Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Hey Public Assistance - what happened?

When I first started in Syracuse Property Management, Public Assistance was pretty simple.  I'd fill out a landlord form for the tenant and they take it into the P.A. office downtown.  A worker would call you and verify the information, and they would tell you how much they would be paying each month.  A voucher would come in the mail, which I would fill out and send back to them.  Then the tenant would be on the monthly PA check and statement.

Now you are supposed to give 30 days notice before you can get your money.  But what if you take over a property without 30 days notice and the money goes to the old management company?  This happened to me, and public assistance has informed me that we have to get the money from the old management company, and "they don't get involved".   Public assistance suggested we sue the former management.

On another one of my properties, both myself and the tenant called several times, and each time they said her case was at the top of the list to be processed. They promised  to call back within three days and never did.  When I finally talked to someone with authority to approve the payments, they informed me that they were sending me a voucher, which is the paper you must sign in order to get monthly payments.  But they haven't yet.  The tenant moved out.  Now I get a notice that I'm getting a payment for September through October for that tenant - but no mention of the months that the tenant lived there that they owe me for.

Now only one of my property owners is willing to take it for new tenants.

Friday, August 2, 2013

We paid all of our clients this month.

and all the other months too.

Your success is our success.  Sure, we want to have a lot of money, but we want it to be ours, not yours.

If you are having issues with:

Getting paid
The vacancy that just won't rent
The rehab that wouldn't stop
The tenant you have to evict, who has previous evictions.  (don't they check???)
Taxes or insurance that are not paid (we have a CPA who makes sure this is done)

I wish you would call me so I could tell you how we are different.

Melissa Woycechowsky
Responsible Property Management LLC

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Moving right along...

 Our new web page:
Syracuse Properties for Rent

Our accountant is helping us switch to an online system for listing properties, getting applications, tracking work orders, and of course, accounting.  In the month of August we will be using our old system and the new system, and then it's all new!

Really happy to find an accountant with property management experience - and also a CPA.  Most of the accountants/bookkeepers I interviewed had no idea what it was like to run a management company.  I'm paying a little more than I would for the bookkeepers I interviewed but I think having my finances and owner reports on track is really worth it.

I have also hired someone to help me return calls.  I get a high volume of calls to my ads and it's very hard to keep up.  I work hard all day - I'm writing this at the end of another 14 hour day in fact.  I don't want to have to return calls when I get home.  Now I won't have to.

Monday, July 8, 2013

'Tis the Season - for rentals

If you can't rent it now, later will be harder.

In May I rented 9 properties.   In Syracuse, June is the number one month that people want to move to a new place.  In June, I rented a lucky 13 properties.  That is my monthly record so far.

It's also been a terrible weather month.  It's either 90 degrees, or it's raining, or both.   Very hard to do the lawns this year.

So far I have only rented two properties in July.  But we are getting lots of calls.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

If you never raise your long-term tenant's rent, you should probably leave them something in your will too.

A couple of times recently I have been involved in a situation where an owner of a building has passed away or had to sell it for health reasons.

These buildings had long term tenants in them, who had not had their rent raised in many years.  The rent was very low.

The new owners of the building are viewing the property as an investment and want to get the maximum rents.  That usually means the old tenants leave and the building is rehabbed.  Then it's rented to new tenants at much higher rates.

The old tenants have to look for a new place are are in shock.  You can't get a 3 bedroom apartment for $450 anymore.  It's hard to even find a one bedroom at that price.  So I get to be the one who tells the 65 year old woman with three cats and three bedrooms of stuff that she has to leave her home.  Yes, I do have other apartments but the ones in your price range are not in this area, not this size, and not as nice.  They are usually elderly, and it's hard for them to look for an apartment, come up with the deposit and handle the move.  It's even worse if they have pets.

It might seem kind to keep the rents low.  But by not raising the rents you are actually subsidizing them, and when that stops suddenly and unexpectedly it can have heartbreaking results.

Keep track of what the rents are for similar properties, and raise the rent a little every year or two to keep things current.  Then when they have to move eventually they can afford it.

Or you could leave them an annuity in your will and keep subsidizing them.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Craigslist Rental Scam - Not Just for Tenants, Scamming Landlords too

The other day I wrote about Craigslist rental scams where people in other countries copy text and photos from Craigslist ads and use them to advertise fake rentals, telling people they are a doctor who just moved to Nigeria and they didn't rent their house before leaving.  They will mail you the keys if you just send them $1200 by wire.

