In this week’s podcast, Andrew Schultz chats about how to build up your tenant’s credit by properly reporting rent payments to various outlets.
We will also explore the difference between battery-operated and hard-wired smoke detectors, the properly protocol for the different types of rental properties, and more.
And, last, but not least, whatever happened to that Buffalo landlord that was allowing tenants to live in lead-poisoned rentals? Find out in our latest podcast.
Andrew Schultz: (00:00)
Hey everybody. Happy New Year and welcome to another episode of the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. This is episode number 421 and I’m your host, Andrew Schultz. On today’s episode, we’re gonna be talking about how to build a tenant’s credit, a Buffalo Landlord facing no prison time for his lead paint violations, and battery-operated versus hardwired smoke detectors. We’ll get to all that right after this.
Voice Over: (00:28)
Welcome to the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Now your host, Andrew Schultz.
Andrew Schultz: (00:33)
The Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group is over 14,000 members. Our group members get access to our Sherwin Williams and PPG Paint Discount Programs can ask questions in our monthly AMA sessions and so much more. So if you have a question or a situation that you’ve never encountered or just need to bounce an idea off, a huge group of housing providers, this is the place. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do it today over at facebook.com/groups/rentprep. Don’t forget to mention the podcast when answering the questions so we know how you found us
Voice Over: (01:09)
Forum quorum, where we scour the internet for ridiculous posts from landlords and tenants.
Andrew Schultz: (01:18)
We’re gonna start this year off with Forum Quorum. This one comes to us from the Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. It’s an interesting topic and let’s go ahead and jump right in. What’s the best way to report a tenant’s on-time rent payments For the purposes of building credit, she’s my only tenant. I don’t use a property manager and I can’t afford to subscribe to any landlord programs. This is her first apartment, so it could be a really good opportunity for her thanks in advance. And again, this one comes from the Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. As a smaller landlord, it’s not easy to report payments to credit bureaus. As far as I’m aware, there’s no direct mechanism for you to report to the bureau directly. You pretty much have to use a third-party software or service to report those rent payments. Rent reporting is starting to become more mainstream and I think as that happens, it’ll become easier for landlords to report their on-time and delinquent rent payments to the credit bureaus.
Andrew Schultz: (02:10)
Currently, the process is not exactly easy, especially for smaller landlords, but it’s getting a lot easier now than it was even just a few years ago. Some property management softwares and rent collection softwares will report on-time, rent payments to the credit bureaus. Keep in mind that on-time payments are gonna be reported, but depending on the software and the credit reporting agency, late payments may not be reported or may not be reported until they’re at least 30 days delinquent or whatever the case may be. Depending on the agency and the software that you’re using. It’s also worth noting that you’re going to need to report separately to all three of the main credit bureaus. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion are all capable of reporting rent payments, but they don’t communicate data between one another. So you’ll have to find a system that allows you to report to all three.
Andrew Schultz: (02:57)
Rent reporting is beneficial to both you as as a landlord as well as your tenants for several reasons. Obviously, the main reason is that it helps tenants build or rebuild their credit. It also helps deter tenants from paying late because they wanna keep that on-time Street going to keep improving their credit collectively as housing providers. The more of us that start reporting rent payments, the easier it’s going to be for us to track rent payments. When screening tenants, seeing a trade line on a tenant’s credit report that shows a full year or more of rent on time can really help reduce the risk. When screening tenants, chances are there is going to be some sort of fee for reporting the on-time or delinquent rent payment information. Sometimes it is baked into your payment processing costs or sometimes there’ll be a monthly charge to use the service and it’s baked into that.
