All you need to know on Subletting
One of the trickiest issues that come with leasing a property is subletting. It can be hard to understand how it works and the pros and cons for you as the owner.
Continue reading to see everything you need to know on letting a tenant sublet your property.
First of all, you need to know that in Texas a tenant cannot sublet if the terms of subletting are not explicitly described in their lease or without the express permission (preferably in writing) of their landlord.
Types of subleases:
–Short-term: When the current tenant is planning on returning to the property after a short time away due to personal or professional issues. The person subletting rents the property for as long as necessary.
-Permanent: When the tenant is moving away permanently and wants someone to take over the rest of their lease.
Your property will not be vacant for any time with the tenant finding someone to sublet it which will mean no lost rental for you.
*Helping your tenant:
Subletting doesn’t have to be for the whole property, so allowing your tenant to sublet a room or two can help them be able to pay the rent on time, which in return will help you avoid eviction costs. Win win!
*Not good screening:
Since the tenant will be the one to be in charge of the vetting and choosing of the subletter, if they don’t have a good screening system, it can result in unreliable people being in your property.
Because the person subletting the property or room may be there short-time only, they may not know the rules or may not care enough about them to properly follow them, so they may cause some damage to the property.
Some things to consider:
There are ways to make sure your property is well protected. If you are thinking of letting your tenant sublet the property, you can add verbiages to the sublease to hold the tenant responsible for the subletter.
If you have a property and you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to us today!
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Why You Need a Property Management Company in the DFW Area
Whether you are an out-of-state property owner, a longtime local landlord, or are just getting into the property rental business, there are plenty of reasons why you need a company like Frontline Property Management on the ground for you in the DFW area.
2021 has been an interesting year for the Dallas / Fort Worth rental market – to say the least. As we’ve discussed before, the DFW is a very attractive market for Millennials & Gen Z, and is one of the top destinations for out-of-state moves. Investors have used this information to capitalize on the need for housing – and you may have, too! You have a property in a hot market that you’d like to rent. But now what?
You Need Management that Knows the Market
On top of the complications that the pandemic has had on the housing market, the failure of the Texas power grid in February of 2021 exacerbated conditions by forcing many renters out of damaged properties. In a seller’s market like the one we’ve seen this year, many individuals who would otherwise be buying houses are choosing to rent a bit longer. Meaning that there is immense competition between renters for available housing – which is good for DFW landlords. Competitive rental markets translate to higher rents in keeping with the average rent of a given neighborhood in the face of the market overall. A property management company that wants to grow your business is always aware of the many factors and nuances in the market.
You Need Vendors You Can Trust
Frontline Property Management employs many Property Managers who bring decades of experience to the table. The maintenance vendors we use are also experienced, vetted, and local. Relationships are what property management is all about! We take our time to strengthen our vendors with the online tools they need to be the most accessible and responsive. There’s an increasing number of vendors in the DFW area, which makes it daunting to choose a company to work with (particularly if you’re not a local). Transparent communication between our clients, our Property Managers and the vendors we use ensures that you are always up to date with your properties.
You Need Eyes, Ears, and Hands-On Management
While it takes a certain amount of business and research skills to stay on top of the market, there is no substitute for hands-on experience. You need Property Managers who know the Dallas / Fort Worth area down to the neighborhoods. You can trust the assessment of our Management team when it comes to evaluating your property’s value, condition, and what it takes to have it ready to become your passive income! With Frontline, you’re able to rest easy in the knowledge that our Property Managers are on top of any issues – sometimes before they start – so that you don’t have to think about it.
Out of state investors, especially, need to be able to rely on a company that can view, assess, and respond on-site.
You Need Management that Will Help Grow Your Investment
Property Management alone is only an organized system of processes. There are thousands of details to set up these processes, but to put simply it’s getting rental income from a tenant into your bank account. A Property Manager facilitates this process and cares for the physical property in the owner’s stead, but Frontline takes this relationship and builds on it by going a step further: We work to keep you informed. Not just about your property, but about what opportunities may arise due to market conditions. Our client newsletter provides you with up-to-date business information, including pertinent legislation. Property owners looking to get the most out of their investment, and then to grow their portfolio, will find that Frontline provides all of the necessary experience and drive to help you get there.
You Need Frontline Property Management
We’ve faced some unique challenges over the past two years, but Frontline has risen to meet them every step of the way. Utilizing our team of experienced professionals, we have been able to be proactive rather than reactive, and have continued to provide quality service to both our clients and our many tenants. We strive to strengthen our relationships and to create new ones as we move forward!
