Monday, February 24, 2014

Have Problems In Or Around One Of Your Rentals?

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If you are having problems around one of your rentals it can make it very hard to keep the house occupied with good tenants. I had a problem in the past where a house across the street was full of drug dealers and these guys would actually have the nerves to sit on my porch and not move out of the way for my tenants that were paying to live there. Even after I told them I don’t want to see them on the property again.

So that’s when I found out about the BAR program that allows you to have anyone other than the tenants on the property arrested for being there without having to attempt to contact you the landlord which legally was their restriction in the past. Once on the BAR program if they have ever been barred on that property and told not to trespass there all it takes is the police seeing them back on the property and they can be arrested immediately.

See below information on the officers that are now ahead of the BAR program AND any other neighborhood complaints. Keep their contact information in case you need them or go ahead and call them to get your properties listed on this program.

Good morning everyone..........

As part of the organizational enhancements made within the Roanoke Police Dept. effective January 7th, I wanted to make certain you had the contacts for your neighborhood's Police Dept. Community Response Team.

* Lt. Daniel Hartman (daniel.hartman@roanokeva.gov or 853-2671) is the Community Response Team Lieutenant for the eastern side of Roanoke, and
* Lt. Rick Morrison (rick.morrison@roanokeva.gov or 853-1634) is the Community Response Team Lieutenant for the western city of the city.  

In addition, the city continues to be mapped into four (4) Community Response Team zones with the following Community Resource Officers:
* Officer Kenny Johnson (kenneth.Johnson@roanokeva.gov) is the Community Resource Officer for NE,
* Officer Brian Tinsley (brian.tinsley@roanokeva.gov) is the Community Resource Officer for SE.
* Officer Derrick Spradlin (derrick.spradlin@roanokeva.gov) is the Community Resource Officer for NW
* Officer Ryan Brady (ryan.brady@roanokeva.gov0 is the Community Resource Officer for SW  

All are very excited about the transition and look forward to working in partnership with you to keep our neighborhoods safe and engaged.  .

Over the next few months, all of the Community Resource Teams will be working to get around to the different neighborhood meetings and introducing themselves but until that time, please feel free to contact them with any concerns you might have.     

Thanks!

Bob

Bob Clement, Neighborhood Services Coordinator
Office of Neighborhood Services
Noel C. Taylor Municipal Building
215 Church Ave SW, Room 312 North
Roanoke, VA  24011
P:  (540) 853-5210   F:  (540) 853-6597

REI of Virginia Members Having A Problem With Rental Inspections and C/O’s

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So there are two different things that the city wants landlords to have on each and every house. A valid rental certificate if the house is in a low income area which they have defined as a rental inspection district, and a certificate of occupancy (CO).

We all know what the rental certificate is however some aren’t familiar with the CO. A CO is essentially a stamp of approval that says specifically that a property is up to the code at the time it was built and it has been approved for a very specific use. For example it has been approved as a single family house or a triplex or an apartment building, or a very specific kind of business, etc.

The city decided that they wanted to push towards getting every property a valid CO so they put together a plan where they would allow a landlord to get a CO and their rental certificate at once and at no additional cost beyond the normal cost of a CO.

Just for a little review of history, Virginia Code states that every property from the time it is built has a CO. However there was a time that was pre building codes in Virginia. And houses that were before the building code existed are grandfathered in. Code states that if a house was built in a certain way that was acceptable at the time it was built, the city code enforcers and building inspectors can’t make you change it to bring it up to todays code. That is only if you are doing an “in kind" repair. If you are doing more than a simple repair than the work you do has to be of todays standards.

This was a little protection that our state level politicians had to put into law because they found that cities and towns across the state were taking advantage of the code and harming their citizens by ordering complete renovations of houses every time the code was updated. Give em an inch and they take a mile every time.

So to make it clear, you do not have to have a CO as long as the house was built pre building code which almost every house in the city was. AND as long as the use wasn’t changed from the use prior to the state accepting the building code. The burden of proof is on the city that the use has been changed since the implementation of the code.

