Property Managers – The Next BIG Data Breach Target

Tenant File Cybersecurity Warning

As a property manager, you are busy – really busy. That is why you are not usually concerning yourself with hacking, data breaches, cyber security, and whatnot … your property management software handles that stuff for you, right? Think again. The property management industry is the next big data breach target for the hackers. It’s like the golden fleece of data and it is there for the taking.  Easy pickings …

Think like a hacker. There are SO many opportunities. For starters, all of your owners information is available. That includes bank account numbers, social security numbers, email addresses, passwords to access the software, and confidential accounting records. That is pure gold for someone wanting to immediately start draining bank accounts.

And that is just the beginning. When a potential tenant makes a rental application, they provide EVERYTHING a computer hacker needs to steal their identity.  Name, social security numbers, addresses, employment, cell phone numbers, references, wages, and much, much more.  That includes all of the tenants you have ever managed and even the ones that simply applied to rent from you.  It’s all in your property management software database.

How about the vendors that you do business with? You have all of their information as well. If you pay their bank account directly, you are responsible for their banking info, too.

What about your own data? That is all online as well, and you could have your identity stolen too. Once that is done, it could take years to get it back and to stop all of the instances of someone using your personal information throughout the dark web.

Angry Property Manager

A property management company is one-stop-shopping for a hacker. There is so much more data in one place, so it is a prime target for nefarious criminals. I understand that you are busy, and feel that you are protected. Why do you feel protected? Because a salesperson told you that you have nothing to worry about. Don’t believe it!

When you purchase a web-based property management software, you are probably overwhelmed by the security pitch designed to put your mind at ease. You’ll hear things like “we have redundant servers”, “we have never had a data breach”, “we have triple firewall protection”, “blah, blah, blah”.  Then you think, “wow, they could never have a data breach with all of that!”.

Think again. For starters, let’s review just ‘some’ of the recent data security breaches:

  • Panera Bread – estimated over 7 million
  • Sears, Kmart, Delta Air Lines, Best Buy – lumped together because it was a customer service company managing their clients – sound familiar?
  • Saks Fifth Avenue / Lord and Taylor – over 5 million debit and credit cards
  • Facebook – you’ve heard about this breach of over 87 million
  • Under Amour / My Fitness Pal – 150 million
  • Adidas – millions of customers compromised
  • Ticketmaster – millions compromised
  • Equifax – confidential customer information stolen
  • Yahoo – updated estimates of compromised accounts to 3 billion
  • Arby’s – undetermined number of stolen records
  • Dun & Bradstreet – they’re supposed to be the rock solid pillar
  • Chipotle – ongoing investigation to determine the numbers
  • California Association of Realtors – payments made online sent info elsewhere
  • Verizon – 14 million subscribers affected
  • Uber – 57 million riders and drivers data stolen from their GitHub repository.

Well, I could go on and on, but you get the point. If these huge companies with all of their sophisticated protection could be breached, do you ‘really’ think your online property management software company is better?  And those figures don’t even include major attacks on universities, government agencies, and our ‘grid’.

Our grid? Yes, the Russians and other countries may already be able to take down large portions of the United States power grid, if not all of it. Think of all the companies affected by Hurricane Florence on the East Coast. They may not have power for weeks. That means the property management companies cannot access their online tenant records, their owner’s accounting, banking, tenant screening, and more. They are basically ‘out of business’ until further notice.

I just want you to think about this. Even as busy are you are managing property, please take a moment to think about the precious data that you are entrusting to people you don’t even know. Of course you should change your passwords often and take other precautions, but is that really enough? Find out if you can download your important customer data to your own computer on a regular basis. Maybe you don’t even need an expensive web-based product when a desktop version will do just as well … just something to think about.

TIPS AND TRICKS – POSTING MANAGEMENT FEES

As a Property Manager, you’re main goal is to keep the properties that you manage occupied by reliable tenants, handle the maintenance on the Units, contact your tenants concerning their rent payments and at times deal with evictions.  That is, of course, why we have Management Fees which can be set up as a percentage of the rent received, flat fee on each rental income or a fee on all Units whether the rental income is received or not per month.  The Tenant File is designed to handle any type of Management Fees that your contract sets forth. Here are some tips on posting management fees.

It is best to determine which method is best for your needs and continue with the same method so that the fees are not charged multiple times in the same month.  The most efficient way (through the ‘Post Rent’ button) is to post the fees automatically each time you post rent income.  In this method, each time you receive and post ‘Rent Received’, whether it is a full rent or partial rent, there will be a ‘Management Fee Charge’ right after the ‘Rent Received’ posting in your Unit Ledger. The other way is to have the program calculate and charge the ‘Management Fees’ to all Units that received a rental income throughout the month, prior to paying your Owners.

To charge Management Fees as you post ‘Rent Received’:

This is done by using the ‘Post Rent’ button from the Main Menu. In Step 2 of the section called “I want to post rent income FROM my Tenants”, you would indicate ‘Yes, calculate Management Fees automatically’ on each rent that is posted. You can even issue a check to yourself for all ‘Management Fees Charged’.  You need to make sure that you have selected the correct ‘Bank Account’ for your ‘Management Fees’ check.

How to post Management Fees through Automatic Posting at the end of the month:

You can still use the ‘Post Rent’ button as in the method above, but make sure you select ‘No, do not post any Management Fees’ in the ‘Post Management Fees for all Rents posted?’ selection under Step 2. This procedure will allow you to post the ‘Rent Received’ transaction without charging the fees.  That would be done at the end of the month.

If you choose to post ‘Rent Received’ directly to the ledger (without creating a Deposit) or by posting your rents as a bank deposit, you can still post your ‘Management Fees’ automatically at the end of the month (or any time) by using ‘Automatic Posting’.

Note: This procedure would be done after you have received and posted all of your rents for the month but before you have paid your Owners.  Please Note:  The ‘Automatic Posting’ function will create checks ONLY to the Main Operating Account.

Action: From the Tenant File Main Menu select ‘Posting’, then ‘Automatic Posting’.

Choice: If you wish to create a check to the Management Company for the total of all management fees posted, select the ‘Issue Checks for posting’ box. The program will create separate checks for each management fee posted unless you also select the ‘Consolidate Checks created’ box. If you do create a check, the management fees will not be posted until the check is printed, otherwise the transactions will be posted immediately.

Action: Under ‘Posting Options’, click on ‘Post MANAGEMENT Fee’.

Choice: Under ’Scroll by’, if you are going to scroll through each Unit one by one and decide which ones to post, and you wish change the order in which you will be alphabetically scrolling through the list of Unit Addresses, then select a different ’Scroll by’ option.

Choice: Under ‘Posting Range’, you can limit the posting to a range of names. This should not be used normally for posting management fees. If you do use this feature, the name used will be dependent on your selection in the ’Scroll by’ options. For example, if you are scrolling by ‘Unit Address’, then you could enter a range from ‘1200 Smith Road’ to ‘1590 Smith Road’. Or if you are scrolling by ‘Owner Name’ and wish to charge management fees to one Owner only, you could enter a range from ‘Johnson’ to ‘Johnson’.

Action: Click on the ‘Begin Posting’ button.

Note: You will see a screen for your choices regarding posting Management Fees. You can post the fees based on rent collected between any two dates, or you can post the management fees based on the full rent for each tenants, regardless of whether rent has been collected or not. Choose ‘Choice One’ or ‘Choice Two’ and begin posting. This will take you to the posting screen.