Contact us today to learn more about our Property Management team!
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Determining Qualifying Criteria
Before detailing how to determine which criteria you will use for your applications, first be aware that you are legally required to inform your applicants of what they are. Making this information part of your application ensures that the applicant both has the opportunity to review the criteria and signs the document attesting as much. There are legal ramifications if this signature is not captured, as the presumption is by default that the information was not provided for review.
Details about the following criteria should be provided:
Specify which kinds of convictions and adjudications will disqualify an applicant. Establishing a clear timeframe will also better inform an applicant with a criminal background as to whether or not you will consider prior convictions from three, five, or twenty years or more in the past. Check out our previous post that discusses the criminal background check! Understand that requiring an entirely spotless criminal record is considered a violation of the Federal Fair Housing Act. Otherwise, having a substantive reason for disqualifying based on certain other convictions and adjudications (namely violence, sexual offenses, and drug manufacturing and distribution) is reasonable.
Previous Rental History
You won’t be relying solely on the information provided to you by the applicant. Using a third party (or several) to verify rental history will help you to establish the kind of renters the applicants are. By having the applicant sign a release form, you will be able to inquire as to whether their rent was paid on time, whether or not any lease violations were documented, if there were any pets with the applicant, and what condition the property was left in. You are entrusting your property to your future tenant, and you want to know that it is in good hands!
The standard household income requirement is a gross total of three times the monthly rent. This comes from section 8 of the Housing Act of 1937 which in 1981 was amended to state that a tenant must pay at least 30% of their monthly income towards housing. Between the rising cost of living and wage stagnancy, some renters in large cities are spending up to two-thirds of their income on housing. According to the 2020 Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, one in four renters pays more than 50% of their income on rent. If this trend continues, you could expect (due to supply / demand) that income requirements will be reduced to asking that the total monthly household income is only twice the amount of rent. However, three times the monthly rent currently prevails as the industry standard and a change to that threshold is not on the horizon.
Many landlords have a flat credit score threshold for their applicants, while others prefer a context-based approach. Credit scores as we know them today began in 1989. As a landlord, you will most likely use credit reporting to screen your applicant for unpaid debts and other financial burdens that exist outside of their monthly income. While you may decide not to rely on the score itself, you will need to review the report for information that will be pertinent to you as a property owner such as unpaid utility bills, evictions filed against your applicant, and bankruptcies. The leading cause of bankruptcies in America is medical debt, with two-thirds of all bankruptcies filed due to the high cost of healthcare. Being informed of where exactly your applicants stand financially will help you make the best decision in your process.
Failure to provide accurate or complete information on the application form.
As previously discussed, online applications open the door to increased fraudulent activity. If at any point in the process you determine that documents, contacts, or any other information is fraudulent, you can deny based on this alone. If you can’t count on an application being accurate, then you can’t use it to qualify a tenant!
Keep in mind (as always!) that these qualifying criteria standards must fall within the guidelines of the Fair Housing Act. Meaning also that they must be applied to every applicant, every time, no matter what! Standardization not only makes for effective processing, it also protects you in the event that an applicant assumes that they have been unfairly disqualified for your property.
Adding another buffer between you and the applicants is also recommended! You can do this by hiring a qualified and experienced Property Manager who will screen applicants on your behalf. Frontline Property Management has a team of Property Managers as well as a department dedicated to processing applications. Our Tenant Coordinators work every day to handle incoming applications and find you the best tenant for your property!
Contact us today to learn more about how Frontline Property Management manages thousands of doors in Dallas / Fort Worth and surrounding area, and how you can turn your property into truly passive income!
Do you have a property that you need help with? Just fill out this form and we will reach out to you!
Speed vs Accuracy: Efficiently Finding Quality Tenants
The Dallas-Fort Worth rental market is one of many (and one of the most) competitive rental markets in the nation. Due to the upward-trending boom in Millennial and Gen Z populations, as well as the unexpected conditions of the pandemic and the Texas freeze – there is a crunch for renters applying to properties. You may have felt the crush of applications and with it, the anxiety of meeting such an increased demand. While it is better to have more options rather than fewer when it comes to applicants, as paperwork piles up you may find yourself rushing to approve someone for the sake of having it done.
Not so fast.
You want to find a tenant who meets the standards you hold for the property. While you are not holding out for the best possible tenant in existence, you do want a tenant who absolutely qualifies. With the increase in document fraud and online scams, reviewing your potential tenants with a fine-tooth comb is necessary. But how are you able to do so when you have multiple applications on one property? When you are processing them all yourself while also receiving calls and emails and texts from agents, interested parties and applicants following up on their applications? Here are tips on how to be efficient, effective and most importantly, accurate in reviewing your applications:
Use an Application Portal
In a competitive market, applicants have zero time to waste. As properties are being snapped up, they need to be able to apply as quickly as possible. That means not having to trek to your office to pick up an application.
