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PROPERTY MANAGER

PM

Southern California Property Manager Magazine (former Apartment Manager San Diego Magazine)

pmmag-socal.com

Information | Resources | Training Issue 7 | Aug-Sepď‚&#x;2010

ONLINE PAYMENTS Rent Week Pain-Free IMPROVE Your Leasing Performance HOARDING Residents

MAEDEE VIANA Villa Arms Apartments

A Balanced Life!


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PROPERTY MANAGER

PM Information | Resources | Training

from the Editor

We Have Expanded! “What counts is not necessarily the size of the dog in the fight  it's the size of the fight in the dog.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

Editor and Publisher ELAINE SILBERBERG

AMY KOSNIKOWSKI ANNE SADOVSKY LISA TROSIEN JIM SEMICK LYNN DOVER, ESQ. NATALIE A. GAHRMANN SYLVIA HEPLER TED KIMBALL, ESQ. TONI BLAKE

Photography LAWRENCE BRILLON

Graphic Design ELAINE SILBERBERG

Proof Reader HEIDY RIVAS

Published by Clever Publishing Company P. O. Box #1234, Tustin CA 92781 Ph: 949-275-1453  Fax: 877-381-0751

For Advertising Call 949-275-1453 or Email us at

info@pmmag-socal.com Copyright 2010

Property Manager Magazine is published by Clever Publishing Co. All rights are reserved. Reproduction of this publication in whole or in part without express written consent is prohibited. Opinions expressed in articles or advertisements do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Publisher or Staff. Every effort has been made to ensure that all information presented in this issue is accurate and neither Property Manager Magazine nor Clever Publishing Co. is responsible for omissions or information that has been misrepresented to the magazine.

After 2 years in San Diego, we have expanded our distribution to Orange and Riverside County, plus the City of Long Beach. For those of you receiving this magazine for the first time, we welcome you as a reader and encourage you to send us emails with your comments and ideas. We started Apartment Manager San Diego Magazine to inspire, inform, and educate Property Manager Professionals. Our Southern California version, PM Magazine, includes the same editorial content - relevant to our day-to-day activities. On every issue of PM Magazine we’ll feature a Property Manager on the cover. This is a great opportunity available for you to showcase your accomplishments and share your experiences. On this issue we are featuring Maedee Viana, Manager of Villa Arms Apartments, located in Anaheim. Maedee’s story is truly inspiring and she challenges us to live a more balanced lifestyle, to exercise and eat right. The theme on our first issue was Enthusiasm. It was with great enthusiasm that we started this magazine, and we are still influenced by it. At times, when nothing seemed right and we asked ourselves “why we are doing this?” The answer was always the same – because it’s our passion! Issue after issue, we talked about thriving, daring to dream, reaching for

the skies. Consequently, we couldn’t just quit! So, instead, we expanded! I once read a quote that says it all: “Some of the world’s greatest feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they were impossible.” Thus, we thrive!

Elaine Silberberg, Editor editor@pmmag-socal.com

PM PROPERTY MANAGER

This Issue’s Contributors

Southern California Property Manager Magazine (former Apartment Manager San Diego Magazine)

pmmag-socal.com

Information | Resources | Training Issue 7 | Aug-Sep2010

ONLINE PAYMENTS Rent Week Pain-Free IMPROVE Your Leasing Performance HOARDING Residents

MAEDEE VIANA Villa Arms Apartments

A Balanced Life!

on the cover... Our cover for this issue is Maedee Viana, Apartment Manager for Villa Arms Apartments in Anaheim. The image of Maedee was taken at the Santa Ana Mother’s Market.


ISSUE 7 - Aug-Sep 2010

CONTENTS

17

cover story 12

Manager Spotlight Maedee Viana, Property Manager of Villa Arms Apartments

departments 6

22

Leasing Five Actions to Improve Your Leasing Performance Today by Amy Kosnikowski

8

Technology Rent Week Pain Relief: What’s the Best Online Payment Solution? by Jim Semick

10

Legal Updates Money Judgement Advantages by Ted Kimball, Esq.

15

Resident Relations How to Raise Rents and Keep Your Renters by Anne Sadovsky

17

Team Building 10 Model Employee Motivators by Sylvia Hepler

19

Apartment Safety Hoarding Residents by Lynn Dover, Esq.

