Dealing with the financials and collecting rents is one of the most important aspects of a property manager’s duties. The larger the operation and the more properties there are, you can anticipate, based on scale alone, that your delinquencies will increase. As you navigate this part of the process, how you respond and the methods used can mean the difference between a successful payday, three-day notice or eviction. If that wasn’t enough, how about introducing a global pandemic to the fold?
This is the current reality and state of affairs and every property manager is having to adjust to the situation. There is no training, past experience, nor guidelines to follow. To make it more puzzling, each state is wrestling with different policies and protocols and it can seem as though the U.S. government is changing time frames on social distancing and industries deemed “essential” by the week.
Most notable is the economic impact the rising unemployment has had across the world. With the inability for Americans to go to work and earn income, it was only a matter of time before the rental industry was affected. Well, that time is upon us, and understanding the laws, your obligations to both owners and tenants and setting a reasonable and consistent standard is what you will need to weather the storm. Let’s have a go.
Have compassion, but be fair.
This may be an unorthodox first item on the list. With owners and bills to pay, management fees to collect and maintenance issues to address, the last thing you may think of is compassion. However, the truth is that people are scared. To add more stress, many have lost their jobs, or worse, may have had family or friends impacted by the pandemic. The more you listen and show compassion, the better your chances of working out the situation will be.
With that stated, having compassion doesn’t mean being taken advantage of. Unfortunately, there will be those who also use this situation as an excuse to not pay. One way to prevent that is to require a doctor’s note or documentation from their employers stating how they have been affected or if they in fact have been terminated. Doing this helps everyone stay honest and also provides feedback for your owners.
Know your laws.
In property management, this goes without saying. However, with the current mandated eviction moratorium, you must be clear on what your capacities are. Make sure to check your local and national government resources daily and abide by what is deemed appropriate.
Set up payment plans.
Although the pandemic is currently preventing most evictions from proceeding, it is not consenting that past-due rents do not have to eventually be paid back. Once states and their communities start to re-open, it would behoove any property manager to already have a payment plan in place for tenants. Talk with your owners and tenants alike and see what the best compromise is for both parties.
Make all announcements in writing.
Currently, one of the big issues is all the changing policies, mixed information and messages we are getting from the media, family and friends. If false information is cited to your tenants or owners, this can be a disaster and have serious legal repercussions down the road. To be safe, never assume or speak in hearsay. If you feel any kind of major announcement for your tenants or owners is necessary, make sure you have them done in writing and provide the source. Having this approach can reduce your liabilities and protect you from providing incorrect information.
Consider virtual showings.
This is an instance where technology can be extremely useful and provide the ability to showcase a property without the fears a live tour may bring in the current times. There are several platforms that are offering great options for virtual tours and it may be something to consider. Of course, economics comes into play and you should determine if your returns would be worth the investment. If you’re a smaller operation, then doing a simple phone tour may be the best option. Be sure to keep it short and sweet, as most people are just looking for a basic overall description, not a detailed grand showcase.
These are some fundamentals that will hopefully help you navigate during these fickle times. Your biggest takeaway should be to set up consistent protocols based on state and country mandates, keep everything in writing, set up payment plans and, most importantly, be kind. As we all move through this, hopefully we can use the opportunity to show compassion and, at the same time, facilitate proper management duties for both tenants and owners alike. In the end, this is the best way to prevail through the chaos and your tenants and owners will thank you for it.