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Top 7 Tips For Finding A Professional Property Manager

If you own an investment property and are on the lookout for a professional property manager, there are some key factors you should consider before signing on the dotted line.

After all, property managers take care of absolutely everything relating to your rental, from the initial marketing and open inspections, through to managing the ongoing tenancy, answering queries, receiving rental payments, monitoring maintenance and more.

Choosing a great property manager will help you attract the very best renters, maximize your rental income and enhance the overall value of your investment, whilst also minimizing your exposure to risk.

So, without further ado, here are my top 7 tips for finding a professional property manager:

 

  1. Compare Responsiveness

Prompt responses and excellent communication skills are key to a positive property management experience.

If you are waiting over a week for a reply to an email or your property manager isn’t picking up the phone this can be extremely frustrating. A great property manager should be proactive and always have their mobile phone on hand, even while on the go.

When you initially reach out to a property management company, try and keep a record of how long they take to get back to you. If they are not meeting your expectations throughout the signup process, this usually is not a good sign.

 

  1. Ensure Legal & Compliance Expertise

A reputable property manager needs to have an in-depth understanding of legal and compliance relating to your investment.

In Victoria complying with the Residential Tenancies Act is vital to ensuring property owners meet their obligations and avoid severe penalties. Grounds for terminating a tenant’s lease and information on a properties minimum safety standards are just some examples of what is covered by the Act.

 

  1. Look For Local Market Knowledge

Market knowledge is an area that is often overlooked. Does this real estate agent lease other properties in the area?

Are they utilizing property data reports to determine the optimal rental amount for your investment? Choosing a property manager with the right tools and local knowledge will minimize vacancy and ensure you are achieving the maximum return.

 

  1. Read Client Feedback

Online customer reviews are a quick and straightforward way to identify a professional property manager. Reading experiences from both property owners and tenants will give you a strong indication of what to expect once you hand your property over.

 

  1. Discuss Marketing

Property marketing determines how many tenants your property reaches and ultimately whether you receive optimal rental returns.

Make sure to check the property managers photography, if they include floorplans, appear on all the top listing websites and whether they invest in email or social media marketing.

Another form of marketing that has accelerated throughout the COVID-19 pandemic is online virtual property tours. During periods of lockdown renters could inspect the property from the comfort of their own home.

When open inspections resumed, virtual tours continued to help qualify renters before they opted to see the property in person. Request a marketing pack and make a note of the marketing costs so you can compare level of exposure vs expenses.

 

  1. Check Fees

Fees are an important consideration and should be assessed along with the expertise and service standards.
The average fee for property management services in Melbourne is currently between 6% and 8% of all rental income, plus GST.

As fees are a regular expense it is a good idea to compare the local market and check any additional costs when the property needs to be advertised.

Be wary of agents pitching extremely low fees as they may not invest time ensuring your property is adequately taken care of and in some circumstances outsource work to third parties overseas.

 

  1. Ask Questions

Are you reaching out to new property managers right now?

Here are some questions you might like to ask when making your initial inquiry:

  • How many years of experience do you have as a property manager?
  • What training and development programs do team members participate in to ensure they are up to date with laws and regulations?
  • What is the occupancy/vacancy rates for properties under your management?
  • How many inspections will your team conduct each year?
  • Can you provide any references from previous clients?
  • What is the average time on market for your rental properties in the current market?

So those were my top 7 tips for choosing a professional property management service provider.

By engaging a qualified property manager, like our team at The Hopkins Group, you can rest easy knowing your property is in safe hands.

Impact of latest changes to Victoria’s rental laws on landlords

After much discussion and many submissions from the Victorian community, the Residential Tenancies Act has seen the largest rental changes in more than two decades.

As of 29 March 2021, 132 reforms and law changes have come into effect clarifying the rights and responsibilities of the renters (previously tenants) and rental providers (previously landlords). These changes have an impact through every stage of the rental process – from before a rental agreement is even signed right through to after the agreement ends. In this blog, I’ll touch on the key reforms impacting residential rental providers today, but a full list of changes are available on the Consumer Affairs website, if you’re interested. Let’s jump right in…

Terminology changes

The new residential tenancy laws in Victoria refer to landlords as rental providers, tenants as renters, tenancy agreements as rental agreements and rooming house owners as rooming house operators.

