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Cheat Sheet

Property Management Kit For Dummies

Property management is a job of detail and preparation. You need to prepare empty units to show them to new tenants, be able to match potential tenants with the right unit, and, most important, be able to collect rents effectively.

What to Do before Showing a Rental Unit

As a property manager, you're always showing prospective tenants empty rental units. The following list can help you develop your pre-showing routine of tasks to take care of so that each unit shows its best side:

  • Remove all the prior tenants' personal possessions and trash after you have legal possession of the unit. If the unit was abandoned with furniture, clothing, or personal belongings, you must abide by any applicable state statute for removal.

  • Check all plumbing (toilets, faucets, and pipes) for proper operation. The faucets should have the proper pressure, and the sinks and toilets should drain adequately. Make sure that nothing leaks, including no moisture or drips under the sink. Change out old angle stops and install leak-resistant supply lines. If you're paying the water bill, this is a good time to change the ball cock assembly in the toilet tank; doing so may cut your costs by as much as 50 percent.

  • Test all appliances for proper operation. Try out all the appliances and run the dishwasher through a full cycle. Verify that the oven's drip pan, broiler pan, and racks are there. If you have a free-standing range, check that the anti-tip bracket is properly in place.

  • Examine all hardware. Confirm that the locks have been changed or rekeyed and are operational. Pay attention to all latches and catches, doorknobs and pulls, doorstops, and sliding doors.

  • Test all windows, insect screens, and window coverings. They should be clean, unbroken, weatherproof, secure, and properly operational. All window locks should work as well.

  • Check all walls, ceilings, and baseboards. The paint and/or wall coverings should provide proper coverage, without holes, cuts, scratches, nails, or bad seams. Look for signs of water intrusion and investigate and correct the cause of any such conditions.

  • Inspect all floor coverings. They should be clean and in good condition. The flooring should be properly installed, with no bad seams.

  • Check bathrooms. Thoroughly clean the toilet, tub, shower, sink, mirrors, and cabinets. Make sure the toilet paper holder and towel bars are clean and secure. Put a paper sanitary ring around each toilet seat and a new roll of toilet paper in each bathroom. Look under sinks for moisture and address any noted problems.

  • Inspect all closets and storage areas. Rods, closet dowels, hooks, shelves, lights, floors, and walls should be clean.

  • Check all counters, cabinets, doors, molding, thresholds, and metal strips. They should be clean and fully operational, presenting no hazards.

  • Test each smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector and check all lighting and electrical outlets, including GFCIs and circuit breakers, for proper operation.

  • Check all patios, balconies, and entryways. They should be clean and physically sound. Railings should also be secure.

  • Test the heating and air conditioning for proper operation. Be sure the thermostat, filters, vents, and registers are all in working order. Contact your natural gas supplier if you have any concerns about a gas appliance or heater.

  • Check the unit's curb appeal, including the exterior landscaping, driveways, and walkways. Keep them as tidy as possible.

  • Perform a final walk-through of the entire unit for appearance and cleanliness. Recheck the unit every few days it sits vacant.

How to Determine a Prospective Tenant's Rental Needs

In property management, one of the best ways to screen prospective tenants is to figure out what they need in a rental and gear your sales pitch accordingly. Some questions to ask over the phone or during the tour to help you assess their needs include those in the following list:

  • When do you need to move in?

  • How many bedrooms do you need?

  • How many people, including minor children, will be living in the rental?

  • What size rental unit are you looking for?

  • Can you tell me how you found this property?

  • The rent is $1,400 per month. Is that in your price range?

  • May I ask your source of income?

  • How long do you intend to live at this property?

  • How much parking space do you require?

  • Where are you living now?

  • What, if anything, is wrong with your current rental property?

  • Why have you decided to look for a new home?

  • Do you currently live, work, or go to school in the area?

  • What types of pets do you have?

  • Do you need a property that allows smoking inside the unit?

  • When can you drive by the property?

  • How would you like me to contact you? Text? E-mail? Phone? What's the best day and time to do so?

How to Collect Rent Effectively

It's your job as property manager to collect rent. You can make this routine task fairly straightforward by instituting some basic policies and following them for every tenant. Use the tips in the following list to devise and hold to your own rent-collection policy:

  • Have a written rent-collection policy and go over it with each adult tenant prior to move-in.

  • Institute a firm policy that rent is due on or before the first of the month.

  • Always follow your rent-collection policy, starting the first time a tenant's rent is late.

  • Provide tenants with electronic funds transfer info or with stamped, preaddressed or business reply envelopes to make it simple for them to pay the rent on time.

  • Refuse partial rent payments. If you feel that you must accept a partial payment, have the tenant sign a partial rent payment agreement and personally serve new legal notices for nonpayment of rent.

  • Accept only one check for the entire rent if more than one tenant lives in a rental unit. This strategy helps you collect the rent more efficiently and reinforces the fact that each of your tenants is legally responsible for paying the rent.

  • Enforce and collect all charges for late and returned checks or dishonored electronic payments.

  • Accept only cashier's checks or money orders if a tenant has two returned checks or dishonored electronic payments.

  • Consider incentives to encourage prompt rental payments. Be sure to offer all incentives to all residents equally.

  • Promptly serve all legal notices to protect your legal options, even if you believe that your tenant will fulfill his promises.

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