WPOA November 2016
Brian Lucier, founder of Belaire Property Management, has been screening tenants for over 16 years. At the WPOA meeting on Wednesday, November 9th, Brian addressed the topics of preparing to get good tenants, listening to tenant stories, reviewing applications, and background checks and approvals.
"Tenant screening is arguably the single most important aspect of our business. A quarter of the things I do now, I didn't do before I watched Brian's presentation."-Rich Merlino, MassLandlords Worcester member
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Quick Tips for Dealing with Mice
Quick tips to deal with mice
Bob Brooks - Bob
Richard Merlino – Rich
Bob: Office all day long, answering phone calls. A typical phone call will come in from a landlord. It will go something like this. “Hello, Bob. This is John Smith. I own a three-decker in the City of Worcester, and I got a mouse problem. How much will it cost?”
I say, “Okay, hold on.” I ask for details and I’ll say, “Have you gone over and looked yourself? Have you talked to the tenant?”
A lot of times they will say no, they just go by the phone call. I say, “Well, before you go and spend $300, $400, $500 on a mouse job, won’t you go over and interview the tenant? Take a look at it. Get involved.” I had a couple of them today.
It’s amazing. Sometimes it’s bed bugs or roaches and they haven’t gone over there. They just go on, “One of my tenants called me.” I say, “Get over there and get involved. Take a look at it. See what’s going on.”
Then sometimes they’ll say, I’ll give them the price to do, a three-decker or maybe it’s a multiple family, it depends. Because there are so many three-deckers per capita in the City of Worcester, most of the time it is. I kind of keep it to that level. They’ll say, “Well, it’s only on the second floor.”
Bob: I’ll start laughing. I’ll say, “Well, what do they do? Fly into the window?” You know that’s not going to happen. If they’re on the second floor, they came in at the basement. They’re in the first floor, and yes, they’re in the third floor whether you admit it or not. Another reason to go and look at it, I usually recommend to interview the other tenants, ask them if they’ve seen anything. I know you’re opening up a can of worms, but you’re better off doing it right, spending the money to do the whole house.
Now it’s going to be more money, but you’re better baiting the basement, first, second, and third floor, and if there’s an attic, give access to the attic for the pest control company, whatever vendor you’re going to use.
The reason for that is a couple of things. First of all, you get a warranty like at our company, and every company does it differently. You can call 10 different companies, you’re going to get 10 different programs, 10 different prices, and it really depends on what you like. Some landlords have certain pest control companies, vendors, PCOs we call them they use all the time. That’s good. Some of them will shop around for price. That’s not that good sometimes.
But you want to bait all three floors, you want to go through the whole house, and I was saying about spending the whole money to get the job done properly is a good company, if you do the whole house, will give you a warranty. That’s number 1, which means if you call back 2 months, 3 months later and say, “My tenant in the first floor is still seeing mice,” a good company is going to go back and rebait that unit for you.
A lot of companies, too, in that price they gave you, we do it at Ford’s is we’ll do a follow-up visit, so instead of just one visit, we just through the house and bait it, see you later. That’s it. A good company will usually do a follow-up for you about 3 or 4 weeks later. That’s important because you don’t want to have a time when the bait is all eaten because if the bait gets all eaten in the first week or two and there’s still mice, then the problem will just accelerate again in a few weeks.
You got to remember: a female mouse is pregnant about 5 to 8 times a year, so within 2 months of birth, the females in each litter are already pregnant. There’s a statistic you can go. A family of 6 mice to a family of 60 within 90 days, optimal conditions. It doesn’t take long for an infestation to take over.
Another thing is to do it yourself. We get them every day because we have a retail shop, and I have one today. It’s kind of funny. A person will come in. it could be a single-family home, it could be a landlord, and they say, “What can I buy here?” They don’t want to spend the money to have it done right, so they’ll buy over-the-counter products.
You can buy bait which now has to be in tamper-resistant locked bait stations. You can buy glue boards, snap traps, whatever, but there’s no secret weapon. There’s no silver bullet. There’s no new technology. It’s still done today the same way it was done 100 years ago. The formulations of the products have changed a little, but the modus operandi is still the same. The best way to get rid of mice is to bait for mice, not trap for them because if you just put traps out, you’ll catch mice, you’ll catch mice, you’ll catch mice, but you’ll never really get rid of them because you educate them to stay away from the traps specially the adults, the pregnant females that you want to get. They’ll learn.
By the way, a cat in the apartment means nothing. The mice know where that cat is every second of the day, but what will happen is that people will come in and they’ll go over to the counter and they’ll buy like five bait stations, and I’ll say, “Is this a three-decker?” Yes. I say, “You need to buy like 55 of them.”
When we go through a three-decker or any multifamily building or even your home, the technician is inspecting and baiting from basement to attic. He’s placing a lot of bait placements. Again, the reason is you don’t want to run out of bait. You don’t want to have a time where you still got mice and the bait is used up. Those are just some quick tips on the treatment itself.
As far as a landlord’s responsibility, I’ve put this together. There’s three pieces of paper here. One is by law, you have to notify your tenants and every year, Central Mass Pest Control Association has a big seminar out in Sturbridge and we have people from the Mass Pesticide Board every year and they go over all the rules and regulations whether or not every company follows it, but there is a notice like we have one. We send it out to the landlord when we book a job for them, so there’s a notice you’re supposed to give to your tenants to let them know that such and such a company is coming to your apartment on such and such a date to bait for mice because they have the right to know.
Rich: Are you letting them know, anyway if you’re visiting their apartment, they know.
Bob: Absolutely, right. That’s the landlord’s responsibility, Rich, because the landlord is the customer, so we deal with the landlord. A lot of times a tenant will call and we have to be careful what we say because the tenant is not the customer. If it’s a simple question about preparation say for roaches or bed bugs, because the landlord again is required to give them instruction on preparation, we’ll try our best that we can, but sometimes they call complaining and we have to just stay out of the conversation. We say, “We’re sorry. We can’t answer any questions unless your landlord gives us permission to speak with you.”
There is a consumer board that the State of Massachusetts puts out. We, as the pest control vendor, are required to give that to every tenant. Sometimes, most of the time, we will email it to the landlord, so the landlord can provide it to the tenant. If not, our technicians will bring them with them on the visit, and as they go to each unit, we give one to each tenant, or I’ll slip it through the door a lot of times because the tenant isn’t home. That’s any kind of treatment, whether it’s mice or bedbug, or whatever.
Rich: That is great information. There’s no silver bullet.
Rich: That sounds like you’re way messier to use actual bullets than to use mouse traps.
Bob: Right, yes.
Rich: Yes, good call. Real quick, to prevent mice, I think we’ve talked about before that if you put tough steel wool in holes and places like under your sink and stuff like that, then that can help.
Rich: Is that true?
Bob: Well, good question, Rich. It’s one of the things we get asked a lot if people say are you going to go around and fill all the holes up?” We say, “No, the technicians is going to be there to bait for mice. He doesn’t have the time to go around the house for 3 or 4 hours and find every gap or opening,” but people like Ed Mansfield that we had here last year from Husbands for Hire, we give his name out a lot. Bob Hicks from Bob’s Mr. Fix-It will go and give you an exclusion quote.
The technicians for the good companies, if they find a hole under the kitchen sink and there’s mouse droppings there, they’re going to fill it with material called Stuff It. We actually sell it down in our office. It’s a copper-based material that will hold up the moisture and you can use that and put that into small gaps and openings.
But you got to look at the micro and macro environment, not just the big picture. Mice only needs a space the size of your baby finger, and they will go right through that. Once the head goes through, the body comes through, too, so that’s a good point, Rich.
Rich: Yes, okay, terrific. Okay, Art has a question and then we’re going to move. Are you going to be able to hang around if people have questions for you?
Rich: Or can they email you or?
Bob: Yes, I’ll leave some of my business cards up here.
Rich: All right, real quick.
Bob: If you have any question, just give us a shout. Thank you.
