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Property Manager: Facts and fiction

Facts vs. Fiction What is being a good rental manager really about?

Being a property manager can be a rewarding business which allows a fair amount of freedom and if you are a people person interaction with a varied clientele. Below are some basic guideline to being a successful property manager.

Screen, screen, screen
We really cannot overstate the importance of screening potential tenants thoroughly. This first critical step can eliminate many of the negative pitfalls that come from not knowing who you are renting to. This must be accomplished by using non-discriminatory methods.

The primary purpose of screening tenants is to ensure that you’ve found responsible tenants who will pay the rent on time, respect your property and take proper care of it.  A complete background check can provide you with a reliable picture of their financial ability and their past behavior. Both are reliable indicators of what you can expect.

Credit Checks
You should begin with a credit check. You will need to Include a credit report authorization form with the rental application. Section 604 of the Fair Credit Reporting Act requires that landlords ask permission before running a credit check. As a landlord, you are legally allowed to deny potential tenants rental if they refuse to allow a credit report to be run.

Automatic Payments
Include in your rental agreement a clause for automatic rental payments. There are several types of automatic payment types to choose from. The most common of these is direct deposit, which pre-arranges for money to be transferred from one account to another on a specified date or dates. There are many other options available for automatic payment, too many to cover here. Moon has a comprehensive list and links to get you started.

Be sure to check with your state’s regulations regarding automatic payments. Most states provide allowances allowing landlords to include direct deposit/automatic payments as a requirement in the rental agreement, but not all. Some states require an alternative option.

AirTight Rental Agreements
Make sure your rental agreement is comprehensive. This is one area where attention to detail is critical. A well constructed rental agreement can mean the difference between a problem tenant you can’t evict and having the legal means to evict them. This is an area where consulting an attorney who specializes in landlord/tenant law is advisable. While there are sites that provide you with templates, it is best to consult with a professional as each state differs with laws and enforcement.

Property Inspections
In addition to your initial landlord/tenant inspections, your lease agreement should have specific language about regular property inspections. This is critical to keeping ahead of potential problems. Again it’s important to consult with a professional who is well versed in your states law regarding how this can be done legally as each state requires a specific amount of notice before a landlord may lawfully enter a rented dwelling. The average amount of time is 24 hours, but some states require 48 or 72 hours notice.

Open Honest Communication
As a landlord, you should always be open, honest and available to your tenants. No this does not mean that you should be on 24/7 speed dial. Communication between you and your renter will eliminate many of the problems that arise out of simple miscommunication.

Be sure to provide your tenants with your preferred method of contact and what day/time is best to reach you. Modern communication methods have made this as simple as texting, but be sure that you establish this up front.

Your responsibilities as a property manager can seem overwhelming to start. Being organized, mindful and knowledgeable about what these responsibilities are will make your path a smoother more rewarding journey.