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Handling Security Deposits in Property Management


Recent studies show that about 25% of the time property managers do not return the security deposit after the renter has vacated the apartment or rental unit. This is a serious issue, and it is mostly illegal in all states. Many times renters also do not receive any explanation about why their security deposit was not returned. In most cases property managers do not bother to provide explanations, since the unit is thoroughly trashed by the renter, and the reason for not returning the deposit is obvious.

A Waste of Time

Property managers will be occupied with the task of conducting extensive repairs and will have to get the unit ready before the arrival of the next renter. In such circumstances, property managers find it unnecessary and time consuming to provide any justification for not returning the safety deposit.

However, every state has specific rules regarding the handling of security deposits, and almost all say that property managers do have to give former tenants a detailed statement showing how the security deposit funds were used for repairing damages. Usually this statement has to be given to the tenant within a month of the date the unit was vacated.

What exactly was broken or damaged?

A brief note stating the cleaning or repair charges will not be sufficient legally. Property management must provide a detailed statement listing the damages and the repairs or replacement costs. To make the statement fool proof, it is also wise to include a copy of the walk-through that was done before the tenant moved in. This will show that these damages occurred only during the time the tenant was occupying the unit.

If property managers do not follow the norms regarding security deposits, it can lead to legal complications and disputes, where the security deposit may have to be returned to the tenant in spite of the damages caused by the tenant. To avoid such situations it is therefore necessary to do the following:

o    Before the tenant moves into the unit, complete a detailed walk-through, and based on that make a statement about the condition of the unit. Make the tenant sign this statement for showing their approval.
o    When the tenant is leaving perform another walk through; however, this may not be always possible.
o    When damages are found in the unit, they should be listed in detail and the cost of repairing them.
o    Prepare the statement in detail with all the damages and repair costs, and send it to the tenant within the stipulated time.

Being Cordial

It would of course be much better to take steps that would ensure the tenant does not damage the unit in the first place. For this, regular unit inspections would be the best strategy. However, make sure you do not do this too frequently. It is also important to provide sufficient notice of such an inspection, since you will be inspecting the inside of the unit and taking the tenant’s time and invading their privacy somewhat as well. Maintaining outstanding relations with the tenants also goes a long way in reducing damages, tenant retention, and other issues.

Ensuring Tenant Satisfaction in Property Management


Property managers usually face an uphill task of retaining tenants, especially in apartment properties. Even if the vacancy rate is not high, there seems to be frequent changes in tenancy, which ultimately cuts into the profitability. The main reason for this is discontent amongst tenants, arising out of some common complaints.

If property management can effectively tackle and resolve such complaints, tenants will be satisfied and will not want to shift to other properties. According to studies the most common complaints of apartment tenants are:

o    Lack of proper upkeep of the common areas
o    Disorganized property management and poor interaction with staff
o    Poor or no response to maintenance complaints
o    Lack of parking space
o    Security issues
o    Poor lighting
o    Issues with pets
o    Negligible preventive maintenance
o    High rent

Amongst these complaints, poor maintenance of the property and higher rental rates were the main issues for most tenants. Many property managers fail to implement a system for preventive maintenance, which results in many breakdowns and repairs happening at the same time. The normal upkeep of the common premises also suffers due to poor maintenance procedures. Coupled with all these problems, if the rent rate is high compared to the competition, many tenants will be dissatisfied and trying to find a property offering better service and lower rental prices.

Apart from implementing effective preventive maintenance procedures, property management has to ensure that all tenants receive outstanding on-site service. Such a policy is not difficult to implement and certain changes can make a major difference. Here are some practices that will ensure tenant satisfaction.

Open Channels of Communications

Tenants should have easy access to air their issues with property management. Open up various channels for tenants to get in touch with the property manager and staff. The manager and staff should also take a proactive approach and try to connect with tenants, without being too formal and at the same time retaining a professional approach. Once tenants are given a chance to air their issues, half the problem is solved.

