Over the years Texas weather has become the brunt of many jokes!
From the severe heat during the summer months to the volatility of the fall and winter, our weather is quite nonsensical and, while this lends quite a bit of humor to our lives, it can make planning quite difficult.
Preparing your rental property for Fall should be a joint effort between you and your tenant.
You should be sending out seasonal letters with instructions on steps the tenant should take to prepare themselves and the property that they occupy for the season.
However, the onus is not entirely on your tenant to maintain and prepare the property. Make sure you are doing your part to keep the property safe and protect your investment.
One of the most important preparations is to ensure that your HVAC or heating system has been maintained and serviced. Heating is simply a necessity and in the eyes of the legal system, it is a requirement for the health and safety of tenants. Having the heating system checked out yearly before cooler or cold weather hits could avoid bigger maintenance problems and making necessary repairs can prolong the life of the heating system.
Here are some quick tips for fall preparation!
- Check siding to ensure that it is stable and secure
- Have the roof checked for weak spots
- Insulate doors and windows
- Search the property for areas that may need to be caulked to improve heating efficiency
- Cut back any overgrow vegetation (especially if it is hanging over any part of the property)
- Clean out the gutters before fall leaves have had the chance to settle in. (Bonus Tip! placing a gutter guard into the shaft will make future cleanings much easier!)
- Have the chimney swept to remove any blockages
- Check all carbon monoxide and smoke detectors
- Ensure the weather stripping on exterior doors and windows are functional
- Check your attic insulation for gaps
As the first days of fall approach, you will need to ensure your property is ready. This will mean coordinating multiple vendors, admittance to the property, and updating/educating your tenant on their duties. You will certainly have your work cut out for you!
Interested in letting a professional take care of these tasks for you? Contact Frontline Property Management today! We have the experience to handle your investments through any season, and protect your frontline to protect your bottom line!
Have a property that you need help with? Just fill out this form and we will reach out to see how we can help!
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!
Have a rental property that you need help with? Just fill out this form and we will reach out to you!
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!
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!
Choosing a Real Estate Market
The Dallas / Fort Worth real estate market, where Frontline Property Management does the majority of our business, is one of the hottest real estate markets in the US – and that’s even considering recent shutdowns and other issues caused by the pandemic. But what makes a market a good one to invest in, or to convert empty property into rentals in, and how do you determine if it’s right for you?
Study Population Growth (& Watch What Millennials Do)
The housing market isn’t the only thing that’s booming in the Dallas / Fort Worth area. We’re on track to have the most new residents of any metro area through the end of the decade. That’s not just native growth – due to low mortgage rates and other influences we’ll discuss, more people than ever are moving to the Dallas / Fort Worth area.
Where people are moving – especially millennials, who make up the majority of the workforce – there will be a demand for housing. The way things are working out for the largest portion of the population, we can expect that renting will be the most common form of housing financially available and affordable. (That’s where you come in!)
Quality of Life
There’s a reason some small towns are struggling to thrive and suffer housing depreciation while places like DFW are experiencing a skyrocketing population: accessible and diverse activities. The Dallas / Fort Worth area boasts of things to do! Everything from parks to the arts can be found, and everything in between. These are very important to millenials, who will more readily take a job in a city with entertainment, public transportation, and affordable housing over a market that has very cheap housing but not much else. After 2020, you can expect that millennials will emphasize connectivity.
For this reason, among the others, the home appreciation in DFW is expected to do nothing but climb.
Of course, there are a lot of nuts and bolts in the property management machine to consider! Frontline Property Management will help you evaluate your rental property and the market that it’s in, down to the competitive pricing of the neighborhood. If you haven’t yet invested in a property in the DFW area yet, but would like to, we’d be more than happy to discuss helping you build and manage a portfolio with us!
Do you have a property that you need help with? Just fill out this form and we will reach out to you!
How to Prepare for Severe Weather: Tenant Communication
When it comes to property management, you have to be proactive and not reactive. As we touched on briefly in our previous blog, you should be sending notifications to your tenants at least quarterly, as the seasons change.
