First Rate Property Management Blog

Owners! Get Your Property Rented!

Jim Sharone - Friday, January 24, 2020

One of the scariest times an owner goes through while renting out their property is the vacancy.  First Rate Property Management understands this and is ready to help!

You will be receiving Marketing Updates from our leasing team every Wednesday your property is on the market for rent. These updates include information about recent showings, activity with your property, current advertised rent, and our experts’ recommendations. 

What Does a Vacancy Cost?  On a $1,500 estimated rental property with a $1,250 per month PITI (Principle / Interest / Taxes / Insurance) mortgage, plus utility expenses……a vacancy can cost:

15 Days = $750 in Lost Rent + $625 Mortgage + $100 in Utilities = $1,475

30 Days = $1,500 in Lost Rent + $1,250 Mortgage + $125 in Utilities = $2,875

45 Days = $2,250 in Lost Rent + $1,875 Mortgage + $150 in Utilities = $4,275

60 Days = $3,000 in Lost Rent + $2,500 Mortgage + $200 in Utilities = $5,700

*First Rate Property Management advertises upcoming vacancies between 30 and 45 days prior to the tenant vacating the property. Our average Days-On-Market is below 30 days. By pre-leasing, we save our client anywhere between $750 - $1500 in Lost Rent expenses.*

What Will a Price Adjustment Cost?  On a $1,500 per month property:

$50 per month   =  $600 a year

$100 per month =  $1,200 a year

$150 per month =  $1,800 a year

$200 per month =  $2,400 a year

Which would you rather have for YOUR property?  Dropping the price by $100 from the start and “losing” $1,200 broken up over a year – OR – by thinking your property is worth more than the market will bear, losing $2,000, $3,000, $4,000, $5,000, or more right now?

What Should You Do?  Be aggressive with your pricing decision. It’s much better, financially, to rent your property within the first few weeks on the market making you more money in the long run. 

What Happens When You Price A Property Right?  You get more interest in your property right away. The increased interest leads to more prospective tenants physically viewing the property. We are confident that once a perspective tenant has physically seen the property with one of our well-trained showing agents, your property will be leased in no time!

Consider these other techniques:

  • Lowering the Asking Price for Rent.  If the property is move-in ready and still NOT renting, it’s always, always, always going to be because of the asking price FIRST and FOREMOST.  If a property is vacant, move-in ready, and has even the most basic marketing pictures – the property will rent at the right price.  Finding the right price is an art and a science.  When in doubt – lower the asking price for rent.  Refer to the analysis above for “What Does a Vacancy Cost”.
  • Lowering the Asking Price for Rent for 3 - 6 Months.  We will always recommend a full price reduction when a property is not immediately getting in applications or showings from interested tenants.  However – an alternate technique is to lower the asking price for the first 3 - 6 months to a new tenant.  Be careful with this technique as it can attract more applicants, but can also turn some of them off by what seems to be a gimmick.  
  • Offering a Move-In Credit. Another alternative to lowering the monthly rent is offering a new tenant a move-in credit. New tenants have to pay a large sum of money up front to get in a new property.  A $250 - $500 credit can go a long way without decreasing rental rates or costing our clients very much money! 

Vacancy Update

Melissa Sharone - Thursday, January 16, 2020

The 4th quarter vacancy survey from the Southwest Idaho Chapter of NARPM was just released.  The results are about what was expected for this time of year.  The winter time is always slowed for rentals and therefor rents tend to slightly decrease in order to get units filled.  However through the slow time the vacancy still remained low which indicates that the market is still good.  FRPM’s average vacancy over the last 3 weeks has remained very low at .5%.  As we get going into 2020 we anticipate a good rental market come spring and even better when summer hits.  Rents overall are still increasing and we expect vacancy to remain low.

Please click here for the full Vacancy Report- on this highlighted part please add the below link on these words.  This takes them to the full report.

Let me know if you have questions

Emotional Support Animal or Pet?

Beny W. - Thursday, January 2, 2020

What is an emotional support animal? Are they trained? Who gets one, and who decides that? If you have been in property management in the last few years, you have probably asked yourself at least one of those questions while witnessing the surge in rental applicants stating that they have an emotional support animal, assistance animal, or companion animal. These terms are mostly interchangeable, and for the remainder of this post I will use the term “emotional support animal”, or “ESA”, to refer to all of them. Like so many things, there is a lot of misinformation about ESAs, and for-profit companies have popped up to take advantage of this. First Rate Property Management receives over 2,000 applications a year, many of which state they have an emotional support animal, so, being a Fair Housing Provider, training on this topic has been a priority. Hopefully we can help clarify some of those questions for renters and landlords alike.