Making modifications

Renters now have the flexibility to make prescribed modifications to the rental property, without the rental providers consent and rental providers cannot unreasonably refuse consent to some modifications. Of course, damages as a result of modifications (that are not considered fair wear and tear) will need to be remedied by renters, however things like painting walls and affixing picture hooks are fair game.

Renting with pets

This change took the lead, coming in earlier than expected in March 2020 – our furry friends are hear to stay with renters given the green light to bring pets into the rental with consent. However, note while consent must be applied for, a rental provider cannot unreasonably refuse a request to keep a pet. If there’s reasonable grounds to refuse permission a rental provider can apply to VCAT for an order.

Disclosure statements

Rental providers must now disclose important information to the renters before they sign a rental
agreement. This disclosure statement needs to be filled out each time a new rental agreement is signed and/or renewed.

Consumer Affairs disclosure requirements are extremely detailed series of questions that the rental provider must submit with each leased signed. This important document will be sent directly to the rental provider to ensure they comply with legislation and all relevant items are disclosed to the renter.

Rental Properties – Minimum standards

Rental providers must also make sure the rental property meets a set list of minimum standards on or before the day a renter moves in.

If the property does not meet minimum standards renters can end their rental agreement before moving in or they can request an urgent repair.

The minimum standards apply to rental agreements that started after 29 March 2021 and roll over into periodic agreement on or after 29th of March.

The minimum standards are divided below into 14 categories. All rental properties must meet the standards of each category. Each of the 14 categories and definition of minimum standards are again all available in detail on the Consumer Affairs website, however these items include:

  • Locks
  • Vermin proof bins
  • Toilets
  • Bathroom
  • Kitchen
  • Laundry
  • Structural soundness
  • Mould and damp
  • Electrical safety
  • Window coverings
  • Windows
  • Lighting
  • Ventilation
  • Heating

Penalties apply if a property fails to meet these requirements, so it’s in your best interest to undertake necessary checks before entering a new agreement. There are also consequences for not carrying out requested repairs to bring the property up to minimum standards.

Gas and electrical safety checks

Under the Residential Tenancies Regulations 2021, all residential rental properties are required to undergo an annual Smoke Alarm Safety Service, a two-yearly Gas and Carbon Monoxide Service, and Electrical Safety Service.

As a rental provider you are required to ensure a certificate of compliance is completed under all three sections. These services have been made mandatory to ensure the safety of residential rental properties and their renters.

Changes, changes and a few more changes

From an updated rental agreement, maximum bond and no more than one month’s rent to be paid in advance, fixed price advertising, a ban on inviting rental bids, misleading or deceptive advertising, through to changes on applications with changes to inappropriate rental application questions and unlawful discrimination information, on top of all those changes mentioned above – there’s a lot to keep up to date on.

With so many changes in the air, it’s never been as important to have your property managed by an expert. By engaging a qualified property manager, like our team at The Hopkins Group, you can rest easy knowing your property is in safe hands. To learn more about how The Hopkins Group property management services can help ease the burden on rental providers shoulders keeping up to date on the latest changes, contact us today.

Why you need a specialist for your rooming house management

As the demand for affordable housing continues to rise, the interest in rooming houses has never been higher. As investors look to this category of property as the next frontier to diversify their residential property portfolios, you might be wondering how the ongoing management of rooming houses differs from a traditional property management scenario.

The fact is, there is a lot more involved when it comes to the management of one of these properties. Rooming house property management is a specialist field that not all agencies are equipped to handle. Let’s discuss some of the key differences.

Additional legislative requirements

While all residential tenancies must operate under the regulations set under the Residential Tenancies Act 1997, rooming houses bring with them a number of additional legislative requirements rooming house operators must abide by.

For example, there is the Rooming House Operators Act 2016 which is a licensing scheme ensuring operators (usually rooming house owners) and their delegated rooming house managers are “fit and proper persons”. Then there’s the Residential Tenancies (Rooming House Standards) Regulations 2012 which governs the minimum operating standards for privacy, security, safety and amenity in rooming houses – regardless of whether a resident is on a rooming house agreement or an individual tenancy agreement. There are also the minimum standards set out by the Building Regulations 2006 and part 5 of the Public Health and Wellbeing Regulations 2009 (Prescribed Accommodation) which a rooming house operator must also abide by.

