Customer Service is an Important Part of Property Management

happy tenantsIf you work for a property management company you know the importance of maintaining good relationships with your owners and tenants.  And if you are self directing your own property management you probably know that tenants and landlords often clash.  But it does not have to be that way. You must stay on top of your management tasks, and let your tenants know that each one of them is important to you.

Our company has provided software for property management to over 20,000 subscribers since 2005.  We are recognized as one of the best property management software companies and, by the way, we have just rebuilt the software to be even easier to use thus making the communication with tenants even better.  The legacy software won a webby and the New Release has already won a Best In Business for software award. With all of this experience, there are some things that we know will help you get good tenants, keep your tenants happy and retain them longer.

Expect the Best from your Tenants

You are entering into a business contract with each tenant. You expect them to pay rent and care for your property in return for their access and right to occupy to a quality property in which to live or work if it is a commercial property.  Remember that it is a business relationship, not a friendship.  From the beginning treat the tenant with respect.  Once the lease is signed the tenant has agreed to pay rent on time.  Be sure that he/she does just that.  We recommend use of automated rent payments made through a tenant portal which contains all of the pertinent information that they need plus a way to make their rent payment in less than a minute. If they are late, do not offer to waive late fees. In the automated system, late fees are added automatically on the designated day.  Waiving late fees only encourages more late payments.  If you have a chronic late payer, make arrangements so that rent is due after they have received their wages or can reliably make the payment.  If that means you extend the grace days a few more days then that is a better way to resolve the issue than to waive late fees. You might also have them pay two times per month instead of once.Don’t worry, if they are using automated rent payments, the accounting is done for you when that payment is made. And remember that any changes to the original agreement need to be memorialized in writing and signed by both parties.

You Make the Rules

It is the responsibility of the landlord or property manager in conjunction with the owner to make the rules for tenants residing in the property.  Include those rules when they sign the lease.  We recommend a separate document stating policies and rules as well as vacating procedures.  The tenant signs that document and it becomes part of the lease.  Tenants need to know the rules before they move in, not when they have violated one.  Tenants need to know that they are responsible for  being cordial to neighbors and abide by the rules of the property.  It is always best to meet the tenant in a professional environment like an office.  Our SPS software offers esign for leases and notices so that an office is not required to look professional.  One other thing that is very important is good communication.  The SPS software has tenant portals through which the tenant can easily notify you of any issues or report maintenance items.

Get Repairs Done Quickly

Things happen to rental properties during normal wear and tear, and repairs need to be done to keep the property in good shape.  Occasionally there is also tenant caused damage, like a child flushing toys down the toilet or someone hitting the garage door with their car.  Both types of damage should be repaired by the landlord or property manager, not the tenant.  The most important thing that a landlord can do is get the repair done as soon as humanly possible.  The tenant can be billed for tenant caused damage or the security deposit can be used if they do not pay. We recommend billing first so that the security deposit remains in place for the future.  Always follow up after the repair with the tenant to be sure that the repair was done to the satisfaction of the tenant.  We recommend that you inspect the repair or at the very least have the contractor take pictures before and after the repair and send them to you.  Your tenant will know that you care about their comfort and you will retain them longer.  Maybe even more important is that you will be sure that your property is kept in top condition.

You Must Do Inspections

Inspections are part of the price of doing business.  Inspections done regularly will insure that there is no major damage being done to your valuable rental property.  With new tenants, you may want to do an inspection or visit the property in one month to see how the tenant is faring.  At the same time you can look around to see how they are caring for the property. If all is well you may schedule the next inspection visit for 3 months.  If things look dicey, give notice to clean it up and come back in a week to inspect again. This may seem like over kill but we have seen some tragic situations experienced by our subscribers when they do not use the inspection software available to them. One subscriber found three families living in a two bedroom house.  Only 4 people were on the lease.  Another found a herd of cats, none of whom were authorized by a pet agreement. In fact the pet agreement clearly said that no pets were allowed.  If these situations had not been discovered, you can only imagine the damage that would have been done to the property.  Inspections are an ounce of prevention against pounds of cure.

Develop Good Relationships

Always be cordial to your tenants.  They are supporting your business and even if you may not like them personally, you need to be pleasant.  Remember that your tenants are not your friends.  They have a business relationship with you.  That does not mean that you can’t send Holiday cards or throw parties for the multifamily community once in awhile.  But in the process of running your rental business, be firm and fair, attentive and respectful.

Smart Property Systems gives our subscribers the tools to be able to develop good relationships with tenants, members of associations, and owners of residential and commercial properties.  That is accomplished with automation of most repetitive tasks and by allowing all stakeholders in the business to easily communicate through the portals.  If you are not using software or are unhappy with your current software check out https://smartpropertysystems.com.

