Posts filed under ‘Management’

NAA Whitepaper on Criminal Conviction Screening Policies

The National Apartment Association has just released a white paper titled Criminal Conviction Screening Policies: Best Practices to Avoid Disparate Impact Liability and it is a valuable resource for management companies evaluating their screening processes in the wake of HUD’s guidance last month. The white paper is divided into two parts: Part I deals with how to design criminal conviction policies so they are not susceptible to disparate impact claims of discrimination, and Part II explains how the concept of disparate impact liability emerged under the FHA and why HUD’s guidance has made screening policies a subject of increased interest for housing providers and advocacy groups.

This is truly a good resource, but as they write in the conclusion, the thinking on this issue is sure to evolve over time:

The analysis is admittedly an early assessment of the intersection between criminal screening policies and the HUD disparate impact rule approach. The way both HUD and the courts treat these types of disparate impact claims may (and, indeed, is likely to) evolve over the coming years as courts provide precedent for interpretation of the HUD Guidance and as HUD or Congress enacts further clarifying guidance, regulations, rules or statutes.

In the meantime, here’s a handy table of Do’s and Don’ts they provided in their introduction:

DosDontsGraphic

Here’s a link to the full PDF version of the paper.

May 4, 2016 at 8:27 pm 1 comment

Blue Ridge Companies’ Approach to Health Insurance

Blue Ridge Companies decision to go its own way for employee health insurance coverage was profiled in the December, 2015 issue of Units Magazine. It’s a complex issue, but as Executive Vice President Susan Passmore explains in the article, it’s an increasingly important consideration for all management companies. Here are a few excerpts from the article:

Blue Ridge began its plan in May 2014 and currently 200 employees and 60 dependents are participating.

“You can convert fairly easily,” Passmore says. “In general, if you stick with the plan, over a five-year period, you will begin to see a trend that defines where your medical insurance dollars are being spent.”

Self-insured plans, she says, simply are not subject to all of the same regulations and fees as fully-insured programs. The result for us is approximately 3.5 percent less fees paid to the government.

Although self-funded plans have certain requirements, Passmore says her company is able to tailor a variety of services within each plan, based on her associates’ needs.

“No more are we at the mercy of fully-insured off-the-shelf design offerings,” she says. “By us reviewing and recognizing common claims usage, it allows us the flexibility to tweak the plan to fit the needs of our employees and reduce costs for our company.”

Blue Ridge uses a third-party administrator (TPA). And Passmore says large insurance company Cigna, which formerly administered her company’s plan, is still involved.

Blue Ridge outsources its TPA, who functions as a benefits manager and provides basically the same services as a traditional carrier…

Passmore says that most carriers, including Cigna, partner with the third-party administrators (TPA) to share their discounts.

“This allows health-care providers to file claims through the traditional carrier networks, and it allows us to benefit from the carriers’ negotiated pricing. The claims pass through the carriers’ pricing network and are then captured by the TPA and forwarded to us to pay.”…

“We need healthy associates to be successful so we certainly want them to seek care when they need care,” Passmore says. “Moving to a self-funded insurance plan really fits our company’s culture. One of our company’s tenets is ‘teamwork; appreciating self and others, having a balanced way of life and having fun together.’ Since our shift to this plan, our associates have become engaged in taking both individual and collective responsibility in the overall cost of health care.

“We know there will be accidents or conditions that result in really expensive claims. It’s inevitable. We have stop-loss coverage, which reimburses us for single-claim events that cost more than $50,000. Protection of stop-loss coverage is a must, and adding a separate organ transplant rider strengthens the protection against loss.”

You should definitely check out the full article here.

 

January 6, 2016 at 3:48 pm 1 comment

Great Way to Engage Your Residents This Holiday Season

As many of you know the Piedmont Triad Apartment Association does a food drive for Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina every year. Typically we concentrate our drive on the summer months, but what many of our members don’t realize is that the drive actually runs year-round.

