Posts Tagged ‘Melissa Zera’

Marketing your Properties with Facebook

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Written by Melissa Zera, Spectrum Enterprises

During Spectrum Symposium in November we had a wonderful presentation given by Adriana Guzzo (Marketing Director, Winn Residential) and Nancy Reno (VP Marketing and Training, Housing Management Resources) addressing how easy and effective having a Facebook page for your property can be. Statistics show that over 85% of residents of all ages, education, race and income use the internet. Believe it or not, Facebook is becoming one of the fastest driving forces of residential traffic.

Adriana and Nancy (aka The First Ladies of Marketing) developed a Facebook fan page which was used as an audience interactive site. There you can see how we brainstormed the following questions:

  • What are your fears about using Facebook? Answers included: Who has time? What should I post? What if residents post negative comments?
  • What if the staff becomes Facebook CRAZY? How do I get people to “Like” my fan page? Answers included: Add your Facebook address to email signatures, letterhead, business cards, property website, newsletters, work orders, etc.
  • What types of posts should I create? Answers included: Community events, weather, coupons/groupons, local activities, recipes, new restaurants, etc.
  • Should you respond to negative posts? Answers included: Yes, all posts are a great way to show exceptional customer service, create friends, retain your residents and provide real time solutions.

The First Ladies of Marketing is an open page and I strongly recommend you like them too! Their page is a great place to post questions and get marketing feedback for your property.

Don’t forget to like Spectrum Enterprises, too!  It is becoming an archive of industry articles, blog posts and important updates.  

Military Income and LIHTC

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

Written by Melissa Zera, Spectrum Enterprises

Obtaining income verifications can be sometimes difficult when trying to calculate income for military personnel.  Pay can be verified using the Leave and Earnings Statement and researching the current published Basic Pay.  Here are some tips.

1. The LES (Leave and Earnings Statement)

The LES for any military personnel can be obtained online through by logging onto https://mypay.dfas.mil/mypay.aspx.  There they can print their most recent paystubs aka LES.

The LES identifies rank (grade), years in service, whether or not there are dependents, direct deposit accounts, Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) deductions and pay.  Pay for full time service members is semi-monthly based on the amounts listed under Entitlements, half each pay.

The exhibit above shows an E5 enlisted soldier with four (4) years of service earning $2,247.30 in monthly pay ($1164.47 mid-month and $1,163 end of month distributions).  He receives monthly BAS ($294.43) and BAH ($1,1725), has a dependent, TSP deductions and direct deposit.  All countable income and assets for LIHTC.

2. Basic Pay Chart

Basic pay is determined by rank and length of service and is set in law by Congress in a pay table.  Visit www.militarytimes.com/money and click on “Pay Charts” to access this information.

3. (BAH) Basic Allowance for Housing

BAH is a non taxable government issued monthly housing allotment to theoretically cover 100% of average rental costs in every location.  To determine BAH visit www.militarytimes.com/money and click on “BAH Calculator”.

BAH is countable income for LIHTC.  The Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008 (HERA) introduced an exception to this rule.  If the military employee is housed in building located in a county with a military base that has had its population grow by 20% or more between 12/31/2005 and 6/1/2008 or any country adjacent to such a county, BAH is excluded from their income.  This exception only needs to be considered when your properties are near a military base.

Qualifying military bases are identified in Notice 2008-79.25 The list is not meant to be exclusive and any qualified military installation which satisfies the percentage requirements of IRC §142(d)(2)(B)(iii)(1) would be eligible to receive similar treatment regardless of its failure to be included in Notice 2008-79 or any subsequent updates.

1. Colorado – U.S. Air Force Academy

2. Hawaii – Fort Shafter

3. Kansas – Fort Riley

4. Maryland – Annapolis Naval Station (including U.S. Naval Academy)

5. South Carolina – Fort Jackson

6. Texas – Fort Jackson and Fort Hood

7. Virginia – Dam Neck Training Center Atlantic

8. Washington – Naval Station Bremerton

4. BAS (Basic Allowing for Subsistence)

BAS is non-taxable monthly allowance to defray a portion of the costs for food.  BAS is countable income.

5. TSP  (Thrift Savings Plan)

The federal Thrift Savings Plan allows participants to place a portion of their monthly pay (pre-tax) into an account similar to a private-sector 401(k) investment plant.  TSP investments should be verified like other 401(k) accounts.  Participating members can go to https://www.tsp.gov/index.shtml to print out their latest statements.  TSP mails quarterly and an annual summary statement in February.

6. Drill Pay

Members of the National Guard or Reserves perform 12 weekend drills and 14 days of annual training each year.  Monthly and annual pay can be found at www.militarytimes.com/money/pay_charts and clicking on either Drill pay or A year in the Guard or A year in the Reserves.  Clarification should be obtained regarding training pay.  Unlike active duty, most reserve personnel are paid once a month unless they are working more than their scheduled monthly weekend and annual training.  Many members receive food and housing allowances during their two-week stint which is countable income.

7. Hostile Fire Pay (HFP)

Hostile Fire also referred to once as Combat Pay.  This is incentive pay for duty under hostile file to a military person assigned or deployed to a combat zone.  The amount of pay is not prorated and is currently $225 per month.  This income is exempt.

8. Imminent Danger Pay (IDP)

This is different from Hostile Fire pay.  It is paid at the rate of $7.50 per day with a maximum monthly pay of $225.  IDP is countable income.  Service men are either entitled to HFP or IDP, never both.

9. Hazardous Duty Incentive Pay (HDIP)

HDIP is paid to service members for hazardous duty that is generally not in a war zone.  It includes duty on flight lines, test aircraft, etc.  Like HFP it is paid monthly and not prorated.  This income is countable.

