Why would an owner use a property management company over doing it themselves?

There are several reasons investors should hire a quality company like SJA Property Management rather than go it alone. The most common reasons include the following:

  • We handle all repair issues 24/7, saving you time, money, and stress.
  • We have the local market knowledge and rent our homes quickly (under two weeks on average) for more money, saving you thousands in lost rental income.
  • We reduce your liabilities by being educated on and correctly applying all the relevant and ever-changing Federal, State, and City landlord-tenant laws and regulations.
  • We make tax time easy by providing you with detailed monthly and yearly statements tracking all expenses and deductions.
  • We treat your property like a business, enforcing rent collection, properly serving notices, and acting quickly on lease violations.
  • We receive calls almost daily from owners who have tried managing their properties on their own. In the end, it’s a lot of work to do it correctly. After owners consider the time, effort, increased liability, and inconvenience factor, they are happy to have us take it off their plate.
What are your qualifications?

SJA Property Management has been in business since 2009. Over that time, we have managed thousands of rentals and tenants. We previously sat on the board of the National Association of Residential Property Managers. We are current board members of the Rental Housing Authority and belong to Washington State Bar Association, and the Northwest Multiple Listing Service. We have earned a knowledgeable reputation in the industry through consistency in service and an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.

What makes SJA Property Management different from other property management companies in the area?

Here at SJA Property Management, we differentiate ourselves in many ways. Here are just a few reasons we are the industry leader in our market:

  • Proven track record of success with over 14 years of local knowledge and expertise
  • 8 exclusive owner Happiness Guarantees including no long-term contracts, eviction protection, and more!
  • A strong employee-based (not contactor) team model, providing each owner with a single point of contact
  • Fully documented policies and procedures, utilizing a workflow system that is repeatable and consistent
  • One of the highest rated and most reviewed PM companies in Washington with a stellar reputation for integrity and protecting our client’s interests
  • True 24hr 365 property protection with in-house maintenance coordination, using our database of trusted and vetted vendors
  • Dedicated leasing agents incentivized to rent our properties quickly
  • Industry-leading low vacancy (below 5%) and tenant default rates (98% receivables rate)
When should I start advertising my rental property?
The timing of when to put a property on the market will depend on a couple of factors. Ideally, SJA Property Management would like to start advertising the property about 2 to 3 weeks before the property is vacant. This ensures that we have the best chance of having a tenant move in immediately and avoid a prolonged vacancy period. It also allows us to test the market and get the best possible rental rate. To advertise the property, it needs to be in good show condition for prospective tenants. If you are still packing, keep the main areas of the house clean by establishing a packing room (garage or bedroom) where you can keep boxes, etc. We can also assist in coordinating any repairs, cleaning, etc., that may need to be done. Once the house is vacant, our team will do a full Rent Ready inspection to ensure everything is ready for the new tenants.
How do you market my rental property?
After we have a signed management agreement, the Client Success Team will contact you to discuss your marketing plan. Once ready, the property is added to the available properties section of our website and over 25 other online sites. We also work with local relocation companies, helping them place their transferring employees and executives. In addition, we are receiving approximately 70 to 100 phone calls a day from prospective tenants. This ensures that all SJA properties receive the maximum exposure and rent as quickly as possible. A landlord’s most important expense item is the vacancy rate. We have the resources to keep that as low as possible.
What needs to be done to prepare a property for the market and a tenant?
The property should be in the best condition possible. This will help ensure the property rents for the most money possible, a quality tenant is found quickly, and your days on the market are low. The property should be “hotel clean”, and all the carpets should be professionally shampooed. The paint should be in good condition, with dirty and scuffed areas touched up. We recommend that bright colors be repainted to neutral tones. All personal items should be removed from the property. Everything in the home should function as intended, and the outside yard should be in good shape.
How is the rental price determined?

In order to determine the fair market value of a rental home, we first check what comparable properties in the area have rented for, both in our current portfolio as well as other properties on the market. We also factor in a particular neighborhood’s demand and the time of year the property is being marketed. We are professionals and we’ll be able to determine the right price for the property fairly quickly.

