This article was posted on Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014

Have you noticed that when you take time off from work, life goes on?  I have recently done just that and now that I am back in the saddle, I realize the challenges we were facing before are still present.  In fact, new challenges have developed in the interim.

Here are a few examples. 

A few landlords continue to create problems for the industry.  Others live on the opposite extreme of being involved in community activities in addition to taking care of their rentals and their tenants.  Most of us operate in between.  When you encounter landlords and managers in the second category, acknowledge their contributions and thank them for going beyond and doing more.  Alternatively, when you encounter the problem landlords, offer to assist them.  Many just don’t know any better through their ignorance; others just don’t care; and the minority tries to milk the situation for the highest return at the lowest cost.

Many things happen in our lives that are outside our control, but they impact us and our tenants and often require a response from us.  Gang violence is a growing problem.  Apartment fires continue to damage our properties and devastate those tenants that are impacted.  Young children fall out of windows.  Tenants lose jobs.  Governments pass laws restricting our industry.  These are just a few of those crises that may occur.

Do we have contingency plans?  Are we willing to remain flexible to these external influences?  If we do not stop to consider these possibilities, we may end up being forced to react rather than being proactive.

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Contingency planning is only one facet of being a good landlord.  Another is appreciating your tenants and that they have lives too.  When tenants are taking care of their “homes”, let them know you appreciate them.  You don’t have to be friends – just respectful. 

When Rent is Late

Be firm:  When the rent is late the first time, send them a 3-Day Notice immediately.  Let them know that paying on time is important and expected.  Do not try to be nice and give them a few days to pay (unless there is a good reason.)  Realize that just being nice may actually be mean.  If a tenant is several weeks late, he/she still has to pay the rent PLUS late fees besides the following month’s rent is due even sooner.  If you give them until the next month to pay, realize they now have TWO month’s rent due – if they can’t pay one month’s rent, how do you expect them to come up with two months of rent? 

Making Exceptions

There is another facet of landlording that is becoming more important as a result of the Great Recession and that is there are more families on the edge of homelessness.  As humans, we have an ethical obligation to be aware of their plight and when it makes sense do something about it.  Often as we become more successful, we look at those less fortunate and classify them as lazy or not living smart or living off the public dole.  As with most generalizations, this belief is just plain wrong; there are many exceptions. Many who are living on the edge are in that position due to circumstances beyond their control.  Don’t automatically disqualify them if they don’t meet your criteria.  Stop and look beyond their current situation.  Whenever you do this remember two important rules: 

  • Don’t make exceptions to your criteria without documented reason and
  • Keep in mind your rentals are a business, not a social service agency 

If this style of landlording does not work for you, find some other way to help families in these straits.

There are many freedoms in being a good landlord.  This is one the reasons I like being a landlord.  My wife and I can run our business how we wish, remembering always the rules and regulations for landlords.  It is easy to feel like we are making a difference for good.  Look for ways you as a landlord can make a difference for good as well. 

Ready to Make Your Rent Collections Easier?

By Mary Girsch-Bock 

As important as it is for property managers to ensure that rent is received on a timely basis; rental collection is not just important to property managers.  Surveys have shown that residents also want an easier way to pay rent.

While many smaller management companies have continued to accept checks, many have done away with the hassle of recording, depositing and dealing with delayed mailings, lost checks and potential NSF check situations.

With  a large, under 30 demographic, property managers looking to attract young, professional renters would do well to institute a 21st century rental payment policy that allows tenants to use credit cards to pay rent, can accept rental payments online or can automatically debit a tenant’s bank account to withdraw rent on a monthly basis.

There are numerous advantages to making updated payment acceptance a priority.  Here are just a few: 

  • Your rental payment policy can directly affect the type of renters you’re able to attract.  With computer savvy, young professionals making up one of the fastest growing group of renters, it’s imperative that properties offer quick, easy methods for rental payments. Many 20-somethings have never written a check in their lives and aren’t likely to start just to live in your property.  They’ll simply find a property where they can pay their rent easily.
  • Accepting rental payments electronically will eliminate the extra work involved with accepting checks, as mentioned above.  While those in a small apartment community do not spend a lot of time processing checks, those in large, multi-unit complexes will typically spend a large chunk of the first week of each month processing checks, not to mention following up on lost mail, determining if in fact a check is late and contacting tenants when insufficient fund issues pop up, as they always do.
  • Accepting rental payments electronically give property managers a much better idea of their rental income for the month much earlier and managers will know immediately if a scheduled electronic payment has been made.
  • The majority of your rental payments will be in the bank much sooner.  If the 2nd is the cutoff for accepting rental payments, by accepting electronic payments, the majority of your rental income will have been received by the cutoff date, instead of straggling in up to five days after the deadline. 

If you make one change this year in your internal processes, you may want to consider changing your rent payment process.  Your residents will appreciate the ease in which they can make payments, while your staff will be freed up to handle other responsibilities instead of stamping checks and driving to the bank the first week of each month. 

Reprinted from Rental Housing Journal Arizona and Rental Housing Journal, Metro.

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