Being Responsive

The property manager and staff need to be more responsive, and keep tenants informed about the status of their complaints. When the complaints are not resolved, and tenants do not know what is happening, they are likely to get frustrated and cranky. Whereas, if they are kept in the loop and informed how the resolution process in progressing, they are happier with the knowledge that something is being done about their complaint.

Resolve Issues Quickly

A proper property management system should be implemented, which ensures quick resolution of complaints. Being responsive will not help, if the property manager takes a long time to resolve problems on a regular basis. The manager should be able to identify the possible maintenance issues and have a service team or contractors ready. Most times the delays are due to lack of availability of professional people to conduct the repairs.

Once property management is able to establish marvelous delivery of service, the issue of higher rental rates will take second precedence, and tenants will be more inclined to remain on the property.

How to Handle Noisy Neighbor Complaint in Property Management


Property managers often receive complaints of noisy neighbors from many tenants. Dealing with such a complaint is usually quite tricky, since it can be difficult to monitor the decibel level, especially if the noise occurs at different times of the day or night. Tenants usually have issue with noise that is caused due to loud music or television, children crying or playing boisterously, parties, or gathering of friends. Here are some points to consider and tips to follow for resolving the problem of noisy neighbors.

Is the Complaint Valid?

First, determine if the complaint is valid, or the tenant is simply over sensitive to noise. Sometimes there might be some other issue between the neighbors, and even a little noise might be sparking anger in the tenant. For checking the merit of the complaint, the property manager might have to visit the units at various times, or ask the tenant to phone when the noise occurs. When the noise is occurring, ask the other tenants if they find the noise excessive or disturbing. After checking that the noise is indeed occurring, speak with the supposed culprit directly about the issue and find out what they are thinking.

They need to know they do not live in a house and that they need to keep the noise down and to change their habits.  

Determining the Severity of the Issue

The property manager needs to find out if the noise has occurred only once or it is an ongoing problem. Sometimes the tenant would have had a few guests over for the night that caused the noise, and this can be treated as a one-time offense. However, if the tenant is in the habit of playing loud music every day, then there is an issue but it can be dealt with.

Addressing Both Parties

If the complaint is valid, and it is an ongoing issue, the property manager should have a talk with the tenant causing the problem and let him know that noise complaint/s has been filed against him or her. If it is a first-time complaint, a warning will usually suffice. In addition, the property manager should speak with the tenant making the complaint and inform him or her that the issue has been addressed.

Repeated Complaints

If the offender tenant fails to heed the warning and continues with the noise, then the property manager will have to remind the tenant of the possible penalties according to the lease agreement. There should already be a clause in the tenancy agreement that deals with this issue. A copy of the signed agreement with the relevant parts underlined can be given to the tenant as a reminder. If the noise continues, then the tenant can be served with a formal notice. Such a notice will state that the tenant will have to immediately stop the noise or face eviction.

Eviction is the Final Resort

If the noise does not stop even after giving the notice, then the property manager will have to take steps to evict the tenant. However, this should be the last resort after giving fair amounts of warnings. The property manager should also gauge whether the noise is affecting quality of life of the other tenants and then take the necessary measures. Sometimes people are just rude and they have to learn the hard way.

How to Deal with Complaints Delivered by Tenants


Complaints are inevitably filed by tenants, and it is essential for property management to deal with them effectively. All complaints should be properly tracked and addressed, which will not only keep the tenants satisfied and safe, but also timely resolution of the complaints, especially maintenance issues, keeps the property in a fantastic condition over the long run.

Certain tenants will be frequent complainers, while some will complain only when the issue has become big. However, the property manager must have an effective system to deal with all complaints consistently and professionally. Here are a few pointers for dealing with tenant complaints.

Recommend Contacting the Property Manager

Tenants should be encouraged to contact the property manager as soon as possible, in case they have any issues or complaints. Once tenants know that there is someone to address their complaints, they will not overuse or misuse this privilege. It is best to provide a phone number, where tenants can call during the specified time. Make sure there is someone attending the call and it does not go to voice mail.

