Are you struggling with bad tenants? Dealing with tenants is tough! Here is everything Northern Virginia property owners should know about tenants.
If you are a Northern Virginia homeowner or real estate investor and are thinking of renting out your home, you likely have a number of questions, particularly with regard to managing tenants. Managing tenants is both complex and difficult and we are going to outline why in the following article.
Before we delve in, if you are a Northern Virginia homeowner or real estate investor looking for a great professional property management company, NOVA NARPM is one of your best resources because we simplify your online search by only listing accredited and qualified NARPM-affiliated firms. Maybe you are just starting the research process or perhaps you are already managing your own property and need to make the transition to professional management. Whatever the case, let us help you become more informed about professional property management. To help Northern Virginia homeowners and real estate investors find the information they need, and as part of NOVA NARPM’s informational spotlight series, we recently interviewed Patrick Blood, Owner and Principal Broker of Blackwell Property Management Charles Town WV, and Leesburg, VA.
Blackwell Property Management’s advice to Northern Virginia property owners and real estate investors is a valuable resource because they manage over $48 Million in real estate assets in Virginia and West Virginia and know the market well. Blood has a deep knowledge of the property management industry and tells NOVA NARPM, “I started in Property Management entirely with large multi-family management companies and jumped across and to self-ownership from there. It looks like most other people become Realtors first and then decide that they like the rental side of Real Estate. So I got trained differently in what property management is. I feel like I got trained more thoroughly because of the caliber of the apartments that I was managing versus what a normal realtor would get as an independent agent.” says Blood. This kind of expert insight is an excellent resource for homeowners, property managers and investors alike. In his recent interview with NOVA NARPM, Blood offers tips about what can happen with tenants, tenant screening, how to deal with bad tenants, special accommodation requests, what to look for in a great firm and much more.
Expert Advice From Blackwell Realty
NOVA NARPM: When it comes to property management, many property owners may think they can and should manage their own properties. What is your advice on this?
Patrick Blood: Sometimes owners will meet with us as a way to try and convince themselves that they can do it on their own. And what generally happens is, if they decide to take this approach, once they reach the point of being in the courthouse filing their first eviction, then they realize that they didn’t want to be there because things can get very personal and very messy. As the third party provider, we take the emotion out of it.
In terms of my advice on whether a property owner should manage their own property, my answer is not always don’t do it. I go to a real estate investor group here where I’m a regular speaker as the property management expert. The group is investor buyers. So, for example, a lot of them want to own investment properties. That can work for you if you also happen to know how to manage a property in addition to how to invest in them. However, being a real estate investor and being a property manager are two very different things. Once you get up to 6 – 8 houses as an investor buyer, and you are also managing those 6-8 homes, you won’t have much time to be an investor buyer anymore because you’re managing your properties. I think for this reason we see a lot of our transition coming from investors who hit that threshold and realize that their workload is saturating their ability to invest.
NN: Managing tenants is probably the most complicated aspect of property management. What are some things a self-managing homeowner might not think about in terms of what can happen with tenants?
PB: We’ve had one of the busiest maintenance seasons of our history. the 15 years I’ve been doing management, I have not seen damage like I have this Summer. This weather has brought a lot of independent owners to their knees because they have been spending the whole summer dealing with insurance claims and wondering if their insurance company is going to handle it. We have seen floods, leaks, sewage backups, siding damage, all caused by rain, hail or wind. As a professional firm, we have the relationships with the insurance companies because we manage so many properties and are able to get faster recognition. Having a trained eye on the maintenance side, like with a management company, assists the owner because in a situation where an owner might see something and “say ah it’s not so bad I’ll just leave it, they’ll be fine.” Having a management company in place to manage that extra liability is important.
NN: How does tenant screening conducted by a professional property management firm better protect a homeowner versus an individual landlord trying to screen tenants themselves?
PB: I think a lot of independent owners will only go as far as checking credit. If they even go that far. Most will say they will but never do. They’ll go to some website and be able to pull a credit report. A background screening check is much more than just a credit report and being able to read the credit report itself is important. Yes, there’s a number there, but there’s an entire history that got a person to that score and being able to drill down into the information and see what it is that’s going on is critical. Then you can add the background screening on top of that, the criminal checks, you can see a lot like verifying with a previous landlord and employers if need be. It’s about the depths that a typical owner wouldn’t have the ability or the means to go into but it’s something a professional firm does every time.
NN: Sometimes there are bad tenants who decide to stop paying the rent or decide to pack up and leave in the middle of the night. What kind of support does a professional property management company offer an owner in these kind of circumstances?
PB: A good property manager will really earn their money in the first moments when a tenant begins paying late. If a tenant calls an owner or manager of the property and says “I’m sorry I’m running late this month or I overspent for Christmas” or whatever excuse they possibly throw at us the owner is more likely to give an emotional break and say, “okay, I see what you’re saying I’ll let it go this month.” Before they know it, they find themselves 3 months behind in owed rent. Something as general as saying “I’ll let it go this month” gives a person license to continue to take advantage of somebody. Any good property management company will have systems in place so that as soon as a tenant is late they get notified that they’re late and placed into a system that keeps notifying them multiple times over the next coming week or so–and this system will ultimately land them in front of a judge if the rent isn’t paid–and before they have time to think of another excuse. So it’s a matter of maintaining the pressure. Of course there are moments where we need understanding too. Like if someone loses their job or has a death in the family. However, we would work with them on a payment plan and discuss when they will be back on track and then keep them to it.
NN: What should owners know about current Fair Housing laws in Virginia? And how is a professional firm better equipped to manage tenant screening in accordance with Fair Housing laws?
PB: I think the most common way that Fair Housing is thrown at landlords is that it is designed to give the applicant or tenant some advantage. The point of the Fair Housing laws is only to bring equality. Knowing how to respond to what may seem like a threatening position by another person as regards fair housing is critical.
NN: On any given week, a professional property manager may manage a variety of tenant requests like special accommodation requests or a request for an emotional support animal. How is a self-managing owner taking a huge risk by attempting to manage requests like these themselves?
PB: I think the most common issue we’re seeing right now is for support animals. If somebody doesn’t fancy paying and extra pet deposit they will get some kind of certificate to prove that it is not just a pet but is an emotional support animal. A self-manager, may get intimidated by that kind of documentation whereas we have systems in place to respond to people that provide these fairly but directly. Knowing what can and cannot be asked in these interactions can save you a lot in the long run. Whether that’s savings from a fair housing infraction defense. Or savings in damages from a pet that was not truly an emotional support animal.
NN: For owners and investors out there looking to hire a professional property management firm, what should they look for in a professional property management company? How can they find the best provider to meet their needs?
PB: I recommend a couple of things. Responsiveness is number one. Just simply picking up the phone and having a voice on the other end when you call seems like too much to ask a lot of the time. Don’t be afraid to screen a property management company, pretend you are looking for a house to rent so you can hear how your potential renters get treated. One of the other things that I think is important is if you are looking at the Google reviews, only five star reviews is a little suspicious. As a property management company I’d rather actually see some people pissed off. Why isn’t there somebody who was mad? For example, the one star reviews that we’ve gotten have been from people who have gotten declined either from credit, criminal, or for some reason that doesn’t make them qualified to rent one of our houses and they lash out online sometimes. I like seeing the occasional one star review because it means we can show a homeowner were saying no to people and here’s an example.
Blackwell Realty is a responsive and proactive property management firm with a central focus on communication. To learn more about them visit www.blackwellrealty.com and find them on Facebook at @blackwellrealty. To connect with NOVA NARPM on Facebook, find us at @NOVANARPM.