Much more hands on

In a traditional rental arrangement, the idea of “communal amenity” is usually reserved for larger developments, such as apartment buildings with a shared pool or rooftop gardens. In those situations, any maintenance or issues surrounding theses communal amenities are managed by the owners corporation. While the property manager may play a role in passing along a message on behalf of the tenant or landlord, but ultimately it isn’t within their role to ensure the upkeep of this amenity.

Rooming house managers on the other hand are much more involved in ensuring the communal areas are maintained to at least a minimum standard. Things like shared kitchen appliances, laundry facilities, and lighting are all included under rooming house manager’s remit – whereas in a more traditional rental situation the onus is on the tenant to ensure the general upkeep of these items. This is managed in part through the institution of “house rules” to ensure residents are respectful and appropriate in their use of both shared and private spaces, but also through regular on-site visits by the rooming house manager.

How The Hopkins Group manages rooming houses

The Hopkins Group offers two models for our rooming house clients. These are:

Property Management Model

  • You will require an operator license and we will nominate a representative for this license
  • We take care of the leasing and management of your investment property

Rooming House Operator Model

  • We take care of everything associated with your rooming house investment
  • Our rooming house operator license is activated, and our team manage these responsibilities
  • We monitor and adhere to the Residential Tenancies Act, Rooming House Act, Public Health and Wellbeing Act and other relevant legislation
  • Comply with all council and state government legislation and regulations
  • Conduct necessary safety checks and communicate with council and government offices

A specialist rooming house manager like The Hopkins Group is well equipped to not only ensure your rooming house is tenanted and maintained, but also navigate the complexities of keeping making sure you continue to be compliant with all relevant legislation.

Rooming house management is a specialist area, so it makes sense to hire experts. To learn how The Hopkins Group can assist you with your rooming house, contact us today.

Residential Tenancies Act changes are coming – are you ready?

A change is coming to the way we rent, with changes to the Residential Tenancies Act passing through parliament and trickling their way into effect since September 2018. However, while some changes have already been implemented, the full suite of reforms will be in place from 1 July 2020 – so the bulk of the changes are still to come.

Some of the changes will be small – for example, there’s a very simple language shift coming that changes the terminology we use when we talk about renting. With this change tenants will be known now as “renters” and landlords are now “rental providers”.

Other changes are more aggressive, but instead of boring you with details on all 132 reforms to the Act, here are the top four key changes I believe will have the greatest impact.

1. Pets

Probably one of the most spoken about changes, the rules around keeping pets in a property are made clearer, and renters will now be given more leniency to keep pets in a property. Under the new reforms, a renter will be required to write to the rental provider/property manager advising that they would like to keep a pet at the premises. If the rental provider does not want to accept the pet into their property, an application to VCAT would need to be made and evidence provided to the tribunal as to why it is reasonable to refuse the renter’s permission to do so.

2. Repeated late rent or non-payments

Currently, when a renter is more than 14 days behind on their rental repayments, a notice to vacate may be issued and a landlord can apply to VCAT to gain possession of the property, regardless of whether a tenant “makes good” on their arrears within the 14 days. Under the new rules, the 14 days notice to vacate will be invalidated if pays their rent within the 14 days, the first four times it happens in a 12-month period. However, if the renter fails to pay rent as required on a fifth occasion in the same 12-month period, the rental provider may give a notice to vacate and apply to VCAT for a possession order. VCAT may adjourn the possession application and place renter on a payment plan to meet the outstanding arrears.

3. No specified reason notice to vacate

Currently, a rental provider can issue a 120 day no reason notice to vacate if a renter is on a periodic tenancy or if the 120 days falls on or after the day the fixed term lease agreement is set to expire. As of 1 July 2020, this type of notice will be abolished.

Rental providers (landlords) cannot issue a ‘no specified reason’ notice to vacate. To end a rental agreement, rental providers must provide a valid reason such as sale, change of use or demolition of the rental property, or if the rental provider is moving back into the rental property.

4. Renters making modifications to properties

Renters will be able to make prescribed modifications to a property, without the rental provider’s consent. There is also a list of other modifications which a rental provider cannot unreasonably refuse consent to renters making. What qualifies as a prescribed modification will be decided by April 2020 following public consultation in November 2019 through Engage Victoria.

