Monday, July 29, 2013

Chris Chittum Will Be Our Guest Speaker This Week!

Photo by
This week our guest speaker will be the Roanoke City Planning Director Chris Chittum.

REI of Virginia is hoping to get started off on the right foot and develop a positive relationship with Chris. We've been trying to work with the city for the past few years and have had nothing but resistance on everything from tenant accountability for their own actions to police state style code enforcement or the permit office making you jump through too many unnecessary hoops to fix up a property.

I told Chris that we would "Love to have him come and talk with us and share his views on the direction he sees for Roanoke City Code Enforcement and the Building and Planning Office. And what type of relationship that he intends the city having with property owners." Stating that we own roughly half of the residential rental property in the city and "It seems that it would be good for us to be working together with the city."

This certainly will be an interesting meeting. Lets voice our opinions on how we feel business owners in the city would benefit while not making Chris feel like he jumped into a tank of sharks. The city has some very serious customer service issues, many of which are within departments that Chris took over which include Code Enforcement, Planning and Neighborhood Services, Building Inspections, and HUD.

We're hoping that Chris can work this stuff out and make Roanoke City a great place to do business like it should be...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Learn How To Save Some Money This Week With Allan Wulff of Solar Tech LLC

Allan and his family
I'm happy to say we have another  fun meeting lined up for this week. We are always talking about what to do in rental property but not so much about flip possibilities or something you can do to your own house.

This week we will have Allan Wulff of Solar Tech LLC come to educate our group on some of the new technology available today to cut back on energy costs.

His company has some nice systems such as a window film that stops 80 to 90 percent of heat going in or going out which is said to cut heating and cooling bills by up to 40 percent.

They also specialize in radiant hot water systems. Hot water is the second highest energy user in most households. The operating cost of these systems are less than $0.10 per day. And from what I understand, these systems can be tied into radiant floor heat so you can really save some money!

His company also has a solar pool heating system as well as the ability to do energy analysis and portable power systems for your house.

Fun stuff!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Fair Housing Coalition


                                                  The Fair Housing Coalition

    Fighting For The Rights Of Los Angeles Housing Providers


                    A Message To Landlords Across The USA

          Please forward this to all your association members

July 17, 2013

In case you have never received any e-mails from me before, I am the President of The Fair Housing Coalition, founded in 2009, we are a landlord association in Los Angeles, California.  At this time, we have 240 members and we are growing all the time.

The City of Los Angeles and the State of California are both very business unfriendly.  In the City of Los Angeles, the Los Angeles Housing Department will confiscate a landlord rents from all his/her units over minor code violations in one or two units of a 40 unit apartment building.  This is insane and criminal.  At the present time, more than 1,700 landlords are having their rent confiscated by the city and there was never any due process of law.  This is a form of communism.

I have a background in the media. I’ve hosted several local radio and TV talks shows in Los Angeles.  Three years ago, I decided that I must start using the media to change public opinion about landlords.  I’ve had a good measure of success so far but there is a cottage industry in Los Angeles of renter’s groups, funded by taxpayer money, that are connected to lawyers who make a living from suing landlords.  I’m constantly at battle with these forces of evil.

My reason for sharing all this with you is that I believe the USA is going in the wrong direction.  There is a growing percentage of our population who believe it is the government’s job to take care of them, to supply them with everything they need to be comfortable.  See that as an opportunity, there are unethical political candidates who have figured out that my demonizing landlords, they can win over large numbers of renters to vote for them.  This has been going on in Los Angeles for 30 years.

Unfortunately social and political trends that start in Los Angeles, once they are driven by the media often find their way across the country.  We don’t want the cancer that has rooted itself in LA government to spread across the country.

I have decided to build a national e-mail database of landlord associations.  So far I have close to 300 e-mails but I still have another 150 associations that I need to call and get their e-mail addresses.   The purpose of this is to build an information network of landlord association nationwide.   Should there be a bad law created to in one city, we can alert the rest of the country and maybe the associations in our database will call upon their members to contact elected officials to kill that bad law.  Politicians do respond when their offices phone lines get jammed with angry calls from the public.

