Michele - Wednesday, January 12, 2022
Well, 2022 decided to start with a huge snowstorm impacting our area with power outages, significant accumulation of snow, and 50+ miles of 95-South shut down for almost 24 hours! Landlords and property managers should have an action plan in place to prepare for such a storm.
Before the Storm:
- Contact tenants to remind them of how to get in contact in case of an emergency. Ask tenants to winterize hose bibs if they have not already. Remind tenants that they will need to shovel the steps, walkways, and driveways. Let them know whether VDOT or the HOA is responsible for clearing the streets.
- Touch base with vendors that could be needed to clear snow, remove downed trees, or address roof leaks. Vendors will be in high demand, so it is important to check in advance to see how you can best coordinate if needed.
- For vacant properties, turn off water main and drain lines so that pipes will not freeze if there is a power outage.
After the storm:
- For occupied properties, check in with tenants to ask them to look for any damage on the exterior of the property.
- For vacant properties, stop by as soon as possible to check for damages inside and outside of the property.
- For va...
Michele - Monday, November 15, 2021
During most of the pandemic, there was a Federal Eviction Moratorium in place that prevented landlords from evicting tenants for non-payment of rent. This moratorium was put in place to reduce the possibility of forced homelessness and the health risks associated with that under a State of Emergency. The Federal Eviction Moratorium has been lifted and the pandemic is no longer treated as a State of Emergency. However, during the pandemic, the Virginia Legislature put several new laws in place that impact how long it takes to evict a tenant for non-payment of rent.
- Prior to the pandemic, if tenants were late paying rent, landlords or property managers were required to issue a 5-Day Notice of Material Noncompliance (Late Notice) to start the eviction process. New laws now require the use of a 14-Day Notice which pushes out the timeline for filing an eviction request with the court. The notice must inform tenants of the Rent Relief Program, through which they may be able to seek financial assistance for their rent payments.
- A new law (which will remain in effect through June 30, 2022) requires a landlord or property manager to apply for Rent Relief on behalf of the tenant if the tenant has not already don...
Michele - Wednesday, October 6, 2021
Due to recent events throughout the world, we’ve received several calls from agents representing refugee families and seeking an available home for rent. As we present these requests to our landlords for consideration, we wanted to share the previous experience we had when one of our landlords accepted a refugee family as a tenant.
In November 2103, we were contacted by Catholic Charities to see if any of our landlords would consider accepting a refugee family from Afghanistan who was on their way to the United States. Catholic Charities offered to provide the security deposit and the first two months’ rent. Catholic Charities would also assist the adults with finding employment and would pay several additional months’ rent if the tenants had not yet secured steady income.
One of our landlords had a one-bedroom condo available and agreed to take the refugee family on as renters. Mr. and Mrs. Meherzad came to our office the morning after they landed in Virginia. We reviewed the lease together for almost 2 hours. They were new to our country and new to our laws. They wanted to be sure they fully understood the contract before signing. Mr Meherzad was a financial analyst and found employment very quickly. After the first 2 months ...
Michele - Monday, August 16, 2021
One of the most important processes that any landlord or property manager should put in place is a firm and clear inspection schedule. Most property managers inspect properties at least twice per year. Self-managing landlords should also conduct periodic interior and exterior inspections throughout the year to document the condition of the property and identify any routine or preventative maintenance that is needed. Most leases allow a landlord or inspector to enter the property for the purposes of inspecting after giving the tenant reasonable notice.
At RPM Direct, we conduct two interior inspections of each property each year. These inspections will occur after the third month and after the ninth month of an annual lease term. In addition, each year, we contract with StopLoss to conduct a state required smoke alarm certification. StopLoss is staffed by off-duty firefighters who will also provide a full fire/safety inspection of the home.
Third Month Inspections – An interior and exterior inspection will be conducted three months after tenants move in. Our inspectors will take approximately 20-30 photos. Photo...
Michele - Friday, July 30, 2021
In the Northern Virginia area, we find furnished rentals predominately in the Arlington/Alexandria or Tysons/Dulles areas where there are more government contract or short-term contract employment positions. In the Prince William County area, less than 1 percent of available rentals are offered as furnished.
Over the past 12 years, managing 400+ properties, we have only managed three properties that were offered as fully furnished. While we cautioned those three landlords about the low demand for furnished properties, we were able to match tenants to those properties and keep those vacancies filled. We’ve found a few scenarios that have worked for furnished properties: a divorcing couple where the spouse that is leaving the home is doing so without furniture but wants to live nearby to stay close to the kids; a family that has been displaced by a fire and needs 9-12 months for their home to be rebuilt; or a home-buyer that is waiting for 9+ months for a new home to be completed by a builder.