Tenant File Management Fees

Action: To post to all of the Units without pausing, click the ‘Post All’ button. To post only the one item shown and move to the next one, click the ‘Post this’ button. To skip only the item shown and move to the next one, click the ’Skip’ button. You can make changes to the date or management fee amount if you are pausing at each Unit.

If you choose not to create a check for the management fees posted at this time, you can create a check later through the ‘Add/Edit’ Checks selection under ‘Checks/Deposits’. You will need to be sure to select ‘None’ under the ‘Post To’ selection when creating a check. To get a listing of all ‘Management Fees Charged’ that were posted to the ledgers for any date range, run the ‘Account Listing’ report, by entering the ‘Include Dates’ for the date range, the Include Range (i.e. ‘Management Fee Charged’), and clicking ‘Print Report’.  Note:  If you do not have the program create the check when posting the fees and choose to create a check posted to ‘None’ at the end of the month as indicated above, there will be no ‘split detail’ attached to the check for the separate ‘Management Fees Charged’ transactions.

 

Tips and Tricks – How to Post Rental Income

As a property owner and/or Property Manager, one of the more important ‘daily routines’ would be posting your rental income from your Tenants.  In the Tenant File program, there are several ways to complete that important task – the easiest method, of course, would be to sign up with one of our affiliate companies, REVO Payments and use the Tenant File DirectPay option, which will allow your tenants to pay you online on your own website.

If you choose not to sign up with an online company, the second best way would be to utilize the POST RENT screen found from the Main Menu of the program.  The following will describe the step-by-step methods for the different procedures to get the task done….

REVOPAY – With the Tenant File DirectPAY option, you will be able to set up an online payment system with your tenants, affording your tenants 24 hour convenience of paying their rent online and helping you to get your rental income in a timely fashion.  Your tenants will be able to pay their monthly rental payment online by eCheck, Credit Card or even recurring payments.  The payments will then automatically post in the correct Tenant File ledgers along with your Bank Register.  You can even set it up to have your tenants pay the ‘per transaction fee’.   Detailed information on the pricing and set up of RevoPay can be found on our website at https://www.tenantfile.com/directpay-ach-payments.html where you can view a short video of the process along with information on their monthly subscription fees.

POST RENT OPTION – Without the DirectPay option, the fastest and most flexible way to post your rental income would be to click onto the POST RENT button from the MAIN MENU.  This process will allow you to post the ‘Rent Received’ income from all or selected tenants, post ‘Late Fees Received’, charge the ‘Management Fee’ for each rent payment received, post a second income posting (such as ‘Laundry Fees’, ‘Trash Pickup Fees’, etc.), create a Bank Deposit, and create a Management Fee check all on one screen.
Tenant File Tips and Tricks - How to post Rental IncomeStep 1:
Are you Posting Rent to . . . –
If you choose ‘Selected Tenants’, no rent amount or management fees will be entered for you (on the following screen), so that you can enter the rent received for each one yourself. The correct ‘Management Fees to Post’ will be calculated based on the rent you post (and the ‘Management Fee’ field entered in the separate Owner Ledger screens).  The method of ‘Selected Tenants’ is the more common method since it gives the user the ability to enter the correct amount received for each tenant and balance to the total of checks in hand.

If you receive a majority of your rental income on the same day, you can choose to post to ‘All Tenants’ and the program enter the full rent amount for all Tenants in the program to be posted along with all ‘Management Fees to Post’ (as per the settings in the Management Fee’ field you previous setup in your Owner Ledgers).  If a few tenants did not yet pay, you can zero out the amounts in the row and edit both the rent amounts and the management fees for any tenants that paid a partial rent.  If you select this choice, make sure that the total of the rents to post balance to the rent checks that you have received.  Remember, if you enter to post to ‘All Tenants’, the program will show that every tenant paid you the full rent ‘Payment’ as entered in the ledger.

Step 2:
Post Management Fees for all Rents Posted? –
You can have the program automatically calculate and enter management fees for each rent amount posted.  There are different ways to post your Management Fees in the program.  If you choose not to post the fees as you receive rent, you can post the ‘Management Fee Charged’ transactions at the end of the month utilizing the ‘Automatic Posting’ section of the program.

Step 3:
Check / Deposit Options –
If you are utilizing the Check/Deposit feature in the program to keep track of your Bank Account(s), you can have the program create a bank Deposit for all rents posted along with a check (to you) for all management fees posted.  We HIGHLY suggest that you enter a deposit number, which will tie the deposit ledger transactions to the deposit in your Register. You might want to use the current date with no slashes, such as 180405 if the date is 04/05/2018.  If you choose to have the program create a check for all ‘Management Fees to Post’, the transactions will appear in the Unit Ledgers once you print the check.

Step 4:
Date to Use –
This is the transaction date that will appear on each ledger line.  The settings will always default to the current date, but you can edit the field to post to a past or future date.

Sort By – You can choose the following screen to be sorted by ‘Owner Name’, ‘Property Name’, ‘Rental Address’ or ‘Tenant Name’, whichever is easiest for you to post to the correct Tenants.

Account Defaults – This information is pulled from your ‘Account Defaults’ which is a section that you will need to set up at the onset of installing the program.  Be sure to check that the correct accounts are set as the default for your rent income, Management Fee expense and Late Fee income and change these if they are not correct.

Posting Filters – This section allows you to ‘Include only those Tenants that have a balance due’ or ‘Include only Tenants from this Owner’.  This will allow you to limit the listing for easier posting.

Bank Account to Use – This section allows you to choose one of the ten Bank Accounts available to post the Deposit to and/or create a Check for the ‘Management Fees to post’. If will always default to the first Bank Account (which is the Main Operating Account for most users).

Note:  If you have separate Bank Accounts for each Owner, select one of the Owner Names from the drop-down under ‘Posting Filter’ and then select the correct Bank Account for that Owner.  If you choose to create a Deposit, all postings that you enter on the ‘Tenant File Rent Income Posting’ screen will be deposited into the Bank Account you choose in this section.

This is the posting screen that details the amounts to be posted and allows you to edit the amounts first.
Tenant File Tips and Tricks - Rental Fee Income PostingEnter the correct rental income amount received for each Tenant in the ‘Rent To Post’ column if you previously entered ‘Selected Tenants’ in Step 1.  If you entered ‘All Tenants’ under Step 1, the monthly payment amount for each tenant will be completed for you in this column.  Only the ‘white’ columns, such as the ‘Rent to Post’, ‘Mgmt Fee to Post’, ‘Late Fee’ Received, ‘Remark’ and the ‘Other’ column can be edited. Once you have entered the amounts from your rent checks and clicked down to the next line, the ‘Total Rent’ field will calculate and will be the total of all of your postings.  This will be the amount of the deposit created, if you choose to create a deposit.  It is very important that you make sure that this total balances to your checks in hand.

After you make any changes to a row, be sure to save the row by clicking on any other row above or below the current row.  There is no ‘SAVE’ button on this screen.  Once you make sure that the ‘Total Bank Deposit’ matches the total amount of the checks on hand, select ‘Begin Posting Now’ and all entries will be posted to the separate Tenant Ledgers from the entries on this screen.  If you chose to create a deposit and a check, the deposit amount will be posted to the Register and a check will be available for printing for your ‘Management Fees’ posted.

