Independent rental owners juggle many responsibilities that may include other full-time or part-time employment. Trying to keep track of items to do and items completed stretches the limits of time and sanity.
When it comes to property acquisitions, creating a series of checklists for every function of property management helps ensure that all items receive the attention they need. Checklists also reinforce consistency in each management procedure. A good checklist details the task, who will perform the task, the assignment date and the scheduled completion date.
The first checklist rental property owners should prepare is one listing all the items that should be analyzed during the due diligence phase before the purchase of a property. An item missed or neglected during due diligence can severely affect the anticipated performance of the property.
The due diligence checklist should address major categories with many sub-categories and detailed tasks. Major categories include:
● Physical inspection of the property
● Inventory of the property
● Warranty information
● Market analysis
● Demographic details of the current residents
● Resident file audit
● Financial analysis
● Current vendors and current contracts
● A review of the current operations (staff, community policies, etc.)
A company decisions checklist should address items such as obtaining apartment association membership, deciding which lease and legal forms to use, creating basic community policies, banking institution decisions, purchase authorization limits, an organizational chart, setting up an accounting system, selecting a maintenance service request system, etc.
The day an owner takes possession of the property is often chaotic. Many items need attention simultaneously, and a takeover checklist can organize those items into categories. The owner can then delegate many of the items to other personnel and track the completion of each step in the takeover. The checklist can highlight some items to address before the takeover day that would free time for other duties. Items may include:
● Organizing a takeover box of needed forms and office supplies
● Securing keys, alarm codes and passwords
● Securing and documenting cash and checks on the property
● Assessing the status of rental accounts, vacancies and notices
● Inspecting all vacant and vacant leased units
● Transferring utility accounts
● Notifying current vendors of the ownership change
● Notifying current residents of the ownership change
● Creating rental qualifications for new residents
● Setting up the office and files
● Ordering supplies for office and maintenance
As soon as an owner assumes control of a property, he or she does business with current vendors and meets with potential vendors. The owner will need information from all the selected vendors to set up an account in an accounts payable system. A vendor processing checklist details billing arrangements, receipt of tax identification numbers, agreed pricing structures and receipt of insurance verification.
Part of the takeover process includes inventory forms for appliances and equipment, parts and supplies and chemicals. These chemical inventory forms can form the basis of a checklist for creating the Material Safety Data Sheets book for the property. The other inventories help set up checklists to maintain essential maintenance supplies.
A good make-ready checklist eliminates confusion and supplication of work during the make-ready process. Work specifications detailing the work expected of each contractor or employee simplify the final inspection process. Those details can help the owner find the right outside contractor for the work needed or help train an on-site employee for the work. A makeready chart tracks the completion of each step of the makeready in relation to the scheduled move-in date. The makeready chart details the housing address, the work needed, the expected move-in date, when the work was assigned, to whom it was assigned, when the work was finished and whether the work inspection was completed.
Fair Housing laws stipulate the fair and equal treatment of potential and current residents. An application processing checklist details each step and assures consistency in the treatment of each renter. [Use a rental criteria list and AOA’s form 100S – The Applicant Screening Package.]
- Application completion
- Deposit collection
- Current rental verification
- Credit verification
- Criminal background investigation
- Income verification
- Contacting and notifying the new resident of the approval
The creation of a rental file can be simple or complex depending on the system set up by the owner. The rental file checklist can simply list the forms needed for file completion or include all the activities involved before move-in. Activities on the list might include:
● Inspecting the make-ready
● Typing the lease and paperwork
● Assembling the move-in packet
● Placing move-in gifts in the unit
● Verifying the utility transfer
● Signing all paperwork with the new resident
● Collecting rent and other monies
● Issuing keys
● Inspecting the unit with the new resident
When a resident gives notice of his or her intent to vacate, the move-out processing starts. A move-out processing checklist includes activities such as notice received, notice acknowledged, forwarding address received, keys returned, move-out inspection, utilities transferred and statement of deposit account mailed. If the resident left owing a balance, you would add a step to report the account to collection or credit bureau services.
Staffing requirements vary from property to property and owner to owner. If you have determined you will need employees, either part-time or full-time, a new hire checklist will aid you in the selection, hiring and training of the new employee. Before you advertise for applicants, create a job description and job title and detail the needed qualifications. Determine the required work schedule, and then you will be able to research appropriate compensation for the job and schedule. There are a number of forms essential to an employee file:
● Employment application form
● Pre-employment background and drug screening authorization forms
● Form W-4 for income tax purposes
● 1-9 and identification for eligible worker status
Additional information might include insurance benefit forms and employee lease and resident file paperwork. The checklist will help you track the paperwork for each applicant you are considering and create a complete employee file for your records.
Eventually all properties are sold or transferred to a new owner or management company. Just as you have a takeover checklist, there should be a property turnover checklist. A smooth property turnover benefits both the old and new management. The turnover checklist includes notifying staff members, utility transfers, notifying vendors and contractors regarding payment responsibilities, notifying residents about their security deposit transfer, gathering up all company forms and materials and completing final payroll information for employees.
Developing a checklist starts with a general list of items to do. Think the whole process through and try to anticipate problems. Experience is the best teacher when you are creating a checklist. Ask other owners if they have checklists you could review or have had experiences they could share. A checklist might be used universally or need to be customized from property to property.
Checklists are tools, and as such they need occasional sharpening. Review each checklist regularly and add items or delete items you find unnecessary. You may discover that some items can remain in general terms and some items demand more detail.
When you begin writing a procedures and policy manual for your company, you will find that the checklists provide a framework for your writing. Your customized checklists are the best method to pull all the details of property management together so that you can manage effectively and efficiently.
Anne Tucker, CAPS, is the owner of NeoBios Consulting Group. Reprinted with permission of the Houston Apartment Association Magazine.