What these changes will mean for landlords/rental providers

From my perspective working as a property manager now for almost 10 years, I believe the most important conversation we should be having around these new laws is making sure that you as a rental provider are safe guarding yourself the best way you can. The answer to that is landlord insurance. Please, please, please make sure you have a landlord insurance policy in place.

If you are unsure about your current policy or if don’t have one in place, please contact your property manager at The Hopkins Group to start having the conversation.

Please note – The Hopkins Group does not sell or provide landlord insurance policies, however we can share case studies of those who have benefited from having these policies in place and discuss options available base on our experience.

What happens when my tenant breaks their lease?

Congratulations! You’ve successfully secured a tenant for a 12 month lease. You’ve got nothing to worry about, and peace of mind for 12 months, right? Well, there’s the good news and the bad news.

Let’s start with the bad news….

While a fixed term lease means an owner is required to make the property available to the tenant until the end of the lease period (unless of course the tenant defaults), your tenant is also entitled to break their lease and vacate the property, should they wish.  So what happens if they decide to break their agreement and leave early?

Here comes the good news…

While your tenant is entitled to break their lease they have also signed a legally binding agreement to lease the property for a set period, so they can’t just walk away without consequence.

Upon signing a lease, your tenant becomes responsible for paying the agreed amount of rent, for the entire period of the set agreement. If they decide to leave early, they are responsible for the rent on the property until a new tenant takes possession or until the lease expires – whichever occurs first.

Your responsibility as a landlord

Although your tenant is responsible for maintaining their lease terms, as a landlord you must also make every attempt to re-let the property within a timely manner. This responsibility is to minimise any undue hardship on the tenant, who quite likely will be paying two lots of rent once they have vacated.

It’s also important to note that rent increases can be very difficult to implement (unless there has been a clear market shift) as this may be viewed as detrimental to the speedy re-leasing of the property.

Who is responsible for advertising and letting fees?

While you may not be losing out on rent, you may be thinking that it’s not free to advertise and re-lease a property; why should it cost you money when you haven’t done anything wrong?

Fortunately, professional leases like those used by The Hopkins Group often include clauses relating to costs incurred by an owner, should a tenant break their lease – as far as is allowable under the Residential Tenancies Act. In this instance, our lease stipulates that a tenant is to reimburse the owner the full cost of advertising incurred, and to reimburse the owner part of the re-letting fee on a pro-rata basis, based on the unfulfilled portion of their lease agreement.

You’re in safe hands

While a fixed term lease doesn’t necessarily offer the peace of mind you once imagined – thankfully having your property managed by a professional agency like The Hopkins Group can.

As a client of The Hopkins Group, you will be contacted by your property manager as soon as a tenant indicates they will be breaking their lease to confirm you would like the property re-let.  The advertising of the property will then commence immediately to try and secure a new tenant as soon as possible.

Want to learn more? Contact The Hopkins Group on 1300 726 082 to speak with a property manager today – or send us a message via our contact form and we’ll be in touch as soon as we can.

 

Travelling to Inspect Your Rental Property? Pause before you go

Did you know that for the financial year ending 30 June 2015, rental property travel expenses claimed by individual taxpayers amounted to approximately $450 million? So it’s not surprising to see some reform with respect to these claims!

As of 1 July 2017 landlords are no longer able to claim a tax deduction for travel costs associated with residential rental properties. Nor will travel costs be allowed or recognised in the cost base of the property for Capital Gains Tax purposes on sale.

This exclusion applies to the costs of attending inspections, maintaining the property and attending a strata meeting whether you travel by your own car, taxi, public transport, or even an airplane. You also cannot claim the lunch you had when you attending the meeting with your property manager or the money you spent in a motel for your trip to repair the property.

Not all taxpayers are impacted

While this change does impact the typical “mum and dad” investor, it will not apply to entities that are carrying on a business of “letting rental properties”. This includes providing retirement living, aged care, student accommodation or property management services.

Institutional investors are also excluded from this change, and will continue to be allowed a travel deduction. Examples of these types of investors include corporate tax entities, superannuation plans that are not SMSFs, public unit trusts, managed investment trusts, or partnership or unit trusts if all members of the partnership or trust are entities included on this list.

