Calendar icon December 21, 2023

What is Security Deposit Insurance? Pros and Cons [+Best Providers]

Security deposits are an industry standard for property management. But new innovations are helping reduce some of the traditional pain points associated with security deposits.  

Here’s the thing; For property managers and investors, security deposits provide critical protection from financial fallout if the rental property is damaged. For renters, though, paying a security deposit upfront can pose a prohibitive cost, and an expensive security deposit can make it harder for the property manager to fill vacancies.  

Enter security deposit insurance – a modern solution that's reshaping rental agreements. 

We’re diving into everything you need to know about security deposit insurance: how it's different from the traditional security deposit, the pros and cons, and the scoop on the best providers out there. 

So, whether you're a seasoned property management business owner or just getting started, we’ve got you covered. (And that was an insurance pun.)

What is security deposit insurance?

Security Deposit Insurance is a coverage that residents purchase, which covers potential damages or unpaid rent during their lease period. Instead of paying a hefty upfront cash deposit, residents pay a fee for this insurance, which typically costs a fraction of the traditional deposit amount.

For example, imagine a tenant moving into a home where the usual security deposit is $1,000. With security deposit insurance, instead of paying this amount upfront, the tenant might pay an insurance fee of $50 each month for a 12-month lease. This fee provides coverage to the owner for the duration of the lease, similar to a standard deposit, but at a lower cost to the tenant.

This system not only eases the financial burden for tenants but also provides property managers and owners with coverage against potential lease violations, making it a potentially attractive option for both parties.

 

download rental inspection checklist template

 

What is the difference between a traditional deposit and security deposit insurance?

A traditional security deposit is a lump sum paid by the resident to the owner (or held by the property manager) at the beginning of the lease. It’s often the cost of one month’s rent or another negotiated amount. The security deposit acts as a safeguard for the property manager in case of any damage to the property by the end of the tenancy. 

If there is significant damage, the property manager and owner can withhold refunding the deposit, depending on local and state laws that govern the use of security deposits. 

Security deposit insurance, on the other hand, gives residents a way to avoid paying that large lump sum at the beginning of their lease. Instead, they can pay for insurance. Like any insurance policy, they pay a monthly premium for coverage. The premium will be considerably less than a one-time security deposit. 

When a resident has security deposit insurance, their property manager can file a claim to the insurance company over things like lost rent or damages. The resident doesn’t get any of their monthly payments back at move out. 

Let’s go over some of the pros and cons of security deposit insurance.

What are the benefits of security deposit insurance?

Security deposit insurance provides benefits to renters, property managers (or a landlord), and property owners. Here are a few of the top benefits.

1. Reduces the upfront cost of move-in and protects residents' ability to pay rent

We’ll just say it plainly: Moving is a huge, stressful life event that costs a LOT of money. One of the major costs of moving into a new rental home is the traditional security deposit. Renters may be paying two times or more the amount of monthly rent just to sign a lease.

Security deposit insurance solves that upfront-cost challenge by providing a service at a much lower monthly cost. 

From the property management perspective, that means residents can keep more of their money to ensure they pay rent on time, and they may be happier to cover other fees like pet deposit fees, a resident benefits package fee, etc.

2. Helps reduce vacancies

Because security deposit insurance removes one of the biggest financial barriers to signing a new lease, it can be a great way to reduce a property’s time on the market.

By advertising that you accept security deposit alternatives like insurance, you can differentiate your properties on listings and fill them more quickly.

3. Covers unpaid rent

This is one of the best benefits for property managers and owners. Traditional security deposits typically can’t be used until the end of a tenancy. But with security deposit insurance, property managers can file a claim over unpaid rent. The insurance typically will cover this.

Some states allow property managers to cover missed rent payments with a security deposit, but some do not. If you’re in one of the states that don’t, you may want to consider allowing security deposit insurance.

4. Claims can be made at any time during the lease

Like the coverage for unpaid rent, security deposit insurance can cover claims at any time throughout a resident’s lease. You don’t necessarily have to wait to be reimbursed for damage. 

