Think Of The Homeless

There are over 30 million Americans who live on the streets of our nation. Can you consider giving something to a shelter near you? Your fellow human beings need socks because they walk everywhere. Food and shelter are great too, if they will take them. So please give.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Resident Manager Class with The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles

The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles has a class that they hold on a revolving basis which claims to inform students who attend of all they need for becoming a resident manager for apartment buildings, multiple family living situations and other forms of rental living which stay within certain recognized norms. The class runs for a few days each week for the length of about six weeks. For anyone interested in the workings of this industry, the class is very informative.

As I have stated in the past posts, I have been looking into so called business opportunities for those attempting to survive this falling American economy and also those who are looking to create multiple streams of income or perhaps adjust their living situation to match the hardship that most of the country is now experiencing. I have seen quite a few of these so called opportunities over the years, and most.... well, all of them seem constructed to make money for those who sell the program, not for those who work the program, whatever that program may be. 

The AAGLA holds this class in a straight forward and forthright manner, seemingly free of any guile or want for harm to the finances of their participants, and therefore, I wanted to investigate this path direction for those who may be interested. I found NO information ahead of time about complaints of “rip off” type filings by others who have come and gone through this system, so I went ahead and tried it myself. 

Last October, I signed up for the six week class to become a resident manager and I had to take time off from work and miss some pay in order to make this thing happen. The class cost $400.00 dollars and the AAGLA requires payment up front. The class is held in a “meeting” type room in a building not too far from the downtown area of Greater Los Angeles and I have to tell you, the area is less than desirable. Repeatedly, we students were admonished to lock the doors on the bottom level in the parking lot when we had all entered the building. Otherwise, we were told, we might all get shot from some intruder who might happen along one night. The parking lot is fenced in and seemed protected from the street, but the instructor was not convinced of our safety despite this.

In a rather large meeting room of tables and chairs, the class consisted of about 25 students, all from different parts of the city and all having different ages. Some of the students had already been involved in the industry and knew a thing or two about the subjects discussed. On this one six week stretch the AAGLA made $10,000 dollars plus an additional potential $2,500 (which I’ll discuss in a moment) from the proceedings. That’s a pretty good take for the process and this class is repeated more than a few times each year.

The class begins with a very kindly, and genial gentleman instructor who holds all but a few of the classes through the entire course. He’s quite the engaging speaker and story teller. And, OH! what a story teller. There were many times I felt as if I were in the presence of “Grandpa” as we all sat and listened to stories from his past, mostly from the business of managing apartments, but unfortunately not ALL from this work, which he had done for quite some time since early in his twenties. He certainly knew a lot about the process, and I had no doubts about his experience and abilities.

Subjects covered, when we weren’t being regaled with “when I was your age” type personal stories, were: How to work with owners, competing for good tenants (Yes, YOU must compete for the good ones, since there are many nightmares), choosing tenants, screening and collecting, creating a community in the complex, record keeping and evictions. We also covered the fair housing laws, the forms used and also the correct way to go about tenant relations. Also, safety and security, changing rental agreements, security deposits and their deadlines.

Common tasks and functions such as complex safety, cleaning, rent collections, dealing with vendors, showing and marketing the apartments, maintenance (a word about this in a moment), and tenant screening were all covered in one way or another over the course of the first few weeks, but not without the “entertaining” side of story telling of our host. If you have no patience for this sort of presentation, you may want to enroll somewhere else for this training where they will simply lay it all out for you and stick more closely to the relevant points of the class for which you have paid $400 dollars and for which you are also spending six weeks in an evening class attending. Those classes may also be shorter, and also less expensive.

We were also referred to books such as “Landlord Lingo” (tenant law) and “California Evictions”. It was during this period of the class that I became aware of the rather insane practice of the California court system to protect those who have less legal rights than the persons who are actually working within the system correctly. Let me just give you a brief idea of what I mean by that. Many people here in Los Angeles have rotten credit for various reasons, and many building owners will not rent to them because of this credit. Which makes sense since bad credit usually means someone cannot pay their bills for whatever reason. 