POSTING RENTAL INCOME THROUGH THE DEPOSIT SECTION

Another method to post rental income would be to create a deposit for your rental checks.  Simply click into the ‘CHECKS/DEPOSIT’ button from the MAIN MENU and change the DISPLAY (on the upper right corner) to DEPOSITS.

Select the correct ‘Bank Account’ from the drop-down Menu on the top of the screen prior to entering a new deposit and click NEW.  Enter a ‘Deposit Number’, the date for the postings and a ‘Remark’.  Since this would be a deposit for your rental income, you would select TENANTS under the ‘Post To Ledger’ option.

Select ‘Rent Received’ from the drop-down list in the ACCOUNT column and enter a TRANSACTION REMARK.

Select the correct Tenant’s name from the drop-down list under the POST TO DESCRIPTION and enter the amount of the rental income received.  Once the information is completed on each row, click down to the next row to save the information and update the ‘Deposit Amount’ field.

If you received a Late Fee or other income, you would enter the information in the next row.  Continue with each rental income check received.  After all entries for the deposit are entered, click the SAVE button. Once saved, you can choose to post the deposit transactions to the appropriate ledgers immediately or keep the deposit open to add new transactions at a later time.

It is very important to remember that transactions will not post to your ledgers until you click to POST the deposit. Therefore, if you choose to SAVE the deposit and need to EDIT the information prior to posting, you MUST remember to go back to the deposit, edit any entries and/or add new entries and click SAVE and POST when complete.

As you can see, if you are utilizing the CHECKS/DEPOSIT feature of the program, it is much easier to post through the POST RENT section, however, you may need to use this method for new tenants that you are just now inputting into the program.

POSTING DIRECTLY TO A LEDGER

If you choose not to utilize the Check/Deposit feature of the program, you can post rental income directly in to a Tenant’s Ledger by locating the correct Tenant (click on the TENANTS button from the MAIN MENU and then select FIND).  Once you are in the correct Tenant Ledger, click on to the ‘LEDGER’ button to view your transaction grid.  Post the transaction in the first ‘blank’ line (the line with the asterisks).  Click down to the next line to save your transaction.  At this point, if you choose, you can print a ‘Payment Receipt’ by clicking on to the ‘PRINT’ button in the ledger.

So, as you can see, there are several ways to post rental income, so you will need to decided which one works best for you.  In any case, the Tenant File Property Management Software has everything you need to keep track of rental income and expenses, so that you can spend your time making your business profitable.

Tenant File Tips and Tricks – Keeping Track of your Bank Account

The Tenant File Property Management Software allows users the ability to keep track of up to ten Bank Accounts within each installation. Whether you are posting expenses or posting rental income, the process can be completed directly by creating checks and deposits.

Of course, you have the flexibility of posting transactions directly to your ledgers; however, by utilizing the Checks/Deposit function of the program, you can complete all postings while keeping a separate bank Register on each account. In addition to creating checks and deposits, you have the ability to ‘Reconcile’ your accounts each month against Bank Statements.

How to create a check…

New Tenant File Check

To create a new check, click into the ‘Checks/Deposit’ button from the Main Menu. Any checks that you have previously entered but not yet printed will display on your screen.

The Command Buttons on the side of the check will allow you to add a ‘New’ check, ‘Edit’ an existing ‘Entered’ check, ‘Delete’ a check, enter a ’Split’ transaction detail on a new check, or ‘Void’ a check.

Select Bank Account – At the top of the check screen, you will need to select one of the ten Bank Accounts for the check you are entering. Upon entering a new check or deposit, the default bank account will always be your ‘Primary’ Bank Account. If you maintain separate accounts for your Owner, it is very important that you choose the correct account at the onset.

To enter a New Check, press the ‘New’ button and enter the following information:

Pay to the Order Of – Make your selection directly from the ‘Payee List’ on the right side of the screen (Vendor List, Owner List or Tenant List). By selecting the name from the list (and not typing in the name) it will allow for consistency when looking for a payee name or when creating your 1099 MISC forms at the end of the year.

If the same name is spelled two different ways, the program will consider that as two different Vendors, for example. In addition, selecting from the list will automatically include the address for the check. If the check that you are creating is for a new Vendor that you have not yet setup, you can click into ‘Vendors’ under the ‘Payee List Box’ and click ‘Add Vendor’.

Date – Your current date is displayed, however, you can change this date by clicking onto the ‘Date’ field and enter the date that you want printed on the check.

Amount – The amount of your check will be automatically calculated from the total of the ‘splits’ that you will enter in the transaction grid at the bottom of the check. Note: You do have the option to create a check that is not to be posted to any ledger. In this case, you would select the ‘Post to Ledger’ Status as ‘None’ and then would be required to enter an amount in the field.

Invoice – User entered Invoice number.

Remark – User entered remark. This remark is for the entire check. Each split for this check has a remark that will be posted to the transaction ledger.

Post To Ledger – When posting transactions into the Tenant File, you must indicate the type of ledger that the transactions are to be posted. Any transaction that applies to a specific rental unit (such as fixing the sink in unit A of a duplex) needs to be posted to the Unit Ledger (including single family homes). Any transaction that applies to the entire ‘property’ (such as Lawn Care or maintaining the pool at an apartment building) should be posted to the ‘Property Ledger’. Lastly, any transaction between you (the Manager) and the owner of the property should be posted to the Owner Ledger.

Postings to be charged to the Tenant will go to either the Tenant Ledger (if it only affects the Tenant, such as ‘Repairs & Maintenance’ that the Tenant is responsible for) or to ‘Both (Tenant and Unit Ledgers)’ if it affects ‘Both’ the Tenant AND the Owner. Whichever type of Ledger that you select in the ‘Post to Ledger’ selection will determine which expense accounts will be accessible in the drop-down under the ‘Accounts’ column.

Lastly, if you need to create a check that is not to be posted in any Ledger within the Tenant File program, there is a selection called post to ‘None’. If you are going to utilize the Check/Deposit section of the program and intend to Reconcile your Bank Account(s) with the program, you should always create a check for the posting rather than posting directly into the Ledger.

Entering the Split Transactions for the Check:  On the bottom half of the screen, you will enter the transactions for each check. Every check will have at least one row, unless you have selected the ‘Post To’ status of ‘None’ and will not post the check to any ledger.

Complete each column of the row and move to the next line to add more splits for this check. After making a change or adding a row, you must click on another row (above or below) to save the current row.

You are able to post transactions to different types of ledger (such as a Property Ledger and a Unit Ledger) within the same check by changing the ‘Post to Ledger’ Status. Simply save the current row and then click on the ‘Post To Ledger’ option box to change the Ledger type. You can create multiple postings to multiple ledgers from a single check. Once you have completed the check, click on the ‘Save’ button prior to exiting.

How to print a check….

Print Checks in Tenant File

The transactions associated with Entered checks are not posted to the ledgers until you actually print the checks. To print one or more of your Entered checks, click into the CHECKS/DEPOSITS button and click on the selection at the bottom of the screen called ‘Print Checks.

Once you select the correct ‘Bank Account’ from the drop-down list, you will see your list of entries in the ‘Entered Check’ file for that particular Bank Account. To select or de-select all checks, click the correct button at the bottom of the screen. If you just want to print individual checks from the list, hold down the ‘Control’ key (Ctrl) and click on the rows you want to include.

