Steps Property Management can take to Keep the Neighborhood or Complex Safe for Tenants


One of the duties of property management is to ensure that the property is secure and safe for tenants. Various security measures can be taken on the premises, but if the adjoining properties and areas are not safe, then your property will also be clubbed into the same category, and potential tenants will avoid it.

All marvelous and decent prospective tenants will first consider if the location is safe, and relatively free of crime. Therefore, property management should not only ensure security on their own property, but also take steps to make the neighborhood safe. Here are a few pointers that can help you achieve this objective.

Do Research

It is first important to know the crime rate in your neighborhood and the types of crimes that are typically committed. This research can be easily done online, as there are many websites such CrimeReports.com and others that provide accurate information. If you find there are many instances of theft in your area, you can inform tenants to be more careful with their belongings, and follow the usual precautions of not leaving valuables in plain sight, and installing better locking systems for their vehicles. It is also a prudent idea to know the proximity of sex offenders in the area and put up a notice informing tenants of such elements.

Knowing and Collaborating with Your Neighbors

It is fantastic to know your neighbors and to take collaborative steps to keep the neighborhood free of crime. Offer to help and keep a lookout for bad elements and any criminal activity in the area, and expect the same from your neighbors. People generally like to cooperate in such matters and you might even succeed in organizing a neighborhood watch, which is most effective and cost-efficient way of preventing crime in an area.

Maintain Access Points to Your Property

Maintaining the entry points to the property is not only important for curb appeal but also for security. Overgrown and large bushes provide excellent hiding places for thieves and stalkers; hence, the landscaping should be kept trimmed and neat. It is also necessary to clear all clutter and keep the common areas and entry points clean.

Proper Lighting

Entry points and common areas inside the property should be well lit, especially areas at the rear of the building where there is not much traffic. Bright lights will discourage criminals, as there are more chances of being spotted. To cut costs, you could consider installing motion sensor lights in such areas. Property management should also take steps to ensure proper lighting outside the property. Town or city officials should be approached for additional light posts, if the majority of the surrounding area is in darkness.

Perhaps the apartment complex can set up motion lights in certain areas to help people notice if someone is snooping or creeping around at night? Waiting for some bureaucrats to do something may take a while.

Emergency Notification

Establish a system where tenants are able to relay a warning or notify property management in times of emergency or when a crime is about to take place. Once tenants know that help is at hand, they will be more vigilant and help in keeping an eye on units where tenants have gone somewhere for the holidays.

Difficult Tasks in Property Management


Property management is a challenging profession, and there are certain tasks that property managers particularly hate to do. These tasks are part of the job and it is not possible to escape them. Here are some of the challenging tasks property managers have to do, and some tips to make them less difficult.

Evicting Tenants

It is quite easy to throw out tenants engaging in criminal activities, but it is quite a different story when you have evict a terrific tenant who has lost his job and is not able meet the rent payment requirements. Most property managers find this job quite difficult, especially when they know the tenants they are evicting are marvelous families, who are going through some financial troubles.

However, whatever the reason for eviction, you need to give the tenant the required warning notices, to provide a chance to the tenants to correct the situation. In most cases, outstanding tenants who are overdue on rent will be waiting for their paycheck. Hence, property managers have to consider each tenant individually, and providing extra time for rent payments to certain tenants may prove rewarding in the long run.

Declining Applicants

Property managers find this job quite hard, especially when they have to reject the applicant face to face. However, declining applicants is a necessary job that needs to be done to avoid future complications. It is usually better to tell the applicants, the reason/s for their rejection, so that they know you have actually done investigations and you have valid reason for rejecting their application. If it is credit issue, show them their credit report. However, telling them the reasons might provoke further arguments that a property manager will have to deal with firmly.

Increasing the Rent

It is never a pleasant task to impose additional rent on tenants, especially when the economic situation is not so impressive. However, property managers have to deal with such realities. To minimize the blow to existing tenants, property management can offer some kind of a bonus or discount for renewing the lease. This will show that property management values tenants and would not want to lose them. If tenants strike up a conversation or come and argue about the rise in rent, it would be a shrewd and salient idea to share certain details about the rising costs, and the reasons why it was inevitable to raise rents.

Handling Tenants Engaged in Illegal Activities

Fortunately, most tenants are law-abiding citizens who go to work, pay their rent on time and with precision, and maintain their units. However, it is important for property managers to be vigilant and deal immediately with tenant/s engaging in criminal activities. In fact, the police may have to get involved.

If property management procrastinates in dealing firmly with criminal activities on the premises, the safety of all tenants is at risk. When tenants come to know of the activities going on, they will start leaving, and the reputation of the property will take a hit. Once the property has a sullied its reputation, it will take a lot of time and effort to win the confidence of tenants again and therefore it is critical to take care of such situations firmly and quickly.  

