When Property Management fails to fulfill its role, it can certainly have a domino effect. Issues in management can work their way through all staff and vice versa, leaving a trail of poor attitude, zero care factors & staff that are generally unengaged. The internal dominoes roll onto the entire client experience which then naturally impacts landlords & their tenants alike.
So what’s the outcome for clients & tenants, issues with responsiveness, attention to detail, or any attention at all.
Aside from the internal politics of an agency, of which a lot goes on, the management of an agency in effect has a huge role in the staff that they keep so how an agency is run is the start of where Property Management can all fall apart.
“As an owner, you need to be able to pick out who may make a good Property Manager. Read to the end for how I would start my search.”
So, Pitfalls! Here is where and how it all falls apart, from a Property Manager simply not caring, being overloaded with Properties to clients shopping for the cheapest agents.
Not planning, Too Busy & Poor Organisation
Planning is essential for any job that involves a large workload. Property Managers are working on a multitude of tasks at any one time- seriously. Repairs, mixed in with arrears, vacancy and Routine Inspections. A Property Manager can certainly have many days where every part of their Job Description can be involved.
It is a busy job, so pre planning, being highly organised and moving quickly are all musts. Every Property Manager need their own systems to manage their tasks in a way that works for them individually.
Not being thorough with the tenant selection process
Thorough Reviewing now saves a lot of work & heartache down the track, Proper tenant selection benefits the Property Manager as well as the owner.
Putting any tenant into a property might seem opportune at the time to save the short-term pain of vacancy, but just wait on the time spent trying to clean up a tenancy gone wrong. Risk management is a HUGE part of a Property Managers role and this is always a factor in this process.
The number of agents not conducting proper reference checks on tenants is terrifying and I can say that first hand when a tenant of mine is moving to another rental, and no one has contacted me for a reference.
Failing to communicate with landlords
Communication is the primary factor determining a property manager’s success. This isn’t surprising for an industry based on managing relationships with landlords and tenants. Property Managers have to keep on top of calls, emails and SMS communication with landlords & tenants and document any important correspondence at the same time.
Responsiveness is important for all but so is the proper communication of things such as condition reports, inspection reports & being an appropriate intermediary between a landlord & tenant. That is, passing on information but also adding value in providing recommendations & solutions to all parties. This means, a lot of the time, communicating on difficult issues and outcomes that are less than ideal for one or both parties.
Breakdowns in communication can easily result in Damaged properties, damaged relationships & damaged reputations.
Good communication though leads to long-term tenancies, lower vacancy rates, and genuine client satisfaction.
Not documenting important information
Property managers manage a large number of formal agreements with clients and leasing agreements with tenants. Aside from these they need to maintain and manage records, logs, ledgers and note notes notes!
File notes, Reminders, preferences & task management, the number of records needed would amaze most people. What a Property Manager records can be crucial when called up, Notes documenting a conversation or files notes of actions taken can be of huge significance when protecting themselves from liability but also protecting an owner or tenant from a wide range of possible issues. Proper documentation and record-keeping requires not only organisation but systems, internal policies & procedures, without these, an agency will fall short time and time again and a Property Manager is doomed to be blamed, stressed & eventually burn out.
Lack of attention to routine inspections and maintenance
I’m not going to lie; I’ve been caught out here before. When you schedule too many Inspections in a set timeframe, the inspections become rushed, and critical issues are overlooked. It’s happened to me but you live & learn to set realistic expectations on how many inspections can be done in a set time frame and really not rush them or get caught up on your Inspection run. See for a Property Manager when you’re out and about doing appointments, you’re usually likely getting back to a whole day’s work waiting for you, and then some.
The other end of the scale sees routine inspections not being done so it’s extremely important to inspect properties on a regular basis so you can identify and fix minor problems before they become worse. Tenants need to be invited/ asked to report issues at or before these inspections, even if an owner doesn’t want to address a maintenance list it needs to be passed on to the owner.
Being too tolerant with rental arrears
Another common property management pitfall/shortfall is not promptly attending to rental arrears. This is where procedures have to come into play, a not negotiable procedure that you carry out no matter what conversation has been had or promise made.
Contact has to be made & documented from the first days in arrears, sure it all starts off nice as a courtesy reminder, as it should. These “nice” reminders tackle most arrears before they get out of hand.
Failure to pay rent is THE main reason for abandoned properties, evictions & tribunal hearings. Agents need to be able to display the steps that they have taken to follow up, manage and communicate arrears and warnings to tenants that fall behind.
Early intervention is key when it comes to managing rental arrears.
Discounting fees and managing too many properties
Agencies take on new business as it comes in and don’t necessarily concern themselves with remaining sustainable. Unfortunately, instead of keeping to proper staffing levels, many Property Managers are overloaded with more & more new clients as time goes on.
The more an agency discounts their fees, the more new business they need to turn a profit and the more properties that a Property Manager needs to manage.
At this high rate, a decent service cannot be offered. THIS is the primary reason why the industry has such a high turnover rate and good Property Managers are so hard to find. They simply are overworked, overstressed, and leave. It’s happened to me and it’s happening to friends & colleagues of mine in the industry.
Sure, it’s tempting to take on every property that comes your way, but not all Properties we manage help us to be profitable, not where they command hours and hours of our attention due to being in poor condition & poorly maintained.
This further contributes to burnout and subsequent resignation of property managers. In the end, the company is left with mostly new and inexperienced staff, resulting in poor service overall and Landlords paying for the fact that critical information about their property is lost along the way, amongst other pitfalls this causes.
Thanks to the low service fees offered it is clear that large portfolios for Property Managers do not work and long-term investors are becoming more and more aware that a fee saving is not a benefit to them in the long term. If the race to the bottom for fees and fixed fee management continues we’ll see more and more Property Managers leave the industry, and who could blame them.
If you’ve read this far then you deserve my tips on how to select a good Property Manager;
Go with your gut, if you’re intuitive like that, after meeting face to face
Ask family & friends for recommendations
Speak to several Property Managers, are they personable & knowledgeable
Check out Reviews, Google at the very least tell a tenant & landlord perspective
Lastly, when this was first asked of me, I honestly resented the request but I see it differently now;
Several prospective clients have asked me for contact details for a couple of clients to speak to, I actually think that’s a great idea. If a Property Manager has nothing to hide then they’ll be able to provide a couple of landlords who are willing to provide a live reference.