Should You Require Tenants to Have Renters Insurance?


Should You Require Tenants to Have Renters Insurance?

As a landlord with a lot of stake in owning a multifamily property, it’s important to protect your assets at all costs. Requiring your tenants to obtain renters insurance will be that extra layer of protection that you may need. It’s better to be over cautious than under prepared! Renters insurance is relatively inexpensive and shouldn’t be a deal breaker for most tenants.

What is the advantage?

For one, it keeps you (the landlord) out of court! If something happens to a tenant’s belongings or someone gets hurt in the tenant’s apartment, having renters insurance will prevent the tenant from going after the landlord. Renter’s insurance policies generally have a minimum limit of $100,000 general liability, which can cover a majority of damage to the property or any damaged or missing personal belongings.

For example, say a pipe burst and damages the unit, some personal belonging in it, or even the unit below it. Renters insurance would be able to cover a majority of the cost! Say your tenant hosts a party it results in someone getting injured, the first person that typically that gets contacted to cover the damage will be the owner/landlord. If the tenant had renters insurance, the owner/landlord wouldn't have to deal with it. Essentially, the landlord will be covered for any scenarios like this that fall under the renter's insurance maximum coverage.

It also keeps you from renting to a bad tenant. If a tenant complains about having to pay this, generally, affordable monthly cost of renters insurance, then maybe that is not a tenant you want to have in your building. There is nothing wrong with a tenant wanting to stay within their means, but this minor detail could be telling of their ability to pay rent.

So can you require your tenant to purchase renters insurance?

Absolutely, as long as you require it of all your tenants! This requirement should be included in your rental lease agreement and should be reviewed with the tenant so it’s clear (as people often don’t read the terms in fine print). It would even be helpful to make this known in your rental listing so people are aware upfront.

Renters insurance is a great line of defense in the case of an emergency for all parties involved. There are no disadvantages to requiring this of your tenants, so any owner should think about implementing a required renters insurance policy. 


Understanding The Role of a Property Manager


Understanding The Role of a Property Manager

A property manager acts as a third party who is hired by a landlord or property investor to manage the day-to-day operations at a rental property. The exact responsibilities vary depending on the type of property, the terms of the contract, and the type of services that company provides. Understanding what a property manager does, and whom they are to you will increase the likeliness that all parties involved are happy.

To the owner…

A property manager acts as a mediator between you and your tenants. This prevents tenants from constantly bothering you about things that you are potentially unable to deal with. The property manager will handle the rent collecting, property maintenance, managing budgets and keeping track of important records. Many times the owner of an investment property does not live at the property and most likely works a day job, making it difficult to handle these kinds of things, and hiring a property manager will ease the situation. You’ll have an ease of mind knowing that there is someone else out there helping take care of your property.

To the tenant…

You will go to the property manager for any issues you have with your lease or rental property. The property manager is being paid to deal with maintaining your property and noise complaints or any other emergent situations you may have. But you have to keep in mind that the property manager has strict budgets and requirements given to them from the property owner, and may not be able to give you everything you ask for.

Understanding what a property manager is and who they are to you will make their role easier on everyone. Property managers have a tough job, but they also have thick skin and know how to deal with these situations in the best way possible.

If you have a property and are in need of a property manager, consider Two Blue. We have a great reputation for our provided services, and we'll even give you a free estimate!


How to Get Your Property "Rent-Ready"


How to Get Your Property "Rent-Ready"

As a property manager or landlord you will need to do certain things in order to get your property “rent-ready” to show prospective renters. “Rent-ready” is the process by which a property is cleaned, repaired or renovated so that it is appealing to new tenants. There are so many little things to remember to do during this process, so we've come up with a list to help ease you through it. 

Deep Clean Everything

Everything inside the apartment should be properly cleaned to look shiny and brand new. This will show prospective renters that you have a high standard for how your property is maintained. Appliances should be cleaned inside and out, all floors and surfaces should be cleaned, and even be mindful of things like windowsills and ceiling fans. Every area of the property has to be cleaned, from the baseboards to the ceilings!

If you have carpeting in your rental, it would be beneficial to have the carpets professionally cleaned. This is especially important if the previous tenant had pets!

