Did you know Missouri City has a Rental Registration program?

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 25, May 2011 14:35

In our continuing series to educate landlords and investors about rental registration, we now turn our property management team's focus to Missouri City.  Missouri City is a great area to live as noted by CNN/Money Magazine rating it the "5th Safest Place in Texas".  In addition, it is easily acessible to major freeways that connect it to job centers like the Texas Medical Center and downtown Houston. 

Other accolades for Missouri City (obtained from the Missouri City website) include:

  • July 2010: Missouri City was recognized as #21  on the list of best places to live. 
  • December 2010: Missouri City was recognized by Avid Golfer as #1 of Best Overall Value under $40 for public courses

Living in a vibrant, caring community like Missouri City places a burden on investors to insure that their renters also have this same care and pride. Missouri City has instituted rental registration policies. Missouri City requests that property owners who have rental property display their permits on the inside door of the cabinet under the kitchen sink. If there is no door under the kitchen sink, then a landlord can place it on the inside of another cabinet door.

In Missouri City, if your property is not registered then the tenants can have difficulty turning on utilities; then the landlord or property management company will get a angry call requesting assistance to get this rental registration completed. Therefore, it is advisable to handle these matters prior to renting the property to a tennat. Ashoka Lion will assist landlords in getting this form to the appropriate city department by either paying with credit card (being reimbursed by the client) or mailing in the payment on behalf of the landlord.

Ashoka Lion provides property management services for landlords and real estate investors in the Houston metropolitan area including Missouri City. Contact our property management firm so one of our property managers can begin transitioning your property to the Ashoka Lion team.

Check out this cool video of a arial view of Missouri City, Texas.




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What is Green Property Management?

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 17, May 2011 16:05

What is Green Property Management? Ashoka Lion has spent the better part of three years revising its processes and procedures to be more ecologically conscious. This evolution has involved revising our processes for rent collection, leasing, reporting of repairs, financial reporting, communication with tenants and owners.

When we started the company in 2006, our firm was heavily reliant on filling out paper leases; driving to pick up rents from tenants; depositing rents to each owner's bank account. This resulted in reams of paper being used as well as gallons of gasoline being spent on driving with very little gains for our clients in terms of time or money. In fact, our old processes involved spending more time as we had to allocate more time scanning, filing, and driving during business hours to insure that these objectives of leasing, collecting rent, and sending the owner their funds. 

Now, we have previously illustrated in our previous entries about things that we implemented over the years for Houston and Dallas clients in terms of services and tools for "Going Green and Mobile".  However, we wanted to help investors and understand what this philosophy mean? Does it mean that we will force owners to accept every new environmental technology or fad? Will we force you to install solar panels on your rentals? No, our goal as a property management company is to balance our duty to our owners, tenants, and local ordinances by providing solutions that align the owner's goal of having happy, longer term tenants paying market or higher rents, but we must these strive to achieve these goals by balancing our duties to our communities in Houston and Dallas. Ashoka Lion believes that by demonstrating a constant committment to improve ourselves that we can reflect a sincere desire to balance this goal while carrying out our property management duties for their houston and Dallas properties.

Every day, we find out devestating news that affects our world in regards to the environment (Global Warming, Water Shortages, Air Pollution); and our property management team believe that it is only a matter of time before these rules and regulations will seep into the multifamily and residential investment industries. In the commercial industry space, it is being regularly reported how buildings are committing whole heartedly to offering more eco-friendly features, and new home builders are marketing the "Green" features of their homes very heavily.  It is only a matter of time before either through market dynamics for new renters will require this of rentals in the single family home or multifamily home markets. Additionally, if market dynamics do not reach that point, then government regulations will increase the regulations for rentals. My investment clients may not realize it, but rental properties are often more stringently regulated than traditional homeowners. For example,  do regular homeowners have stringent inspections of the interior and exterior of their homes to make sure that repairs are taken care of? No, well rentals in the City of Sugar Land are required to have these kinds of inspections annually (read here).  Does your home have a requirement for door viewers, keyless entry, and keyed deadbolt? No, well Houston and Dallas rental properties must have these kinds of locks due to regulations in the State of Texas. Do you have inspections to bring up building items to code even if it was built prior to any new code? No, well the city of Houston, required a building that we managed to make those kind of upgrades even though it was built in the 1940's. 

In our opinion, it is better for us to embrace this paradigm shift versus being stuck catching up. Also, our firm is investigating how we can incorporate these techniques into make readies and property upgrades so we can better align our rental properties with consumer preferences. If you think about it, where do you pay the most money for food? Whole Food or Central Market came to the top of your mind, but what businesses are booming? Those very same brands. Though the industries are different, however they do provide insight into consumer preference for things that are more ecologically friendly and more organic.

Ashoka Lion will continue to roll out new improvements to our Green Management philosophy. Currently, our property managers are evaluating how we can improve our internal processes. Our next evolution, is we are evaluating how we can evaluate our manager's carbon foot print, while we also incorporate more ecologically friendly update as part of our make ready process.  In our humble opinion, it is better to be moving forward versus being stuck in old trends.


It is appropriate that you enjoy the Michael Jackson "Earth Song".