Andrew Schultz: (03:44)
As far as who should be the one paying landlord or tenant, that’s a business decision that you’ll have to make. You may find that tenants are willing to pay for this service or split the cost of the service with you as the landlord. Our management software reports this automatically on a monthly basis. There are several different payment processors and property management softwares out there that are capable of handling rent reporting to the credit bureaus. Unfortunately, I’m not in a position where I can necessarily recommend one as I’ve not had an opportunity to really use any of them outside of our management software. My recommendation is to do some additional research on the different options out there. Look for some landlords who have used that service and get opinions from them on the quality. Rent reporting has the potential to change the game for landlords and tenants, and I think it’s especially important now with the ever-rising cost of housing, but it’s going to take a while to get everyone on board. Alright, let’s go ahead and jump over to in the news. It’s been a while since we’ve done one of these, and this is going to be an update to a story that we first discussed just over a year ago in episode 3 92 of the podcast, which was back in November of 2022. Let’s go ahead and jump into the story here. Title of the story is No Prison Time for Buffalo Landlord whose Rental Homes Poison Children with Lead written by Patrick Lek Camp from the Buffalo News, and this was published back in November of 2023.
Andrew Schultz: (05:08)
Angel Dolphin considered one of the worst, if not the worst, rental housing operators in Buffalo avoided a prison sentence Monday. Despite what a prosecutor called Dolphin quote, complete misrepresentation to the court unquote about his criminal behavior. US District Court Judge Lawrence j Vilardo sentenced Delphin to five years of probation, eight months of home detention, 600 hours of community service, and restitution of $115,000. Dolphin in April pleaded guilty to a felony charge of falsely stating that he had no knowledge of lead-based paint hazards in 23 rental homes, that he sold a plea agreement between Delphin 58 and the US attorney’s office included an advisory guideline range of eight to 14 months of imprisonment and a fine between 5,555,000. Although the judge was not bound by that in written submissions to the judge, Delfin contended that for the most part, he was not the owner of the properties and that he was suffering from COVID-19 when he signed a quote stack of documents that were false.
Andrew Schultz: (06:10)
The truth is much different. Assistant US attorney Aaron Jay Mango said in a court filing at Monday’s hearing, mango said Delphin is trying to excuse his conduct. The government acknowledged Delphin managed several properties on behalf of a real estate investor in Hong Kong. An investigation revealed that Delphin essentially controlled all aspects of the real estate portfolio. Delphin was informed of all lead paint-based issues with the properties, made decisions on what pairs needed to be made, obtained the power of attorney from the investor, and then ultimately sold the properties with false lead paint disclosures. Mango said as early as September 2018 before his COVID-19 illness, Delphin discussed investment strategy with the Hong Kong investor and lead the groundwork for a sale of the properties. By June, 2019, Delphin told the investor that four houses were sold and that he needed the power of attorney to get the rest done Quickly.
Andrew Schultz: (07:02)
The investor gave Delphin the power of attorney allowing him to sell the homes. In a November 20th, 2020 email sent about three weeks after a temporary restraining order was issued in a civil case being pursued by the New York State Attorney General’s office against Dolphin. He told the investor that it would’ve been very bad if I didn’t sell the houses in Buffalo before the temporary restraining order unquote taken as a whole. The emails between Dolphin and the investor show the control Delphin had over the real estate portfolio and that the defendant’s sale of the properties was not the result of being thrust. A stack of papers to sign while he was recuperating from COVID-19 Mango said in a court filing, I’m truly ashamed of what I did and what I did not do. Delphin told Velardo at the hearing. Delphin said he continues to hope and pray that those who lived in the rental homes are healthy and living productive lives.
Andrew Schultz: (07:52)
His crime posed a danger to the health of children who lived in the properties, lardo said, calling it the kind of offense that really pushes my buttons, I agonized over whether to impose a sentence of imprisonment. He said the judge said he opted not to incarcerate Delphin and part because of the character letters sent on his behalf also keeping him out of prison will give him more time to earn money to pay the restitution and start performing community service at Habitat for Humanity chapter. I have no doubt that you’re a very good person who did a very bad thing. Lardo told Dolphin at the height of his operation, Delphin owned or controlled more than 150 single and two-family homes in Buffalo rented mostly to low-income people of color. At least 63 of the houses were cited for lead paint hazards and 29 children living in 22 of the homes did suffer from lead poisoning.
