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What To Do Before Signing Your Lease: An Interview with Ben Latocki of Production Realty

By Ben Latocki

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

I have been a Realtor in Jackson MI for over ten years, and I opened Production Realty in 2009. We have grown from a small sales office with one location to a full service office currently with three locations. A sales office both in Jackson and Grass Lake MI, and a Rental Property Management location in Jackson MI. We currently manage around 200 properties and have 10 full time sales agents.

What are some of the services your company provides?

We specialize in marketing real estate in a high end fashion using technology to its fullest. We advertise on over 100 different websites, and utilize high quality photography and HD video to better showcase our listings. We also have a full service Rental Property Management Division that helps take the stress out of owning a rental property. We do everything from screening tenant applications, to collecting the rent, to handling maintenance calls.

What should I know about my landlord before signing?

Our company keeps the property owners anonymous, but that is okay. You will never need to speak to them. They have hired us to be the Landlord. I would think you would always want to know that your landlord will maintain the property in a good fashion. We have a "No Slumlord Policy". This means that if we go to look at a new property to rent, and it is not in "Rent Ready Condition", then we will not manage that property until it is fixed up. I would suggest to drive around and look at the other properties that your landlord manages. If you like one house, but then go look at the others that they manage and they are not maintained well, that may be a bad sign.

What should I inspect in the apartment to make sure its ready for move-in? Can I ask that parts of the apartment be fixed before signing the lease?

Make sure that you don't rush into an apartment that is not going to work for you in the long run. Make sure it has enough room for all of your furniture, etc. You may want to know how much the utilities will cost if you are paying those on top of rent. If you can't get that information, you should check to see how old the furnace, water heater, and appliances are. Make sure the windows are not drafty. If you think the utility bills will be high, make sure you can afford it before you sign the lease. You can always ask for any other minor repairs to be made, but that just depends on the landlords policies. Hopefully the apartment would be in move in condition when they are showing you the space.

Is it important to document any damages before signing?

Sure it is, this will help you if you want to get those things repaired, or if you want your security deposit back when you move out. If you can't get it in writing before you sign the lease, you should fill out a property condition report when you move in and supply your landlord with a copy. This would also be a good time to ask for minor repairs to be made. There are many things you or your landlord may not notice needs repair until you have moved in.

What questions should I ask the existing tenants before signing the lease?

We specialize in single family homes, but we do manage a few small apartment buildings. If you are renting in an apartment building, and you have the chance to speak with a current resident, I guess I would just ask them how they like the building and the landlords. This may help you decide if you want to sign a lease or not.

How important is it to get everything in writing? Can I ask that something be changed in the lease agreement?

Obviously everything we do is in writing, from the application, to the lease. I would never rent a home without a lease. The lease can protect both you and the landlord. If you are reading over the lease, and something does not seem fair, or you just don't like a specific section, I would definitely question it. Your landlord may be willing to change the lease to fit your needs.

What are some safety standards every apartment should have?

Our No Slumlord Policy states that any home we manage must meet Michigan's rental housing code. This is a long list of standards that we make sure we follow. Some of the basics are health and safety issues. Smoke detectors, handrails, no broken glass, no flaking or peeling paint, secure locksets, etc. There are way to many things to list.

What is the best way for people to get in contact with you or your company?

We can be found online at www.ProductionRealty.com. Our Jackson MI real estate sales office can be reached at 517-879-4141 and our Grass Lake MI real estate sales office is at 517-522-2068. Our Jackson MI rental property management office can be reached at 517-879-4682.

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