Know The Sugar Land Rental Licensing Requirements

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 12, May 2011 05:13

Many agents and homeowners are considering in this real estate environment renting their homes. However, many people do not know that in Sugar Land has rental licensing requirements. In the City of Sugar Land, you must be register your rental property (either online or by mai), and pay a $80 fee.  When landlords or our property management firm register your property, you will then be required to setup a inspection of the interior and exterior of the home. If real estate owners are cited by the City of Sugar Land for some violation of their codes for maintenance, sanitation, or safety; then the landlord must remediate these issues in a timely manner.

Now, many landlords maybe wondering what is the big deal if they do not register. Landlords can be fined upto $500 a day for failure to obtain a license and water service can be denied. Imagine if the landlord does not do this registration process in a timely manner, then new tenants maybe denied water service till the landlord has paid the fines and application fees. Tenants maybe issued a temporary water service permit that is good for 30 days, but it is on the landlord (or his property management representative) to coordinate this matter to insure that the inspections are done in a timely manner. This can add a lot of unnecessary tension and headaches to your life as a landlord.

What does this mean for landlords? You must make sure that you have the time to take care of this registration in a timely manner and coordinate the inspection. If items are cited in a inspection, then you must be able to remediate those in a timely manner. This is important to do before you accept a tenant or you maybe at risk of not having the tenant have any water service.

Sugar Land is a great place to live and a lot of want to live there. To insure that you keep your tenants happy and being long term tenants landlords should be aware of the obligations that come with being a landlord in Sugar Land. The Ashoka Lion team is happy to work with our clients to handle this process on their behalf, so please contact us if you need our help with managing your property in the Sugar Land area.

Check out this great show put on New Year's Eve 2009 at Sugar Land City Hall. Enjoy!





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The Facts of Life- Houston Section 8 is swamped with applicants

by jay.raman@ashokalion.com 2, May 2011 15:53

Today, I read a article about the Galveston County Housing Authority being swamped with applicants, and it made me realize how difficult the position is for the Houston Housing Authority as well. In the past 6 months, the Houston Housing authority has accepted thousands of applicants off their wait list. This make sense that the Housing Authority would try to help tenants find housing assistance, especially in light of this economy; as it is their mission.  With such a good, noble mission; you can forget how difficult it can be for rental property owners and real estate investors who work with the program.   The Houston Housing Authority now has delays that go beyond its 60 to 90 day "normal" processing period for landlords to be paid their check from Section 8 ("Section 8" is a catch all term for the county and city rental assistance program for low income individuals). Therefore with all the good that the program is doing, there are a lot of bad things that the owners are dealing with.

For example, two of our Houston owners who accepted Housing tenants for their vacant properties in November and December of 2010 have only received contracts in April of 2011 after having passed the inspection in December and January of 2011 for the two properties that I am referring to. This means that after marketing the property for tenants in the Houston area and accepting a tenant that the there was a delay of 3 to 4 months to even be approved for payment with payment coming in May 2011. What makes this delay of payment worse is that in one of the owner's cases that the effective date of the rental contracts was that it was made as of April, 2011. This means that the owner lost two to three months of rent keeping the property vacant while the Housing Authority dealt with their internal processing issues. 

These kinds of delays must be dealt with for Houston area rental owners to want to take on the additional burdens placed on them by accepting housing authority standards.  These burdens include:

  • Lengthy Paperwork: The Houston Housing Authority request copies of deeds, w-9, management agreeements, prefilled out leases signed by tenant, voucher, and housing authority packets.
  • Requirements for Tenant Appliances to be at the property: If you rent the property without a refridgerator, it must still be there for the inspection.
  • Inspectors inspection criteria not being uniform: Different inspectors in the Housing Authority program will pick out minute issues to "fail" a property requring a 2 week delay for reinspecting a property.
  • Delays in intial payment: Traditionally, the Housing authority process can take up to 60 to 90 days to process and get payment out. However with this influx of new applicants (some tenants have told our property management firm that there are as many as 6000 new voucher issued in past 6 months).

Also, real estate agents are not educated on this process, so it makes the process longer for them to deal with leasing these properties that have accepted the Section 8 Rental Housing Assistance Program tenants. For example, our property management firm will not pay any real estate agent's commission till the owner is paid by the Housing Authority.  This policy is in place to insure that the final amount is agreed upon, and the effective date is appropriate. Additionally, the Housing authority warns agents, landlords, and property management firms that tenants could potentially be reviewed for eligibility during this submission of their rental packet to the Housing authority for review.  If the prospective tenant is found to be inelligible then the rental owner will be forced to find another prospective tenant.

These delays and risk towards getting payment is why our firm created this policy of waiting till the payment is made by the Housing Authority prior to releasing any commission payment for real estate agents. However, many real estate agents are not used to these kinds of delays and this can cause confusion and resentment. This is why we hope agents read our "Agent Remarks" that our listing agents put which explains that the receipt of a check by the owner is a prerequisite for a Section 8 tenant to be considered approved and for commission to be paid out. 

We hope that real estate agents and property owners understand the risk of dealing with the Section 8 Housing Assistance program. However, there are some benefits to the program:

  • Consistent rental payments
  • Tenants could potentially stay longer as they have to come out of pocket for deposits
  • Housing Authority does provide periodic review of a applicants background

As the TV show the "Facts of Life" would sing in their intro song,

"You Take the Good, but you Take the bad. You Take Them Both, and There You Have the Facts of Life."