as long as the payment plan is kept.

Who’s responsible to remove snow from the sidewalk?

Posted on: February 16th, 2015 by zonaprop

This question came up in a column sent to Anne Peterson, a local Real Estate writer for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. It seems appropriate to address this now that we have 15-20″ of snow here in Rochester and the temperature with wind chill is -25 degrees. The simple basic answer is ‘the landlord’. The question posed, and my insight, applies to small properties. Single family, 2-4 family etc. not large complexes where the landlord uses plows and staff to keep the sidewalks and parking lots clear. In all of our single family properties we require the tenant to treat the exterior maintenance as if they owned the property. That means not only snow removal but grass cutting and gardening is their responsibility and this written in their lease. For 2-4 family properties we also have this written in their lease(snow removal) but we do provide salt for the porch steps. But, if push comes to shove our local government states, requires, insists (whatever term you wish to use) that the landlord is ultimately responsible. Since the landlord owns the property he is the only one that the government can fine and try to force to comply.

Who am I and what do I know???

Posted on: February 16th, 2015 by zonaprop

It’s probably the first thing I should write about so that anyone reading my thoughts, ramblings (I’ll try not to write only ramblings) and advice, might see some value in the pursuit of information on real estate management. The information that I will try to express comes from my experiences and education and common sense. My readers may not always agree with my thoughts and comments and that is fine, but so everyone understands that my opinions come from years of experience, and even though I will reference the Rochester New York area where I live and work, the advice and comments will be applicable to almost any real estate management situation. Since this is a blog relating to my personal experience it not meant to be legal advice (I am not an attorney) nor is meant to instruct the reader in what or what not to do. Everyone reading this can make his/her own decisions and is responsible for them.

I started as a child (whoops too far back), actually I began learning property management in the 1980’s. My wife and I purchased several 2 – 5 unit buildings for investment. I had a real estate license and knew a little about managing rental units. Over the next several years I took courses and received the CAM designation (Certified Apartment Manager) from the National Apartment Association, the ARM (Accredited Residential Manager) designation from the Institute of Real Estate Management and my brokers license in New York. I also made every mistake in the book dealing with tenants and buildings to which I attribute the major part of my educational experience. In 1993 I founded Zona Properties, Inc. Real Estate Management in Rochester New York. We specialize in managing single family homes and 2-50 unit properties. At the present time we are managing over 200 buildings and more than 750 units totaling more than 550,000 sq’.

I will try to cover many subjects near and dear to my heart and try to keep up with questions and inquiries. My plan at the present time is as follows: (not necessarily in this order)

Rochester investing – home values and problems
Dealing with drugs and other illegal activity
Single family investing vs. doubles & larger buildings
Working out rental payment plans & deals
Offering rental incentives
Dealing with Social Services and other agencies
Lead paint issues

If anyone has other issues that I might be able to cover please email me at dick.zona@zonaproperties.com.

Should I pay the money when I purchase or let the seller pay

Posted on: August 7th, 2013 by zonaprop

Should I spend the money now or later??

Certificate of Occupancy


     When purchasing a new investment property this is always a question that comes up between buyers and sellers. The Certificate of Occupancy (could have other names in other cities) is a required document that must be active and transferable at the time of sale in some municipalities. What does it require? It requires the repair of any health and safety code violations that may exist on the building at the time of transfer. Not all cities or towns require this document but it is important to check with the local government office or your realtor to verify if this is a requirement.

     A Certificate of Occupancy is required on all rental properties from 1 to 100 or more units unless you are going to live in one side of the property. To get a C of O in our area (just in the city not necessarily in the outlying towns), and if the current C of O on the property is more than 3 years old, you or the seller have a city building inspector go through the property. He or she will write up any code violations that exist. The majority could be health and safety but the list is not limited to those. This is different from you hiring a building inspector to examine the property to inform you of the condition of and about any problems with the property before you complete the sale. The city inspector will come out when the repairs have been made and will approve the issuance of a C of O which will be good for 6 years. BTW this does not mean that you are free and clear from any future violations or repairs that may come up after the sale. If problems come up from obsolescence or tenant damage etc. the city could be called and sight new issues. One of the items that must be addressed during these inspections in Rochester, and other places, is the evidence of lead paint. This could be costly.

     The idea of bringing these items up is not to scare an investor from purchasing but just to make you aware because very often you can get a much better purchase price by accepting the property ‘as is’ and taking on the responsibility of getting the C of O yourself after purchase. However to do this you need to get a good and honest evaluation of what it is going to cost you to make the repairs. Don’t always trust only the realtor who might or not might have a realistic figure what repairs cost. An outside building inspector and speaking with several contractors is your best bet. Always ask the seller why he or she doesn’t want to get the C of O to transfer to you. Then from a financial standpoint you can decide what the best way to make an offer is. Good Luck!