There are many politicians across the country who have dreams of becoming nationally known and/or ending up in Washington, DC.  If anyone in office anywhere is responsible for making unfair laws against our industry this needs to be exposed nationally so their career will come to a halt.   The time has come for landlords to become nationally connected and nationally informed about those trying to hurt our industry.  There may come a time when we will landlords from all over the country to call the federal government to investigate a government official that is trying to hurt local landlords.  The Department of Justice could be a good ally for us.

In Los Angeles about ninety percent of all landlords are in a political coma.  They don’t want to be involved in any fighting for their rights because they believe it is hopeless.

That is a mindset that I am determined to overcome.  My goal is to wake up LA landlords and then start a national movement to unite landlords nationally.  We must create a huge movement.  So that nowhere in America will any politician think that he/she can create unfair laws against our industry and get away with it.

I plan to shoot a video news update every two weeks and post it on-line. We do have a youtube channel and you can view some of our previous videos.  Due to a technical error we have two youtube channels but we do plan to consolidate them into one.  See the links below.

When you see how the city harassed a 94-year-old World War II Vet, it will anger you.  He couldn’t endure all their legal harassment and a few months later he died.  Dan Carazo will not be forgotten.  Take a look at his video.  The Los Angeles Housing Department is run by a small group of criminals and we are going to expose this so they are brought to justice.

Here is the link to our youtube channel

 If landlords in your city are under attack by an elected official, please let us know so we can report on it.  I’m available to come to your city and teach you how to fight back, how to use the media to change public opinion on an issue and put hard pressure on government officials who don’t respect landlord rights.   Sometimes politicans like to use the word "slumlord' and paint us all with the same wide brush.  The truth is that all across the country, the government does a terrible job when it comes to supplying low-income housing.  We do a much better job at providing housing for low-income people. We are the good-guys here and the time has come to inform the general public about this.  When it comes to fighting those who attack our industry, there is much work that needs to be done.

Bill Hooey

Sunday, July 14, 2013

This Week Eric Schmucker Will Bring It Back To The Basics with Advanced Overtones…

Wow, another knockout meeting this week. Our member and good friend Eric Schmucker will be talking about development of a strong Business System. Sometimes we all have to get out of the ship (which would be your daily operations) step back and steer the ship (the overall direction your ship is going). It's important to do this on at least a monthly basis in my opinion. And daily basis once you really become an investor rather than a business owner.

Have some goals and make sure you are continually going in the direction of fulfilling them by modifying the Business System you currently have to streamline it or focus your personal efforts on the things that make you money and or things that you enjoy spending your money on. And as you grow, step out of the day to day operations by hiring good people to maintain the ship while you generally direct it the way you want it to go.  

Remember the 4 quadrants that Rich Dad's Robert Kyosaki preached? Employee (have a job) , Self Employed (own a job), Business owner (own a system), Investor (own investments). We all need to be developing good systems in order to retire and step out completely while your system continues to function at a high degree of success without much effort on your part.

I would currently classify myself  as a business owner based on Robert Kyosaki's analysis. I went from doing everything myself with a few people helping me back in the good old self employed days. Then on to putting together systems that I haven't yet fully developed in the business owner category. I have a great contractor that takes care of all of my rehabs and maintenance calls. With the number of units I have there is still a full time amount of work to do so my next step will be getting a good property manager that is quick to evict dead beats and even faster at re-renting unoccupied units. I want them to treat vacancies like the plague and put all of their attention on solving that problem when it occurs.

Once I have that under wraps I will be able to completely move to the investor category where I will travel as much as I want and spend all of my days doing what I want and managing my money. So the "doing what I want" will be what makes me money and nothing to do with the day to day operations. I will focus all of my efforts on obtaining financing and looking for great deals. That's it.

Here's the run down from Eric on some of the details of the meeting:

"Next Tuesday, I would like to lead a general group discussion on building a business, or "Business System".  A back-to-basics meeting, that will help new members learn how to get started in the Real estate business.  This meeting will also help current investors and business owners in every phase of running a business, such as:  How to raise capital and where to get it, marketing, building your team, finding deals, Legal aspects of business (Entities and Contracts), and avoiding problems that every business and investor runs into.  9-of-10 businesses fail every year, because of unrecognized weaknesses they have within the business system.  I hope this meeting will help REI members avoid becoming one of those 9."