An application portal guides applicants through the process intuitively. Portals that require a registration will help you better track your applications to easily parse the completed apps from those in progress.
State Qualifying Criteria Up Front
It is your legal obligation to require that every applicant review the qualifications for the property that you manage. This includes the income requirement, your policy on the credit history and criminal background check, pet policies (including breed restrictions) – absolutely everything that needs to be considered before submitting an application. Eliminating the most obviously disqualified applicants before they apply is sure to lighten your workload and save both you and the applicant some disappointment.
Charge an Application Fee
If you want everyone to participate in a program, you make it free. When you want to restrict participation to interested parties who can pay, you charge an admission fee. It’s also true of applications. Processing applications costs time, and running screenings for applications costs money, which justifies charging an application fee.
You may, however, consider a reasonable compromise for your applicants: If you don’t process their application, don’t process their payment. If you have spent no time on an application and did not run a screening, then the applicant paid only for the privilege of being on a waiting list. This can leave a bad impression with applicants who would otherwise try to rent with you at a later time, or if your accepted tenant falls through. Renting housing is a business, which means that customer service is something to consider. You are not legally required to refund application fees at all in Texas, as application fees are considered nonrefundable so long as the law is followed.
Process Applications on a First-Come, First Served Basis
Utilizing an application portal makes it easier to pin down when exactly an application is submitted. Prioritizing applications on a first-come, first served basis is the easiest way to stay compliant with the Fair Housing laws, eliminating the opportunity for any bias to come into play when reviewing multiple applications. You simply take whoever is first, and work that application.
There is a big however – just because an application is submitted first does not mean that the application will remain in first place. When reviewing multiple applications, if your first application is missing documents or information, move on to the next completed application in line while they get back to you. An application can fall from first place to second in line, and so on and so forth as more applications provide everything that is required. Keep the lines of communication open so that your applicant can have the opportunity to provide the materials, but by no means should you lose out on the next potential applicant waiting on the first. Remember, these applicants are moving very quickly in this market, so while you may have multiple applications, don’t mistake any as a guarantee. Many applicants are inquiring into several different properties at once. There is simply no time to waste. Communicate quickly about missing information and move on.
Once you have the broad strokes of receiving applications down, you’ll find it easier to work through your application list in an orderly, systematic manner. Creating a Standard Operating Procedure in this way will help you be consistent and organized in the face of waves of applications. Knowing when to move on, who is immediately disqualified, and where to narrow your focus will help you find the right tenant in the right time.
If this sounds like a job in and of itself – you’re right! Frontline Property Management has a department that is dedicated to processing applications for our clients! Our Tenant Coordinators work daily to communicate with potential tenants, review documentation, run screening reports and comb through the details so that our Property Managers have all the facts when reviewing the results.
Contact us today if you’d like to leave the application process to the professionals and start enjoying your investment as a truly passive income!
Have a property that you need help with? Just fill out this form and we will reach out to you!
Application Process: Fraudulent Digital Documents (And How to Spot Them)
We’ve previously given tips on the application process as well as how to manage a property from out of state (or from any distance from the actual property). However, as time marches on in the digital world, we face new challenges.
A feature of processing applications in the age of remote work and distance is the upsurge in falsified documents. Unfortunately, as it’s never been easier to conduct the entire application process online, it’s equally as convenient for applicants to create mock-up documents. Here are a few ways to help sharpen your eye when processing your online applications!
Processing documents whether online or in person will require a base knowledge of document types. Fraudulent documents are sometimes easier to identify in person due to the physical integrity of the documents, such as the particular lamination of a Driver’s License / State ID or the specific texture of banknote paper that Social Security Cards are made of. Being able to see and touch a document is handy, but online you will need to be familiar with the built-in security features that these documents have.
Texas Driver’s Licenses have changed multiple times, and the Under-21 IDs have a different orientation. Of course, you will have out-of-state applicants, so it will be handy to look up that state’s identification security features.
Social Security Cards have a history of carefully documented styles, which you will need to reference in relation to the date the card was issued. Other features make it difficult to forge, the noticeable of which are the font, print style and official seal.
Payroll statements are the most varied document that you will receive as a landlord. There is no standardized payroll sheet, and with the emergence of the gig economy, you’ll be looking at many more screenshots of direct payments than the traditional payroll. Being aware of different payment methods and payment processes will help you parse out the real from the fake.
