In the approximate 25 years that I’ve been in the trenches of the property management and real estate business I’ve seen a lot of things that have made me laugh and a lot of things that made me want to cry and sometimes both at the same time. But I think most of the crying can be avoided if there is a greater understanding of and better communication with your property manager. So I want to peel back some layers and give some tips on how to best work with your property manager to have a great renting experience.
Tip #1: Pay your rent on time. But, if you can’t COMMUNICATE!
Property managers are people too and we have all had a financial challenge at some point in our lives. Even Donald Trump went bankrupt! But if you are having trouble meeting your rent payment, COMMUNICATE this to your property manager. A property manager’s job is to get the rent to the landlord on time. If that time comes and goes and there is no rent and no plan or communication, it’s like pouring gasoline on a fire, especially if the landlord relies on the rent to pay the mortgage. It really goes a long way if you can give the landlord an opportunity to make financial plans by telling your property manager when you can pay rent and make arrangements. Your property manager and landlord will love you for it.
Tip #2: Move In Report. Document In Detail & Share It With Your Property Manager.
You have the keys and the moving truck is in the driveway! STOP! Before you do any moving in, document in painful detail every little damaged item, every little chip of paint, every old nail hole, every uncleaned window. Write.It.Down. Then, pull out your camera and take a photograph of it. If you have a date/time stamp setting use it. But document it. No item is too big or too small. Then return a signed copy to your property manager. Property managers don’t like to make deposit deductions to fix things. Its a stressful confrontation which we don’t like to have. We love it when tenants add their own detailed notes on the move in report too! It’s helps everyone come move out time when we are on the same page at the beginning!
Tip #3: Be nice. Be professional.
We get it, your last property manager had horns and blew fire. Eeeek! But the truth is that most property managers are kind, reasonable and likable professional people. We go home to our families every night after a stressful day of fixing things (and cry deeply into our pillows – just kidding). If your air conditioning (for example) goes out in the middle of summer, it only adds to an already uncomfortable situation if you scream at your property manager because it went out. Kindly and calmly report it so it may be fixed, but also this should apply for any communication with your property manager. It always goes a long way when everyone is respectful and understanding. The Golden Rule applies here.
Tip #4: Read Your Lease. Its A Binding Contract.
Read every word of your lease. Every single word. Understand it and ask questions if you don’t. Understanding your obligations and also the obligations of your landlord is critically important to a good renting experience. Ask questions like “How much notice do I need to give you if I want to move?”, “My husbands sister might come and live with us, can she?”, “I may want to get a cute Great Dane puppy in 2 months, is this allowed?”, “Can I put a satellite dish on the roof?”, “I want to run a daycare from home, is this allowed?”. Its always important to know what you’re getting into and not all leases are the same, so please read the lease in detail and ask questions. Your property manager will love being on the same page as you!
Tip #5: Move In Report vs Maintenance
Every home is different. Every person uses a home in a different way. Often, more maintenance is reported at the very beginning of a lease than throughout the duration of the lease. This is especially true when homeowners move out and the tenant moving in is the first tenant in the home. I think this phenomenon is because homeowners usually tolerate a functional oddity of a home more than a tenant would. But an oddity doesn’t necessarily constitute a repair under the lease terms (see Tip #4) and cosmetic deficiencies may not be a repair. The key here is to just communicate with your property manager. Talk about it together and (see Tip # 3). It might be that its not a repair that is needed. Or maybe it might be! But knowing the difference is important so you can set your expectation meter to the right setting.
Tip #6: Know Emergency Repair Procedures
Make sure you understand how you should report an emergency repair and know how to mitigate any further damage once you’ve discovered the repair. This means you should know whether your property manager has an emergency line, or how you contact them in case of emergency. You also need to know functional knowledge of the home so you can help mitigate a loss if the worst were to happen. For example, know where to locate and how to shut of the main water valve in the home, know where the gas lines are and how to shut them off. Its important that you CALL (don’t email) when reporting an emergency repair.
Tip #7: The Human Factor
Landlords hire property managers for a reason. Often the reason is that they want the property manager to be the “go between” for them. They may not want contact with the tenant for various reason such as they don’t have time for the day to day management of their home or they may not know how. This is the valuable service provided by a property manager. We DO have the time and want to talk with tenants. We want to efficiently and happily do our job! Property managers usually (should) have a contract with their landlords stipulating what they can and cannot do on their behalf. Its good to know what the general policies are of your property manager and how their company protocol is set out so you know the best and most efficient ways to handling property issues or personal items that may impact your lease agreement with you landlord or whom the best point of contact is for your day to day dealings.
I’m sure you’ve picked up on the theme throughout this article about how important communication is. Communication breakdowns is what causes most issues so I encourage everyone to simply talk to your property manager. Most times there is a lack of awareness of lease obligations, or inadvertent misunderstanding, or knowledge by a tenant which creates an issue where one could be avoided. A good conversation and professional respect goes a long, long way.
We can’t make your packing and moving experience less stressful, but by working together a tenant and property manager can have a great renting experience!
By: Frances Heatherman (Stafford, Va)