How a Property Manager Can Be Prepared When They Get Sued

Withholding of a tenant’s security deposit is probably the number one reason a property manager can end up on the other end of a lawsuit or even in court. There are many precautions and procedures which a prudent management company or manager can implement which will help prevent this situation from occurring. Moreover, a property management course or continuing education in the nuances of proper statutory procedures can go a long way in preventing a lawsuit and subsequent lost time, energy and even money. Finally, an owner is responsible for the acts of a property manager and could find themselves in court as well if the manager has violated the law, has not properly counseled the owner or properly handled the tenant’s security deposit.

Implement Minimal Procedures to be Prepared

A prudent property manager has been educated to take the necessary precautions and follow the statutory guidelines for tenant’s issues like the return of security deposits. The necessary property inspections, the data collection of the condition of the property, the amount of money a manager is allowed to deduct, the statutory procedure for deductions, and the proper method of communicating all of these steps to the vacating tenant is tantamount to a successful defense against tenant lawsuits. If a property manager has done all of these things with diligence there is a very good chance that they will have the ultimate preparation in the unfortunate occasion when they get sued.

Pre-Tenancy Property Inspections Help Prevent Post-Tenancy Problems

Prudent property managers walk-through the property with the new tenant while there is no furniture or obstacles in the unit. The property manager takes photos, logs inspection data about each and every room in the unit, details the exterior of the property including any issues that exist and gets the new tenant to sign off or agree to the condition report. This same report is used at the end of the tenancy to compare and contrast the pre and post condition status. With photos and a signed inspection report it is difficult for a tenant to claim that conditions that exist now weren’t there when the tenancy began. Moreover, in some states notice of a pre-inspection at the end of the tenancy is given to tenants such that they are allowed to take advantage of the pre-inspection to repair or clean the unit which would otherwise be a deduction against their security deposit. This procedure, if properly conducted, actually prevents a lot of post tenancy issues as the tenant is fully aware of any conditions which might result in a deposit deduction, and they are given ample time and opportunity to correct the issues.

Pre-Tenancy Property Inspections Help Prepare Property Managers for Court

In the unfortunate event that a tenant disputes a property manager’s security deposit deduction and actually files a lawsuit the manager who has taken the time to takes photos and log inspection data will be amply prepared for the litigation. The manager should prepare their file in chronological order, should print out each and every photograph and date and label each condition. Importantly, each person who witnessed any conditions at the property like the gardener, the painter, the cleaner should all be contacted and asked for a witness statement. It is easy to get a statement via a sworn affidavit and at the same time ask these people to make themselves available to be witnesses in court. To be clear each property manager should have the following in preparation of any hearing:

1) A complete property file in chronological order including photos, invoices, and paid receipts;

2) A complete history of the written communications with the tenants included in the property file;

3) A list of witnesses with contact information;

4) Sworn affidavits from each witness; and

5) A thorough review of the facts and circumstances surrounding the issues, facts and tenant complaints by the staff members who dealt with the tenant.

Preparation is Powerful and Usually Successful

Professional property managers who take the time, energy and effort to adequately keep records of their properties and tenants will find that this preparation is worth its weight in gold come litigation time. Once a tenant becomes familiar with an adequately prepared opponent they may think twice about their attempts to sue. The best defense for managers or management companies is educating themselves in the proper procedures and record-keeping that will help them prepare for this process. If the manager has followed the law, has followed a detailed record-keeping system, prepares and presents an immaculate file to the hearing judge or court then the likelihood of success of defending one of these lawsuits is much higher than if they had not.

An Owner May be Liable for the Acts of its Agent

Both statutory and common law principals state that a hirer or principal of an agent may be liable for the acts of the agent. Property management companies who fail to follow the statutory guidelines regarding landlord tenants laws may find themselves in court on occasion. If a manager has attempted to take advantage of a tenant (not uncommon) or has committed statutory violations that could lead to liabilities for the unsuspecting owner. Even though the owner would ultimately have a remedy against the property manager this would be a very unfortunate situation for the owner. The owner can file a cross-complaint against the manager, but in either case the owner gets dragged into a suit because the manager was negligent or careless. Needless to say an owner or property manager doesn’t want to be in this situation in the first place, thus, it is important that the manager follow statutory guidelines and proper inspection procedures.