We’re bringing this up because we’ve been contacted by a couple of member properties that are running holiday food collection drives in an effort to engage their residents while helping feed the hungry in the local community. They contacted us to get some advice on setting it up – of course we’re happy to help! – and it occurred to us that other properties might like to do the same thing. So, if you would like to do a food drive for the holidays then please feel free to give us a call and we’ll help coordinate it with Second Harvest. What a great way to serve the community while also engaging your residents!

OwnersCup and DAWe also want to remind you that we have a competition to see which management company can raise the most food during the year. We count all the food each management company and their communities raise from January 1 through December 31 and award the company that raises the most with the Owner’s Cup at our annual Diamond Awards banquet the following March. This is important to know because any food you raise during a holiday food drive, or any other food drive you do for that matter, will count towards your total for the year so please let us know how much you collect!

November 11, 2015 at 5:21 pm 1 comment

Op-Ed Highlights Importance of Renters Insurance

An op-ed in the Winston-Salem Journal in response to an apartment fire in the city highlights the importance of renters insurance:

Investigators are looking into the cause of the fire. Residents are trying to go on with their lives, but that’s not easy. Property manager Lou Baldwin told the Journal that his company would return residents’ security deposits and June rent, so they could move into other apartments. That’s a start, at least, for residents like Samuel, who lost everything in the fire.

“It’s my first apartment,” he told the Journal. “Everything my son owned, I owned, my girlfriend owned – everything we owned is in the home and we have nothing at all. We’re starting from scratch, and it hurts a lot,” he said.

A sad reminder of the importance of taking out renter’s insurance.

June 19, 2015 at 3:18 pm Leave a comment

When the “Internet of Things” Impacts the Apartment Industry

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

September 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm 1 comment

Study Shows Residents Use 30% More Energy When Owners Pay the Bills

File this under the category, “Studies that prove what we already knew”:

WegoWise, a building intelligence provider, has unveiled a utility bill study that for the first time demonstrates how incentive structures can make a substantial impact on building efficiency. The study found that multifamily buildings where owners pay utility bills use approximately 30 percent more energy (BTUs) per square foot than buildings where tenants pay utility bills. Additionally, the study found that annual utility costs for buildings with owner-paid bills are 20 percent higher than tenant-paid bills.

“The building efficiency space has long been dogged by the ‘split incentive’ issue, whereby only those who pay the energy bill are motivated to change behavior or invest in building upgrades,” said Eric Bloom, senior research analyst at Navigant Research. “For years, upgrades have been seen as the smartest investment for owners because they deliver reliable returns and increase value. However, the WegoWise study reveals that incentives that motivate behavioral changes can play a significant role in cracking the efficiency puzzle. Understanding these complexities will be increasingly important as the multifamily sector continues rapid growth.”

While it isn’t shocking that people use more energy when they don’t pay the bills, the sheer amount that they use is a bit of a shocker.

August 26, 2014 at 2:28 pm Leave a comment

New Management Rights the Ship at Greensboro Student Property

PTAA member Burkely Communities received some positive press for the work it’s doing at The District:

A private student housing complex serving UNC-Greensboro, Greensboro College and other area schools that was cited for more than 100 code violations at the end of last year has been cleaned up under its new management team, Burkely Communities, according to company and city officials…

Burkely CEO Sterling Kelly said the building owners had already made a significant investment in repairs prior to his company’s involvement, including an overhaul of the heating and air conditioning system. But a long list of deferred maintenance items had grown overwhelming, so his team has been tackling it systematically during the past several months.

“The work required to fix those items just hadn’t been getting done, though they were relatively inexpensive things like electrical receptacles pulled out of the wall or plumbing leaks or exit doors not closing so the building wasn’t secure,” Kelly said. “Rome wasn’t built in a day and there are still some more things the owner may choose to do, but the first order of business has been doing what was necessary to make the building what I would consider habitable.”

Kelly goes on to say that their work at The District is far from done and they’re concentrating on marketing the property in a similar fashion to their other student properties – moving away from promoting amenities like pools and game rooms and focusing instead on promoting an environment geared towards the more serious students. (You can read more about Burkely’s approach here.)

 

 

August 21, 2014 at 4:58 pm Leave a comment

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