Art: My question is after you bait, they’re going to die in the walls. Is that a problem with them dying and smelling up the place and everything?
Bob: Well, that’s the number one question I get asked by every homeowner, and I tell them they’re going to feed on the bait. They’re second-generation anticoagulant baits, it takes multiple feedings, so they’re going to get sick. Like us, they’re going to want to die in their beds. We have no control over that. They’re going to their nesting and resting area.
In the beginning of the program, you got a lot of mice, you’re going to have a lot of cadavers, so it’s going to be a greater propensity to have odor in the beginning of the program as opposed to later on when the population dwindles down.
Rich: Has everybody finished eating?
Rich: All right, let’s hear it for Bob from Ford’s Hometown Service.
Bob: Thank you!
Rich: All right.
Brian Lucier - Brian
Richard Merlino – Rich
Brian: How many people have never screened a tenant before? Okay. I see a couple of hands. Two or three, okay. How many people have never heard me speak before? How many people have? I’m watching you. Okay, let’s get started here.
I put together a presentation tonight. I’d like to have fun, so what I’m going to do, I’m going to go through the presentation, and then I’ll have you grill me with questions afterwards. Does that sound okay.
Brian: Okay, great. My presentation tonight is Dancing Through the Landmines: A Property Manager’s Field Guide to Tenant Screening Without Getting Blown to Bits.
I hope you enjoy what I have for you. I have a nice disclaimer here that basically tells you I am not a lawyer; I do not play one on TV. I can’t give you legal advice, all kinds of other things. There’s all kinds of nice things in here like do not pay attention, just go back to sleep. I don’t play an attorney on TV, so I hope you enjoy that.
Who am I? Am I qualified to even do this? Well, I’ve been a Massachusetts landlord for over 16 years. I’ve been the president of the Northern Worcester County Landlord Association for about 8 years now. I’ve managed properties all the way from Acton to Ethel for 15 plus years, over 100 units. I have screened hundreds of rental applications. Sorry [unintelligible 0:01:46].
Okay, so first, what are you doing? What are you doing? You’re going to be a landlord. What does that mean? I’m not going to focus on the whole gamut. I could be up here for 8 days telling you about that. I’m going to try to just stay focused on tenant screening.
What you’re going to need to know of the 7 or 8 laws that really dictate how you need to conduct yourself as a landlord. You got Building Code, Sanitary Code, Mass General Law 186 subsection 15B, 139.19, the Privacy Act, the Discrimination, Section 8 and Housing Authorities. Each one of these topics could be a whole night presentation. I’ll make this presentation available to you.
Has anybody never heard of any of these things? So, everybody is familiar with these things?
Rich: Not all of them.
Brian: Not all of them? Okay. This is your manual. You’re going to spend several weeks, maybe even years getting all this stuff under your belt. Just the state building code. I’ve got my CSL. The books are about that thick, and that’s the binders combined. You need to know all this stuff. Again, I’m not going to go through all of that tonight.
We’re going to talk about tenant screening, so why is tenant screening so important? Well, your business needs cash flow. You need to pay your mortgage. You need to pay your bills. Mistakes can cost you your property, so you don’t want to make those kinds of mistakes.
I’m going to bring you through the dance moves here. If you were to learn to dance and I said, “Go out and learn every type of dance move there is,” that would be overwhelming, and you’d be pretty tired and need a lot of water, so we’re going to stick some basic stuff. We’re going to stick to basics, and then you can grill me later on the hard stuff.
What is a good tenant? Someone who respects the agreement, the property, the lease, and pays rent on time. That’s a good resident. Now we get into the meat and potatoes.
You have to be consistent with all applicants. What does that mean? You have to do things exactly the same way every time you’ve got an application on your desk. Don’t cut a corner here. Don’t turn left one time. Don’t do that. always follow the exact same process and procedure. That’s that discrimination slide. If you miss a turn, someone is going to throw a flag, say, “Foul, you discriminated against me because you rented to Bob, but you didn’t rent to Mike and he’s Italian and he’s not, so I discriminated because he’s not Italian.” It could all happen.
I always have to do things exactly the same way, so what I’m going to present to you tonight is kind of my recipe that I go through and it’s adapted. Rich, you’ve stolen a lot of my ideas, which I commend you for, and I hope you pick up a couple of other silver bullets and gold nuggets tonight, which I think was the name of the presentation, Silver Bullets and Golden Nuggets.
Brian: Did I miss something there? Yes, your prequalifying income requirements. How many people have an income requirement? Okay, so my income requirement that I put in my ads is a debt-income ratio of 3.75. Period. When that person calls me on the phone, that’s one of the first things I want to know. Can you afford my apartment and still take your family out for pizza and a movie on Saturday night? Can you afford it?
How many people get that call. “Well, I make $1,600 a month and your apartment is $1,000, but I pay my rent where I am now, so I can move into your place.” Anybody here hear something like that?
Brian: Yes, I think some of you just aren’t raising your hands on that one.
Then ask specific questions and always make sure that they’re the same questions because I don’t want to ask 10 questions to Bob here and then ask 10 questions to Mike here because I just broke my own rule. I got to ask each one of them—Bob, do you prefer another name?
Brian: Mario, okay. We’ll go with Mario now [laughter]. Very good. Yes, always do it the same way, always have a list of questions that you’re going to use. You got to have a method. You got to have operations. You got to have a system.
I already mentioned the standard income requirements. My dad, he used to rent, and the old rule of thumb was one week’s pay should cover your rent, so that’s a debt-income ratio of 4.0 or 4.3 if you figure out that there’s 4.3 weeks in a month. However, if you were to look at their income, if it’s $1,000 a month for the rent, then they should make $4,000 for their income. Okay, that’s pretty simple math.
Do you allow evicted residents to rent? How many people have ever rented to an evicted resident?
Brian: Knowingly, sure. Did it work out for you? Yes, I’ve done that. They were evicted 20 years ago, nothing since, so I talked to them about, made sure it was all cleared up. I was able to go through MassCourts.org. We had a conversation about it. That’s it. You want to talk about it. You don’t want to slam the door because then that might turn into discrimination in another category. They might try to pin something else on you. Now I’m not saying if somebody just got evicted last month to rent to them.
I do have a policy. If somebody is kind of borderline, I’ll say, “Art, no problem. I’ll rent to you, but I need you to produce to me a letter from your previous landlord that has this violation on you that you’ve paid the debt in full. Art, would you do that for me, then I can rent to you? Does that sound reasonable?”
Do you think I’m ever going to see Art ever again? Probably not, but if Art comes to me with that letter, okay now I got to do my due diligence. If Art was a good guy, paid off his landlord, things happen. He could have lost his job. Someone in the family could have got sick. Medical reasons are reasons people get evicted because they can’t pay the doctor’s bill or they paid the doctor’s bill and can’t pay the rent, so the answer is it depends. You need to kind of walk through that.
Do you pull up a credit report and when? I’m not going to pull a credit report until I’ve gone through my entire screening process and I say, “Okay, this person looks good.” When I get to the point where I’m happy, I’m going to say, “Now, I’m going to take the next step,” because $25 times $100, that’s $2,500. Help me on the math here. If I’m going to screen and do a background check on every application I get, I’m going to go broke long before I even get a tenant, so I’m going to go through my process, go through my system, and then I’m going to pull the credit check.
Credit score requirements, unless concerned about credit scores, be more concerned about the character of the resident, so you’ll see some of the questions I ask. The credit payment history, that’s all going to come up in the credit report.
Boy, I don’t know how to say this, but I’m on after mice and marijuana, and then me, so it’s a hard act to follow on all that but smoking and nonsmoking. All my buildings are nonsmoking. Period.
I went to Mass College of Arts, and I inhaled. When they first did the medical marijuana laws in 2012, I just went straight nonsmoking, nonsmoking buildings. You can’t smoke cigarettes. Doug I heard said right up here right over there, he was doing a talk one night and I thought it was the brightest thing in the world. Somebody calls and say I smoke, but I only smoke outside, and Doug’s response was, “Well, I appreciate that, but this is New England. When it’s 20 degrees below, you’re going to be tempted to smoke inside the building, so we’re not just going to move forward with you.” I do not rent to smokers anymore. I don’t.