20

Resident Retention Clean, Clear Communication Keeps Residents Coming Back by Lisa Trosien

22

We Are Looking For Apartment Managers That Would Like To Be Featured On Future Issues of PM Magazine. If You Are Interested Contact Us By Email @ info@pmmag-socal.com

Community Outreach Affordable Housing Week 2010 City of Long Beach pmmag- s o c a l . c o m

5




leasing

Five Actions Items to Improve Leasing Performance Today by Amy Kosnikowski

One: Get Organized Arrange current prospective residents starting from most likely to lease to those with an uncertain status. Contact the “most likely to lease” leads through an alternative

you recently worked with a customer who is

may include current residents, colleges, pre-

extremely time-starved and desires multiple

vious residents, real estate agents, locators,

conveniences for an easy and simple life-

local businesses and relocation companies.

style. Being a stellar leasing professional,

To increase referrals consider why each

you’ve already dutifully followed up via the

referral source should and would refer to

telephone and a customized hand written

your community to assure a strong message

method from the original follow up format in

note card immediately after their visit. Next,

from the leasing team. After developing a

order to generate a fresh customized mes-

consider sending an update via email on

list, each associate can take ownership to

sage. Be creative! Remember to highlight

available apartment homes that would best

connect with certain groups in the network.

what the specific customer values and what

fit their needs, along with a valuable listing

Once contacted, devise a plan and strategy

they find important. For example, let’s say

of services offered at your community.

to increase and maintain referral flow. These

You may even want to include

relationships take time to develop and en-

website links and information

ergy to sustain the referral leads. Make it

from local area businesses that

a permanent part of your sales process. It is

would provide beneficial servic-

time well spent!

es. Another way to convert leads

Three: Team Coaching

into leases is to discuss weekly as a team each member’s top prospective residents. Each associate can share a customer challenge or a client that is difficult to advance toward a reservation. The team may have insight or may be able to initiate an effective breakthrough by connecting with the client in an innovative man-

Shadow each team member and offer coaching tips on sales techniques. Each week, zero in on a certain skill such as excelling in listening, asking better qualifying questions or closing in a strong and confident manner. Review as a group the progress that was made by each associate and what was learned. This exercise will allow each associate to improve and learn from other mem-

ner.

bers on the team.

Two: Build a Core Referral Network

Four: Differential Factor Have a team session to determine the

It is proven that referrals are a

qualities that sets your community apart

leading source to gain qualified

from the rest of the competition. Get creative

residents. Brainstorm as a team a

thinking of who is your customer and what

list of the most likely candidates

are they looking for? What are common in-

to refer future residents. The list

terests and concerns?




leasing

Why do residents choose your community? What is your niche or what is your community known for in the market? You may be surprised

preferred method of contact. You will know you have mastered your telephone skills when every client arrives on time and leases! PM

at the results! Keep these newly found unique selling points as the center of all marketing efforts in print and online advertising, on telephone calls and customer presentations. Devise an action plan to take your

About the Author

community’s unique position in the market to the next level.

Amy Kosnikowski is a proven leader in

Five: Master the Telephone

sales, leasing, management and marketing real estate asset bringing over 18

Have you mastered the “critical steps” of a phone call? Begin with

years of passion and experience in the

a warm and sincere greeting, gain the caller’s name and ask numer-

real estate industry. Based out of Char-

ous questions to not only qualify and establish needs, but to get to

lotte, North Carolina, Amy serves as the

know your caller. The key to asking great questions is to be a good listener. Listening allows you determine the best home for the potential resident. Once all the needs are uncovered and the correct home is verified, start creating excitement and urgency for that specific apartment home. Did you know that a quality call typically lasts 10 minutes and typically results in a setting an appointment for a tour? To ensure that your appointment will be successful − confirm with the customer the date and time of their appointment 24 hours in advance through the client’s

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 technology

Rent Week Pain Relief What’s the Best Online Payment Solution?  by Jim Semick 

I

t’s rent week again, and all hands are on deck. If you’re like many other property management firms, you have an unwritten rule: no vacation during rent week. You realize that rent checks cost your property management company time and money with unnecessary handling, data entry, errors, staff frustration and other inefficiencies. Surely there has to be a better way. Even if you have invested in check scanning, implementing the right online payment solution can streamline your operation, improve your cash flow, increase resident satisfaction, and most importantly, minimize your staff’s pain during rent week. Most online rent payments are made using electronic transfers from a bank account (ACH). Credit cards are a less popular choice for rent payments. You can find these online rent payment options from several vendors: • Online rent payment companies. You can partner with a

8

Property Manager Magazine So-Cal | Aug-Sep 2010

solution that specializes in property management payment processing. With these solutions it’s important that you be able to integrate the online payment data with your accounting solution. • Property management software provider. Your current or future property management software vendor may offer online payment capability. The benefit of using this service is that it is often tightly integrated with your accounting system. • Your bank. You can work with your bank to send and receive electronic checks and credit cards. This is often the most cost-effective solution, but the most time-consuming for you to implement. Here are a few essential questions to ask when evaluating any solution: • How much does it really cost? Evaluate the total cost for setup fees, monthly fees, and pertransaction/convenience fees. Even if you expect your residents to pay the convenience fee, keep in mind that the higher the fee, the lower your adoption rate. • Does it integrate with your accounting? Look for a solution that seamlessly integrates with your AR system. Many systems can generate an export file you manually import into your AR system, but this adds another step and delays reporting. • Does it provide real-time access? Does your resident get real-time access to their upcoming charges and payment


 technology history? If you need to manually upload charges and payments to the system, the information is outdated almost immediately. • How easy is it to use? Don’t overlook this one. A solution that is unintuitive or packed with bells and whistles may actually decrease adoption by residents. How easy is it for your back office staff to use the reports, NSF notifications and data without training?

