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Rental Properties in Portland – Garbage

This post — while brief is just, “garbage.”  Yes, I had to fit that in there somehow.  Over the recent past I have found that there is a very common misunderstanding regarding rental properties within the City of Portland and Garbage.  More specifically, whether or not a tenant can be billed for garbage service.

The short answer is, “Yes,” a tenant can be billed for garbage.  BUT, the city of Portland requires that the owner/landlord be the customer of record.  What does this mean?  The owner/landlord pays the bill to the garbage company, and the tenant can be billed in arrears for garbage.

Here are two key sources of information.  Per the City of Portland Charter, Code, and Policies — the relevant section is 29.30.140 Cleanliness and Sanitation.   This code is pretty clear in that an Owner of a rental property must provide and pay for garbage service.  But nowhere does it prohibit the owner from passing on the cost to the tenant.

Furthermore, the Oregon Landlord / Tenant law that address utility payments –ORS 90.315, does NOT prohibit charging tenants for garbage service.

…it is worth noting that municipalities throughout the State are different in how they treat utilities — who must be the customer of record.  For example, while Portland requires the owner be the customer for garbage, and the tenant can be the customer of record for other utilities, there are other cities that require the owner be the customer of record for sewer, but not garbage…  Go figure…

So, with that garbage question cleaned up…

Andrew Gilburne

Portland Homes

Property Management Maintenance

Property Management Maintenance – Furnace/AC

When it comes to owning a rental property there are certain universal laws. Yeah, sort of like Newton’s Laws of Motion…but not really…

These laws are known as —

Gilburne’s Laws of Rental Property Maintenance:

  • Rental Property Law #1 – Stuff will break
  • Rental Property Law #2 – Really expensive stuff tends to break in the middle of the night
  • Rental Property Law #3 – Fixing broken stuff costs money

Now, if you clear the cobwebs covering the long forgotten lessons of high school physics, you might recall something called the Rules of Thermodynamics…?

Well, did you know that within the world of rental properties, there too is a unique set of laws of thermodynamics? These laws are called, Gilburne’s Laws of Rental Property Thermodynamics. (Hey! They’re my laws, I get to name them they way I like. Jealous? Go make up your own non-scientific laws.)

Gilburne’s Laws of Rental Property Thermodynamics:

  1. At 11:46pm on the coldest night of the year, at least one furnace will die; blow it’s last gust of heat., and
  2. At 10:03 pm on the hottest day of the year, the AC will break down, or…your tenant says that the place is Sooooo hot, that they are willing to break the lease to move out of the home that doubles as a broiler.

So, when you combine my laws of Property Management Maintenance, and Property Management Thermodynamics — what do you get?

A whopping head-ache, and a big bill.

Horrible humor aside, you own a business with moving parts. Sometimes those moving parts break. Sometimes those moving parts that break are expensive to repair. So, although you have a property manager working for you — or perhaps you are your own property manager, you are going to have to make a decision on how you are going to replace this broken thing.

Bottom line — if you have a home with central air, unless you have a fairly new unit, sometime during your ownership of the property, you are going to have to make an investment.

Whether you’re looking at a new furnace or A/C, the market is like so many — there are a lot of brands, that all make the same claims. They all say they are the best. The most efficient, the…blah, blah, blah.

In fact, if you removed the branding off of the literature from all of the different manufacturers, one would be hard pressed to tell the difference between one brand and another.

Now, if you have particular experience with a certain brand — like you grew up with Brand X, and it never stopped running, you might be inclined to go with that brand no matter what the cost. Likewise, you had Brand Y, and it stopped running after a few years….you’ve sworn that brand off.

Well — as an owner of a rental property business (yes, I’ll always remind you that you own a business, not an investment), I’ll suggest that you forget what you think you might already know about the residential HVAC industry; set aside your past experiences. Consider some of the information that I’ll share with you below; keep it in your back pocket for the next time you are faced with having to tell your property manager what you want to do about that dead furnace.