Friday, July 5, 2013

This Weeks Special Guest Speaker Is Robert Young On 1031 Exchanges And Other Tax Advantage Exchanges.

This week we have REI member and good friend Robert Young, owner of Robert Young's Towing. These guys take the jobs that no one else has the equipment or training to do. See the picture above of his wrecker taking away that plane that crashed in Roanoke.

Robert is also a real estate investor and a very successful one at that. Residential rental, commercial rental, land, etc. Robert has experience in all of these. Robert has taught me a number of things and has given me some great ideas and advice. And I can attribute his help to an extra 3K cash money in my pocket on a negotiation that I was involved with.

Robert will be at our meeting to tell us what he knows about 1031 Exchanges as he has done these and a number of other types of tax deferred or non taxable transactions. He is not a lawyer, just one investor giving another their experience with these exchanges and how they work.

1031 Exchanges are a great way to sell property and trade it for another property of equal or greater value without having to pay capital gains taxes at the point of sale. We have tried to get someone a number of times in the past to come and talk to the group about them which has been unsuccessful. One guy hoodwinked me a couple years ago and said he was going to talk about the exchanges and the next thing I knew they were in our meeting talking about buying stock from them. And not a word about 1031 Exchanges.

I hope that Robert will also fill us in on some of the creative deals that he has done in the past. For those of you who don't know Robert, he's a nice guy who is an out of the box thinker and a valued member of our group.

Last Week Guest Speaker Was Octavia Johnson

We had a fun meeting last week with special guest speaker, Roanoke City Sheriff Octavia Johnson.

Octavia was very pleasant to speak to and said she would be willing to help us with any problems that we are having.

We talked about various issues regarding the serving of civil papers and offered some suggestions regarding possible changes to increase efficiency and some issues pertaining to papers that should be served at the last known address and end up getting returned as not found.

We will have her sergeant at a future meeting to square away some of the details. Staffing is tight for the Roanoke Sheriff's office and there are no reported funds for more deputies. We would like to develop creative solutions and put a focus on the timely serving of unlawful detainer paperwork. Landlords wait for over a month from start to end just in the serving of papers by the Sheriff's office.

We initially file our unlawful detainers and wait 2 to 3 weeks for a court date as the court wants enough time to allow for serving of the papers. Then at the end we file writs of possession which add an additional 2 to  3 weeks until we are able to meet the deputy at the house to gain real possession of the property.

If only 300 unlawful detainers are filed monthly, this comes at an extreme cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost rent to Roanoke landlords each month. At an average rental amount of $700 we are losing over 200,000 per month!!! Got to stop the bleeding...

Octavia filled us in on a number of issues including the loss of a couple hundred thousand  dollars to the department a few years ago that lead her to have to cut back ground crews that keep an eye on prisoners cleaning the roadways and other things from 5 to 2 in order to continue to ensure the safety of her deputies as some have been seriously injured in the past. From what I understand the cuts were made to deputies and not administrative staff.

She in turn developed a creative solution by having a group of over 30 non violent people who chose community service rather than jail time to take place of the 3 missing ground crews.

It was a pleasure talking to Octavia and we wish to continue to work together with the city Sheriffs office to develop workable solutions for landlords within the tight budgets they are constrained by.

Roanoke Moving Company Robs REI Member and Refuses to Honor Insurance Claim

Moving Commentary:

REI member loses 10's of thousands of dollars of furniture to Roanoke moving company, Collegiate Movers.

Our member thought they picked the right company. They were able to provide insurance on their very expensive antiques for the move and promised climate controlled storage while getting their new house in order.

They were excited about the move to the beach and they felt like they picked a good company with nice honest people to work with.

Moving day came and the movers were provided fresh brownies and  ice cold water. Good thing to keep everyone happy and motivated! The beach was in the near future and things were going great…

Then the bottom completely dropped out, literally. They were moving a desk and they were warned not to move it in a particular way because they would break it. Knowing the desk better than their customer they continued to move it the same way and sure enough they broke it. Crack, crunch, splinters and hinges flew everywhere.

