1. How do you screen applicants?
We run a credit report, and verify income and residential rental history per the application. We search local court records for recent evictions that wouldn’t show up on the credit report.

2. Do owners sign the lease?
No. The Property Manager signs as agent of the owner.

3. Do we get to choose the tenant?
No. Fair Housing laws are so demanding and the fines are huge our job as your agent is to protect you from lawsuits. Because we take Fair Housing classes annually we reserve the right to select and approve the most qualified applicant. We call and present the applicant info to you but we have the final say. If an owner refuses to approve the applicant because of discriminatory practices we will cancel our contract immediately.

4. Who keeps the Security Deposit?
Portola Property Management holds the deposit in a trust account. By law the Security Deposit is to be held in a trust account whether it is Portola Property Management or the owner. A problem arises when owners hold the Security Deposit and don’t have the money available when the tenant gives a 30-day notice to vacate.

5. Do I have to pay interest on the security deposit?
Yes. The interest amount changes each year. We pay the tenant annually.

6. Do I get to approve the cost of maintenance?
Yes. If over $500.00, or a large project, we will get bids. If an emergency, we will attempt to contact the owner if they wish but usually we call the appropriate vendor to handle the emergency before more damage is done. For maintenance issues under $500.00, the Property Manager will use her judgment in approving the work to be done.

7. Can I use my own maintenance person or contractor?
Yes. But, if not licensed or insured we can’t guarantee the work. You, the owner, will have to work directly with the vendor. Portola Property Management can’t afford to take on the possible risk from a potential lawsuit.

8. How many days do I have to return the security deposit?
21 days from the end of the lease, and/or 30-day notice or once the keys have been returned and the tenant no longer has possession of the residence.

9. What happens if the tenant is late with rent or doesn’t pay rent?
If late, which is after the 3rd of the month, we give a courtesy call to the tenant to find out why the rent is late. There is also a late fee that is charged. If no response from the tenant, or paying rent late becomes a habit, we serve a 3-day notice to pay, rent, or vacate.

10. Do you provide a report about the condition of the property before and after the tenant vacates?
Yes. We always do a move-in/move-out condition report.

11. What if there is damage caused by the tenant?
As long as it is documented and can be proven that the damage was caused by the tenant, you can withhold the cost of repair/replacement from the Security Deposit.

12. Can Security Deposits be used for last month’s rent?
No. The Security Deposit is to be used for repairs or damage caused by the tenant. If the tenant didn’t pay last month’s rent or has prorated days that they owe, you can subtract the portion owed from the Security Deposit.

13. How much can I charge for Security Deposit?
You can charge up to twice the rent for unfurnished and three times the rent for furnished housing. It is common to charge 1.5 times rent for the Security Deposit.

14. Can I charge extra for pets?
Yes. Typically $200-$500 is added to a Security Deposit for pets. In addition, a monthly pet rent can be charged.However, the security deposit cannot exceed two times the rent or three times if furnished.

15. How often are inspections done?
We offer (for a minimal fee) a once-a-year Preventative Maintenance Inspection conducted by a licensed contractor. Also, upon the request of the tenant, receipt of a complaint, vendor heads-up, continued maintenance requests/problems, and always upon a 30-day notice to vacate, prior to move-in, and at move-out.

16. What happens if there is a maintenance emergency?
I am on call 24 hours a day. During business hours we send a vendor out immediately. Tenant calls into our office. If after hours the call goes to our 24-hour answering service. After assessing the emergency, action is either taken immediately or first thing in the morning on the following day, when vendors are open.

17. If I need a new roof, or have my rental painted do you handle this type of maintenance?
Maintenance that is required for re-renting the property and is handled by us (PPM) there is no extra charge other than the hourly rate. This would include minor handyman work such as touch up painting, caulking, installation of light fixture, window blinds, minor plumbing repairs such as leaky faucets etc. If we get outside vendors to do work there is a 10% mark up fee we apply to all bids. The max charged is $250.00 for coordination on large prjects such as a new roof, flooring installation, or a complete unit paint job.

Occasionally, the replacement of appliances is required such as a stove, fridge, dishwasher, etc. We will get one bid from our regularly used vendor and convey the price to owners for approval.

For large projects such as new roofs, remodeling of a house, or preparing the house to sell, and/or coordination of contractors through an insurance company (if there is a fire, for example), an hourly charge may be added as well as a 10% mark up fee to vendor invoices to oversee the project.

18. Do you get more than one bid?

We will get bids for all work to be done, but if additional bids are asked for there will be a service charge. The reason for this is that after 20 years in the business, we know who has the best prices and we always go to our vendors that give us the best price. It is frankly a waste of time to continue to seek out other bids but we are willing to do this at the owner’s request. Owners must realize that if vendors give bids at no charge, they are hoping to get the job. If we send vendors out knowing they won’t get the job, eventually they will charge for a bid, or won’t respond to our requests which affects my reputation in the area and makes it harder for me to work with vendors.

19. Do you profit from any of your vendors by receiving referral fees?
No. I use vendors that continue to provide excellent and prompt service along with the best rates available. In this business it is all about relationships.

