Sep 24

If your business model relies on using workers that you classify as “independent contractors” the latest interpretation from the US Department of Labor should be of extreme concern you.

Hat tip to Attorney Tristan Pettit for alerting me to this.

I have written a number of post about the dangers of calling a worker an independent contractor when they met the definition of employee.   Well that bar was just raised substantially.

Rather than the old tests, the new ones are fairly bright line:

Ultimately, the goal is not simply to tally which factors are met, but to determine whether the worker is economically dependent on the employer (and thus its employee) or is really in business for him or herself (and thus its independent contractor).

But the ruling goes even further than is the worker dependent on the pay they receive from you.  Below are a few paragraphs of the Department of Labor document worth noting.

If the work performed by a worker is integral to the employer’s business, it is more likely that the worker is economically dependent on the employer.

 

In sum, in order to inform the determination of whether the worker is in business for him or herself, this factor should not focus on the worker’s ability to work more hours, but rather on whether the worker exercises managerial skills and whether those skills affect the worker’s opportunity for both profit and loss.

 

The worker should make some investment (and therefore undertake at least some risk for a loss) in order for there to be an indication that he or she is an independent business.

 

For example, investing in tools and equipment is not necessarily a business investment or a capital expenditure that indicates that the worker is an independent contractor.

So if the guy is a licensed electrician doing work for dozens or hundreds of other owners – pretty much he is a contractor.

However if you are paying a painter $10 an hour, or even $20 for that matter, and he works primarily for you – he is an employee and you would be well served to consider making him a legitimate employee or hire out a company that uses employees.

Remember too that if someone working on your property  is injured your rental property liability policy will not cover them.  Either you or they need to have a worker comp policy.  And this risk is even greater than the DOJ coming after you.

Aug 23

This past week there has been a lot of talk about bedbugs on the Apartment Association online discussion group.

Bedbugs made a resurgence after DDT was banned due to its harmful effects on the environment and humans.

Diatomaceous Earth works well and is non toxic to mammals and in fact is feed to dogs, cats and even humans in some parts of the world to rid internal parasites like tapeworms.  Therefore you don’t have to worry about toxicity to tenants.

Downsides of Diatomaceous Earth:

  • It is a bit messy – white powder in the application area.  This can be lessened by using a cattle duster or plant duster.
  • It is not a fast as chemical based or heat solutions.  The trick is to do a knock down with a pyrethrin based chemical first.  Pyrethrins are semi organic, derived from chrysanthemum plants.  They are alleged to be people and pet safe, have been in use for many decades and have little residual.  The latter is great from a toxicity concern, but not so great at keeping bugs at bay.
  • It is odorless.  Why is that a downside?  People tend to believe stinky products are more effective products.

If you are going to go the pure chemical route JT Eaton products work well and are consumer labeled.  Apply the red one and then a week later the blue.  Cyonara 9.7 is also currently effective.

[Update] Brian Peters sent me a message that reminded me that DNS has a good bedbug brochure that you can provide your tenants.

Do It Yourself Pest Control has a really good overview of how to effectively treat for bedbugs.  They often, but not always, have the best prices if you are buying in quantity.

Here is a visual overview of how to treat for bedbugs

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Mar 29

 

Remember  Your handyman – cheap contractor or $60,000 mistake?

Many of you attended the Apartment Association’s Meeting earlier this month featuring employment law attorney John Murray.

Here is a link to the State of Wisconsin’s guidance on the issue.  Most owners I’ve met that call their workers contractors fail on four or more of the test outlined in the guide.  Failing only one of the nine tests will cost you substantially.  This is why we use employees exclusively, except for licensed trades like electricians.

Under section 102.07(8)1 of the Wisconsin Statutes, a person is required to meet a nine-part test before he or she is considered an independent contractor rather than an employee. A person is not an independent contractor for worker’s compensation purposes just because the person says they are, or because the contractor over them says so, or because they both say so, or even if other regulators (including the federal government and other state agencies) say so. The nine-part statutory test set forth under s. 102.07(8) of the Act, must be met before a person working under another person is considered not to be an employee. To be considered an independent contractor and not an employee, an individual must meet and maintain all nine of the following requirements:

1. Maintain a separate business.

2. Obtain a Federal Employer Identification number from the Federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or have filed business or self-employment income tax returns with the IRS based on the work or service in the previous year. (See note below.)

