Compliance deFINED Blog

Preparing Your Properties for Hurricane Season

by Steven Pasternack on September 28, 2017 , Comments Off

The recent weeks have brought unprecedented, record breaking hurricanes that have wreaked havoc on many of the Caribbean Islands and southern states. Thankfully New York has been spared from their damaging effects, but New Yorkers are not in the clear just yet.  Hurricanes can blow in anytime from early June through the end of November, with the worst storms often hitting late in the season. In fact, meteorologists and environmental researchers claim that the current combination of above-average sea surface temperatures and weak wind shear will give rise to one of the worst hurricane seasons New York has ever seen. And with their accompanying torrential downpours and winds coming in at anywhere from 40 to 111 MPH, hurricanes can have devastating effects on properties – and lives.

As a landlord, you want to do your all to keep your tenants and your property safe when coastal storms make their landfall. Hopefully, you’ve already taken all the precautions you can and are fully prepared for any eventuality. It’s always a good idea to take a second look, though, and to make sure all of your safety precautions are in place.

Sounds daunting? No worries; Jack Jaffa & Associates is here to walk you through the entire process. We’ll keep you safe and dry when the wet winds blow in!

Use this handy guide as a checklist for all your properties and be sure to review it periodically.

1. Check your insurance coverage

Your first step towards protecting your properties against storm damage is determining that you have adequate insurance coverage. Review your policy carefully to be sure it covers all damage caused by flooding and strong winds. If your coverage seems insufficient, you may want to consider upgrading your policy to one that offers more substantial protection.

2. Protect your property against flooding

One of the most devastating effects of hurricanes is extensive flooding caused by high storm surges. Be sure to clean your gutters and downspouts and check that you have working drains and pipes around your buildings. Use the next small rainfall to see whether the drainage on and around your property works seamlessly, or if water gathers in certain areas. Take note of which locations need fixing and don’t waste any time making the necessary repairs. A minor fix-up today can save you thousands of dollars in damages tomorrow.

3. Inspect your property’s structure

Check your properties carefully to ensure that there are no structural issues that a hurricane can worsen. Tenuous roofs, loose shingles, and weak supportive walls provide easy access for strong winds which can do substantial damage to your entire property.

If there is a severe hurricane watch in your area, you may want to consider boarding up your windows, especially the ones facing the side expecting the strongest winds. It’s also smart to seal all windows and doors so that water can’t get inside.

4. Review your evacuation route

While weather reports usually afford residents with enough time to evacuate the city should it become necessary, as a landlord, you need to be sure your tenants have a clear sense of the evacuation route from your building if conditions suddenly become dangerous. A sign detailing the evacuation route must be posted in a prominent public area. It’s best to distribute copies of this route to each tenant before a storm hits.

5. Last-minute precautions

When a hurricane warning or watch is in effect, it’s best to take last-minute precautions to protect your property. Cover external air conditioning units with tarps or garbage bags to prevent damage by airborne projectiles. Do a quick scan of your property’s exterior to check for scattered garbage or any loose-hanging branches. Patch any visible foundation cracks around your building. If you have a sump pump, clear any debris and check that it’s operating properly to prevent clogging. As mentioned, clear your gutters and consider sealing and boarding up your windows and doors.

Hurricanes can cause extensive damage and demand extensive preparation on your part. Here at Jack Jaffa & Associates, we’re all about making your role as a landlord easier. We’ll get you through this stormy season with minimal damage and even less stress!

Our thoughts are with all those who suffered from the devastating effects of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, Katia and Maria.

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How to Raise the Rent

by Mindy Datik on September 15, 2017 , Comments Off

As a landlord, one of your biggest challenges is keeping your tenants happy and your own business sense satisfied. You want to stay profitable, but at the same time, you don’t want to scare any tenants away.

Raising the rent requires a delicate blend of marketing research, legal compliance, and public relations. It is also key to earning the true value on your property.

How often should you raise the rent, and by how much? Is there a specific procedure to follow? The process can seem overwhelming and confusing, with so many variables at play.

No worries; as always, Jack Jaffa & Associates has got your back! We’re here to make all aspects of tenant management easier for you – and raising the rent is no exception.

