Thursday, October 24, 2013

HOME TEST-DRIVES ARE HAPPENING IN THE HOUSING MARKET…COULD THE PATH BE PAVED FOR THE NEXT BIG TREND IN THE RENTAL INDUSTRY?


A new trend in the housing market allows potential home buyers to spend time in a home before buying it…a test drive of sorts. This movement has become increasingly popular; the practice already occurring in markets from New Jersey to Colorado.

The arrangement usually allows for around 12 hours (all day or over-night) in the home without the pressure of a hovering realtor or homeowner. Home buyers are able to relax, listen for noisy neighbors, leaky pipes, air traffic or drafty windows. They seem to love the idea as they are able to make a more informed decision and get a real feel for life in that particular space.

Would the same principal work well for the rental industry? Having the option available may be a powerful draw for potential renters and displays a healthy confidence in the quality of the rental property itself. As a property owner or manager, there may be a few concerns about how to best protect your investment while allowing access to your property. Would any prescreening be necessary?

Rental Services suggests that if you decide to jump on the band-wagon and head down this path, that at a minimum, you require the interested renter to complete a rental application and conduct a background check to verify their identity and lack of criminal record.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Protect Yourself From Discrimination Lawsuits....

Documented Criteria is Essential when Screening Possible Tenants

 
It is not only fundamentally important to screen possible tenants in order to protect your property, but how you outline your screening criteria can be essential to protecting yourself.

As a landlord, you need only accomplish one easy task, do it consistently, and you can avoid the headache and financial drain of this legal vulnerability.

Document your screening criteria. Though your criteria may vary greatly from another landlord’s criteria, all documented criteria should:

1.)   Comply with federal, state and local laws in addition to fair housing requirements. Information specific to Colorado can be found at: http://www.coloradoattorneygeneral.gov/sites/default/files/uploads/identity_theft/CoConsCreditRepAct.pdf.

If you are not certain that your criteria are in compliance with regulations, be sure to have an attorney review the screening document and offer advice.

2.)   Depend on quantifiable and verifiable data to effectively eliminate personal views or unintentional bias.

3.)   Be written clearly with easily identifiable expectations

4.)   Include an effective date in addition to effective dates for any changes or additions made to the criteria.

5.)   Be IMPLEMENTED CONSISTANTLY. This is huge. Documenting the screening criteria is only going to protect you if you follow the criteria with every applicant.

As you outline your specific criteria, remember a tenant will only be accepted if they meet your criteria. Be comfortable with your standards. Know that they are in place for a good reason and be able to explain your reasoning to possible tenants.

RSI offers sample rental criteria to its clients.  Contact us if you would like more information.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Low Income Housing Limits to Be Waived For Colorado Disaster Victims

Issue Number:    IR-2013-79

Inside This Issue:  Low Income Housing Limits to Be Waived For Colorado Disaster Victims

WASHINGTON — The Internal Revenue Service announced today that it is waiving certain limitations for projects financed with low-income housing tax credits or exempt facility bonds so that owners and operators of these facilities anywhere in the nation can provide housing to victims of severe storms, flooding, landslides and mudslides in Colorado that began Sept. 11.

Because of the widespread devastation to housing caused by storms and flooding, the IRS will temporarily suspend certain limitations for qualified low-income housing projects that house people displaced by the storms and flooding. The action will expand the availability of housing for disaster victims and their families. Further details are available in Notice 2013-63 and Notice 2013-64, posted today on IRS.gov.

The IRS recently announced other relief available to affected taxpayers in the presidentially declared disaster area.

Friday, October 4, 2013

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT SCREENING COMPANY….

As with most things, there are many options available when it comes to screening possible tenants. Today landlords have even more options then ever before and the results and effort required can range greatly from a good ol’ gut check to having tenants supply their own credit reports or digging a little deeper and having a screening company verify application information. You may feel overwhelmed and unsure about how to get the best information for the least amount of money.


Having been in the industry for 29 years, RSI employees have seen it all. We have heard countless horror stories about how massively other screening measures have failed a given landlord. And while we always say “go with your gut” the advice is constantly balanced with the addendum “be sure to check the facts”.


Here is a step by step guide to accomplishing exactly that:


1.)    Do not put all the power in the tenant’s hands!

Many new screening companies offer tenant driven background screening. The setup process is less ominous, however, as a landlord you are completely dependant on the applicant submitting their request for information. You do not want to miss out on other potential renters while waiting for an applicant to move forward on a background check.

2.)    Make sure your reports are accurate.

Online screening companies that are not able to provide manual interpretation are going to result in screening reports with the most inaccuracies. To clarify this point, imagine this scenario: Your applicant’s name is John Smith. There are thousands of John Smiths with the same birthday as your applicant. When you submit a request for a background check on John Smith the computer pulls information from a database which includes reports for any John Smith with that birthday. The computer is not able to weed out the information that does not apply to your John Smith. A screening company with a trained investigative staff is able to pull through those records and report only the applicable information…and that is exactly what you want.

3.)    Get the bases covered.

There are four major musts every screening report should include:

Social Security verification insures that your applicant is actually who they claim to be. Make sure that you are also checking valid photo identification and that the information on your tenant’s application matches the identification provided (name, birthday, and address if applicable). Criminal Record searches (including sex offender records) can be either state specific or nation-wide. Make sure you get information about limitations in the nation-wide database for your particular state. Colorado records, for example, are more accurate through the state specific database. A nation-wide criminal search would not provide complete records for Colorado residents—don’t waste your time or money with weak searches! Eviction Record searches are very important for one basic reason: If a possible tenant has had one eviction, they are more likely to have another. The eviction process is the worst case scenario for a landlord; taxing to your finances, time and property. Always avoid renting to a previously evicted tenant. Finally, be sure to include credit information in your screening. A Credit Report will paint a complete picture about an applicant’s ability to pay rent and their history for paying on time. Additionally, we recommend that you (or your screening company if they have the capacity and training to do so) always make reference phone calls to verify employment and rental history with previous landlords.

4.)    Have backup.

Should you have a question about report results or an issue during the screening process, you will want to be able to reach a resolution quickly and with positive results. Hire a screening company with a good customer service record and well trained personnel who are easily reachable at a moments notice.


By choosing the right screening company, and screening for accurate and useful information, you can be confident that you are welcoming the best possible resident into your rental property.