Paint and Repair Walls

Walls can easily turn away a prospective tenant if there are obvious signs of damage. Fix any holes in the wall and apply a fresh coat of paint, not only to the damaged spot but also the entire wall. A fresh coat of paint can make the room look brand new! Be sure to go with a paint color that is light and neutral to appeal to the most people.

Re-key the Locks

It is important that a new tenant will have peace of mind in feeling safe in your property. Be weary that a previous tenant may still know important codes and could even have spare keys still giving them access to your property. This is why it is a must to re-key all outside door locks and to change any garage, alarm, and other important codes.

Enhance the Curb Appeal

The outside of your property is the first thing a prospective tenant will see, and first impressions are everything! It is just as important to take care of the outside, as it is the inside. Make sure the grass is cut, leaves are raked, weeds are pulled, and so on. If it’s the right season, you might even want to consider planting new flowers or bushes to add some new color.

Spray for pests

You’ll want to have your property regularly sprayed for pests. Doing it after a previous tenant moves out and before a new tenant moves in will ensure that a prospective renter won’t have to deal with this problem. 

The list could go on and on with things to check, clean or repair, but nobody knows your property better than you! When getting your property ready to rent, put yourself in the renter's shoes and think of what would be important to you. 



Fall Maintenance Tips

With a Chicago winter right around the corner, it is never too soon to start preparing your home for the colder months. With years of property management across all different types of buildings, Two Blue Property Management has narrowed down some tips that certain to make your home last a lifetime. 

  1. Family safety check. Never too soon to make sure all O2 sensors, smoke detectors, and a fire escape plan are up to date.
  2. Check windows for cracked weather stripping to ensure a tight seal. Having exposed cracks in your window can be a huge drain on your heating bill. Adding new weather stripping or caulk can make sure you have a cozy winter! 
  3. Gutter maintenance. See our in depth article here! 
  4. Inspect your roof. A simple roof inspection can go a long way during the cold months, as it will help insulate heat and shed melting snow. 
  5. Get a professional inspection. Before your heater gets any use this winter, consider having it professionally inspected. This will ensure optimal performance and reliability, saving you from a middle of a snowstorm emergency. 
  6. Winterizing a sprinkler system can save you thousand of dollars on a replacement. Make sure the pipes are empty and sealed will stop ice from rupturing them in a freeze. 
  7. Furnace filters should be changed monthly during the winter to ensure optimal airflow. This is a great way to reduce power consumption and lower your heating bill. 
  8. Insulating pipes can save you money in electric costs as well as prevent a disastrous pipe burst. 



Proper Gutter Maintenance

Clearing out your gutters can greatly reduce natural wear and tear to your home. Making sure they are clean before the winter will greatly aid snow melting and be preventative against things like rust. There are a few things to consider before taking on this task:

1.     Safety

Cleaning gutters can be done safely with the proper equipment and a plan. For gutters over a single story, many people hire a professional service. While this is always an option, the job can be done yourself. A decent ladder is the first step towards ensuring your safety while over a story high. Your ladder should be tested prior to use to check for weak spots and level footing. Place the ladder on a flat, hard surface, as it can sink in mud.

2.     Leaf Blower Method

There are many ways to clean your gutters. For low roofs and dry debris, considering using a leaf blower. This is a quick and effective way to get the job done. For more intense cleaning, such as damp, matted debris, keep reading!

3.     Complete Cleaning

If your gutters require a little more attention, a deep cleaning may be the best option. For this option, plan on it taking a few hours from start to finish, depending on the size of your gutters. First, make sure your ladder is completely secure. After checking your ladder for stability, put on some thick work gloves. Gutters can have sharp edges and protruding screws, so never handle them without work gloves. After your ladder is secure and your gloves are tightened, use a small hand shovel to remove dry debris. You should be able to get the majority of the debris out with this method. After this step, use a high pressure water hose, such as a power washer, to remove thicker, tougher debris. Unfortunately, this could be a messy situation, so consider using the power washer on the side of the house after the job is complete. When the gutters are clear, the last step is to check drain pipes for blockages. You can aim the pressure washer down in the pipe, but this may be a dangerous angle on a latter. Consider using a plumber’s auger to loosen clumped up debris in the spout. Free flowing downspouts will help backup and overflow in the gutters and prevent against early rust.