 

Happier residents

 

What are the drawbacks of security deposit insurance?

Of course, there are a few risks to security deposit insurance and reasons you may not want to make it an option for your residents. 

Here are some of the cons of security deposit insurance.

1. Not all claims will be accepted

When you, as the property manager, submit a claim for coverage of unpaid rent or property damage, the insurance company may not decide to cover it. Each claim is evaluated at the time of loss to determine if coverage is applicable. 

Things like normal wear and tear are not covered. Plus, you’re not the one who gets to make the final decision.

2. Not all insurance providers or products are reliable

This is true particularly because the industry itself is a newer innovation. Residents may pay monthly premiums but then find the coverage is not all that great. All of us have probably had some kind of experience like this with other types of insurance, too. Some claims aren’t covered, and some insurance companies promise a lot and deliver very little.

3. Residents are on the hook for monthly payments

Generally, security deposit insurance is cheaper than a cash security deposit. But if the lease is long-term, the monthly payments may end up being more expensive than just paying a lump sum at the beginning of the lease. 

For property managers, you want to consider if it’s ideal for your residents to have an additional monthly fee they’re responsible for on top of rent.

4. It can be a hassle

Nobody likes submitting or following up on insurance claims. It’s a hassle! The process is often clunky and slow and requires a lot of management. It may take weeks or months to get paid for a claim. 

Property managers may also need to put time and energy into educating residents or clients about how the security deposit insurance works and the differences in their options. (Or you could show them this article!)

Best security deposit insurance providers

Security deposit insurance is fairly new to the SFR property management world. Here are three of the best security deposit insurance products on the market right now.

1. LeaseLock

LeaseLock is the category leader in this particular security deposit alternative space. In October 2023, the company surpassed $9 billion in insured leases. 

LeaseLock offers a modern solution in security deposit insurance, replacing traditional cash deposits with a unique insurance model. Their insurance coverage provides property managers with protection while easing the upfront financial burden for residents. 

The monthly cost to the resident is generally around $30, with $5,000 in coverage for unpaid rent and damage.

2. Obligo

Obligo was launched in New York and helps property managers reduce their risks while making security deposits more affordable for renters. Residents pay a small monthly fee for the service while Obligo sets up secure billing authorization between property managers and the resident. The property manager is then authorized to charge the resident for damages up to a pre-set maximum. 

It’s essentially the same as the type of pre-authorization hold that a hotel might place on a guest’s credit card. Residents won’t be charged unless they cause damage or miss rent, and they will only be charged up to a certain amount. 

Some residents will not qualify for Obligo’s services, depending on credit rating, etc. The company has a high trust rating on Trustpilot.

3. Rhino

Rhino offers a slightly less straightforward insurance model but is a leading solution in security deposit alternatives. Through a surety bond model, their service provides robust protection for property owners while significantly reducing move-in costs for residents.

Rhino is sued in over two million homes in the U.S. and claims to save renters over 90% on moving costs. Some former customers complain about unreliable costs and being on the hook for claims.

Final thoughts

Security deposit insurance is reshaping the rental landscape, offering benefits for both residents and property managers. Providers like LeaseLock, Rhino, and Obligo are at the forefront of this change, providing innovative solutions that ease financial burdens and streamline rental transactions. As the industry evolves, these services may become a new standard in property management.

The goal is to make life easier for renters, owners, and property managers. At Second Nature, our goal is the same. We help property managers provide the best residential services and solutions, all while building opportunities for ancillary revenue

We provide a package with solutions like renters insurance, credit reporting, and resident rewards, all built to help protect a resident’s financial stability and reduce risk to your property management company.  Plus, it’s completely handled for you, so your team can focus on what they do best: manage your properties.

