When Owners of Assistance Animals Break the Rules

Rental Housing Journal had a recent article with some tips on how you can manage assistance animals on your property:

What can you do if owners of assistance animals break the rules?

You can take action when residents with assistance animals violate community rules. However, proceed carefully and consult your legal counsel.

 Give the resident opportunities to remedy the situation before taking steps to remove the animal.

Send written warnings recognizing that the animal is an assistance animal, and reminding the resident that they must follow reasonable rules of conduct.

 If the situation continues, let the resident know that if the problem persists the animal may have to be removed and alternative accommodations will be explored.

 Document disturbances or damage in writing and with photographs if possible. Phone or in-person conversations will not be as useful as written documentation if you find yourself in legal proceedings.

Tips for Conducting a Price Review

Multifamily Insider has a nice “how-to” for conducting pricing reviews with your team. From the article:

Weekly or bi-weekly pricing review calls are a great forum to learn more information on why a property is or isn’t leasing. But sometimes when helping teams the answer isn’t as simple as just “the price”. You may be surprised what may arise as part of these regular communications. Here are three lessons learned from leading these pricing review calls: 

1. Managing the Fear is Very Important:

One of the main reasons for having a pricing call is to help the operations team understand your revenue management system’s pricing recommendations. Additionally, these calls assist in soliciting important feedback from the sites. …

2. Over-Amenitizing

Amenities are often initially established with a piecemeal approach. On the pricing calls, we look at pricing holistically. While all of those amenities may have made sense when determining the values one by one, stacking them together may out-price most of your demand…

3. Listen for Subtle Cues

Let’s add psychologist to the list of revenue manager qualities, because the phrase, “tell me more about that”, should be a common request as one sleuths out the implications of seemingly innocuous comments heard on pricing calls.


When the “Internet of Things” Impacts the Apartment Industry

An interesting article on Wired.com looks at how the ‘internet of things” could impact landlords in New York City in the immediate future:

To guard the safety and health of tenants, New York and many other cities require landlords to keep inside temperatures above a certain level from October until May. But not all building owners and managers follow the rules. Each year, heating complaints are either the number one or number two most frequent complaint to New York’s government services and information line, 3-1-1, says Tom Hunter, the spokesperson for a volunteer effort called Heat Seek NYC, citing data from the siteNYC OpenData

Tenants can sue landlords over this, but historically, they’ve had to rely on their own hand written records of how cold their apartments get. And these records haven’t always held up in court. Heat Seek NYC hopes solve that problem by building internet-connected heat sensors to monitor the conditions of apartment buildings in order to provide a reliable, objective record that tenants and advocacy groups can use in court…

Heat Seek NYC founders William Jeffries and Tristan Siegel met earlier this year atThe Flatiron School , one of many “code bootcamps” popping up around the country to teach students the basics of programming in a matter of months. As he said in a recent interview, Jeffries thought a web app for recording and reporting apartment temperatures using a programmable sensor device called Twine would make a good class project, and Siegel jumped at the idea…

One of the obvious limitations to such a scheme is the need for internet access. The team overcame this limitation by creating a system that depends on two different devices: cells and hubs. Cells are distributed throughout the building, and report their data back to the hub, which then transmits all of the data to the web. The cells can all connect locally with each other and to the hub, so only one tenant needs to have access to the internet to provide connectivity to the hub. In cases where there’s no one in the building that can provide internet access for the hub, Heat Seek NYC will provide a free WiFi hotspot.

While this story doesn’t have direct relevance to the apartment industry here in the Piedmont Triad region of North Carolina, the technological concepts will very likely become applicable soon. We’ve been hearing about the “internet of things” for several years now, but it’s mostly been theoretical. Stories like this highlight how quickly that can change and it doesn’t have to be radically expensive.

Think about the practical applications that the technology in this story could have if you simply thought of it as a management tool versus an enforcement tool. A property manager could use something like this to monitor temperature swings in their communities, and if they noticed exceptionally high or low temps they could have maintenance check to make sure the thermostat in a unit is working correctly. If it is then they can make a necessary repair and if it isn’t they can work with the occupant to make sure they understand how the thermostat works and how they can save money if they use it differently.

It doesn’t take much imagination to think of other applications that could benefit manager and resident alike, and it’s probably a matter of when, not if, we’ll see these new technologies coming on line.

Greystar Snags Riverstone

This is probably one of the bigger acquisitions we’ll see in the apartment industry:

Bob Faith’s goal is for Greystar Real Estate Partners to become the No. 1 or No. 2 apartment operator in most U.S. markets. Buying the competition is catapulting him toward that dream.

