A Little Glimpse Into Why We’re Doing This…

Two years ago, we all teamed up in Vancouver with two things. A revelation and an idea.

The revelation was that we knew that the web could make what we considered to be the thankless job of being a small landlord easier. We also knew that easier and simpler didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.

The idea was to make a nifty web based software that actually achieved this fine balance. We were on our second tour of duty after having sold our first web based app- a little referral marketing product called Hello Referrals. We decided to use the proceeds from the acquisition of that product to develop what would eventually become Renting Well. There was a couple of months of us deciding over names. Rent Well. Rent Cloud. Renting Simple. Renting Easy….the list went on. Besides the fact that we couldn’t secure domain names for any of these, we felt the name Renting Well better suited the vibe of something active and didn’t fall into the dearth of other products that claimed to take years off of your life and seemed to also dwell with Lando Calrisian in cloud city.

One of the first considerations we had when building the app was how we could include less of everything. Less questions and set up. Less complication. Less of a wait to see important metrics. We felt the best course of action was something that you logged into, and essentially “got” within the first 2 minutes. We also knew that there was a necessity for the user to perform data entry in order to get those very things that we wanted quickly visible. Developing a flow to Renting Well that took this into consideration was also high on our list of priorities. Not an easy task. Some people prefer more complex analysis of what’s going on. Some people also aren’t jazzed about back data entry. As the old adage goes, you can’t please everyone – but we were still determined to get this off the ground in a broadly effective way.

We decided to focus on 3 core initial features.

  1. An easy to reference chronological logbook to track events, incidents, problems, and resolutions. 
  2. A bank statement accurate month to month, quarter to quarter, or year to year financial snapshot based on cash flow and profit and loss.
  3. Sexy listings to reduce to vacancies and get prospective tenants amped about renting a unit.

These core features are of course supported by other useful tools, but this made up the essence at the beginning. The reason we chose these cornerstones was because collectively, we knew what going to a board hearing was like without a detailed account of events. We knew how much of a pain in the ass it was to to do a year end with a shoebox full of receipts. We also just knew that landlords needed something to make available units for rent more attractive. We felt these were the most sore pain points.

So here it is – two year old hand drawn wire frames that sketched out what we saw as a simple solution for landlords and property managers – conceived on the table of a Kitsilano coffee bar, between 3 guys who couldn’t stand the variety of perplexing property management softwares that required you to have a masters degree in computer science. Managing income property is already complicated. In our minds, if you’re going to use something, you should want to use it and recognize it’s value.

The software is now actively tracking more than $85 million dollars worth of real estate and almost 2 million bucks worth of monthly expenses and monthly rental revenue. We’ve earned a healthy clip of paying customers so far and we’re getting ready to push out an updated version of the software in the next month.

Are we the biggest or the best property management solution for everyone? No. We’re a flavour in a Baskin Robbins ice cream shop full of other alternatives. We just happen to be simpler and less expensive than most of them. There’s nothing wrong with being the chocolate against the strawberry cheesecakes and caramel tiger tail swirls of the world. We’re landlords. We’ll take a scoop of simplicity.

Absolutely Insane Landlords from California Get Jail Time

Came across this compelling story from the ole’ Sunshine state of California.

Kip Macy and his wife, Nicole Macy, pleaded guilty to two felony counts of residential burglary, one felony count of stalking and one felony count of attempted grand theft. These two geniuses owned an apartment building in the gentrifying South of Market area of San Francisco. Their plan was to evict the tenants they had to renovate the apartments and then to sell them as individual units.

Nicole Macy sent fraudulent emails to the attorney of one of their tenants with whom they were involved in a civil case. In the emails, she pretended to be the victim and fired the victim’s lawyer. In another incident, she sent fraudulent emails to her own civil attorney in which she pretended to be the same victim. Then…wait for it…she threatened to “kidnap and dismember” the attorney’s children.

Together – Kip and Macy also cut the floor joists of an existing tenant’s unit in an attempt to make the floor cave in. Guess they really wanted to get rid of him or her.

Other crimes included purchasing a semi-automatic handgun and threatening to shoot the building manager, changing locks, cutting phone lines, shutting off utilities, removing a victims’ belongings from their apartment and destroying them, multiple burglaries and threatening letters to victims. All of these events took place between September 2005 to December 2007.

Here’s where it gets interesting. The couple were charged with felonies in 2008, but posted bail and escaped to Italy. They were taken into custody in Italy in May of 2012 and extradited back to the U.S. on May 17, 2013. Bail was set at $2 million for each of them. After pleading guilty to four felony counts on Tuesday, the couple are scheduled to be sentenced to four years and four months in state prison on Aug. 22.

Nuts. They need to be in jail.

 

Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Landlord?

The Globe and Mail published this great piece a few days ago entitled, “Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Landlord?”. It offers a sober look at the pros of being a landlord and the benefits of income property ownership. It’s a great counter piece to all of the discouraging things you might hear from people who’ve tried it and had it not work out. If you’re reading this, you know property ownership and property management are hard. This piece is refreshing because it paints an accurate picture of the situation with rental property ownership. In short – it’s a marathon, not a race.

Read the piece here: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/personal-finance/mortgages/home-buying/do-you-have-what-it-takes-to-be-a-landlord/article11636234/

Why Tenant Screening Is Wickedly Important

Mistake #1 for landlords: renting on a hunch. It’s insane.