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Property Management Pest Control Gone Wrong: Resident Horror Stories & Nightmares

In the world of property management and real estate investing, maintaining a clean and pest-free environment is central to the well-being of the residents who live in your properties. That being said, effective pest control is not only a best practice, but also a strategic move that enhances your properties’ living experience, making your life as a property manager easier and your residents happier. Pest control is crucial for several reasons: Investing in pest control saves significant potential costs by avoiding large-scale infestations and property damage, enhancing resident satisfaction with a healthier, pest-free environment, and preserving property value. This approach reduces health risks, protects against liability, and maintains a good reputation by demonstrating the property management company’s dedication to providing safe, comfortable living spaces for great tenants. Ultimately, pest control sets professional property management companies apart from DIY and amateur real estate investors by safeguarding both residents' well-being and property assets. By addressing these points, you can foster a positive living environment that benefits both you and your residents. It’s important to note that our goal is not to call out “good tenants” vs. “bad tenants.” Instead, we always aim to foster a constructive dialogue focused on addressing problems and finding solutions. By emphasizing respect and fairness, we can help create a positive environment that benefits all residents, ensuring their rights and dignity are always respected. Also note that even though we here at Second Nature prefer the term "resident" over "tenant" to foster the human element, the word "tenant" may still be used occasionally due to its long-standing legal and real estate context. "House of Horror" Stories Most property managers have encountered their share of resident horror stories – and many, not for the first time. These tales often involve unexpected and severe pest infestations, made worse by residents' behaviors. Indeed, from bedbugs and roaches (the truly bad tenants any property manager is looking to be rid of) to animal issues, the range of pest problems is vast and daunting. Our "House of Horror Stories" video provides a vivid account of these situations, including some landlord horror stories that are too distressing to include here. Maggots falling from the ceiling: A tenant reported maggots falling from the ceiling onto their bed. The pest company discovered that these maggots were larvae of beetles infesting the air ducts in the neighborhood. Pets and extensive damage: Animals in one property caused extensive damage by covering all floors with feces and chewing through doors, door frames, flooring, HVAC systems, and appliances, with clean-up costs exceeding $15,000. Flushable wipes backup: A tenant flushing baby wipes caused a major sewage backup, leading to water damage throughout multiple rooms (including the living room and master bedroom), with clean-up costs close to $5,000. Donkey in the basement: During the purchase inspection, a donkey was found tied to the deck and later moved to the basement to hide it from animal control, calling for its quick removal. Rodents damaging appliances: Rats infested a property, chewing through a new dishwasher, insulation, and electrical wires, requiring repeated pest control visits and extensive repairs. These stories from a range of contributors highlight the unpredictable and often extreme challenges property managers face in maintaining their properties and ensuring the safety and well-being of their residents. How to Control Resident Pest Issues A robust pest control program is often the property manager’s best friend. After all, infestations can be difficult to proactively defend against, given that background checks, references, and tenant screening go only so far in uncovering the pest issues that can befall even the best tenants. Regardless of the challenges residents may present, a comprehensive pest control plan can mitigate potential infestations before they escalate into true horror stories. This includes timely intervention, and educating residents about maintaining cleanliness. Providing residents with clear guidelines on waste disposal and food storage can also significantly mitigate pest problems. Additionally, offering pest control services as part of a Resident Benefits Package can encourage residents to report issues early, allowing for swift action. Planning Ahead When dealing with problematic residents, it's essential to have a clear action plan. Issuing notices to clean the property promptly (e.g., with a 7-day notice period) is a critical first step. Leveraging a notice-to-clean template can streamline the process and ensure that you comply with tenant laws and legal standards. If worst things come to worst, an eviction notice may become necessary. However, this process is governed by various rules and regulations that can differ significantly across federal and state lines. It's important to be well-versed in these laws to avoid legal pitfalls. A detailed “notice to vacate” template can be incredibly helpful for property managers looking to take care of these complex situations. Nipping Things in the Bud In conclusion, maintaining a pest-free environment is integral to property management success. On-Demand Pest Control is a service in Second Nature’s fully managed Resident Benefits Package (RBP). It offers predictable, cost-effective, and fast solutions when a pest issue arises. Instead of expensive scheduled preventive treatments, residents can request service as needed. This approach ensures fast response times, directly addressing the problem at hand and saving costs over recurring treatments Property managers simply select the best pest plan from four tiers of service levels to include in their RBP. When an issue arises, the resident reports it in the On-Demand Pest Control portal, and the pest issue will be resolved. Learn more about On-Demand Pest Control by getting in touch, or read our latest study on the impact of our RBP on the resident experience.