Should I accept pets in my rental property?

This will depend on your comfort level. SJA recommends that you consider accepting tenants with pets. Statistics show that around 75% of tenants own a pet, and therefore by not allowing them, you are at a disadvantage in finding a tenant quickly. We use a third-party service PetScreening.com to verify our pets. We require all pets to be licensed in accordance with State and City regulations and have an additional pet liability clause for “restricted breeds.” We do not accept puppies under one year old or any animal with a screening score lower than 2. Additionally, we request a pet deposit when applicable and offer an Animal Protection Guarantee. All SJA Properties are smoke-free.

How do you ensure that only quality tenants rent my home?

Our screening process is very thorough and effective. We personally verify all our screening requirements are met to ensure only the best tenants rent our properties. We check for credit, identification, criminal history (when allowed by Law), debt/rent ratios, past rental history, evictions, job status, income, sex offender status/or registry, providing false information, and bankruptcy. Because of our thorough screening process our default rate is one of the lowest in the industry.

Can I choose which tenants rent my home?

Fair housing laws regulations are very strict and prohibit any discrimination of tenants who members of a protected class. The laws are complex and there are many variations from city to city. SJA Property Management ensures all our owners are in compliance with these laws while still making sure each tenant is extremely well screened.

How are security deposits handled?

Another way SJA Property Management helps protect our owner’s properties is by collecting large security deposits. We require deposit amounts that are approximately equal to one month’s rent. These funds are held in compliance with applicable State and Federal laws. At the end of the tenant’s lease term we will use these funds to pay for any damage to the property over normal wear and tear. All our deductions are supported by the lease agreement and our comprehensive electronic move in and move out reports.

How long should the duration of the lease be?

SJA Property Management requires that all our leases be in writing. As the owner’s representative, we can execute the lease on their behalf. To maximize the appeal to potential tenants we recommend that the lease duration term be at least twelve months. With the owner’s approval, we may increase the lease term or accept leases for less than one year, in order to have the lease expire during a more active time of the year.

How long does it take to rent a property?

We understand that vacancy is one of the biggest expenses for a landlord and we work diligently to rent our properties as soon as possible and we have the horsepower to find tenants quickly. Price and market conditions will also drive vacancy periods. Our goal is to have every property rented within one month from when we started marketing. Currently, we average 14 days to fill a vacancy, which is well below the industry average.

How will I know my property being taken care of by the tenant?

We take several steps to ensure our owner’s properties are being well maintained. Our screening process is very thorough and ensures only the best applicants are approved for our properties. We have well-written leases that protect our client’s best interests and we require large security deposits. At our move-in walkthroughs, we utilize technology to accurately document the home’s condition with many photos and descriptions. We will also perform an initial Rent Ready inspection of the property and then another exterior/interior 40 point review of the property, on a yearly basis. We verify that all the major systems in the house are working properly and that there are no lease violations. We compile an electronic report complete with pictures and send it to our owners, along with our recommended action steps, if needed.

What happens if there is an emergency on the property?

SJA Property Management provides a 24hr emergency service 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We handle the late night calls so you don’t have to. Through an extensive network of vendors and contractors we are able to take care of any issues quickly and efficiently.

How are repairs handled?
The landlord-tenant laws are very specific regarding how repairs need to be made, and we ensure that our owners comply. We have dedicated team members coordinating maintenance, who are responsible for troubleshooting and approving all maintenance requests from our tenants. Our tenants submit requests in writing through our online portal to ensure proper documentation. Our policy is to gain owner approval for all repairs over the “Authorized Repair Limit.” Any repairs made will either be charged to the tenant or deducted from the owner’s funds on account and will be reflected on the next month’s owner’s statement. To minimize our client’s liability, we require that all our vendors are licensed and insured. We also receive preferred pricing from our vendors and pass those savings along to our owners.
How will I receive my rent funds?