A great deal of fraudulent documents can be discovered with a brief review. Fraudulent applicants make common mistakes and spelling errors. On a proper document, all of the information will be consistent, and everything will be spelled correctly. Street names will be properly capitalized and business will have the correct designation (LLC, Corp, et al). Obvious photoshop or image manipulation will be easily identifiable in the signature line and in photos. ID photos are produced on a very consistent basis to help with this, and should not appear to be edited and should be consistent with the security features of the given ID.
Simply proofreading the submitted documents can flag a document as potentially fraudulent.
Reverse Image Search
Those who create fraudulent documents aren’t usually masters of the craft. There are thousands of templates online, not so that there are options to commit fraud, but because we live in an age of entrepreneurship and there has to be a system of payment for small business. Unfortunately, this does leave the door wide open for people to create a false payment record for themselves. And because you’re a landlord and not the IRS, you have very little to compare it to! Luckily, there’s a handy tool in Google Reverse Image search. Rather than scrolling through pages and pages of online payroll templates, you can upload the image and find it much more easily. (We do live in the future, after all!). Of course, these templates are made to be used, so just because a template matches doesn’t mean it’s fraudulent. Using your proofreading will come into play here: often, the fraudulent document will use the exact same check and batch numbers as the template, which is incorrect for a proper business to do.
The easiest and most important step to implement into your application process is to follow up on the application. As part of the process, you should have a release form that is signed by your applicant. This authorizes you to request both rental and employment information from the appropriate parties. With minimum investigative work, you should be able to find a contact number for a company or previous residence. You do not have to rely on the contact information provided by the applicant, and it best not to. Independent verification of the applicant’s information is critical to the application process – it’s the whole point!
For every application you should be contacting the previous residence yourself and following up with the current employer to confirm current employment information. They are under no obligation to release the information to you, but it is both a matter of fairness and due diligence that you follow up on every application.
If this sounds like a lot of work, it’s because it is! Finding a Property Manager who is effective not only at getting applications for your property, but also properly vetting them is key to finding a qualified tenant as soon as possible.
Reach out to Frontline Property Management today to explore the possibilities of never having to run your own applications again!
Do you have a property that you need help with? Just fill out this form and we will reach out to you!
Property Management Record-Keeping: How to Properly Destroy Sensitive Documents
In the age of an increasing need for cyber-security due to rampant identity theft, the common person has a good grasp on what sensitive information needs to be protected. That protection doesn’t end when it’s time to toss out the old and bring in the new – especially not when it comes to the kinds of documents you handle in property management. Applicants hand over their social security numbers, credit and criminal backgrounds, and your own information is all over your business documents, taxes, and filings. During the transition from paper to digital files, you will inevitably end up facing the issue:
How do I get rid of these excess or expired documents?
Legally speaking, whether you are managing only one property or multiple, by retaining consumer information for business purposes, you are subject to legal obligations in your method of erasure and disposal. You or your Retention Officer should be well-read on how to properly keep, protect and ultimately dispose of your records.
Digitization will result in the need to eliminate your property management file folders, stacks of papers and old copies of licenses and ledgers. The end result of whichever method you choose is that the documents cannot practically be read or reconstructed. These methods include:
Anyone who’s ever watched a crime drama knows that your deleted files are never really gone. The “trash” or “recycle” bin of your computer is a holding area for files you don’t want to see anymore. Even when you “empty” those areas, the files are still in your machine and are recoverable – by you, if you’re desperately trying to find that document you didn’t mean to delete or by an unauthorized person looking to make a profit from stolen data.
The simplest way to go about ensuring that your sensitive data is effectively erased is to seek out software that’s up to the task! A software that performs a “Secure Erase” and other erasure / overwriting tactics can completely wipe a hard drive and prevent anyone from mining data from your systems.
One of the most direct things you can do to protect your documents prior to discarding them is to redact as you go. Redactions are the obscured bits of text in a document that are obscured, censored or deleted for a variety of reasons, all of which are ultimately for privacy.
If you are not digitally reacting documents that you are legally obligated to keep on file, then you are putting your business on the market to be targeted by hackers and identity thieves. However, it is not enough that the documents are redacted – they must be redacted correctly.
Redaction failures can be defeated by the embarrassingly easy process of copy + paste, leaving your and your tenants’ information at risk in case of a breach. A properly sanitized document erases all metadata and source information, and irrevocably deletes information behind the black redaction boxes. In other words, it creates an entirely new document that replaces the original and severs ties to any information that the original contained. It is a picture of the redacted document, and not the document itself.