Starting Check Number to use: The Tenant File will remember the last check number printed, but be sure to look at your check stock and edit the field accordingly.

Starting Date to use:  Leave this field blank to use the date that was entered on the check. You can choose to change the date of the printing if you need to.

Print Check Number on Check: If checked, this will print the check number in the upper right area of the check. All pre-printed checks have the number included on the check stock, therefore, if you wish, you can remove the check mark to prevent the number form printing.

Skip Print – Post Only: This selection will do everything normally done when printing a check, except that the checks will not be sent to your printer. Users that want to keep track of their Bank Account(s) but do not print checks will use this function to post the transactions and show the printed checks in their ‘Bank Register’.

Start Printing: Click this button when you are ready to print your entered checks. Once the checks are printed, you will want to view them to make sure that they printed correctly. The program allows you to ‘Reprint’ the checks if your printer didn’t print the checks correctly or you want to modify the check(s) prior to posting to the ledger. In the pop-up, if you answer that you want to reprint your checks, all of the checks will remain as ‘Entered Checks’ and transactions will not post to your ledgers. In that case, you would make the necessary changes and reselect and reprint the checks. If you answer ‘No’ (that you do not need to reprint), all selected checks will be transferred to the ‘Printed’ check file and the transactions will be posted to the appropriate ledgers. Once moved to the ‘Printed’ check file, you cannot edit or re-print the checks.

How to create a Deposit …

To create a new deposit, click into the ‘Checks/Deposit’ button from the Main Menu and change the DISPLAY (on the upper right corner) to DEPOSITS. Select the correct ‘Bank Account’ from the drop-down Menu on the top of the screen prior to entering a new deposit.

To enter a new Deposit, click NEW. You would then want to enter a ‘Deposit Number’ for the new deposit. We highly suggest that a number be created since the Deposit number ties the potentially multiple ‘split transactions’ when searching for a deposit and in multiple reports.

Enter the date and a ‘Remark’. Just like checks, you can post transactions from a deposit to different types of ledgers, such as a mixture of postings for an Owner, Property, Unit, or Tenant all in one deposit. To do this, just click on the correct ledger under the ‘Post To Ledger’ option, and then enter the information in the transaction row. Once the information is completed on each row, click down to the next row to save the information and update the ‘Deposit Amount’ field.

After entering all entries for the deposit, click the SAVE button. Once saved, you can choose to post the deposit transactions to the appropriate ledgers immediately or keep the deposit open to add new transactions at a later time.

It is very important to remember that transactions will not post to your ledgers unless you click to POST the deposit. Therefore, if you choose to SAVE the deposit and need to EDIT the information prior to posting, you MUST remember to go back to the deposit and click POST when complete. The field in yellow next to ‘Posted to Ledger’ will either indicate an ‘N’ stating that it has not been posted or a ‘Y’ once it has been posted. Once you click to POST the deposit, all related transactions are posted to the ledger(s) and you can no longer edit the information.

At the end of each month, if you choose, you can RECONCILE your Bank Account(s) to your Bank Statement.

How to Reconcile…

Reconcile Tenant File

Step 1: Display the Bank Register by clicking on the REGISTER button from the Main Menu.

Step 2: Select the correct ‘Bank Account’ from the drop-down list that you wish to reconcile. Your main Property Management Account is the default account that will always show when you click into the Register. Click the drop-down and select a different account if you are not balancing your main account.

Step 3: Click ‘Add Register Charges and Credits’ to enter in any bank fees (i.e. monthly service fees) as a DEBIT and bank income (i.e. Interest Earned) as a CREDIT.

Step 4: Click the ‘Reconcile’ button. The Beginning Balance field will be the total of all previously reconciled checks and deposits.

Step 5: Find the Ending Balance on your Bank Statement and enter it in the ‘Ending Bank Balance’ field.

Note: You will see a display of all checks and deposits that are currently PENDING, including any bank charges and credits that you have just entered. Only checks that are marked PENDING and not CLEARED will display.

If you manually changed the ‘Status’ in the Bank Register of any checks or deposits to ‘Cleared’, you would not be able to complete a reconciliation until you change any checks marked ‘Cleared’ in error.

Step 6: Compare the list in the Reconciliation section to the checks and deposits that have cleared your bank. Find all checks and deposits that match the transactions on the statement and click the transaction to mark it as ‘Cleared’ on this screen.

Note: Make sure that the transaction that you clear matches exactly (dollar and cents) to the amount listed on the statement. If you determine that some amounts do not match exactly, you will need to leave the Reconciliation section and correct the transactions.

Once corrected, click into RECONCILE and follow the above instructions. Likewise, if you find a transaction on your Bank Statement that is not shown in the listing in the Reconcile, you will need to leave the Reconciliation section and find the transaction that was not entered into the Tenant File. Once you have entered the transaction, click into REGISTER and RECONCILE and follow the above instructions.

Note: Once you have cleared all checks and deposits and have verified that they match all checks and deposits that have cleared as per your Bank Statement; the total will be calculated and entered into the CLEARED field of your Reconciliation window.

Note: The difference between the Ending Balance plus all Cleared checks and deposits and the Ending Bank Balance will display in the window called DIFFERENCE.

Step 7: If the amount is $0.00, you have successfully reconciled the Tenant File checking account with your Bank Statement. To print a Reconciliation Report, exit this section, go to REPORTS > CHECKS/DEPOSITS report type > Check Reconciliation (Cleared).

Note: If the amount is not zero, your Tenant File Account is not in balance with your Bank Statement. You will need to determine if there are any checks or deposits that have not been entered into the Tenant File but show up as a Cleared transaction in your Bank Statement.

Or you may have a check or deposit that was cleared in error in the Tenant File register but does not show up in your Bank Statement. You would need to exit the Reconciliation Section and correct any mistakes.

How to order Checks and Deposits…

The Tenant File supports a number of common check formats, but in order to be guaranteed compatible, checks can be ordered from our website at www.TenantFile.com > PRODUCTS > CHECKS AND SUPPLIES where you can view our pricing and download an Order form.

Checks are available in a number of colors and styles. Our turnaround time is fast and the prices beat other major check printing companies.

In addition to checks, we offer great pricing on Deposit Booklets, printable Deposits, Endorsement Stamps and Address Stamps. The styles available that are compatible with the Tenant File include ‘Check on top – with two vouchers per page’, ‘Check in the middle – with a voucher above and below the check’ and ‘3-on-a-page checks with no voucher.

As a service to our customers, we have been able to keep our pricing low throughout the years that we have offered check printing to our customers.

DirectPAY Option …

An option to consider in finding the best way to save time and money and to prevent the necessity of creating deposits for rental income and creating and printing checks to your Vendors and Owners, is to sign up with DirectPay. As a busy Property Manager, wouldn’t it be great to click into your software program and see that your Tenants have paid you online and all transactions were posted?

The Tenant File Property Management Software has an affiliation with REVO Payments which allows Tenant File users to add online rent payment and bill processing to your property management process. You can break through the standard eight-hour leasing office day and keep payments coming into your office at any time.

With the Tenant File Property Management Software, you’ll be able to use DirectPAY to set up an online payment system with your tenants, affording your tenants 24 hour convenience, and helping you to get your rents in a timely fashion.

