“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” -Mark Twain
Mark Twain’s advice certainly rings true for real estate investors. Real estate is a finite resource and for new players to the game it can seem like all the good deals have already been made. But, I’m quickly learning that investor clubs are an invaluable resource for learning new tricks from old pros. I attended the ACRE of Pittsburgh monthly meeting at the Doubletree Hilton hotel in Greentree (lots of trees, insert joke here) on March 6, 2018. There was a ton of energy in the room and networking opportunities aplenty. Here is a quick run down of what I learned that night:
Quick Down and Dirty Background Screening
One of the event organizers and club officers provided us with some online tools to do some quick research on potential tenants.
- TruePeopleSearch.com – this is a free sight you can use to cross reference a candidate to make sure they are who they say they are. It is said to be accurate on about 70% of searches so use it as decision support, not a final judgement.
- The Unified JUDICIAL SYSTEM of PENNSYLVANIA WEB PORTAL – a cool search tool. Most importantly it can be used to search the Magisterial District Court’s Docket Sheets in PA. This is where you can perform a do it yourself criminal record check, but even better this is where evictions are going to show up. As most investors and property managers know, evictions do not usually show up with typical background screening services. They do here!!
- Allegheny County Court Filings – this can be used to get a feel for any drama in an applicant’s life, such as divorce and bankruptcy that you might miss in the application process.
Adverse Possession – Stay Vigilant
Adverse possession is a doctrine under which a person in possession of land owned by someone else may acquire valid title to it, so long as certain common law requirements are met, and the adverse possessor is in possession for a sufficient period, as defined by a statute of limitations. A lawyer who had just been in court that day arguing a case for his client used adverse possession as his defense to prevent a busy drive way from being built a few feet from his client’s property. You see, his client had been parking in that area for over 21 years without permission and claimed adverse possession of it to prevent the proposed development. Stay tuned, I’m curious to find out if the judge bought it. To avoid being on the wrong side of an adverse possession claim, simply draft a letter to the party involved and state you are aware of the use and you grant permission for now. Permission is license, and you have the right to revoke that license at any time. An easement can also be granted for the use.
The best eviction is the one you avoid. To that end, treat the tenant as a human being and try to work something out with them. Like they say, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar. A few tactics to try:
- Friendly text message reminders have proven helpful in starting the conversation
- Remember, most people are not late because they want to be. It’s because they don’t have it due to adverse conditions
- When sending out late notices, use the proof of mailing offered by the USPS as documentation. It’s only $1.50 and the courts recognize it.
- If the eviction can not be avoided, use the magistrate office and constable service. It is much faster than the county courts and sheriff department.
Last But Not Least
Oppose the City of Pittsburgh Rental Registration proposal. Use this change.org online petition to make your voice heard.
Owner, Fort Pitt Property Management