Redbook Blues: All About Licenses

by John Gillespie, WAK Management

This month we’re going to attack three common multifamily license myths: 1) copying driver’s licenses; 2) maintenance staff licensing; and 3) leasing agent licenses.

As always, be sure to test the below against the REDBOOK.

Myth # 1: You Cannot Copy Driver’s License.  A very suspicious person is standing outside your leasing office (sounds like the beginning of a lame Netflix series). Before the person walks into the leasing center and enquires about an available unit, the on-site staff discusses their options. One leasing professional says that you should treat the suspicious individual the same as everyone else.  (Good answer). The assistant manager says to be sure to get a copy of their driver’s license. The new manager says that at the property she previously worked at they did not copy the prospect’s driver’s license because it was against the law.

How do you respond?   

If the suspicious person or anyone else desires to see a unit, it is perfectly acceptable to 1) have them leave their driver’s license in the office in a locked drawer or safe while you are showing the apartment; 2) record their driver’s license numbers in your guestbook; and/or 3) make a copy of the driver’s license and lock up the copy before you leave to show the apartment. That practice is lawful under Section 521.456, Texas Transportation Code.

Occasionally, managers and on-site staff may encounter sketchy, potential-residents whose conduct could escalate into inappropriate behavior. It is advisable to take the necessary precautions to ensure employee workplace safety. You never know who may walk through those leasing office doors.

Maintaining an accurate prospect list, including copies of driver’s licenses is a simple but effective deterrent.

As always, if you observe strange or unsettling behavior, you are encouraged to call law enforcement.

Myth # 2:  Maintenance Staff Does Not Need Licenses. The calendar may say September, but it’s still summer in Texas. Summer means that air-conditioning units break, and thermostats and ceiling fans need lots of attention. Pools have got to be maintained. So, your top-notch, awesome maintenance teams are busy replacing, repairing, maintaining air conditioning units, thermostats, and ceiling fans all over the property. Your make-ready teams are changing out wall-plugs and light fixtures. Your porter is faithfully cleaning and maintaining the chemical balance in the pool.

One day, your less-than-friendly city code compliance inspector stops by your property for your annual property inspection. Mr. Inspector notices various HVAC parts and electrical components in the maintenance shop. He observes your maintenance team performing electrical work on AC units and repairing light fixtures in the breezeways. He walks by your pool and sees your porter adding chlorine to the pool.

A week later, you receive a letter from the city stating that your maintenance team is in violation of numerous city ordinances; they and the property are subject to significant fines; and they must cease and desist performing any additional electrical installation or repair and that the pool must be maintained by a Certified Pool Operator (CPO).

Can the city do this?

Yes.  While maintenance staffs are exempt from state-wide HVAC, plumbing, pool, and electrical licensure requirements, there are significant exceptions that allow local governments to mandate licensure. First and foremost, cities can require maintenance personnel who perform electrical repairs, replacement, or maintenance to have electrical licensure. In fact, the cities of Arlington, Euless, and Fort Worth require specific electrical licenses for maintenance personnel. In Arlington, it is a “Maintenance Electrical License.” In Euless, it is a “Journeyman Electrical License.” In Fort Worth, it is a “Residential Property Maintenance Electrical License.”

Your maintenance staff can perform plumbing work, but they cannot install gas water heaters or cut into existing gas lines. Also, most cities in Tarrant County require permits if replacing HVAC, electrical, or plumbing parts.

If your property is in North Richland Hills, then you’re required to have a CPO license to maintain your pool.

AATC highly recommends that you contact your city to determine the electrical licensure requirements, as well as, the required permits to repair or replace HVAC components and water heaters.

Myth # 3: Licenses Required for Property Managers.  Unlike many professions, the multifamily industry has very few state-mandated professional licenses.  In Texas, to manage property you do not own, you must have a real estate broker’s license.  In general, if a property is fee managed, someone within the management company must have a broker’s license. The good news is on-site managers do not need to have a real estate license. This is true whether they work on-site or offsite; work for a management company or are an employee of the owner.

To learn more about the licensing requirements for your leasing team, go to the Texas Real Estate Commission (www.trec.state.tx.us) for more information.

John Gillespie, WAK Management, is the AATC Government Affairs Committee Chair.