Therefore, many of those folks will go looking for a roommate situation in which they can share an apartment based upon an agreement between persons living in the unit. They can’t be put on the lease, but they can stay and pay as a “guest” of the master tenant. NEVER DO THIS. Never let someone be a roomie off of the lease, because they LEGALLY can stop paying the rent, and YOU can’t make them continue. The courts will back them up and not you. If you get a roomie who is paying YOU and not the landlord, then YOU are his/her landlord. You must take care of them as though you were the legal landlord, but just for them. You will not win in court if you are taken advantage of by someone who is really a “freeloader” and you will have to pay for whatever costs they incur from non payment or damage to the apartment - all backed by the court. In fact, if you leave and they are still there, they have legal right to stay as the tenant, even though they never signed on to the lease. Only the sheriff can come and drag them away, but only after all legal recourse has been taken to solve the situation. NIGHTMARE!

We also leaned about something called “premises liability lawyers”. These are lawyers whose sole purpose is to sue apartment owners for anything that might constitute possible litigable events. Due to this, attorneys have a hard time finding apartments. Managers are tough on them even if they have never sued a complex. Many of the suits placed are about death incidents, injuries or even rapes. Whatever the case, there are professional wolves out there looking to make a manager’s job the worst he has ever had.

In this industry, pets are a major problem. Insurance companies may cancel on a complex for allowing pets. Tenants can actually get bitten by a flea, be allergic, and then sue the complex owner for their trouble. Usually, if a complex has ONE dog, it has all animals sooner or later. People who don’t like pets will move out and cause your occupancy to be less that 100%, not the desired position for any manager. We were warned against having any pets at all simply due to the increased risk of being sued.

Other troubles with apartments included: People stealing your water if it is not locked off. This refers to folks from the surrounding area who come and hook up to your faucets to wash their cars and run up your water bill. Building codes which include subjects such as fire codes, magnet doors, extinguishers and escapes. Smoke detectors and where they should be placed. The trouble with double key dead bolt locks (double cylinder), which usually keep small kids inside of the unit, but these are illegal. Safety glass which must be able to shatter into small pieces if broken, these being used in shower doors and large plate glass windows. 

Swimming pools are also another major concern as no one wants to see a kid meet his untimely end in one of them. There are a dozen stipulations that must also be adhered to as well concerning pools, and at this point you should just know that you would be better off without them. The instructor suggests teaching the tenant’s kids how to swim if you have a pool. You should have heard this story of how a teacher once threw kids screaming and kicking into the deep end in order to give them a swimming lesson. 

Mental trauma aside and abuse lawsuits from parents not withstanding, "Grandpa" didn’t seem to mind this method of teaching. I don’t mean to be negative where this instructor is concerned, but there were several times where his ideas on dealing with kids in the complex raised a few eyebrows among us students. Not just throwing them in the deep end of the pool, but also keeping them in your place until parents come home from work in order to help them avoid the government taking the children away, and also having the kids clean up the complex by making a game for them to see who gets the most trash. He’s a great guy, an fine teacher, but I take issue with this kind of “loose cannon” type instruction when it comes to dealing with other people’s children.

There was a lot of time also spent on deciding what the agreements between yourself and the owner would be. Most folks who look into this type of work are looking to find a way to get free rent for their living place in exchange for the work they will be doing. Free rent isn’t always the best deal. Many of these owners will insist that you work for them with free rent, and then you’ll also have to go and get a second job to make any kind of cash money. When there is money involved, many times the minimum wage laws are violated and you will be taken advantage of.

As a manager you’ll often have weekend obligations and or be “on call” for the job at any time. When one is living on the property, it’s very difficult to get away from the constant call of 16  plus units who may have a rotating list of problems. Not to mention that there are few perfect tenants. Usually, there is always someone on the verge of being evicted.

Owners who interview you will want to know why you are looking for employment as a manager and you simply cannot tell them the wrong answer. They will ask if you drink or smoke, if you have family or if you are taking care of parents, and if you are bondable. Being bondable is a special position. You can’t have any criminal background, you have to show a competent credit record and your entire life will be reviewed by the bonding board. They will call up your second grade teacher, your old girlfriends from high school, your grandmother and they will look at all of your purchases recorded on your debit card for the last five years. Yes, they can do this. I haven’t even mentioned the part about drug testing. Well, I just did.  

You also have to know how to market your property. This means researching the surrounding competition and advertising for your own. You’ll take photos, place ads, tweet, YouTube and whatever else it requires to get vacancies filled, all the while dealing with the merry go round of people and mechanical problems at home. Vacancies are rarely tolerated by owners because they represent loss of cash flow. You’ll be a rental marketer as well as a manager, and if you are getting free rent but only minimum wage, you have to decide if this is really a thing you want to do. Of course, the instructor will tell you what a great idea it is because you will be protecting yourself against the cost of high rent, but there is so much more to consider.