An emotional support animal is not a pet, and according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, they also are not service animals. Service animals are dogs that are specifically trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, such as a Seeing Eye dog or a seizure response dog. Service animals have different guidelines, regulations, and laws that apply to them in regards to housing, which I will not be covering just yet. Emotional support animals, on the other hand, can be any type of animal and do not have to have any training of any kind, because it is simply their presence that helps alleviate one or more symptoms or effects of a person’s disability. When a person’s disability is not readily or obviously apparent, a housing provider may ask an applicant to provide reliable documentation of the disability and the connection between the animal and the disability. This documentation from the tenant is sometimes called a reasonable accommodation request.

A reasonable accommodation request is needed to establish two things:

  1. That the person seeking housing has a disability, i.e. a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.
  2. That the person has a disability-related need for the assistance animal in the home, i.e. the animal performs a task for the benefit of that person or provides emotional support that alleviates one or more symptoms or effects of their disability.

If the reasonable accommodation request does not establish both of these, or if the request does not come from a reliable source, the request may be denied. If the request comes from a reliable source and establishes both that the person has a disability and that the animal is needed in the home because of the disability, then the reasonable accommodation request must be approved, and all pet fees and pet rent is waived, as well as any “no pet” policies or restrictions such as breed, weight, age, etc.

What is a “reliable” source? In essence, it is someone who is in a position to know. A reasonable accommodation request can be written by a counselor, a case worker, a doctor, a physical therapist, or anyone else who has an established relationship with the applicant and knows their limitations. For-profit ESA businesses have made this process incredibly complicated and difficult for both landlords and those with disabilities. These industries have profits in the millions. A quick Google search of “ESA letter” brings up a whole page of websites where people can purchase an ESA registration card, an ESA certificate, and even letters from healthcare professionals.

There is no emotional support animal registry, at least not one that can provide a valid reasonable accommodation request. Certificates also lack the required validity, though they can cost you upwards of $50. As for the letters that come from these websites, these are often written for the purchaser after a “quick 5 minute survey” and a payment of around $150. The majority of the time the healthcare professional that writes the letter has not had any personal interaction with the purchaser. Out of curiosity, I took a couple of these surveys and after answering “no,” “never,” and “rarely” to questions such as “Over the past two (2) weeks, how often have you felt more angry, grouchy, or irritated than usual?” and “Over the past two (2) weeks, how often have you avoided situations that make you anxious?”, I was still given the news that I was a “good candidate for an ESA letter.” This apparently meant they would write me a letter stating I have a disability when I do not, and any doctor who is familiar with me would agree I do not have any disability.

These ESA businesses are thriving off of misinformation, and many have disinformation on their websites in order to convince people to buy their product. It is not surprising that some applicants who state they have an emotional support animal are not aware of the actual law, specifically the Fair Housing Act, and that it is intended to protect those with disabilities. These websites are preying upon anyone who loves their pet, and especially upon those with disabilities who really do need an emotional support animal. If you have a disability, you should not have to pay a dime for your reasonable accommodation request.

Thankfully, laws are slowly starting to catch up. Virginia has passed a law that cracks down on these businesses and has already fined one counselor for providing a letter based solely on a brief online form, and an Oregon counselor was fined and reprimanded by the state board of counseling for the same thing.

It is important to remember that just because someone has purchased a letter or certificate from one of these companies, it doesn’t mean that they are not disabled, or that they are trying to “cheat the system”; it just means that they were misinformed and/or taken advantage of. When a housing provider receives a reasonable accommodation request that is not able to be approved, it is important to begin an open and respectful dialogue and to provide an explanation to the applicant regarding what is required and why what was provided is invalid.


NBC Article on Fined Counselors:

New York Times Article on ESAs:

HUD Notice on Assistance Animals and Reasonable Accommodations for Persons with Disabilities:

Landlords Beware: A Rise in Fraudulent Applications

Julie Tollifson - Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Landlords Beware: A Rise in Fraudulent Applications

In 2018 it was reported that more than 80% of property managers surveyed have fallen victim to tenant fraud. Many of these cases of fraud were not exposed until after the tenant had moved into the rental property and proven to be an unqualified tenant. Could there be an even greater statistic of undiscovered fraudulent renters? How can landlords and property managers protect these property investments?