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• What is the settlement time? After your resident pays, how soon are the funds deposited and available in your operating account? The most common settlement timeframes are 24-72 hours depending on pricing.

Keeping Your Residents Pest-Free

• Are there a variety of payment options? Make sure residents have the option of one-time or automatic recurring electronic funds transfers (ACH). If you give residents the option of paying by credit card, keep in mind that credit card fees can be as much as $10-30 per rent payment, so you may want to find a solution that allows you to pass these fees on to the resident. • How flexible is the solution? Will the solution match your monthly processes? Ask whether you can select which operating bank account(s) the payments should be credited to, whether the system can be incorporated into your Website, and how much marketing support the company provides to increase adoption by your residents. In the end, the choice you make depends on how quickly you want to get up and running, ease of use, how seamlessly it integrates into your accounting system, and how much you want to pay. Choose the right solution, and who knows, you might be able to take a vacation day during the next rent week. PM

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 legal updates

Money Judgment Advantages by Ted Kimball, Esq.

UNLESS your unlawful detainer case went to trial, you have the option of obtaining a monetary judgment after your tenant vacated the property. There are several compelling reasons to continue the action to obtain a money judgment. 1. A money judgment can be collected even from an uncooperative former tenant. Without a judgment, an unpaid balance can be collected from a former tenant only using the collector’s power of persuasion and threats of reporting unpaid debt to credit reporting agencies. However, if the landlord has a money judgment, the former tenant’s cooperation is no longer necessary; with a money judgment, an arsenal of involuntary collection tools becomes available. These involuntary collection tools include wage garnishments, bank account levies, vehicle seizures, seizure of other non-exempt personal property, till taps and keepers, and judgment debtor examinations. 2. A money judgment extends the time period for collection. The statute of limitations for breach of a written lease is four years. Therefore, if a landlord does not obtain a money judgment, the land10

lord must cease collection efforts after four years. A money judgment extends the time period for collection to 10 years or more; a money judgment is effective for 10 years and can be renewed for additional 10 year periods. It is not uncommon for a person’s financial situation to change significantly in a 10 year period. Many landlords who have obtained money judgments have been pleasantly surprised when they are paid years after a tenant’s breach of a lease, when the tenant is required to pay off a money judgment in order to qualify for credit to purchase a home or car. 3. Interest accrues on a money judgment. Simple interest, at a rate of 10%, will accrue on the judgment amount. This 10% interest rate is a better return than a landlord can earn from many other investments. The landlord’s right to collect 10% interest on the judgment amount may encourage the former resident to pay the judgment to avoid responsibility for interest in addition to the principal amount due. The ability to assess interest at a rate of 10% also gives a landlord collection leverage. A landlord can reduce or waive interest — and avoid discounting the principal balance — as a tool to

Property Manager Magazine So-Cal | Aug-Sep 2010

encourage voluntary payment. 4. A final money judgment prevents a tenant from disputing the amount owed. Once a money judgment is final, (after the time period to appeal has expired), a former tenant cannot successfully challenge the judgment’s validity or the amount due. A money judgment definitively establishes the amount of the debt. 5. A money judgment decreases a former tenant’s credit score, which may motivate the tenant to pay amounts due. Credit reports include judgment information, and a former tenant’s credit rating will be affected by a money judgment. A former tenant may not qualify for credit (including future housing) if a money judgment is decreasing the former tenant’s credit score. This may motivate a former tenant to satisfy the money judgment to avoid being denied credit (or charged a higher interest rate because of a lower credit score). 6. A judgment avoids potential landlord liability for the tenant’s court costs and/or attorney’s fees. If a landlord dismisses before entry of judgment, even if the dismissal is the result of the tenant vacating, a tenant may claim to be the prevailing party, and attempt to collect