It's not just tenants that get scammed though.  Those criminals also target property owners, though it is nowhere near as common.  Look at this email I got in response to one of my rentals:

Philip Velador <velador.philip@yahoo.com>

to me

Thanks for the details on the Property, i am satisfied and will like to proceed with the  renting process, i would like you to go ahead and reserve the property for me. I would also be needing the following information so that the check for payment of the deposit of $1990 can be processed and posted to you soon.

Phone number(cell and land):............

I want the 12 months lease to start on the 1st of November 2011, i  also want to notify you that i have in the mean time arrange with an interior decorator who will be handling the purchase of furniture, entertainment system and other appliances that i will need in the property,they will as well be in-charge of moving down my luggage down to the States.So the check of $7400 will be sent over to you which is a relocation grant by my employer, and all you need to do is deduct the deposit $1990 and you will forward the rest to the Decorators so i can have the place all prepared for my arrival. All applications and lease will be signed on arrival.

Also for familiarization I am  Philip Velador, 55 yrs old, a British citizen, I work with Apex Inc(insurance company), as a loss adjuster agent,I am a Christian, reserved in Nature and i do not keep pets. I look forward to meeting you and hope to have a good relationship as a tenant with you. I await the details.
you can reach me at this number +447045780240

Below  is my present landlords information for reference :
       Matt McGovern 
       19 Godstow Road, London, , SE2 9AT 
You can also call my employer at the number below to verify employment.
        (Richard Shwe  +447573833225) OR Email him at ( rshwe22@yahoo.com )

Thanks a bunch.

So this guy wants me to cash his fake check and then forward most of the money on to someone else.  He's trusting someone else with thousands of dollars in cash.

It takes a while for the bank to go through the process to figure out the check is bad.  By this time, the criminals hope you have already sent them the money.

People have been arrested for forgery for cashing these checks, even though they are actually the victim.
I've only gotten a few of these, compared to the number of times that I have people copy my ads to try to defraud renters.

The one time I got fake reply after fake reply I was helping a friend rent a room in their apartment after their roommate bailed on them mid-semester.  All the replies were similar - a European woman who had lost one or both of her parents and was in Africa to do charity work before coming over to Syracuse to start working at a hospital.  They all mentioned how they were into going to prayer meetings and wanted to find a church to teach Sunday school.  Their father, or the trustee of their inheritance would send a check, which I would cash and then send them some money in Africa which they would use to buy their plane ticket.   Some of them had the same details and a different name, and some had the same name with different details.

A couple of them even offered to let me keep $500 dollars for my trouble.

I guess they figure people renting a room are not likely to rent a lot of property and thus not having seen the scams before.  Though they sure ruined it for themselves by sending so many replies.  You would have to be really simple to believe that all those people with the same back story want to rent one room in Syracuse.

Monday, April 29, 2013

The Craigslist Rental Scam, and What Can Be Done

Only $615 a month and includes utilities?  No. 
I'm advertising a house for rent on Craigslist, and the first call I get is from someone who is confused.  "How much is your house," she says "$850 or $615?  Why are there two ads?"

Great.  Craigslist scammers strike again.

These are people who copy the text and photos of legitimate Craigslist ads.  They remove the phone number and only have an email to contact them.  They make the listing of the house cheaper than the real ad, and frequently add things like dishwashers and free utilities, and that they will allow large dogs. 

I always email the ones who copy my ads, pretending I am interested in renting it.  They always have a story why they are out of the country.  It used to be they were always missionaries in Nigeria.  They had to go to Nigeria so fast they didn't have time to rent their house before they left!   Sometimes they are doctors, or teaching English.  It's always Nigeria though.

I emailed the latest scammer to copy my ad, and he said that he is in Lagos.  Wow, the first one not in Nigeria!  But then I googled it, and it turns out that is the capital of Nigeria.  Nigerian scammers have quite a reputation and I guess he's trying to sound like he's from somewhere else.