Use of Complaint Form

When the property is huge, tracking complaints will become difficult unless it is recorded. In such a situation, it is better to have a written record, in the form of complaint forms. The information on such a form should include, name of tenant, unit number, date, and type of complaint. The later part of the form can be reserved for recording when the complaint was attended to, what type of repairs were made, whether the issue was resolved, how it was resolved, and so on.  

Prompt Resolution of Complaints

Property manager should have in-house staff or a list of contractors who can be called on a short notice to do the required repairs. However, certain issues can be quite complex, and cannot be fixed within a short time. In such a case, the tenant should be kept updated about what is being done about the issue. Once the problem is solved, the tenants should be told about their issues being resolved, even if they are obvious to them. Nevertheless, property management must have a strict policy of resolving issues as soon as possible, as that will prevent further damage, or the problem becoming worse.

Dealing with Interpersonal Issues of Tenants

Apart from maintenance and repairs complaints, there will be some complaints from tenants about other tenants on the property. For instance, the most common complaint is about the noisy neighbor, who creates disturbances at odd times. Property manager has to deal with such complaints professionally and with tact. It is also necessary to include clauses in the lease agreement regarding expected behavior on the property and the penalties for not adhering to such terms.

First start by investigating the issue, and find out if the tenant in question is indeed creating a nuisance. If the tenant is found to be noisy, rude, or sloppy, then initially a warning should suffice. This warning should be documented as well for future legal reasons if it comes to that. You have to cover your bases. If matters do not improve then the tenant should be made aware of the consequences, and if the problem persists, the last resort is serving an eviction notice.

Screening Tenants and Limiting Losses with Bad Tenants

Handling bad tenants is a nightmare for the property manager, and therefore it is much better to have an effective and poignant screening system in place to avoid renting out the property to such people. Here are certain screening procedures that are highly effective.

1.    Background Checks: Thorough background checks are necessary for all prospective tenants. However, be careful you do not violate any privacy laws.
2.    Use of Databases: There are different industry databases that have a listing of bad tenants. For instance, there is a National Tenancy Database, which can be accessed by paying a small subscription, and there is the Landlords Advisory Service, which provides certain searches on payment of a small fee. However, there are certain laws governing the use of information from these databases, and you can check the guidelines at the website of Office of Fair Trading.
3.    Contact Employer: It is important to know how much a person earns to make sure, if he or she will be able to afford the rent. To know about the earning capacity of prospective tenants it is best to contact their employers and talk with them directly. Acquire the details about the employer and talk with the employer over the phone. Inquire about the monthly salary, and the post held by the person. It is also important to know whether the person is a permanent or a temporary employee.
4.    Ask for References: Always ask for the landline number for the references, since most scammers will have multiple mobile phones, and you could be talking to the same person when you call.
5.    Contact the Former Landlord: Talk directly to the former property owner rather than the real estate agent, as some agents may not want to reveal the person to be a bad tenant. Ask why the person had left the tenancy, and whether there were any late rent payments.
6.    Regular Inspections: Even after accepting a person as a tenant, the property manager should have a system in place to carry out regular inspection of the property. However, make sure the proper procedure is followed during inspections to avoid any legal trouble.

Be Upfront about Your Rent Rules

Even after following all the required screening procedures, it is still possible to end up with a bad tenant. In such a situation, there are some chances of losing money, but the priority should be about damage control. The best way to limit losses is to act expeditiously and within the confines of the law. Overdue rent should be tackled immediately, and the tenant has to be made aware about the rent & living policies. Include penalties for late payments in the rental agreement and enforce these terms strictly.

The Final Straw

A bad tenant will make all sorts of excuses for not paying the rent and such excuses should not be considered. However, if a tenant with a sparkling track record puts forward legitimate difficulties, then compromises can be considered to enable the person to make the payment. When rental arrears have exceeded a set number of weeks, the property manager can acquire an eviction notice through a rental tribunal.

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