As property managers, one of our most important responsibilities is to oversee the maintenance and repair of the homes we manage. In fact, most states’ laws address this, in one form or another. For example, Nevada law, in its Property Management licensing section, states:
NRS 645.019 “Property management” defined. “Property management” means the physical, administrative or financial maintenance and management of real property, or the supervision of such activities for a fee, commission or other compensation or valuable consideration, pursuant to a property management agreement.
(Added to NRS by 1997, 954; A 2003, 932) (Emphasis added)
Despite guidance of both law and “common sense,” too often, our responsibility for overseeing the physical maintenance of the properties we manage is handled in a reactive, rather than proactive, manner. We wait for something to break, as opposed to thinking ahead and planning for maintenance and repair, before things go wrong. In the next few posts, we’ll explore residential property maintenance, from the property manager’s perspective.
Fair Housing concerns are not the only reason for developing procedures, checklists, and written policies in your property management practice. It just makes good business sense to operate off of checklists and standard forms. Not only does this approach save time, it keeps you from forgetting vital components of your management responsibilities. Here are a few maintenance-related forms you might want to consider:
Property Data – information on a newly-acquired management property. Typically, this form will include basic information as reflected on the county assessor’s website (square footage, bedrooms, baths, HVAC type, etc.), as well as information on appliances in the home, services provided with the rental property, a breakdown of utilities and whether landlord or tenant is responsible for payment, and any special conditions of the rental/lease agreement.
Landlord’s Real Property Disclosure – In response to the increasingly litigious environment inherent to the property management business, many property managers across the country have begun to develop (and use!) forms that are completed by the property owner, specifically disclosing any known material facts affecting the property’s value. I don’t yet know of any state that has made such a form a part of law, as of this writing. However, I think that’s probably something we’ll begin to see very soon.
Make-ready Checklist – to help the owner (or manager) prepare a vacant property for marketing. One of the most contentious discussions and owner and property manager can have is around the subject of what constitutes “rent ready.” It’s a great idea to include this information in your Property Management Agreement.
Move-in and/or Move-out Checklist – to document property condition for purposes of reconciling a tenant’s security deposit. Video has become very popular for this purpose, over the last few years. Be careful; it’s impossible to document things like unusual/offensive odors, and details of cleaning efforts in a video. A written checklist is highly recommended, in all cases.
Property Inspection – a form for periodic interior inspections of an occupied rental home. Whether you inspect annually, quarterly, or more often, using a form for this purpose helps the property manager remember to look at all areas of the home.
Drive-by Inspection – for documenting exterior condition of a home and grounds. What we’re looking for with a ‘drive-by’ inspection is obvious signs of damage or neglect. You can tell quite a bit about the interior condition of a home, just by looking at the outside.
Tenant Handbook – not only describes basic provisions of the lease agreement, but includes instructions for some routine maintenance, and reporting maintenance needs to management.
Repair Request – for tenants’ use in requesting routine maintenance. Most online property management software provides tenants the ability to report maintenance needs electronically, thereby facilitating prompt response from management, and easy tracking of requests and work orders.
Vendor Agreement – outlines your expectations from repair vendors, including work order authority, discussions with tenants, invoicing, licensing, and insurance.
This list represents the most often-utilized maintenance forms for residential management, but I’m sure there are more. Can you think of any additional maintenance-related forms that would help streamline your activities in managing the maintenance aspects of your portfolio of properties? Please share your thoughts by commenting on this post.