 legal updates attorney’s fees and costs from the landlord. A money judgment ensures that the landlord will be found to be the prevailing party, and eliminates the possibility that the landlord could be held responsible for the tenant’s attorney’s fees and/or costs. 7. A money judgment will ensure that the tenant will be financially responsible for the landlord’s court costs and attorney’s fees. An unlawful detainer money judgment will be comprised of rent owed up to the time of possession is returned to the landlord for uncontested cases, (up to the date of trial for contested cases), and court costs. Typical court costs awarded in California can include the following: $220.00 Filing Fee $ 45.00 Process Service Fee (per defendant) $ 25.00 Writ Fee $125.00 Sheriff Fee $415.00 Total An unlawful detainer money judgment will also include attorney’s fees if the lease or rental agreement has an attorney’s fee provision. Attorney’s fees are generally determined under a court schedule, based on the amount of the judgment for rent. For instance, if the amount of rent owed is $1,100, a typical attorney’s fee award would be $300. If the rent owed is $2,200,

a typical attorney’s fees award would be $450. The attorney’s fee schedule may vary between courts. A money judgment can help ensure the landlord’s recovery of attorney’s fees and costs from the former tenant. Money judgment advantages. As explained above, there are a number of very good reasons for landlords to pursue money judgments. The cost to obtain a money judgment is very reasonable, and many landlords and property managers have found that obtaining money judgments in all of the unlawful detainer matters is a wise investment that helps them maximize their collections and improve their bottom line. PM About the Author:

Ted Kimball is the founder of Kimball, Tirey & St. John, opening its doors in 1977. He continues to participate actively in the firm’s dynamic growth while remaining an expert in landlord-tenant legal issues in California. Kimball, Tirey & St. John LLP is a full service real estate law firm representing residential and commercial property owners & managers. This article is for general information purposes only. Before acting, be sure to receive legal advice from our office. If you have questions, please contact KTS at (800) 338-6039 or www.kts-law.com.


 cover story

Manager Spotlight M AEDEE V IANA

Community Manager for Villa Arms Apartments

M

aedee, a Brazilian native, arrived in California in 1989 along with her husband Kent and two children: Carol and Rafael who are now 27 and 28. Maedee holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and is sincerely passionate about helping people. As a person whose life revolves around God, family, and friends, Maedee views life as an opportunity to reach out to others. Her sincere passion towards other people makes them feel loved and accepted. Early on, Maedee got involved in Property Management as an Assistant Manager for a Condominium Association. From there, she was launched into a new career path and soon took on more responsibilities. For the last 15 years she has been the Apartment Manager for Villa Arms Apartments, part of California Income Properties’ portfolio. Maedee keeps herself updated with new laws and market changes through seminars and articles. Nevertheless, she realizes that it takes more than training to be a good manager: it takes patience. After all, dealing with people and running a property on a tight budget is very challenging.

12

Property Manager Magazine So-Cal | Aug-Sep 2010

When it comes to resident relations, Maedee believes that listening to residents’ needs and providing excellent customer service are key factors to building trust. For instance, when maintenance issues arise, i.e. broken pipes and no hot water, residents are more willing to accept that you are doing everything possible to resolve the issue because of their trust in you. Maedee also applies her Christian beliefs as a good steward of her property’s finances. She selects vendors carefully, gets bids, and personally validates the quality and completion of all work prior to release invoices for payment. The fast life of Orange County can sometimes be a source of stress. Maedee embraces fitness and a healthy diet in order to keep a stress-free, physically fit lifestyle. She lost 50 lbs in the last year and rediscovered her passion: healthy cooking. Maedde takes food very seriously. She grows herbs on her small backyard and shops for the freshest fruits and vegetables on places like the Mother’s Market. She is always seeking recipes and tips from magazines like Healthy Cooking.


 cover story

Another of Maedee’s passion is definitely fitness. Besides the fact that her routine includes waking up at 4am to take on a Pilates’ class, Maedee has recently became a Certified Aerobics and Turbo Kickboxing instructor. But Maedee Knows that taking good care of her body is only one side of the coin. “In order to live a fulfilled life we must find balance in the three areas in which we were created – mind, body and spirit,” says Maedee. She is always seeking opportunities to give back to her community. During Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Maedee paid her own ticket to New Orleans and went as a volunteer to help on the aftermath of the disaster. Her team touched the lives of many Louisiana residents: giving hope and words of encouragement, as well as supplying their practical needs. As a Certified Chaplain, Maedee reaches out for the needs of her neighborhood, visiting them in hospitals or just cooking a meal and taking to those she knows are sick or distressed.