The major increase in online rental applications and exponential rise in technology have significantly contributed to application fraud. The most common tenant scams include fabricating a fictional online identity, doctoring identification, and falsifying pay stubs.

            The most effective way to combat these scams is to utilize an established and trusted third party tenant screening agency. It is important that the property investor hire a professional property manager who is doing their due diligence in collecting current & government issued identification, accurate Social Security Information, and have all the disclosures listed clearly on the application.

            Most property managers prefer to use an instant online screening solution. This is largely due to the inexpensive cost and swift completed reports. It is important to consider hiring a professional property management company to invest in the necessary processes to be able to alleviate the grievances of apathetic tenants. First Rate Property Management invests in the knowledge, procedures, screening agencies, and programs on the front end to find qualified and consistent tenants to help capitalize on the investments of our clients. 

            First Rate Property Management’s screening agency, AcraNet, will always notify us if the name provided on the application does not meet the name provided by TransUnion through the Social Security Number. AcraNet is able to identify these “red flags” so we can address them with the tenant to gain clarification. 

            AcraNet does a great job of proactively combating these concerns before they become an issue. However, our screening agents here at FRPM do the income verification. When we heard that there has been a rise in pay stub fraud for rental applications, we went to work finding ways to proactively combat this before it became a problem locally. There are for-profit companies that can be found with a quick Google search for “fake paystubs” that, for a small fee of $10 or less, will formulate seemingly valid paystubs to submit to a landlord or property management company. Some companies will charge “package” fees for rental references, pay stubs, employment verification, and more for almost $100.

            Upon my research, I found there are many avenues to travel to mitigate this risk. The first- and perhaps the simplest- is to request paystubs and bank statements. You can verify that the direct deposits or cash amounts deposited match the check number.

            The second way is to verify employment by calling the employer. While this will verify the applicant is indeed employed, it may not verify the amount. This was listed in my research but was not recommended as it doesn’t alleviate the issue in whole. Some larger corporations that do this will outsource the verification service and can charge up to $25.

            Once AcraNet has reported the applicants’ credit report through TransUnion, we can cross check the information provided and the information found. There will inevitably be exceptions to these rules but it will create a need for open dialogue with the applicants to be able to get to the bottom of it.

            Landlord’s need to make sure they are enforcing a policy that keeps fraudulent applicants accountable, and follow our lead by having a more strenuous employment verification process. This process includes cross checking bank statements with pay stubs, and in some cases verifying with the employer.  FRPM is a Fair Housing Provider so we are allowed to update our screening criteria, but are required to qualify each and every one of our tenants based on the exact same criteria. We hope this issue never becomes prevalent in our market, but on the off chance it does, FRPM is prepared. 

Julie Tollifson, Leasing Team Leader

First Rate Property Management, Inc.
Boise, Idaho
Contact me for more information about this blog.

Google Reviews!

Julie Tollifson - Monday, December 16, 2019

Property Management: Google Review

            We are far too aware of how our Google Rating affects our property management business. With the PM stigma among tenants, the search engine optimization game feels almost impossible to win. However, with a good team, clear goals, and first rate customer service, you can optimize your search engine and drive traffic to your website to minimize the vacancies for your clients!

            Why care about our Google Rating? There is a plethora of benefits to a climbing Google or yelp rating. Everybody, owners and tenants included, uses Google. The ease of being able to evaluate others’ experience with a property management company from either perspective allows for immediate word of mouth, which as we know, is the most inexpensive way to market your company, product, or service. The more tenants or owners that we drive to our website after a quick Google search and evaluation of our reviews, the more we can grow our cliental, and the more tenants we have looking at our available listings to minimize vacancy.

            How to improve our Google Rating? There is a very complicated and extensive algorithm for how the expert engineers calculate a company’s Google Rating. Rather than achieving a degree in mathematics and engineering, I found it to be rather helpful to solicit both tenants and owners for reviews as often as possible. The most effective way to receive positive reviews is to request them after a tenant or owner has had a positive experience. Our company made a goal last year to achieve 4.0 Stars on Google. At the time, we were only at 3.5 Stars. We got together with each department to identify opportunities to ask our tenants for reviews.