To that end, we’ve compiled a handy guide that will take the stress out of raising the rent. In this article, you’ll find all you need to know on this topic, including NYC’s laws on how and when you can raise the rent, along with actionable tips to keep the process simple.

When to Raise the Rent

If you own rent-stabilized units, you can’t raise your tenant’s rent during a rent freeze, regardless of how long it’s been since the last increase. Luckily, NYC’s two-year rent freeze on more than 1 million rent-stabilized units throughout the city, has just been lifted.

Effective October, 2017, landlords of rent-stabilized units can increase rent from 1-3% on 1-year leases, and 2-4% on 2-year leases.

If you haven’t raised your rent because of the freeze, now is the time to determine your new rent amount.

If you don’t own rent-controlled units, you’ll need to check your tenant’s lease. On the lease agreement, the rent amount and lease term are clearly indicated. You will not be able to raise the rent if your tenant is currently signed onto a lease.

If the tenant is on a month-to-month agreement, where there is no written lease or an expired lease has shifted the rental to a month-to-month tenancy, you can raise the rent at any time, so long as you give sufficient notice. Keep in mind, though, that most tenants find smaller, more frequent increases more manageable than dramatic increases over lengthier periods of time.

If the end of a tenant’s lease term is approaching, now is a good time to consider a rent increase. When drawing up a new lease, be sure to include the new rent amount in the lease.

TIP: If you stipulate that there will be an automatic rent increase at the end of the lease term, you’ll prevent any unpleasant surprises for your tenant.

How to Determine New Rent

Now that you’ve decided it’s a good time to raise the rent, you’ll need to determine the actual raise amount. Raise it too much, and you risk losing your tenants. Keep it too low, and you’re not earning the profit you deserve. So how do you find that perfect amount?

First, you’ll need to gather information on five comparable rental properties in your area. Find out what the going price is so that you can be sure you’re charging a reasonable amount. You can get these numbers by searching actual listings, asking local tenants, or simply by checking Craigslist, Zillow, and Rentometer. Make sure, though, that you are looking at rentals as similar to yours as possible, including numbers of bedrooms, bathrooms, square footage, outdoor space, amenities and parking spaces.

Determining the market price is a great starting point, but it shouldn’t be the sole factor in your decision. Be sure to take into account any advantages your property offers over the competition, as well as disadvantages it might have.

TIP: Rent increases of 2-3% fall within the average range.

How to Raise the Rent

Before taking any steps towards raising the rent, make sure that you are in compliance with state law.

Of course, if your properties are rent-controlled, you are not allowed to increase the rent.

But it gets more complicated than that.

Raising the rent in a discriminatory manner, or as an act of retaliation, can land you in court and create a nightmare of litigation and fines. It is not difficult for your client to prove that you’ve raised the rent for one of these reasons – all they need is to demonstrate a slight correlation between a recent event and a rent raise. That’s why you should not raise the rent if you’ve just discovered a client’s race, gender orientation, national origin, religion, disability or familial status. Similarly, do not increase the rent if your tenant filed an official complaint with a government authority, has been involved in a tenant’s organization, or exercised a legal right within the last 180 days. Raising the rent in these situations can constitute an act of retaliation.

If you are certain your raise doesn’t fall into any of the above categories, make sure you are in compliance with NY’s notification requirements.  NY law requires landlords to give 30 days’ notice before implementing a raise in the rent.

Notify your tenant of the rent increase with an official letter that includes the new rental amount and the date it becomes effective. Sign and date the letter and keep a copy of the document for your records. It’s best to hand-deliver the letter or send it through certified mail so you can be sure that your tenant received it. It’s also courteous to send a follow-up email or phone message reminding your tenant of the new rent amount, immediately before the rent is due.

Be prepared for the tenant to get a little annoyed at the rent increase and maybe even try to negotiate the price. Remain as professional and polite as possible. Calmly explain that you are simply raising the rent to reflect the current market rate, and that you value your tenant.

Hopefully, you’ll tenant will agree to the raise with minimal fuss. In this case, when drawing up a new lease, make sure it reflects the increase. Of course, there is always a possibility that your tenant will use the rent increase as an excuse to up and leave. If this happens, be sure to part on cordial terms.