Then, pet policy. You can’t charge extra for a pet. You can’t charge extra for a service animal, but what’s your pet policy? I have a couple of buildings that have a huge yard, so I let them have dogs. Now my rent at those buildings is about $150 to $200 than what I would charge for my other properties, so I’m not adding to what I would charge. I’m just setting the bar, knowing that this is a pet-friendly property.
Now I tell you when the people move in and they do have a dog, they’re never going to move because they can’t another place that will take a dog. You do the math. After a couple of years, I’ve made an extra $3,000, $4,000, or $5,000 and they’re picking up after the dog. Everything is fine. I screen the dog. I pet them, make sure he’s friendly because if I got to go there and mow the lawn and change a lightbulb or something, I want Fido to be friendly and not feed on my leg.
Okay, this is where I was going to take some questions, but I’m going to keep rolling through. Is that okay?
Brian: So far, just to do a quick review, you got to have a system in place. So now we’re going to listen to the song, and what I say here we’re going to get a phone call from a tenant and they’re going to sing to us. They’re going to tell us all kinds of information.
Now, the questions I ask a resident, I call them residents, and on the way out, I call them tenants. But residents, we like residents; that sounds permanent. When we listen to them on the phone, I’m asking questions, but I’m hearing their answer, but it means something different to me than what they’re actually saying. I’ve been doing this awhile, so the questions I ask kind of have two meanings, so I’ll see if you might be able to pick up on some of that.
Now when they first call me, I want to get all their contact information. Here’s why. I’m sitting at my computer. Can I get the first and last name of everyone who would be moving in and your phone number? Just in case this call goes bad and I drop the call, I want to be able to call you back. Is that okay? Does that sound good?” Sure. They give me all those names, and I need the names of everybody over 18. As I’m talking to them, I’m kind of on autopilot because I’ve done this so many times, my questions are in my head and I could be rolling through the questions all while I’m on MassCourts.org, looking up to see if they’ve been evicted.
If I’m sitting on my computer, I’m going to open another window. If you’ve ever seen my computer setup, I’ve got about four screens in front of me from my graphic design days, so I can open up Windows all over the place. I’ll have Mass Courts. I’ll have Facebook, MySpace, all kinds of other things. I maybe talking to Art here about why do you want to move and tell me about your landlord. At the same time, I’m plugging all this information, and then in the middle of the conversation, I might say, “Hey, Art, can you tell me what happened at Litchfield Terrace in Leominster in 1983? Do you know this landlord so and so?” They’re shocked. “How do you know about that?” “Well, it’s here on the public record.”
I ask my questions. I’m getting all this information. I need their current address because later one of the things, if I have enough time, I’m going to call the police department, the board of health, the building department with that address. “Hey, do you have any problems here? Do you have any violations? Have they passed their 110 inspection?” Everybody knows what a 110 inspection is?
Brian: Okay, a 110 inspection in a commercial property codes as anything over two units is commercial, so a three and up is commercial. Your bank says anything over four units, five and up is commercial, so it gets a little fuzzy there. The building code three units and up. Every 5 years what they’re supposed to do is come out and inspect your building. They’re looking for lighting, handrails, exit signs. They’re going to check smoke detectors, all kinds of things. They want to make sure that your building is safe.
Let them do their job. They’re keeping you away from lawyers and lawsuits. I talk to landlords all the time. “I’m not going to let them in. I’m not going to pay that $200 or whatever it is for the inspection.” Well, okay, great. How much is your lawyer per hour? A retainer, add a zero; a lawsuit, add two zeros; liability or death, add three zeros. “I think I’ll pull the inspection. That’s okay with me.”
I want to get all this information while I’m talking to them on the phone, okay? I start my process. I want to be able to check them out.
Ask consistent questions. I was saying that over there earlier. I will always want to ask the same questions. I’ve been doing this long time, so I start with the same type of questions.
Okay, can you tell me who’s moving in? How many people are moving in? Where do you live now? Why you’re moving? How much do you pay for rent? Does anybody moving in smoke? Do you have any pets? Those are the big red flags for me. If they’re saying things like, “Well, I’ve been living with a friend.” Red flag, red flag, red flag. You want to test and verify. You want to get them to tell you the story. Again, you want to listen to the song they’re singing because what you’re going to hear from them, they’re not even going to realize.
I mean to stay in control of a conversation, you ask questions. If I’m having a conversation with someone, whoever is asking the questions is in control. “Where do you live?” “I live at XYZ Bank Street.” “How long have you live there? Blah, blah, blah. Do you like it? What do you not like about it?” I’m trying to get them. I’m testing their personality. How do they feel about their landlord? How do they feel about property?
If they start telling me a story of, “Well, you know we called the board of health on the landlord and my lawyer said when we go to court next month, I’m probably going to win.” I’m like, “No, really? What else happened? Tell me more. Tell me more. I want to hear all your drama now before you become my tenant because it’s not going to happen. There will be something that I’ll find where I’ll say you’re not qualified, but I want to hear that song, I want to hear what they’re saying, I want to ask those questions and I want to do it the same way every time. I want to draw that story out from that resident.
I mean if they’re telling me, “I’m moving into the area because I just got a better job. I’m a teacher, or a nurse, and I work with disabled people, and I’ve had a CORI check, and I’m making more money, and it’s just me and my two teenaged children.”
It sounds good so far. I’m listening. I’m listening. Tell me more. Tell me more. When do you want to move in?”
“Well, I don't know. I was thinking maybe this spring.” “Will you call me back this spring? If I got something, we’ll talk. What do you pay for rent and how long have you lived there? I think I’ve covered—
The combined monthly income. Here’s a really good tip: I’m looking for that 3.75 ratio. I’m going to add up all of their income. It maybe their job, SSI, EBT card, whatever, fuel assistance, food stamps. I will add it all up to give them a total. I want to give them a running chance to get this apartment, but it has to hit that 3.75.
My wife will testify to the fact when I am on the phone with someone who doesn’t qualify, I’m going to spend more time on the phone with that person than someone who does qualify. Someone who qualifies, I’m going to book the appointment, get off the phone. Someone who doesn’t qualify, I’m going to try to help. I want to find them assistance. I want to find them another apartment that they might be able to afford. I’ll bring them to my website. There’s links on there where they can get assistance, so I’m going to go the extra mile with these people. Why do I want to do that? Anyone have a guess?
Male Audience 1: [unintelligible 0:20:28] I’m sorry. Good public relations, good vibes, and it covers you that you can’t show that you’re discriminating against these people.
Brian: It covers me. It covers me. I’m not just going to say, “Sorry, I can’t rent to you.” I want to help them. At the end of that call, “Is there anything else I can do for you? Have I been helpful?” I want to end it on an up note that I’ve been able to help them okay. I’ll direct them to other websites that I know may have apartments that they might be able to afford. It’s the right thing to do and it keeps me out of court. Yes, you’re doing a good thing there.
Again, more of the same questions. This is my drill here. Why you’re moving? I want to know that. If we get into that whole board of health story, I want to know that. Say they got a family of five and two of the kids just went to college and now they only need the two-bedroom. They don’t need the four-bedroom anymore. That to me is a valid thing. Okay, I’ll listen to that, or if we just had a baby and now I need a three-bedroom instead of a two-bedroom. That makes sense to me. Or, if I just moved into the area, the job thing. That makes sense to me.
Anyone smoke, I get cued on this one. “Do you smoke indoors or outdoors?”
Brian: “I only smoke outdoors.” “I’m sorry, this is a nonsmoking building. I can’t help you.” Direct them right to find another apartment where they might be able to smoke. I catch them on that all the time, do you smoke indoors or outdoors? Because if we say do you smoke, they might say, “He’s asking me if I smoke. I’m going to say no. Then I’m going to get the apartment and I’m going to close the door and smoke in the living room, and no one will ever know.”
