Top 10 Resolutions that Property Managers Should Make in the New Year
Property management, even on the smallest scale, is a role that entails learning a few skills.
If you’re new to being a landlord, it’s easy to focus on the rental income you will receive, while assuming that your own tasks will fall easily into place.
All too often, this approach results in a rapid buildup of stress for you, while your tenants become alienated and oppositional.
This year, follow these 10 resolutions to build a successful relationship with your tenants and make property management an enjoyable pursuit for the long term.
1. Maintain Open Communication
This is the very first rule in any human relationship, and it definitely applies to landlords and tenants.
Tenants will feel more relaxed if they know you are reachable.
For routine matters, you should set office hours during which you’re reachable by phone. (Google Voice gives you a good method of separating business calls from personal ones.)
You can let after-hours calls go to voicemail, but check messages promptly to make sure there’s no emergency.
Email is also a good channel for communication, because it gives you a written record of every interaction.
2. Keep Up with Small Repairs
If you handle your own maintenance and repair jobs, it’s easy to procrastinate.
When the tenant reports a chronic low-level problem such as a dripping faucet or a sticky door lock, you may push it lower on your list of things to do.
A slow response, however, may lead your tenants to feel as if you don’t care about the property -- and they may decide that they don’t have to care about it, either.
3. Make a List of Service Providers
For any specialized jobs that you outsource, such as electrical work, tree limbing, roofing, etc., you should assemble a list of reliable service people.
If there’s a plumbing emergency, you don’t want to be searching through local directories for the very first time.
4. Keep Your Documents Organized
Property management generates a surprising amount of paperwork, and you won’t be on top of your game if you have to dig through a stack of papers in a drawer in order to reference the amount of a security deposit, or the exact language you used in one part of the lease.
Cloud storage for real estate documents is a great organizing tool, and it prevents you from losing crucial information.
5. Continue Your Education
With today’s access to digital information, you can find an abundance of helpful online information on every aspect of being an effective landlord.
In addition, in-person seminars are available in many cities, providing you with the opportunity to learn property management skills directly from experts.
Participating in a real-life classroom discussion can teach you an amazing amount in just one session.
Take advantage of online and in-person resources, and you’ll become a pro in no time!
6. Put All Your Policies in Writing
A well-written lease is your most important tool.
Policies regarding rent payment, pets, security deposits, tenant responsibilities, and more should all be outlined clearly in the lease.
That way, if you have to enforce something later, you can say, “It’s our policy,” and sidestep the potential for uncomfortable arguments.
7. Don’t Rent to Family or Friends
Mixing business with family relationships is a reliable recipe for trouble.
When your tenant runs into financial trouble and can’t pay the rent, are you prepared to evict them?
Or will you simply take the loss in order to preserve family peace?
If you want to provide housing to somebody close to you, go for it -- but do it on a foundation of open generosity rather than formally counting on the income.
8. Review Landlord-Tenant Laws
You can buy a basic lease form online or at an office supply store, but you need to make sure its policies conform to your state and local laws.
If your tenant can show that your requirements violate local laws, you’ll lose time and money over the course of any legal action.
It’s also important to be aware of fair housing laws, which protect tenants from (even accidental) discrimination.
Ignorance of the law will not protect you if a tenant makes a complaint about your policies.
9. Screen Tenants Properly
Tenant screening is one of the most effective ways to filter out troublesome renters.
Appropriate tenant screening can cover the applicant’s rental and financial history, without violating the Fair Housing Act’s anti-discrimination laws.
While no screening tool is 100-percent guaranteed to provide you with responsible renters, it’s very helpful to screen out people who have criminal records or a trail of past evictions.
10. Connect with a Landlord Group
As a small-scale property manager, you may feel isolated because you’re not interacting with industry colleagues.
Landlord groups, meeting in real life or online, can help break the isolation and give each other information and support.
Check out social media sites and Meetup to find other landlords that are seeking to connect with one another.
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