Commercial Property Management – Checklist for Property Management Handovers

When you take over the management of a commercial or retail property today, the information that you gather from the outgoing property manager or landlord will be critical to the establishment and future success of your property management processes.

Information is Critical

Lack of information in the handover process means problems and potential errors in the future. On that basis you should have a specialised handover process that you can implement on and with the handover of every property type within your local area. A checklist will help your activities as you bring in the new property to the management portfolio.

Here are some ideas to incorporate into your handover checklist:

  1. Get complete and comprehensive details of all leases and licensed occupied areas within the property. You will need to check these against the tenants physically in occupancy and the rental invoices that are raised for tenancy payment. Everything has to cross relate accurately.
  2. Copies of lease documents should be checked against the original documentation. Also look for side agreements for any extension or variance documentation relating to the original lease.
  3. Copies of correspondence relating to existing tenancy matters should be handed to you. Ask for this specifically and drill down on the details of each matter.
  4. Get copies of the current rental invoices and cross reference these to the tenancy schedules for the property. It is not unusual to come across in errors in the tenancy schedule or the rental invoices.
  5. The tenancy schedule should be checked against the actual leases and other occupancy papers and the signed documentation between the landlord and tenant.
  6. Check all outgoings charges and expenses that are applied to the tenancies within the managed property. The charging process should be shown on the rental invoices; you will need to check this amount and the process of recover that is adopted. It is not unusual to see errors in the outgoings recovery with tenants in managed properties. The process of checking will involve you getting copies of the current outgoings budget and the recent outgoings reconciliation.
  7. The arrears that apply to the property and any tenancies should be identified as part of the handover. They are sometimes discharged at the time of settlement, although the question should be raised in case you are taking over the ongoing pursuit of the arrears with any existing tenants. If that is the case you will need copies of all previous correspondence and claims.
  8. Current vacant tenancies within the premises may be the subject of lease negotiation. You will need copies of the lease offers that are or have been made and the status of the existing negotiations.
  9. Details of the maintenance issues within the building will be required. The essential services within the building will be critical maintenance contracts to identify early in the Handover. Any threats to the stability and function of essential services should be identified and addressed immediately. The maintenance contractors for the building will understand the function of the existing plant and machinery; get details of these contractors and then set up meetings as quickly as possible.
  10. Ask about any orders or notices that apply to the property or any part thereof. Check out any encumbrances, rights of way, or easements that apply to property usage.

So these are some of the main items that apply to the property management handover process. There will always be more issues and items to look at although these items listed above are the big ones to immediately get under control.

Great Property Management Companies

Choosing the best manager for your property can promote your real estate investment or even break it. You find managers in all parts of the market and it is important to tell the good apart from the bad.

Messaging and branding

The outbound branding and messaging that the company uses is an important factor that can be used to determine what they are really like. To be able to understand them and their mode of operation. Then you need to ask questions.

Documentation

The first thing that you should get to know is whether the company is licensed and recognized by the right body. You need to ensure that you get to know what kind of properties they manage and then get references. You should never move on with the deal if the company does not want or is not able to give you the necessary documentation. When you see the documentation, then you can comfortably say that their operations are legitimate.

You should also get to know the following things about the company:

  • How they set and collect rent
  • How maintenance and repairs are handled?
  • If property inspections are done
  • Retention and marketing of tenants
  • How the tenant and owner funds are handled?
  • How they do tenant screening.

The other things that you should talk to them about include:

  • Their management fees
  • The management contract

The above should be done to about three companies that you may have shortlisted before you can hire them. You should remain vigilant and don’t settle for the first company that you come across regardless of how good they seem to be. There is really no harm in talking to other companies. Talking to others confirms that the initial preference was the best and you may even have some more questions. Young never know, the next company could actually be better than the first one.

If you do not take time to talk to others, then you will have nothing to compare with. It is important to have an idea about how other companies operate to be certain that you are indeed making the right decision. There are many databases that you can use to locate management companies near you.