Brian: So, indoor [laughter]. Smoking or nonsmoking. Smoking, curious.
CORI or SCORI. Now this treads a fine line here. Some laws were passed by last presidential administration [unintelligible 0:22:50]. You guys had a nice article on that that you can’t discriminate for felonies or arrest records or something like that because the majority of people who have been arrested are a specific class of people and it borderlines on discrimination.
What do I say? “Mike, sorry to hear you that CORI, but here’s what we’re going to do. I’m more than happy to rent to you. Just pull your CORI and bring it to me.”
Now, I know that maybe on a fine line, but if Mike is telling me he’s only got a DUI, but he really knows he’s a felon for robbing a bank, bad boy, then he’s not going to come back to me with that CORI. Then I’m just going to say, “I’m going to hold your application open, but I need that information for me to go forward.” Most of the time, I never hear from Mike again. Did you really want to sit in front of me? Okay.
I have a method here. I’m asking the questions, but I want to find out the story behind the story. Who was that Paul Harvey? The story behind the story.
Male Audience 2: The rest of the story.
Brian: The rest of the story. The rest of the story.
The pets, we’ve already talked about that, and as soon as somebody says service animal on the phone to me, I never say the word “pet” again. I only say service animal. I just rented one of the properties where I love dogs, I just rented the third floor to a tenant who has a service animal—cute, little small dog. No problem; $75 more than the last tenant. I’m okay with that. I’m okay with that. They still have to take care of the dog—excuse me, the service animal—just like they need to as if it were a dog, but I’m okay with it. They’re happy. I’m happy. The pet is happy. My wife is happy because she gets the rent checks. Everybody wins.
Rich: Brian, what’s a SCORI?
Brian: Sex crime offense record inquiry. Those are level 2 and level 3 sex offenders. They are not a protected class under discrimination laws. I will not rent to someone with a SCORI, but I will direct them to landlords I know who have boarding rooms and boarding houses.
Rich: Right. I just have to jump in because I love the way that you ask some of these questions like you smoke indoors or outdoors, I think that’s brilliant.
Brian: Have I only got 20 seconds left [laughter]?
Rich: No, no. We have like 33 minutes left.
Rich: I plagiarized this from somebody, but when it comes to pets, I just kind of launch into, “So tell me about your pets.” I stole that from somebody. It’s kind of along those lines rather than do you smoke or do you have pets. You just assume that they do and you ask them a question about, “So tell me about your pets,” is different than, “Do you have pets?”
Brian: Or what kind of pets do you have?
Rich: Sure, yes, exactly.
Brian: That’s a good one.
Rich: I like that.
Brian: I’m going to amend my questions here. Thanks, Rich.
I feel like I should be taking some questions, but let’s get through and then these guys can grill me. These are the questions, right? Then as I get to the end, if they have met my criteria so far, I’m going to book the appointment, “When would you like to see the apartment?”
If they get through that, we get through that story, and I’m still liking what I hear, when would you like to see the apartment? Are there a couple of different days and times that would work for you? If I can come right out and show it to you right now, I’ll come out and show it to you right now.” At that point, I’m done asking questions and I’m ready to go to the next step. Dance step, and one and two. It’s a waltz.
Rich: You don't have to cover a lot of questions.
Brian: What type of vacuum cleaner do you own? I see Dave laughing. Jamie Williamson from the Board of Discrimination, one of the directors. She’s also a landlord. She gave us that one. What type of vacuum cleaner—
Rich: Just cancel it [crosstalk 0:27:01] as discrimination. I don't think it’s for discrimination, just to clarify.
Brian: Yes. For discrimination. Them. I’ll go with that, “them.” Yes, so she came out and gave a talk and that’s one of the questions she has on a rental application, what type of vacuum do you own, because if they’re using it every week, they’re going to know the brand, and if you’ve got carpets in your apartment, how are they going to keep it clean? If somebody says, “I don't have a vacuum,” I’m going to say, “Well, you’re going to need one to rent this apartment.” That’s a good one. How many people like that one?
Rich: That was awesome. On this stuff, you had mentioned having policies. Just to clarify, do you recommend having a written policy of your rental criteria?
Brian: Yes, absolutely. My procedures manual that I wrote is about 440 pages.
Rich: Are you serious?
Brian: I’m serious. I spent 4 months in Starbucks. I learned what a venti was and the cheapest snack in the display case is a rice crispy square.
Rich: Is everybody ready to write this down?
Brian: Yes. Everything I do for my business is a checklist all the way from a make ready to screening, to when I show the unit, to when I screen them back in the office. There’s a checklist I always go by because lawyers and lawsuits are expensive and paper is cheap.
Rich: Be that as it way, my Gwendolyn Property Management is a single page that we have in the apartments when people show them. Do you think that’s something that’s a good practice to have that lying around if anybody did have a question?
Brian: What is it, like a handbook or a manual for the tenants?
Rich: No, it’s just sort of a one-page thing of what we would accept for eviction history, which isn’t any, for nonpayment, for example, or criminal or credit, or things like that, what our standards would be.
Rich: [crosstalk 0:29:08] that sort of thing.
Brian: Absolutely. You should have something written down, even if it’s a one page. This is a yes. This is a no. I rent to the people if these things are in alignment; I will not rent to people if these things are in alignment. Stick to it and be consistent because that one time when you’re going to look the other way on a line on your own criteria, Jamie Williamson is going to call you into her office and ask you to explain yourself. You’re going to end up in court and I know landlords who have been sued for $10,000 fine, per instance. I know one landlord I will not name who was renting college rentals, turning away families, and he got whacked for $30,000. Don’t break your own rules.
Rich: Hold on.
Brian: Yes, sir.
Rich: Speaking of rules, credit score. Everybody does this a little bit differently. Some people check, some people don’t even check. Real quick, what are some of the top one or two advantages to checking and maybe what are the disadvantages to check?
Brian: Sure. Rich, you look pretty good for this apartment. Your application looks pretty good. I’m going to pull your credit score. Why don’t you tell me what I’m going to find before I get there?
Rich: You don't have to check. It’s good.
Brian: Sorry. If I find something on there that you don’t tell me tell me about, it’s going to disqualify you because that’s page number 12 on my rental application that you sign that I’m going to sign that I’m going to answer as truthfully as possible. So before I pull the report, am I going to see something on there that you might want to tell me about now?
Rich: So, now I’m going to tell you about it so that you don't have to pay $25 to find out the hard way.
Brian: Bingo! I’m going to find out if you’re being honest.
Rich: I like it. One advantage to pulling credit, I just used this last week because for me personally and this is Brian’s presentation, I don’t really care what their credit score is as long as they can prove that they can pay the rent on time. Does that make sense?
Rich: Because some people might stiff their medical bills or whatever, but as long as they pay the rent, we’re cool. This came in handy though because I ended up rejecting this group because their current landlord spilled his guts and he realized about three-quarters through our phone call what he had done to himself because now he’s going to be stuck with them because based on his information, I was not going to rent to these people.
I don’t want to screw that guy. I don’t want to get that guy in any kind of trouble, and send him a letter saying, “Based on what your current landlord told me, I can’t rent to you.” What I was able to do because they had abysmal credit scores, as I was able to say because you are a credit criminal. I cannot rent to you for that reason. I sent them the letter that is required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act, so if you ever reject anybody for credit, you have to send a specific letter to that. you have to mail it to them.
That way, it’s very black and white. Here’s our credit criteria. I can’t rent to you. End of story. Does that make sense?
Rich: Because now it takes all the dispute out of it.
Brian: Do you actually tell them they’re a credit criminal? I like that.
Rich: I have various terminology. I’ll keep it interesting, yes.
Brian: Questionable credit.
Rich: Good. The question has been answered.