Let’s be clear — I’m a property manager…and a pretty good one if I may say so myself. I’m also a geek, and love learning about how things work. Why they break, and how to fix them. Or more accurately, how the professionals fix them. Like you, I rely upon the guys in the industry to learn from, and good ol’ Google research.

So, with that said — my approach to helping you become more comfortable with the furnace market is to share with you some fundamental facts, and some great sites I came upon with a little research.

With this information in hand, when your property manager calls you on a Sunday to say they need your approval to install a new furnace, you will (hopefully) be sufficiently knowledgeable, and feel less blind when making what could be a several thousand dollar decision.

Four Key Facts About the Furnace Industry:

  • There are a LOT of brands: I found this one list HERE citing 30 brands. If you keep on digging, however, you will see a subset of brands that are most commonly noted: Amana, American Standard, Bryant, Carrier, Coleman, Ducane, Goodman, Heil, Lennox, Rheem, Ruud, Trane, Westinghouse, York.
  • Industry has consolidated: Over the years, there has been a significant consolidation of brands under a relatively smaller number of manufacturers.
furnace AC

(Furnace on the left and Air conditioning unit on the right)

–  Carrier, and Bryant are both made by the same company.

–  Goodman and Amana are both manufactured by Amana.

–  Trane and American Standard.

–  Heil and Tempstar are made by Inter-City Products.

  • Installation is arguably more important than whether you go with a Bryant or Carrier.
  • After installation — annual service is more important.

Following are a couple of good sites worth perusing. The first has some good information on the basics of home furnaces.

If you just go to the two sites above, after a couple of cups of coffee, you will be well armed to have a meaningful conversation with your property manager when you are told it’s “time.”

I noted above that — my impression (after countless conversations with various HVAC companies, and a fair amount of reading) the fundamental aspects of products (within an efficiency tier) are the same. No doubt there are some subtle differences. Indeed, those differences may be important to you, and justify an increased expenditure. But keep in mind — that it is the installation, and service that will make or break you.

With that said, if you are faced with investing in a new furnace ensure that you are comfortable with the company doing the work. Ask your property manager why they recommend the provider that they have placed in front of you. What’s their reputation?

Enough said…

If your inquiring further about property management, check out our website  

  • Andrew
    Portland Homes & Commercial Properties

Portland Homes & Commercial Properties

Portland Homes

Welcome to Portland Homes & Commercial Properties — and the inaugural blog posting.

For those that know me, most will agree that I tend to be someone not wanting for words. And for those things of which I am passionate about…well, I can go on. But, as I was sitting here contemplating what should go into this first posting…I was a bit stumped. Wasn’t quite sure where I wanted to start this conversation.

..and then it just sort of seemed obvious…start from the beginning. Start with the “Who, What, Why.”

The “Who”
We are Portland Homes & Commercial Properties. A property management company based out of — yup, “Portland, Oregon.” Ok, more like the Portland metro area and beyond…

Our focus is on the management of residential properties (i.e., single family homes, plexes, and small apartment complexes), and small commercial buildings (50,000 sq ft and less). Our property management services goes as far North as Portland; down South to Wilsonville, and as far East as Sandy, and West to Beaverton/Hillsboro. Portland Homes is comprised of professionals that bring over 60 years of combined experience in all aspects of property management.
The, “What”
What do we do? To say we do property management is an oversimplification. The, “what” is driven by how we view property management; how we view your property. Portland Homes does not view your rental property as just simply an investment, a static thing that we are just keeping an eye on for you. We are not simply just collecting rent.

From our perspective, your rental property is a business. Whether you own one single family home, two plexes, or 20 units — these are not just homes; they are not like a stock in IBM that you buy, and forget about for 15 years. Your rental property — no matter how small, or few IS A BUSINESS.

Yeah, you thought that cute single family home you picked up for a steal is an investment… No… you made an investment…in a business…the business of rental properties. Your rental property is a product. Your customer — is the tenant. And this business — more than anything, is about customer service. This is a business with the potential of great rewards. But, it has risks, liabilities, daily challenges. You have to know the laws, you have to be willing to take calls at all times of the day. Sometimes you have to be a mediator. And, sometimes you will be faced with doing unpleasant things — evicting people. This is a business that succeeds or fails on the quality of communication.