On Her own words “Sometimes our busy life style causes us to neglect some areas of our lives. We all know that we should be doing more, but we can’t find the time. By taking small steps towards your goal and committing to a healthier lifestyle will bring the chemical balance and stamina to carry you on throughout the day. But to find peace in challenging times will only come as a result of an intimate relationship with God.” PM

“Exercising is a great way to eliminate stress. It can be fun too.” (top) “Reading, meditating or just relaxing by an outdoor water fountain  find time for yourself.” (Bottom)


Y

 resident relations

How to Raise Rents

and Keep Your Renters

our occupancy reaches 95% and the whole staff celebrates! At last your team can take a deep breath and relax. Months of effort, long hours included, have paid off. That's when your supervisor drives up and enters your office with that dollar sign gleam in his or her eye! So much for that little break. Now you get to deal with hostile residents, move outs, more paper work, and then start leasing the vacancies caused by the rent increase! For the property management professional, little is more exciting than a market which allows rent increases. Unfortunately, those rent increases also give us some of our most challenging and frustrating experiences with our residents. Is there a better way to present the "bitter pill"? Can we not only diffuse the majority of hostility, but also decrease the number of move outs due to rent increases? The answer is an unqualified "YES". First, let's examine your attitude toward, and understanding of the necessity of, rent increases. In most cases, ours is not a high profit business, therefore soft markets, resulting in 15-30% vacancy factors, create a significant financial hardship on apartment communities and their ownership. Because our business is cyclical, those soft markets usually show up every 5-7 years. Therefore a strong market offers the opportunity to recoup losses, add amenities, take care of neglected repairs, and to upgrade the property over all. How? By increasing rents while the property is in high demand! Or, as my grandfather taught us early on, "You gotta make hay while the sun shines." Most of us sell better what we're sold on, so Step One is to get clear on, and excited about the importance of increasing rents when the market allows the opportunity. Next, make sure your entire team understands and is positive about the increase.The service technician spends time working on apartments and listening to the inevitable complaints.

 by Anne Sadovsky

His or her response to the resident is critical. Recently, a manager shared this story: The resident stated, "I can't believe you guys are raising my rent again." The service technician replied, "I can't believe it either. We're gonna keep gouging you people until everyone moves out." Step Two: meet with your entire team and review the information in this article with them. Ask them to cooperate and not to make negative remarks. Briefly review why it is important to retain existing residents, besides the obvious bottom line. Fewer move outs mean less damage to the property, less paper work, less time spent on turns and less complaining from your boss. Fewer move outs mean more income, more time for preventive maintenance, and happier owners.

Test the market Do your homework before increasing rents. Update your market study, then have the properties on the study shopped to verify rental amounts. If you have any doubt about the increase on a particular floor plan, try the new rental amount from the leasing desk. If the new traffic is receptive there's a better chance that existing residents will be. Plus, you'll feel confident that you can lease at the higher amount, any vacancies caused by the increased rent.

RENT INCREASE NOTICE

Be able to justify the increase Prepare a chart of expenses by going back a few years for proof that costs have gone up. Prepare the chart, mark the increases in red, and use the chart in educating your team. Then enclose a chart with every increase letter. I truly believe that 80% of apartment residents are mature and intelligent and can be reasoned with. Helping them understand that the concept of the ‘end user,’ the consumer, must bear increased costs, is the only way a company can stay in business.


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in the 1970's, it's way past time for an update. Rep: 116340 - nm2642 Your letter should be friendly, yet business like, for the format required MALCOLM CUTRI NATALIE by your state law and/or company policy. Obviously, the resident will have to be advised in writing of the amount of increase and when it becomes effective. Yet it can certainly be softened with some thoughtful words.

The Power of Words The first sentence on your letter should let the resident know that they are important. On the second paragraph use the word 'renew' versus the usual expire.Why have we always used the negative instead of the positive? In the third paragraph, use ‘increase the rent', not your rent. They take it personally enough without our adding to it. The third paragraph should also point out that the increase allows us to maintain great service and refers to the chart and flyer attached. Paragraph four should reinforce the fact that we want them to stay. There is a lot of magic in saying it the right way.

Convince them that it costs a lot more to move This is not a new concept. We've been designing flyers like this for years. Yet it has become more effective with age. It too should be part of the rent increase correspondence.

16

Property Manager Magazine So-Cal | Aug-Sep 2010

Why don't we reward them for keeping us from painting and papering every six months? What if we had a deposit refund system of 1/3 a year for the next 3 years? Only the ones with tenure will be rewarded! What if we gave a 'renewal bonus' which is non cash, non rent, non refundable? Each property would choose viable 'bonus' items and the amount allowed. It appears to be a bonus, yet you are probably doing little more than you typically do for a renewal. But it is a whole lot less than a move out and psychologically the resident feels they were 'rewarded' for renewing. Plus, they saved the cost of moving. Work up a chart showing that the monthly increase times 6 or 12 months adds up to a total of $____. Example $15 increase for 6 months is only $90 dollars. The $200 bonus is more than double. Plus they could spend $1000 or more moving. If you are making improvements to the property be sure to point those out as an increased value.

