It is important to remember that preserving and increasing the value of the owner’s property is one of the most important roles of a property management company. Tenant requests must be addressed promptly, and owners need to be provided with a transparent system for seeing how their money is being allocated. A competent manager accomplishes all of this with the assistance of both their internal staff and their network of qualified and licensed vendors that provide cost-effective service. Below is an important list of issues to review and questions to ask the property management firms you interview:
How Does the Property Manager Track Incoming Resident Maintenance Requests and the Subsequent Work Orders?
Ideally, a software solution should be in place. You will want to work with a manager that has a system and does not allow maintenance requests to fall through the cracks and require multiple tenant requests before the maintenance issue is resolved. The best kind of property management company to find is one that has tenants submit their requests online.
How are after-hours maintenance requests and emergencies handled and who handles them?
Be sure that the individual handling after-hours maintenance requests are qualified to handle the issues that they will be facing. You will not want to have a tenant on an answering machine learning that they will have to wait until Monday.
What System Do They Have in Place to Practice Preventative Maintenance?
Preventative maintenance is required to maintain the value of your property in the long-term. Also, if certain repairs are ignored, they can cause more expensive problems down the road. Ideally, it is best to have a pre-defined maintenance and inspection schedule as well as promptly addressing known issues. This is also assuming that owners are willing to make repairs when they come up. Successful real estate investors know that investing in repairs when they are a small expense is better than having sudden expensive repairs that are detrimental to future profits.
Do They Have Their Maintenance Crew?
If they do, you need to be asking whether they are covered by workers’ compensation and whether they are licensed, insured, and bonded? Also, you need to be asking whether the maintenance crew is available 24/7/365 for maintenance?
What Contractors Do They Regularly Work With?
Do the contractors carry workers’ compensation and are they licensed, bonded, and insured? Does the property management company oversee the contractors’ work for code compliance, quality, and cost-effectiveness? Some owners like to take the extra additional step of researching the primary vendors that will be used to ensure that there are no red flags. It is also wise for your property management company to know you are checking which contractors they are using so that they are accountable for maintaining their quality of service.
Do They Have Any Conflicts of Interest with Their Vendors?
It is important to be aware of relationships that are different than providing high-quality work and getting the best possible price. Vendors reward management companies for their business, and this should just be in the form of discounted rates, rather than “referral bonuses” that go to the management firm. For example, a management contract may stipulate:
“…perform any of its duties and obtain necessary products and services, through affiliated companies or organizations in which Management may own interest, and may receive fees, commissions and/or profits from these affiliated companies or organizations.”
If this clause is similar to what you see in your contract, be sure to get full disclosure on the nature of any pre-existing relationships where this applies and request to be notified in the future when this comes up again with new vendors.
In the instance where the management company receives a small fee from vendors for guaranteed payment, an exception can be made since it helps the property owner regardless of whether they have sufficient funds in their account.
What Rules Do They Have in Place Regarding Contractors Entering Occupied Properties?
Make sure they have an established policy to avoid issues with tenants. Anytime contractors and maintenance personnel are entering occupied units, there is a potential for liability if the situation is not handled delicately.
Do They Provide Itemized Statements with Receipts for the Work Performed?
Having itemized statements is a valuable way to track if the property management company is being honest and transparent with their billing process. You do not want to work with a company that is not providing concrete documentation of how your money is being utilized.
Do They Let Tenants Perform Repairs?
Generally speaking, tenants perform inferior quality work. Also, tenants do not have insurance coverage, liability, or workers’ compensation insurance. For this reason, tenants can leave you liable if they are injured during repairs. Injuries can include accidentally falling off the roof or ladder, flooding your home, or electrocution. If you do choose to allow tenants to complete repairs, it is important to have them sign a waiver and agree that repairs must be approved by the property manager.
Do They Allow Tenants to Hire Their Handyman?
This is also going to cause problems and the rental agreement should strictly prohibit this.
What Recurring Maintenance Tasks Do They Expect the Tenant to Perform?
These tasks are not necessarily considered a liability hazard. However, providing these services eliminates the potential issue of tenant neglect and can improve tenant satisfaction, which can help with tenant retention.
What Is Involved in Their Process for Preparing a Property to Be Re-Rented After a Tenant Has Vacated? How Long Does This Process Typically Take?
The property should get its usual cleaning, re-keying, painting, etc., but this is also an ideal time to consider strategic improvements that will increase your rental revenue. You may want to find a property manager that will proactively make recommendations to you on an as-needed basis. The quicker the turnaround time, the better so that you can make your upgrades and secure your next tenant who will be paying higher rent.
Even if you have a fantastic maintenance team, they will not be able to make repairs they are unaware of. This is precisely why regular inspections are essential in preventative maintenance. Continue reading our guide to learn more about property inspections.