Brian: Now this will address what you just asked me about checking their credit score. I’ve booked the showing. They’ve answered all my questions. I’m happy. I like the story. I’m going to say, “Okay, book the showing. Here’s what you need to bring to the showing. I want copies. You’re going to have to go to a Kinkos, Staples, or something, and I know some people might say don’t ask for them dead copies, but this is what I do every time. I’ll tell them not everybody has all of these things. This is gold.
But I say, “I need copies of this to prove that someone has not stolen your identity. I want to make sure that you’re the person that is filling out this application.” They say, “That happens?” I say, “Yes.” I tell them a story Dave told me of someone in Fitchburg who had tried to scam a landlord and the landlord said, “Well, let me see your license. Your license doesn’t match the name on here or the address, or anything like that. you want to see that license.”
One of the things you want to know the license number in case later if things go south, you want to be able to find that person. Also that address that they’ve listed on their license better show up somewhere in their application under their current or previous addresses. They better be a match in there somewhere.
Rich: The same thing with their address if they show up on their credit report, which is advantage to take a look at that. It does bring up those addresses.
Brian: Yes, good stuff.
Jim: What if they don’t have a license?
Brian: I still need a photo license because—what’s your name, sir?
Brian: Jim. I just need to make sure that someone has not stolen your identity. They’re going to come in, rack up 2 or 3 months of rent, and it goes on your credit score. You don’t want that to happen, Jim, right? Okay, so why don’t you bring me up some of these other things and we’ll verify that you are you and someone is not stealing your identity. Does that sound good?
Brian: And I end it with a question because I want you to verify it, and I shake my head yes when I ask you the question because I want you to shake your head yes as well. All those years of advertising kind of rubbed off on me a little bit. I sell, baby. I sell.
Why do I want to see the utilities bill? Anybody got a guess on that one?
Audience: [crosstalk 0:34:58]
Brian: I want to see if they paid the bill on time, had any late fees, and if they can put it in their name.
Rich: So if it’s in their 3-year-old child’s name, that’s not good?
Brian: I’m sorry, Rich, I’d love to rent you this tonight, but you’re going to need to be able to put it in your name? A tenant, who I was screening, said, “Well, I just rented to her. She needed to pay up a “balance” that her ex-boyfriend ran up on her in an apartment in her name somewhere else. I say, “Well, if I was your dad, I’d say let’s pay that now and get it done and out of the way.” She paid it even though allegedly it was her boyfriend’s bill and now she’s my resident and she has the utilities in her name.
Rich: But that’s a good person, someone who [crosstalk 0:35:40] that. That’s awesome.
Brian: Yes, yes. You’re going to have a conversation. It’s not just, “Uhm, uhm.” It depends sometimes. You got to talk; you got to have that conversation. Same thing with the phone bill. Do I see late fee charges? Cable bill. Do I see late fee charges? Credit card bills; I tell people from the get-go, “I don’t need your account numbers.” They’re very comfortable with that. I’d like to know the account numbers in case later, I have to go after them in court or something, but you may or may not know this, but when a check goes back and forth, the bank stamps on the back of it with all the account numbers, so when they write me a check anyways, I’m going to have their account numbers for tracking them down later, so that’s okay.
Rich: When someone writes you a check, you keep a record of that check.
Brian: I don't have to; the bank does.
Rich: Some banks through online banking, they cut off the bottom centimeter that takes out their routing number and the account number.
Brian: It’s stamped on the back with the account number.
Rich: I’m going to pay more attention.
Brian: Yes. Look on the back of the check. That’s where the information is.
Again, what I’m looking for are late fees, and obviously I want to see what’s going on with them. If something looks funky in there, I’m going to ask more questions, and if I don’t get the right answer, I’m going to ask more questions. I’ll take it. What have you got?
Male Audience 3: I’ve never seen any late anything on the Verizon bill, so do I use different words like some of the words they use in [unintelligible 0:37:30] balance brought forward.
Brian: Balance brought forward?
Rich: Or if it’s like $1,500, that’s awesome to tell.
Male Audience 3: They have [unintelligible 0:37:52].
Brian: Okay, so look on the gas bill, look on the electric bill, look on some of the other bills. You’re looking for a pattern of behavior here. I want to check the pay stubs. You know how I get around the pay stubs? You got to bring copies of the pay stubs because you’re going to sign the disclaimer in my rental application that allows me to talk to your employer but all they’re going to do is verify that you work there. They will not verify what you make for income, so I need you to bring me pay stubs so I can verify your income and you would be the only one who has those because no one is stealing your identity, right?” Dave?
Dave: How many consecutive pay stubs do you want?
Brian: Dave, I only need one because I can do math. Yes?
Female Audience 1: Then you have people who are paid per week because they don't have a standard salary. How can you get off with one?
Rich: The question is, “How can you go off with one paystub and work with that?”
Brian: Are you ready to take notes? I’ll go through this. it’s not part of the screening them, but I’m going to give you the answer. What do you make a week?
Female Audience 2: That’s [unintelligible 0:38:52]
Female Audience 2: Fluctuate and then—
Brian: Say it’s $300.
Female Audience 2: Yes.
Brian: Okay, so I’m going to take $300 per week, multiple it by 52, and then divide it by 12, and that’s going to give me your monthly gross income, or if you’re biweekly and you make $600 every 2 weeks, I’m going to multiple that by 26, and then divide that by 12, and it will give me your monthly income.
Female Audience 2: You have sometimes like delivery driver, or they work only 3 hours or they get paid hourly, so sometimes weekly it’s 15, so it’s not a weekly $300.
Brian: Verify it.
Female Audience 2: That’s why you need more than one paystub.
Brian: I would ask for more than one paystub. If the story goes, “Well, it varies, or I get tips.” No problem. I need to see bank deposits. I need to verify, verify, verify.
Rich: Can I jump a bit?
Brian: I have to move along?
Rich: Yes, but I have to contribute to that because I have poor self-control.
Rich: Let’s say it’s the end of October. You take your day-to-day. They work all year, divided it by 10.
Brian: Yes, yes. It’s math. I’ll take a few more and then I want to go.
Female Audience 2: What if someone is a [unintelligible 0:00:00]
Brian: That I need—
Rich: What if someone has a tractor?
Brian: No, if she’s a contractor. It says right on my rental application, if you’re self-employed, I need your tax returns. You don’t bring them, you don’t get in.
Pat: What if—
Rich: We can’t hear, Pat.
Rich: She says she uses the year-to-date method as well. Of course, it only works if they work the entire year.
Pat: It works. I mean if it’s the 28th week of the year and it’s in February [unintelligible 0:40:35]. By the time it gets released [unintelligible 0:438:00] by the time it gets released, it would have to give you an average of what your weekly income for you because it won’t be a fixed weekly income that current case study [unintelligible 0:40:59].
Brian: Right. There’s a dozen different ways to figure this out, so let’s wrap that part of it up and how many landlords in here cannot do math?
Brian: I would like to negotiate with you the sale of your building to me.
Male Audience 4: I have a question for you before we move on. You’ve been talking about something that sounds like you initiate that. The way that we’ve been doing it and maybe it’s wrong. We send a link, MySmartMove, and they pay for that. Is that something that you can do?
Brian: I have them bring their credit report.
Male Audience 4: Right, but at some point, someone mentioned as if it’s something you pay for it. you were saying you don’t want to waste $25 every time you do it. Legally ask them to send a link, so they can do it themselves and pay for it because that’s what I’ve been doing.
Audience: Yes, sure. Yes.
Brian: Who pays for it?
Rich: That is a legal question, and Brian this is not [crosstalk 0:41:52].
Brian: Okay, I am not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV. However, Mass General Law 186 subsection 15B states first, last, security, and a lockset fee.
Pat: Doug said that you can charge a credit report fee every single time [unintelligible 0:42:12].
Rich: This is subject to debate even among judges and attorneys.
Brian: Okay. Not an attorney, not a judge. First, last, security, lockset fee, and you can pull yours for free, okay?
Female Audience 3: They’re not a tenant yet.