Steps Property Management need to Take before the Onslaught of Winter


Now there is no telling when or in what place there can be a sudden drop in temperature. Even places that are known to remain relatively warm in winter can experience sudden temperatures below freezing (this is happening right now in late January in 2014 in Alabama and Northern Florida), or be vulnerable to freak blizzards and snowstorms. Therefore, it would be wise for property managers to be prepared, and take steps to avoid inconveniences to tenants.

Responsibilities & Ideas

Before the winter sets in, here are certain tasks that property management should perform:

     Initiate a detailed inspection of all units to check for defective weather stripping, inadequate insulation, and cracked windows. Start the required repairs immediately, so that they can be finished before the cold sets in. The repairs will also be much easier to do when the temperature has not dropped considerably.
     For maintaining lawns and gardens, adjust the sprinklers and watering schedules to accommodate less sunshine, and cooler nights. Landscape maintenance should also include the cutting off dead branches of trees and removing dead plants.
     Inspect boilers and heaters, and check if they are functioning properly without any leaks. Early repairs can save a lot of time and money, as emergency service during winter season is very costly, and causes more inconvenience to tenants.
     If there is an outdoor pool, it should be drained, cleaned, and covered. This way you can avoid blockage of the drainage from fallen leaves.
     Check the integrity of the roofing, find potential points where leaks can occur, and conduct preventive repairs. When snow levels builds up, it can do considerable damage to the structure of the roof.
     In individual housing units, check fireplaces, and chimneys. There is a likelihood of critters making their homes in unused chimneys. Clean the flue thoroughly to avoid risk of smoke damage.

A property manager should also take precautions for snowstorms and blizzards, and be prepared to meet the worst eventualities. Here are some points that should be considered.

§    Have adequate number of tools for ice and snow removal. Such equipment should include snow blowers, snow shovels, and sand and salt for melting ice.
§    Be prepared for gas or power outage by stocking on blankets, batteries, flashlights, candles, bottled water, and emergency medical supplies.
§    Check trees in the vicinity, and chop off branches that are hanging low or trees that seem precariously perched. Strong winds and buildup of snow can cause these branches or trees to collapse without warning.
§    Conduct an inspection of the balconies and patios to see if tenants have removed all items. A simple object like a chair can become airborne in strong winds and can cause considerable damage.
§    Check the integrity of shillings and roofing tiles, as they can come off easily in a snowstorm, or collapse under the weight of snow buildup.
§    Make sure there is an alternative power source for operating emergency equipment and lighting.
§    Keep close watch on the weather by accessing weather reports through the radio, television, or the Internet.

Handling Security Deposits in Property Management


Recent studies show that about 25% of the time property managers do not return the security deposit after the renter has vacated the apartment or rental unit. This is a serious issue, and it is mostly illegal in all states. Many times renters also do not receive any explanation about why their security deposit was not returned. In most cases property managers do not bother to provide explanations, since the unit is thoroughly trashed by the renter, and the reason for not returning the deposit is obvious.

A Waste of Time

Property managers will be occupied with the task of conducting extensive repairs and will have to get the unit ready before the arrival of the next renter. In such circumstances, property managers find it unnecessary and time consuming to provide any justification for not returning the safety deposit.

However, every state has specific rules regarding the handling of security deposits, and almost all say that property managers do have to give former tenants a detailed statement showing how the security deposit funds were used for repairing damages. Usually this statement has to be given to the tenant within a month of the date the unit was vacated.

What exactly was broken or damaged?

A brief note stating the cleaning or repair charges will not be sufficient legally. Property management must provide a detailed statement listing the damages and the repairs or replacement costs. To make the statement fool proof, it is also wise to include a copy of the walk-through that was done before the tenant moved in. This will show that these damages occurred only during the time the tenant was occupying the unit.

If property managers do not follow the norms regarding security deposits, it can lead to legal complications and disputes, where the security deposit may have to be returned to the tenant in spite of the damages caused by the tenant. To avoid such situations it is therefore necessary to do the following:

o    Before the tenant moves into the unit, complete a detailed walk-through, and based on that make a statement about the condition of the unit. Make the tenant sign this statement for showing their approval.
o    When the tenant is leaving perform another walk through; however, this may not be always possible.
o    When damages are found in the unit, they should be listed in detail and the cost of repairing them.
o    Prepare the statement in detail with all the damages and repair costs, and send it to the tenant within the stipulated time.

Being Cordial

It would of course be much better to take steps that would ensure the tenant does not damage the unit in the first place. For this, regular unit inspections would be the best strategy. However, make sure you do not do this too frequently. It is also important to provide sufficient notice of such an inspection, since you will be inspecting the inside of the unit and taking the tenant’s time and invading their privacy somewhat as well. Maintaining outstanding relations with the tenants also goes a long way in reducing damages, tenant retention, and other issues.