Andrew Schultz: (08:40)
According to the state attorney’s general’s office of the 23 properties involved in the federal case, children and eight of the properties were found to have an elevated blood lead level during the period that Delphin managed the property. According to Mango, he put children at risk of lead poisoning. Mango said defense lawyer, Herbert Greenman had sought permission from Velardo to allow the director of alternate sentencing at the EFF Institute to address the court, but Greenman later withdrew the request. HIN knew the Attorney General’s office was investigating him for lead-based paint violations. Mango said when selling 23 of the properties, he included false riders that stated that the lead-based paint hazards at the property were unknown. Had the buyers known of the lead-based paint hazards at the property, they would’ve spent an average of 5,000 per property to stabilize the hazard for a total of $115,000. The plea agreement calls for Delphi to make restitution for the full $115,000. The prospects of him making that restitution seem doubtful financially. Mr. Delphin is destitute Greenman said in a court filing.
Andrew Schultz: (09:49)
So as I mentioned, this is an update to a story that we first discussed back in episode 3 92 of the podcast in November of 2022. I went back and pulled that original story as well and at that time, Mr. Dolphin was ordered to pay a restitution of $5.1 million, 5.1 million. So seeing this reduced to $115,000 with some community service and some home detention seems a bit crazy to me. I think the punishment here should have been substantially more. Honestly. I think this guy probably should have spent some time in jail or in prison. Having done several lead paint remediation jobs, I think they really underestimated substantially the cost of remediating lead paint. It’s one thing if you have to go in and paint like some window trim or a window sash, it’s another thing entirely. If you have to paint the entire exterior of a home, for example, that’s gonna come in way higher than five grand.
Andrew Schultz: (10:43)
Lead paint is a hot-button issue currently, and there’s a lot of federal funding going into the enforcement of lead paint laws. We’re seeing it more and more in our area. A lot of the housing stock in Buffalo and across the northeast is very old. For instance, in the city proper, like in the city of Buffalo, many of the homes were built in the late 18 hundreds and early 19 hundreds. So they’ve been painted with lead paint multiple times over the years. Lead is a real hazard in our area. I don’t think people understand how little lead needs to be ingested before it can become a problem. When talking about lead in its elemental form, not mixed with paint or anything else, it takes very, very little for a child or an adult child become sick with lead poisoning. If you were to take a pin and look at the head of it, that’s roughly all it would take. So working from that understanding, I think we can all understand why this is such a concern and I honestly think that Mr. Delphin probably deserved a little bit worse punishment than what he received.
Voice Over: (11:42)
Water cooler wisdom expert advice from real estate pros.
Andrew Schultz: (11:50)
Moving on to our third and final segment for this episode. We’re gonna do water cooler wisdom. This one also comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. Let’s go ahead and jump right in. Does anyone know the answer? For sure. I have an older one-bed, one-bath house that has battery-powered smoke detectors. I called to get the meter reinstalled and the power turned on as it’s been vacant for years. The electric company said that they could not do this until it was inspected and signed off by the city. So I called the city and they said, an electrician must verify this and that the electrician will sign off. So I called an electrician and they said they would look for ground fault outlets and to make sure that the smoke detectors are hardwired looking online. This is only required for new construction or newly remodeled homes.
Andrew Schultz: (12:36)
I’m in Oklahoma if that matters. Our city uses the 2018 International Codes Council code book and again, this one comes to us via the Rent Prep for Landlords Facebook group. So we have run into similar situations here quite a few times in our area. The rule with the utility companies is that anytime an electric service is off for more than 12 months, they want the service to be inspected before they’ll turn it back on. The process is a little different depending on the area that you’re in. In some instances, the municipality comes out to do the inspection and then releases the connection order with the utility company and then they know that they can come out and turn the service on. In other instances, you’ll need an electrician to examine the service, which is the situation that you run are running into here. The process is more or less the same.