The acquisition of Dallas-based Riverstone Residential’s massive portfolio adds more than 170,000 units to Greystar’s platform, securing its place as the largest national property manager, by far.

The deal closed Monday for an undisclosed amount and was announced Wednesday. Faith says it was a deal that stemmed from long-term relationships and friendly competition.

How Hawthorne Grew

The latest issue of Triad Business Journal has an interview with Hawthorne Residential Partners’ chief investment officer, and PTAA board member, Phil Payonk about how Hawthorne has grown to manage 17,555 units in 76 properties since its founding in 2009. From the interview:

What is the appeal of apartments?

The short-term and long-term fundamentals for apartments look good — there’s some construction coming online, and demographic trends in the U.S. show a tendency to rent for longer as you come out of school. You even see an older generation beginning to downsize and look to renting rather than owning a home…

What is Hawthorne’s core business?

Finding stabilized apartment properties that aren’t performing to their fullest potential. We handle the overall development of a site and the property, but we utilize a general contractor to handle the construction. We’ve partnered with several different builders; we like to utilize the small, local guys to kind of help keep costs down. Now, of our 17,555 units, Hawthorne and its partners have an ownership stake in about 45 percent of those. The balance is owned by a third party but managed by Hawthorne…

The Triad has seen a lot of apartments come online very quickly. Do you think it’s approaching over-built status?

We’re seeing in North Carolina markets in particular that a lot of the supply is being absorbed. As long as we see that at a measured pace, we’re going to hopefully not see too many problems. Even though there’s been a lot of product coming online, it’s been pretty hard to get a loan. The banks have the appetite, but there’s just a lot that has to go into it, from documentation and planning and identifying the site and getting everything together to getting a commitment and a building.

Opportunities to Boost Ancillary Income

CORE’s Emily Goodman emailed me a link to a story in Multifamily Executive about boosting ancillary income and said she thought other PTAA members would be interested. I think she’s right:

Annie McClinton smells a rat, and it might be hiding in your basement.

As vice president of Irvine, Calif.–based Multifamily Ancillary Group, which provides contract negotiation and ancillary income audit services to apartment operators, McClinton sees many operators leaving money on the table in the form of seldom-reviewed third-party service contracts.

“We see telecom and laundry contracts passed on with lousy terms and missed revenue all the time,” McClinton says. “A lot of times, operators negotiate in-house and believe they’re getting the best terms and revenue share, but they’re leaving thousands of dollars on the table.”

In her email Emily mentioned that she had worked with McClinton and had been able to generate revenue in excess of $42,000 by renegotiating cable and laundry contracts for her seven Triad properties. To paraphrase Sen. Dirksen, “$42,000 here, $42,000 there,  pretty soon, you’re talking real money.”

More information available at www.magrev.com.

Don’t Run Your Community Like an Airport

At his blog Seth Godin posted “Eleven things organizations can learn from airports” and a few of them are instructive for apartment community managers:

1. No one is in charge. The airport doesn’t appear to have a CEO, and if it does, you never see her, hear about her or interact with her in any way. When the person at the top doesn’t care, it filters down.

2. Problems persist because organizations defend their turf instead of embrace the problem. The TSA blames the facilities people, who blame someone else, and around and around. Only when the user’s problem is the driver of behavior (as opposed to maintaining power or the status quo) things change.

5. By removing slack, airlines create failure. In order to increase profit, airlines work hard to get the maximum number of flights out of each plane, each day. As a result, there are no spares, no downtime and no resilience. By assuming that their customer base prefers to save money, not anxiety, they create an anxiety-filled system.

7. The ad hoc is forbidden. Imagine an airplane employee bringing in an extension cord and a power strip to deal with the daily occurrence of travelers hunched in the corner around a single outlet. Impossible. There is a bias toward permanent and improved, not quick and effective.

8. Everyone is treated the same. Effective organizations treat different people differently. While there’s some window dressing at the edges (I’m thinking of slightly faster first class lines and slightly more convenient motorized cars for seniors), in general, airports insist that the one size they’ve chosen to offer fit all.

11. No one is having any fun. Most people who work at airports have precisely the same demeanor as people who work at a cemetery. The system has become so industrialized that personal expression is apparently forbidden.

It’s all common sense, but these are all points worth remembering. Show leadership, don’t finger point when there’s a problem (do your residents really care if it was the person who answered the phone or the maintenance tech who forgot to document the complaint?), your prospects/residents don’t only care about price, take initiative to provide unexpected service and treat everyone as an individual and make sure you have some fun.