Ensuring Tenant Satisfaction in Property Management


Property managers usually face an uphill task of retaining tenants, especially in apartment properties. Even if the vacancy rate is not high, there seems to be frequent changes in tenancy, which ultimately cuts into the profitability. The main reason for this is discontent amongst tenants, arising out of some common complaints.

If property management can effectively tackle and resolve such complaints, tenants will be satisfied and will not want to shift to other properties. According to studies the most common complaints of apartment tenants are:

o    Lack of proper upkeep of the common areas
o    Disorganized property management and poor interaction with staff
o    Poor or no response to maintenance complaints
o    Lack of parking space
o    Security issues
o    Poor lighting
o    Issues with pets
o    Negligible preventive maintenance
o    High rent

Amongst these complaints, poor maintenance of the property and higher rental rates were the main issues for most tenants. Many property managers fail to implement a system for preventive maintenance, which results in many breakdowns and repairs happening at the same time. The normal upkeep of the common premises also suffers due to poor maintenance procedures. Coupled with all these problems, if the rent rate is high compared to the competition, many tenants will be dissatisfied and trying to find a property offering better service and lower rental prices.

Apart from implementing effective preventive maintenance procedures, property management has to ensure that all tenants receive outstanding on-site service. Such a policy is not difficult to implement and certain changes can make a major difference. Here are some practices that will ensure tenant satisfaction.

Open Channels of Communications

Tenants should have easy access to air their issues with property management. Open up various channels for tenants to get in touch with the property manager and staff. The manager and staff should also take a proactive approach and try to connect with tenants, without being too formal and at the same time retaining a professional approach. Once tenants are given a chance to air their issues, half the problem is solved.

Being Responsive

The property manager and staff need to be more responsive, and keep tenants informed about the status of their complaints. When the complaints are not resolved, and tenants do not know what is happening, they are likely to get frustrated and cranky. Whereas, if they are kept in the loop and informed how the resolution process in progressing, they are happier with the knowledge that something is being done about their complaint.

Resolve Issues Quickly

A proper property management system should be implemented, which ensures quick resolution of complaints. Being responsive will not help, if the property manager takes a long time to resolve problems on a regular basis. The manager should be able to identify the possible maintenance issues and have a service team or contractors ready. Most times the delays are due to lack of availability of professional people to conduct the repairs.

Once property management is able to establish marvelous delivery of service, the issue of higher rental rates will take second precedence, and tenants will be more inclined to remain on the property.

How to Deal with Complaints Delivered by Tenants


Complaints are inevitably filed by tenants, and it is essential for property management to deal with them effectively. All complaints should be properly tracked and addressed, which will not only keep the tenants satisfied and safe, but also timely resolution of the complaints, especially maintenance issues, keeps the property in a fantastic condition over the long run.

Certain tenants will be frequent complainers, while some will complain only when the issue has become big. However, the property manager must have an effective system to deal with all complaints consistently and professionally. Here are a few pointers for dealing with tenant complaints.

Recommend Contacting the Property Manager

Tenants should be encouraged to contact the property manager as soon as possible, in case they have any issues or complaints. Once tenants know that there is someone to address their complaints, they will not overuse or misuse this privilege. It is best to provide a phone number, where tenants can call during the specified time. Make sure there is someone attending the call and it does not go to voice mail.

Use of Complaint Form

When the property is huge, tracking complaints will become difficult unless it is recorded. In such a situation, it is better to have a written record, in the form of complaint forms. The information on such a form should include, name of tenant, unit number, date, and type of complaint. The later part of the form can be reserved for recording when the complaint was attended to, what type of repairs were made, whether the issue was resolved, how it was resolved, and so on.  

Prompt Resolution of Complaints

Property manager should have in-house staff or a list of contractors who can be called on a short notice to do the required repairs. However, certain issues can be quite complex, and cannot be fixed within a short time. In such a case, the tenant should be kept updated about what is being done about the issue. Once the problem is solved, the tenants should be told about their issues being resolved, even if they are obvious to them. Nevertheless, property management must have a strict policy of resolving issues as soon as possible, as that will prevent further damage, or the problem becoming worse.

Dealing with Interpersonal Issues of Tenants

Apart from maintenance and repairs complaints, there will be some complaints from tenants about other tenants on the property. For instance, the most common complaint is about the noisy neighbor, who creates disturbances at odd times. Property manager has to deal with such complaints professionally and with tact. It is also necessary to include clauses in the lease agreement regarding expected behavior on the property and the penalties for not adhering to such terms.

First start by investigating the issue, and find out if the tenant in question is indeed creating a nuisance. If the tenant is found to be noisy, rude, or sloppy, then initially a warning should suffice. This warning should be documented as well for future legal reasons if it comes to that. You have to cover your bases. If matters do not improve then the tenant should be made aware of the consequences, and if the problem persists, the last resort is serving an eviction notice.