With DirectPAY, you will be able to receive rent payments online 24 hrs a day/7 days a week which will automatically post to the Tenant’s Ledgers. The process will save you the time that it takes to process checks received, create bank deposits and post to the program. It is all completed by the automated process. Once you sign up with DirectPay, they will create a custom, branded payment page that’s optimized for any device – PC, tablet or smartphone – to accept eCheck, credit and debit card payments.

Your tenants will appreciate the ability to take care of their obligations of paying rent by eCheck, Credit Cards, or recurring payments directly to your website for a small transaction fee processed directly to your Tenants.

Tips and Tricks – View Information from Previous Backups

Tenant File Previous Backups

As indicated in our previous blog, we highly suggest that you make backups of your database from time to time.  At any time that you click into BACKUPS (from the MAIN MENU) and make a backup of your current data within the Tenant File program, you are required to tell the system where that file named ‘TFDATAFL.MDB’ is to be stored.  This database is your MAIN database file that holds all of your ‘Active’ Owner, Property, Unit and Tenant Ledgers along with all transactions, checks, deposits, etc.  The file created through the Backup Procedure is a database file only meaning it does not include the entire program and you cannot open that one file to view your previous data.

You should never restore a previous database over your current Tenant File data.  If you were to click into BACKUPS > RESTORE > and choose to restore a backup from a previous date, you would be overwriting your current database.  That means that all transactions, checks, deposits, entries, etc. that were entered into your current program would be lost and your data will revert back to the date and time of that previous backup.

The way to view data from previous days, months or years would be to access one of the Tenant File Folder Backups that you would have created prior to running the Year End Closing.   Our Year End Closing Instructions (as found on our website under SUPPORT) gives detailed step by step instructions on how to create a ‘full program backup’.

If you have not run the ‘Year End Closing’ and/or do not have a second installation of the program required to view previous data and if you need to access the information from previous backups, you should choose to create a copy of your entire Tenant File program folder on your computer’s hard drive.  That way, you can access last year’s files or previous database files without having to restore files over your current data.  Be very careful to follow the instructions below. Depending on the version of Windows that you are using, the procedure may be slightly different for your computer.

Note: This assumes your files are in a folder named ‘TF4WIN’.  If not, substitute the name you assigned instead. To see where your Tenant Files are located, go to the icon or program shortcut that starts the program, then right-click on that item. Go to ‘Properties’, and look for the ‘Start in‘ path of your Tenant File program. The file TF4WIN.EXE is NOT part of the path or location! (Note: The steps below assume your Tenant File is in the folder ‘C:\Tenant File\TF4WIN’ which is the default folder upon purchase – if you changed that default location upon installation, yours may be different.)

Step 1:  Open Windows Explorer (or find ‘Computer’, ‘My Computer’ or ‘This PC’).

Step 2:  Double-click on your local computer hard drive letter. (Such as drive ‘C:’)

Step 3:  Find the folder named ‘Tenant File’ and double-click to open it

Step 4:  Find the folder named ‘TF4WIN’ and click once on the folder to highlight the folder.  (Don’t open it)

Step 5:  Press Ctrl-C (or Control-C) to copy the folder. (You won’t see any change)

Step 6:  Press Ctrl-V (or Control-V) to paste the folder. (You may not see any change)

Step 7:  Find the NEW FOLDER, named ‘TF4WIN – Copy’ (or ‘Copy of TF4WIN’). (Probably at the bottom of your current window)

Step 8:  Right-Click on the new folder, then select ‘Rename’.

Step 9:  Edit the name of the folder to a name of your choice.  If this is a folder that will hold last year’s data (for example), you might want to change the name to ‘TF4WIN2017’ or whatever you want to name it as long as you know that it is not your current data.

At this point, you can choose to create a shortcut to this new folder.  Please note: You would want to make sure that this ‘Backup of the full Tenant File program’ is not accessed for current entries.   It is a full program and will allow new transactions, checks, deposits, etc. but previous data SHOULD NEVER BE EDITED.

NOTE: To create a shortcut for the ‘Backup Folder’: Double-click to open the folder you just created. Find the program file TF4WIN.EXE, and RIGHT-CLICK on the file. Select ‘Create Shortcut’, which should create a ‘shortcut to TF4WIN.EXE’ file in the same folder you are in. Drag that shortcut to your desktop. You should rename the shortcut something that is more descriptive, such as ‘Tenant File 2017’ or ‘Tenant File – Previous Data’.  To do so, right-click on the new shortcut that was created on your desktop and choose ‘Rename’.

Note:  If you are running our current Tenant File 8 Version (and you should be) and you attempt to restore a database from a previous version, you will be required to enter your ‘User Name’ and ‘Password’.  That information is saved in your current database and therefore will be required if you attempt to restore an older database.

If this is a little more that you feel comfortable doing, you can always have one of our experts do it for you. They can connect to your computer remotely, create the desired folders and help locate any backup that you want to look at. Or order, just go to the Tenant File website (www.TenantFile.com) and click on ‘Order Now’ at the top.

As always, be sure to make backups of your current data before you do anything regarding file copying and restoration of data.

 

Tips and Tricks – Security Deposits in the Tenant File

 Many states require that the Tenant’s Security Deposits be held by the Property Manager and accounted for separately, requiring a separate bank account to hold those deposits.  Whether you hold the funds in ‘Trust’ or pass the funds to your Owners, the Tenant File will allow the different methods of posting Security Deposits.

The Tenant File allows for up to 10 bank accounts. One main Property Management Account, called the Primary Account, and up to 9 other bank accounts that the User sets up. If your state requires that you hold the Security Deposit in a separate account (and not transfer the funds to the Owner), then you would utilize one of the additional accounts (other than the Primary Account) for those funds.

When a new Tenant is entered into the system, you will need to process a ‘Charge’ to the Tenant Ledger with the amount of the Security Deposit required (i.e. ‘Security Dep Charged’), similar to charging a Tenant Ledger with their Rent.  If the Tenant has an additional Deposit required, such as a ‘Pet Deposit’, you would also process that charge. (i.e. ‘Pet Dep Charged’).  When the Security Deposit is paid, you ‘Credit’ the Tenant Ledger (using ‘Deposit Received’), which will zero out the deposit charged.  The amount of the ‘Security Deposit Received’ would need to be entered under the Tenant information field titled ‘Deposit 1’. You would do the same with the ‘Pet Dep Received’ and enter the amount under ‘Deposit 2’.  This process of posting the ‘Security Dep Charged’ and the ‘Security Dep Received’ is a ‘wash’, yet it allows for a history of what the Tenant has paid and what you, as the Property Manager, are holding in escrow for that Tenant (or has passed on to the Owner).

The Tenant File Accounts are set to post the ‘Security Dep Received’ to the Tenant ONLY due to the fact that a majority of the states are required to hold those funds.  IF you do not hold those funds and pass the Deposits on to the Owner, then you would need to modify your account settings under PREFERENCES > ADD/EDIT ACCOUNTS and change the ‘POST TO’ Ledger Status of the ‘Security Dep Received’ to post to BOTH (T/U).  The deposit income would then be posted to both Tenant and Unit and the amount(s) would be included in the ‘Paid to Owner’ check.

When the Tenant vacates the Unit, if you are holding the funds in ‘Trust’, you would need to refund to the Tenant the portion of the Deposit(s) that remain once all repairs and expenses have been processed against them.

