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.

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.

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.

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.

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