We did also have another Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles instructor for a brief time, a very informative lady, who interestingly enough told us that when she was a resident manager, it was the worst job she had ever had. This was due mainly to the round robin of incredibly bad tenants she had to deal with, and she also told us a few stories. They are not for the faint of heart. The bottom line of her classes seems to be that one would be better off interning in a complex before ever committing to the full time job of resident manager so as to see just what the realities of the work entail. I agree fully.

Tenants love you as long as things go their way, she told us. Then they hate you when something bad happens. Discrimination was a big part of her class. Accordingly, this ugly monster still exists today with owners and managers refusing to rent to persons based upon ANYTHING other than the person or persons ability to pay the rent. 

She covered the ideas behind rent control before and after 1978, and the legal problems that come from a manager’s being fired for refusing to break the laws concerning rent control. I understood that there is a common practice of avoiding the rent control status if owners find that they can get away with this. Are you shaking your head wearily yet?  

Belive it or not, there are laws concerning square footage and the number of people who can live in a unit. If a family ends up having too many children over time, a manager is required to notify them that they are now in violation of the occupation standards. They could well lose their home just because they have too many babies. By the way, when speaking about tenant’s kids, a manger can never use the words “children” or “minor”, they must always be referred to as “person, occupant or resident”. This is due to their classification under tenant law. 

Are you ready to be a resident manager yet? Are ya????

When dealing with the handicapped, March 13, 1991 is the cut off date for receiving assistance from the government in order to get handicapped compliance. Any building built after this date must pay for their own compliance, and if modifications are made, then they become a part of the property even after the handicapped person leaves. If you have a handicapped person who requests accommodation, it is a violation of privacy laws to call their medical provider to ask for confirmation of handicapped need. You must trust the handicapped person’s judgment in relation to the accommodation that you must pay for. Nice, huh?

Okay, so I have said a lot about what is covered in the The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles resident manager class, and yet I have been only brief on the subjects covered. But, you might say, what happens now? Well, now you must buy a list they have provided for the purpose of finding those apartments you wish to find employment with. You aren’t required to do so, but they suggest it strongly. This list is a compiled listing from five different zip codes in the areas where you would like to work and comprises about 300 items. This list costs $100 dollars.

Now, you would be wrong to assume that this list is a list of available apartment manager job openings. You would be very wrong. I spent the better part of maybe two months making phone calls to these listings only to find that the “list” you are given is about 12 years old. Many of the companies I called were management companies themselves, which are listed for free all over the net, or they were numbers that had gone out of order, were the numbers of long standing managers who were shocked to hear from someone who had some kind of list.... or, and this is the sad one, a hand full of people who had suffered years of phone ringing abuse by people calling them looking for resident manager jobs which had nothing to do with the person’s private number. The numbers were just WRONG. Period. Let me just say at this point, I am not a resident manager some 9 months after taking the class, and I must have talked to about 250 people on the phone. Over and over and over again it was the same thing: “Sorry, we’re not looking for anyone at this time”. 

I did manage to get a few interviews, with people who were more curious than serious, and one in particular old gentleman who just wanted someone to talk to..... and TALK DOWN to, but the real interviews revealed something that seems obvious to even someone who is not involved. Mainly, like any other position, it does’nt matter how many resident manager classes you paid for, you have to have experience or they don’t want you. Even the Craig’s List ads for managers come straight out and state this: If you haven’t any experience, don’t call us!

A second point to make here is one about maintenance of the property. The class instructor casually informs the class that if you have never fixed anything, then you can just go to YouTube and watch a video and learn how to fix anything you might need in an apartment complex. When I mentioned this in my interviews I got chuckles and eye rolls as a response. That might make great sales chatter in a class room setting, but NO one else in a hiring position agrees with this. Plainly: you HAVE TO BE ABLE TO FIX THINGS YOURSELF. Owners don’t want to have to hire handy men from outside if they don’t have to, and the jobs that are available will go to those with experience.

Y’know...if you can find them.

Is this The Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles class worth $400 dollars for education and information? Probably. There is a lot I learned which I could never have guessed on my own about resident manager work.

Will this class help you in finding employment? Probably not. Better to just get an internship and learn on the side. Save your money.

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