A Real Estate Attorney on Staff is Ideal and Can Keep Owners Out of Trouble

Professional property management companies who have a real estate attorney on staff have an advantage in these circumstances. A real estate attorney has the training, expertise, and procedural knowledge to help prevent these situations before they get out of hand. Moreover, in the event that these cases escalate an attorney will be able to prepare and handle the situation much better than someone without those type skills.

What to Ask When Looking for a Good Property Manager

If you’ve ever searched for a good property manager before, then you know how difficult it can be to find a good one for your rental property. There are several property managers out there, probably more than what you really need to bring your property into the market.

With so many choices available, you may find it difficult to choose one for your unit. But don’t worry – if you ask the right questions while shopping around for property managers, you’ll get a better idea of who would make the best fit for your property. Ask them these questions when discussing your property to see if they’re the right property manager for you:

1. What type of properties have you managed?

Experience counts for a lot in property management, and it can separate the good ones from the ones you should steer away from. Experience in this field, however, isn’t just about the number of years worked in the field; it’s also about what type of properties they’ve managed. Depending on what type of property you have, you can either go with someone who specialises in managing properties like yours or someone who has more varied experience managing different types of properties.

2. How do you screen potential tenants?

Screening potential tenants is one of the most important steps to property management, so the way they do this often reflects their level of service to your property. Ask them how they’ll match tenants to your property and what their process is like for finding tenants. This will give you a better idea of how they operate and what lengths they’ll go to find the right match for your property.

3. How do you handle late payments by tenants?

Finding tenants is just one phase of property management; the longer phase involves managing the tenancy itself. Asking them this question will show you what their management style is like and how they’ll deal with critical rental issues like these. See if their process aligns with what you expect them to do and how you want your property to be managed.

4. How do you respond to complaints?

Similar to the previous question, this question allows you to gauge how well a potential property manager will handle the landlord-tenant relationship. Remember that a property manager will act as the mediator between you and your tenant, so it’s important that you’re comfortable with their process for dealing with any complaints or issues.

5. How often do you do inspections?

Routine inspections are important to any tenancy agreement, and the number of times it’s done per year will help give you better peace of mind as the landlord or owner. This question will also show you how well the property manager will look after your property even after the start of the tenancy.

6. What’s the right rental price for my property?

If you’ve done your research beforehand, this question will let you assess how well a potential property manager knows the market and what they can offer you. It also allows you to get a better idea of what your property is worth in the current market. Compare their answer with different property managers to see what they offer and to better understand where your property stands in the market.

7. What are the things I can do to improve my listing?

Asking them this question won’t just reveal their expertise in property management, but it’ll also help you put your property in the best position in the market. Note their suggestions, assess how relevant they are, and decide whether or not they can get your property where you want it to be.

8. What are the full costs and fees for managing my property?

Some have small sign-up fees but a variety of hidden fees once you sign on and let them manage your property. Avoid getting surprised by such fees, and ask them to indicate all management and service fees included in their service. The more complicated their fee structure is, the bigger the headache (and expense) it will likely be.

9. What can you do that others can’t?

This is where prospective property managers will try to sell you on what they offer and how well they set themselves apart from the competition. It’s also the part where you assess the intangibles in any working relationship, giving you a better idea of how well they meet your standards. Listen well, take notes, and assess if they provide what you’re looking for.

How to Be a Top Commercial Property Manager Today

To be a top commercial real estate property manager you need to have solid market knowledge but you also need a comprehensive set of personal skills to match the needs of the property and the clients that you work for.

Many managers will graduate from ‘residential’ property, and move into ‘commercial’ property as part of growing and expanding their career. Whilst the idea is good, there are many factors and issues involved in changing property type. Commercial property is very different and much more complex than residential property; the knowledge base required of a person providing management services is far more extensive.

I do not want to scare you away from commercial property management as a career; but I do want you to respect the skills and knowledge that you will need in the role. The fee for managing a commercial property is substantial, but with that comes the requirement for personal skill and property control on the part of the manager and the agency.