Female Audience 3: They’re not a tenant yet but you’re screening them.
Rich: That is—
Brian: Yes, they’re not a tenant yet, but I’m screening them. they need to get to the finish line and then if I’m happy at that point, I’ll spend the $25. All right, let’s move on, and then I’ll take all your questions.
But yes, I actually train people on the phone. I had this one guy. He’s still my tenant. I said, “You need all this stuff,” he came with a folder with tabs and everything all set. I just took that and said, “This is a copy for me?” He said, “Yes, it is.” I put it right in. I was able to check him out real quick, wonderful guy. He’s still my tenant. He’s paying $1,200 a month, just him for a three-bedroom in Gardner. He listened. He did what I told him to do. He still does. He pays his rent on-time.
Okay, so we got to the questions, we got through all that. I told them what they need to do. I booked the showing, and then I shut up. I want to get off the phone, get back to work, get the next call. I stopped talking. Done.
Then before the showing, I want to call them the day before. I want to contact them 2 hours before the showing, making sure they’re showing up. How many people have ever had a no-show?
Brian: Isn’t that fun? Okay.
Then my triple A—the application, the apartment, and I want to be amiable. I know they’re coming because I called them the day before. I did that. That happens sometimes, “Oh, I forgot to call you. I have another apartment.” “Great! I’ll just open up my schedule and get some other work done. No problem. Have a nice day. Thank you for letting me know.” Then 2 hours before, I know Dave, what is it? Half-hour before and you’re not able to reach them, they don’t show.
Dave: [inaudible 0:44:28]
Brian: Yes, yes. I want to have all the applications all set. I’ll walk you through that. I want the apartment to be immaculate. If you’ve ever been to my Facebook page and see how we redo some of our units—Mike shakes his head, “Yes, yes, yes.” They got to be perfect. If I can see it, you can see it, and that’s the rule. Then I want to be amiable. I want to be happy. I want to make sure I have my coffee, so I’m bubbly, and I just want to be like all happy about the apartment and all happy about them because they passed my screening so far.
Okay now we dance to the beat. We’re at the apartment and these are the dance moves. We’re going to move around the apartment. We’re going to make sure we’re getting all the information. This is like dating. This is the exciting part of it. They showed up for the date. This is a blind date. I’m going to be hanging out with these people for the next 2, 3, 5, 7 years. I want to make sure we get the relationship off to a good start.
Rich: You have a blind date with multiple people? I got to listen to this player, Brian Lucier.
Brian: And they’re going to pay me for it.
Rich: All right.
Brian: Fancy footwork. I batch my showings two to three people at a time. Absolutely. Art, Mike, Bob, all are going to come at the same time. I only have one apartment and it looks great, and it’s ready to go, and I got three people who are all prescreened and they want it. It’s that scarcity, the last one on the shelf, for a limited time only just one left, but wait! There’s more. One of this gentlemen is really, really going to want that apartment to the point where they’re going to whip out their checkbook and put down a holding deposit, which will be applied to the first month’s rent. It works. I love doing it. Scarcity, two or three at a time.
Then 30-minute showings because I know someone is going to walk through. If they fill out their application, it’s going to take them 15 to possibly 30 minutes to fill it out. These three guys are filling out the application, and then my next three come in right behind them, and they see those three guys filling out the application. “Oh, my goodness! They’re right in front of me! This is the last car on the lot! I want that red Mazda. Give me the application now! I want to fill it out before he finishes!” It’s a feeding frenzy.
Rich: Can I write a bigger check than Art did? Can I get ahead of him in line?
Brian: Whosever ink dries first. I stagger the showings, and I stage the kitchen counter. I got plenty of pens. I have applications all fanned out that look really great. I got my credibility kit out there. We’ll talk about that in a minute. Everything that they need to fill out the application is already in plain view. Why do I do that? Because when you introduce something new to the table, everything that you just talked about negotiated changes. I see the application. I see the pen. I see this, but wait, here’s another form. “Wait! What’s this?” I’ve just disrupted that whole flow. I broke continuity. Even the pens that they’re going to use to fill out the application are already in plain view. Now when we walk over after they’ve seen the apartment, if it’s a good match so far, “Here’s your application. Let me walk you through that. Here’s the pen. Here’s my credibility kit. Not only do you get this great apartment but you get us, and here’s who we are and here’s what we’re doing.
Yes, be prepared. Come organized and just have a plan. Again, this is all written down. Dave?
Dave: [inaudible 0:48:45] bring it with them.
Brian: Exactly. Yes, and that slide way back when I ask for their email, this is gold. I’m glad you brought that up. I have on my desktop all the form letters. I’ve been doing this so many times, so I’ll have a letter that’s all composed. “I’m so glad that you looked at our apartment and found it on Zillow, Trulia, HotPads,” whatever, type that in. There’s a place for their name. It’s a form letter. Please find attached to this email a rental application. Here’s a free report that I give you.” Did I give you a free report for renters?
Rich: I love the free report.
Brian: The free report I wrote for renters, how to get your dream apartment. I send it to them. I tell them, “For years, I go between landlords and renters, and these are the things I’ve learned from landlords to help renters get their dream apartment.” You know what are the things in there? How to get your own free credit report and bring it to the showing.
Yes, I’m coaching them to not waste my time. Read the ad. Do these 10 things, and you’ll get your dream apartment. I sent that article to Steve, the guy who’s paying $1,200 for the three-bedroom in Gardner, just him. He came with the folder and everything all prepped, ready to go. It was a real easy decision. Nothing to add yet?
Rich: I have the ability to censor comments from time to time.
Brian: Okay, whatever you want to. I was looking forward to the banter here tonight. I knew that you’d have some clever comments.
Okay, so now we’re dancing cheek to cheek. I want to focus on the features of the apartment. I’m going to walk them through the apartment, and of course, we could spend a whole night talking about how to stage the apartment and make it presentable, but I’m going to have that ongoing and I keep asking questions. I have a good one. I just showed a unit last week. “Where do you think you put your Christmas tree?”
Brian: “I’m going to put it in the foyer.” “That looked really nice. Which wall do you think you’d put your bed on?” That one. “What size bed is going in this room? “We have a queen sized.” “I think it would fit in here just nice.” We’re in the kitchen. “Are you going to put your dining set on this wall or on that wall?” “That wall.”
Okay. I want them to visualize. Realtors do this all the time. Can you see yourself living here? I’m selling, I’m selling, I’m selling, and I’m asking questions because I want them to think, “Well, gee, where is my stuff going to be?” “There are two closets in the bedroom, so, sir, this will be her closet, and then this closet over here will also be hers.”
Brian: She loved that answer, and he kind of, “Well, yes, I guess you’re right.”
Then you want to talk about parking, trash, and utilities. No, I don’t mean date night. I mean where they park their car, what day the trash goes out, and who does what for utilities. Thank you. One person caught that joke.
Then the landlord credibility kit. How many people have a landlord credibility kit? Thank you, Dave. Credibility kit starts with all the business cards of everyone at city hall—the building department, the plumber inspector, the board of health, veteran affairs. They’re all in there. These are the people I work with in the city where you’re renting, and then I flag them through the business cards for all the other towns I work in.
Then we have letters of recommendations to our landlord association from different mayors and different towns. I flag them through that, and I say funny things. “Yes, Mayor Hawke, whenever he sees me in person, he always tells me, ‘I look better online.’” It’s a joke. I put myself down a little bit in front of tenant, but I’ve got a letter right here from the mayor of Gardner saying, “He’s a good guy. He’s a good landlord. We like him.” How many people have a letter of recommendation from the board of health where you rent? Just Dave. Yes, I do. That’s what the tenant thinks, too.
Rich: I also think the cricket sound is impressive.
Brian: Yes, it’s a lot of fun. Yes, so I have this whole credibility kit, and at the end of it, you can do down to the hill in Boston and if you go into the bookstore, I think it’s $5, $10, $15, you can get the blue book manual for Tenant Landlord Law, Mass General Law 186 subsection 15B, and State Sanitary Code, all put together in one cute little book in a three-ring binder. I put it right into a three-ring binder. When I get to the last page, here’s everything I need to know to be a legal Massachusetts landlord. Do you want to rent from us?