Submitted by: Timmi Ryerson
December 18 2015

SPS square logo

Do Your Tenants Need to Know How to Budget?

I listened to a web cast today on how to fill vacancies with residents who will pay rent.  I was surprised to hear that the incidence of failure to pay rent is going up.  The fact, according to this presenter, is that rents are rising and incomes are staying the same.  That means that more of a family’s budget has to be put toward the rent. There are several safeguards that can be used by the property manager when renting to someone with little or poor credit history. But the one least used, that comes to mind for me, is giving the tenant a bit of good old fashioned education about how to budget.

Young people, especially students, are sometimes on their own for the first time. Budgeting may be taught in business classes but I have not heard of it being taught in school as a general rule.  Another category of high risk families is single mothers with no child support.  However, poor rent payers are not just limited to these groups.  They come from all income levels and backgrounds.  But everyone needs a place to live.  Everyone needs shelter and to be able to feel safe and secure in their home. Furthermore, it is against the law to discriminate when considering an applicant unless that applicant obviously does not earn enough money to pay the rent.  So there are going to be times when you will rent to a high risk tenant.  Of course you always use tenant screening, and check pay stubs, and speak with employers, and past landlords before deciding to rent.  Those are tried and trusted ways to get good tenants.  But we have all had to get after our tenants at one time or the other for failure to pay on time.

budgetingThe next suggestion I have is that these high risk  tenants should get the budget your money talk.  “The rent” is the most important payment a resident makes each month.  Oh they may argue that they need a car more than a place to live, but with that mentality, they could end up living in their car.  Ideally rent makes up 25% of the monthly budget.  But recently it has creeped up to an average of 33% of the monthly budget.  That leaves car payments, insurance, utilities, food and clothing and finally entertainment to be budgeted (planned). Hopefully they are not into using credit cards when they run out of their own money or the situation could escalate from good to bad very fast.  If at risk tenants turn this sequence around, you will see many failures to pay rent. Unfortunately we see the reverse sequence all too frequently. (i.e. entertainment, clothing, food, utilities, car payments,insurance, rent)  At least if you have the talk, you will put them on alert.  Hopefully they will realize that budgets are a great way to keep everyone happy and give them the feeling of control over their lives.

I have been in property management for many years managing my own investment properties, before I bought a software company that provides software for property management. In both capacities I have heard all kinds of excuses and reasons for late rent payments.  You all have heard them.
“I mailed the check. Didn’t you get it? It must be lost in the mail”.
“I gave the rent to my husband. Didn’t he give it to you ?”
One of the best was “I had to take my kids on vacation and don’t have enough left
to pay rent.
“I dropped an envelope with cash in the door slot of the office.  It is not my fault if someone stole it.”
And another doozie “I already paid the rent last month.”

Then there is the issue of paying on time.  When you don’t get paid on time, your own budget and finances suffer.  It costs the property manager money every time a rent is late.  Of course we have found that through use of online automated rent payments, the excuses go away.  There is no more excuse for late rent because it takes the guess work out of where the rent is and all of the arguments listed above, except the vacation situation, are no longer valid.  But that is a topic for another blog.

I think it is a great idea for the property manager to talk with any young tenant, first time tenant or person with poor credit about “the importance of paying rent on time, every time it is due” before handing over the keys.  Sometimes they need to hear that rent should be the first bill they pay before they spend money on anything else.

The other question to ask your new tenant is on what day they get paid.  A solution to late rent payments may be as simple as setting the date rent is due to a couple of days after the person gets paid, or at least make the grace period long enough to accommodate that tenant. In some cases, it may be a good idea to add language to a lease document stating that the conversation about how to budget for the rent payment was done.  It may also be a good idea to offer a booklet about budgeting with a sample budget to demonstrate how easy it actually is.  I realize that this kind of approach will not solve all of the problems with poor rent payers but it may bring your percentage of on time rent payments up a few percentage points.

Timmi Ryerson
Smart Property Systems
help@smartpropertysystems.com

Eviction is a Necessary Task in Property Management

 

 

 

Many counties in the United States do not report evictions to credit bureaus and it takes specific searches to discover these records.  This kind of search can be done by a landlord or property manager in the local counties but is time consuming and not always reliable.  The reality is that often a resident will apply for a new rental home while he/she is being evicted from the current residence and there will be no record at all.

We spoke with Equifax recently and found that they have just purchased a small company which is now collecting this eviction data across the country.  In several years there will be a new data base with this information which will be available for credit reports but we still have to deal with what we have today, which is precious little with regard to eviction history.

That being said, we still have our rules and regulations to abide by and therefore will have to enforce them for the benefit of all.  So there will be the occasional eviction.

The article below is a good summary from Expert Law which will help you if you find that you are needing to proceed with an eviction.

Read More Here