Whether you’re in the business of overseeing full-time rentals or vacation rentals, property management is a hassle. Tenant issues are never an if, but a when. As a result, keeping organized and getting prepared are essential skills.
Many property managers have full-time jobs that already keep them busy, but fortunately, there are strategies for streamlining tenant requests and fulfilling them in a timely and effective manner. There will be headaches, but with the right system in place, they’ll be farther and fewer in between.
Have an on-site liaison
As a manager of multiple properties, you can’t be everywhere at once. That’s why you need contacts in the vicinity or on the property if it’s a multi-unit structure. While on-site liaisons may just serve as a go-between, sometimes all tenants need to feel at-ease is a face-to-face conversation.
Your on-site people don’t necessarily have to make the maintenance calls, but they can at least document issues and pass on the details to you, saving you a trip.
For a vacation rental, an on-site liaison might be a regularly scheduled housekeeper. Or, through websites like Taskrabbit, you might even be able to request on-demand help. Without an on-site liaison, you might otherwise send contractors and repairmen out to repair damage that wasn’t properly assessed in the first place.
If your liaison lives on the property, they may take on the work for a simple cut in rent. Always offer incentives, and make sure you assign this task to a tenant you trust if you’re not hiring it out.
Establish effective communication methods
Once you have your on-site liaisons, you’ll want to establish an effective way to communicate with them, as well as effective ways for them to communicate with each other. Two-way radios are a great way to do this, as it ensures direct, failsafe communication that doesn’t rely on cellular networks.
Encourage virtual discussion through chatrooms and other online tools besides text and email. The immediacy of these tools makes it much easier to tackle emergencies and high-priority tasks.
Carefully screen tenants
The best way to avoid serious issues is to screen tenants carefully in the first place. Poorly-screened tenants are more likely to be the root of issues with other tenants. To avoid a domino effect of disorder on your properties, ensure all tenants undergo a strict background check.
The last thing you want to deal with in addition to on-site issues also is unpaid rents. So, make sure to check credit scores, credit history, and ask for references from previous landlords.
Sometimes, if you’re desperate to rent out a unit, you’ll overlook the screening process. However, it’s never worth it. The damages you could sustain as a result will always overshadow the ease of not screening an occupant.
Set up online requests
Make it easy for tenants to get in touch with you about issues they’re having – ways that don’t necessarily consist of blowing up your phone and leaving countless voicemails that are easy to lose track of. You can either set up a separate email account for maintenance requests, so that all your property management matters are stored in one place, or you can get more creative.
One way to streamline this process is to give all tenants a link to a Google form when they move in. Google forms are free and easy to create. You can ask tenants to enter their name and contact info, which property they’re occupying, the nature of the problem (neighbor complaint, maintenance request, or non-urgent question), and then describe the problem itself.
This process allows you to prioritize the problems based on their urgency, as well as develop a paper trail. Where tenants are concerned, you always want careful documentation of incidents in case a legal battle ensues.
Engage in routine prevention
Prevention is always better than the cure. Make sure to have your on-site liaisons routinely inspect properties in order to catch problems before they become too serious and potentially even identify threats before they become problems.
Create a checklist or obtain one from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which typically covers all the bases. Routine inspections will also show your tenants you’re being proactive, which will potentially decrease the number of renter demands while improving morale.
Develop a rolodex
No property manager can manage alone. It’s essential you have a rolodex of trusted contractors, plumbers, housekeepers, and exterminators that you can always turn to. Identify which ones are available on-demand, which ones are local, and which ones are most effective in emergencies.
What takes the most time when it comes to last-minute repairs is locating a trustworthy service provider. Don’t even wait until there’s an issue to secure one. Start making cold calls to local service providers asking them what their holiday schedules are like and what kind of problems they can deal with. Inform them that you’re a property manager looking for reliable service providers in the area.
These contacts should also be distributed to all of your on-site liaisons, should you be out of reach for any reason. Turn to websites like Angie’s List or Home Advisor in order to conduct more comprehensive research based on trustworthy reviews from other customers.
Managing multiple properties is not an easy business. The right contacts and customer service savvy will constantly come into play, but so will faith in your team and the tools (be they electronic or not) you employ. With this, you’ll be able to run a smooth multi-property management operation.