Be prepared with an intelligent response to their complaint When the resident comes in angry, they say things like, "I can't believe you're doing this to me. You should be rewarding, not punishing me." NEVER say "I didn't do it. It came from the main office!" That really makes you look like a clerk rather than one of the decision makers. Carefully review this article and be ready with an answer. Something like this  "Miss Jones, I understand that you are upset. May I review with you the information we sent you?" After going over the letter and charts, try an analogy. "Let's say that the citrus fruit crop froze this year, greatly limiting the supply. Your grocery store would have to pay more for oranges. Do you think they would simply absorb the loss, charging their customers what oranges were when they were plentiful? No, the consumer would have to pay the increased price or the grocer couldn't stay in business. The same rule applies to your clothing and your automobile. When costs to manufacture go up, we the consumer, must bear the increase." You'll be amazed how many will calm down and see the point. Be sure to be kind, understanding and prepared, yet not rehearsed. Our industry has always focused more on physical occupancy than economic occupancy, on leasing versus resident retention. Finally we see how expensive it is not to be retention oriented. Statistics indicate that it costs five times more to gain a new customer than to keep the one you have.Think of the satisfaction (and the praise) you and your team will experience when you raise rents and stay fully occupied. PM

Anne Sadovsky, CSP, CAM, CAPS, RAM, has been in this industry since 1968. Based in Dallas, Texas, she was named one of the top trainers in the industry by Multi Housing News. To contact Anne by phone: 866 905-9300 or e-mail: anne@annesadovsky.com or visit her website at www.annesadovsky.com. About the Author:


 team building

10

Model Employee Motivators

 By Sylvia Hepler

W

ant your employees

allows them to feel they are making a contri-

tal health, and consciously designing a culture

to do their best work

bution to the bigger picture. Trust this to be

that supports people as they do their jobs.

consistently? Need them

true. Interact with employees as if you know

to produce products or services born

it is true. Avoid projecting an attitude that

from creative thinking? Desire them to

conveys doubt about people’s intentions.

feel fulfilled in the process? Most likely, you’ve answered an emphatic “yes” to these questions. But how do you make this happen?

ployee problems begin with mis-hiring.When you fail to get the right person in the posi-

ASSIGN employees meaningful work.

tion that’s right for her, you start off on the

Then help them to see how what they do

wrong foot. No matter how you try to make

fits into what everybody else is doing. Peo-

it work out for the best, it won’t and it can’t.

ple need to understand those connections.

This is definitely a lose-lose.

Are you a manager who’s succeeding

When staff don’t grasp those important con-

with staff, or are you someone who’s

nections, they lose interest in their particular

chronically struggling? If you’re fighting

piece, and they certainly don’t care about the

what appears to be an uphill battle, try

company’s mission.

implementing the following strategies:

HIRE the right people. Frequently, em-

PAY fair wages. People expect fair compensation for the work they do. They seek a reasonable standard of living for themselves and their families. If they sense they are be-

CREATE a healthy work environment.

ing cheated or undervalued, they will either

ADOPT the attitude that most employ-

This refers to ensuring employee safety, pro-

leave the company or cause problems for

ees want to engage in meaningful work that

moting sound physical, emotional, and men-

you. Why go there? pmmag-so c a l . c o m

17


 team building WRITE, COMMUNICATE and IMPLEMENT viable, reasonable

REWARD outstanding use of talent. Employees who do something

processes for accomplishing the work.The most successful processes

extraordinarily creative and/or beneficial need to be recognized. Set

are those that are written clearly, are transparent to staff, are rooted

them apart from the group temporarily and let them shine. Give them

in reality, and are facilitators of employee cooperation.

a bonus, a gift, time off, something you know they’d appreciate. By do-

BUILD high-functioning teams. Show people how to be a team.

ing so you gain everything and lose nothing. PM

Don’t assume they automatically know how to do this. Set an example with your own executive team. Employees watch what’s going on at the top and mirror it. PRAISE good work and desired behavior. Be lavish with praise, and you will reap abundant fruit. Don’t fall prey to the belief that congratulating people spoils them. Withholding praise that is deserved demonstrates cruelty and/or indifference to your staff. Is that what you really want to convey to the people who make your organization great? INCREASE individual and team responsibility when employees show you they are ready for it. People find this to be a huge inspiration in many cases. Giving employees more responsibility means you trust them, believe in them, and desire to bring them to the next level

About The Author Sylvia Hepler, President of Launching Lives, is an executive coach based in South Central, PA. Her mission is to support executives and business owners as they solve problems, develop leadership skills, and increase balance in their lives. Sylvia’s background includes: nonprofit executive management, public speaking, business and freelance writing, teaching, and retail sales. Visit Sylvia online at www.launchinglives.biz. Or contact her by phone: 717-761-5457.

