Q: I have a rental home located near a college and have successfully rented to students over the past few years. Typically, all of my student tenants move out when the school year ends.
This year, my current tenants are divided in their desire to stay or leave. Two of the four tenants would like to rent the house through the summer and bring in new roommates in the fall. They like the idea of not having to move out and find a new place when school starts. Because there are only two of them who will be staying during the summer they have asked me to give them a rent discount. I also don’t know what to do about their security deposit. How do I handle these issues?
A: For most landlords who rent their properties based on the traditional school year, this is an ideal situation, as you can keep your property occupied year-round.
A vacant rental property not only doesn’t generate income but the majority of damage occurs during the move-in and move-out process, so having two of your tenants willing to lease the property on an annual basis makes the extra effort on your part worthwhile.
First, you should handle the departure of the two tenants who are leaving in almost the same way you have handled the end-of-the-school-year move-outs in prior years. You should walk the property and evaluate the condition of the property and determine if there is any damage or excessive wear and tear so you know the proper deductions from the security deposit.
Unless otherwise agreed in advance, all four of your tenants are presumed to have an equal share of the security deposit.
So you can either process the security deposit refund for all tenants and collect a new security deposit from the two tenants who are staying, or you can prepare a written transfer of the security deposit in which the departing tenants relinquish their claim to the security deposit. Of course, the tenants who stay will also need to replenish the security deposit for any deductions you have made.
Over the summer, as new roommates are proposed you should process their rental applications in the same manner as with all new tenants. Once again, the roommates can work out any issues with the security deposit themselves.
Your tenants’ request for a rent discount for the summer months seems to be reasonable and is a matter of negotiation.
Q: I live in an old apartment building comprised of four residential units and three commercial units. I am on the first floor of the building and I can hear noise emanating from the main entryway/foyer of the building. I don’t believe proper (if any) insulation/soundproofing has been installed in the walls, floors or ceiling.
For instance, there is a hole in the wall that is adjacent to the outside hallway and there is no insulation in this wall, which leads me to believe there isn’t any in the floor or ceiling. I can hear my upstairs neighbor when he talks on the phone. I can also hear whenever people enter or exit the building or are talking in the hallway.
Additionally, I can hear noises from the commercial unit below me although this is more understandable because one of the units is a hair salon.
I have looked online for specific building codes for my city pertaining to soundproofing requirements and could not find much useful information. What can I do to make sure my property manager/building owners abide by these building codes?
A: Building codes are handled differently and at the discretion of each local jurisdiction. However, generally speaking they are updated locally as changes are implemented on a national or state level — or recently even an international level.
As the building code requirements change over the years, each state and local municipality will periodically "adopt" the new version of the building codes. Many older buildings have special features that reflect a level of craftsmanship that isn’t found on newer buildings.
But generally speaking, the new or revised building codes reflect the improvements in technology and construction techniques and have led to higher-quality buildings — especially in areas such as soundproofing and weatherization.
The new building codes do not usually apply to existing buildings, as they are "grandfathered" and would become required only if there is significant renovation of the property.
You have two options. First, you can contact the owners of the building and see if they are willing to add insulation or soundproofing to the building. I recently saw an older building from the 1920s that underwent a major renovation. While architecturally desirable in many respects, the building suffered from many of the same problems you described.
So the owner incorporated the installation of insulation and soundproofing as part of the work to completely upgrade the building electrical and plumbing systems, which required the removal and replacement of significant portions of the lath and plaster walls. This type of work would likely be cost-prohibitive unless done as part of an overall building system upgrade.
Second, if your landlord is unwilling to take on such an ambitious and expensive renovation, then you can either adapt to the situation or relocate to another property.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of "Property Management for Dummies" and "Property Management Kit for Dummies" and co-author of "Real Estate Investing for Dummies." E-mail your questions to Rental Q&A at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.
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