            Our leasing department was able to improve the move-in process by creating a “Delayed Send” email to all recently moved-in tenants. The Leasing team adjusts the verbiage to be able to add their own voice to the tone of the emails, but our standard email congratulates the tenant on their new home, asks for any feedback, and provides a link for a Google Review. We had all these processes implemented by the time summer 2019 was starting to pick up. We had 100 Move-ins just in 1 month. All of those applicants were asked to provide our company with a review of the service they received. The reviews poured in. If they had constructive feedback for the company, we ask that they respond to our email so we can take the necessary corrective action.

            Our operations department sent out an email to all of our owners. The notice informed and educated our owners on why they should care about our Google Review rating. We received a good handful of reviews then as well.\

            When our maintenance department responds to a maintenance request with above and beyond service and resolution, they had already fostered a relationship with the tenants to be able to comfortably ask to review the service.

            What happens after our Google Rating improves? We were able to reach our goal in less than the allotted time. Our Google Rating reached a 4.0 by August 2019. When the market began to slow is when we started to see the statistical results of our hard earned reviews. The end of October, when the flexibility of looking for a home for prospective tenants has been restored, we are seeing our vacancy rate drop almost a full one percent. 

            The steady influx of new prospective owners inquiring about our services is undeniable. Without the expense of a marketing software or Business Development Team Member, our services spread vastly across our niche at a rate that we struggle to accommodate! While this is not solely contributed to the Google Rating, it is likely a very magnanimous part of the cause. Again, this has been the most inexpensive way for our company to market our service.

            What other benefits have you seen since increasing your Google Rating? Beyond the owner inquiry and decreased vacancy, our company had a ton of fun working towards this goal. It became an internal competition between each department and sometimes each individual. This not only motivated our team members but also promoted a team-oriented environment. Each review was matched with a ringing of the office bell, followed by words of praise and encouragement. The daily focus of achieving this goal cultivated the team buy-in and, in some cases, the instant gratification that so many seek. 

            We were always asking for our interactions at work with tenants or owners to be reviewed. This inspired all of our staff to think twice before sending an email or responding on the phone. The strive for first rate customer service & success was evident. There was active forethought from each individual with each interaction. 

            We made sure that beyond the instant gratification our team knew that achieving that goal would be worth their while. We planned a big “4.0 Party” to celebrate the victory. This was the positive reinforcement that some may have needed to remain motivated during the “dormant” phase of goal achieving process.

            Don’t stop there! Continue to find ways to achieve a higher Google Rating in hopes of achieving that seemingly expensive Search Engine Optimization so many businesses are struggling to master. We have adjusted our goal to improve our Google Rating again, and have already begun the process of implementing new programs. I am excited to achieve new successes again next year.  

Julie Tollifson, Leasing Team Leader

First Rate Property Management, Inc.
Boise, Idaho
Contact me for more information about this blog.

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!

Beny W. - Tuesday, December 10, 2019

As Boise’s population has boomed in the last decade, so have our area’s pest issues. One type of pest that we have encountered more frequently as a property management company is bed bugs. Bed bugs can be an embarrassing and uncomfortable topic, but it is important to remember that anyone can get them. Also, while it is very important to have the infestation treated as soon as possible to prevent spreading, bed bugs are not known to transmit diseases or cause any severe health issues.

In an effort to be proactive about pests and offer our tenants the best service, First Rate Property Management has partnered with Pestcom, a local, well-regarded pest control company, and will be extending Professional Pest Protection to all new tenants beginning January of 2020! This covers bed bugs as well as bees, ants, spiders, cockroaches, fleas, and many other common pests that tenants frequently encounter. Our existing tenants can opt into this service package as well.

Offering a pest control program is a win-win situation for both tenants and owners. Sometimes the source of the infestation is hard to identify, which makes it difficult to determine if the tenant or the owner pays for the costs associated with treatment. Tenants will also be more likely to report infestations if they know they will not be charged for the pest treatments, which will decrease the spread of bed bugs and lower costs for everyone. As bed bugs become more and more common, best practice for property managers is to create a contingency plan on how they will handle infestations, and proactively open up the channels of communication with their tenants about this issue.

Where do bed bugs hide?

