Is this a familiar scenario? You need to leave soon, first to rent a property and then to meet with a prospective owner. You only have 30 minutes before your first appointment and you are not ready. You need the proper lease documents and the right presentation materials but there is not enough time. Why is it that you never have the right documents? To make matters worse, the phone rings and you have a new problem. Now you cannot find the right paperwork.
As a professional property manager, you are fully aware that the property management business is complex because it involves so many people, tasks, and situations. This creates a need for accurate and extensive documentation, such as applications, leases, addenda, letters, notices, and more. As court actions and legislation develop, even more paperwork is required. Then what is the problem? Why are you continually reinventing the wheel?
Take a moment and honestly answer the questions below. They may help you determine if you need to assess your property management company documentation.
- Do you or your team regularly waste valuable time trying to find the right form, letter, or agreement?
- When the same type of situation repeatedly occurs, are you utilizing forms that will save you valuable time and maintain company policies and procedures?
- Is there a jumble of saved documentation in everyone’s computers that requires extensive word search?
- When a situation develops and requires potential legal action, is time lost searching for crucial supporting documentation and sometimes information cannot be found at all?
- Do various members of your team use different documentation for the same process? Does their version conflict with company policies and procedures, leaving the company open to higher risk?
If you or your staff answered yes to any of the previous questions, stop, assess, and take action!
Valuable time = money
Poor documentation = loss of valuable time (loss of money)
Too often, property management companies simply cannot see the forest for the trees. In other words, they fail to take the time to stop and plan how they can improve their processes (the forest) because of all the daily details (the trees) that occur daily. Until this happens, poor documentation and lack or organization continues. The bottom line is that you are losing money and sometimes creating risk.
You don’t have to keep reinventing the wheel!
The good news is that there are practical steps to resolve any problem with the right documentation. Involve everyone on your team in this project and keep them apprised as materials change and new ones are developed. When you involve everyone on your team, you increase the rate of success and provide ownership in the process.
- Identify all property management or office procedures that require forms, letters, or agreements, such as client procurement, application process, the leasing process, the move in process, owner notices, tenant notices, employee contracts, vendor forms, etc. Consider each area of your daily and monthly routine. Don’t skimp on time for this beginning step; you need to ferret out the problem areas in your business operation.
- Identify all existing form documentation. Collect everything that you and/or your personnel are currently using for your company operation. Find out if people are using altered forms, letters, and agreements.
- Update all outdated or altered forms. Using outmoded or incorrect documentation can be as risky as non-existent materials.
- Organize existing documentation into logical company computer files. Notify all team members where they can easily access company approved documentation for each procedure, such as new management, applications, leasing, move in, move out, notices, etc. No one will use the right materials if they are unaware of their location.
- Require everyone to “work on the same page” and implement a policy that no one changes documentation without prior authorization and review by management. For example, if one property manager is using different criteria for applications than the other managers in the same company, this paves the way for a Fair Housing complaint or other legal issue. Reduce risk by mandating proper use of all forms.
- Organize completed documentation (leases, management agreements, letters, etc.) in appropriate computer and paper files, such as owner, tenant, vendor, employee, application, etc. This is a crucial step for when you need to find supportive documentation quickly and easily. For example, when it is time to initiate an eviction, you want to be able to supply the information quickly to your attorney’s office. Make team members aware that they are responsible in maintaining accurate and organized files.
- Identify the areas where you continually reinvent the wheel. For example, are you writing a new letter when you could easily utilize a form letter with fill-in fields, such as a response to a tenant complaint for mold and an appropriate notice letter to the owner of the possible mold problem? Make a list of missing documentation.
- Determine how you are going to create or obtain new forms. Who is going to produce that document? Is someone in your organization capable of the task or do you need to procure documentation from an outside source? If necessary, upgrade your technology or use a service that can expedite the process. When you balk at making a financial investment, remember wasting time can cost you more.
- Organize new forms into the appropriate computer files. Meet with all personnel to review where, how, and when they should use the new tools and procedures.
- Set up a schedule to review documentation periodically. The property management business continues to evolve and so should your company.
“Don’t Reinvent the Wheel” is the LandlordSource motto. This came about because when I started in real estate/property management (35+ years ago), there was little or no documentation, and today’s technology simply was non-existent. As the years progressed and resources developed, it became my quest to implement good documentation for my property management company and then later I made this available to other property management companies through LandlordSource.
It is 2015 and there is NO excuse to waste time on poor or nonexistent documentation with what is available to you. You have a lot more to do with your time than to reinvent the wheel and always remember that Professional Property Management matters!
Our industry is not stagnant and there is always a need for improvement, I continually update my products and so should you!
Jean Storms, MPM® is the founder/author of LandlordSource and has been a NARPM® member since January 1993.
Disclaimer: LandlordSource does not represent the article content in this website as legal advice. It is shared information only and up to the reader to use this information responsibly, seeking legal advice as necessary to their business.