20. Do you meet vendors at the property and inspect the finished job?
Usually not. If we do need to meet the vendor before and after the job it is done on a case by case basis. We always do a drive-by if work has been done on the outside such as landscaping, painting, garage door repair etc. If work is being done as part of a property turnover then we will visit the property when we do the move in report. We want to make sure the property is ready for the tenant.

The normal procedure is the tenant turns in a maintenance request, the vendor goes out and repairs the problem and calls us with an update as to what the problem was, how it was fixed and if there are any other problems such as the dishwasher is old and not worth the cost to repair and should be replaced. After, the job is done we often follow up with the tenant to ensure everything is working properly. We rely on the tenant to inform us if there is a continued problem.

We use licensed and insured vendors whose professional opinions and work we trust. After all, they are the expert in their field. I, personally, have a working knowledge but I don’t assume to be the expert.

21. Who determines the rental rate?
PPM determines the going market rate based upon market analysis, years of experience, and market trends. We do consult with owners and will take their recommendation if we disagree and test the market. However, if priced too high advertising dollars are wasted. When the rental rate is properly set, the result is many qualified applicants to choose from and a quick turn over with little down time in rental income to the owner.

22. Do I get copies of all invoices for maintenance done?
Copies of invoices are not automatically generated unless requested by owners. All charges are noted on the monthly statement.

23. Do you, as a Property Manager, provide Market Analysis for rents/sales?
Yes. Upon the owner’s request, and often I will provide an overall Market Analysis of Santa Cruz County along with my monthly owner statements or post the information on my website under Articles.

24. Do you prepare properties to sell?
If we are currently managing your property and you decide to sell using a Realtor we have a relationship with, yes, we can help with preparing and overseeing contractors to get the property ready to list. We work with the Realtor to coordinate all work to be done. We handle the accounting and paying of vendors. This has been done in the past for a small monthly fee if the residence is vacant.

We do not provide this service if an outside Realtor is being used and we don’t currently manage the property. If we manage the property and an outside realtor is used we will charge an additional fee to work with the realtor during the sale process.

25. Is it better to have a month-to-month or year lease?
It depends. A lease protects the owner in that the rents are guaranteed for a specific period of time. If the tenant breaks the lease they are required to pay all costs associated with getting a new tenant including any leasing fees, advertising costs, utilities, and rent, etc. Leases are also ideal if you are renting in the summer. This means that if the tenant vacates at the end of the lease the following summer, your chances of getting it rented quickly increases with the summer season.

The downside is you can’t give a 30-day or 60-day notice to the tenant to vacate. They have a signed lease. The only time a notice can be given is within 30 or 60 days of the lease expiring. You just indicate you don’t want to renew the lease. But, basically, you and the tenant are locked in for the specific time period of the lease.

A month-to-month is better if you think you may want to sell, or foresee uncertainty in your future and want the ability to have access to your rental. The downside is that the tenant can move after 30 days and you have to start all over in getting the place rented again.

26. What is the current law regarding giving 30/60/90 notices?
Currently, the law is back to giving a 30-day notice if tenant has been in the property less than one year and 60-day notice if more than one year, effective January 1, 2007. 90-day notices are still required if your tenant has a Section 8 Housing Voucher.

27. What is a Section 8 Housing Voucher?
The Housing Authority of Santa Cruz County provides Housing Vouchers to low income people (working poor, seniors, and disabled) who qualify. The program is funded by the government. The program subsidizes the tenant’s rent. The Housing Authority decides what the reimbursable amount will be and the tenant pays the difference. For example, your 2/1 in Watsonville rents for $1100 a month. The county will pay $600 and the tenant will pay $500. (this is only an example actual amounts are determined by the HA) The Housing Authority will inspect the residence prior to occupancy and will do an annual inspection for health and safety issues.

28. Do I have to accept a Section 8 applicant?
No, you do not. It is the owner’s decision as to whether they want to accept Section 8 applicant(s). It is not a requirement of the law. But, if you do, we screen the applicant just like any other applicant. There is a bit more paperwork involved and we may charge a small additional fee to processes the paperwork. This program helps many good people find and live in quality housing who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford the high cost of living in Santa Cruz County.

I do currently have Section 8 tenants and am familiar with the process.

29. Do I get to see the rental application, credit report and lease of the tenant?

No. As an agent of the landlord, we are granted permission by the tenant to run credit. We are not allowed to provide the credit report, or application to the owner without permission from the applicant and most applicants don’t want their personal information being given out. This is very understandable in our current times of Identity Theft.

If you have used our Placement Service, you will be given the original lease to keep for your files and we keep copies of the lease and the original application materials.

30. How many properties do you manage?
Currently, between 200-250 residences.

31. What forms do I need?
You will need the following forms:

  • Property Management Agreement
  • Move In / Move Out Inspection
  • Residential Lease Or Month-To-Month Rental Agreement
  • Lead-Based Paint And Lead Based Paint Hazards Disclosure, Acknowledgment And Addendum
  • Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detector Addendums
  • Lease/Rental Mold And Ventilation Addendum