Rents in Manhattan, NY were up 7% in the second quarter of 2011 compared to the same quarter the previous year. Rents have also increased between 2 and 5% in the major metropolitan areas of California during that same period of time.
The national unemployment rate increased during June of 2011, and the number of new jobs created was disappointingly low. As unemployment benefits expire and public assistance programs are drained, more residents are finding it difficult to meet their major expenses, beginning with their rent.
On July 9th I interviewed the owner of a property management company in Southern California. She and her partners have been managing residential rental properties for almost 40 years. We discussed vacancies, rental rates and handling evictions. She said that vacancy rates in the summer increase because that’s when most people relocate. However, vacancies are being filled at a much faster rate than last summer, and they’ve been able to raise the rents in most locations. “We’re still having to ‘chase’ rents”, she admitted. “The unemployed are having a harder time finding jobs and resident’s finances are strained”. For the first time in their careers, the property managers are hearing residents who are in arrears say that “President Obama is going to help us”—which indicates to them that more are beginning to believe they need government assistance to keep paying their rent.
Being diligent about enforcing their eviction policies has become an important concern. “We are automatically giving out 3-Day Notices after the 6th of the month, no matter how much they owe.” She explained that a 3-Day Notice was a form of “fair warning” that if the resident doesn’t pay in full within 3 days that the eviction process will begin…no exceptions! They’ve decided to hire a legal service to handle the evictions, which includes the serving of the eviction notices.
When it comes to communicating with the residents, they are always polite and respectful to residents who are delinquent in their rent. She or her associates will often call the residents personally to explain what the 3-day notice means and what the residents must do keep from being evicted. “We don’t let our residents become more than 30 days past due. Residents must pay-in-full and we respectfully tell them there are no exceptions.”
When it comes to dealing with older residents or the disabled, the property managers go out of their way to work with their families, local authorities and social services. There are also private and church-sponsored relief programs available for seniors, the disabled and struggling families. The managers use their support staff to locate all available local assistance programs.
“When residents have fallen behind in their rent I often call them and ask if they are planning to move. I remind them that I’m not going to allow them to be past due more than 30 days without filing an ‘unlawful detainer’. Then I explain to them what that is and how the eviction proceeds.” She had their rental and lease agreements updated to clarify that those evicted would have to pay all legal and court costs. There’s also a clause that states the owner and property manager will not pay more than $600 in resident’s legal/court expenses if the eviction is overturned in court.