A new procedure was added to our current Tenant File Version 8 which allows for a compact, easier and quicker way to post Security Deposit Refunds and/or Dispositions. To use this feature, click on the MISCELLANEOUS selection from the Main Menu and choose ‘Security Deposit Disposition’. You will see the following screen:

Security Deposit Posting in the Tenant File

This new feature will allow you first transfer the funds from the ‘Security Deposit’ Bank Account to your ‘Operating’ Bank Account (if need be), transfer the funds back to the Tenant Ledger, subtract any expenses incurred from the Deposit, refund the available portion back to the Tenant and Forfeit any funds to the Owner.  And, of course, all deposits and checks will be automatically created for you.

Simply click onto the dropdown list to select the desired Tenant and the currently entered Security Deposit amount will be filled in for you. This information is pulled from your Tenant Ledgers in the ‘Deposit 1’ and the ‘Deposit 2’ fields, therefore if the information does not show to be correct, exit and view the Tenant Ledger.  It is very important that you make sure that all of the information and accounts shown on your screen are correct prior to proceeding.

Your first step would be to indicate if you keep the ‘Security Deposit’ funds in a separate Bank Account (i.e. Trust Account), but write all of the checks from an ‘Operating Account’. If so, the program will transfer those funds from one account to another if you click in the upper right corner the option button labeled ‘I first transfer from escrow to another account’ under the section titled ‘How do you handle your security deposits?’.  It will also allow you to create a check and deposit for the transfer from one account to the other (if you choose). Once you select the ‘transfer’ option, the screen will display other options allowing you to show the transfer, then to create the disposition of the security deposit.  If your accounting system is set to pay expenses from the ‘Trust Account’, you would indicate ‘I don’t make an account to account transfer’ and checks would be created for your ‘Security Deposit Account’.

Additional settings on the ‘Security Deposit Disposition’ screen are below:

Transfer Security Deposit into Tenant Ledger: This will display the total funds (as entered in your Tenant Ledger information) that will be temporarily credited to the Tenant Ledger. Typically, this is the full amount of the original received ‘Security Deposit’ entered. The purpose of this step is to show that money was transferred out of escrow (your ‘Security Deposit Bank Account’) and back into the Tenant’s Ledger.  You can prompt the program to create a deposit into your Operating Account (if you choose).

Subtract any amount that you want to charge the Tenant: This section will allow you to subtract the amount of any expenses incurred that you want to deduct from the Security Deposit prior to creating the refund.  If you have posted the expenses previously into the Tenant Ledger when paying Vendors for repairs (for example), you would skip this step.

Note:  If you have posted the expenses for repairs into the Unit Ledger, this section will allow you post a ‘Forfeited Deposit’ into the Unit Ledger for those expenses by placing a check mark at ‘Click here to forfeit this amount to the Owner (Unit Ledger). Once selected, the screen will include the information of the amount forfeited and the Account Defaults that will be used.

Tip:  If you create checks to your Vendors for payments of Work Orders or repairs to the Units that are being vacated and you post those expenses to your Unit Ledger, you would want to allow the program to create the ‘Forfeited Deposit’ posting to the Unit Ledger to offset those expenses.  If you create the checks to your Vendors and post those expenses to the Tenant Ledger, you would not forfeit the funds to the Owner, but utilize the remaining funds (not refunded) to offset the expenses.

Refund the remaining Security Deposit to the Tenant Ledger: This is the final amount to be refunded to the tenant. If you want the Tenant File to create a check to the tenant, just click the ‘Create Tenant check’ box and enter the tenant name and any remark that you want to show.

Important Note:  Prior to using this feature, you must make sure that all of the required accounts are set up under PREFERENCES > ADD/EDIT ACCOUNTS.  For new users, these accounts are included in your setup.  If you have recently updated your Tenant File program to Version 8, you will need to follow the instructions included with your order to add the required accounts.  Use your own wording for the Account Names that you set up. Once the Account Names are set, you will need to click into PREFERENCES > EDIT ACCOUNT DEFAULTS and set your defaults for the new accounts.

Remember that any checks created through this process are not posted until you print the checks.

If you do not have the current Tenant File Version (and you should), you would need to manually make the transfers, postings, checks and deposits that the ‘Security Deposit Disposition’ procedure will do for you automatically. The manual entries would include posting a ‘Security Dep FROM Escrow’ (Income Account) to bring the funds back into the Tenant ledger.  If you use a separate account for your Security Deposits, you would write a check out of the ‘Trust Account’ and create a deposit into your ‘Property Management Account’.  You would then pay out any expenses incurred by the Tenant (checks created to Vendors, etc.), and then write a check (Security Dep Refunded) to the Tenant for the remaining funds.  If any of the deposit is to be forfeited to the Owner, you would post that Expense to the Tenant ledger (Tenant Deposit Forfeited) and then post that same amount to the Unit Ledger under ‘Deposit Forfeited’.   This takes into account that you are keeping your security deposits separate from your property management operating account.  If your accounting system is set to pay expenses from the ‘Trust Account’, you will still need to post the transactions in the Tenant ledger as indicated above to show where the funds were paid to.

The transfer of the Security Deposit when a Tenant moves out of the Unit should be done prior to making that Tenant ‘VACANT’ and moving him/her to the ‘Inactive Database’.

You are free to set up as many Account Categories as you wish and use your own method. Since states have different regulations regarding handling security deposits, we cannot give advice on the method you should use.

Tips and Tricks – Check for Invalid Dates

Invalid transaction dates within your ledgers can cause the balance of the individual ledger along with the overall owner balance to be incorrect.  Most reports within the Tenant File are created by entering a date range.  The ledgers, however, take into account all transactions posted within the ledger even if the date was entered incorrectly.  For example, if while entering a transaction with a transaction date of 01/01/2018, incorrect data was entered making the ‘date field’ display a date of 01/01/2001, that entry would re-sort in the ledger grid and you may not see the entry yet the balance would be affected.

If you feel that an individual ledger or Owner balance is incorrect, one thing to check would be to see if there were invalid transaction dates entered in your system.  Within the program, there is an easy way to view a report showing all transactions by date.   This report, called the ‘Trust Report’, can be viewed by clicking into REPORTS > GENERAL REPORTS > TRUST REPORT > Enter a date range and click to ‘Print’ the report to screen.    If, for example, you completed a ‘Year End Closing’  through the end of 2017 and you only have transactions showing for 2018, you may choose to create a ‘Trust Report’ with a ‘Starting Date’ of 01/01/0100 and an ending date of 12/31/2017 to determine if by chance there are entries entered prior to 2018.

A few things to note…

If you have transactions in the system prior to the year 1900 by mistake, those transactions will affect the balance but will not show up on your screen.  That is why we suggest that the Starting Date on the report be entered as 01/01/0100.

If you are creating this report, please note that the information will include all transactions within the given date range.  We suggest that you display the report to screen rather than directly to the printer to prevent a large number of pages to be printed.

If you find that you have transactions in your system with dates that were incorrectly entered, you would need to print that portion of the report and correct your entries.  If the dates are prior to the year 1900, you would need to run the Database Maintenance procedure found under FILE > DATABASE MAINTENANCE > CHECK FOR LINK PROBLEMS.

As always, prior to making any major changes to your ledgers, we highly suggest that you make a backup of your main database file called ‘TFDATAFL.MDB’.

Thank you!