We disperse all rent funds into our owner’s accounts through ACH automatic payments. Along with the payment, we email our owners an itemized statement detailing any expenses on their account. Owners will also receive their own personal log in information, where they can log into our cloud based system and review any past statements.

What happens if the tenants do not pay their rent or break the lease?
SJA Property Management establishes a strict business relationship with their tenants, which contributes to us having an industry-leading low default rate. We ensure that all our tenants adhere to the executed lease document. Rent is due by the first of the month and late if received after the sixth. If a tenant has yet to pay, on or around the seventh of the month, we will post a 14 Day Pay or Vacate Notice and a Payment Plan option (per applicable laws). This ensures that our owner’s timelines are preserved if an eviction is necessary. Most of the time, a tenant will comply with the notice and pay rent. However, we can prepare the necessary paperwork and start the eviction process utilizing a third-party company if they still need to do so. We also offer an eviction guarantee that covers our owners for up to $1000 of eviction related expenses.
What does SJA Property Management need to start managing my property?
We can start the management of your property immediately. We need a few documents from you which can be filled out and signed electronically. Signed management agreement and detailed property, utilities, and marketing information. Reviewed and signed rent-ready instructions and checklist. This will go over exactly what will need to be done to get the property ready for professional management. At least 3 of each key, fobs, and garage remote, including the mail key, for the property. IRS W9 form (we will provide) Certificate of landlord’s insurance with SJA Property Management named as additional insured. And garage remotes, including the mail key, for the property.
What type of insurance do I need to get for my property?

The best protection an owner has in the event of a lawsuit brought in conjunction with their rental property, is a landlord insurance policy. We require that our owners carry at least one million dollars of coverage. We also require that SJA Property Management be named as an “Additional Insured” on the policy. Property management agreements require owners to name the property management company as additional insured because the management company does not hold title to the rental property and therefore cannot acquire general liability insurance on property. Without this coverage, a company would be exposed to liability from defects (such as faulty wiring) in the home, resulting in a lawsuit. Often there is no extra premium charge to the property owner to add the management company as additional insured.

What is RRIO and will it impact my property?

RRIO stands for the Rental Registration & Inspection Ordinance. It was established by the Seattle City Council to help ensure that all rental housing in Seattle is safe and fit for habitation. The ordinance states that starting in 2014, all rental property owners in Seattle must register their properties with the City. A list of approved inspectors will make sure all registered rental properties comply with minimum housing and safety standards at least once every 5 – 10 years. SJA Property Management will make sure your rental property complies with the registration requirements and will coordinate the inspection should one occur. The registration fee charged by the City is $175 per rental property and the inspection fee is a separate $160. So far, this requirement only pertains to properties located in the City of Seattle.

How does Landlord insurance work?

Landlord insurance protects your property from damage while also protecting you from personal liability. Let’s look at a few examples of how landlord insurance works.

Property damage example:

  • In the event a tree falls on your investment property, causing substantial damage, your landlord insurance can help pay for the repairs or rebuilding. Your property damage coverage has limits, so be sure you are aware of what they are and that you have adequate coverage. If you have a loss of income coverage, you may also be compensated for the rental income you will lose during repairs, which is a nice benefit.

Landlord liability example:

  • If your tenant or a guest is injured in a fall at your property and the fall was a result of perceived negligence on the property owner’s part, such as an uneven walkway, a loose railing or a weak step on a stairway, you might have a liability claim on your hands. In this case, the person could file a claim against your insurance policy to cover the costs of medical care and other damages. Your landlord insurance can cover your expenses up to the limits on the liability portion of your plan, (after your deductible amount is met). You may not have been covered under this scenario with a standard homeowner’s policy.
Do I have to have a Landlord insurance and why is it important?
Yes, SJA Property Management, as well as all other professional management companies in the area, will require a landlord insurance policy to be in place. Building fires, storms, vandalism, and liability claims are some of the critical things you want to be prepared for as a landlord. Property damage (flooding, fire, etc.) can happen and you need insurance to cover you so that those costs ($5,000 or more) do not come out of your pocket. The same could be said of liability lawsuits that can be much more. The peace of mind is well worth the expense.
Why does SJA need to be listed as Additional Insured?
When a Property Management firm is hired, they perform various services on behalf of the homeowner. Property Management firms do not have a financial interest in the investment property. However, they do take on the same risk and liability as a homeowner. Like most reputable firms, SJA carries an Errors & Omission insurance policy and a General Liability insurance policy; these insurance plans offer protection from claims that are a result of the services provided by the Property Management firm. They do not offer any protection against matters concerning the investment property itself.