3. Operate under specific contracts.

4. Be responsible for operating expenses under the contracts.

5. Be responsible for satisfactory performance of the work under the contracts.

6. Be paid per contract, per job, by commission or by competitive bid.

7. Be subject to profit or loss in performing the work under the contracts.

8. Have recurring business liabilities and obligations.

9. Be in a position to succeed or fail if business expense exceeds income.

Note: When requesting a Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN) from the IRS, you must inform the IRS that you are required by Wisconsin Worker’s Compensation law to obtain a FEIN. A social security number cannot be substituted for a FEIN and does not meet the legal burden of s. 102.07(8).

Apr 19

 

My wife provides training for professional event decorators, and those who wish to become one through her business, the Event Decorating Academy.  Most of the classes are held at a facility in Hollywood, FL.  However occasionally she does seminars elsewhere. I generally go along on the road trips to lift heavy things.

Earlier this month she held a week long session in Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  We had quite a few students from Jamaica and nearby islands such as Haiti as it is hard for them to get visas to come to the US. ‘

Typically the first stop when doing a tour date is at the local Home Depot or Lowes to pick up pipes, conduit and assorted fittings used to make the frame work for fabric and balloon decor.  There are no Home Depots in Jamaica, but there is a large chain of True Value Building Centres – so we were set.

We were in for quite a culture shock at the local Jamaican building material supply store.

Jamaica_True_Value

 

12 pieces of PVC pipe and two fittings cost us $7,748.91.  Fortunately those were Jamaican dollars which equal $71 USD.  Our driver mentioned this was the first time in his career he was asked to take an American to a building supply store.

Jamaican_HammerFriendly people, but clearly they do not have an equivalency of  OSHA, or traffic cops for that matter as there was a lot of chaos both at the building center and on the roads.

We got back to the upscale resort where the seminar was being held and realized that our staff forgot to pack a hammer.  We asked the hotel if we could borrow one.  “No problem mon” said the head of maintenance as he handed us his hammer. Upon further inquiry this was the best they had.

Moral of the story is we do not realize how good we have it in the States until we venture outside to do something other than a tourist trip.  Boy, I missed Home Depot that week.

Jan 02

A year ago I wrote of my five top ideas for real estate for 2013.

Of those ideas I have implemented .. not much.   Shortly after the first of the year 2013 we found that my wife’s ongoing back pain was being caused by a large benign tumor. She had it surgically removed on Valentine’s day and is fine today, but it upended things for a while

Today as I reflect on the past year and think about this coming year I reread the ideas posted last year. A year later they all hold value.

Two have been implemented as part of an effort to increase the value of membership by the Apartment Association of Southeastern WI’s  board of directors under the leadership of Joe Dahl.

The Association now has quarterly small group meetings as part of the Professional Membership. These meetings are an important element of #3 on the list, improving  how we share our collective knowledge

In a big step towards #1 on the list, reducing maintenance supply costs, the Association has teamed up with Home Depot, Pittsburg Paint, Sherwin Williams, and a number of other organizations to provide discounts to our members.

Home Depot offers a whopping 20% discount on paint and 2% cash back rebate on most purchases to our members. Sherwin Williams offers members discounts on paint equal to the discounts that major contractors receive. Pittsburg has similar discounts.

I would add a sixth and seventh opportunity for 2014, Crowdsourcing/Crowd funding for real estate.  I’ll post my thoughts on these in the next couple of days

The five most important Real Estate Ideas for 2014 remain:

(Clicking on the topic’s title takes you to the full article)

  1. Reducing Maintenance Supplies costs
    Pre 1950 buildings in lower income neighborhoods require around $100 per month per unit for repairs, replacement reserves and improvements. Newer buildings in more affluent neighborhoods perhaps $50 – $65. This is all maintenance from leaky faucets and unit turnovers to new cabinets, new roofs, electrical upgrades, replacing parking lots ect. (more)
  2. More Effective Maintenance Labor/Contractors
    Maintenance, replacements and improvements to rental housing represents nearly $100 million per year in the city of Milwaukee alone. A savings of even 1% is a lot of money. (more)
  3. Become better at sharing our collective knowledge
    The ApartmentAssoc@YahooGroups.com is good beginning. However it does not work real well as a reference tool as the posts are not organized by topics nor apparently easily searchable for many users. (more)
  4. Group purchase of a distressed block or two
    There has been this wild idea floating around in my head for years, acquiring a distressed block with a group of active owners and turn it around for fun and profit. (more)
  5. Tech Meets Real Estate
    There certainly are huge opportunities for software/web solutions for things that cause frustrations for owners and perhaps tenants. (more)
  6. Crowdsourcing for real estate, posting later in the week.
  7. Crowdfunding for real estate, posting later in the week.

 


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