When not feeding, bed bugs hide in a variety of places, but they especially love tight spaces. Around the bed, they can be found near the corners, in the piping, seams, and tags of the mattress or box spring, and in cracks on the bed frame and headboard. Bed bugs can squeeze into really small hiding spots; if a crack will hold a credit card, it could hide a bed bug!

How do I know if I have them?

• Small, dark reddish spots on sheets and mattresses.

• Eggs and eggshells, which are tiny (about 1mm) and pale yellow skins that the bugs shed as they grow larger.

• Bites are not an accurate way to determine if you have bed bugs, since they can be mistaken as rashes. Some people do not react to bed bug bites at all! If you do have a reaction, the bites are commonly in a line.

Can I Prevent Bed Bugs?

Unfortunately, bed bugs are excellent hitchhikers and hiders, which means there is no foolproof way to prevent an infestation. However, here are some helpful tips that can reduce your risk:

• Thoroughly check and vacuum suitcases when returning from a vacation.

• Never purchase or bring home used furniture without checking it THOROUGHLY for signs of bed bugs. Keep in mind that they don’t just live in mattresses; they can also be found in dressers, nightstands, etc. Use a bright flashlight to check the furniture, and remember they love tight spaces.

• Keep your home clean and clutter-free.

• Be careful at shared laundry facilities. Check your surroundings and the machines. Only high heat can kill them, so make sure the dryer is working properly.

• Use the room map included in this post to occasionally check your bedrooms for common hiding places, especially after travelling or having houseguests.

What do I do if I think I have bed bugs?

Do NOT try to treat the infestation yourself. Over the counter treatments are ineffectual, and can often lead to the bed bugs spreading out even further into your home or into your neighbor’s home. These treatments can also interfere with the treatments that the professionals will use.

If you are a tenant of First Rate, call us immediately – 208-321-1900

Parking Enforcement - The Good, The Bad, and The Boot

Arica Elordi - Tuesday, November 19, 2019

One of the most important amenities to many tenants is adequate parking at the apartment complex they are renting from. Many value having their parking lot enforced to keep unwanted visitors from parking in their spot. Hiring a vendor for this enforcement can help alleviate these concerns at some of the bigger complexes we manage.

There are various issues that have resulted in enforcing parking at certain complexes. These issues include but are not limited to:

  • Other people park in a resident’s assigned spot, causing a chain reaction of incorrect parking.
  • Insufficient guest parking so guests take up residents parking.
  • They own more vehicles than they are assigned, therefore taking up other residents parking.

Since we’ve started using Deep Six Parking Enforcement, we have had less parking issues that we have to handle, increase rentability of available units through offering this amenity, and keep parking limited to people on the rental agreement; this is especially helpful in downtown Boise during BSU games.

        Obviously, parking enforcement is strict and will sometimes upset tenants but Deep Six has been great about communicating the rules to avoid this from happening. If issues do arise, Deep Six will always take ownership and try to handle the conflict before it comes to FRPM. The residents who currently have parking enforcement feel safer knowing that all they have to do is make a phone call and the parking enforcement company will come directly to the property to assist. One of the greatest aspects of this service is that is completely free for investors and managers!

We have very clear policies detailed within our lease agreement that allows us to issue lease violations and enforce it when necessary. We have also seen decrease in vandalism at our properties and our residents have peace of mind knowing they parking lot is being surveyed. Deep Six Parking Enforcement even complies with city code, records, and documents to ensure they are running smoothly and fairly.

Is the Growth of Technology Contributing to the Diminishing Profits and Return on Relationships in t...

Tony Drost - Friday, November 15, 2019

First Rate Property Management posted a blog back in October including a summary on theState of the Property Management Industryreport that was published by Buildium and the National Association of Residential Managers.  This report was full of useful information, but we found three things to be the greatest take-aways.  They reported stats reflecting the diminishing profits in our industry; relationships are still the heart of property management; and billions of dollars are being invested in technology to support property management industries.

Before we discuss these three interesting traits, let's review where we started.  In the early 90s it was common for residential property managers to start the business as a side hustle to supplement their income and support the cliental in the real estate business.

These were ma and pa businesses that had low overhead and unless you count the fax and copy machine, they had zero technology. As the 90s went on, we purchased one of the very first Windows based property management software systems.  This was great because not only did it provide property management specific accounting, but the real advantage was that it integrated the relationships of the tenants, properties, property owners, and maintenance together.  This integration streamlined many of the processes.