Communicating with your tenant is your first line of defense!
Although it may seem obvious to a local what the weather patterns are, we live in an ever-increasingly globalized world. Which means your tenants could be from out of state – or from another continent! Protect your property by informing your tenants diligently about upcoming weather expectations and how they relate to property management.
1) Draft a Seasonal Letter
You’re in the property management business, not comedy – you don’t have to keep your material fresh! Draft a letter to send out to your tenants that is applicable to the region your property is located in.
2) Do Your Part
The onus is not entirely on the tenant to maintain the property that they occupy. Sending an informational letter does not remove your responsibility as the property owner. Make sure that you are doing your part to keep the property safe via regular inspections, necessary updates, and repairs. You should see it as giving the tenant all the information and tools necessary to protect the property from severe weather.
3) Set Your Expectations
In your letter, make it clear that there are certain issues that you expect to occur, both to the property and the region at large. A common cold-weather issue (here in Texas) is that after months of disuse during our blisteringly dry summers, heaters that are being turned on for the first time sometimes emit burning smells that cause great concern to tenants. Informing your tenants will cut down on the phone calls to your maintenance team (or you, if you are managing your own property) and will give them a clear “next step” to take.
4) Create Actionable Steps
No one likes vague instructions. Inform your tenants in detail how they should be responding to shifting weather conditions. A simple to-do list will get the job done, so long as the items are specific and actionable, not just informative. “Water the foundation every week during the summer in accordance with your local grass watering ordinances” is much more specific than the guideless “Dry ground may cause foundation to shift”.
5) Put it in the Lease
It’s not only in your tenant’s best interest to have these seasonal letters written and sent or emailed to them – it’s in your best interest, as well! You should be keeping records of all tenant communications. This sets up clear expectations for both parties. If one side fails to meet the expectation, it will make it more clear who is liable for the costs of damages, should any occur. A letter or notice, however, is not a legally binding contract. The lease is. For this reason, it is advisable that the lease include language pertaining to the maintenance of property in regards to weather conditions. In a hot and dry region such as ours in Texas, watering the foundation is necessary property maintenance that prevents shifting foundations and all the trouble that comes with it. Including that specific action as a rider or in the main body of the lease obligates the tenant to comply.
Communicating with tenants is a priority on every landlord’s plate! Property Managers at Frontline Property Management, Inc. are in constant communication with tenants and have the support of multiple departments to streamline the process- so you don’t have to! If you aren’t sure what to expect in the Dallas / Fort Worth and surrounding areas – whether it’s the weather or market values – contact us today to find out!
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: Tenant Files
As a landlord, the bulk of your records will consist of Tenant Files.
This is because every tenant (and every applicant) creates an exponential amount of paperwork that must be transferred, completed and filed away. These are records you will retain for a period of at least five years, or in direct relation to however long the statute of limitations for making a claim is in your state.
Property Management software is useful in integrating all of the necessary steps and documents into a streamlined process that flows seamlessly into a record filing system. However, keep in mind that even the best software is only as good as its operator. Records require maintenance and consistent input. This means that emails and documentation created outside of the system should be added in a timely manner and destroyed / deleted / disposed of when the time comes.
We’ve reviewed that as a landlord or property manager, it’s important that you retain tenant files in the case that there is ever any legal claim made against you. Expect that you will have to be able to create a detailed timeline of your every interaction with your tenant from beginning to end. This should assist you in conducting your business in a professional manner (imagine that every document you send and phone call you make can be presented to someone else for review) and will keep you covered. These documents can also carry your case in a court procedure like an eviction.
It’s understood that leases are legally binding documents and should be read in their entirety; however, you will find that many tenants do not familiarize themselves with the details of their lease. Having the signed documentation on hand affirms that the tenant agreed to the terms laid out to them. Whether or not they understood the document is subjective to the tenant, and is solely the tenant’s responsibility. Objectively, however, the paperwork will support your case.
