Friday, March 25, 2011

The Water Authorities of Virginia Sure Have Been Busy This Year

Water Authorities in the State of Virginia

The various Water Authorities of Virginia have been working very hard at sticking it to the citizens and have been quite successful in doing so. I have personally been told by the Western Virginia Water Authority that they have not been pushing for these changes. REI has been in negotiations with them to work together on a viable win win solution and as we were doing this legislation has been changing that slams us even harder shutting down our business if we don't pay a tenants bill. Lets take a look at some of the bills the other Authorities got passed.

This is what I think these bills mean after reading them. I am not a lawyer so look at it for yourself to see if you read it the same way. Some of them are a little complicated for a novice such as myself. And some are crystal clear.

•    HB 1521 This bill passed. As of this year they are now officially a private business with governmental powers. A political subdivision of the State. I wonder if we now pay for their health insurance, pension, 401K and everything else of this private business. How about the power to not get sued. Or the power to take peoples property away via eminent domain. What other powers does the government have? Wow, I sure would like them to teach me how to make my landlording business an authority too. All of our local politicians voted for this.
•    HB 1522 This bill passed. The Water Authority now has the full power of eminent domain. It used to be the power of eminent domain as is vested in the Commonwealth Transportation Commissioner but they are no longer limited by this. Just the straight up power of eminent domain. I don’t know exactly what benefits they will have from this but I’m sure they are significant. All of our local politicians voted for this with exception of Bill Cleveland who made the right decision. I was told that this bill gives them no new powers. That they still have the same powers of eminent domain as they have had. And that they were only "fixing a drafting error and made a procedural change".
•    HB 1888 This bill was tabled. Cities that provide water and sewer tried to get the same power as the Water Authority to put a lien on the landlords property if the tenant doesn’t  pay for their contractual agreement. It was tabled and not allowed to be voted on.
•    HB 2297 This bill passed. Very interesting bill here. This bill has “old” language in it that says all utilities are required to pay a fair rate of interest as determined by the Virginia State Corporation Commission. This bill also has new language that they can cut off anyone’s water after 20 days of the bill being due. Therefore if your tenant doesn’t pay their bill there is no reason the lien they are going to put on your property should be for more than 1 month and 20 days since they accept post payment rather than prepayment as landlords do. This bill also has new language that prevents the Water Authority from turning off the water if they can prove from their doctor that they or some other family member in the house has a serious medical condition. The politicians decided that they will allow other customers to foot the bills via increased approved rates. All of our local politicians voted yes to this.
•    HB 2425 This Bill Passed. This bill allows the Water Authority to put a lien on a landlords property if the tenant doesn’t pay their bills. It is both unconstitutional and a violation of contract law to send a bill to a 3rd party that no beneficial use of the product or service. This has been fought by landlords in the courts in many states which has resulted in the finding that it is in fact illegal and not allowed to do. We have not taken it to the courts in Virginia yet so we still have to deal with them breaking the law while following what they have been granted to do. The lien they put on the property is higher than everything else so they get paid even before the bank, IRS or any other judgments get paid. New language in this bill allows the Water Authority to shut a landlords business down if they have not paid the lien from the deadbeat tenants unpaid water bill. They are allowed to deny water service to your next tenant even if they have outstanding credit with the Water Authority if you don’t pay the lien. NOW That is a good lawsuit for Legal Aid. Denial of water service to a tenant for a life essential product. New language also requires the Authority to notify you when the tenant becomes 15 days delinquent IF you provide them with an “email address”.  ALL of our local politicians voted YES for this. Both the senators and delegates.
•    SB 1216 This Bill Passed. This bill is identical to HB 2425 above. This is the Senate Bill. Above is the House bill. ALL of our local politicians voted YES for this. Both the senators and delegates.
•    SB 846 Didn’t pass. Looks like another one where the cities tried to get the same power as the Water Authority. Looks like it passed the Senate and was stalled in the House
•    SB 1466 This bill did NOT pass. Our senator John Edwards was the patron of this bill. He added some language that required the Water Authority to have a written agreement signed by both the authority and the agent / owner of the property that they will be putting a lien on the owners property if the tenant doesn’t pay. That they could not put a lien on the owners property unless they had this signed agreement which essentially requires the Water Authority to have full disclosure of what they intend to do to the owner. Edwards got the Senate to pass it. Onzlee Ware got the Committee of Counties, Cities and Towns to pass it. It then was defeated in the House where Habeeb voted against it and Cleveland decided to not vote therefore he voted no as well.