After looking through their things there were many broken items all over the place. These movers were extremely rough with their belongings. Lost the nuts and broke bolts to their daybed, glass in pictures completely shattered, they must have thrown everything…. Irreplaceable sentimental belongings missing and broken. A bowl broken that was the last thing they had of that part of the family.

Our members are real nice people and just continued with this move without jumping all over the owner of the company like I would have.

They were putting things away and setting up their house. Box after box. Cuts on their feet and hands from going through the boxes of broken things. Then noticed a very expensive table that was cracked. Either cracked by the movers or it wasn't stored in a climate controlled building which is what they paid for. This was really getting bad at this point. The move has been a complete disaster. Broken items all over the place and a table worth well over $20,000 that has a big crack in it. They have antique furniture in their house worth a half a million dollars! This stuff isn't junk.

Can you imagine the salt in the wound feeling you would have when you paid for climate controlled storage, treated everyone great with brownies and ice cold water when they needed it and expected a good move with no issues and it seems like everything you pick up to put away has been damaged?

And to top it off you have the owner, Adrian Michalski said he doesn't want to use the insurance that she bought from him and would rather that she just glues everything back together.  Unbelievable!

They then noticed that there were missing items as well. One of the most expensive being a night stand which is pictured above. They only stole one of them so the other now is useless. And so is the bed and the dresser as they are all a set of matching antiques.

So they continued to contact Adrian time and time again and got the same run around. His attitude turned to blatant unprofessionalism, sarcasm, disrespect, and complete disregard for their belongings. They told Adrian to please make the insurance claim that they purchased or  they will have no other option than to reclaim losses in court. He said fine.

If you happen to see the night stand for sale anywhere please let me know so she can get it back and so criminal charges can be placed on the responsible party.

And be careful when you move. It appears that some moving companies like to play games betting on you not suing since you now live states away. I've got news for them. Our members don't play games with people like this.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Way Things Work

As we all know it can be difficult collecting rent. Especially when the guidelines aren't spelled out at the start of the rental agreement.

As my business has grown over the years it has come to a point where I needed to implement some strategies to fine tune it and reduce time spent taking people to court and chasing after money owed. Most still pay their rent just before the late fee on the 5th but this reduced my pay or quits that I have to send out and number of people that I have to take to court.

This also clearly spells out that I do not collect rent. I spent massive amounts of time over the years driving around and trying to get in contact with my residents and that has been completely eliminated. The first month I stopped collecting rent I sent out 15 pay or quit notices. It was a big shocker to my residents that were used to me hunting them down to get the rent. But they quickly got on track and realized that I'm not going to continue to do so and only did because I'm a nice guy.  Today my pay or quit notices are down to around 2-3 a month so not bad. And most of them are for people that consistently pay late with their late fee every month.

Below you will see what I use to clearly convey the message to my residents that paying rent on time is the most important thing that they need to do to maintain a good relationship. 

This is given at the time of signing the lease and you want to either read it to them or make sure they read it word for word. I have significantly reduced the late payers and number of evictions within my company by using these guidelines.

The Way Things Work

Rent is due at Payment Address in the mailbox on the 1st of every month.

You can mail it or put it in the box, NO CASH. We do not accept rent payments in person.

It is your responsibility to get the rent in the mail just like every other bill.

There is a grace period until the 5th of the month. If you pass the 5th there is a late fee.

If you haven’t paid or moved out by the 10th (10 days past due), our attorney will immediately file to EVICT you. We will also SUE all persons on the lease for the total rental amount due for the rest of the lease.

An eviction will stay on your credit report for TEN YEARS. If it is petitioned by us it will stay there for TWENTY YEARS. This is BAD.

Remember it is not our responsibility to chase you down to collect the rent; it IS however your responsibility to mail or put the rent in the mailbox at the above address.

Finally, our landlord style is called FAIR. We are excellent managers. We really appreciate you, want to make you happy in your new home and plan to have a long, positive relationship with you. In return you should

Pay your rent ON TIME.
TAKE CARE of the house.
COMMUNICATE - this is the key to a positive relationship.

I have read the statements above. Additionally I agree fully with them and agree to abide by them.

