Without tenant problems and legal actions, you would not need any manuals; but then, there would not be a need for Property Managers – everyone could use verbal agreements and shake hands. Since the world has progressed beyond the simple and actively managing property has become a professional business, it is important to have a sound Policy and Procedures Manual to protect your business, standardize your operation, and educate your personnel.
Carefully consider what information must be included in this important document and how it portrays your company. I am sure you are aware that to be effective it needs to be a “readable” document, logically outlined, using good basic writing techniques, and a living document. However, it is definitely not enough to detail your office hours, your holidays, personnel job descriptions, use of office equipment, emergency procedures, safety procedures, etc. Of course, these items are important but you need to incorporate key legislative policies to protect your business.
Stop and read your current manual objectively. Does your manual convey that your company meets the governance, legislation, and/or requirements of the Federal government? Does it incorporate your state laws/legislation? If any representative of certain organizations, such as the governing state real estate organization, HUD, the EPA, the FTC, the FDIC, OSHA, the IRS, read your manual, are they going to see documentation that you support landlord/tenant law and applicable law? In short, would you be comfortable making this document available in a legal proceeding if it is subpoenaed or necessary?
Below are important examples of laws/legislation to include in your policies and procedures. I am sure you will think of many more than listed here – there are many more.
- Fair Housing laws, both Federal and any additional state laws
- American Disabilities Act, ADA
- Lead-based paint legislation
- Red Flags Rule
- Can Spam Act
- Federal Credit Reporting Act, FCRA
- Servicemembers Civil Relief Act, SCRA
- Real Estate Settlement Protection Act, RESPA
- Uniform Regulations of the Landlord Tenant Act, URLTA
Most legislation is extensive and I do not suggest that you include all the details of every law/act in your manual – no one will want to read it! You should state compliance with a list of all laws/legislation possible. Some will need more explanation. In some instances, you need to show incorporation of the law/act into actual policies and procedures. For example – show that your application procedures “follow” Fair Housing; all fees comply with Antitrust; your marketing follows the Can Spam Act. Don’t fail to mention laws/legislation where it is appropriate in your policies and procedures. This can only elevate the level of professionalism of your company.
Add an important statement to your manual or manuals. In every manual, you should include a statement that following all federal and state legislation is not limited to the manual. Laws change constantly – you do not want manual to become a piece of deadwood. You need your Personnel to know that this is an important statement.
Another advantage to including these references is that it will help to educate and train your personnel. It is too easy to assume they know why you have made a policy or established a procedure. Making them aware of this important information and why can only help their understanding and protect your business.
Remember, if you do not have a manual or are seriously in need of upgrading your current manual, we have tools that can help. You do not have to reinvent the wheel; you only have to customize the LandlordSource manuals to your business.
I hope this article helps you with your manuals. This is part 1 of a three part series on What’s in Your Manual. Next time, I will cover how to date and document your manual changes as well as other issues.
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.