So, in essence, Property Management Firms assume all the liabilities of a homeowner because their insurance policies do not offer the same type of protection as a Landlord insurance policy – which covers the investment property. This leaves them vulnerable to claims and lawsuits arising from the property itself. Some examples of where the Property Management firm would not be covered by their insurance policy include someone injuring themselves at the property, burglary, fire, water leaks, etc.

What is the difference between Named Insured, Additional Insured and Additional Interest?

Named Insured:

  • The term “Named Insured” refers to the owner of the insurance policy and it is the party listed on the Declaration’s Page. The “Named Insured” is the only party that has the authority to make any policy changes, file claims, receive refunds and claim payments, cancel the policy, or make any other such modifications.

Additional Insured:

  • This is probably the single most misunderstood insurance term. It is misused and misapplied on a regular basis. An “Additional Insured” is a party listed on an insurance policy that has some type of liability interest in the property. The “Additional Insured” has absolutely no right or authority to make any policy changes or to cancel the policy. Also, contrary to popular belief, an “Additional Insured” is ONLY afforded liability protection under the liability portion of the policy and there is no coverage whatsoever for physical losses resulting from such things as vandalism, theft, fire, wind and hail, and so on.

Additional Interest:

    • An “Additional Interest” is nothing like the “Additional Insured” though they sound similar. An “Additional Interest” is a party listed in an insurance policy that has an “interest” in being notified whenever a policy cancels or has a major change made to it. In other words, this party is simply being made aware of the change – nothing else. There is absolutely no coverage whatsoever afforded to an Additional Interest.

As you can see, there is a big legal difference between these terms, and having an interest listed incorrectly can have unintended and far-reaching consequences in the event of a loss, default, or other such situation. Your insurance agent should know the difference between these three terms, however, sometimes that is not the case and they may need to be educated.

Is Landlord insurance tax deductible?
Yes, you can deduct landlord insurance premiums on your investment property, including any landlord insurance policies on the building, contents, and liability. Because being a landlord is a business endeavor, your landlord insurance can be considered a business expense.
Tips when talking to your Insurance Agent
Most insurance companies can add a management company as an Additional Insured at no cost, however, some may charge a small fee. If your insurance company charges for this service, or will not provide the correct coverage, we recommend you shop around with other carriers to find the right policy for your investment property.
Some of the Insurance providers that can add SJA Property Management as an Additional Insured:
  • Allstate
  • State Farm
  • Farmers
  • Metlife
  • Amica
  • Hartford
  • America Bankers
Let’s recap why you need landlord insurance and why SJA Property Management must be listed as Additional Insured:
  • Landlord policy helps protect from financial losses resulting from accidents, natural disasters, injuries, and other liability issues associated with your rental property.
  • SJA has a $2MM Errors & Omission Insurance policy (well above the national average) and a separate General Liability Insurance policy.
  • It is very common for reputable Property Management firms to require a landlord to add the company as an Additional Insured; at least the ones with more knowledge and experience, which arguably would be the better ones as they understand risk and liability (which is the number one reason you hired a Property Management company in the first place).
  • Not all insurance companies allow landlords to add their Property Management company as an Additional Insured.
  • Not all insurance companies charge to add a Property Management Company to the policy and in fact, many of them do not.

Disclaimer: It is always recommended that you speak to a local attorney to learn more about local real estate laws and how they can impact you and your home.