So, those are the highlights on the water business that has been going on. Other Authorities across Virginia are working very hard to stick it to the citizens and small business. It is clear that they are interested in 100% pure profitability with no accounts payable as all businesses have. They are a private business with governmental powers now and we can expect much more of this to come.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Can a residential landlord bar the guests of the tenant from entering the premises?

By: Ryan C. Young, Fairfax, Virginia real estate attorney serving clients throughout northern Virginia
Law Office of Ryan C. Young – Office: (703) 896-7667

On several occasions, I have been asked by landlords if they are able to bar/restrict certain guests of the tenant from entering the premises. In Virginia, a landlord may bar the guest of a tenant from entering the premises based only on specific conduct which violates the law or the express terms of the lease. It is not enough that the landlord simply does not like this person. In Virginia, tenants have the right to quiet enjoyment of the premises and may use the property for any lawful purpose, so long as the behavior is not restricted by the lease agreement.

A scenario which comes up quite a bit is the guest of the tenant who is selling or using drugs on the property. If the landlord reasonably believes that the guest is involved in illegal behavior, they may take steps to bar this person from the property. However, this may be difficult for the landlord to keep an eye on.

A further example would be when the tenant has guests which stay an amount of time which is beyond what is allowed in the lease. If this person is not on the lease, the landlord could bar the guest from returning to the property. This is also a clear violation of the lease, which would allow the landlord to begin steps necessary for evicting the tenant.

If the landlord determines that the tenant’s guest has broken the law or the lease, the landlord can serve a Notice of Trespass on the tenant’s guest. In every instance, it is important that this notice state why the guest is being barred. This notice alerts the guest that they are no longer welcome on the property. In order to do this, you would need the name and address of the offensive guest. It would be wise to also serve a notice on the tenant that this person is no longer allowed.

If the offensive guest continues to return to the premises, the landlord may swear out a Warrant for Trespass against the guest. Trespassing is a crime, which is defined by statute in Virginia (Virginia Code § 18.2-119).

Here's a little more added to Ryan Young's article for clarification. Ryan says you will need the name and address of the tenant's guest. I have seen no where where it says you need all of that information although I can see how it would be beneficial to the police to have it otherwise they won't easily be able to arrest them. If they trespass after your notice to them the charges are up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Virginia Code § 18.2-119 defines the crime of trespassing as follows:
If any person without authority of law goes upon or remains upon the lands, buildings or premises of another, or any portion or area thereof, after having been forbidden to do so, either orally or in writing, by the owner, lessee, custodian or other person lawfully in charge thereof, or after having been forbidden to do so by a sign or signs posted by such persons or by the holder of any easement or other right-of-way authorized by the instrument creating such interest to post such signs on such lands, structures, premises or portion or area thereof at a place or places where it or they may be reasonably seen, or if any person, whether he is the owner, tenant or otherwise entitled to the use of such land, building or premises, goes upon, or remains upon such land, building or premises after having been prohibited from doing so by a court of competent jurisdiction by an order issued pursuant to §§ 16.1-253, 16.1-253.1, 16.1-253.4, 16.1-278.2 through 16.1-278.6, 16.1-278.8, 16.1-278.14, 16.1-278.15, 16.1-279.1, 19.2-152.8, 19.2-152.9 or § 19.2-152.10 or an ex parte order issued pursuant to § 20-103, and after having been served with such order, he shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. This section shall not be construed to affect in any way the provisions of §§ 18.2-132 through 18.2-136.

The issue in many trespassing cases is twofold: has proper notice been provided that the person is not welcome in a particular area and exactly what area is the person prohibited from entering. The code identifies potentially four different ways in which notice of no trespassing may be accomplished. The four ways are: by oral request by a person in authority, by written request by a person in authority, by a posted sign in an area where it may reasonably be seen, by court order pursuant to specific code sections, even if the order is ex parte. An ex parte order is an order entered by a judge where the person who is the subject of the order is not present at the time the order is entered. For a person to be convicted of trespassing after the entering of an ex parte order, that person must have actually been served with a copy of the order. This means a sheriff or other properly authorized individual, delivered a copy of the order to the person who is the subject of the no trespass provision. A written or oral no trespass request can be for both public and private locations. For instance, places of business can request a person not to return to their location. Even a city can request that an individual not return to a certain park or parks. However, a private business can't ban a person from an area that is public access nor can a city ban a person from an area when doing so would interfere with a constitutionally protected right.