You need to appreciate the fact that finding a manager for an investment that you made is a very important and big decision. You should do a thorough research before you settle for just anyone. There are many qualities that you should consider when you are picking a great organization.

You should try getting referrals from various sources. This is one of the best ways because you will know the experiences of other people first hand before choosing. You may get some amazing tips about the whole choosing process. Since referrals can sometimes be biased, you should get them from all corners. If you receive same referral about a certain company, it could very well be true after all, regardless of whether it is a good opinion or a bad one.

Choosing the Right Property Management Software

As your property management firm grows, with the building of additional properties, investment in a property management software can be crucial for the smooth running of your business. Excel spreadsheets and the old methods of using pencil and paper may not be the ideal choice in today’s world. There are plenty of cheap, user friendly specialty tools that property managers may choose which are much better than using the old systems. Property management is hard enough by itself so choose the right software program to help you to get your growing business organized.

Tips for choosing the right Property Management Software

Budget- Prices for property management software can range from $50 to $10,000. These software’s vary in prices depending on how many features the software has. So depending on number of properties, complexity of operations and size of you organizations choose the software program. Don’t buy more than you need. And at the same point of time do not go for the cheapest alternative. Make sure the software can do the basic things you need.

Trial version- It is always better to have a software program which has the option of a trial. Make sure you can run a full demo that allows you to try before you buy. Make sure you can do the basic things you require, such as maintaining vendor file, separate ledger for each tenant and owner, deal with bank checks and deposits, automatically post rent, management fees, and late fees etc. Always review, if the reports that can be generated from or customized in the software meet your month end reporting needs.

Hidden costs and recurring fees- Avoid software that require long terms contracts and have attached recurring costs. It is important to be able to cancel a subscription when needed without paying a price. Make sure your software program is easy to install, easy to use, and has excellent support hours. Research for update costs. Are you forced to buy any update even though you may not need it?

Full accounting package-Whether you prefer the simplicity of cash or the detail provided by an accrual method, the management program you purchase should support it. And, because a property manager is continually reading reports and calculating late fees and discounts, pick a program that does it automatically. The reports should be available at any time and for any period.

Web based software program-There are multiple online property management software’s today. For small businesses a web based software program can be ideal. Choose a fully integrated, end-to-end productivity tool which can provide everything you need to manage residential and commercial rental property of any type, online. With web based software you get the power and advantage of the latest web based technology, maintenance free operations, and ease of access from anywhere and any-time.

Others features- The software program should be able to capture the relevant details needed by a property manager to manage the property, eg. Tracking cost per unit, Generation of reports such as Late Fee, Move-In, Move-Outs, and Termination/Expiry. The software program should have some handy features such as a reminder system to keep track of appointments, list of tenants and owners that owe you money, automatically update rent amounts, automatically post amounts to each ledger, and update your account names etc. Among the other features available in most property management software packages is the ability to create templates for various forms, rental and lease agreements, and letters that are commonly used when managing properties. Customized documents can be created with the templates and then saved in the appropriate file. The templates can save a lot of time when it comes to generating late notices, final notices, eviction notices and even general notifications to tenants.

You Bought a Tenant-Occupied Property But Know Nothing About Property Management

Uh oh. But not uncommon.

Let me start out by saying that managing your own properties starting out is the way to go.

Why?

Because you must know the laws and what you can and can’t do as a landlord. Perhaps you have no interest in managing the properties yourself and plan to immediately hire a management company. *Warning* – if you don’t understand property management, you won’t know how to hire a property management company or if they’re doing a good job. I’m quite confident when I say that most property management companies are not good.

Now, to the problem at hand – There’s a Tenant in Your Property!

1. When you bought the property, you should have received the tenant deposits and contracts from the previous owner. If you didn’t, you started out wrong. If the owner says they did not have contracts or deposits with the tenant but the tenant says they had a contract with the previous owner, ask the tenant for copies of the contract they have. If they also can’t produce a contract, there is nothing binding you to any previous terms.

