Frequently Asked Questions - for Owners
We receive a lot of questions about our business and how we operate -- often from property owners shopping for a property management company. As landlords ourselves who have hired property management companies in the past, we provide some suggestions on what to look for in a good property management company.
You might be surprised by some of our suggestions — like the fact that property management fees are barely relevant to the discussion!
Below are some of the more frequently asked questions we receive.
If you like what you read then contact us for a free consultation on how we can best service your property management needs.
Because we are Seattle's premier property management firm! We have the highest online reviews of any PM firm in the Seattle area. We have some very unique qualities other companies do not possess. Many of our staff our landlords themselves. We treat each property as if it is our own. With over 35+ years "in the trenches", you gain the benefit of not having to relearn expensive lessons. We relieve the stress of managing rentals AND deliver higher profitability to you while maintaining and increasing asset value. As a local company with a local interest, we stay atop of market changes for you.
Yes. Our fee structure is designed to be very competitive and flexible for various situations.
That is a very good question. We not only perform a rigorous comparative market analysis (CMA) for your property, we go one step further. We merge data from the most recent Census Bureau to develop a strategic leasing plan that maximizes the rent while reducing vacancy time. Our Leasing Plan is proprietary, and we are the only company (we know of) that offers it. You can request a free, no-obligation, rental valuation estimate from us as well.
Because tenant screening is such a critical step, we're are going to expand on our answer here. Please be patient -- it is critical to you! We apply a thorough, proprietary, tenant screening process to each applicant. We run each application through a 50-state database for credit, civil, and criminal complaints. But because this process is so critical to our operations, we go two steps further. First, we rely heavily upon the personal interview during the showing of the property. While the prospect is checking out the house, we are checking them out! Second, we personally verify previous and/or current landlords. This is a key step as it allows us to delve into the applicant's background deeper than just getting an 'Accept' or 'Decline' from a computer model. We also verify income with pay stubs or other documentation. We have a full list of tenant screening criteria we base our decision on. We apologize in advance, but in order to preserve the integrity of our tenant screening process, we typically do NOT allow our owners to be involved in the tenant selection process.
That is impossible to say. Each property is unique in its location, amenities, and features it offers. In addition, market conditions will also dictate lease up times. 2-6 weeks is a good starting point, but in no way represents what may actually be the time required for your property. We've had property get rented in much less — and much more — time than that! Average times are on the order of 21-22 days. If a property remains vacant for very long, we will contact you to discuss options. Pricing your property competitively and having it in the best condition possible for showing are crucial to effective marketing. Just so we don't miss anyone, we keep a database of tenants looking to move.
It really depends on the condition of the property when we receive it. It takes a week at a minimum to do the make ready inspection, clean the home, and clean the carpets. Additional repairs could lengthen that time.
In a house the tenant is responsible for all utilities. Water & sewer will stay with the property, and remain the owner's responsibility. We ask the owner to have a copy of the water bill sent to the property address for the tenants to pay and another copy sent to the owner. If the owner sees a past due balance we ask to be notified immediately.
In a multi-family property such as apartment, condo, or townhome where utilities may be included in HOA dues we charge a monthly utility surcharge in addition to the rent to cover the cost of utiltiies. There may be an initial setup fee of $150 for this service.
We will assists you with the setup of utilities, if you need assistance.
Yes, we do that all the time. The presentation of your property is a key element in getting it rented quickly and at top dollar.
We use the Internet extensively. We employ search engines to drive prospects to our website, and we advertise our vacant properties on several Internet-based rental listing services such as Zillow, Trulia, Hotpads, etc. (Please be advised that Zillow now charges a nominal fee for advertising, and we pass those charges through to the owner.) We cross-market through the listings on our website. We also use yard signs to capture residents in the local area. These advertising strategies are all included free to owners and landlords. If you wish to place your property in either newspaper classifieds or fee-based Internet rental sites (incl. Zillow), we can do so and pass the fee through to you. We typically stay away from Craigslist.
We love pets -- we just aren't convinced all tenants know how to care for a pet inside. For that reason we have a 'no pets' policy. Our experience has shown this policy is well worth it in the long run. 'No pets' eliminates a significant part of the tenant rental market, and may result in less income or longer vacancy times. Nonetheless, we continue to maintain high occupancy (>97% vacancy), at market rental rates. If/when a pet is allowed we charge a monthly pet fee plus a bump in the security deposit.
Be advised that service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs) are NOT pets, and we are required by law to accept them when proper documentation and procedures are followed.
We hjave a "limited smoking policy" that permits tenants to smoke outside the home/unit.
Children, or family size, is a protected class under Fair Housing Laws. As such we do not (nor cannot) discriminate based on family structure or size. We are a fair and honest management company that seeks to find the best possible candidate regardless of family size or other protected classes.
Service animals and emotional support animals (ESAs) are a relatively new protected class under federal law.
Some people with a physical disability have found that a service animal helps them with their condition. ESAs support people with emotional or mental disabilities. The service animal or ESA is not a "pet" under fair housing, and must be treated the same as any other occupant.
We require proper documentation of all tenant applicants requesting accommodation for a service animal or ESA.
Rent is due on the 1st and late on the 2nd. We waive our late fee through the 3rd. If rent has not been paid by the 5th, then we give the tenant a courtesy call or email. If we do not hear from them then we issue a 14-day Pay Rent or Vacate Notice. After 14 days are up, if the rent is still not paid, we begin eviction proceedings.