No business is without it’s challenges, and ownership of a rental property certainly has them. But — the rewards can be very much worth the effort.

As a property management company — you’re not just hiring us to collect rent; you’re hiring us to be the operations end of your business. You are hiring Portland Homes to free you from the daily task of property management to focus on things that are more important (e.g., acquiring more properties, generating more capital for investment, you day job, your family, etc.).

Not every owner of a rental property needs a property manager. In fact, when I am interviewing a prospective owner, I want to determine whether they truly need us. If it makes sense, and if I’m hearing the “right” things — I’m the first to tell an owner that they don’t need me. That they clearly understand what it takes to run this business, they appear to have the time, and knowledge, and skills, etc.

But for those owners that truly do need a property manager — Portland Homes is here for them. Not just to collect rents — but to be the operational arm of their business. Advertising, showing, screening, adhering to rental laws, maintenance, accounting, problem solving, tenant management…. These are the things that a property management company does for you. Whether you own one property or 10, to be successful, to maximize the financial performance of…yes, your business, and minimize your exposure — you must execute on each and every aspect.

In the end, your property manager is (or should be) hired to help drive the success of your rental property business. And that means — ensure that your customer…yes, YOUR CUSTOMER is SUCCESSFUL. And guess who your customer is? The TENANT.

All too often, the tenant is seen as an inconvenience; a necessary evil. If that is the way you view the tenant, I sincerely suggest that you sell your property because property management will be very, very painful with that mindset.

As I said earlier, your rental property is a business. The house, condo, plex — it is the product. Your customer — yup, the tenant.

So bottom line — our mission as your property manager is to ensure we have a successful tenant, and run the operations of your business such that we are maximizing your returns, and while minimizing your exposure to any downsides.

And the Why…
Why Portland Homes & Commercial Properties?

There’s a secret about property management that — if you’ve done any research, you probably already discovered…. Shhh. Don’t tell anyone else… we all do the same thing… An analogy I often use is that property management is like banking. All banks do one thing… they sell money. So, why do you go to one bank vs. another. Or, one branch vs. another.

For me — it’s about the customer service. It’s about the communication. It’s knowing the people taking care of me understand what I need, and work with me to achieve that. I don’t dread going to the branch; I look forward to speaking with the team there.

Well, in property management — on a fundamental level, it is no different. The question is — does our philosophy of property management mesh with yours. Does our approach appear to be in sync with the way that you want to run your business?

If you have been to any number of property management websites, you will have quickly noted one thing — they all say the same thing.. “We are the best.” “We’ll maximize your returns.” “We have the secret formula to investing in residential properties.” “We have the best technology.”

This last one really kills me…because we all use the same technology! Really.

When you’re interviewing property management companies, you need to ask a fundamental question, “What is your philosophy? What is your approach to property management?” “How are you (Mr. Property Manager) going to team with me?”

Suffice it to say, you will hear some very interesting answers.

Perhaps you’re happy with your current property manager. If that is the case, call Portland Homes — let us play devil’s advocate to your current way of thinking. Worse case — you validate that you have the best property manager for your needs. But you might also discover, there is another approach.

Perhaps you are new to the business of rental properties. Whether you know you want a PM, or are on the fence as to whether you should do it yourself — pick up the phone and talk to as many PMs as you can.

Find out how they approach the business. Why they are even in the business.

Possibly most important, get a feel whether their style fits with yours.

Just remember — this is your business. Decide how you want to run it. What’s important to you. You’re interviewing the property managers; don’t let them sell you.

Rental property is a great business; with great potential of rewards. You just need to take control. You need to run the business; don’t let it run you.

So, that’s the Who, What, and Why — plus a few tangents here and there. But hey, it’s my blog…I can “tangent” if I want.

Moving forward, the goal with the Portland Homes blog is to share, and educate, and …hopefully, be the cause of a laugh or two (at least for my horrible humor). Hopefully, the information shared here will help you in your efforts as they relate to the management of residential rental properties.

Andrew Gilburne
Managing Partner
Portland Homes & Commercial Properties