Remember that there are some things that are confidential and as such, even if the information is revealed in the course of conversation, should not be filed as pertinent information to you. You are obligated always to adhere to the Federal Fair Housing laws, and as such your tenant files should not contain any information regarding a tenant’s disability (other than in a quantifiable capacity, as proof of income or related to a reasonable accommodation request) or of any services the tenant receives in relation to said disability. That information is strictly confidential and should not be anywhere in your records.
The following, however, most certainly should be:
- Credit/Background Screening
- Application Fees
- Income Verification
The Rental Agreement / Lease
- Signed Copies of Lease & All Addendums/Riders
- Move-In Inspections
- Move-Out Inspections w/ Itemized Deductions List
- Pet Policy Agreement
- Information on How to Submit Service Request
- Record of Receipt of Keys Upon Move-Out
- Notice of Changes to Property, Lease, Payment Arrangments or Management
- Eviction Notices
- Request for the Remittance of Payment
- Service/Maintenance Request, Evidence of Follow-Up Actions
- Property Maintenance Notices
- Intent to Access Premises for Repair/Inspection
- Notice of Lease Violations
- All Emails and Correspondence
- Security/Other Deposits
- Rental Payments
- Late Fees
- Returned Payments
Property Management Record-Keeping: First Steps
We’ve talked about why you need to have a focus on record-keeping when you’re managing a property, and briefly reviewed what documents you need to keep. (We will explore that further in this series.)
But how exactly should you go about keeping our records? What do you need to do?
We are at the intersection of increasingly streamlined emerging technologies and old-school filing cabinets. Old habits die hard, and you may find your work or personal office strewn with years’ worth of documents. Or collecting dust in metal drawers and hanging folders with labels long faded. In the 2020s, our society is heading in the direction of remote operation, system integration and an emphasis on a greener, more paper-free world – and that’s the world you need to be part of as a property manager!
Rather than compare the benefits of physical vs. digital record management, let’s agree that physical records are going the way of the floppy disk and that you must take steps towards digitizing your records.
Where to start:
Determine Who Your Document Retention Officer / Team Is
As we previously discussed, if you are a business of one person, then this will be your task. However, if there is an ability to delegate then you’ll want to assign a person to head your Document Retention Team. This person or team will be in charge of:
- Developing, implementing, and maintaining the records management program
- Establishing protocol for records management in accordance with the document retention policy
- Determining what will be taken care of by the company / employee / team and what will be outsourced to a third-party company or software
Inventory Office Records
Before you can go about how to manage your records, you need to know exactly what it is you have on hand. By reviewing the materials that you have been keeping, either physically or digitally, you can then determine whether something is a record or non-record.
A Record has information created or received by your organization in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business, and has value requiring its retention.
A Non-Record is exactly what it sounds like – something that doesn’t need to be kept! This includes reference materials, junk mail, and duplicate records. (Get rid of those ASAP!)
Create a Document Retention Policy
There are general guidelines to follow when creating a document retention policy, but the best way to make sure that your retention policy is tailored to you and understood by your document retention officer and / or team is to make one of your own and detail what will be stored as well as how.
This policy is a teachable document that can be referenced by anyone in the company. It will give you and any employees or assistance clear directives on how your documents are managed.
Establish Your Records Retention Program
Your Records Retention Program is the system that takes all of the above information
and puts them into action! You will combine your document retention policy with a schedule, so that you are retaining the correct records for the appropriate amount of time – no less, and no more. You are not archiving your records; you are storing them for exactly as long as they legally need to be retained.
Taking the time to lay the groundwork and establish best practices may seem either like overkill or a major pain (or both) but it is absolutely necessary in order to move forward with properly sorting every record that you have on your tenants, properties, tax information and more!
When in doubt, let a professional Property Management Company like Frontline sort it out! Any landlords in the DFW and surrounding areas who suddenly feel out of their depth should contact us today to learn more about how we can increase your bottom line by protecting your Frontline!
Tired of all the paper work? Have a property you need help managing? Just submit your information and we will reach out to you!