Moreover, the change in legislation will not prevent an investor from claiming a deduction where a property has a dual purpose. Examples of a dual purpose include where the property is both a commercial and a residential premises. In this instance, travel costs will need to be apportioned between deductible expenditure and non-deductible expenditure.

Not all is lost – other rental property expenses still remain deductible

While many investors have lost a deduction with this change, fortunately there are still a number of expenses for your rental property you may be able to claim! Some examples include:

  • Advertising for tenants
  • Body corporate fees and charges
  • Council rates
  • Water charges
  • Land tax
  • Interest on loans
  • Cleaning
  • Gardening and lawn mowing
  • Pest control
  • Insurance (building, contents, public liability)
  • Agent fees and commissions

Knowing which deductions you can and can’t claim can be a minefield if you’re not in the know. Thankfully experts like the accounting team at The Hopkins Group are on your side, to help you make the most out of your tax return. To get up to date advice on what deductions may be available to you, contact an accountant today.

Disclaimer: The information contained herein is of a general nature only and does not constitute personal advice. You should not act on any recommendation without considering your personal needs, circumstances and objectives. We recommend you obtain professional financial advice specific to your circumstances.

Ten reasons why you should select The Hopkins Group to manage your investment property

It’s hard to believe the Christmas season is already upon us. Wasn’t it only yesterday we said goodbye to 2015?

We know that this is a busy time of year – and we also suspect that if you’re the owner of an investment property, the last thing you probably want to think about is the care of your rental. Which is why it pays to have a good team by your side; Santa certainly wouldn’t be where he is without the help of his elves.

So if you’re considering calling in the experts to take the fuss out of leasing, or change the guard on your current property managers, let me outline the reasons why you should look no further than The Hopkins Group to help lift a weight off your shoulders this silly season.

Let’s start with the first reason, shall we?

1. We’re leasing champions. We will find you a suitable tenant to rent your property.

At The Hopkins Group, we’re lucky enough to have a dedicated leasing consultant to help us find amazing new tenants to put forward to our landlords.

For every application we receive on your property, we will process them by checking all of the potential tenant’s references, including their current employment details, current and previous rental history. We want to make sure everything checks out with the applicant before presenting them to you, so that with our professional guidance we can help you make an informed decision.

2. We take the stress out of moving.

We get it. Moving is hard work – so we try to make the process as smooth as possible. Our property managers are on board to assist your new tenants move into their new home with ease.

Before your tenant moves in we complete detailed reports, with photos, to document the condition of the property. That way everyone is on the same page for about the general state we expect the property should be maintained.

We also make sure there are no existing maintenance issues and in the event that there are, we will seek your permission to have everything in good repair before the tenant moves in.

And as if it couldn’t get any better, we can even make sure water and utilities are set up for the tenants, should they opt in to this service.

Peace of mind during moving? We can make it happen!

3. We’re about the whole journey, not just the start and end. Your property will be maintained under our care.

Throughout the life of a lease, we will look after your tenants and the property by completing scheduled routine inspections.

We will go through the property and make note of any repairs that need fixing or any cleaning issues that need to be addressed with your tenants. The earlier we catch any potential problems, the quicker we can get on top of them and ensure they don’t escalate unnecessarily.

We keep all of our landlords informed throughout the tenancy and update regularly on how the tenants are tracking.

4. We keep you up to speed on the current rental market.

Our property managers have their finger on the pulse and know what’s happening within local rental markets. We have access to a wide range of statistics and reports, to assist us in educating our clients on the current state of the market.

Each year, we will conduct a review of the rent you’re earning on your property. Where appropriate, we can advise on and implement rent increases so we can make sure your return on investment is the best it can be.

5. Get out the fine china – we’re all about the silver service!

We promise to service our clients to the best of our ability. Whether it’s returning phone calls, emails or attending private appointments – you’re our number one priority.

We strive to be as punctual and as responsive as we possibly can. We will issue statements each month and keep your rental payments on time through our direct debit facility.

6. Down to the heart, we’re all about Melbourne.

You might be thinking, “Why would I go to a city based property manager when I can go somewhere local?”

We have a breadth of experience and location specific knowledge to draw from.