In talking about this, I am not at this time specifically bringing into the discussion retail property. Retail shopping centre management is even more complex than commercial management. The fees in retail property are for this reason generally higher than that which applies to managing commercial property.

Here are some other main skills required of the property manager in performing their daily and weekly duties.

Negotiation skills will always feature as part of the job specification. Negotiations will be diverse across many different situations including property leasing, contracts and negotiations, maintenance contractor’s, tenants, solicitors, accountants, and landlords. The commercial property manager needs to have professional skills and suitable training when it comes to these diverse negotiation requirements.

Leasing situations will arise continually from the managed properties. The larger the portfolio, the more frequent the leasing requirement. In my opinion the property manager should be well skilled in leasing structures and or leasing negotiations. In this way they can help the landlords that they act for as part of selecting a new tenants for the managed investment property.

Lease documentation will vary greatly from property to property. This then says that the property manager needs to understand the differences in leases, how to bring them about, and how to interpret them. Rent reviews, rental structures, maintenance, option terms, refurbishment requirements, and tenant covenants are all unique situations that require specialist review with each and every lease in a managed portfolio. Critical dates will arise from every lease document as part of the management process. Many an inexperienced property manager has overlooked critical dates in the leases only to find that the landlords position has weakened considerably as a direct result.

Income and expenditure analysis will occur throughout the financial year for a managed property. The income needs to be optimized, and the expenditure needs to be suitably controlled. The difference between the two is the net income and that will have a direct impact on the value of the property for the landlord. It is the property managers duty to ensure that the best outcome is achieved given the prevailing market conditions.

Tenant communications should be well maintained throughout the year. When tenants are overlooked or ignored by the property manager, relationships soon sour, hence this exposes the property to unstable rental and or vacancy factors. Keep in contact with all tenants on a regular basis. Record all communications in writing so that the necessary evidence is available if any lease situation becomes the subject of a dispute.

Landlord reporting and controls will be unique to the particular landlord. Whilst most agencies have some form of income and expenditure controls and specific reporting processes, it is up to the property manager to interpret the reports and provide the necessary recommendations. Every monthly report produced for the managed property should be carefully checked as part of the month end process.

Maintenance controls will involve essential services and maintenance contractors. The age of the property will have some impact on the strategies behind repairs and maintenance. The complexity of the property and the tenancy mix will also have impact on the maintenance activity. Every lease should allow for the permitted use relating to the tenancy. Maintenance may be part of that process and certain maintenance costs may be applied to the tenant or the landlord depending on the particular lease situations. I go back to the point that each lease needs to be fully understood by the property manager.

Property performance is achieved through a fine balance of all of the above issues. That is why special skills and knowledge are part of the job specification for a commercial property manager.

4 Property Management Factors to Look For

How do property owners choose the property management company to handle their Tampa house rental investment? Is it based on how big the company is? Or is it because of the colorful ads they have out there?

These things are just outside appearances. And like all outer coverings, they do not last. And since you want your choice to last with you and your property, you definitely have to consider more important factors that a Tampa property management company should have.

Factor #1: Background of the company.

First and foremost, check how long the company has been handling Tampa rental properties, their performance and rating. Even if these things are important, they should not cloud your judgment regarding those property management companies in Tampa that are just new in the industry.

There are companies that are capable of providing better service even if they do not have the years and excellent rating that others have. It is best to check out as many options as possible. Do not opt for the first property management that you see or is referred to you.

Factor #2: Cost.

This would be the first thing you would consider when hiring a property manager. Fees vary from one property management company to another. The higher the fee does not mean it is the best. It would all depend on how the costs are distributed and if you think it is a fair amount to pay.

Besides the monthly retainer fee, there would be repair, maintenance, marketing and tenant eviction costs to consider. Property managers oversee these things for you. You can ask for a breakdown on how costs are distributed. Better yet, request for a regular accounting report so you will know how your fees are spent.

Factor #3: Customer Service.

Being a property manager means that he or she should know how to handle people. Your chosen company should have property managers that are organized, flexible, prompt and always available to answer any questions from you or your tenants.