The city has historically attempted to make people feel like they have to have a CO but this is not true. They have done such a good job at this that there have been a number of Legal Aid cases against landlords historically where Legal Aid was using a defense that the tenant should not have to pay any rent for the entire time they were there based on the house not having a CO. Legal aid in these cases was confusing this with a rental certificate which is a completely different thing. Unfortunately the landlords I talked to did not adequately represent themselves and they lost thousands of dollars due to their lack of knowledge of the law.

If you wish to confirm the laws on CO’s click the link below. It’s important for you to understand the law as you will be taken advantage of if you don’t.
https://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?000+reg+13VAC5-63-160

I continually get complaints from our members about this Rental Certificate / CO issue so I sent a message to Chris Chittum about the issue hoping he would resolve it and make everything easier on landlords if they want to keep pressing this CO issue. Below is my email to him and then his response. I told Chris I would send this to you so we are all up to speed on the issue.

Essentially his response is that there will continue to be multiple inspections by both code enforcers and building inspectors if you desire to get a CO and they will put a plan into action to make the process easier for you to understand.

Hi Chris,

Our members are having some issues regarding the communication between city departments that I was wondering if you could help with.

A number of times every month members are contacting me asking questions regarding certificate of occupancies and rental certificates. In the past it was Tom Carr’s position to not have a duplication of services as to avoid unnecessary costs to the taxpayer considering that building inspectors are as qualified if not more qualified to do a rental inspection. I talked to you about this issue as well and you agreed regarding the duplication of services.

It is possible that the code enforcers feel like the building inspectors are stepping on their toes if they do the rental inspection and maybe this is what is causing the problem. I’m not sure.

Over the years the city has had a desire to get all properties a CO so when you request a CO you also got a rental inspection at no additional cost. Currently our members are having issues thinking that they got their rental certificate when they got their CO or having code enforcers threaten them that they must get a rental certificate after getting the CO. This issue sets landlords up for a lawsuit from the tenants which is not desired.

If you could think of a good solution that’s also good for the taxpayers pocket it would be greatly appreciated.


Best regards,


Dallas Powell
Chairman
Real Estate Investors of Virginia
1417 Peters Creek Rd.
Roanoke, VA 24017

Cell: 540.293.2335
Dallasjr@PowMarCom.com


Dallas,

I talked with Neil Holland, Building Commissioner and Dan Webb, Codes Compliance Coordinator about the process for bundling a C.O. and a Rental Certificate.  I understand that we have been doing this experimentally for about a year or so. We now know that it can work, but have learned that we need better communication internally among ourselves and externally with customers.  The sequencing of the process is also important and is an area that we will work on.  I appreciate the feedback; bringing this issue to our attention will help us improve.

If there is construction on a rental unit that triggers the need for a
building permit, we encourage the owner to go ahead and get a C.O. at the same time (if there is no existing C.O.).  The C.O. validates the occupancy and that the units were legally established at some point.  This practice is mutually beneficial as it acts as a vested right to the property owner for a certain number of units.  It also prevents us from having to do a lot of pointless research in the future on whether the number of units were legally established or not.  For example, a 3-unit building in a single-family zone could have been established legally long ago under a different zoning.  That's fairly common.

The new practice is to include a four year Rental Certificate with the C.O.
An owner does not have to apply separately or pay a separate fee for it
when bundled with a C.O., but does need to be issued a written Rental
Certificate.  Apparently, we need to a better job of communicating this to
customers.

As things stand now, a single inspector cannot cover both construction and maintenance inspections because we are dealing with two separate codes: The Virginia Maintenance Code and the Virginia Construction code.   Tom Carr may have advocated such an arrangement before, but since we became accredited, each code requires different competencies and the inspectors must be certified in their respective disciplines.   We may at some point have inspectors cross-certified to do both, but right now we do not.  This means that it is absolutely necessary to have two different inspectors check the property, at least for the time being.

Another consideration is that the Virginia Construction Code requires that there be no violations of the Virginia Maintenance Code or Fire Code before a C.O. is issued.  So, what we try to do is coordinate those inspections to the extent possible.  When an inspection for the C.O. or permit is requested, the Combination Inspector should contact the Codes Compliance Inspector for that area and schedule a dual inspection.  What I — and I think some owners — are struggling with is the fact that, at final building inspection, a rental inspection may uncover a lot of things that need to be corrected, when the expectation was that both certificates would be issued at final.