55-248.31:01. Barring guest or invitee of tenants. A. A guest or invitee of a tenant may be barred from the premises by the landlord upon written notice served personally upon the guest or invitee of the tenant for conduct on the landlord's property where the premises are located which violates the terms and conditions of the rental agreement, a local ordinance, or a state or federal law. A copy of the notice must be served upon the tenant in accordance with this chapter. The notice shall describe the conduct of the guest or invitee which is the basis for the landlord's action.
B. In addition to the remedies against the tenant authorized by this chapter, a landlord may apply to the magistrate for a warrant for trespass, provided the guest or invitee has been served in accordance with subsection A.
C. The tenant may file a tenant's assertion, in accordance with  55-248.27, requesting that the general district court review the landlord's action to bar the guest or invitee.

Here's a sample letter:


DATE & TIME OF INCIDENT: ___________________


You, ___________________________________, are hereby notified pursuant to
Virginia Code § 18.2-119 and 55-248.31:01 that you are hereby barred from entering in or upon the premises or cartilage of the property of the address: ______________________________________________________________________
Further, you are hereby notified that if you are found entered upon the above
Premises after the date of ______________, your presence shall be deemed a trespass upon said property herein described and the owner, or duly authorized representative
shall take every measure permitted by law to prevent such trespass, which shall include arrest by a police officer.

Should you enter or cross my property, I will notify the Police Department and seek a criminal complaint against you in the General District Court for trespassing and or apply with the magistrate for a warrant for trespass.

I, (print name) ________________________________________________________
Of (address) __________________________________________________________
(city) _______________________ (state) _________ (zip code) _________________

 I have fully read and understand the significance of the above notice of trespass and
voluntarily affix my signature.

__________________________________       ______________________
(signature)                                                            (date)

_____________________________________         _________________________
(signature of property owner / agent)                        (date)

***REASON: ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

I hereby certify that I served this Notice upon the named trespasser by:
________Delivering a copy of it personally to the trespasser.
________By phone or verbally.
________Service by certified mail with return receipt requested.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Money Saving Tip On Your Clean-Outs

I'm going to give you guys a fantastic money saving tip that I use on houses I buy that are full of garbage and houses that I'm getting ready to re-rent that the previous tenant left personal belongings. As you know, 95% of the stuff is complete junk. But one mans trash is another mans treasure.

For years I paid my guys to haul it off, paid the dump to take it, etc. This tip will extremely diminish the amount of stuff you have to haul off. Actually, when I do this most often I end up with just a few garbage bags of random things I can fit in the trash can.

This is what I do:

I first look to see what has been left behind and make a list. Example: A beat up couch, baby toys, some canned food, some chairs and a junk table, a lamp, a pot, a some ugly artwork, a coffee table, clothing, etc.

I then post ads in all of the appropriate areas of Craigslist a few days earlier saying YARD SALE, WHERE EVERYTHING IS FREE! In this case I would post it in the furniture section, garage sale section, kids toys section, etc. I will make a time and date lets say this Friday from 4:00 to 6:00pm. I will then re-post it again the day of the event.

I tell the story that I'm a landlord and rehab houses and sometimes end up with a whole bunch of stuff that I don't want. That I've accumulated too much stuff over the years and I don't have the time to be messing around with selling it on Craigslist or taking it to Happy's to sell. The reality is that it is junk to me and normally I would take it straight to the dump.

You will get a few scumbags that want to meet you there before the Free Yard Sale so they can get a jump on stuff but I always tell them No Can Do because I work and that is the only time I have available.

Here's the interesting part. When you show up at 4:00 typically you will have a crowd of 50-60 people waiting for you to get there. I'll push though the crowd and open the door. Look out and clear the way because most of the house will be empty within 30 minutes.

Lots of smiling faces walking out the door with this trash you inherited. You will be very surprised about the junk that people will take. You meet a bunch of nice people and everyone's asking you when you're going to do another one. And you just saved a whole bunch of money not having to pay someone to move the items and the dump to take it.

Try it out some time. It's fun, it saves money and you'll make a whole bunch of people happy. And for those of you who like to be environmentally friendly you're doing a good thing by recycling this junk.

Friday, March 4, 2011

REI Member Valeria Alphin Gets Mountain View Neighborhood National Recognition

Our member Valeria Alphin got national regognition for Mountain View Neighborhood as being one of the best places in the United States to invest in property.

If you would like Valeria to show you a house in this neighborhood contact her at

Click here for a link to the This Old House Article on the Mountain View Neighborhood in Roanoke Virginia:

Click here for WFIR report

Here's the Roanoke Times Article on it:

Mountain View: New start for grand old Roanoke neighborhood

The area west of Wasena Park was honored with a magazine distinction.
By Mason Adams

Where many people might look on the dozens of vacant houses for sale on Chapman and Patterson avenues in Southwest Roanoke and despair, Gregg Ervin sees the future.