Our inner city location is exactly the reason why you should consider us – it means we’re central to a broad range of inner urban and suburban areas. It also means our property managers can be experts across a number of local areas, not just one.

7. We can pay your bills for you

Our accounts department will not only disburse your rental income to you each month, but they can even pay some of your bills for you. We can pay your council rates, water rates and body corporate fees related to your investment property.

Aside from one less thing to think about, the benefit of having us paying your bills is that we can collate your payments into one simple statement. Your accountant will love you for this, come tax time.

8. Zero percent vacancy? We made it happen.

In August 2016, we had a 0% vacancy rate across our property portfolios. A low vacancy rate means more money in your pocket.

When it comes time to your tenant vacating, we’re equipped to re-lease your rental property in a timely manner.

We will conduct open for inspections while your outgoing tenant is still in possession of the property, to minimize your vacancy and hopefully secure a new tenant in time for your current tenant’s vacate.

9. We’re more than just your average property management business.

In fact, property management is only one part of what we do.

The Hopkins Group is a boutique financial services company. We pride ourselves on offering all the services you might need in order to take control of your financial future, all in one place. To help guide our clients on their financial journey, we provide them with access to a range of services including financial planning, tax and accounting, mortgages and finance, property investment advice, and of course property management.

Having all of these areas of business under one roof means we can take a holistic approach to securing your financial future, and ensure your investments are working for you.

10. We’re putting the love into leasing this Christmas with six months FREE property management.

The Hopkins Group are offering six months free property management in the lead up to Christmas 2016, to all those who transfer the management of their investment property over to us. We also have a number of incentives available to those who refer their friends.

Unwrap free property management this Christmas and make the switch to The Hopkins Group today!

If you have any questions regarding The Hopkins Group property management services or how you can make the switch, please do not hesitate to give our office a call on 1300 726 082 and ask to speak to someone in our property management team today!

VCAT demystified

VCAT; a place property managers can sometimes end up but a destination we try to avoid.

So what is VCAT? VCAT stands for the Victorian Civil and Administration Tribunal and it’s a place where members of the public can bring their case forward to be heard in front of a judge in a less formal setting than a court. Basically, it is designed to facilitate dispute resolution between opposing parties without the fees and formalities of court.

While avoiding VCAT is an ideal situation, sometimes things can go wrong. When disagreements arise, we will try and mediate between landlord and tenant to come to a mutually agreeable outcome without having to escalate to VCAT. However, should all parties involved not be able to reach a resolution on their own, a landlord’s agent (i.e. The Hopkins Group) or tenant may need to resort to filing an application to attend VCAT.

As representatives of the landlord, we can do all the administrative work on behalf of the owner and can also attend VCAT hearings on your behalf; however landlords are of course allowed to be present for the hearing if they would like. We encourage that our landlords attend their VCAT hearings, but it is not essential.

Why would a property manager need to take a case to VCAT?

One of the most common reasons property managers end up taking their tenants to VCAT is to try and gain possession of a property after a tenant has not paid their rent.

There is a lengthy process in trying to gain possession – once a tenant is 14 days in arrears you are able to serve a 14 day notice to vacate. Three business days after the 14 day notice to vacate is served, an application to VCAT can be made. The Hopkins Group can look after all this administration on behalf of the landlord.

Once an application has been made, VCAT will then schedule a hearing in which all named parties must attend – this is usually set within two weeks of making the application. The named parties in this case are the tenants and the landlords, who can be represented by The Hopkins Group.

Another common reason property managers attend VCAT is to claim money from their tenants’ bond after they have vacated, to carry out repairs or cleaning needed to bring the property into a reasonable condition.

To try and claim anything equal or less than a tenant’s bond, a standard hearing is all that is required. However, if the amount of money we need to claim exceeds the bond amount, a more complex hearing will need to take place to try and gain possession of both the bond and additional compensation.

In both instances, invoices are required to be presented as proof that works have been completed and are equal to the compensation claimed.

How do you serve a VCAT application?

Applications are served online through the VCAT website; there are also hard copy forms that can be completed.

Once your VCAT application has been finalised, you will need to post a copy via registered post to the respondent in addition to a copy mailed via regular post.

We also recommend emailing a copy of the notice to the respondent to ensure all bases are covered.

