Owner and Qualifying Broker at Rhino Realty Property Management and Rhino Realty B&B, entrepreneur, investor, advisor, author and speaker.
With the current climate of the world, everyone in the real estate industry is doing the best they can to navigate ever-changing rules and regulations. Historically speaking, the role of a property manager has always had its challenges. The ongoing threats of lawsuits, rent abatement, unscrupulous demands and false allegations by tenants continually plague the industry. Ultimately, if you are a property manager, many of these situations will never cease to occur in your business. Fortunately, there are some sound practices that can ensure you and your owners are protected and not manipulated or pushed around.
Put everything in writing.
If you take one thing away, make sure it is this. The key to protecting yourself from ever-changing stories and time frames is to always make sure your discussions are in writing. Too many times as property managers, we take phone calls to provide a more “personal” approach. Initially, it’s always encouraged to speak with your tenants and do all you can to come to an amicable resolution over the phone. However, you risk pertinent details being lost or missed if you fail to put the conversation in writing. Unfortunately, if things change and the situation escalates to a legal matter, without anything in writing, you have very little to defend yourself.
It’s a good idea to have systems in place that enable your tenants to submit all requests — from maintenance needs to payment questions/concerns to reports of criminal activity — in writing, such as an online portal. This will ensure situations are time-stamped and will hold both parties accountable. If you do not have the systems in place, make sure that after every phone call, you email and bullet point the conversation the best way you interpreted it. This, versus not having anything at all, will be much more of an insurance policy and help keep everyone organized and on the same page. You always want to assume your tenants have the best interest for everyone at heart, so trust, but verify.
Fair housing is a serious issue and must be treated with care. The fastest way to end up in a lawsuit or complaint is to have irregularities in your tenant screening criteria. It is also important to know what can be stated in your marketing to ensure all guidelines are being adhered to. Having systems in place is crucial; making sure all your staff members are trained and competent is necessary.
Unfortunately, there are some people who prey on property managers for this specific reason, looking for a quick payday. They may intentionally placate and manipulate opportunities; they may see that could be deemed discriminatory. To avoid costly lawsuits, keeping a uniform process will protect you in case you are ever audited for a false claim.
Disclose and do your due diligence.
Another great practice to implement is to be as transparent as practically possible and make sure you are as informed about your local market as you can be. As you promote your rentals, include as much information as you can. From the number of parking spaces to deposits or tenant restrictions, always over-disclose so you limit the number of gray areas that could exist.
It is also a good idea to listen to the feedback your potential tenants provide while previewing your properties because they may share key insights about what you failed to advertise or disclose. Having a standard checklist of items for your properties will help cover all angles and provide tenants with detailed, in-depth specifics about the subject property, all the while limiting your liabilities.
Finally, if you don’t know something, say that. The worst thing you can do is promise the world and then fail to deliver. This not only will reflect poorly on your knowledge, but it can also be used against you later. You shouldn’t feel pressured to have all the answers immediately, and the best thing is you can always find them out with a little research.
Stand your ground.
When a maintenance issue occurs or a difficult financial situation arises with tenants, emotions are often heightened. Understanding that is your first step toward de-escalation; however, it does not justify a tenant becoming overly aggressive, rude or abusive. The premise of a healthy tenant-landlord relationship starts with respect. If you feel yourself being pushed to a place where what you say may end up hurting the situation more than helping, have the control to respectfully end the conversation and convert it into an email dialogue.
Similarly, if a tenant steps out of line and starts becoming belligerent or unprofessional, state that your boundaries have been crossed and if they do not refrain from their current demeanor, you will be forced to end the call. Tell them that only email will be permitted moving forward. No one likes these kinds of situations, but in the end, speaking up in this way is necessary to protect all parties.
Being a property manager can be a tough and, at times, thankless job. Tenants typically only call you when something is broken or when they can’t pay rent that month, and owners typically never call, unless, of course, their tenants did not pay. In the end, that is part of what the occupation entails, and you must take the good with the bad.
However, this doesn’t mean any kind of abuse or unprofessionalism should be tolerated. Having clear email dialogues and consistent systems in place, disclosing everything practically possible, and delivering and expecting mutual respect are some effective templates to help you navigate when unforeseen situations arise. The world of a property manager is not always smooth sailing, but anything you can do to enable better protocols is always a means to a more harmonious management operation.
More about Marco Bitran at Boston News
This is one %adjective %noun %sentence_ending