Diminishing profits:

This new technology comes with a hefty price tag. Most of these systems do integrate all of these individual systems.  For example, a tenant can input a maintenance request on an integrated website and once reviewed by the property manager a single click of a button will notify the owner that work is being done, notify the vendor to complete the work once the system verifies the company has a valid worker's compensation and liability policy on hand, and inform the tenant that help is on its way. When the bill is received, very little input is needed and the system will pay the bill and post to the appropriate ledgers.

This might sound too good to pass up, but the pricing is expensive and there are several “add-ons” not included. The user almost always buys the basic package in addition to all of the add-ons. With a sophisticated system that seems to do it all, there is always, of course, technical support. This support is imperative to the success of this costly technology and that too, often comes at an additional price.  All of these systems are now cloud driven and are prescription fee based.  They can cost up to tens of thousands per year.  Perhaps one of the reasons profits are diminishing.

Locally- specifically within our own company- our profits have diminished.  This year, our profits are down by 46%. Rents have increase and so has our gross income. Some of our increased expenses certainly can be contributed to technology costs, but a majority is increased labor costs.  While the minimum wage has not wavered, the cost to employee quality people has grown to almost double the minimum wage in Idaho. We also provide our employees with health care and Simple IRAs, which also have increased, which in total, account for about 38% of our increased expenses.

Lastly, the third area of expense has been around maintenance.  Yes, either the tenant or the property owner is responsible for maintenance costs.  However, when mistakes are made, we often end up paying and this year happened to be a bad year. We can only hope to learn from these mistakes to minimize these expenses moving forward. This can mean more thorough training, reviewing our processes, and providing the appropriate feedback to our staff.


We know that the global growth of technology has threatened our ability to interact as humans. We also know that trust, credibility, and connection are all aspects of human relationships that impact our business precipitously. These three characteristics are all things that lack in technology. While technology and automation make our processes streamlined, are they really worth the money spent if we are losing our ability to build personal relationships with our clients and tenants?

In our recent focus on customer relations, we have found that a simple human touch can result in a better experience for the tenant, leading to higher tenant retention, resulting in less turnover expenses for our owners. The question remains; is this diminishing profit among property managers related to the diminishing ability to relate and interact with owners in a credible way? The cost of technology rises, companies are seeking ways to minimize human interaction, yet human interaction is what our clients and tenants are seeking.

Perhaps the solution is to find an automated software that balances efficiencies and stimulates human interaction. Is this something PM companies will more likely pay for?

Technology today:

Technological solutions continued to be developed in an effort to support the property management industry. It was slow to start, but has since grown exponentially, adjacent to the growth of global technology in all industries. This growth stimulated the billions of dollars being poured into it.  In most cases, this new technology came about as a single product. Here is a quick list of the more popular tech solutions:    Websites, Marketing, Marketing Syndication, Communication Management, Leasing, Automated Forms with Mail Merge, Online Maintenance, Inspections, Advanced and  Customizable Reporting and Accounting statements, Online Payments, ACH, Work Flow Management, Key Performance Indicators and other Business Metrics, Tenant Screening, Corporate Accounting, Online Tenant Applications, Portals for Owners and Tenants, Showing Coordination, Electronic Signatures, Mobile Applications, Cloud Based systems, VOIP, Contact Management Software, Texting, Ratio Utility Billing System, Virtual Tours, Floor Plan Generation, 3-D Modelling, Virtual Staging, Check Scanning, and Word Processing, and Automated Client Notifications.

As these programs began to roll out, each of these tech solutions were discreet or standalone.  So the PM would pay for each service and none of the systems collaborated for efficiency. Integration was needed to provide a centralized data location. The demand for an all-inclusive property management solution was born.

Written By:

Tony Drost - Chairman & Julie Tollifson - Leasing Manager  First Rate Property Mgmt.;

City Council Discussion - Capping Rental Application Fees

Julie Tollifson - Wednesday, October 30, 2019

As an owner, tenant, or landlord, it is important to be informed on the latest proposed cap on rental application fees and how it will affect you. Councilwoman, Lisa Sanchez, has proposed an ordinance to cap rental application fees at $30. On October 29th, 2019 the people of the city were allotted 3 minutes per individual to discuss their concerns and position. Here is what you need to know:

There are five points included in the proposed ordinance. 