TIP: It always pays to be courteous. When tenants feel cared for, valued, and respected, they are more likely to stay.

Raising the rent doesn’t have to be complicated. So long as you’re not locked into a lease or held back by a rent freeze, your increase falls within market parameters, and you are in compliance with all relevant NYC laws, it can be a simple, stress-free process.

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Revealing the Government’s Code

by Megan Feldman on September 12, 2017 , Comments Off

The NYC government can be called many things: powerful, all-knowing, and relevant. They are also mysterious. There are thousands of government decisions that are simply impossible to understand with the human mind – perhaps because they are not products of the human mind. Most government decisions are actually created via a complicated algorithm code. This code has been designed to ensure absolute fairness and equality.

All that mystique, though, may soon be subject to change. Mr. James Vacca, a democratic City Council member from the Bronx, has recently introduced a bill that would require the city to publicize the codes that are utilized in making myriad government decisions. Mr. Vacca claims this move would end the secrecy behind these actions and bring back the fairness the code allegedly enforces.

Should this bill go into effect, NYC will become the first major city nationwide to offer complete transparency to its citizens. It’s probable that other major cities will follow suit, creating a massive change across the country.

Governments have access to an endless fountain of data. All that information is fed to the algorithm code, which then makes decisions based on the input. An algorithm may decide which school a child will attend, when garbage pickup will be in each neighborhood, and even which police precincts get the most officers.

The problem lies in the fact that the decisions this code produces are often nonsensical, or even discriminatory. One teacher was ranked at 97% in one class he taught, but only earned a 6% in another class. In a separate instance, ProPublica reporters studied the risk scores of 7,000 people as determined by the code, and found that blacks were more likely to be falsely rated as future criminals – at nearly twice the rate of whites. Algorithm decisions have also placed children in schools several districts away from their home, and have assigned jobs to city workers without accounting for lengthy travel time and personal preferences.

Revealing these codes won’t accomplish much; they are difficult to read and almost impossible to understand. However, researchers are discussing ways to include public participation before they are written. This way, the public will have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.

Since lots of the city’s codes are leased by private corporations, Mr. Vacca proposes that these codes be made available for “algorithmic audits.” These would allow the public to submit test data and review how the algorithm handles it.

As a NYC landlord, you can already appreciate the ramifications the proposed bill would have on your business life. With the algorithm code revealed, there will be no more secrets to any government decisions.

Most importantly, you’ll be able to anticipate when an inspection of your properties is scheduled. Naturally, this will take lots of the stress and the guesswork out of the process. If you know when the city inspectors are coming, you can prepare properly and make sure everything is in order. You’ll be granted the opportunity to do a quick scan of your properties and to fix any problems in order to avoid being issued a violation.

Of course, its best if your buildings are up-to-date with the latest laws and regulations at all times so that you never fear an inspection. We know how difficult that can be, though. That’s where Jack Jaffa & Associates comes in; we make navigating NYC’s compliance code simple. If you need compliance assistance of any kind, be sure to give us a call. We’re always happy to help!

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The Internet of Things and Benchmarking

by David Mintz on August 29, 2017 , Comments Off

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for quite some time now, you’ve heard of the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things, or the IoT, refers to the connection of random electronic devices to the internet. It’s more than just smartphones, laptops and Google Glasses that can be accessed online these days. In our increasingly online world, a heart monitor, kitchen appliances and cars can all be connected to the IoT.

According to tech experts, the IoT is just getting started. The number of devices that can connect to the internet is expected to more than triple by 2020, from 10 million to a whopping 34 million!

Why bother connecting all these devices to the internet? The answer is quite simple. By being accessible online, devices can collect and exchange data seamlessly, allowing for easy modification, greater efficiency and remote adjustments.

For example, say you’re on the way home after a long day’s work and you’d like an ice-cold beer when you finally stumble through the door. Using the IoT and a connected fridge, you can adjust the refrigerator’s cooling settings to turn the drinks inside ice-cold by the time you arrive home.

Sounds cool? That’s not all. You can also set your lights just the way you like them while still on the highway and crank up the AC unit so that you’re house is sufficiently cooled off when you get home.

