Screening a Property Management Company Part 2: Communication & Documentation

2020-08-10

Screening a Property Management Company Part 2: Communication & Documentation

How vital are communication and documentation when screening a property management company?

When an owner has to contact a PMC, 80% of the time it’s because the property management company failed to proactively communicate with them. 

If a PMC is doing their job, documenting everything, consistently reporting on all activities related to the property, and informing owners of any changes, the only back-and-forth communications that should need to take place are questions relating to specific scenarios that arise. 

To get a smooth working relationship like this, it’s essential to screen PMCs based on their systems for communication and documentation. How will they communicate? How often? How quickly will they respond? What documentation will they provide access to? 

Communication  

Transparency, consistency, and speed are what’s most important here. PMCs should be comfortable with recording and sharing every email, text, documents, and other communication sources with the client to avoid misunderstandings and provide crucial evidence in the event of a dispute. They should also have defined systems in place for how they conduct standard communications, and ways of ensuring that reasonable timeframes are adhered to when fielding questions and requests from both landlords and tenants. 

For example, do they use a tool like a CRM to monitor and track client communications? Do they have a system in place for proactive comms, so you don’t need to call them to find out information? At Logical PM, we provide all leases, client communication records, and maintenance project details on an online customer portal, which owners can access directly. This information is updated automatically, meaning you never need to chase down your PMC to find out what’s going on with your property, which saves time and increases efficiency for both landlords and property managers.

Documentation

When you’re hiring a PMC, they might say they’ll provide certain things, but how are they going to deliver on these promises, and how do they track things to guarantee that they are? Is it all in their head, or do they have software and tools to help them document, track, and get reminders for carrying out important processes?

To find out, ask if your PMC uses a property management software, like PropertyWare or Buildium, to keep track of various workflows and send reminders to staff. Note that with Buildium, they’re not able to customise fields themselves, and this can be problematic in the world of property management, where there are so many different variables at play. 

For example, if most properties get inspected once a year, but some landlords request for this to be done every three months, how do you track that and deliver on that without customising workflows? Finding out which software they use will help you determine how well a PMC is set up to handle unique requests like this in an effective way. If they’re only using manually-managed Excel spreadsheets, then all of these moving parts will be nearly impossible to handle without making some mistakes along the way. 

Not only should a PMC have tools for managing internal documentation – they should also have tools that give landlords access to that information, too. When screening a property management company, find out how they provide access to important documents, like:

Rent Collection Records: They should have an organized system to ensure tenants don’t fall behind, and to keep track of all received and outstanding payments – this is essential for cases when a tenant needs to be evicted, or when transferring management to another PMC.

Financial Reporting: This should include monthly statements and live reports that show the current month’s incomes, expenses, and balances, with comparison and analysis against the past months. 

Maintenance & Repairs: PMCs should provide estimates of costs for the owner’s approval or review, as well as detailed information of the work carried out (as well as pictures or videos, ideally). 

Making these documents available on an owner-accessible online portal is a great way to ensure transparency and organization, but if your PMC doesn’t use a customer portal like this, make sure you understand how they’ll provide this information to you. Will you have to request it every time, or are they proactive communicators who will always remember to send you relevant documentation?

Once you know the property management company you’re screening has the right communication and documentation processes in place to manage your properties in a consistent, organized manner, what’s another thing you as a landlord should consider before hiring them? Stay tuned for the final part of this series to find out!

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