Therefore, I think an initial rental inspection needs to be done earlier in
the game - before the final building inspection.  On final approach rather
than at touchdown, if you will.   That way, the owner has an opportunity to address rental inspection issues.  Then the dual inspection can be conducted at the end of the project and both Rental Certificate and C.O. can be issued at the same time.   Of course, all this varies depending on the amount of construction taking place, so each case is different.

What I plan to do in response is work with Neil and Dan to develop a
written internal policy as well as a customer guide for owners so everyone can be on the same page.  I hope that will make things run more smoothly for all involved.

Again, thank you for bring this issue to our attention.

Regards,
Chris

Chris Chittum, AICP          
Director of Planning, Building, and
Development
215 Church Avenue, SW Roanoke, VA 24011…
(540) 853-2356 (desk) (540) 815-0291 (cell)

Politics and Investment In Roanoke City

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As real estate investors and business owners we are heavily involved with the local government of the towns that we do business in. The decisions that the local politicians in that town make often have a direct impact on how easy or hard it is to do business in that area.

Roanoke City has had an unfriendly attitude towards investors under the currant administration. They have refused to work together with REI of Virginia to develop good solutions to tenant accountability issues. As a matter of fact, Ray Ferris (now running as an independent) and Court Rosen (not up for election this time) both told me that tenants will never be held accountable for their own actions within the city as whatever these grown adults do is the direct responsibility of the landlord since we are the one who owns the property.  I can tell you one thing for a fact, as long as tenants aren’t held accountable for their own actions, nothing will ever change. There is no amount of punishment or fines that they can give to a landlord to solve a tenant issue.

The currant administration has all unanimously voted for things such as the Rain Tax that you will be paying this summer and the sale of multi million dollar building(s) and land for 10 bucks to their friends some of which have criminal backgrounds, amongst many other controversial issues.

They have even taken it to the degree where they have been rude to our members that have attended city council meetings in an attempt to stomp out any disagreement with what they are doing.

So Why Invest In Roanoke City? That’s the question I have been asking myself for a long time now. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that they will never buy another property in the city.

Investors such as ourselves have a vested interest in the city. We all want property values to increase so we can make some equity with our investments. And we have the currant city council standing in the way preventing this city from becoming a great place to live and invest. It seems to me that it’s really all about wealth envy and has nothing to do with making Roanoke the best it can be.

Some economics 101 for those that are reading this email within the upper levels of government. We all need to work together. I have been saying this for years. I’ve stuck my hand out in friendship on many occasions as many of our members have and you’ve turned your backs on us.

When you drive investors out of the city you create a glut of extra property on the market. When there is too much supply of property than the property values go down as there is a limited amount of people that want to purchase that property. Because you drove them away. When property values go down than you are hurting the homeowners in the city. The very people that you “say” you are helping.

The opposite happens when you are business friendly and you encourage investment within the city. When investors feel like they are working together with the city to make it a great place to live and conduct business than property values go up. Investors in this type of relationship with the city feel good and want to pump more of their hard earned money into the city rather than the surrounding areas that they have been pushed to. At this point properties are harder to come by so they have to pay more to get one. They go up for the average homeowner and everyone makes money including those who did nothing to make it other than watch the investors fix up the houses in their neighborhood.

A + B = C folks. It’s a pretty simple concept. Now let’s get on the ball and do it. Unfortunately I don’t see it happening with the currant administration as we have made countless attempts to work together and continually are rejected.

So at our upcoming meeting I am pleased to announce that we will get to meet the 3 Republicans running for city council this upcoming election.

We have:

Roger Malouf, who is a real estate broker and on the Board of Zoning appeals for the city. Also a member and officer of our group.

Jim Garrett, 21 years serving the infantry in the Army. He’s an internet technology guy that had a company he sold to Ntelos prior to the military and currently owns another internet service providing company.

Hank Benson, another business man who manages the branch office of an industrial battery company. Hanks position puts him in close touch with the concerns of the business community in Roanoke and will focus on jobs, lower taxes and business expansions that will benefit our city.

As always, REI of Virginia encourages all parties (Republican, Democrat and Independent among others) to come and talk with us so we have a good understanding of their views and which candidates that we would like to personally donate large sums of money to that we feel will be working together with us to help our companies.