Here is the response I got back from my email to him:

Gfg Uyg
4:20 AM (1 hour ago)

to me
Yes my house is still available for rent at 615$ monthly, we request first month deposit and security fee of 600$ before move in which is $1215, you can go check it out at address below, and if you like it you can write us back. We just move down to Lagos, Am a Medical Doctor, I work for American UNICEF. check out there web site (http://www.emelhospital.org/) I just want you to get notice that the keys are here with me in Lagos, you can only view the house from the outside for now! If you drive by the house you may see a sign there, you have nothing to worry about it belongs to our previous agent so you have absolutely nothing to worry about and you don't have to call them because they do not have access to the house anymore! In other to proceed on sending the keys and document to you, I'll like to know few things about you and your family such as below:-
3 Bedroom 1 Bathrooms
Address: 130 Pattison St ,  
City: Syracuse , 
State:  Amityville NY 
Zip code:  13203
Pet Allowed.
Included in the Rent: Dishwasher,  Garbage pickup, Gas, Water, Electric, Washer and  Dryer.

If you are interested in renting my home kindly answer the questions below:-

Name (First name/ Middle name/Surname ) : __________?
Phone # : __________?
E-mail : __________?
Best time to call : __________?
How many proposed occupants : __________?
List all in addition to yourself including approx age : __________?
Present Address : __________?
City/State : __________?
Will you have pets : __________?
Please describe Breed, size : __________?
Personality of pet : __________?
Preferred move in date : __________?
Intended length of lease: __________?
Can you pay the security deposit and the first month rent :____________________?
Earliest possible date of deposit payment: __________?
Length of previous tenancy : __________?
Present occupation : __________?
Are you a section 8 applicant : __________?
Do you run a business from home : __________?
If so what kind of business : __________?
Do you work late night : __________?
Do you smoke : __________?
Do you drink : __________?
Do you go to church :___________?

Looking forward to hear from you So that we can start commence on how to get the keys and document sent to you. Please have this in mind that you are talking to a very nice and God fearing family, if you find any of our question inconvenience please don't be offended but answer it because we want and like to know the kind of family that will be living in our house from day one so nothing from them will be strange to us again.
Thank you and Stay Blessed.

Dr Craig A Wilson
Call me on my cell phone's : +2348093909464 ... (Work) +234708867814

So he has increased the bedrooms to 3, lowered the price, added a dishwasher and included gas and electric utilities, all for less money than the average 3 bedroom apartment with no utilities.  He's dealing with the fact that there might be someone else's sign in the yard by saying it's the old agent.  (he warns you twice about that old real estate agent.  Nothing to worry about, no, don't bother calling) And this doctor apparently took all the keys with him and will mail them to you from Nigeria.  Not that bright for a doctor.

Most of these scams use religious references, claiming they are very Christian and asking about the religious and moral habits of the potential tenants.  Actually, it's illegal in the United States to ask about the religion of applicants or imply in any way that you want someone who is a certain religion.   It is a federal law called Fair Housing.  They will go after people who specify they are looking for people of a certain religion, race, sex, etc.  I'd like to see them go after some of these scam artists.

He also uses the name of the actual owner of the house, who will be surprised to learn that he is now a doctor.  That is information that you can get from the tax database!  I've had other ads that actually used the name of the owner as part of their fake email address. 

It says right on Craigslist not to do business with people out of town and don't wire them money.  But people who are looking and looking for a house they can afford that will allow their animals really want to believe.

I've had other houses where my name was on the sign and most of the calls I got were people who were driving by to look at it after they saw the fake ad.  I felt awful when I had to tell people that no, they were not getting a house for $600 that had utilities included.  I have never talked to someone who actually sent money, but that has happened to other real estate agents I know.  One actually had people show up with a moving truck ready to move in, with their fake copy of the lease in hand.

Craigslist has an automated system to remove ads.  If enough people click on an ad to flag it as spam, prohibited or miscategorized, Craigslist will remove it.  But they just run another ad.

Craigslist does put a warning on their ads and on the reply form, but people still fall for them.  I think they should put warnings in with the actual ads - have warnings with headlines that say

$500 3 bedroom Single Family Home with utilities included pets ok IT'S A SCAM

Then on the inside, they can describe the methods that the scammers use and tell people what to look for.  I think this would be more effective than their warnings on the ads or reply forms because it would stop people before they got to the point where they are so excited to find the house that they are ignoring the red flags (like the fact that this fool has the house listed in City: Syracuse State: Amityville, NY.)

Addressing this problem would really help Craigslist maintain their reputation as the best place to look for housing.   Now I hear people saying that so many of the listings are fake that it's a waste of time.

So if you're looking to rent a house, remember that if it seems to good to be true it usually is.  I've never heard of a house including utilities - the only reason some apartments include gas and electric is they only have one meter.  If it sounds too good to be true, google the address and you will probably find it's for rent at a higher price or for sale.