Missteps. Mess-ups. Gaffes. Or, as Homer says, “Doh!” Whatever you call them, mistakes are common in life. Everyone makes them, even the best of us, especially when you’re new on the job.
That being said, there are two types of mistakes. There are the ones that you can look at immediately afterward and chuckle about. Things like forgetting someone’s name or accidentally going in to check the wrong unit. Little gaffes like these can be laughed at and learned from.
And then there are the ones that can really hurt you.
As a new property manager, you have a lot of responsibility on your shoulders. You’re the owner’s first line of defense when dealing with tenants, and you’re the go-to person when tenants have a problem. While you can expect that there will be minor setbacks from time to time, there are some oversights that can break you early into your tenure.
Let’s look at five common property management mistakes, and how you can avoid them.
1. Not having a written management agreement.
One of the best things you can do when renting your property is to have a defined and specific lease agreement. Even though some states allow for a verbal agreement, having it on paper and signed by both parties is the safest route.
Most new property managers take on their first few properties via referrals from friends and associates and this is a crucial thing they often miss. You must always have a clear and legitimate written agreement, as it can protect you legally.
The agreement or contract should detail what you as the property manager are responsible for, as well as what your client’s responsibilities are. Specific things such as late fees, rent due dates, pet policies, and property management information should all be addressed in the agreement to keep everyone on the same page.
This will especially come in handy if you have to deal with a broken lease or a troublesome tenant. Documentation should be drawn up with an attorney you trust – avoid trying to make one up yourself if you’re new to the industry.
2. Tenant discrimination and failure to disclose important information.
Another way to protect yourself from legal troubles is to be aware of fair housing laws. You must make sure that your property doesn’t exclude or targeting specific groups of people. Certain questions you ask may suggest there is a discriminatory reason for not being approved. Questions about disability or social security benefits, religious background, or marital status may appear that way. Always use a credit or background check to support your decisions to decline a tenant.
Landlords and property managers are also required to disclose any issues associated with a rental property. For instance, failing to inform your tenants of things such as possible mold, asbestos, or lead paint on the property can turn into a huge legal matter.
It is against the law to withhold life threatening information. Be sure to always inform your tenants and stay within the legal guidelines.
3. No move-in and move-out verification.
Whether a tenant is first entering the unit or packing up and leaving, you need to establish the state of the housing at both times. Money can be lost over property damage and theft, and you can be left holding the bag if you didn’t verify what was what beforehand.
Make sure that a move-in and move-out inspection is carried out, and have the tenant sign any necessary forms with it. It is a good idea to have photo and video proof when the inspections are performed.
It’s also worth mentioning that not all homeowners insurance companies offer full coverage if you rent your home out full time. The best way to protect yourself from having damages and a heavier financial burden is to obtain landlord insurance coverage. To even further protect your home and investments, you can require potential tenants to purchase renters insurance to protect their own belongings.
4. Not staying on top of maintenance and repairs.
Small repair issues can easily add up to become big issues. They can affect the value of the property, affect tenant retention, and also turn into safety hazards. If you get word that something needs to be fixed, get to it as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more you stand to lose.
The doors may not be falling off the hinges, but that doesn’t mean that all is necessarily in order. Some of the costliest problems start out small and go unnoticed – until they get too big to miss.
At the very least, a quarterly inspection will help keep you abreast of the property’s status. Be thorough and don’t discount any sign of trouble, no matter how small it looks.
5. Not keeping in touch with tenants.
This is one of the most dangerous property management mistakes you can make as a new property manager. It is vital for renters to know that they can reach out to you and rely on you – otherwise, they will not trust you and may be more likely to leave.
You need to keep tenants in the loop, communicating things such as increases of rent, changes in policy and anything else that may affect their renting experience.
Take Advantage on Online Resources
We’ve listed some of the most common mistakes you can make when managing a property for the first time. But there are a lot more that can get you into trouble. However, avoiding them is a fairly simple matter of brushing up on laws and codes instead of just relying on mere assumptions.
There are so many trusted resources on the internet and you can always educate yourself on rent-related topics. Below, we’ve gathered some useful pages to help you find your way around. If you’re new to property management, these legal resources for landlords and property managers can surely help.
STATE BY STATE LEGAL RESOURCES FOR PROPERTY MANAGERS
We are all prone to blunders here and there, but property management mistakes should be avoided at all costs. Your future success as a property manager relies heavily on carrying out management processes the proper way. By avoiding these mistakes, you can make a positive first impression as a new property manager and establish a strong foundation for successful working relationships with property owners, tenants, and other stakeholders.