"As long as you don't have people in them doing things they shouldn't, I'm happy," Ervin said as he walked down the 1400 block of Chapman Avenue Southwest. "For me it's a good thing because it allows for change and turnover in the neighborhood. When you have a lot for sale, there's a lot of opportunity."

Ervin moved from Washington, D.C., to the neighborhood two years ago with the goal of buying and fixing up an old house. He purchased one in the 1200 block of Campbell Avenue and commenced renovation.

In October of 2009, Ervin contacted Jim Crawford, a neighborhood resident who'd lived near Memorial Bridge on 13th Street since 1978, with the intention of reviving the Mountain View Neighborhood Association.

"They started holding meetings, created bylaws, started inviting folks, established the group, started applying for neighborhood grants, got neighborhood gateway signs in place as a result of that, purchased Realtor thank-you-type signs and placed them in the yards of people who were rehabbing houses," said Bob Clement, Roanoke's neighborhood services coordinator. "All this has taken place in the space of two years."

The effort paid off this week when the Mountain View neighborhood was named as one of This Old House magazine's 64 best old-house neighborhoods. The magazine chose one neighborhood in each of the 50 states, Washington, D.C., 12 Canadian cities and one town in Puerto Rico.

According to a news release, "Mountain View was selected based on its impressive inventory of great homes, and the community spirit that supports them."

News of the award came as a surprise to at least one longtime resident, Mary Anne Fawcett.
"No, that's Old Southwest," Fawcett said, referring to the nearby neighborhood that last year won both a National Neighborhood of the Year award and a Virginia prize for Best Neighborhood Organization.

But no, this time it's Mountain View -- Old Southwest's neighbor to the west -- that won a prize. And that's not all.

Habitat for Humanity's Roanoke Valley organization is targeting Mountain View for a pilot program that includes construction of three new houses in the 1400 block of Campbell Avenue -- and help with renovations and repairs of at least seven more homes.

Mountain View is nestled within a larger community that once was referred to as "West End." That larger designation has since been broken down into smaller pieces: Hurt Park was considered its own neighborhood starting in the 1960s.

Mountain View is a much more recent neighborhood split, named after the Fishburn mansion on 13th Street. Roughly drawn, its boundaries include the south side of Patterson Ave., 10th Street Southwest, the Roanoke River and the industrial area between Boulevard and Bridge streets.

"The larger homes you see, like the Fishburn house and some of the homes across the street, spun off the railroad barons living on Patterson Avenue," said Erica Taylor, a city planner and agent for the Architectural Review Board. "Unfortunately the really, really amazing ones from 1895 are gone. Those were all tied into the railroad. Then the Fishburns bought a lot of it and started parceling it off: Those are the homes you see from the '20s and '30s."

Tom Collins moved to the neighborhood in 1992. Prior to that, he spent 11 years renovating a house on Day Avenue in Old Southwest. That neighborhood in the 1980s and '90s shared a lot of similarities with present-day Mountain View, he said.

"It was a little iffy when I first moved in, I have to admit," Collins said of Mountain View. "It's gone up and down, up and down over the years."

The last two years he's seen a lot of change for the positive, he said. Lately the police have been on the neighborhood "like a wet blanket," Collins said.

Ervin also credits the neighborhood's code enforcement officer for responding promptly to complaints, which he said has made a big difference.

Two years ago, Crawford -- who prior to the revival of the neighborhood association served as the city's contact point for the community -- tore down a dilapidated house on 13th Street and replaced it with a large garden.

"Someone's out there almost every day working and enjoying it, which means eyes outside," Crawford said. "That's part of the community aspect, people laying eyes on each other is a good thing."
And last fall, city officials opened Vic Thomas Park, which sits at the edge of the neighborhood by Memorial Bridge and which is linked to the Roanoke River Greenway.

Crawford remembered walking out his front door with his wife soon after the park opened: "We were just faced with the scene of a husband and wife and kids bicycling up by our house and across the other street, people bicycling down the other side. It was almost like we'd been transported to France."
All of this has only helped to create more momentum that neighborhood boosters hope will translate into more home sales and new businesses.

Valeria Alphin, a real estate agent with Long and Foster, bought a home on 12th Street in 2009. She renovated it and briefly considered flipping it -- a practice frowned on by many neighborhood residents-- but ended up deciding to stay and now is an active member of the association.
Alphin was the person who handled the paperwork to nominate Mountain View for the Best Old-House Neighborhood award.

The neighborhood has even seen a recent business expansion: Sokuntheary Chum moved her store, C&R Grocery Latino, across Patterson Avenue from a 500-square-foot rental space to a 12,000-square-foot building she now owns. She said the move to a larger and more visible location has increased her business by about 20 percent.

