LANDLORDS FAQs

Over 40 years of professional residential property management and leasing services in Northern Virginia.

What is the screening process for a new tenant?
We conduct a thorough process when screening each applicant. This is one of the most important parts in the management process, ensuring you will have a good tenant who takes care of your home and pays rent on time. Every individual over the age of 18 will be required to fill out an application and must become party to the Lease (Each tenant is “Equally and Severally responsible under the terms of the Lease”).
What is the screening process for a new tenant?

We conduct a thorough process when screening each applicant. This is one of the most important parts in the management process, ensuring you will have a good tenant who takes care of your home and pays rent on time. Every individual over the age of 18 will be required to fill out an application and must become party to the Lease (Each tenant is “Equally and Severally responsible under the terms of the Lease”).

The screening process includes:

  • Pull Credit Report — We check tenant credit reports, analyze the report and classify it as excellent, good, fair or poor. We look for evictions, collections, public records, bankruptcy or any late payments, accounts closed by grantor, accounts written off as P&L, etc. We also compare high balances with credit limits. How much of their available credit are they using? If it is 90%, they may have a weak credit score despite not having negative accounts. If it is 10% they may have a good credit score even with small number of accounts.
  • Employment Verification — We verify tenant employment and make sure they work where they say they work and are legally employed.
  • Income Qualification — You want tenants that are financially qualified to rent your home. When we verify the prospective tenant’s claimed income with their income documents, we apply a rent-to-income ratio to qualify your tenants and ensure they are capable of paying rent.
  • Landlord Verification — We also contact the tenants current and, sometimes more importantly, their previous landlord verifying the tenant’s history of payments. Did they have any late payments/bounced checks? Did they take care of the property and give proper notice they were vacating? Would they rent to them again?

We are required to present all applications to you, good or bad. Once we have compiled all this information you get an email, phone call, or both with the details, and we guide you through your decision to accept or deny.

What is the screening process for a new tenant?
We conduct a thorough process when screening each applicant. This is one of the most important parts in the management process, ensuring you will have a good tenant who takes care of your home and pays rent on time. Every individual over the age of 18 will be required to fill out an application and must become party to the Lease (Each tenant is “Equally and Severally responsible under the terms of the Lease”).
Do you pay my mortgage and HOA?

We recommend you set-up automatic payment to these entities and pay them yourself. We do not pay our clients’ mortgages or HOA payments. With the advent of electronic banking, homeowners have greater control of their mortgages with less effort.

In most circumstances, we don’t pay our clients’ HOA payments because Homeowner’s Associations are increasingly reluctant to receive payments from third parties. Some associations are not prepared to recognize or accept payments from anyone other than the owner. Some HOA managers claim this is because of increased financial privacy laws enacted post-9/11 (Patriot Act, etc). More associations are taking payments online, simplifying and safeguarding the homeowner’s financial transaction. The associations that do not take online payments are often smaller self-managed associations with no professional staff processing the checks.

What happens in case of an emergency?

We fully understand that emergencies happen anytime. We make sure that our tenants always have an expedited notification process in case of an emergency. We have a dedicated third-party call center which monitors our repairs line 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A tenant can contact this number and our on-call personnel will contact them to determine if the situation is an actual emergency (there is a big difference between a leaking faucet and a pipe burst) and the nature of the issue.

After an initial diagnosis they determine the appropriate individuals to send out to the property, whether it is a plumber, HVAC technician, water extraction specialist, etc. They will also contact an on-call staff if further assistance is needed. We determine, based on the findings of the specialist, what actions would be in the best interest of our owners to limit damage to the property, personal harm, and/or unhealthy conditions and also try to eliminate unnecessary costs. We would also like to note here that we do not charge a repair fee to the tenants (unless the damage was caused by direct effect or negligence of the tenants). We feel this discourages your tenants from addressing small issues and reporting them to us, which could potentially lead to further damages and higher cost repairs at the property.