Given the limited number of scenarios that usually lead to interest in a furnished rental, we suggest that our landlords offer their properties unfurnished. The expense associated with storing or selling/donating the furn...
Michele - Friday, July 23, 2021
While over half of all tenants have pets, some landlords very specifically do not want pets in their homes. This may be because a member of the landlord’s family has a strong allergy to pets, or because the landlord has had (or heard of) a bad experience with pets in a rental property.
During the listing process, we will advertise the property as allowing pets or not depending on the landlord’s preference. If a tenant is selected and a pet is authorized, a pet addendum will be included with the lease, specifying the additional responsibilities and deposit required.
But what if an unauthorized pet is found? This does happen occasionally during our interior inspections. Our inspector may see a pet, or evidence of one, such as a food or water bowl, or a litter box. Other times, the condo association, HOA, or a neighbor may let us know about a pet if it is being disruptive in the community.
If we find or are notified of a pet that is not authorized, the tenant is at that point in violation of their lease, as the lease specifically states that no pets are allowed without an approval and pet addendum. In this case, we will issue a 21/30 Notice. This notice ...
Michele - Monday, July 19, 2021
We realize that nearly all landlords rely on the incoming rent to pay the mortgage on their rental property. Because any delay with rental payments can cause stress and have a financial impact on the landlord, we take rent collection very seriously. We have put the following process in place to ensure that tenants know how important on-time payments are:
- Onboarding information - When tenants move into one of our managed properties, we verbally review our policy on rent collection and provide a written statement regarding the importance of on-time payments. We also require tenants to pay via our online portal.
- Reminder emails - Rent is due on the first of each month with a grace period through the fifth of each month. If we have not received rent by the afternoon of the fifth, we send out a polite reminder notice encouraging the tenant to make a prompt payment in order to avoid a late fee.
- Late fees – If the tenant has still not paid rent by the sixth at 9AM, we assess a 10% late fee (or another amount as dictated in the lease). The tenant receives an email advising that a late fee has been added to their ledger.
- Notice of M...
Michele - Sunday, July 11, 2021
Since most of our managed properties are a short driving distance from the Pentagon, Ft Belvoir, or Quantico, landlords frequently ask us if we can list their property as available to Military personnel only.
Active-duty Military personnel typically make EXCELLENT tenants! Nearly half of our tenants are currently serving in the Military or are veterans who have proudly worn their uniform earlier. These tenants often have excellent credit scores (as required to keep their clearances), keep their home well organized (as a result of their training), are well qualified financially (with a strong base pay and housing allowance) and want to reside in a home for 3 years. Who wouldn’t want such tenants in their home??
However, Fair Housing Laws prevent us from restricting a property to Military-ONLY tenants. On the surface, it is not clear why this would be the case. Fair Housing Laws are in place to protect based on:
- National Origin
- Familial Status
- Elderliness, Source of Funds, Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, and Military Status (in Virginia)
It would not seem that limiting tenant applications to tho...
Michele - Friday, May 28, 2021
In 2020, the Virginia Fair Housing Law was expanded to include “Source of Funds” as a protected class. This update to the law impacts only landlords who own at least 10% of more than four rental properties. For these landlords, when considering applications from potential tenants, we must consider any source that lawfully provides funds to or on behalf of a renter, including any assistance, benefit, or subsidy program. This means that landlords who own a portion of more than four properties must consider applicants who participate in the County Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly known as Section 8). Such applicants will still need to meet all other qualifying criteria.
During the pandemic, as the state legislature took steps to limits the risks associated with widescale evictions, several other laws were put into place to protect tenants who were financially impacted by COVD-19. The two new laws below are applicable only to landlords who own more than four rental properties:
1. Payment Plans – If a tenant falls behind on their rent, before a landlord (who owns more than four pr...
Michele - Sunday, May 23, 2021
Owning an investment property can be an extremely lucrative venture. It can also be extremely time-consuming without a property manager. At RPM Direct, LLC, our goal is to relieve the stress that comes with owning an investment property while maximizing the financial benefits.
When you hear the term “property management,” one word should come to mind - BENEFICIAL. Before you decide to self-manage a property, here are some ways a property manager can make owning an investment property a hands-off experience for you.
1. Tenant Screening
Property managers have an established tenant screening program, including background and credit checks. We verify information from income to rental history, in order to ensure the perfect fit for your rental property. You can see our screening criteria here.
2. Rent Collection
Our goal is to maintain a consistent cash flow for our property owners. Having a property manager that is experienced in handling rent collection will guarantee to save the owner time, money and stress.
3. Property Marketing
Our property managers are here to eliminate extens...