Tips and Tricks – Backup Your Tenant File

Our first tip is of course to remind our users to BACKUP, BACKUP, BACKUP.   Most of the following information can also be found in the Tenant File online Use’s Guider (found under HELP > USER’S GUIDE from your Main Menu).  We highly suggest that you create multiple folders on your external drive, flash drive, memory stick, etc. (even if you also backup to your hard drive).

As shown on the example below, if you plan on backing up once a week, you would name the folders ‘Week 1’, ‘Week 2’, ‘Week 3’, Week 4 and ‘Week 5’.  It is very important that you always alternate the folders when you run the Backup procedure so that you do not over-write your last backup.

The Tenant File has a simple ‘Copy’ and ‘Restore’ feature for basic file copy to a CD, DVD, another drive, hard disk or network computer. This feature is intended to be a supplement to a full-featured backup system, which usually comes with Windows.

However, the Tenant File can quickly copy your data files, explains what each file contains, and is recommended as a routine backup. Your computer must be enabled for DLA (drive letter access), which lets you copy from a file to a lettered drive.

To access the feature to backup your database files (files that end with ‘.mdb’) and your data files (files that end with ‘.dat’), click onto the BACKUPS button from the Main Menu.  Once you are on the Backups screen, click on a file to see a description of the file and the file size, so you can be sure there is enough room on the destination location.

Tenant File Backup ScreenChoose Action – To copy files to another location, choose ‘Copy file(s) TO’. If you have already made a previous copy and wish to restore to your current program, choose ‘Restore file(s) FROM’. Be VERY careful ‘Restoring’ files, since this will OVERWRITE your existing Tenant File information! A better choice to see your old data would be to install the Tenant File on a different computer and restore the information into that installation instead.

Copy to (or Restore from) Drive/Folder – To copy your database files TO another location (Backing up), this will select the location that you are copying ‘TO’. If you are copying FROM another location (Restoring), this will select the location that you are copying ‘FROM’.

Copy What Type – Choose either database files (MDB) or data files (DAT). The three main database files that contain all of your data are: FEATURES.MDB (which contains information on each unit, such as interior, exterior, etc.), TFDATAOF.MDB (your inactive files), and TFDATAFL.MDB (the MAIN database with the majority of all information). All of the files that end with the DAT extension contain information such as report settings, company information, and other important data.

To begin the Copy’ function, simply highlight the files of your choice under ‘Choose Files to COPY’, select ‘Copy File(s) TO’  under ‘Choose Action’, select either ‘Database Files (.mdb)’ or ‘Data Files (.dat) under ‘Copy What Type of Files’, select the drive or folder that you want to copy to under ‘Copy to’ Drive/Folder’ and select the button ‘Start Copy/Restore NOW’.  The program will default to your current drive so you must ALWAYS change the location to a different drive or folder to copy to.  The selection under ‘Choose files to COPY’  is dependent upon whether you want to copy the ‘Database Files’ or the ‘Data Files’.  These two must be done separately.

How often do you want to be reminded to backup?  This option will keep a record of your last backup and let you know when it is time to backup your files. We recommend that you use this option to backup at least once a week. We also suggest that you set up separate weekly and monthly folders for your backups so that you don’t always overwrite your last backup with a new backup. (If you database corrupts, you might accidentally overwrite your last good backup!)

Be very careful with the process of ‘Copying files to’ and ‘Restoring files from’ because this action is non-reversible. 

Caution: If you are on a network, do not attempt to copy or restore files while other users are in the Tenant File.   It will cause your database to become corrupted.  Make sure ALL users have closed the program before continuing.

The Expert Guide to Landlord Rental Insurance

Couple at new Rental PropertyThere are many ways that people get into rental property. Maybe you are an investor looking for a great way to have recurring income while building equity. Or possibly you were caught in the housing crisis a decade ago and decided to rent because you couldn’t sell. Others may have decided to downsize and rent to provide extra income.

Why not? Right now, interest rates are low and the stock market is doing well. So, maybe it is the right time for you to consider purchasing a rental property to provide great income for you in the future. In fact, many are doing just that, and the rental market is rising while home ownership is falling.

Now there are even more avenues to own rental property. Because of Airbnb and other vacation or travel rental services, you can rent all or part of your own house. With these opportunities come risks that you should be aware of. By taking on short term rentals, you are creating a new business, and you are also accepting the liabilities.

In any case, many landlords assume that their homeowner’s insurance will cover their rental property. That assumption could end up being very costly. Your insurance could completely deny your claim if they determine that you are acting as a landlord and didn’t switch to landlord coverage. However, we have put together the information that a landlord needs to know about getting landlord rental insurance for a rental property.

Two women going over landlord insurance pollicy

Getting Started: Finding a Good Policy

You should call your insurance company that provides your homeowner’s insurance, but be aware they may not even cover insurance on rental property. Some insurance companies see rental property as a higher risk, so you can expect a higher rate if they cover your property at all. The designated use of your property may change from personal use to commercial use, which involves an entirely different set of costs and liabilities.

This is especially true if you are still keeping your existing homeowner’s policy and renting out your home. You’ll need to read the fine print of the policy. You may find that your policy will not cover damages or losses if the property is not occupied by the owner, as in the case of long or short term tenants.

There may also be limitations to the length of time the property is rented. Some H/O policies may cover non-owner stays, but only up to a pre-set number of weeks. Others may require that you notify the insurance company if it is not going to be owner occupied for a while in order to cover the occupants.

Lastly, there may be limitations on the number of people that are considered ‘renters’. One policy that we looked at would only cover an owner occupied home with 2 additional renters. If you are constantly renting a property out to different tenants, it might be considered a vacation home business, and you could be required to have a license to do business in your city. Not having the proper license could affect the coverage on your insurance policy.

landlord repair for insurance

What about AirBnb and the other short term rental companies?

Yes, AirBnb now includes protection for you as a landlord, and right now that is just part of the arrangement, meaning no cost to you. That includes insurance for your renters getting accidentally injured on your property, but generally does not cover things they steal from your home.

HomeAway also offers insurance protection, but there is an extra cost for that. It covers damages to your property up to 5k with no deductible at the time of this writing.

Personally, I would not recommend depending on this coverage alone. There could be delays in getting paid if there are conflicting claims and you would have more piece of mind if you had a solid landlord insurance plan.

What is different about landlord policies?

Typically, landlord policies (or dwelling policies) are available in three different options:

  1. The least expensive type is DP-1. It covers only basic risks. Most likely, those would include theft and vandalism of the property. Typically this type of policy covers ‘actual cash value’, not ‘replacement value’. More on this later.
  2. The DP-2 policy adds more coverage, to include such things as windstorm damage, vandalism or fire. These are ‘named perils’ so you need to carefully determine what is ‘not’ mentioned as being covered.
  3. The most expensive and most comprehensive type of policy is the DP-3 policy, which covers all perils unless the policy expressly states that it is not covered. This is the closest to a good homeowner’s policy and most often covers full replacement costs.

Note: Be careful that you understand the differences in replacement or cash value, because it can have a big impact on you financially. A policy that only pays out ‘cash value’ will take the depreciated value into consideration, not the actual amount that you have to pay to replace the property or repair the damage.

One additional thing to consider is that your expenses for a landlord policy are most likely tax deductible, so check with your accountant and take advantage of it.

What about the rental income that I’m losing during a claim?