Should I allow pets or smokers?

Pets and smokers are not protected classes under the Fair Housing Act (with one major exception for service animals and emotional support animals, discussed below), so you can discriminate against both, but we recommend the following:

Pets — We find that about 70% of tenants have pets. By automatically not allowing pets, you are potentially limiting yourself by eliminating over half of your market demand. We suggest you allow pets on a case-by-case basis, this way if you don’t mind small pets or maybe a dog over a cat, you can make the decision after reviewing the details of that specific animal/pet. Some of our best tenants have been pet owners and considering pets “case-by-case” allows smart landlords more flexibility in selecting the best tenant and lease terms by staying open to more market demand.

Smokers — All our leases specify that the residence will be maintained as a non-smoking residence. This means that tenants are not allowed to smoke inside but are legally allowed to smoke outside the house. We feel that smoking inside the house creates some liability issues and has potential to do damage to the property if heavy smoking causes a lingering smell that can’t be removed.

Disability is a protected class under the Fair Housing Act. This means that a Tenant who needs an animal for their disability (ex. seeing eye dog) cannot be discriminated against due to the animal. If an applicant applies to a “No Pet” property but has a documented disability animal, you cannot deny them based on the animal.

This also applies to “Emotional Support Animals”. If a Tenant has a letter from a certified Therapist documenting the Tenant’s need for an emotional support animal (can be dogs, cats or other animals), then you may not deny the Tenant based off the animal.

In both cases the law also prohibits the charging of a pet deposit. This can seem frustrating from the standpoint of a Landlord. Note that while no deposit can be charged for the pet, a normal security deposit can be charged AND any damage caused by the animal can be remedied from the security deposit.

How do I handle utilities at my home? Do I pay, or does the tenant pay?

When choosing Distinctive Property Management as your property management, your first thing to do regarding utilities is to have the bills sent to us. To do this you contact the utility companies and have them send the bill with the following information:

“YOUR NAME”

c/o Distinctive Property Management

1307 Dolley Madison Blvd, Ste 1D

McLean, VA 22101

The tenant will be responsible for all utilities that are not included in the HOA/COA fee or agreed to in the lease. The tenant is supposed to make arrangements to have utilities in their name as of their possession date. However, there are situations where this is not possible (such as a tenant moving in on a Sunday). When and if this happens, the tenant will have the utilities switched into their name and a final bill for your account will be sent to us. We examine the bill and determine what charges the tenant is responsible for and bill them for that amount.

Can I see a copy of my listing?

Of course! You should be able to see a copy of your MLS listing featured on our website. You may also request a copy of your listing from the marketing department. We are open to your suggestions on editing the listing to market the best features of your home.

Can you assist me in the sale of my property?

Absolutely! Distinctive Property Management Property original business is property management, but we have very experienced Sales Agents. One of the clear benefits of using our sales team agents to list and sell your home is our established relationship with your tenant and our in-depth understanding of the lease and responsibilities it places on all parties. It can be very complicated to sell a home with a tenant living there. They have rights to the property per the lease and any seller/landlord must be aware of the difficulties that often come with the territory of selling while tenant occupied.

We work with investors, 1st-time home buyers, landlords and renters to provide you the best service in the industry and experience to help you achieve any and all of your real estate goals and maximize the return on your investment.

Ask about out discounted pricing packages offered to our landlords who are ready to enter the sales market or add another purchase to their property portfolio.

This isn’t intended to be a comprehensive list of property management services, but it should give you a fair idea of the scope of the Distinctive Property Management’s activity.

At this point you may be thinking, “Ok, so that’s what they can do, but how does all of this benefit me and relate to the big picture of my real estate investment strategy?”

Well, call Distinctive Property management at 703.821.1843 to find out today!

Thank you for allowing us the pleasure of helping with your property management needs.

Put the POwer of excellence to work for you

Transforming property management into a more successful and rewarding experience.