While it all sounds super convenient, you must be wondering what this has to do with landlords and compliance code. After all, you didn’t expect anything less from Jack Jaffa & Associates!

Actually, the IoT has everything to do with your work as a landlord. In fact, it will prove beneficial for nearly every business; The Business Insider predicts that IoT investments will generate $13 trillion for businesses by 2025.

As a landlord, though, the options are virtually infinite.

By installing an IoT device in your building, whether it regulates temperatures or controls energy usage, you can:

1. Utilize less manual intervention in managing the operation of your building.
2. Effortlessly gather and study information on your property.
3. Lower your energy output by monitoring the energy production and making suitable adjustments.
4. Predict, diagnose and correct maintenance issues and other problems before your tenants even notice them.
5. Alleviate security concerns for your tenants with real-time monitoring.
6. Take precautionary measures against adverse weather conditions with specialized weather sensors like the Nest thermostat.
7. Track high-traffic times with motion sensors to make better decisions about lighting and thermostat controls in public areas.
8. Attract potential tenants with a modernized, perfectly-controlled building, and lower energy bills.

While all of the above will help you save money and generate greater efficiency for your properties, perhaps the most important area where the IoT can save you time and resources as a landlord, is in the area of benchmarking.

Since Local Law 84 was enacted in 2009, all owners of buildings larger than 50,000 square feet have been required to track their annual usage of energy, gas, water and fuel, and to submit this data to a city agency. In 2018, the criteria for benchmarking will expand to include all buildings over 25,000 square feet as well.

The purpose of benchmarking is to make property owners aware of how much energy their buildings are expending, and to take any necessary measures to lower that amount. While benchmarking on its own may or may not lead a landlord to take steps towards greater energy efficiency, a proper IoT device can make benchmarking and lowering your collective energy output a whole lot easier.

Beacon technology, a facet of the IoT world, is a plethora of small devices that are usually powered via Bluetooth. These devices can be mounted nearly anywhere and can transmit information to a nearby receptor, which can then be accessed online.

You can stick a beacon behind a potted plant in your lobby, another in your elevator and more in your hallways. You can then track the energy, water, gas and fuel output that is generated in these areas, and use the information you are given to lower that output. Maybe you’ll decide to dim the lights in public areas when you find that very few people pass through them at certain times of the day. You might lower the AC controls in spots that barely see any traffic at all, or plug leaks you learn of through your beacon device. This can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. As a plus, since your benchmarking data is made available to the public, showing a lower use of resources will make your property more attractive to prospective tenants.

Aside from saving you money, though, beacon devices make benchmarking a cinch! All energy, gas, water and fuel expenditure data will be stored and collected, with minimal intervention on your part. All you need to do is make the one-time investment in the device and you’re all set.

It gets even better, though. A proposed bill, Intro 1632-2017, seeks to amend the administrative code of the city by giving each building a score based on their benchmarking data. This will be like a grade of sorts for the property, and obviously, the more efficient a building’s resource usage is, the higher score they will earn. Should this bill go into effect, using the IoT to track and improve your resource output will help you net a dream score. Obviously, the higher scores will draw more tenants to your property.

As always, Jack Jaffa & Associates is here to help you tow the line of NYC’s Compliance Code in the easiest, most efficient way possible!

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Jaffa Employee Appreciation Evening

by Aaron Munk on August 17, 2017 , Comments Off

The Jaffa employees enjoyed an Employee Appreciation Evening last month (July 29, 2017) on board a luxurious yacht that sailed around the NYC harbor. Treated to a night of magic, caricatures, good food and games, the Jaffa staff returned to work re-energized to continue servicing their NYC property management clients and continue tackling NYC’s compliance and resolution issues.

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Jack Jaffa & Associates’ Alert Services Introduction

by Michael Jaffa on July 20, 2017 , Comments Off

An overview of Jack Jaffa & Associates’ Alert Service software, including a glimpse of their new Tenant Portal and Insurance Tracking features. See how to use the redesigned Buildings Quickview, Record Quickview, Reporting and more so that you can TRACK, MANAGE and RESOLVE all your NYC property compliance issues efficiently and effectively!

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