There's still plenty of risk in investing in a neighborhood with low property values and lots of vacant buildings. But again, neighborhood activists and pioneers don't necessarily see things the way they are now: They see them the way they can be.

"The synergy that has begun to build ... is putting this neighborhood in the spotlight," Clement said. "You've got the city activity taking place in Hurt Park, the Old Southwest activity on the east. You've got a stable Raleigh Court neighborhood to the west.

"Mountain View is poised. It's pretty cool stuff."

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Roanoke City Plays Real Estate Investor And Loses Again Like Usual

Photo by Jared Soares, Roanoke Times
Many of you will remember the terrible battle between Stephanie and Jay Burkholder who owned a building at 217 Reserve Avenue and the Roanoke City Government when they took it from them via eminent domain to give to Carilion.

It's easy to read a news article and think it's bad but not have sympathy for the people because you don't know them. Try to think about what you would do if this happened to you and if you would have the extra money laying around to defend yourself.  I met Stephanie a couple years ago at a Tea Party get together and these people have a heart of gold.

From what I understand, the properties "around" their flooring business, Surfaces Inc., that was located in their 217 Reserve Ave building were blighted but their building was in great shape. Apparently in the attempt to bully them out of their property, the city decided to condemn their building too which lead to a dramatic decrease in sales for their company. A very dirty and evil thing to do to a small business owner.

GIS image of the Building
All in the name of taking it and giving it to Carilion. Carilion had an agreement with the housing authority to purchase the property. Then after people started to find out about this shady deal Carilion decided to back out and said they have no use for the property. Quite possibly to attempt to maintain their image. The damage had already been done though and the Burkholders had to continue to try to save their property and business as they tried to get the message out to the public that their business was still open regardless of the condemnation.

When all was said and done, the Burkholders spent almost $600,000 on legal fees and expert witnesses to defend their property. The city spent tax payers money of over $535,000 to take it away from them.

The Burkholders hired two appraisers, one who valued the property at the time of theft (2007) at 4.83 million and the other appraised it at $4.5 million.

The jury unanimously awarded the Burkholders 2.2 million dollars. Remember it cost them over a half a million just to defend their interest in the property. And they took a major financial hit on their business which they no longer own. On May 25th 2010 they gave up the fight and did not appeal this decision.

Today the land that the Roanoke Redevelopment and Housing Authority approved a sale to Carilion Clinic who will buy the 3 acre site on Reserve avenue for 1.53 million, $670,000 less than what the tax payer paid for it. And that doesn't include the over a half a million they used of our money to take it from them.

Just wondering, can anyone think of a time where the city has made a good real estate purchase that didn't hurt the tax payer?

The Millers Hill deal turned out to be an enormous waste of tax payer money.
How about the golf course? Time will tell on that one I guess.
Or maybe the City Market Building? Lets see what the capitalization rate comes out to when the rehab is complete.

Maybe one day the city will decide that they should spend a little money hiring Real Estate Investors of Roanoke experts to help them with their deals if they are interested in buying and selling real estate. The only exception is that we are not interested in getting involved with any deal where they are stripping away someones property rights via eminent domain. Just legitimate deals is all we will help them with.

A bit of Philosophy below from the video the Philosophy of Liberty that is at the bottom of the REI home page that pertains to eminent domain. It's important to look at things from a Philosophical standpoint to determine if something is ethically and morally right or wrong.

You Own Your Own Life
To deny this is to imply that another person has a higher claim on your life than you do.

No other person or group of persons, own your Life nor do you own the lives of others.

You exist in Time:

Past, Present, Future

This is manifest in…

Life, Liberty and the product of your Life and Liberty

To lose your Life is to lose your Future, to lose your Liberty is to lose your Present

… and to lose the product of your Life and Liberty is to lose that portion of your Past that produced it

A product of you Life and Liberty is your Property

Property is the fruit of your labor, the product of your Time, Energy and Talents

Property is that part of Nature which you turn to valuable use

Property is the property of others that is given to you by voluntary exchange and mutual consent

Two people who exchange Property voluntary are both better off or they wouldn’t do it

Only they may rightfully make that decision for themselves

At times some people use Force or Fraud to take from other without voluntary consent

The initiation of Force or Fraud –

To take life is murder,

to take liberty is slavery

and to take property is theft

It is the same whether these actions are done by one person acting alone, by the many acting against the few or even by officials with fine hats

You have the right to protect your own Life, Liberty, and justly acquired Property from the forceful aggression of others

And you may ask others to help defend you

But you do not have the right to initiate force against the Life, Liberty and Property of others

Real Estate Investors of Virginia. Copyright 2009 All Rights Reserved