Q & A with America’s real estate professor: Rental property window upgrades

Dogs and liability insurance also discussed
Zillow
Aug 26, 2013

Rental Property Window Upgrades

Q. I own several rental properties that are in pretty good shape, but could use new windows, which run about $4,000 per unit. Would you suggest expending this money? Myra N., Tallahassee, Fla.

A. That’s a good one and I think it really depends. You probably are not going to get enough increased rental income to cover the cost of those windows if you took installer-provided financing on a 7-year loan. However, windows should last 20-25 years, so you need to take that into consideration too since they will far outlive your financing payments.

I do like to install new dual-pane, energy-efficient windows in the properties I own. It just makes the properties so much nicer, more energy efficient to save the tenants money. I, of course, showcase them to any prospective residents – they stop wind and noise from bothering the residents. It’s really a nice feature and usually is a great selling point.

More importantly than my cost, I think it helps keep my tenants there longer and that’s how you secure a good working relationship with your residents and earn more money from long-term tenancy. I used to have old, non-working, single-pane junky windows at my personal residence; and, especially when it was cold, it was no fun!

If you do choose to upgrade, make sure to shop around, ask for discounts, call references and check the insurance policy for the company you hire to install them.

Dogs and Liability Insurance

Q. My son wants to get a Rottweiler, and while I love dogs, and Rotts are great dogs, I’m concerned about liability. I will make sure it is properly trained and not aggressive, but I’m still hesitant. My insurance agent says it isn’t an issue, but I keep hearing that it is? What’s the latest scoop? Tina P., Los Gatos, Calif.

A. It’s an issue. Rottweilers are beautiful animals, and you can train them to be awesome dogs. Unfortunately, some people train them to be aggressive. And that’s where the problem comes in. No insurance carriers like aggressive breeds – Doberman, Aikido, German Sheppard, Pit Bull or Rottweiler. But most are okay with them as long as they haven’t bitten anyone or have a history of bad behavior. Note that this could change over time and there could be coverage cancellations or increasing premiums for certain breeds in the years ahead.

The real problem is let’s say you get the Rottweiler, he/she is a great dog for years, but one day bites the neighbor who calls animal control and/or sues you. At that point, your insurance company is probably going to pay the claim, but soon thereafter cancel your policy. And you won’t be able to get another carrier to cover you, now with a dog with history of biting people.

So going forward, without insurance coverage, if your dog bites again, let’s say attacks someone, causes significant medical bills or lawsuit – you’ll be covering those costs on your own.

I love dogs too – especially beautiful in my mind are Rottweilers, Dobermanns and German Shepherds. But due to liability I don’t and won’t have one at my house, nor let tenants get these type of dogs. So you should really think it through before committing to one of these dogs.

Leonard Baron, MBA, is America’s Real Estate Professor®. His unbiased, neutral and inexpensive “Real Estate Ownership, Investment and Due Diligence 101” textbook teaches real estate owners how to make smart and safe purchase decisions. He is a San Diego State University lecturer, blogs at Zillow.com, and loves kicking the tires of a good piece of dirt! More at ProfessorBaron.com. Email your questions to: Leonard@ProfessorBaron.com