About Judy

Mentoring Property Managers

Safety First!

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In our business as property managers, we recognize the importance of providing our tenants with a safe property in which to live or do business. If it’s within our control and area of responsibility, we eliminate obvious safety hazards, as an important aspect of our overall risk-management strategy.

 

Yet, how often do we consider our own safety?

 

The times I have felt most vulnerable as a property manager were when I was showing a vacant home or commercial space. Taking advice from experts in the field, I realized the necessity of developing a pre-screening checklist. That checklist gives me the opportunity to not only eliminate the prospects who are clearly unqualified to rent the home (or lease the space), but to learn a bit about these callers, before arranging a showing. My checklist includes such questions such as, “How soon do you need to move (or relocate your business)?” “How long have you lived here (or how long in business)?” and “Do you have any credit issues of which we should be aware?” These questions help set the stage for a successful first meeting.

 

Do you confirm the identity of the person you are meeting, before you meet?

 

Just about every article available on this topic speaks to the importance of meeting a prospect at your office, first. Do you actually do that? Or, is it more likely, you meet at the vacant property? At minimum, please get the prospect’s photo identification before you meet. With the ease of today’s technology, asking a prospect to text you a photo of his/her driver’s license is not a burdensome request.

 

Alternatively, you might wish to employ a widely-popular method of showing vacant properties – an access-controlled (self-showing) lockbox system. Companies such as Rently and ShowMojo can verify your prospects’ identity, schedule controlled self-guided showings, and follow up immediately on calls and inquiries. These systems relieve you of not only the safety risk, but the hassle of no-shows, and lost time in the showing process. Of course, not all properties lend themselves to using such a system.

 

A few tips for your safety, outside the showing process…

 

  • Accept your rent payments electronically, rather than by personal delivery. And, “no cash” is a wise policy to adopt.
  • Make sure lines of communication with your clients and customers are wide open, and potential conflicts are resolved in a swift, calm manner.
  • You may, as I often do, work from your home. That’s great – it allows for a much more flexible wardrobe! Just be sure to never provide your home address to owners, tenants, or vendors. Use a P.O. Box for your mail, or the physical address of your office.
  • Got speed dial? Use it. Make sure it includes at least 1 member of your office staff, a family member, and police or fire departments.
  • Watch what you share on social media. Just because your Facebook page is set for optimum privacy, doesn’t mean it’s private. Think before you post, and limit the amount of personal information you share.

 

There are so many more great tips out there for those of us who work in this industry. Perhaps, you have some tips you’d like to share? If so, please comment on this post, or email me! judy@judycook.biz. We may include them in a future article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Do you use criminal records in your tenant selection process?

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If so, you’ll want to read this.

 

All levels of government should adopt requirements making it clear [that housing] cannot be denied to those with a criminal justice history, unless there is a legitimate public safety reason for doing so.”

-Deborah De Santis, President and CEO of CSH (Corporation for Supportive Housing)

ball-and-chain

 

In November last year, HUD released a memo specifically addressing a practice employed by many rental property owners and managers – the use of an applicant’s criminal records to determine eligibility for rental housing. Just today, HUD released additional guidance for housing providers, further clarifying the memo. That’s when the news media picked it up.

As expected, you’ll hear much talk out there on both sides of the issue. Some claim it’s government overreach. Others celebrate efforts to provide needed support to those reentering communities from incarceration. In my view, as a housing provider, if you’re using clear and objective criteria for evaluating rental prospects, you’re not likely to run afoul of HUD’s position. In simple language, it says:

  • Housing providers should have policies that apply to everyone, and are evenly enforced.
  • An arrest history is not the same as conviction history. Simply because someone was arrested for a crime does not mean he/she committed the crime.
  • If a housing provider considers criminal background when evaluating potential tenants, the housing provider should not have a blanket “one-strike” rule that fails to take into consideration the type of crime, the length of time since the crime was committed, and the applicant’s actions/activities since the crime.
  • Applicants should have the right of “due process” when it comes to the landlord’s qualification criteria. In other words, the applicant should have the opportunity to explain extenuating circumstances, and have the landlord reconsider its decision.
  • Some crimes can be “one-strike” offenses, provided the housing provider is able to justify their policy protects the safety of others, and/or the property.

One important piece of HUD’s guidance on this issue is contained in the following excerpt from HUD’s FAQ on the matter:

…when owners make the decision to reject an applicant on the basis of a criminal record, the owner must provide the applicant with a written rejection notice.  This notice must state the reason for the rejection, advise of the applicant’s right to respond to the owner in writing or to request a meeting within 14 days to dispute the rejection, and advise that persons with disabilities have the right to request reasonable accommodations to participate in the informal hearing process.

Since most of us already provide written notices to prospects when we deny their applications to rent, this shouldn’t be much of a burden. We simply need to remember to inform the prospect of his/her right to request a meeting to dispute a rejection based on criminal history. So far, our credit reporting agency has not, to my knowledge, amended our “Adverse Action Notice” to include such a provision. Until they do, should the need arise, we’ll be adding language to comply with HUD’s rule.

How do you view criminal background information when evaluating a prospective tenant? Will this new guidance change your policies or procedures? If so, how?

 

 

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“Can you get a bid on that?” (How to handle owner requests for bids on small jobs)

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little-builderAs a Nevada Property Manager, you know how challenging it can be to find and retain qualified vendors to do the myriad small jobs for the rental homes you manage. Now that we’re working against The Tesla Effect,” it’s becomming even more difficult to find vendors who are willing to take on those small jobs at fair prices. Many of us expect this trend to continue, for at least the next 3-5 years.