Communication is important in this business. Be sure that your property manager can be contacted anytime that you have requests or inquiries. This should also be the same case when you already have tenants renting your property. Your property manager should be available to attend to anything that the tenant and your property require.

Factor #4: Rental Property Commitment.

Renting the property is just the first step. The duty of the Tampa property management company does not stop there. It is just the start. From then on, the property manager would have the house to monitor, rental fees to collect and reports to update.

Property owners are updated on the status of the rental property in Tampa via the property manager. Even if you are not anywhere near your property, you would know that you are in capable hands if your property manager is committed to making your home rental business smooth sailing and profitable.

The Real Property Management Issue Is Education

The Conundrum of Investment Properties

Investors seeking diversification have frequently turned to a rental property or a collection of rental properties to even out and spread risk across their investment portfolios. As with any investment people should consider all of the issues, problems, and pitfalls along with the potential returns. Unfortunately, a lot of investors aren’t aware of the potential problems and do not take the time to investigate these issues before they close escrow. A property management course and a course in basic real estate investment would be great investments of time for someone considering rental properties as a source of investment income and long-term investment. Some of the problems and concerns are discussed below.

Inexperienced Agents and Uneducated Investors Make a Deadly Concoction

Rental property investors often utilize the services of an unseasoned realtor who does not fully understand rental properties, who does not fully understand return on investment, and who does not fully comprehend what cap rates are. Most of the time these investors just turn to their friend ‘the realtor’ or use any realtor they are familiar with or are comfortable with to purchase these types of properties sad as that may sound.

The fact is most real estate agents are not savvy enough to understand rental properties, cap rates, return on cash, return on investment, leveraged investing, and the common terms associated with investment properties. To compound this fact most investors initially are equally inexperienced and lack the proper expertise to locate and purchase a high performance investment property. No one needs to look further than this question: Why would an owner be selling a high performance investment property? That question should be the first of many asked by both the agent and the investor. One problem is that some investors are just so excited to get into a property they look beyond the truth and the numbers and just want to get control of the property. Oftentimes this is a flawed approach because most agents will hesitate to stop the eager purchaser for fear of missing out on a healthy commission.

The Property Management Profession is an Equalizer

After an investor has closed escrow, if the inexperience agent hasn’t offered to ‘manage’ the property for them, many of them decide to manage the property themselves (only licensed real estate brokers can manage rental properties). When these unsuspecting owners are faced with the subtleties of Fair Housing laws, Equal Opportunity issues, civil rights issues, anti-discrimination issues, bad tenant screening issues, notice of default issues, eviction issues, and finally collection issues many times they turn to a professional property manager or property management company to help rescue their sinking ship.

If rescued timely a professional property manager can turn around an investment property and help make the investor’s decision pay dividends. With a competent property manager the return on investment can actually be realized and the owner actually can have time to enjoy the investment, not dote on it or worry about it. The property management company will take care of the investment, the maintenance, the tenants and all of the concomitant issues associated with the property.

Property Management Education Course

Educating both inexperienced real estate agents and beginner investment property owners about prudent property management is critical for maximizing the investor’s return on investment. It is rare for an owner to successfully manage their property or properties and make the maximum possible return available in that particular marketplace. The reason it is rare is because the typical manager-owner is not utilizing the latest and greatest property management techniques, software, screening procedures, and most importantly is not keeping up with the ever changing landlord-tenant laws. Each January there are several seemingly ever increasingly tenant-debtor favored laws enacted which most people are not aware of. When a new law takes effect that is another potential pitfall for the lone-ranger owner to violate and end up on the wrong side of the complaint.

The sure-fire way around this potential issue is to hire a property management company to manage and protect the owner’s investment, and most importantly maximize the return on investment. One other way around this problem is to have every owner take a property management course and learn the profession from the ground up without going through the hard knocks of experiencing tenant problems first hand.

Finally, an owner could hire a property management company that in addition to all of the typical staff also has a real estate lawyer on staff who can solve and answer all of the legal questions that seemingly end up front and center. This would be a truly educated decision and an easy one for the owner to make.