Female Audience 3: I’m sorry. Where do you get that book?
Brian: Pardon me, I did not name the entrance, but if you go to where the big gold dome is in Boston. What is that, city hall?
Brian: It’s the statehouse?
Brian: You’re going to go through the Hooker Entrance because that’s where the horse statue is of General Hooker.
Female Audience 3: You have to go to Boston to get it?
Brian: That’s where I get it, yes. You know what, next time you go on one of these rallies to support a bill, when you go to the state house, just stop at the bookstore, say, “Hey, what do you got for landlords,” and get that little book and keep it in your credibility kit. Highlight the stuff that you need to highlight which applies to you, and when you show it to that resident or future, “yes, these are the laws I need to abide.”
I memorize the cover, so when they get there, I put my hand over the cover. I say, “Tenant Landlord Law, Mass General Law 186 subsection 15B, and State Sanitary Code.” Yes, I got it right. They want to rent from us, so I sell them the apartment, and then I sell them on the service.
Rich: Do you have any open apartments? I’m ready to move in.
Rich: That’s awesome.
Brian: We’ll talk upfront.
Rich: I’ve never heard that before. I’ve never heard that.
Brian: Yes, sure. Why not? Then I close the sale. I ask questions. “Was I able to answer all of your questions to your satisfaction?” Yes. Is there anything you’d like to change about this apartment when you moved in?” “Well, could I have the kitchen with the blue paint?” “Yes, we’ll do that. For only $50 per room, you can have any custom color you want.” Then, I’ve got a whole bunch of swatches of custom colors on my phone.
Anybody use that Project Color app from Home Depot? Dave, again the only guy with the hand up. You could take a picture of the room, load a paint color from Behr paint, which you guys will get 20 percent off of Home Depot, tap the wall, tap the paint, and it changes the color right there.
Brian: Right on the phone. It’s the best thing. Then you tell me they’re not connected to that apartment. “Oh, yes, I want the girl’s room in lovely lavender. I want the bathroom in Tahoe blue. I want the bedroom in gentle rain, and I want the dining room in —what’s my favorite color there—no, not fluorescent green. That would be green whisper. We don’t use that color anymore. Slate pebble, great color, slate pebble. Art?
Art: Do you let dark color [unintelligible 0:56:50] coats later when you [unintelligible 0:56:51].
Brian: That would be a uh-huh, no.
Rich: The question was do you allow dark colors because it requires multiple coats to cover later?
Brian: Yes. We used to do that custom red. We don’t do that anymore. It takes three coats to go on. We don’t do that anymore. Yes?
Female Audience 4: Behr has a paint that guarantees one coat cover over any color at all.
Rich: Yes, the Behr Marquee Paint guarantees one coat. I will say this though from having used it, it is awesome. It really is designed to go over lighter colors. If you try to cover over like a bright yellow or a pebble gray or something like that, it might not work in just one coat, but overall, it’s really, really good.
You have something out there about asking questions. I just want to ask you one thing about asking questions—
Rich: Because you have a good point asking Mario one set of questions and Mike a separate set of questions. What happens if testers call and they hear you ask people two different types of questions?
Brian: I don’t ask two different types of questions. I’m a robot.
Rich: You wouldn’t just ask one person five and the other person all 10 just because you’re in a hurry?
Brian: No, it’s like a flow chart. If you say yes to this, then I’m going to ask you these questions. If you say no, then I’m going to ask you these questions, and it’s all a system. All the way down, you need to meet my debt-income ratio. That’s the big thing. No smokers. Pets will do--feathers, fins, or felines. Anything else needs to be a service animal. If you qualify on all those points, you’re going to get a booking.
Rich: Got you. You had mentioned something about red flags. This is something that we just started to do a year ago where we have a side list of things that you mentioned that you’re listening to the story behind the story.
Rich: You had mentioned, for example, someone living with a friend is a red flag. Would you mind tell us why that’s a red flag to you and what other types of red flags are you listening for?
Brian: Sure. You want to role play with me? “Rich, you live with your sister-in-law. Do you have any rental history?”
Brian: “Can you tell me about that?”
Rich: “It’s not interesting. You don’t want to hear about [crosstalk 0:59:02]?”
Brian: “Where did you live?”
Rich: “You know, I’ve been a couple of places. I’ve been in Worcester. I’ve been in places.”
Brian: “It’s okay. Where did you live in Worcester?”
Rich: “Where did I live in Worcester? I lived on Elm Street.”
Brian: “Okay. How long did you live there?”
Rich: “I lived there a couple of years.”
Brian: “Why did you move?”
Rich: “I was looking for a nicer apartment.”
Brian: “What was wrong with the apartment you were in?”
Rich: “It wasn’t that good. The landlord didn’t fix stuff.”
Brian: “Really? What did they do?”
Rich: “Yes. I don’t really remember the specifics, but he wasn’t good and I ended up—if you want to know, I had to call up the board of health on him.”
Brian: “Oh, my goodness! What was the problem?”
Rich: I think I blocked the details from my memory, but maybe through some regression therapy, I’d be able to be prompted to.”
Brian: “That’s terrible. I can’t believe he did that to you. I hate that. I hear this all the time. People call, and the tenants are so upset because the landlords won’t fix anything.”
Rich: “Will you hug me?”
Brian: “What’s your credit score? Which is—”
Brian: You kind of see where I’m going to go. I’m just going to ask another question.
Rich: You’re not going to let me get away with anything like you’re going to find out where I lived and what happened?
Rich: Yes. You’re not going to—
Brian: I want to know what you paid for rent.
Rich: I’m not getting away with evasive responses.
Brian: Yes. If you can’t tell me who your landlord was or what the address was, well I’m going to need some type of rental history, otherwise you’re going to need a cosigner that lives in the state. Is that okay?
Rich: Like this person is going to trust me to pay the rent, you mean?
Rich: Good luck.
Brian: On my rental application, there’s actually a box, “In case of an emergency where you are not able to pay the rent, please list someone else who will pay the rent for you.” Rich, you’re going to leave that one blank if you’re the person I’m talking to?
Rich: I might omit that one by accident, yes.
Brian: Then you would have turned in an application that was not complete and it would be on hold until I get that information.
Rich: Got you.
Brian: I’m not going to disqualify you.
Rich: Thank you.
Brian: It’s just going to be on hold.
Rich: I’m not going to have that feeling of rejection and I’m not going to be mad at you, and I’m not going to find some way to retaliate because you haven’t rejected me.
Brian: I have not rejected you. I’m going to keep your application open until I get that information. Is that okay?
Rich: That sounds fair to me, Brian.
Brian: Thank you.
Rich: Who thinks this has been awesome so far?
Rich: Yes. So—
Brian: But wait, there’s more.
Rich: We are—
Brian: What have I got? All right. I’m going to hold off questions to the end. Sounds okay?
Brian: Okay. Rich, you can do one more question.
Rich: That goes for me.
Brian: I’m going to close the sale with the rental application. “Would you like to fill out the application? I’m going to supersize them. We’ll do this. We’ll do this. If you want a custom glass backsplash, we’ll only put it in to your choice for an extra $500. Does that sound okay? We can break it up over 5 months. Does that sound okay?” I want to supersize, supersize, supersize. Would you like fries with that or would you like it a large?”
Custom paint colors, we always get them with the custom paint colors. I get some of you with the custom paint colors.
A killer rental application. There is only one person in this room that I know that has a larger rental application than me. Anybody want to guess?
Brian: It’s Dave, yes. My rental application is 16 pages long. What? I’m going to put them in a property worth $750,000. do you think I’m going to hand them a one-page and just tell me where you live right now and how much you make? No. I want to know everything, everything. If you miss one spot, I’m going to put it on hold until I get that information. Okay.