Your goal at every step of the process is to be legally compliant but also orderly and secure!
Frontline Property Management invites you to explore our entire series on Record Keeping! Our business is your business, and our integrated systems ensure that our information is streamlined, secure and adaptive. Our multiple departments and property managers work together seamlessly to provide great service to you and your tenants.
If you would like to learn how we can help you manage properties in the DFW area (and beyond!) – start a conversation with us today! We protect your frontline so that you can worry about your bottom line.
Property Management Record-Keeping: Business Documents
As we’ve said before, being a landlord is a business. To stay on top of your business, you need to maintain all files that support the structure of your operations. You are building your financial future – consider your paperwork the bedrock!
In Texas, you are not required to have a rental license in order to rent your property to others, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t engaging in a highly regulated and litigious business. Like trouble, property management mistakes can be easy to get into and hard to get out of. No one has ever been hurt by crossing too many Ts and dotting too many Is – especially when you are your own oversight!
Files that you want to have on hand (or accessible and easy to find) include:
- Licenses as required by your state, eg, Real Estate Broker’s license
- Employee & Vendor Records (Including verification of liability insurance for Vendors)
- Audit Records
- Property Insurance Documents
- Templates of Contracts that you use for your tenants
Accessibility is important in the event that someone needs to find documentation on your behalf. Your lawyer, business partner, or employee should not have to disassemble your property in order to find these documents!
Most of these can (and should!) be cached digitally – but keep in mind that these documents may have sensitive information embedded in them. Properly redacted documents will keep your (and your tenants and vendors’) information confidential and safe in the event of unauthorized access to the files, or if the physical files are lost.
You may find that you would rather trust a company that employs licensed professionals to do all of this work for you! Our Property Managers are experienced not only in working with tenants, but also in teaming up with the Tenant Coordination and Accounting Departments to keep your business organized, legally compliant, and secure!
Contact us today to learn how we can help you manage your property!
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Property Management Record-Keeping: Owner Files
We are all well practiced in sorting out junk mail, whether it’s in our physical mailbox or the various email inboxes that easily become overpopulated with information, offers, and copies of copies (of copies) that you simply do not need.
When managing your property, how do you know what documents you need?
What are Owner Files?
As we go through this series of Record-Keeping Basics, we’ll help you to distinguish between the different types of files that you’re handling to better help you organize. We’ve already reviewed Tenant files, and Owner files cover much of the same type of information; however, this is information that pertains directly to you and your business practices involving your property.
For instance, to provide the basic specs of the property in order to compose a profile for advertising purposes you need:
- Property Deed
- Property Tax Records
- Your Marketing Profile (Compiling photos and information will make it quick and easy to market your property!)
To ensure that your property is a habitable environment, you will need:
- Property Insurance Policy Records
- Property Maintenance Records (Requests & Repairs)
- Move-In Inventory & Condition Forms
- Move-Out Inventory & Condition Forms
- Photos of any damages sustained by the property
- Photos of any repairs or upgrades to the property
In order to operate as a business, you need to know what your expenditures are to figure out where your bottom line needs to be. Consider documents like:
Lastly, property management is about relationships. The contracts you keep with other businesses are your keys to success. Make sure that you retain copies of:
- Vendor contracts
- Employee Records (if you hire an assistant to help you)
- Owner-Management Agreements
- All Correspondence with the above entities
How Should Owner Files be Organized?
Firstly, your Document Retention Officer (you, if you are managing your own property) should be involved in all aspects of document organization. By no means should you purge without consulting your DRO or your own Document Retention Policy. Consistency is key.
Your attorney and accountant also need to be kept apprised of your record retention policy. If necessary, they will need to be able to locate documents on your behalf, and as such must know where they are and how to access them.
All this being said, you do not necessarily have to have the most high-tech integrated system – those aren’t free. Using readily available resources such as computer files backed up into a cloud storage may be perfectly fine for you, if you are organized and have only one or just a few properties to manage.
However, if in your cost/benefit analysis you find that your time can be better utilized elsewhere, property management software provides a system that is already in place – you just have to be consistent in inputting the information!
But if at the end of the day you decide that your time would be best utilized spending time with your family, investing in your hobby, or any one of a million things more thrilling than dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s of your paperwork – then perhaps what you’re most interested in is finding a property management company with the experience, staffing, and attention to detail you need for your rental properties.
Frontline Property Management is in the business of building relationships with owners like you!
Contact us today to start the conversation of how we can cover your front line in order to protect your bottom line.
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