How to Handle Noisy Neighbor Complaint in Property Management


Property managers often receive complaints of noisy neighbors from many tenants. Dealing with such a complaint is usually quite tricky, since it can be difficult to monitor the decibel level, especially if the noise occurs at different times of the day or night. Tenants usually have issue with noise that is caused due to loud music or television, children crying or playing boisterously, parties, or gathering of friends. Here are some points to consider and tips to follow for resolving the problem of noisy neighbors.

Is the Complaint Valid?

First, determine if the complaint is valid, or the tenant is simply over sensitive to noise. Sometimes there might be some other issue between the neighbors, and even a little noise might be sparking anger in the tenant. For checking the merit of the complaint, the property manager might have to visit the units at various times, or ask the tenant to phone when the noise occurs. When the noise is occurring, ask the other tenants if they find the noise excessive or disturbing. After checking that the noise is indeed occurring, speak with the supposed culprit directly about the issue and find out what they are thinking.

They need to know they do not live in a house and that they need to keep the noise down and to change their habits.  

Determining the Severity of the Issue

The property manager needs to find out if the noise has occurred only once or it is an ongoing problem. Sometimes the tenant would have had a few guests over for the night that caused the noise, and this can be treated as a one-time offense. However, if the tenant is in the habit of playing loud music every day, then there is an issue but it can be dealt with.

Addressing Both Parties

If the complaint is valid, and it is an ongoing issue, the property manager should have a talk with the tenant causing the problem and let him know that noise complaint/s has been filed against him or her. If it is a first-time complaint, a warning will usually suffice. In addition, the property manager should speak with the tenant making the complaint and inform him or her that the issue has been addressed.

Repeated Complaints

If the offender tenant fails to heed the warning and continues with the noise, then the property manager will have to remind the tenant of the possible penalties according to the lease agreement. There should already be a clause in the tenancy agreement that deals with this issue. A copy of the signed agreement with the relevant parts underlined can be given to the tenant as a reminder. If the noise continues, then the tenant can be served with a formal notice. Such a notice will state that the tenant will have to immediately stop the noise or face eviction.

Eviction is the Final Resort

If the noise does not stop even after giving the notice, then the property manager will have to take steps to evict the tenant. However, this should be the last resort after giving fair amounts of warnings. The property manager should also gauge whether the noise is affecting quality of life of the other tenants and then take the necessary measures. Sometimes people are just rude and they have to learn the hard way.

Screening Tenants and Limiting Losses with Bad Tenants

Handling bad tenants is a nightmare for the property manager, and therefore it is much better to have an effective and poignant screening system in place to avoid renting out the property to such people. Here are certain screening procedures that are highly effective.

1.    Background Checks: Thorough background checks are necessary for all prospective tenants. However, be careful you do not violate any privacy laws.
2.    Use of Databases: There are different industry databases that have a listing of bad tenants. For instance, there is a National Tenancy Database, which can be accessed by paying a small subscription, and there is the Landlords Advisory Service, which provides certain searches on payment of a small fee. However, there are certain laws governing the use of information from these databases, and you can check the guidelines at the website of Office of Fair Trading.
3.    Contact Employer: It is important to know how much a person earns to make sure, if he or she will be able to afford the rent. To know about the earning capacity of prospective tenants it is best to contact their employers and talk with them directly. Acquire the details about the employer and talk with the employer over the phone. Inquire about the monthly salary, and the post held by the person. It is also important to know whether the person is a permanent or a temporary employee.
4.    Ask for References: Always ask for the landline number for the references, since most scammers will have multiple mobile phones, and you could be talking to the same person when you call.
5.    Contact the Former Landlord: Talk directly to the former property owner rather than the real estate agent, as some agents may not want to reveal the person to be a bad tenant. Ask why the person had left the tenancy, and whether there were any late rent payments.
6.    Regular Inspections: Even after accepting a person as a tenant, the property manager should have a system in place to carry out regular inspection of the property. However, make sure the proper procedure is followed during inspections to avoid any legal trouble.

Be Upfront about Your Rent Rules

Even after following all the required screening procedures, it is still possible to end up with a bad tenant. In such a situation, there are some chances of losing money, but the priority should be about damage control. The best way to limit losses is to act expeditiously and within the confines of the law. Overdue rent should be tackled immediately, and the tenant has to be made aware about the rent & living policies. Include penalties for late payments in the rental agreement and enforce these terms strictly.

The Final Straw

A bad tenant will make all sorts of excuses for not paying the rent and such excuses should not be considered. However, if a tenant with a sparkling track record puts forward legitimate difficulties, then compromises can be considered to enable the person to make the payment. When rental arrears have exceeded a set number of weeks, the property manager can acquire an eviction notice through a rental tribunal.

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