Calendar icon July 3, 2024

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Your Guide to Property Management Laws, Regulations, & Rules

Property management activities involve overseeing rental properties, ensuring they’re maintained, residents are managed, and finances are handled effectively. While a real estate license is not always necessary to manage rental properties, licensing requirements can vary significantly by state. Typically, states may require property managers to hold a real estate license or work under a licensed broker. Property managers should familiarize themselves with the specific regulations in their state to ensure compliance. What Are Some Important Property Management Rules and Regulations? Property management laws encompass various areas, ensuring the safety, rights, and responsibilities of both property managers and tenants. Key areas include: Anti-discriminatory laws: Fair housing laws such as the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) prevent discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Lease paperwork: Legally binding lease agreements must include specific terms and comply with local regulations. Safety, maintenance, and repairs: Property managers must ensure properties meet habitability standards, including weatherproofing, heating, water, and electricity. Financial management: Proper handling of security deposits, monthly rent collection, and financial records is essential to comply with regulations and avoid disputes. Property management laws by state Each state has specific property management laws that property managers must adhere to. For instance, in many (but not all) jurisdictions, property managers must obtain a real estate broker license to operate. These laws are typically drafted and enforced by various regulatory bodies such as the state's Department of Real Estate or similar agencies. For instance, the California Department of Real Estate is responsible for regulating real estate activities, brokers, and salespersons, including those who work in property management, while the Texas Real Estate Commission handles these responsibilities in Texas. These agencies ensure compliance with state licensing laws and often provide resources and guidelines for property managers of both residential properties and commercial properties. Below is a table linking to the respective government sites for state-specific regulations: State State Body Alabama Alabama Real Estate Commission Alaska Alaska Real Estate Commission Arizona Arizona Department of Real Estate Arkansas Arkansas Real Estate Commission California California Department of Real Estate Colorado Colorado Division of Real Estate Connecticut Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Delaware Delaware Real Estate Commission Florida Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation Georgia Georgia Real Estate Commission and Appraisers Board Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Real Estate Branch Illinois Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Indiana Indiana Professional Licensing Agency Iowa Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals, & Licensing Kansas Kansas Real Estate Commission (for commercial real estate property management only) Kentucky Kentucky Real Estate Commission Louisiana Louisiana Real Estate Commission Michigan Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Minnesota Minnesota Department of Commerce Mississippi Mississippi Real Estate Commission Missouri Missouri Division of Professional Registration Montana Montana Department of Labor and Industry Nebraska Nebraska Real Estate Commission Nevada Nevada Real Estate Division New Hampshire New Hampshire Real Estate Commission New Jersey New Jersey Real Estate Commission New Mexico New Mexico Real Estate Commission New York New York State Division of Licensing Services North Carolina North Carolina Real Estate Commission North Dakota North Dakota Real Estate Commission Ohio Ohio Division of Real Estate & Professional Licensing Oklahoma Oklahoma Real Estate Commission Oregon Oregon Real Estate Agency Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission Rhode Island Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation South Carolina South Carolina Real Estate Commission South Dakota South Dakota Real Estate Commission Tennessee Tennessee Real Estate Commission Texas Texas Real Estate Commission Utah Utah Division of Real Estate Virginia Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Washington Washington State Department of Licensing West Virginia West Virginia Real Estate Commission Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services Wyoming Wyoming Real Estate Commission Note: This list excludes resources from Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Tenant screenings Tenant screenings are a critical step in property management, involving background checks, credit checks, income verification, employment verification, rental history, and proof of ID to assess prospective tenants. This process helps ensure that potential renters are reliable and financially responsible. It's important to obtain signed consent before running credit checks, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to comply with legal standards and protect tenant privacy. Another important guidance is provided by the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing-related activities