February 2022 Ice Storm
Last month we talked about how the holidays brought us our first hard freeze of the winter season, but no white Christmas in Austin. This month we were subject to a storm that had an impact similar to the February 2021 storm that shut off power across the state. The weather forecast leading up to this storm was a very mild prediction until 3-4 days prior when the forecast started ramping up to possibly some ice, and then as it drew closer the alarm bells started going off. The biggest threat wasn’t frozen pipes as much as it was a very hazardous layer of ice that there is really no way to prepare for other than to stay home and let it run its course.
The storm came and went, and as many of you already know there was a tremendous amount of damage across Central Texas and some surrounding areas. The power production held through the cold weather, but the infrastructure failed on a massive scale. Trees covered in ice toppled onto power lines, or the power lines and poles buckled under the weight of the ice leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power for over a week.
A disaster declaration was issued by the Governor along with Travis, Hays, and Williamson Counties to release funding for recovery. Williamson County alone has stated that it has already spent $12 million so far on recovery, and Travis County initially estimated it will cost $29 million. Several local municipalities have arranged contractors for curbside pickup of debris while others are arranging for drop-off sites
In terms of our client’s properties there is still a backlog of tree clean-up requests, and we are still getting more requests trickling in two weeks after the storm. Some clients have asked us what happens when a neighbor’s tree falls in our client’s yard, or our client’s tree falls in a neighboring yard. This article explains how that scenario works in Texas. As we continue to work through the cleanup we will be in touch with the clients impacted by this historic ice storm. Where there is debris to be cleaned up or trees to be trimmed we are working with tenants to take advantage of the free pickup where it is available to reduce the cost to our clients.
Leasing Market Update
The market continues to shift, but there haven’t been any major changes since our December update as well as another recent post. The amount of time on the market for increasing inventory on the market continues to go up, prices are coming down, and this is impacting the leasing market as discussed previously. An article was published on 2/16/23 with some recent market data showing the current trend.
1099 Forms Issued in January
We published and mailed the tax forms in the last week of January. You should have already received them if you requested a paper copy, and the electronic copies and reports were posted as well. If you have any questions about those please let us know sooner than later so we can address any issues while the information is still recent.
Tax Protest Season is Coming
The 2022 protest season was very successful, and we’re already gearing up for the 2023 season. With the real estate market finally seeming to run out of rocket fuel it’s important to protest if you don’t already participate with us or another provider. Most appraisal districts use blanket valuations that don't take into consideration the various factors impacting the value of your property. They rely on the fact that most people will not protest their value, thus only those that protest benefit from the process and potentially end up with a tax bill that is likely to be closer to actual market value.
If you’d like to set up tax protests for this year please contact your property manager, or if you’re already set up you can review your account or make changes directly in your partner portal or request a new magic link. Make sure to use the email address we have on file for you.
March 2023 Statements
The statements in March will be delayed by a few days. Normally they would be published on the 17th, however in March they will be published by the 21st.
Maintenance Approval Process Changes
In addition to the info below about funding repairs we want to notify all owners that we are modifying our escalation process when we can’t reach our clients in order to make sure we are complying with property code requirements. In bonafide emergencies we are acting within our authority to mitigate damages, however after it has been contained or in non-emergency situations we reach out to our clients for work authorization that is required above the limit set in the management agreement. In those cases we now have a strict process going into effect that will have a time-based escalation if we cannot reach you. The time frame will be that if we can’t reach you by the 3rd day from when we first reached out we will then reach out to your emergency contact who can aid us in getting authorization or contacting you. If you’d like to update your emergency contact we have on file please contact your property manager. Keep in mind that this contact should be someone outside of your immediate household who you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you cannot be reached by them or us.
Funding Make-Readies & Maintenance for Your Property
Please note that it is Stone Oak's policy that the owner has reserve funding on hand with Stone Oak to help us commence work faster when it comes to make-readies and maintenance on your property. Stone Oak cannot perform maintenance without first receiving authorization and funding, which can slow down the turn-around times of our vendors and their availability in this market. This can also potentially create a negative experience that tenants will remember when it comes time to renew, and we always want to avoid turning over the tenants. Any time we request authorization for work on your property, the best practice is to immediately fund your account when you provide written authorization to move forward. This is as simple as going into your owner portal and using ACH for a free transfer, or if you prefer a credit card the processor charges a fee as part of the transaction.
Keep in mind that tenant charges on your account are not considered an offset to this amount as we keep a strict accounting system for both our and our client's benefits. Any tenant chargeable items will be posted to their account, and once they are paid it is immediately credited to your account. If you have any questions about this reserve amount held with Stone Oak please contact your property manager.
Thank you for being a client of Stone Oak Property Management. Please don't hesitate to contact our team should you or your property need anything!