I encourage Ray Ferris, Bill Bestpich and Dave Trinkle to come and speak with us. However they should realize that our members will have some very hard questions for them as we will for the Republicans. These men have a currant track record in the council of not being willing to work with REI and I would like to see what changes they plan to make this election year for investors.

We also would love to speak with the 2 Democrats that are taking Bestpich and Ferris’s Democrat nominations. Linda Wyatt and Freeda Cathcart who is currently reporting that she has over $196,000 ready to spend on this election for a job that pays a little over $15,000 a year. Donations that are coming from all over this country. Not just local. Got any special interest money? I think so… We would also love to see Valerie Garner who I’m told is another Democrat (running as independent) totaling 6 Dems running against the 3 Republicans.

So come on out to our REI meeting this Tuesday and lets meet some of the people running for office and see what ideas they have for Roanoke Cities business community.

Monday, February 17, 2014

More Discounts!!! Save More Money With REI of Virginia. If You Are On Our Email List You Get Our Discounts

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Members,

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There are no costs to you for this program, so take advantage and enroll.

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WARNING, HEAT PUMPS ARE BEING STOLEN ALL OVER THE CITY

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The city has been having some major problems with the theft of copper in vacant houses, houses up for sale and heat pumps attached to houses even when there are people living in the house!!! They have been cutting them loose while they are running. It is happening all over the city but primarily in South and South East Roanoke.

The picture is what was left after our members Amanda and Dennis were robbed last week.

If you want to spend some money to protect your heat pumps from being stolen, contact our HVAC Sponsor, Tim Dooley as he has a solution.  I know it’s hard to come off some cash when it hasn’t happened to you but when it does you will surely wish you did. Click the Dooley Heating and Air Logo in our sponsor section.

Legal Aid & Ross Hart Will Be Speaking At REI of Virginia This Tuesday!

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We’re having an interesting meeting this week. Our guest speakers will be David Beidler who is the General Council for the Legal Aid Society of Roanoke Valley and our friend Ross Hart of Hart & Hart Attorneys.

David graduated in 1984 from Antioch University’s School of Law, a liberal, legal services oriented law school. He became Legal Aid’s general council in 2010. David specializes in housing law. Last time he spoke with us was a few years ago.

Legal aid gets funding from portion of the filing fees that we spend to take someone to court.

I don’t hear many people in our group talking about getting sued by Legal Aid but from time to time it happens. I would say that most of our members know the law and follow it. I don’t agree with it in a number of cases but I follow it like a book as I am a law abiding citizen.

Ross has done a nice job over the past few years informing us of what the new laws are so everyone’s up to speed. And we have talked extensively about the do’s and don’ts of renting property.  Another nice thing about our group is you always have people to contact if you don’t know the legal way of handling something to keep yourself out of hot water.

My only experience with Legal Aid was a bad one. I had a tenant that owned a successful barber shop that must have lied about his income as he was taken as their client. I was suing him and they were there to defend him.

We had a contractual agreement that he does a few minor repairs in the house instead of paying a deposit. I won’t do one of those deals again. After a few months of living there he called code on me for things that he didn’t do. Things that he contractually agreed to fix. Those kind of deals can get messy.

He moved out of the house and decided that he wasn’t going to pay back rent that he owed. Legal Aid also felt like he didn’t owe anything. Needless to say the judge determined that I was right and he did owe rent so I won the case. But I had to hire a lawyer to fight it for me so the reality is I lost due to my legal fees. So overall I don’t have the best impression of this service that is supposed to be helping Low Income people in the valley. I’m sure they do good work but my only experience doesn’t show that.

I see the money that we give them being best suited fighting cases against the Western Virginia Water Authority, Roanoke Gas or American Electric Power. Maybe they are scared of taking on these Goliath’s. I don’t know. But I can say that I don’t see it as being fair that tenants move into a place and get charged a deposit from Roanoke Gas that represents the highest month deposit of the previous tenant who has no relation to them. It would be more fair to charge a deposit based on averages over the history of the property. Or when AEP refuses service to a new tenant due to a previous tenants delinquent bill. As if they have any legal right to do that. I’ve had a number of complaints from our members regarding that issue.

So come on out. It should be an entertaining meeting. As always we should be nice to our guests. But not afraid to ask difficult questions.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Sound Familiar?

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