When we built Renting Well, we made it a quick priority to include access to background checking within the app. To make this happen we were fortunate to partner with BackCheck, Canada’s leading background checking service. One of the reasons we did this was because basic credit checks are just one piece of the pie. It’s good to have access to other background checking elements like employment verifications and a criminal background check. I had the opportunity recently to sit down with Iain Murray at BackCheck to discuss some interesting stats when it comes to landlords “checking” who they’re renting to:

  • 10% of Canadians have a criminal record. That’s over 3 million people. 
  • 28.5% of tenant applicants will have poor credit.
  • 12.1% of tenant applicants will lie about their employment.
  • Almost 25% of landlords would not recommend a former tenant to another landlord.
  • About 45% of BackCheck’s small landlord customers will request a criminal background check.

Conducting criminal background checks is more important than landlords might realize — an individual with a criminal history, who continues living a life of lawful offense, can have a great impact on a building and even an entire community. While a check is not exclusionary, it has the potential of reducing the number of thieves and violent ex-criminals who wish to neighbour among other tenants.

With that said, a criminal check can uncover any one of a number of offenses — not just violent crimes. People get charged with minor offenses like fraud and theft — things which most landlords would want to know before making a decision to rent to a tenant or not. There is no such thing as too much information for a landlord. Any kind of criminal background is something you should be aware of. Landlords have the right to refuse to a tenant because of their criminal history and ultimately the responsibility lies with you when it comes to introducing new tenants into your property. Check out this great info sheet published by Crime Prevention Ottawa in September 2009 that discusses how landlords can avoid and overcome the challenges of crime and disorder (such as drug dealing) on their property.

How Landlords Can Prevent Bursting Water Pipes in Cold Weather

Today in Ottawa it’s -38°C. It’s ridiculous. As a matter of fact, large portions of the United States and Canada are getting reamed with a cold weather snap. -20 celsius weather is being reported in places like Minnesota, Illinois, New York City, Toronto, and Montreal. It’s prime weather for water pipes to freeze and burst which can create a damage nightmare for small landlords and a more-than-minor inconvenience for tenants. This generally sucks. Landlords must check if their property needs a heat pump repair. It’s a sneaking problem for many of us to deal with (especially those of us who aren’t renting all inclusive units and whose tenants are covering their own utilities) and it’s made even more painful when self-managing landlords have to deal with it during weather that makes Antarctica look like a beach vacation. You may also stock up on supplies like valves, 316 Stainless Lag Bolts and screws, and wrenches that you can use when repairs are needed for your plumbing system.

First… why do pipes freeze?

  • Poorly protected pipes which haven’t been sufficiently insulated
  • Exposure to icy draughts, usually as a result of cracks or gaps at the point where the pipe enters your home
  • Pipes located inside cupboards — warm air from inside your home may not reach these pipes if your cupboard doors are closed most of the time
  • Generally insufficient heat in units.

Secondly, what makes pipes burst?

  • Water freezes and expands inside household pipes
  • Continual freezing and expansion of water inside the pipe causes pressure to build up between the ice blockage and the closed faucet
  • As a result of repeated pressure on this section of pipe, the pipe eventually bursts

If you suspect that you have a damaged or burst pipe, Tommie’s licensed plumbers are just a call away.

How can I prevent frozen and bursting water pipes?

  1. Let a thin stream of cold water run from a faucet. The stream should be a continuous flow, about the thickness of a pencil. This water can be caught in a bucket or pail to be recycled for another purpose later, if desired.
  2. Be sure pipes in unheated areas of a unit or crawlspace are insulated. Many hardware and home improvement stores carry foam insulation for this purpose.
  3. Leave interior cupboard doors under sinks open, especially if the water pipes are adjacent to an exterior wall. This will allow heat from the room access to the pipes.
  4. Plug drafty cracks and repair broken windows that could allow cold air to get inside where pipes are located.
  5. Shut off and drain pipes leading to outside faucets.
  6. Educate your tenants on the necessity to be mindful of cold weather snaps.

Have you ever dealt with freezing or bursting pipes? Share your stories with us.

 

Professional Tenants Create Pain For Landlords

Professional tenants aren’t a myth. The exist for real, and they’re creating major pains for small landlords all over Canada. Came across this interesting piece at CBC news today concerning small landlords getting burned in British Columbia. A few first time landlord missteps being counted on, and an intimate knowledge of the loopholes with the B.C. LTB’s process allows for free living arrangements for a long stretch on end for pros who know how to work the system.

The Federation of Rental Housing Owners of Ontario went on record stating that professional tenants can work up to 6 months of living for free on a landlord’s dime by simply exercising their right to appeals. “We’re probably dealing with anywhere between one and two per cent of the tenant population that is doing this [scam],” said the federation’s Vince Brescia. “The activity of the ‘pros’ is creeping up … it’s a growing phenomenon.”

Property management is about due diligence. Landlords should always ask for a certified check for first and last month’s rent – something clearable prior to the tenant moving in or handing over the keys. They should also be diligent about not only credit checks and other tenant screening, but with references from previous landlords. What do you think? Do you think provincial legislations in Canada are in need of tweaking?