Just like having a vacant property, you might end up with an uninhabitable property. But your mortgage payments are still due, so it is a good idea to be covered for loss of rental income as well. This is a worthwhile insurance investment and might not raise the price as much as you would think.

What can I add on to the policy?

Of course, you can also protect other things. The most important thing is probably liability if your tenant gets injured. You could be accused of being responsible for that injury, and without liability coverage, you could be financially ruined. As a landlord, you also need to take your own initiative to make sure that your property is safe for the tenant. Be sure that everything is in compliance with the building codes, in good condition, and that you attend to maintenance issues promptly.

You might have other structures on your rental property, such as sheds, separate garages, or workshops. Be sure that your policy includes these as part of the main policy or additions to it.

Consider if you have other large equipment that is kept at the rental, such as hot tubs, riding lawn mowers, snow blowers, tillers, or tools. It is a good idea to cover these items under ‘personal property’ at the rental. Also, be sure that you don’t leave the keys around for the tenants to use the equipment unless you are absolutely sure that you are protected against any accidents they may have.

If your property is damaged, you may have to cope with ever-changing building code compliance. For a small extra fee, you can be covered for the cost of having to add additional ventilation, electrical wiring or other safety related items.

What is generally excluded?

Sometimes you may find that renting out ‘part’ of your owner-occupied home cannot be covered with a landlord policy. However, as mentioned previously, you may still be able to get coverage from the rental service.

Your tenant’s possessions are generally not covered, which is why you should require long term tenants to have renter’s insurance. That will cover their own possessions and possibly protect them from liability if one their guests get hurt in their rental. If the tenants are using your own furniture, you should consider getting additional insurance coverage that will cover your carpets and furniture in case of damage.

Wear and tear and maintenance issues are generally not covered. This would include such things as A/C units, heaters, dishwashers, disposals, refrigerators, and the like. So make sure that your tenants take good care of these items, and that they are instructed as to their proper care and operation.

Flood coverage, like your homeowner’s policy is generally going to be a rider on your policy. While the basic policy may cover the damage from damaged water heaters and broken pipes, they won’t cover damage from natural disasters (think hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes), flooding, and sewage backups. You’ll have to add that on. This is especially true if your rental is in a flood plain, you should have flood coverage, but there are still good reasons to have it even if you are not.

Vacant property may not be covered if it has been vacant for a certain period of time. Be sure to check this item on your policy, because it might affect if a claim will be paid on a vacant rental property.

rental home

This all sounds very expensive to get proper coverage …

Well, yes, it is more expensive, but a necessary evil. According to recent data, a good landlord insurance policy can cost 15 – 30 percent more than a similar homeowner’s policy.        The insurance companies see renters as being riskier than owners of a property which have more of a vested interest in taking good care of the property. You can alter the coverage amounts to save money, such as the cap on liability coverage or medical coverage.

Your costs for insurance a determined by a number of factors, such as the ones here:

  • The proximity to areas that are prone to natural disasters, such as the coasts for hurricanes, the tornado prone areas, and areas that are in danger of loss from forest fires.
  • The amount of crime that is committed in your area. If the crime rate is high (think break-ins, assaults, and vandalism) you can logically expect to pay a higher rate than a rental home in a senior living area.
  • The construction of the home. Like all insurance policies, homes that are more susceptible to fire, animal or insect damage will cost more to insure.
  • The proximity to emergency services and items like nearby fire hydrants. Of course, a very rural area might be in greater danger from fire or flood if the emergency services cannot get to it quickly.
  • The square footage of your rental property and other structures that the tenants have access to.
  • The age and condition of your property will affect your rate. Even if the property is newer, you can pay more if it is run-down.
  • Safety devices, such as indoor sprinkler systems and fire alarms will reduce the cost of your policy, so don’t forget to mention those things.
  • If you require your tenants to follow safety rules, such as no smoking or limits to the number and duration of guests, it could help reduce the costs of your landlord policy.
  • If you have a pool or hot tub, it will increase the cost of the policy. You have additional liability needs if you provide such items to your tenants.
  • And of course, if you have additional rentals, or if you have coverage with the same company for auto, boat, or health, you can get a discount.

The bottom line

If you are renting out an entire home or have renters in and out of even a partial property, you definitely need to have landlord insurance. Homeowner’s insurance doesn’t cover your needs as a landlord, and you might even find out that your claim is denied because you were running a business without switching to landlord coverage. The pricing is flexible depending on the factors listed in this article, and the amount of premium vs. deductible that you are willing to pay.

We hope this article has been informative for you. We have a lot more advice for landlords and property managers in our eBook “What ALL Landlords REALLY Need to KNOW”, so please get a copy.

About the author:

Wayne GathrightWayne Gathright has over 20 years experience in the rental property industry as a software developer, consultant, author, and mentor. He’s working with thousands of property managers and tenants, helping to formulate a better understanding of how to create and maintain better relationships between landlords and renters.

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Meltdown and Spectre – Beware of Major Cloud Computing Flaws

Tenant File Cybersecurity Warning

Once again, cloud-based computing takes a big hit. This time, it is ‘Meltdown’ and ‘Spectre’. And unlike before, these security flaws are affecting ‘processors’, not just specific web ‘sites’. The processors are built-in to every device that you use to access the Internet, such as phone, tablets, laptops, and other devices that run in cloud computing networks. That includes Windows, Apple, Google, and other processors.

Meltdown affects all Intel micro processors since 1995. Spectre affects ‘all processors on the market’ according to Dashlane’s report by Nicole Perlroth, the New York Times cybersecurity writer. How bad? Well, the flaws can allow the ‘entire memory contents’ of your cloud computing devices that run on cloud based networks to be accessed. For property managers using web-based software, that is everything you have.

The fix? Well, this one isn’t so easy. You can’t just change out the processor of every web device in the world, and there is no final fix for Meltdown announced as of this writing, but Microsoft and Apple are currently in the process of releasing patches. It is expected that software patches will be rolled out in increments to repair the flaws.

And it gets worse … it is expected that the Meltdown patch might slow down the processors by as much as 30%.  What? Are you willing to accept a sluggish computer system when you are posting rent and working on your accounting software?

For the Spectre fix, Google has indicated that while there is no fix to repair existing problems, there is a software update that will make processors ‘immune’ to the flaw available soon.

Here is more detailed information recently released by CNN tech online: https://money.cnn.com/2018/01/04/technology/spectre-meltdown-cpu-flaws-explainer/index.html

Cyber Security HackersThey explain that this will affect billions of devices and some may not even be repairable. According to Bryce Boland, chief technology officer for Asia at a major cybersecurity firm, “Resolving this issue will take time and incur costs,” Boland said. “Vulnerable systems will likely remain in operation for decades.” Others warn that even the mass replacement of computer chips may not necessarily help, and that no actual solution

At Tenant File, we are not running on a cloud-based system, it is right on your desktop. We suggest that you have one computer that is not even connected to the Internet, so that there is no possibility of a hacker taking over your computer and demanding ransom, a malware product stealing valuable tenant, owner, vendor and company information, or a bug that destroys your data.

Even if your processor has the flaw, nobody can get to it if your computer is not connected to the Internet. And if it is, then you should be absolutely sure that you have an antivirus software installed to protect your computer from the bad guys.

We feel that many people are not paying enough attention to what is going on. Our computer security is not keeping up with the dangers, and we all could be vulnerable to have our data compromised. Don’t be a victim when the inevitable happens.

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