Michele - Tuesday, August 23, 2022
Some landlords feel that self-managing will be easy! All they need to do is have tenants deposit rent into their account and put a home warranty in place. Wow! That is definitely not all there is to it!
The standard lease in our area is 14 pages long and we usually add two or three addendums and a handbook. Only 3 paragraphs in the lease are related to rent collection and late rent. Only 1 paragraph in the lease references the landlord’s responsibility for maintenance. There is so much more to the lease. On top of the lease, there is so much more to the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act (VRLTA).
Yesterday, I got a call from a friend of a friend who self-manages a property outside of our area. This landlord asked about Fair Housing Laws and whether he needed to accept an application where the applicant was enrolled in the Housing Choice Voucher Program. While I could not provide him with legal advice, I sent him a link to section of the VRLTA that applied and let him know that he’d need to consult an attorney if he had any specific questions regarding the law.
As the conversation continued, I realized that there were several other Virginia requirements th...
Michele - Monday, August 15, 2022
14 years ago, my husband (Lee Odems) asked me to help him start up a property management company. It was 2008, the Real Estate market was crashing around us. Lee had been selling homes for about 15 years. Many of Lee’s former Military clients were moving overseas and could not sell their homes as they now owed more than their homes were worth. Lee was looking for a good property management company to refer his clients to and then realized we should start our own management company.
I could not have imagined that it would consume our lives for the next 10+ years. We worked long hours and learned a lot! We also benefited from a new business model that provided consistent income through the ups and downs of the Real Estate market. We’ve provided excellent service to thousands of landlords and tenants and cared for hundreds of millions of dollars of real estate assets. And most importantly, we were able to create rewarding jobs for many amazing employees.
Our current team consists of these phenomenal people:
- Antoinette Daniel, our top-notch property manager who has been with us for over 5 years. She knows her stuff, is well organized, and gets things done!
Michele - Friday, May 20, 2022
In response to a change in EPA requirements earlier this year, RPM Direct has become a Lead Safe EPA Certified Firm. Our property managers, assistant property managers, and inspectors are now all EPA Certified as Lead Renovators.
Prior to 1978, lead was often used in household paints. 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1978 have lead-based paint. An even higher percentage of homes built before 1960 contain lead. Dust from lead paint is a major source of lead poisoning in children. Because of this risk, any repairs or renovations to older homes must be completed by contractors who are certified by the EPA and adhere to strict safety guidelines.
Effective in March of this year, the EPA now requires property managers who manage homes built before 1978 to obtain certification from the EPA and ensure that renovations in the homes they manage are performed by certified firms and employees trained to use lead-safe work practices. While RPM Direct has always used EPA certified contractors when required, this new certification means that our employees are now also knowledgeable of all the safety precautions. Our certified employees can now also test for lead-based paint.
For homes built ...
Michele - Sunday, May 15, 2022
One of our major responsibilities is to protect the long-term value of our clients’ valuable assets. Our inspectors are always looking for ways to improve our processes as we address this important responsibility.
After a plumbing leak, or when some type of water intrusion occurs, we often bring in vendors to test the moisture levels in the home. Our staff member, Nathan, who has been inspecting our properties for almost 10 years, suggested that we purchase our own moisture meters and infrared cameras so that we can be more proactive about searching for small leaks before they become big problems. While we were still considering his suggestion, Nathan bought the equipment himself and began using it during inspections so that we could see the benefits.
The moisture meters allow us to determine if the level of moisture in a wall, ceiling or floor is higher than the normal/safe range. Depending on the meter results, we’ll know if we need to have fans or dehumidifiers installed, or to call in a water mitigation team. The FLIR (forward looking infrared) camera provides a visual representation of the temperature pattern in the home. We can easily see where hot and cold spots exist. The cold...
Michele - Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Over the past 25 years, my late husband, Lee Odems, helped hundreds of young people buy their first home (and sometimes their second, and their third). Typically, when Lee met with a potential buyer looking to achieve the American Dream, they were not actually ready to do so. Quite often, Lee had to first provide guidance on how to get their financial house in order. He found that the best way to help people understand the steps needed to be ready to purchase a home was to introduce them to Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University. Dave Ramsey teaches elimination of debt using the snowball method, the importance of saving, and the power of paying cash rather than using credit. These important philosophies and techniques set young people up for success! And for home ownership!! Nearly all financial experts agree that owning a home is a key cornerstone in accumulating assets that are likely to appreciate over time. In other words, home ownership is an essential step toward a strong financial foundation for life.
When Lee passed in 2020, many of our family members, friends, colleagues, and clients shared with me how impactful Lee’s introduction to t...
Michele - Friday, February 4, 2022
This year I’ve been appointed to the Virginia Realtors® Property Management Council. As a member of this council, I will share my experience and expertise with those who are advising law makers on how their decisions will impact our industry. It’s important that the law makers get input from someone who understands the goals and needs of hundreds of small landlords in the Prince William County area. Over the last two years, this Council was influential in ensuring that the voices of small landlords were heard and considered as the Virginia legislature voted on many new laws regarding evictions, rent relief, and tenants’ rights. My role on this Council will also allow me to be aware of new laws and requirements ahead of their start dates. This will provide our company additional time to prepare for optimal implementation.
This year, I’m also serving on the Board of Directors for the Virginia Chapter of the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM®). NARPM® is an organization committed to a high standard of business ethics, professionalism, and fair housing practice in the Property Management industry. Here my colleag...
Michele - Friday, January 21, 2022
Over the past 2 years, our credit reporting providers (TransUnion and RentScreener) have been advising us of the increased risk of fraudulent information being provided on tenant applications. A recent TransUnion study has shown that during the pandemic, property managers have seen a 48% increase in fraud activity. We’ve seen this several times when applicants have provided copies of passports, driver’s licenses, and pay stubs that have clearly been altered.
This week, we encountered a fraudulent application where the documentation looked authentic. On the surface, the applicant appeared qualified to rent the home he had applied for. The applicant provided a copy of his Experian credit report showing a 700+ credit score with all accounts paid on-time. He also provided a copy of his bank statements which looked valid and included lots of debit card transactions at local establishments. Finally, he provided copies of paystubs from a local car dealership. All documents looked authentic.
Since we had not requested copies of the credit report or bank statements, we identified this as a possible red flag. A...
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 ...