How many people would like a copy of my rental application? You’ll get my website at the end. You can download it from my site and you’re going to have a good laugh at some of the questions I ask there.
Has to be filled out at the showing? You know when somebody says to me, “Okay, can I take it with me?” I’m going to ask them, “What do you really not like about the apartment because if you really like the apartment, there’s three other guys filling it out. you either want the apartment or don’t, so what’s wrong with the apartment? let me know. I want to do my job better. What can I fix in this apartment that would get you to fill out that application right now?” “No, I just want to take it with me.” “I’m sorry. Company policy is I can’t give you one of the printed ones because it costs me $5, but you can go to my website and download one for free and fill it out and call me when you’re ready. Does that sound okay?”
Yes, then they got to fill it out completely and they’re going to double check it right there on the spot.
Now, omissions, if the hair is standing up on the back of my neck and I think something is wrong and I see an omission, I’m going to finish reading the rest of the application. “Oops! I forgot to check something. Later, I need to call you back. Art, I missed something on your application. I’m going to come to the address that you posted here where you live in about 30 minutes and I’m going to get that information from you. Is that okay because I can’t fill it out. The office will give it back to me, and they will tell me to go back to you, so I will just come to you and you can fill out that information.
Male Audience 5: All the rubbish.
Brian: Yes, all the rubbish, all the medical marijuana plants that you got growing in the living room. No problem. We’ll get past all that. Yes, you can’t take it with you. You got to fill it out.
Time and date stamp each application. Why? Discrimination laws. I’ve got Resident A and Resident B. They both come at the exact same time, they both like the apartment—this happened to me once. They have the exact same debt-income ratio score. One of them turned in the application 10 minutes before the other one. I had to offer them the apartment. It covered my butt because now I got something in writing that says, “Sorry, this person was 10 minutes before you, but if they back out, you’re next in line, or when I have another apartment like this that might suit for you. I would definitely have you as a resident because you’re qualified.”
Verify all information. Make sure the application is signed and follow up later that day. “Hey, you came and looked at the apartment a couple of hours ago. I just want to thank you. You really presented yourself well. The application looks really great, and I’m 90 percent sure that I’m going to rent the unit to you. Does that sound okay? Okay, I just need to check on a few more things, and I’ll give you an answer. It takes me 4 hours to check a background and then I’ll give you an answer by 3 o’clock tomorrow. Does that sound good?” I want to get that affirmation.
I’ll do an email, phone call. How many people give a thank you note to a worthy applicant? One person again.
Rich: This is the like the ninth time I felt like a loser during this presentation.
Rich: That’s such a great idea, though. I love it.
Brian: How would you feel?
Rich: That’s really first class. I’m really impressed.
Brian: Yes, I would like that myself. “Wow! That landlord really likes me!” You know that other place I saw that was kind of a dump?”
I forgot one of the things. It’s not in the presentation. You go to BJ’s because everything is in bulk in BJ’s and what is it? That movie time popcorn. This is gold. My wife would want me to tell you this one. I print out a label with my website, my logo, something popcorn flying off in different directions because I’m an illustrator and I have marketing advertising background. “Thank you for popping in.”
Brian: Psychologically here. What’s your name, sir?
Brian: “Dave, thank you for coming to my apartment. Here’s a quarter.” How do you feel?
Dave: I feel good.
Brian: For a quarter?
Brian: Some people would say to me, “You cheap, SOB! You’re going to charge me $1,000 a month, and you give me a quarter for showing up.” I hand you a popcorn. “That’s a memory. I’m giving you time with your family. That’s…” I give you $0.25 like you’re cheap, but if I wrap it up with a label and make it funny and say, “Thanks for popping in,” I know it’s corny.
Brian: Who’s going to forget that? How many people are going out to buy popcorn tomorrow? Yes. It’s the cheapest thing in the world. They fill out the application. “Thank you so much for popping in. You have kids with you! Take two.” Now, I’m the golden guy. I just gave you $0.50 worth of popcorn. Break the bank on the landlord!” Yes, that’s a good one.
Okay, now we’re dancing in the street. We’ve got the application. We’re going back to the office. How many minutes?
Rich: Five, four.
Brian: Four. Okay, let’s wrap this up here.
The Easter egg Hunt—trust and verify. You check everything on that rental application. Of course, we all know MassCourts.org; use it. Don’t just check the counties you are in. Check all six because they may have moved around the state. Only you toggle one extra thing and hit search; toggle one extra thing, hit search. It doesn’t take any extra time.
I go to Yahoo, Google, Bing. I’m going to find out everything about you. I make a little joke as they leave. “Jim, on your way out, pull down all those pictures of you on Facebook with the red cups because I’m going to find them.” I make a joke about it, but I’m letting you know I’m going to look for everything. I’m going to check Facebook, your LinkedIn, your MySpace. I’m going to verify all sources of income. If you got any EBT card or fuel assistance, no problem. They send you a letter. I’m going to need a copy of that for your files.
Verify past and present landlords. Everybody knows the present landlord maybe trying to get rid of that resident. “They’re gold! I’m so sorry that they’re going to live with you.” You want to talk to the previous landlord like Rich found who went off for like 35 minutes on him.
Verify all references, specially that one where I haven’t filled out, that would be the person who pays the rent if they couldn’t. “What? He wants to pay his rent? No way!” Yes, and then that’s probably when I’m going to do the credit check when I’ve gone through that level.
Decision time. I have a resident report card. If I get through this, I’ll pull that up, so you can see it. I have a report card. I think I got a dozen different questions in there. Did they do this? Five points if they did, zero points if they didn’t. If they did this, five, three, zero points. It’s on the laptop, so you can steal that later. But yes, I have a score card. Did they do everything that I asked them to do? Did they show up with a credit report?
They get points all the way along, so not only do I have the time, date, and stamp, I’ve got a report card on each resident that comes in. They weren’t able to verify income, they don’t get the points. They were able to do everything I want? They get the point, so everybody has got a score card.
Tally up and choose. This is where it is. I’ve picked my dance partner. No decision, nobody qualified; repeat dance steps 2 and 3. Offer the rental to the new dance partner and get a check. Respond to the runner ups. “Rich, you were the second person in place. If I get another apartment just like the one, you saw, can I call you?”
Rich: As long as I get more popcorn.
Brian: I’ll get you ice cream, too. What’s your favorite flavor?
Brian: Chocolate cream is a Jeffrey Taylor trick. When somebody shows up, you’ve got a couple of different flavors of ice cream in the refrigerator because they’re going to come and look at your apartment and then they’re going to go to the next apartment to go look at that one. If they say, “I got to go to the next apartment,” “What’s your favorite ice cream?” You’re going to give them a half-galloon of ice cream, so they’re not going to go to that second apartment.
Rich: It’s going to melt. They have to go home and put it in their freezer.
Brian: They have to go home and eat it and have some popcorn and say, “Wow! We got free popcorn and everything!”
Rich: That is diabolical!
Brian: Yes, it is but it’s really hard to get the labels to stick to a frozen box, so that one is a little hard.
Then, yes, we’re going to respond to the runners-up. Then I want to build a preferred waiting list. If I’ve taken someone all the way through my dance moves and they’re somebody I want to have a second dance with or collect rents for 7 years, $10,000, that’s a $70,000 relationship. Yes, I’m not going to throw that application away. I’m going to keep it and they’re going to get on my mailing list and they’re going to hear from me. I’ve got a waiting list right now that goes out four months for apartments.
Rich: I don’t want this to end, but it’s getting really late.
Brian: Sorry, this is the end.
Brian: I’ve put in this presentation, which you will have available to you. There’s a website for a bunch of tenant screening websites and you can go in there and click on those. I know that you guys have one for your association, so use what they can get for you because it’s a better deal. That’s what I got. Do I have any time for questions?
Rich: We’re going to end the meeting, but if anybody wants to bombard Brian with questions right after this, then feel free. That was awesome! Let’s hear it for Brian Lucier.
Brian: Thank you.