1) Requires that the criteria on which an application will be judged must be disclosed in advance, along with the amount of the fee.

This is a common best practice among most Property Management companies and especially among those among the SW Idaho Chapter of the National Association for Residential Property Management. First Rate Property Management and many professional property managers support this section of the ordinance.

2) States those applications can only be taken and screened for units that will be available within a reasonable amount of time.

I believe this part of the ordinance was envisioned to keep prospective tenants from feeling pressured to move into an apartment as quickly as possible. In the property management industry, limiting the time those properties can be available, will result in an added pressure to tenants to find an available rental quickly, have their money quickly, and move in quickly. By limiting the amount of days that a property management company can advertise an upcoming available unit, the result would actually be the opposite of the intent. 

Once leases are signed, the next thing to do should always be to deactivate advertising. This is not only to minimize the cost for owners but to keep prospective tenants from unknowingly and inadvertently paying an application fee on an apartment that is actually no longer available. FRPM practices this ever time a tenant gets approved. I suggest other property managers or landlords follow suit.

3) Sets the amount that can be charged for a unit shall not exceed the actual cost of the screen process or $30, whichever is lower and a receipt detailing how the fee was used must be given. The applicant will also be given copies of any reports that were generated.

4) Stipulates that current tenant are not allowed to be charged on application fee to move to another unit under the same property owner

In order to find quality tenants, our screening criterion needs to be met. This is consistent across the board with every person that comes in to our office to apply. The Fair Housing Act requires that all property managers hold applicants to exact same standard throughout their businesses. The hard costs to acquire accurate information regarding credit, criminal, rental history, and income can range anywhere between $30 - 100. This range is determined by an abundance of factors including but not limited to state of the search, name changes of the applicant, and rental verifications. Hard costs do not include the cost of labor used to acquire the information, communicate with the tenant, and any other administrative processes that might be needed. 

According to Sanchez’s story, one of the things that inspired her to want to advocate for such an ordinance was when a friend of hers & long time tenant wanted to switch units and the property management company required her to re-apply. This was extremely disheartening for Sanchez to hear and she thought she’d take action to protect tenants in similar situations.

What Sanchez may have been unaware of when proposing this ordinance is the thinking behind the property management position. As a tenant in a multi-family dwelling, it is important to know that you are safe in your home and trust that your neighbors are not a threat to you or your family. The property management company, likely wanted to ensure that Sanchez’s friend had maintained reasonable financial responsibility and a clean criminal record since the time she first applied. 

We know how difficult it can be for low income families to find a place to rent, and we work hard to accommodate as many people as possible. Here at FRPM, when existing tenants are moving out and want to apply with another one of our available listings, we require them to pay and apply to ensure the safety of our owners and other tenants, but once they are approved we credit their application fees back to their account. This is a great benefit to the tenant, owner, and their neighbors. Whether it is the tenant, the owner, or the employee, we try to find a happy medium for everyone. Many property management companies, like FRPM, allow tenants to apply once and have their application be transferrable between any of their available properties. In the summertime FRPM can have as many as 100 properties available to choose from. This helps to alleviate some of the concern tenants have about their application fees. 

5) First violation is an infraction with a $100 fine. Second or subsequent violations are misdemeanors

During the public hearing, it seemed everyone agreed that this consequence was a bit too aggressive. 


Julie Tollifson, Leasing Team Leader

First Rate Property Management, Inc.
Boise, Idaho
Contact me for more information about this blog.

SW Idaho NARPM 3rd Quarter Vacancy Report

Melissa Sharone - Tuesday, October 29, 2019

                The 3rd quarter Narpm vacancy survey is out and it shows that vacancy dropped quite a bit from the 2nd quarter but that is to be expected. It is the time of year when things slow down for the rental industry. The vacancy for Ada County is at 1.53% and Canyon County is at 1.99%. First Rate’s vacancy is currently at .88% and will continue to decrease as the winter gets closer. Rents are still holding strong but any vacancies now, especially single family homes, will likely need a slightly lower rent or a move in special to get filled as the activity decreases. First Rate’s strategy for single family homes that are vacant now is to sign a shorter term lease and then look to get them back to market rent come spring or early summer.   We anticipate the 4th quarter to be pretty quiet and then things will start to pick up after the first of the year towards the end of the 1st quarter of 2020. 

Read full report here: 

Melissa Sharone

President, FRPM

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