Getting Ready for New Tenants


Getting Ready for New Tenants

Even after the numerous tasks for listing a property have been completed there is still work to be done is order to be fully prepared for new tenants at your rental property. In order to properly welcome the new tenants there are a few things that should be considered.

The Search for a Tenants

First, screening the possible tenants. This can be a little awkward at times, but is extremely important because you want to find serious tenants that will not cause any issues with the property. The primary thing to do is to ask questions to determine how motivated the potential tenants are. People that are looking to move in the next few days or even the next day indicate that they are not good planners and are probably not the type of tenants you want. On the other hands, tenants that are looking to move in several months should also be avoided as they are not immediately motivated to begin renting. There is a sweet spot in between the distant future and the next day that you as the property manager need to determine. A good place to start to find that time frame is to check the potential tenants credit, background, and criminal records. No evictions, steady work, and a clean criminal record usually indicate a good tenant.


The next step after a tenant has been selected is to collect the first month’s rent upfront and a security deposit. From there the following measure is the leasing agreement. This is the best way to express rules for the property such as: whether or not smoking is okay, the amount of roommates that can be living there at any given time, or any specifics on how rent payments should be made.


Welcoming the Tenants

Once all the technical arrangements are made the final step in the process is creating a welcoming environment for the tenants. Flowers or a gift basket is a nice gesture. Another option as a welcome gift could be household essentials such as paper towels or bottled water; since moving can be frustrating, these little items are sometimes over looked. New tenants typically really appreciate the thought of a gift in general. An exceptionally nice gesture would be a nice bottle of wine or craft beer from a local shop in the neighborhood to show that the new tenants are welcome to the neighborhood.



Video Intercom Solutions: Chicago 13-Unit

Just Installed Video Intercom!

Intercom systems are evolving in a way that benefit tenants and managers in exceptional ways. Fixed intercoms are a tool of the past. The ButterflyMX intercom system is a product that has transformed the way that property managers maintain their properties. ButterflyMX offers state-of-the-art and dynamic ways for tenants to handle their home simply by using their smartphones. As technology becomes more and more advanced Two Blue makes every effort to keep with the times. Thus, Two Blue recently installed the ButterflyMX intercom system in a 13-unit property located in West Town and has seen how the system helps communication at the property.


Property Management Benefits

The system is easy to use and allows property managers to utilizes intercom features throughout the entire building through a user-friendly web portal. There is also a function that allows the property manager to contact anyone in the building through widespread messaging. ButterflyMX can be integrated into most existing property management systems and can update new information automatically to shrink data entry mistakes and to decrease time spent integrating new tenants. The system also promotes a new level of security for the building by tracking who comes in and out of the building by logging all entries and exits from the primary door. Lastly, ButterflyMX uses cloud based data storage to collect and store information on all building activities.


Tenant Benefits

Residents can also reap many benefits from the system. The mobile app is the control center for the tenant to completely govern access to their home. The touch screen intercom located at the front door allows visitors to contact tenants directly on their phone and allow access to the building remotely. There is also a virtual key function that allows for temporary electronic keys to be made and will expire at a given time to allow service personnel into their home. Tenants also have the ability to use multiple methods of messaging to contact visitors. Voice messages or texts can be sent to visitors even when the tenant is not home. There is also an electronic time stamp function for entries and exits from the building. Tenants can manage records of their guests as they let them in all within the mobile app. The smart phone interface allows for extremely easy communication with the front door as well as opening the door remotely.


Drain/Garbage Disposal Care


Drain/Garbage Disposal Care

Garbage disposals have recently become a standard in the modern day home in Chicago. There are many added luxuries of being able to throw waste and food down the drain, but they should not be taken for granted. All sink drain lines with garbage disposals should be rodded every 6 months to 1 year depending on the size of the building and usage of the owner/tenants. As an experienced property management company in Chicago, here are a few tips in how to save your drains from overflowing/clogging and how to save your association/landlord from charging you for the damages.