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

apartment safety

Hoarding Residents  By Lynn Dover, Esq.

R

esident hoarding can cause significant health and safety problems, both in the hoarder’s unit and in neighboring units. Hoarding can create pest infestations, mold problems, increased fire risk, interfere with entrance or exit of the unit, or exceed maximum load bearing floor capacity. Hoarding is rarely self-reported by the hoarder. Instead, it is often discovered by maintenance staff making a repair in the hoarder’s unit, or in a neighboring unit. Hoarding can create a problem for surrounding units, such as water intrusion, mold, or a pest invasion in a neighboring unit. Hoarding is not just a matter of poor housekeeping. Hoarding is believed to be a form of anxiety disorder and/or obsessive/compulsive disorder (OCD). Depression can also be a component. Hoarding is loosely defined as:  The acquisition of a large number of possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value;  Living spaces cluttered so they can no longer be used for their intended purpose; and  Causing significant distress or functional impairment. Hoarded items may be valuable collectibles, or trash, or anything in between. Units can be literally packed, floor to ceiling and wall-to-wall, with just a small path for movement in the unit. Because hoarding is caused by one or more psychological disorders, compulsive hoarders are generally considered disabled. Federal and state fair housing laws protect people with mental disabilities. Fair housing advocates contend that before eviction of a mentally disabled resident whose disability is

causing the person to violate the terms of the lease/rules, good faith efforts must be made to accommodate the resident’s disability.This generally requires that the resident be given an opportunity to come into compliance so that he or she can remain a tenant. Examples of potential accommodations include:  Setting scheduled unit re-inspections and establishing goals that the resident must meet.  Providing the resident with a list of community resources that can assist the hoarder.  Working with a fair housing and/or mental health advocacy group assisting the resident to develop a plan to bring the unit into compliance. When dealing with a hoarding situation, the focus should be only on solving legitimate health and safety issues rather than attempting to achieve ideal housekeeping habits. It should be recognized that even if the hoarder meets minimum health and safety standards, the unit may not be in an “optimal condition.” Hoarders may not recognize the severity of the problem or be equipped to resolve

the hoarding problem on their own. Some hoarders believe their hoarding is beneficial because they are savers, not wasters. Others deny that any problem exists. As a result, it may be helpful to involve a neutral third party such as a fire department, code enforcement or health inspector who can inspect the unit and identify code or other health and safety violations. Accommodation may not be required, and termination of the tenancy may be possible, if:  The person is a clear, direct and immediate threat to the health and safety of other community residents;  There are serious health and safety issues that cannot be mitigated through accommodation;  The resident has caused serious monetary damage to the unit and will not reimburse the landlord for the cost to repair the unit; or  The hoarder will not engage in the accommodation process or cooperate to bring the unit back into compliance. Even if health and safety issues are initially resolved, a hoarding resident may “slip” and re-hoard again the future. Therefore a written “Accommodation Agreement” should be considered, providing periodic unit inspections and a specified time period for correction of future health and safety issues. No two situations are alike. Each hoarding situation requires analysis based on the facts of the particular case. It is advisable to seek legal advice before taking any action to terminate a tenancy if compulsive hoarding may be involved. PM (Courtesy of Kimball,Tirey & St.John LLP) pmmag-so c a l . c o m

19


 resident retention

Clean, Clear Communication Keeps Residents Coming Back

 by Lisa Trosien

When was the last time serious consideration was given to the way you communicate with your residents? Today, everything that is seen or touched by the customer sends

a marketing message; and letters, e-mails, forms, newsletters, flyers and signage are not exceptions.

Form Letters

Form letters, unless it’s a case of extreme urgency to get a no-

tice out, never should be used. With today’s software packages,

it is simple to send personalized notices to each and every resident. Photocopies that are so over-copied that the printed mes-

sage literally appears slanted off the page send a strong message to residents: “You’re not important now and you really never were.

20

So we don’t even take the time to send you an original letter.” And Property Manager Magazine So-Cal | Aug-Sep 2010

worse yet (if there is anything worse than that) are the ones that

have the “fill in the blank” after the word “dear” in the greeting on the letter.

E-mail

All e-mails should include a salutation at the top of the page,

such as “Dear Mr. Smith” and a signature line at the bottom. A cor-

rect signature line should be no more than six lines and should include: your name, your title, your property or company, your phone number, your property Web site, your property tag line (if you have one). No overly fancy fonts or unprofessional colors

should be used. Times New Roman or Arial are effective fonts. If you are not sure about what color to choose, black is always a good

choice. Do not add any personal information to the tagline; this is your professional e-mail address and should be treated as such.




resident retention

Surveys Survey and information forms should be crisp, clear and easy to read. The rule about using over-copied materials applies here as well. If forms that are intended for residents to complete are not self-explanatory, include a set of instructions.