The last thing you want is to be bogged down in paperwork. As your managing agents, we can take the hassle away from you and manage these steps behalf of a landlord.

What happens during a VCAT hearing?

There is a lot of preparation that takes place before a VCAT hearing – we need to ensure that we have all the evidence we need to support your case, including copies of all documentation for both the member and the respondent (the tenant).

Then, once everyone has been gathered at VCAT, all speaking parties are required to be sworn in to be heard by the presiding member – an impartial official versed in the law. Parties either swear in on the bible or take an oath or affirmation to declare that everything they will say in the hearing is true and correct.

Once everyone has been sworn in, it’s time to present your case!

The applicant will then present their case first; after the member has heard the applicant’s claim, the respondent will then have their chance to speak. After the member has heard a sufficient amount of evidence, he/she will determine the outcome. A VCAT order is then given to both parties (either immediately following the hearing or posted in the mail) with a summary of the member’s findings from the hearing.

How can you avoid a VCAT appearance?

Most of the time, we can avoid going to VCAT by coming to agreements with your tenants before disputes develop or escalate. We can achieve this by having all tenants pay their rent by their due dates – our team runs daily ‘rental arrears’ reports to chase up any tardy tenants so we can stay on top of it before it gets out of hand.

We also carry out regular routine inspections – initially at three months and then every six months according to the Residential Tenancies Act. This ensures they maintain the property in an immaculate condition and if there are any issues, we can nip them in the bud early. The main objective is to ensure the tenant can vacate the property without issue at the end of their tenancy.

What if I have a pending VCAT appearance?

Attending VCAT can be a very daunting experience, but with the right preparation it doesn’t need to be.

The best advice I can offer is that there is no such thing as over preparing. The more information we have, the easier it is to answer any question the member throws our way. In the lead up to a VCAT hearing, we will stay in touch with our landlords to make sure they’re aware of the issue and the current state of play, and keep the lines of communication open throughout the whole process.

While VCAT is an extreme we hope we never have to resort to, it is always good to know you have someone on your side should the worst happen. Navigating our way through the VCAT maze is just part of the service offering we provide to our clients.

Our property management team has extensive experience in dispute resolution and gaining the best results for their landlords. We know your rights and our obligations under the Residential Tenancies Act and have systems in place to minimise the need to make applications to VCAT.

If you would like to find out more about placing your investment properties in the safe hands of our property management team, why not contact us today?

Zero per cent vacancy in August 2016? It happened!

With more than 35 years’ experience in providing our clients with expert advice about investing in quality property, we understand that your investment is important.

An investment property leased in a timely manner, to a quality tenant, is a landlord’s dream come true. So let’s introduce you to the team that made dreams a reality this August, achieving 0% vacancy across their portfolio of 657 properties.

Lorena Smirnis, Head of Property Management

Joining The Hopkins Group in 2010, Lorena pioneered the property management service offered to our clients today.

On what zero vacancy means for our landlords, she said:

“A low vacancy rate means there is strong demand from tenants which in turn strengthens cash flows and is a peace of mind for investors.”

Kristy Herbert, Senior Property Portfolio Manager

With more than 17 years’ experience in the property industry, Kristy has tried her hand at a number of roles that have helped shape her client-centric approach.

Reiterating Lorena’s message, Kristy added:

“Lower vacancy means the landlords have more rent in their pockets.”

Tannaya Jessop, Property Portfolio Manager

Beginning her career as a receptionist at a popular real estate agency, Tannaya was quickly promoted into a property management position. Since starting at The Hopkins Group, Tannaya has developed her skills as a property portfolio manager, forging strong relationships with both landlords and tenants alike.

On her role in achieving zero percent vacancy, Tannaya said;

“To ensure minimal vacancy [I would] open my calendar for inspection as many days as possible to have people view the property publicly or privately.”

Samandah Matty, Property Portfolio Manager

Samandah balances the often intense demands of property management with great professionalism and a genuine sense of pride. She skilfully responds to tenants with a can-do attitude while representing her landlords with their best interests at heart.