2. Hopefully you received the tenant deposits because, when they move out, you want something to cover the repairs you will need to do, plus, you’ll be responsible to refund any deposit they paid that is not used for unpaid rent or damages (even if they paid it to the previous owner who did not pass it on to you).

3. You are legally bound to uphold any prior contract and terms that the tenants have (again, providing you have a copy of these agreements). Consumer protection laws protect the tenant and bind you to their previous agreements until those agreements expire.

4. If there is no contract, send all tenants your own new contracts immediately. They are allowed to sign or move. You will then be managing your property according to your terms.

5. Owning a property and managing tenants are two very different businesses. You must learn property management if you’re going to have tenants. I wrote a book – The Essential Handbook for Landlords – available on Amazon, which is a great starting point.

You own the property – you’re the one in charge. You need good contracts and it’s essential that you know your local laws and how to manage tenants.

6. When you do decide to hire a property management (PM) company, know that they manage based on your paperwork and your rules. I owned a PM company for years and most owners came in with their own previously-signed contracts and rules. Some allowed pets – some didn’t; some allowed smoking – some didn’t, etc., etc. We enforced the owners’ rules. What you do with your property is up to you – the PM company enforces your rules (if the company is any good… ).

Managing properties and/or tenants all goes back to the contracts. And your local laws. Every state is different. Know your laws.

Additionally, owning rental properties is a business. When any tenant is “bad” including behind in payments, start eviction IMMEDIATELY. I listen compassionately to their reasons, but the rules are the rules and don’t bend them for any because, if you give in to one, you must give in to all (consumer protection laws, again).

Have you ever bought a property with a tenant already in place?

Tips for Outgoings Management and Budgets in Commercial Property

When you manage commercial real estate, the outgoings within the property will require focus and financial control. When the property market slows or gets tougher, managing the outgoings is really important; the outgoings form part of the financial strategy for the landlord and will impact the net income for the property. If the outgoings get too high, the property will be hard to lease and hard to sell.

Set Some Rules

You can split the outgoings into a number of categories and this is normally done to identify and track the cash flow by expense streams. Most importantly there are two sides to the outgoings equation. Some of the items will be controllable and others will be uncontrollable. This means that the landlord can exercise control on only some of the outgoings.

The uncontrollable outgoings are those which are imposed on the property and have to be paid without any opportunity for cost savings, adjustments, or budgeting. Those uncontrollable items are normally council rates, land tax, and water rates. To a degree, insurance and energy costs will also fall into that category although some cost controls are possible with these items.

To manage the property outgoings effectively it pays to adopt a process similar to the following:

  • Create a budget for the property prior to the commencement of financial year
  • Track your expenditure to budget monthly. Adjust expenditure when you see a need and reason; early adjustment prevents bigger blowouts.
  • Look at the history of the property expenditure over the last few years to identify any excessive spending or items that are beyond the averages in the local area. The history of the property will allow you to adjust your budgets and cash flow expectations.
  • Make sure that you have removed the capital expense items from the normal repairs and maintenance for the property.
  • Talk to the owners of comparable properties in the same area. The outgoings between your property and their property should be similar. If not, you need to know why and take steps to fix that. Share information of outgoings costs with other similar property owners for this very reason.
  • Monitor the annual valuations for rating purposes. When these valuations are done, you will soon see the statutory charges and council rates rise soon after. It is not unusual for landlords and property managers to dispute the valuation in an effort to keep the statutory charges at a lower rate.

In preparing an expenditure budget for the property, you should time the expenditure so that the larger costs are expected; hence ensuring that the cash flow is suitably adjusted in preparation.

The controllable outgoings are those that the landlord can exercise decision and timing. Normal items of repairs and maintenance together with the contractor maintenance will fall within this category. If the landlord chooses to delay the expenditure with the controllable outgoings, then they can spread the impact of those items on the net monthly income from the property.

In summary, the property manager working on behalf of the landlord should exercise due care and diligence in the budgetary process for property expenditure. A well-managed landlord cash flow in an investment property is a correct balance of income against expenditure given the tenancy mix pressures on the building and the existing vacancy factors.