Newsletters

Newsletters are another area where properties can either excel or fail miserably. While in-house newsletters designed by onsite staff are wonderful if done well, it is readily apparent to the reader when no time or effort has gone into the production of the newsletter. Quick, thrown-together newsletters appear to be just that—and tell residents that “management doesn’t care about them”. Newsletter services guarantee that the job is done well and done on time. Check into the possibility of producing an emailed, virtual newsletter. This will save on delivery time. Offering residents an option for their newsletter indicates that you are sensitive to their needs, as well as being environment-friendly. Content should be interesting. Welcoming new residents, thanking current residents for their renewals, local community information and more should be in a good community newsletter. Not sure what content would be of interest? Ask residents what they would like to see.

tio extra nice or congratulating them on some recent success are always great reasons for sending personalized notes. It also is worth dropping one to a resident whom you haven’t seen in awhile, just asking them how they are doing. Positive mail is always appreciated, no matter whom it is from. Remember that everything you do in your job as an onsite professional touches the resident. Keeping that in mind with your communications is essential in maintaining your occupancy and your reputation as a great place to live. PM

About the Author

Lisa Trosien began her multifamily career 20+ years ago as a part time Leasing Professional. Lisa is a curriculum development content specialist and has contributed to the National Apartment Leasing Professional Program, the Certified Apartment Property Supervisor Program, the Certified Apartment Manager Program, as well as the Certified Apartment Maintenance Technician Program. With a client list that spans three countries, Lisa educates thousands of industry professionals each year. She may be reached at Lisa@ApartmentExpert.com or by phone at 630-898-8898. Visit Lisa’s website at www.apartmentexpert.com.

Flyers

Whether or not the flyers produced by the office are to promote resident activities or to inform residents of an inconvenience (such as parking lot resurfacing, utility shut off, etc.) there is no excuse for sloppy, handwritten signage. Desktop publishing software makes placing the community logo on the flyer easy, which makes the flyer appear more professional and official. Performing a spell-check is essential. If it is not available in the software package, check accuracy by using a dictionary before posting the notice. If desktop publishing capability is not available or affordable, ask the team member who has the most legible and neat handwriting design the notes. Lastly, do not sign your notices or flyers with “The Management.” Use positive phrasing, such as “Your team at XYZ Apartments.”

Signage

Signage and banners also send strong messages to residents, as well as prospects. Peeling paint, burned out bulbs and dead, overgrown landscaping appearing near a sign all indicate bad maintenance, bad service and bad attitude. Just as hallways and apartment homes need continuous maintenance and touch up, so does signage.

Hand-written Notes

Lastly, does communicating with residents only take place when there is something bad to say? Personalized, hand-written notes are always a welcome sight in a resident’s mailbox. Thanking residents for their renewal, for keeping their balcony or pa-

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 community outreach

L

A ffordable H ousing W eek 2010 s n o i t c e n n o C g n i k a M g n i s u o H h c a e B g n o

A

s part of the efforts to bring the housing crisis to the forefront, the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO), the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and many other national organizations launched Housing America 2007, a national campaign designed to raise public awareness focusing on the need to preserve, promote and develop affordable housing. For the past three years, the City of Long Beach has participated in the campaign by proclaiming Affordable Housing Week in the month of July. Affordable Housing Week 2010 was held on July 12 through July 17. The week-long celebration held activities to educate and motivate the entire community around affordable housing issues. It included:  Affordable Housing Bus Tour showcasing projects under construction and in predevelopment;  Homeownership Workshop presented

by Operation Hope providing information on becoming a first-time homebuyer;  Owner Information Expo sponsored by the Housing Authority in which property owners received information on HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program;  NSP2 Informational Seminar on Homebuyer Assistance Program which provides silent second mortgage loans to assist qualified first-time homebuyers in purchasing foreclosed homes in selected neighborhoods;  NSP1 Open Houses showcasing previously foreclosed homes that have been purchased and rehabilitated under the NSP1 program;  Workshop on the homeownership opportunities and financing options for Coronado in Long Beach – a new residential community in Central Long Beach. Affordable Housing Week concluded with an Affordable Housing “Making Connections” Fair, held on July 17 at Northpointe Apartment Homes. The event featured the American Red Cross Blood Drive and Disaster Preparedness Fair designed to educate residents and bring resources into affordable housing de-

velopments. Through mini presentations and an interactive exhibit area, residents received information on disaster preparedness, healthy living, career development, financial education, crime prevention and more.

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Property Manager magazine Southern California, Summer issue.

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