based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability, ensuring equal access to housing for all individuals. Learn more about Tenant Screening Tips for PMs Lease agreements A lease agreement is a legally binding contract between the landlord and tenant, outlining the terms of the tenancy. Key components of rental agreements include lease terms, rent amount, security deposit regulations, and common clauses such as maintenance responsibilities and lease renewal terms. Regulations governing lease agreements can vary by state, so it's essential to ensure that leases comply with local laws. For instance, state laws often contain security deposit limits, provisions for the return of unused portions, as well as a clear accounting for any deductions. Consulting with a lawyer is crucial to ensure your agreement is legally sound and reflects your specific circumstances. We’ve shared some relevant resources below: Learn more about property management agreements, featuring a free template Learn about security deposit insurance, and its pros and cons Financial management Effective financial management in property management involves establishing clear rent collection procedures and maintaining organized financial records. This includes tracking rent payments, managing tenants’ security deposits, and adhering to landlord-tenant laws to avoid legal disputes and financial penalties. Keeping detailed records can help property managers resolve issues efficiently and ensure transparency with tenants and property owners. Solutions such as property management software can streamline financial operations, automate routine tasks, and perhaps most importantly - ensure accuracy and regulatory compliance with respect to various accounting regulations and legal requirements. Evictions Evictions are a legal process to remove a tenant from a property. Common reasons for eviction from rental units include nonpayment of rent, property damage, lease violations, and criminal activity. Property managers must follow their state's rules for eviction notices, such as unconditional quit terminations and termination for lease violations, to ensure the process is lawful and fair. State laws regarding unconditional quit terminations and terminations for violation of a lease vary widely. Unconditional quit notices typically demand that tenants move out immediately without an opportunity to remedy the violation. States like Indiana and Mississippi allow landlords to issue these notices for serious or repeated violations, with Mississippi requiring 14 days to move out. For lease violations, the notice period and the opportunity for tenants to remedy the breach also differ by state. For example, in Kentucky, tenants generally have 15 days of written notice to cure a violation, but if the same violation occurs within six months, landlords can issue a 14-day unconditional quit notice. In contrast, states like Iowa and Maine require a seven-day notice period for tenants to address lease violations before eviction proceedings can begin. In California, on the other hand, tenants must be given three days or more to cure the violation before landlords can file for eviction (source). These legal nuances emphasize the importance of PMs and tenants understanding their specific state regulations to navigate eviction processes appropriately. Property maintenance and repairs Maintaining rental properties is a legal obligation for landlords, ensuring that properties are safe, habitable, and free from hazards like lead, asbestos, and mold. This includes weatherproofing, providing adequate heating and water, and ensuring electrical systems are functional. You can find out more about these issues in our Property Maintenance Guide for PMs. Landlords must also give notice to tenants before entering the property for repairs, as required by most state laws. When in doubt, consult a legal advisor to ascertain the specific laws that apply to you in your state. Tenants have the right to a habitable living environment, and failure to meet these standards can lead to legal consequences as well as issues with occupancy rates. Indeed, when landlords fail to make required repairs, tenants have several options depending on their state's laws. Tenants may withhold rent, make the necessary repairs themselves and deduct the cost from the rent, pay a reduced rent, report the issue to local building inspectors who can order repairs, or even break the lease and move out. Additionally, tenants can sue the landlord for a partial refund of past rent or for damages caused by the substandard conditions, including discomfort and emotional distress. Get our preventative maintenance checklist for property management Learn about the importance of pest control to maintain a pest-free environment Second Nature's Guidance Staying informed about state-specific regulations, maintaining organized records, and ensuring compliance with federal laws such as the Fair Housing Amendments Act is key to successful property management. On a practical level, understanding and adhering to property management laws and regulations is crucial for property managers to ensure smooth operations, maintain property value, and foster positive tenant relationships. Learn more about property management company best practices, marketing, and more in our Second Nature Community.

Calendar icon July 3, 2024

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