Web Beat

Using Drones For Building Inspections

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) began approving the commercial use of drones on September 25th, 2014. Commercial drones are operated by FAA-licensed pilots with strict safety regulations. Approximately 1,500 companies across the U.S. have been approved to legitimately conduct operations in surveying, agriculture, infrastructure, and now building inspections. Three major insurance companies (Allstate, AIG, and USAA) have sought approval to use drones to perform damage assessment. One of the main benefits of drones is their ability to easily go where humans cannot.

Drones are becoming the obvious tool to complete jobs that are traditionally time consuming, dangerous and expensive. Building inspections of roofs, chimneys, exterior walls, windows, antennas, etc. fall into that category. There is no longer a need to erect scaffolding or employ a cherry picker to perform these types of inspections. Drones can easily capture high-resolution images or video for analysis and documentation.

A commercial drone can quickly complete a building inspection for a fraction of the cost of traditional methods. Maintenance personnel are able to inspect the images in great detail, and at more frequent intervals because of their low cost of operation. The ability to identify maintenance issues before they become expensive problems is priceless.

Crime Prevention and Tenant Selection

Landlords and management should recognize the damaging economic and social consequences of criminal activity on and around their properties. The affects of crime can be as self-evident as vandalism, including graffiti or as insidious as drug trafficking or terrorist behaviors. More and more, municipalities are recognizing that property owners can be held liable for sponsoring living conditions, which are unsafe for their tenants. Owners and managers can educate themselves on steps, which are known to reduce crime. Both owner and tenant win with a property, which is crime free, thereby having lower liability, higher property value and a better quality of life.

Tenant screening is the initial start for creating a crime-free property. While the outer neighborhood may determine an area’s propensity for criminal activity, the landlord must make sure that there are not criminals residing in the property itself. An application given to the prospective tenant to determine financial qualifications may also include criminal background check information. Unlike familial status, religion, sexual orientation, political persuasion and others, the criminal is not in a protected class—at least not yet. There is an exception to this. A landlord may not deny housing to an individual solely because that person is a registered sex offender. However, if the applicant is not acceptable on other grounds, such as financial qualification, a property can refuse the person on the same grounds as any other applicant. The stated purpose of this protection is that the government wants sex offenders to register.

Remember that applications should be taken from all adults who intend to occupy the property. A criminal can always use an accomplice who has no criminal history, much as a person with multiple evictions and bad credit can find a person without negative credit history to apply for them. You may deny housing to a person with a criminal background. The best recipe for problems in your property is to adequately screen tenants. A financial background check alone roots out most criminals as extremely few have good credit history. Time and again, attorneys are told at court that the people “seemed so nice” and had “nowhere to go”. Using your gut to select your property’s occupants is a HUGE mistake. A small amount of extra time and expense used in selecting tenants can save you thousands of dollars.

Be sure that your prospective tenant shows you proper identification. If there is no Driver’s License, Social Security or other valid form of ID, you do not want this person. Identity theft has recently become a common way of qualifying for tenancy. Be suspicious. Once you have given keys to a tenant, it will most likely take a court order to get them out. Authorities will not remove people simply because they stole ID, lied on an application, have not paid any rent and are committing crimes on the property. You must file an Unlawful Detainer and evict them in a court of law.

The above discusses preventing the criminal from within, but what of crime on the outside? The landlord must protect the perimeters of the property. Security gates, proper lighting, minimum trees and shrubbery, no trespassing or loitering signs and proper supervision of the parking areas all combine to deter the criminal from choosing your property. An alliance with the local police depts. Programs to prevent crime in multi-family units can be a great assistance in preserving both the quality of life for your tenants and the quality of investment for you.

Cities in Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside and most other Counties in California have adopted a neighborhood method of policing particular to the apartment dwelling community. This program is called the Crime Free Multi-Housing program and has a specific goal of keeping illegal activity off rental property. Property managers are individually trained and can become certified after successful completion of three phases of instruction.

Specially trained law enforcement officers administer the program in their cities. Certified properties have reported reductions in police calls for service up to 70% over previous years. The program seeks to increase active management of rental properties. Benefits include a stable tenant base, with an increased demand, lower maintenance and repair costs, increased property values, improved personal safety for tenants, managers, and landlords. Drug activity is probably the biggest single problem of the landlord. This causes property damage from abuse, retaliation and repeated property destruction resulting from police raids. Manufacturing operations cause fires. There is fear and frustration of valued tenants who will soon flee the property. If problems are not resolved, authorities can seek civil penalties, which can include property closure or even seizure.

The Crime Free Multi-Housing program is available at no cost to the manager or owner. It is a foolish property that does not avail itself of this program. Training is typically in three sessions with each dedicated to a different aspect of crime control. The first eight-hour session is to train the management. The Crime Free Lease Addendum is an important tool in eliciting good tenant behavior while supplying an important breach of contract action to commence an unlawful detainer (or eviction) lawsuit. The participant receives resource manuals and additional handouts along with instruction.

A second phase of the program is an actual survey of the property by the police or law enforcement. The participant learns minimum door, window and lock standard compliance. Lighting will be assessed for minimum exterior lighting standards. Landscape and key control procedures will also be evaluated to determine what corrections are necessary.

The third phase is requires management to engage the tenants and is a social event attended by the tenants, management and police. Full certification allows the property to publish itself as a crime free property in the media. The local officers involved become personal allies with the tenants and management. Most localities allow a property to request their officer by name and have continued meetings with owners, managers, and tenants to resolve any problems occurring at the subject property.

Now you have followed all the above suggestions and have done your best to clear your property of criminal activity. What, you ask, about the property across the street and nextdoor, which are havens of criminal and drug activity? Your participation with the Crime Free Multi-Housing program allows you to report and have law enforcement investigate complexes, which are in violation of law and housing criminal elements. They can locate absentee owners or negligent managers and begin penalty actions against them, based upon the observations made by an owner, manager, or tenant. If you have not heard of this program or have failed to take advantage of it, please contact your local law enforcement right away. Even up-scale properties can experience criminal activity.

Keeping a property crime free should be as great a priority as collecting rent and maintenance. Crime can cancel the collection of rent by leaving only criminals as tenants and sabotage any maintenance by negligence, vandalism and abuse. Please take advantage of the suggestions given and good luck to you in maintaining crime free desirable housing.