10. Income and Deployment

The 4350.3 reads:  Income from the head of household, spouse or co-head must be counted even if they are deployed.  All other household members who are deployed must be removed from the household while deployed, and his/her income must not be counted.  However if the spouse or dependent of the person on active military duty resides in the unit then that person’s income must be counted in full even if the military member is not the head or spouse of the head of the family.  Example:  John and Mary’s son Lieutenant Bob is away in Afghanistan.  Bob’s wife Susan resides with John and Mary.  Bob’s income is therefore counted, however Bob is not considered a household member.

The Importance of Training

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Written by Melissa Zera, Spectrum Enterprises

The stakes are high with maintaining compliance in affordable housing. Loss of credits, recapture, termination of subsidy can all be a result of mistakes caused by management moving in ineligible households or errors in recertification processing. It is critical new employees are given proper training in affordable housing. Training leads to quality performance and paves the path for development and success.

Be sure your new staff fully understands the structure of the property. It’s worth the time for a senior representative from the company to take an hour or so and discuss the development history and process of the property. At the end of the hour, they should understand how the property was funded, who the stakeholders are, how the rents are structured, any state/local/federal compliance requirements(s) and so forth.

If the property has subsidy programs such as HUD, RD or restricted rents/income like LIHTC, certification training should be scheduled with an expectation of a passing score. Seasoned managers that have had prior training should be scheduled for refresher courses as regulations are constantly changing and often forgotten.

Textbook benefits of training: Training improves morale and helps new hires feel more secure and informed which equals better job performance and satisfaction. A well trained employee will require less supervision resulting in better time management and productivity. Errors will less likely to occur with proper training. Chances for advanced promotion are increased as employees become more valuable with skills and knowledge.

Visit www.spectrumseminars.com for a list of courses offered in affordable housing.

The Art of Clarification

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Written by Melissa Zera, Compliance Analyst

The key to a well documented file is clarity and organization.  Clarifications are just as essential to the compliance as the other verification forms and documents.  They answer the who’s, how’s , what’s and why’s that left unanswered could lead to potential noncompliance.

Third party verifications often are returned with missing fields, crossed-out or illegible information or data that is just not understandable.  Like the rental application, all data fields must be answered .  Auditors will not make the assumption that the unanswered questions means that they do not apply.  For example, if the overtime field is left blank, then it leads to a possibility, an unknown, a mystery.  They could be receiving.  An indication of  “n/a” or “none” is the proper answer leaving no speculation.  Follow-up should be made directly with whoever completed the form(s) to confirm any missing information not provided.

The use of a separate clarification form is essential.  These forms should immediately precede or follow the verification they are supporting in the file, remember organization is key.  When contacting the employer/bank/etc., be sure to document “who” you spoke with, the company they work for, time/date of contact, “what” information was requested to be clarified and the notate all details resolving the issues.

As document experts, some Property Management companies have become creative in development of specific forms to clarify recurring inconsistencies.  For example, when paystubs are used in lieu of employment verifications, we have seen an Unable to Obtain Third Party Verification form utilized.  If an application is partially completed by the applicant and partially by the manager (a huge red flag during an audit), clarification is noted on an affidavit as to “why” assistance was given by the manager. The use of a calculation worksheet takes the “how” out of determining what numbers were used to annualize income and so forth.

Always take all guess work out of your files.  At the end of the day what story will they tell?  Hopefully not mysteries but happily-ever-afters with zero non-compliance.

Basic Tax Credit File Set-Up

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Written by Melissa Zera, Compliance Analyst

What makes an auditor happy?  Well organized files!   Some management companies use one file for all program requirements, others maintain separate LIHTC files.  Regardless of which programs your files contain, the key is organization.  We’ve seen all-in-one files with LIHTC, SC8 and HOME that are easy to review due to having a logistical set-up.  The best files have their compliance documents (TICS, verifications, etc.) separated from other documents.   It saves time during an audit not having to shuffle around pet addendums, landlord references and key deposit forms. 

An efficient way to be consistent is to have a file checklist.  Some companies use their checklist as the divider in between the yearly certifications.  For properties that annually recertify households, separating the years with a sheet of colored paper or index divider is another feature auditors like to see. 

Here’s a suggested order for the standard set of LIHTC documents:

  1.  Tenant Income Certification (TIC) – The TIC certifies what was verified and should be the last document signed.
  2. Calculation Worksheet – Show your work!  A piece of paper with how the income is calculated takes the guess work out of where the figures came from on the TIC.  Notated calculator tapes are also nice to see.
  3. Income (or zero Income verifications) – Have all of the income verifications (SS/SSI, Employment, Non-Working Affidavit, Child Support/Alimony, Gift Income, etc. ) together.  Any clarifications should come in front of or directly behind the verifications they support.  This is also a good place to insert the affidavit of estrangement if applicable.
  4. Assets (or zero asset verifications) – Like income, all asset verifications (Bank, 401k, Real Estate, Trust Funds, Under $5,000, etc.) should be together and in order.  When verifying real estate, have the appraisal, mortgage balance and certification together.  
  5. Student verifications – if applicable.
  6. Interview checklist or recertification update forms – if utilized.
  7. Rental Application (move- in certification only) – This document starts the process and is the basis for all the above. 
  8. Lease  (or lease renewal).

 Every site should also have an LIHTC binder containing the following documents:

  1. Signed and executed copies of forms 8609 for each building.
  2. The Land Use Agreement or Regulatory Agreement.
  3. Income limits and utility allowance documentation for each year since the property has been placed in service.
  4. Tenant rent roll with move-in dates.
  5. BINs (Building Identification Numbers) with the correlating units.
  6. Recertification waiver if administered by the State.
  7. Inspection certifications and maintenance records for elevators, sprinklers, generators, and other project systems.

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