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...
Michele - Friday, April 30, 2021
While less than 2% of our tenants have had challenges paying rent during the COVID pandemic, for those tenants and their corresponding landlords, the negative financial impact is significant. Fortunately, the Virginia Rent Relief Program (RPR) still has funds available to assist tenants with past due rent balances.
Tenants could receive up to 15 months of rental assistance if they experienced a financial hardship (directly or indirectly) due to COVID-19. Applications can be submitted online, with tenants supplying proof of income, along with a copy of their lease and ledger. Note that the rental relief funds are paid directly to the landlord or property manager, not to the tenant.
The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is administering the program which is funded through Virginia’s allocation of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021. DHCD’s website provides detailed information on the application process which is simple and straight forward.
Over past three months, all the tenants in our managed properties...
Michele - Sunday, April 18, 2021
While our office hours are 9AM-5PM Monday through Friday (by appointment only now due to COVID), our staff and agents are actually ready to jump into action whenever they are needed. Here’s an example of a typical Saturday:
Our Business Development Manager, Nabeel Zahid, has two appointments with new landlords who are considering using our services to manage their rental properties. Nabeel is meeting these landlords at their home to answer any questions they have and to point out any actions that are needed to get the homes in Ready-to-Rent condition.
Our After-Hours Emergency Line received 3 calls from tenants asking for immediate assistance and created work orders. Our office staff jumped into action to assist.
- Our Assistant Property Manager, Amy Walnetski, coordinated with a plumber to address a sewer back up caused by a failed ejector pump. She also coordinated to have ServPro clean up the impacted area.
- Our other Assistant Property Manager, Andrea Vega-Mendez, coordinated with a separate plumber to replace a pressure relief valve that developed a leak and was spraying water all over the basement.
- Our inspector, Nathan Odems, was called out to a vacant property where all of the smoke ...