We work diligently with our tenants to avoid eviction and get tenants with past due rent on a repayment plan. We have found that communication and respect are usually the best tools for remedying these types of situations. Sometimes if the rent is not paid on time then you, the owner, may not receive a check for that month. For that reason we recommend Owners keep an extra month's mortgage payment in their bank account.
We are proud of the fact that in 11 years of business we have only initiated 2 evictions for tenants we have approved.
We have written in our lease that Tenants who break their lesae will forfeit their security deposit and one month's rent. Under the WA State Landlord-Tenant Act, the Tenant is also responsible for all costs in re-leasing the property, including any unpaid rent due for the remaining time on the lease, plus any costs associated with re-leasing the property, including commissions and advertising costs.
Our main objective is to leave you, the Owner, clean and whole in any shortened tenancy. We balance that with also wanting to be "a kinder, more compassionate" property management company. When circumstances allow (such as near the end of a lease or with a long term tenant) we have been known to be more lenient. In nearly every situation we are in communication with the Owner to follow your wishes.
Our approach is to treat everyone fairly. Security deposits are held by us in a trust account. When the tenant moves out, we retain that portion of the deposit necessary to restore the property into a 'rentable condition' except for normal wear and tear. Any balance is returned to the tenant. 'Normal wear and tear' is a vague term that creates confusion. If the tenant makes a concerted effort to clean up after themselves and respect the property then we will often give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to what is 'normal' wear and tear. We were once tenants ourselves.
Most certainly. We have helped many landlords get out of a sticky situation with a tenant. With over 30 years experience, we are still seeing new things. But we have developed skill sets we can apply to most situations so things don't get ugly.
Our standard accounting cycle is to pay the leasing and management fees, maintenance labor and supplies, and vendor charges at the start of each month. This is done after rents are paid, and before the owner checks and statements are processed. Rents are due on the 5th, but state law requires us to waive any late fees through the 5th of each month. Checks and statrements are processed on the 7th of each month, unless that occurs on a weekend or national holiday in which case they are processed the next working day.
The details of each bill are uploaded on the secure owner portal for viewing 24/7. In addition, we send an email confirmation on the 7th along with that month's owner statement, and confirming that the owner check is in process. On the owner statement you will see the income and expenses for that accounting period.
We do not mail checks. Sorry. That was last century. We use bank-to-bank transfers using the Automated Clearinghouse (ACH) system. In 11 years, with thousands of transactions, we have never had a problem. Due to the intense security of these transactions, it usually takes several days for the owner check to actually hit the owner bank account. (And this is for an on-time rental payment from the tenant. Late rental payments can delay this even further.) We realize the timing of this bumps up close to the 15th of each month, after which most mortgage companies consider a mortgage payment to be late. For this reason, we recommend owners fund their rental account with funds to cover at least one additional mortgage payment.
Because of our proprietary tenant screening method, it is extremely rare we have to evict a tenant. In fact, we have had just one eviction in 9 years! Which is why we can offer an Eviction Guarantee -- we'll cover the first $1,000 in legal costs for any eviction.
We ask that Full Service Property Management, PLLC be added as an additional insured on the property's landlord insurance policy. There is typically no extra charge for doing this. We require a minimum $300K liability coverage on your Landlord Policy. We also require renter's insurance from tenants.
We take the maintenance of our properties very seriously. We have internalized the maintenance with our own maintenance division in order to control both quality and cost. Our local maintenance staff is trained on how to make repairs quickly and efficiently, and which materials to use to achieve the best results. With any repair estimated to cost over $500 we get your approval first before proceeding. If the job is outside our staff's capability then we will hire a contractor and supervise their work. However, you are not required to use us. You can do the work yourself or hire anyone you want. We only ask that if you do use someone else that they do quality work, in a timely manner.
Sometimes an Owner will want to do the work himself in order to save some money. It is understandable. What we find is that with job, family, and other obligations that the Owner often ends up losing thousands of dollars in lost rent while saving hundreds in labor. It usually works out better to recognize the highest and best use of your time.
No. This is a rolling balance to cover any incidental costs that may come up over the course of the month. When we have to dip into this to pay a utility bill or repair then we will reimburse the account the next month from rents received. If the repair will be more than a month's rent then our property manager may ask you to make an owner contribution to cover the cost of the repair.
Yes. We have experienced realtors on staff who can help you through the entire sale process. Simply call or email us and we will have someone contact you.
Technically there are no upfront costs. We do not typically charge a setup fee (except for multi-family properties). However, your first Owner check will usually be a shy one from the following deductions:
- 50% lease up fee if the home will be vacant
- 10% management fee
- $500 retainage (explained above)
- Repair costs
- Cleaning costs
There are a couple of reasons. The main motivator was to recover costs and profit from the leasing process. Ordinarily we charge tenants a $200-500 administrative fee. By doing so we reduce the burden on owners. However, the City of Seattle passed an ordinance a few years back saying we could not charge tenants that fee. So we transferred it to owners.
The second reason (and a much better one!) is that managing property in the City of Seattle is much more difficult. Laws are changing quickly within the city, and that requires additional time and effort to implement these changes for that one jurisdiction. All of these changes also increases our liability, and there is a cost for that ultimately.