Andrew Schultz: (13:22)
The electrician’s going to come out and inspect the service. Then they either call the municipality to release the order or they call the utility to release the order and then the utility can come out and actually do the connection. We’re starting to see more and more municipalities moving to having a licensed electrician handle the inspections, and I think that the reason for this is twofold. Number one, it takes the liability off the municipality. If one of their inspectors misses something and approves a service to be turned back on and then there’s some sort of a short or a fault in the service and the house burns down, they’re gonna be talking to the inspector that approved it. So this takes a lot of the liability off of the municipality. And number two, licensed electricians need licenses, which the municipality gets to charge for at least here in New York State.
Andrew Schultz: (14:09)
So I think that there’s also a little bit of a cash grab element to it as well. As far as the code requirements outlined by the electrician that you spoke with, you can actually go online to look at the codebook for free. The website that I use is codes.cc safe.org. Again, that’s codes C-O-D-E-S dot icc, SAF e.org codes dot icc safe.org. The free version does allow you to read the code books, but more advanced options that you have to pay for will give you more options such as the ability to search through the code books and things like that. So if you wanna read the code books, you do have that as an option segment. I’m gonna be referencing our experiences in our market. Your experiences may vary and what happens here may not be what happens in your neck of the woods. I have typically only heard of hardwired smoke and seal detectors being required when a new electric service is installed or upgraded.
Andrew Schultz: (15:06)
Outside of that, we typically see a 10-year sealed battery smoke detector inside each bedroom and a 10-year sealed battery smoke detector and co-detector outside the bedrooms within 15 feet of the doors. In addition to that, you do need to have one smoke and co per floor, including attics and basements. Most of our buildings have basements where the furnaces and hot water tanks are located, and typically those units in our area are powered by natural gas. We typically see hardwired units installed by the gas-fired appliances as well as near the electric panel itself. In addition to basements, you may be required to hardwire additional units in the bedrooms if you’re upgrading or repairing your electrical. So again, the rule here seems to be that if you’re opening up a wall and exposing any of the electric, you must bring that electric to code, including proper fire protection.
Andrew Schultz: (15:56)
So in this instance, the smoke detector. So in this instance, I’m thinking you may be able to get by with a 10-year battery-operated unit instead of the hardwired, but the code is going to dictate that. You may wanna speak to another electrician as well to see if maybe they’re giving you a runaround or if your current one is insisting on doing more work than what you actually need to. In Rent Prep’s latest guide, we’ll explore what exactly landlord harassment consists of, how to avoid it, how to handle it. If it does happen and much more, check it out today over at rentprep.com/blog.
Andrew Schultz: (16:30)
That pretty much wraps it up for this episode of the Rent Prep for Landlords podcast. Thank you all so much for listening. We truly do appreciate it. Our goal with the podcast is to help as many people as possible make educated decisions when it comes to real estate, and you can help us reach our goal. If you heard anything in this week’s episode or any other episode that will help someone you know, please do us a favor and share it with them. If you’re looking to get in contact with me, I can be reached over at whatsdrewupto.com. From there, you’ll find links to everything going on with me at Own Buffalo as well as other projects that we’re working on. Feel free to grab a copy of our free deal analysis tool today over at whatsdrewupto.com. There’s no obligation and it comes with a companion video showing you how to use it.
Andrew Schultz: (17:14)
If you’re looking for top-tier tenant screening services, head on over to rentprep.com. There are multiple products to choose from, including a tenant-paid option. If you’re over 50 doors, ask about the enterprise-level programs and pricing. I’ve been an enterprise user of Rent Prep for over a decade now, and it’s absolutely changed the way that we screen our tenants. Check that out today over at rentprep.com. Again, thank you so much for listening. We’ll be back in a couple weeks with an all-new episode that you won’t wanna miss. Until then, I’m Andrew Schultz with ownbuffalo.com for rentprep.com, and we’ll talk to you soon.
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