On what the team’s result means for her landlords, she shared the same message as Lorena and Kristy, stating:

“With lower vacancy rates, our landlords are not at a great loss of money between tenancies”

Lauren Wilden-Ross, Property Portfolio Manager

Lauren began her career in property in 2011, securing an assistant property manager position at a Richmond based real estate agency. From there Lauren developed her skills as a property manager, priding herself on delivering a level of service to ensure client satisfaction.

She outlines an efficient way The Hopkins Group can ensure properties get snapped up quickly, in a move that benefits both the landlord and the incoming tenant:

“We have a separate clause in our lease agreement for tenants that can apply for properties as “sight unseen” –  this helps to minimise vacancy and ensures that as soon as tenants move from interstate, they have a residence ready to go!”

Claire Weekley, Leasing Consultant/Property Portfolio Manager

The newest permanent recruit to the property management team, Claire manages a small portfolio while also assisting the property management team with the leasing of their properties. From preparing leases to fronting open for inspections, Claire is the lady on the ground liaising with potential tenants, current tenants and landlords with enthusiasm and a professional attitude.

To ensure low vacancy Claire says she tried to pre-approve tenants, “taking time to arrange private inspections when times available don’t suit”. Of the result she added, “lower vacancy shows how hard we work to ensure our clients get the highest return from their investments.”

Our property management team is here for both tenants and landlords alike, to make renting a property a smooth journey end to end. To help us achieve zero vacancy our property management team is supported by a team of administrative staff, trust accountants and open for inspection staff. Our team have worked hard for a great result for our landlords.

If you would like to find out more about entrusting your property with the team that cares, please fill out the form below to receive your copy of our landlord information guide or call our office on 1300 726 082 to speak with someone from our team today!

The importance of landlords insurance

Generally, when you own your own home, taking out insurance on your property is something that is done without a second thought. However, many who purchase an investment property may not think about taking out landlords insurance – and may not necessarily see its value until too late.

At The Hopkins Group, we encourage all of our landlords to take out landlords insurance. While many landlords are aware that a building must be insured, and do organise building insurance themselves, what many don’t realise is that this type of insurance does not provide a comprehensive level of cover which may be needed.

Some landlords can be under the impression that contents should be covered by the tenant’s contents insurance – which is correct for the tenant’s personal belongings. However, unfortunately things such as flooring and window furnishing are sometimes also considered contents for the purposes of building insurance coverage, but not under the tenant’s content insurance policy.

Standard home buildings and contents policies also do not usually provide cover for two of the most significant risks facing landlords — malicious or international damage by tenants and failure to pay rent.

While most tenants take good care of the property they are leasing, those that don’t may intentionally cause extensive damage.  Intentional damage is also not generally covered by a standard home insurance or body corporate policy either.

Another key difference between landlords insurance and regular building insurance is that as a landlord, you can claim loss of rent with landlords insurance.  Loss of rent coverage includes situations such as where a property is untenantable, tenants absconding, there is a default of rent, no vacant possession, death of a sole tenant, malicious damage, murder and suicide just to name a few. There are many landlords insurance providers in the market, so it pays to shop around and do your research. One provider that many of our clients use is Property Insurance Plus. As a result of our relationship with Property Insurance Plus, we are able to share an offer available exclusively for our clients for both Building and Landlords Loss of Rent Insurance. Our property management team believe this offer will help make your residential property investment more secure, and save you money, whether or not you have Landlords Insurance already.

Your exclusive benefit is a 14 month cover for just 12 months premium, i.e. two months free insurance for both landlord and building cover, a further 10% for two or policies and discounted building insurance premiums.

Landlords comprehensive loss of rent- accidental damage is only $287.00* and most importantly, is a tax deductible expense. For only $287.00 for a 14 month cover it really is a piece of mind when renting out your investment property because unfortunately things do happen and you will be prepared in any event.

For further information on landlords insurance, or to find out more about this offer, please call 1300 726 082 and ask to speak to a property portfolio manager today.

*These benefits are for Landlords cover only – NOT building insurance. Please contact Property Insurance Plus if you require a quote for building insurance. Please refer to the Product Disclosure Statement for complete details of terms and conditions of cover.

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The Hopkins Group

Street Address

Level 23, 500 Collins Street, Melbourne, VIC 3001

Postal Address

GPO Box 4347, Melbourne, VIC 3001

Office Hours

8:30am - 5:00pmMonday - Friday (after hours by appointment)
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