_______________________________________         ________________________
Tenant                                                                            Date

_______________________________________         ________________________
Tenant                                                                            Date

_______________________________________         ________________________
Tenant                                                                            Date

Monday, July 1, 2013

What The City Council Is Talking About Tonight…

What The City Council Is Talking About Tonight

So Here's a quick rundown of what the City Council is up to:

1. New budget for the schools. Adding an increase of 6 million to the general fund for schools, adding 1 million for food service and 100K to be added to athletics.

2. Virginia Department of Social Services gives Roanoke City a grant of $312,887 to be given to workers to help people on TANF (Welfare) to get jobs instead of laying around the house all day. They will be giving it up to places like TAP, Blue Ridge Behavioral Healthcare and Goodwill. Lets see some results people! 

3. City increases a contract with AECOM USA, an out of town out of state New Jersey company, an additional 93K for transportation inspections and gives an additional 99K to local Mattern & Craig.

4. City needs to get on Norfolk Southern property to finish the greenway. Norfolk Southern has refused entry unless the city fills out a Right of Entry document and pays for Norfolk Southern people to watch over the city while city surveyors, etc are on the property. I think I will need to start charging the city for my employees watching over them when they go on my property too. They also have to pay about 2K for general liability insurance for being on the property. All good ideas from Norfolk Southern.

5. Lots of talk about the budget and how they successfully have been sucking money out of the private sector and from the citizens of our city. Congrats on the 14.8 percent increase on permits, fees and licenses primarily from building inspections being way up and requiring permits for everything. They have increased their budgets accordingly and the city employee across the board 3% pay increase is now in full effect.

They have determined that the Roanoke Economy is improving since they are getting more money. But there is still a weak consumer confidence.

6. They will also be talking about the city council pay again. Got to get some more money for our leaders. And they will have a 90 minute briefing on the storm water utility issues. Looking like the city is going to charge each and every citizen about $31 dollars more for the average city house because they want some money to comply with EPA guidelines that they don't dump toxic waste into the creeks and river. Business will pay much more.

The city has blamed this on the property owner saying the problem stems from pesticides, etc used in their yards. Just like they tried to pass the blame when they got caught by the EPA dumping toxic waste. I can assure you that the pesticides in peoples yards is a very small contribution to the problems stemming in the Roanoke River. Roanoke City or the Water Authority is regularly dumping massive amounts of sewage in the River. I have seen it with my own eyes.

Ever take a walk down the river and smell that horrible raw sewage smell? I have many times and I found one of the sources of the problem. On tinker creek in SE Roanoke I was walking my dog down the creek and right where the creek meets the river there is a big square grate on the ground. Chained Down! And they spread lye all over the ground around it. Well. One day I saw raw sewage blasting out of the grate about 8 feet high. Nastiest thing I have ever seen. And it flowed down the bank into the river over that lye. There were literally cubic tons of raw sewage entering that creek every hour.

Well, I'm happy to announce that Roanoke City Council is still busy running our lives. Please always remember that Roanoke City Government is Good and they know what's best for you.

Roanoke City Calls It "Good Government"

Roanoke City ~ Good Government:

I've searching for a long time for a business owner in Roanoke City that agrees with Roanoke Cities "Good Government" slogan. And I haven't been able to find anyone. It's real hard to think Good Government in a city that continually shows that they hate business.

I promised our members that I would from time to time expose some of the things that Roanoke City is doing so we can all keep abreast of what our local leaders have in store for us. Having limited time it's hard to keep up on what they do but every single time I look they seem to be misbehaving. Not a good way to get reelected.

25 years ago Roanoke City had 4 hard working code enforcers. With a larger population. Today we are up to 20. The media asked Roanoke City how many people are in the department and Roanoke City lied to them. They told them 13. They didn't want to count any of the supportive staff or management of the department which brings the number to 20.

Our Good Government decided that 20 now isn't enough even though the head honcho, Dan Webb, told REI of Virginia that they were fully staffed at 19 a couple years ago. See the ad below.

