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Customer service keeps them happy.

STARTING WITH A TRIPLEX in the San Diego market in 2001, Todd Rehfuss and Scott Fielder entered the rental community arena. After completing successful military careers, they relocated to the Bluegrass Region of central Kentucky and purchased a 50-residence community in Lexington. Along the way, Rehfuss and Fielder have acquired apartments ranging from complete rehabilitation and renovation projects to new construction properties.

Q: Raising rent can be a touchy subject for residents. What are some steps you have taken when increasing rents?

A: Fortunately, our submarkets are on the leading edge--rather than the trailing edge--of rent increases. By providing excellent customer service to residents, turnover is minimal and retention up while we maintain rental rates above that of neighboring communities.

When we must raise rents, we communicate the reasons behind the increase. We mention the services we offer and show residents how much it will cost for them to move (i.e., first month's rent, security deposits, utility transfers and general moving expenses). The result is greater retention rates at our communities.

Q: What procedures have you implemented to ensure your apartment buildings and residents are prepared in the event of a disaster?

A: The severe weather that troubles parts of the country rarely comes to Lexington. Our residents are trained from lease signing to call 911 in an emergency, followed by a call to management. If the situation requires that residents evacuate the building or seek shelter in basements, residents know to alert their neighbors.

We encourage residents to call at any time if they face an emergency. Our office phones forward their calls to our business cell phones for after-hours contact. This not only helps us to maintain an excellent occupancy rate, it allows us to quickly respond to the lesser but still important issues that our residents may have.

Q: With the current credit and mortgage fallouts, have you changed your criteria for evaluating the eligibility of prospective residents?

A: Working closely with a resident screening company, we have custom tailored a template that standardizes our resident screening and follows fair housing guidelines. We rely on resident screening, references from current and previous community managers, employment history and forcible detainer or eviction judgments. This process, along with a nationwide criminal background check, gives us a full picture of prospective residents' characters.

Q: What is the greatest value NAA and your local association provide?

A: NAA serves as a common gathering point for the industry. NAA also provides guidance and leadership to assist local associations in the creation and maintenance strong Independent Rental Owners Councils (IROC), allowing these owners to thrive through a common bond of small ownership. The information that we have received from our involvement with the national IROC and other committees has opened doors to knowledge and a better understanding of the industry and of NAA.

The Greater Lexington Apartment Association (GLAA) has helped us meet other independent owners and corporate apartment community managers and owners. Their insights have helped our business.

We both are very involved with the GLAA. Todd is on GLAA's Board of Directors and has chaired the Legislative Affairs/PAC Committee. Scott has chaired the Outreach Committee and is currently Co-Chair of the Education Committee. We are both graduates of NAAEI's Advanced Instructor Training course.

Independent Rental Owner


COMPANY NAME: Rehfield Properties



LOCAL APARTMENT ASSOCIATION: Greater Lexington Apartment Assn.

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Title Annotation:Management Insider: Eye on IRO
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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