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How to manage your investment property over the Christmas break

With Christmas just around the corner, you’re probably looking forward to a well-deserved break. Trouble is, your property manager and tenants are probably doing the same. So how do you keep your investment property safe over the holidays?

Follow our 5 tips.

Tip 1: Be prepared and plan ahead

If your investment property has any plumbing or electrical problems, fix them NOW. Chances are, those niggling little concerns could become major problems when the only help at hand are emergency plumbers and electricians. Over Christmas, they’re hard to find and charge accordingly. Attending to them now could save you a lot of money and your tenants a lot of grief.

Tip 2:  Does your investment property have air conditioning?

Air conditioners must be serviced regularly to ensure they remain in good working order. Like plumbing and electrical problems, you don’t want the expense of emergency repairs over Christmas. Remember to clean filters at least once a year to help prolong their serviceable life and reduce repair costs.

Tip 3:  Does your property have a swimming pool?

If so, you must have an up-to-date Swimming Pool Certificate of Compliance. In NSW, these Certificates are essential. They last 3 years but it’s important to ensure the pool gate and fencing are regularly checked. You are also required (by law) to have a resuscitation chart clearly visible.

Tip 4: Window locks are a legal requirement

Since March 2018, all strata buildings in NSW are required to have robust, child-proof window locks to restrict how far a window can be opened. This regulation applies to all windows that are 2m above the ground outside and 1.7m above the floor inside. The locks must prevent windows opening more than 12.5cm.

Tip 5:  Your tenant’s holiday plans

If your tenant has holiday plans, they need to advise your managing agent how long they will be away and provide their holiday contact details. While away, your tenants need to arrange for someone to regularly clear the mailbox. An overflowing letterbox is an advertisement the property is empty.

What’s your managing agent’s holiday plans?

Obviously, your managing agent is entitled to take a holiday but your investment property and tenants still need to be supervised – especially if the unexpected happens.

At Stills Properties, we ensure all tenants are provided with a list of emergency phone numbers for electrical and plumbing services. These trades have been working with us for years because they are reliable, highly trustworthy and ethical. We also keep on top of all property maintenance issues to minimise the need for any emergency call-outs.

Does your current property manager do this? If you don’t feel your investment property is getting the care it should, get in touch with Stills Properties on 1300 091 638 or email propertymanager@stillsproperties.com.au.


Real Estate on the Radio – Festive Edition

Brigitte Stills returns with a festive edition of her Real Estate segment on Northside Radio 99.3FM next Monday – 9th December – between 9.30 – 10am.

  • Investors – is your property ready for the Christmas and New Year break?  Now is the time to ensure any outstanding repairs and maintenance is carried out, before your Agent disappears on holiday. 
  • Buyers – if you’re looking to buy an investment property, make sure you’re discussing your plans with a reputable Property Manager before you buy. Get the inside knowledge of what’s hot, and what’s not. The right rental market advice can help prevent expensive mistakes and difficult to rent purchases.
  • Sellers – thinking of selling in the New Year?  When is the right time?  First quarter?  Second quarter?  When?  Talking to a real estate professional early on lets you plan your strategy with confidence and in good time to achieve your goal.

Brigitte Stills of Stills Properties brings over 38 years of real estate and property management experience to dispensing her advice on these topics and responding to listener questions on Sydney Real Estate.

Send your questions in beforehand (time-constraints prevent us taking queries live on air), to:

Settle back with a mix of music and real estate on 99.3FM then have yourself a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Prepare now for new residential tenancy laws

The NSW Parliament recently passed a number of amendments to the Residential Tenancies Act 2010. With over 30% of the NSW population renting, these changes are designed to make it easier for tenants to make a rental property feel like home.

For landlords, it creates an opportunity to attract and retain high quality, long term tenants – providing greater income certainty on their investments.

The new laws also improve protections for victims of domestic violence.

The implementation date for the Residential Tenancies Amendment (Review) Bill 2018, is expected to begin in the first half of 2020 so it’s important all landlords start planning now.