If you would like to give a hand helping the public keep up with their grass or a number of other Good Government jobs than please click this link. Our Good Government is growing quickly to account for additional revenue and needs your help NOW!$jobs

Codes Compliance Inspector I (Temporary) [9221] Neighborhood Services
Salary: $14.73/HR Close Date: Open Until Filled
Inspects for building maintenance of existing structures, Rental Certificate of Compliance program, zoning compliance, the enforcement of inoperable motor vehicles, weeds, trash and graffiti ordinances and violations. Canvasses City building maintenance, zoning, inoperable motor vehicle, weed and trash, and graffiti violations. Issues Certificates of Compliance through the Rental Inspection Program.  Receives, evaluates and investigates complaints involving zoning violations. Prepares monthly reports on zoning inspections. Summons violators and testifies in court. High School diploma or general education degree (GED); three to five years related experience and/or training in the building construction and appraisal of residential and complex commercial/industrial properties; or equivalent combination of education and experience.  Must possess a valid appropriate driver's permit issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia.  Must obtain Virginia Certification as a Building Maintenance Inspector issued by the Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development within 12 months of employment.  Bilingual, Spanish/English speakers encouraged to apply. *TEMPORARY PART TIME POSITION, AVERAGE 24-32 HOURS PER WEEK. POSITION WILL BE AVAILABLE TO FILL 11/27/2012*

This Weeks Special Guest Speaker Will Be Roanoke City Sheriff, Octavia Johnson

The picture above is Roanoke City Sheriff Octavia Johnson and our good friend, REI member, Roger Malouf who are both running in the upcoming election. Octavia is running for Sheriff and Roger is running for Commissioner of Revenue.

As you may remember, we had Octivia scheduled to speak with us a couple weeks ago but she had a death in the family and couldn't come. We also had Democrat Tim Allen who is running against Octavia come and talk with the group. I was unable to make it to that meeting but was told it was very lively. Lots of good emotional conversation.

The sheriff's office plays a big roll in a landlords business and it's really important that we work together to get these deadbeats out of our property. So often landlords are looked at like we have all of this extra money and it isn't important that we are in the process of someone stealing from us.  So time drags on…

We wait for 5 days after sending a notice before we can take a non paying tenant to court. They are at this point in the process of stealing from us. And often they have been given a break before taking them to court so the theft is becoming a large amount of money. However the courts appear to be too backed up to be able to set a quick court date and there has to be enough  time for the tenants to be served. That is the first point where the sheriff or a process server steps in to help us out.

After filing for eviction we wait another 3 weeks for our court date. At that point the tenant can continue the case or they can contest the case which will drag it out for another 3 weeks for another court date. Still no urgency and by now there is a substantial amount of money that has been taken from us. Much more money than the typical theft from a business.

When someone walks in a business and steals money from them it isn't looked at as a civil matter but rather criminal. But when they steal from a landlord they are not criminals, just innocent people who got one over on the rich landlord that probably should have been renting the place to them for free anyway. 

And once we get our judgement we often have to wait another 10 days to give them a chance to appeal the judges decision. Whew, finally we have possession of the property….  Nope, still don't have it because they refused to get out and are going to ride it until the sheriff gets there. And sometimes at this point they get a "STAY" which sets another court date and we have to file another writ of possession to get the sheriff out there after we win that one. Back to square one!

By Virginia law the sheriff has up to a month to schedule a date where they will meet the landlord at the property and wait there while you change the locks or put the deadbeats belongings on the curb. That's unbelievably long. It doesn't take that  long in Roanoke  Here we are looking at from 2 to 3 weeks. And that is way too long as well.

Next day after filing would be great. Maybe that is unreasonable and a week would work. I don't know. All I do know is that I have some ideas that I would like our sheriff to consider that will lead to faster evictions. I know that the sheriffs can do a significant amount of evictions a day if set-outs were scheduled on a different day than 24hr lockouts. A sheriff doing 24hr lockouts all day could schedule quite a few more than one doing set-outs. And landlords who schedule a 24hr lockout could have priority over the set-out which would drastically reduce the amount of time required to get these deadbeats out of our property.

REI has never had a chance to talk with Octavia about the Roanoke City Sheriff's office and we are looking forward to hearing from her any ideas she has that will help us stop the bleeding and get the criminals out of our property.

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