 

Enter the conscientious landlord. This may be his first foray into rental property ownership; perhaps he once lived in the home. Although she hired a professional property manager, which was a savvy decision on her part as a new investor/landlord, she still wants to know what’s going on, especially when repairs are needed. “Can you get a bid on that?” We hear it all the time, don’t we? As property managers, we know what a losing proposition it can be to seek bids for small projects. But, how do we effectively communicate this to our owner-clients?  Continue reading

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Nevada Property Managers – Consent to Act

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32251852This topic seems to come up very frequently, in my Nevada classes. “When should I present the Consent to Act form?”

 

Although there are varying opinions on this subject, I’ll share mine. And, should your view differ, please don’t hesitate to comment on this post. Sharing information and opinions is a vital component of our success as Nevada Property Management professionals!

 

As a matter of personal/office policy, I never introduce the Consent to Act form.

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Disparate Impact – Stop with the Panic Bells, Already!

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united-states-of-america-signAs you likely are aware, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) handed down its ruling this week, affirming the validity of Disparate Impact Theory in Fair Housing cases. Immediately, some of my colleagues in the property management industry began ringing the panic bells. “This will change everything!” No, it won’t.

This is Nothing New!

HUD and DOJ have been using Disparate Impact Theory to prove fair housing cases for 40 years! All this SCOTUS decision did, was to uphold policies, rules, and practices that were already in place. This changes nothing. It simply affirms what has been the case for decades.

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Service Animals, Companion Animals, Assistance Animals…Oh My!

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Service_AnimalsAn open letter to the Property Management community…

As a property manager myself, I certainly understand and sympathize with your concerns around the topic of service animals. There still seems to be a great deal of confusion in the industry over which laws apply, in this area. In a blog post a few years back, I discussed the difference between the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA). It’s important to remember that these are two different laws, with entirely different applications. ADA applies to public accommodations only – not housing. The FFHA, however, applies to housing. If you’re not clear on the differences, please take a few moments to read that blog post. It contains links to important HUD documents that explain the differences between the two laws, particularly in the area of service/assistance animals.

 

In very brief summary, ADA holds quite a narrow definition of “Service Animal.” For purposes of ADA, a Service Animal is a trained dog (and, in some cases, a miniature horse) – one that is specifically trained to perform a task to aid a person with a disability. The FFHA, on the other hand, takes a much broader view. The terms “service animal,” “therapy animal,” “comfort animal,” “companion animal,” “assistance animal…” all mean the same thing, under fair housing law. (For purposes of simplicity from this point forward, I’ll collectively refer to these animals as “Service Animals.”) Essentially ANY animal (or animals) who aids a person with a disability, in some way, to cope with the outcomes of that disability is considered a Service Animal under the FFHA. Furthermore, those animals do not have to be trained to perform a specific task. Sometimes, their ‘job’ is simply to exist! There is a great deal of scientific evidence out there to support the fact that animals are beneficial to our health. This concept is embraced by the FFHA.   Continue reading

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Nevada’s HOA Super-Priority Lien at Risk

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Nevada Legislature

Nevada Legislature

This post is offered as a courtesy to the Community Associations Institute (CAI), and its local Nevada chapters, who are fighting hard to protect the integrity of Nevada’s super-priority lien status. The 2015 Nevada Legislative Session ends in just a few days, and AB359 is being hotly contested right now. The following is quoted verbatim (with permission) from an email received today. I’m posting it here for you, as some of you may not be on CAI’s email list, but may still have interest in this topic: Continue reading

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Summer Newsletter for Tenants

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Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border

Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border

Tenant Newsletters are a great way to keep your renters informed, and remind them of the routine maintenance tasks for which they’re responsible.

Yet, year after year, many of us either crank out well-worn repeats of earlier newsletters, or worse, ‘stock’ newsletters written by an outside organization. And, some of us simply postpone the task until it’s a moot point. In talking with property managers all over the country, I hear more and more frequently their frustration over tenants not reading the newsletter, when it finally does reach their in-box.

 

How can we better communicate these important messages?  

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Additional Insured vs. Additional Interest

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This is a subject near and dear to my heart, as I’ve been chasing insurance companies for the better part of the last two weeks, struggling to get proper evidence of coverage for my owner/clients’ properties. What continues to surprise me, is the fact that the insurance companies often play as though they don’t understand what we want. simple-handshake

In part, our property management agreement (PMA) states,

“LIABILITY INSURANCE – Owner shall obtain and keep in force adequate insurance against damage and against liability for loss, damage, or injury to property or persons which might arise out of the occupancy, management operation, or maintenance of the Premises. Liability insurance shall be adequate to protect the interest of both Owner and Agent.  Owner shall furnish Agent with proof of fire insurance policies in force and shall obtain adequate vandalism coverage for the Premises.  The deductible required under all such insurance policies shall be Owner’s expense. Owner agrees to name Agent as an “additional insured” on its liability and fire insurance policy, and furnish Agent with certificates evidencing such insurance within ten (10) days of the execution of this Agreement. In no event will such liability coverage be less than $500,000 in value. Said policies shall provide that notice of default or cancellation shall be sent to Agent as well as to Owner, and shall require a minimum of ten (10) days’ written notice to Agent before any cancellation of or changes to said policies.”

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