  1. Run disposer along with a steady stream of cold water for 10-15 seconds before and after grinding is complete.
  2. Avoid using hot water during grinding. It is ok to use your garbage disposal between grinding periods.
  3. Do not pour grease or fat into your disposer or drain.
  4. Avoid grinding or draining the following:
    1. Large amounts of fruit or vegetable peels
    2. Fibrous materials such as celery, corn husks, artichokes, carrots, etc
    3. Hard Materials such as bones, fruit pits, etc
    4. Large amounts of Rice or Pasta/Noodles
    5. Egg Shells
    6. Potato Peels
  5. Use a disposer cleaner to relieve objectionable odors caused by build-up, or grind a small amount of citrus fruit peels to freshen up the area.




Windows And Energy Savings - What To Look For

                Heating during Chicago winters is expensive, and we at Two Blue try to work towards finding you cost effective, sustainable energy savings to help ease your electric and gas bill when it gets cold.

                One option is to upgrade your old windows to energy efficient windows.  Energy star qualified windows start at around $100 for a normal sized single-hung window.  Energy star windows can help you save an estimated $126-$465 a year. 

                Making an informed decision in important, and here are some options you can get if you are looking for new windows:

·         Common Frame Materials

o   Fiberglass: Paintable, low maintenance, and good thermal performance, but costly.

o   Vinyl: Good thermal performance and cheap.  Non paintable and easily cracked during the winter due to expansion and contraction.

o   Wood: Good thermal performance.  Needs heavy maintenance and has a high cost for quality frames.

o   Aluminum: Strong, good color choices, and low maintenance.  Quality is varied, and thermal performance is low.  More suited for warmer climates.

·         SHGC and U-Factor Glazing Ratings

o   Most glass now have 2 panes of glass and a low-e coating for lowering heat transfer to ensure better insulation in your home.  For colder climates, what you want is high-SHGC and low U-factor windows.

o   SHGC is is an indicated value of how much solar radiation is passed through a window assembly.  The higher a solar heat gain coefficient; the more solar heat it transmits.

o   U-Factor is an indicated value of a window assembly’s ability to resist heat flow and insulate.  Lower U-Factor numbers indicate better insulating properties.

·         Other items to look for

o   Multiple panes of glass with a gap between creates an air buffer to better insulate your home.

o   Different gases can be used to fill the double or triple panes of glass for less thermal conductivity and better insulation.

o   Low-e(missions) coating reflects Infrared and UV light from the outside, and also keeps your heat locked indoors.


Choosing The Right Salt This Winter


Choosing The Right Salt This Winter

With the winter season approaching fast, we know that Chicago winters can be very unpredictable when it comes to winter-time weather.  Buildings and Associations should be preparing to get good pricing on snow removal and salt before the snow and cold sneaks up on you.

An important decision for buildings every year is what kind of de-icer to use for the season.  Common walkways must be de-iced to ensure safety and comfort of walking around your property.  Here are some comparisons of different snow melting salt options Two Blue has reviewed to help you decide this winter.

·         Calcium Chloride and Magnesium Chloride

o   Price scale: Medium

o   Fast acting and effective alternative to the commonly used rock salt.  Mostly safe for grass if used minimally to moderately.  Melts to -25 degrees F.

·         Magnesium Chloride

o   Price scale: Medium

o   Fast acting and effective alternative to the commonly used rock salt.  Mostly safe for grass if used minimally to moderately.  Melts to -13 degrees F, and has a higher chance of damaging asphalt or sidewalks.

·         Potassium Chloride

o   Price Scale: High

o   Safest Pet and Garden friendly alternative.  Melts to -25 degrees F.

·         Sodium Chloride/Rock Salt

o   Price Scale: Low

o   Basic rock salt.  Extremely cheap but toxic to pets, damages surfaces, and not garden friendly.

·         Metal and stairs

o   Metal and stairs can be a hassle.  There are several options for melting ice on metal stairs to minimize, such as Urea based de-icers, or using a brine (liquid de-icer) solution.  Another solution would be to use Sand.  Sand is not a de-icer, but if you shovel beforehand, sand can provide traction for walking on the stairs along with preventing new ice to form on top of it.

These are the most common types of de-icer that we are Two Blue Property Management have worked with in the past.  As a premier Property Management company in Chicago, we are more than happy to help your building manage any upcoming winter woes to ensure a safe environment for everyone!