The Reforms in summary

A. Minimum standards identified

At the beginning of any tenancy, all properties will need to meet 7 minimum standards to be deemed fit for habitation. These standards will also need to be maintained throughout the tenancy (by way of repairs). While not an exhaustive list, these standards are considered the minimum baseline.

The 7 minimum standards are:

  1. The property must be structurally sound
  2. Each room must have adequate natural or artificial lighting (the exceptions are storage rooms or garages)
  3. There must be adequate ventilation throughout the property
  4. It must have an electricity and/or gas supply with adequate electricity and gas outlets for lighting, heating and appliances
  5. The property must have bathroom facilities (including toilet and bathing facilities) which provide user privacy
  6. The property must be connected to water supply infrastructure for the supply of hot and cold water for drinking, washing and cleaning
  7. The plumbing and drainage must be satisfactory

B. New resolution powers & rectification orders

The property management industry is plagued by disputes over repairs and maintenance issues along with claims of property damage caused by tenants. The new legislation is designed to reduce these problems by providing NSW Fair Trading with greater powers – including the ability to issue rectification orders.

C. Rent increases limited for periodic leases

Rent increases for periodic leases (that is, where the tenancy has no specified time limit) will be restricted to once every 12 months under the new laws.

D. Protections for victims of domestic violence

Tenants who need to escape a violent partner will be able to terminate their tenancy immediately and without penalty. In addition:

  • The victim/s will not be held accountable for any property damage that occurred during a domestic violence incident
  • The same is true if they are a co-tenant who is not the perpetrator
  • If a tenant terminates a lease because they are a victim of domestic violence, the landlord or their agent are prohibited from adding their name to the tenancy database

E. Separate meters for granny flats etc.

With the rise of dual occupancies, granny flats and the like, the Residential Tenancy Amendments include a new definition for “separately metered premises”. The purpose of this amendment is to reduce the number of disputes between landlords and tenants over who pays for water, electricity and gas.

F. Other changes

The amendments are quite comprehensive and include a number of other changes including:

  • The introduction of penalties for landlords or agents if they fail to provide the tenant with a property condition report at the beginning of the tenancy
  • Mandatory set fees for breaking a fixed-term lease
  • Penalties for landlords who fail to repair smoke alarms
  • Clarification on taking photos and videos during inspections and publishing them to advertise the property for re-lease or sale
  • Stopping database operators charging tenants to access their own information

Take care of your tenants and they’ll take care of your property

Your investment property is a valuable asset so it’s only natural you want to ensure it’s providing a great return on investment, with tenants that will take care of it.

This new legislation is designed to help you do that by providing tighter guidelines on what’s acceptable from both a landlord’s and tenant’s point of view.

For an informed and conscientious property manager to look after your investment needs, call Brigitte Stills on 1300 091 638 or email propertymanager@stillsproperties.com.au She’s been looking after landlords and their properties for over 30 years.


The 3 essentials of stress-free property management

Purchasing an investment property is exciting but also a large financial commitment. Whether you own one or several, you need tenants who are reliable, care for your property and pay their rent on time.

Some landlords choose to manage their own rental properties while others use a professional property manager. Whatever you choose to do, there are 3 essential elements to ensure your property investment generates good rental returns.

1. Securing the best tenants

Problematic tenants are costly and time consuming. It takes careful, strategic marketing and thorough screening of all potential tenants to ensure you quickly eliminate any troublesome ones.

The best tenants will respect your investment and treat it as if it was their own home. They will take good care of the property, promptly report any maintenance issues and pay their rent on time. Ideally, they will want to continue on in the property for years to come.

2. Minimising vacancies

Once you secure a great tenant, you’ll want to keep them for as long as possible. Therefore, tenant retention should be your top priority. Longevity in a tenancy equates to better returns on your property investment.

Relationship building, good communication and knowledge of the rental laws are the keys to building a long-term tenancy. It’s also important for any maintenance requirements to be dealt with in a timely manner.

3. Caring for your Investment

Regular property inspections are essential to ensure your investment is being looked after and any necessary repairs and maintenance addressed.

When carrying out routine inspections there are a number of things you should be looking for:

  • Is the tenant sub-letting the property?
  • How many people and/or pets are living at the property? Does this comply with the rental agreement?
  • Has furniture been placed to hide any damage?
  • Has the property been cleaned adequately to ensure there are no issues at the end of the tenancy?
  • Are smoke detectors in place and operational?

In most cases, tenants simply need education on their responsibilities for caring for the property.

Maximising the rental return on your investment property doesn’t happen by accident

Every landlord hopes their investment property appreciates so they see increases in their rental return. But successful, stress-free property management is never a “set and forget” investment. It takes active management and open communication between the property manager, landlord and tenant.

If you are looking for an experienced, knowledgeable and dedicated property manager, contact Brigitte at Stills Properties. She’s been managing investment properties for landlords for over 30 years.

For further information or to discuss your investment needs, call Brigitte Stills on 1300 091 638 or email propertymanager@stillsproperties.com.au


4 things commercial landlords must know

Commercial properties are an attractive investment option for private investors. While commercial properties typically yield high rental returns with long tenancies, there are several things landlords must know to ensure they make the most out of their investment.

1.Commercial lease differences

If you own a residential investment property you may be surprised to know there are some key differences between commercial and residential leases. Commercial leases:

  • tend to be more involved and complex than residential leases
  • are longer than residential tenancies; usually three to five years with one or two option terms of three to five years each depending on the space of the building
  • have a minimum and maximum lease term which can be negotiated by both parties
  • are harder to break than residential agreements
  • include annual rent reviews and increases
  • have the tenant pay for all outgoings, including rates, taxes, levies, water and utilities
  • have the tenant pay for all outgoings, including rates, taxes, levies, water and utilities
  • are negotiated between landlord and tenant to equally benefit both parties.

2. Lease Agreement

The lease agreement is a legal document clearly outlining the rights and responsibilities of the landlord and tenant. Everything should be spelled out in the terms of the lease agreement to avoid confusion during the tenancy and ensure maximum protection for both parties.

The lease agreement should include:

  • rent amount and how it is calculated
  • rent increases and when they will occur; increases are typically determined by a fixed price (expressed as a percentage), market review or Consumer Price Index (CPI)
  • outgoings (rates, taxes, levies, water and utilities)
  • lease start date and duration
  • option rights for extension or renewal
  • cost and responsibility repairs, maintenance and costs
  • sign-on incentives
  • fit-out responsibilities, approvals and expenses
  • allowable improvements
  • option to assign a lease (tenant transfers the lease to a new tenant)
  • make good provisions at end of lease (return property to its original state)
  • breaking the lease (ending an agreement early) and associated fees
  • security bond, either bank guarantee or personal guarantee
  • payment of landlord fees

Each state and territory have specific legislation on commercial and retail leases. You should seek advice from a commercial lawyer before drafting your commercial lease agreement.

3. Landlord responsibilities

As a commercial landlord, it’s essential you understand your main responsibilities before negotiating the terms of the lease agreement.

In most commercial leases the tenant is responsible for the interior of the rented premises, which includes the fit-out and repairs and maintenance of walls, floors, fixtures and inclusions throughout the lease term.

As the landlord, the exterior condition and structural integrity of the property is your responsibility, including repairs and maintenance of all structural aspects of the building. You must make sure the property is fit-for-purpose, meaning it suits the nature of the tenant’s intended business operations. And, you must ensure the tenant’s operations won’t impact the local area.

Additionally, your property must have adequate building insurance, comply with building codes and meet health and safety standards. Rates and body corporate fees must be current when the lease is signed and gas and electrical safety certified.

4. Ideal tenants

Like residential property investments, securing the right commercial tenant is key to maximising your rental return. Responsible and profitable tenants that pay on time and are a good, long-term fit for your premises are also key to your success as a commercial landlord. But finding potential tenants and appealing to their specific business needs can be challenging.

Local, experienced and well-networked commercial agents are best placed to introduce ideal tenants, identify any red flags, negotiate the terms of the agreement and help you fill your commercial space – allowing you to get on with building your property investment portfolio.



Need more information?

Stills Properties has been managing investment properties for Sydney landlords for over 30 years, contact us to discuss your investment property management needs.