Might it be time to look for a new property management partner?
Maybe you’ve been making excuses or giving your property managers the benefit of the doubt. But, if you’re not getting the service you expect or you find that your expenses are going up while your income is going down, something is very wrong.
Your Santa Rosa investment properties are worth a lot of money, and you may be thinking about growing your portfolio or scaling back or diversifying what you currently own. It’s possible you need the kind of expert advice that you hope your property manager can provide, but you can’t get them to return a phone call.
Maybe your tenants are leaving every time the lease ends. That’s not a good sign. It could mean that communication is lacking or maintenance isn’t being responded to in a timely manner.
There are a lot of good reasons to leave your current property manager, even if making such a big change feels risky.
Sometimes, you’re left with no choice.
If you find you can’t trust your property management partner because of a lack of communication, bad tenants, or questionable maintenance practices, you need to act quickly and find a new provider. Think about your reasons for hiring a professional. You want to keep your costs down and your income up. You want to leave the tenant relationships to someone else. You want to know you’ll be protected from risk and liability.
When you no longer feel like you’re receiving those benefits, it’s time to re-evaluate and explore other options in the market. There are a lot of great property managers in Santa Rosa and throughout Sonoma County. Don’t settle for mediocre management.
Here are some of the best signs that it’s time to switch property management companies.
Your Property Managers are Unwilling to Evolve
Are your property managers easy to communicate with? Are they willing to invest in good property management technology to keep information transparent and accurate?
Communication is an important part of your relationship, and most owners and tenants want to be communicated with online. You should have an owner’s portal and your tenants should have their own portals, so they can pay rent online and make maintenance requests. You should be able to text your management company a question and get a response that same day.
You need good communication and you need reliable technology. If your property manager is stuck in systems designed to lease and manage homes 20 years ago, it’s time to move on.
Staying Up to Date with California Rental Laws
You may have noticed that over the last few years, additional laws have been passed to protect tenants. If your property manager isn’t keeping up with these new legal requirements, you’re at risk of falling out of compliance.
For example, California now has statewide rent control. If you’re renting out a single-family home and you’re not part of a corporation, your rental property is likely exempt. However, you need to include language in your lease agreement that reflects your exemption and notifies your tenants that you’re not required to comply with rent control restrictions.
If your property manager has not updated your lease agreements to reflect that requirement, you could find yourself in legal trouble.
You need a property manager who understands and stays up to date on:
- State and federal fair housing laws
- Rent control requirements
- Just cause eviction issues
- Security deposit laws
- Habitability standards
This is just a short list of what you should expect your property manager to know. If you find yourself dealing with a fair housing claim or a security deposit dispute from your tenants, you may want to revisit why you’re working with the team you currently have.
Santa Rosa Rental Property Maintenance Problems
Maintenance has become more expensive over the last year or two. There’s not a lot your property manager can do about the cost of labor or materials, but they should be implementing programs to keep your costs to a minimum. Emergencies will be rare when you have a good routine and preventative maintenance processes in place.
When it comes to maintenance, these are the things you don’t want to see at your rental property:
- Repairs that are not made in a timely manner.
- Lack of preventative maintenance.
- No real system for tenants to report maintenance needs.
- Vendors who are unlicensed, uninsured, and expensive.
- Repairs that are unnecessary.
- Unexpected maintenance invoices or unapproved repairs.
Your management company should understand the importance of routine and preventative maintenance, otherwise, you’ll find yourself spending more than you have to on your property’s upkeep.
Vendor relationships are also important. They’ll keep your costs down. A good property manager will negotiate discounted rates that reflect the volume of work that’s provided. When those savings are passed on to you, it’s clear you’ve got a good management partner on your side. If costs simply keep going up without any explanation or mitigation, you should start looking elsewhere.
You cannot effectively maintain your property if your management company is not available and responsive to emergencies 24 hours a day.
Preventative maintenance is essential. Your management company should have preventative plans in place for your HVAC system as well as your electrical and plumbing. There should be regular landscaping, the roof should be checked, and pest control treatments should be recurring. You should work with a team who understands the value of replacing appliances when they’re old and deteriorating rather than repairing them again.
Proactive maintenance protects the condition of your investment. They also keep your tenants happy. If you find that repairs aren’t being made or there is a lot of deferred and unreported maintenance discovered during inspections and turnovers, there’s something wrong with the way your management company is handling the repairs at your property.
Rental Income Should Never be Inconsistent
Are rent payments made on time?
Rent coming in on time should be something you don’t have to think about at all. You’re not the one collecting it – your property manager is.
If rent is late, inconsistent, or not coming in at all, it’s time to talk with your property manager. If you cannot get a reasonable explanation and a commitment to doing better, you need to switch management companies.
A good rent collection process should be part of every property manager’s systems and procedures. Your property manager should:
- Be equipped to collect online rental payments.
- Send reminders about upcoming due dates.
- Charge late fees and other penalties when rent is late.
The rent collection policy should be in the lease agreement and it should be enforced by your Santa Rosa property manager. You want to know your tenants have the incentive they need to pay rent on time every month.
Placing Unqualified Tenants Costs You Money
Rent not coming in on time is a sign that bad tenants may be in place, and bad tenants can be expensive. If your property manager is not enforcing your lease agreement when it comes to collecting rent, there’s a chance they’re letting other things slip, too.
Owning Santa Rosa rental property comes with risk. It’s unavoidable. But, with the right property management partner, that risk is mitigated with sound practices, lots of experience, and a thorough understanding of tenant protections and legal issues. You want to make sure your property manager is protecting you against lawsuits as well as difficult tenants and complaints and disputes.
Bad tenants are an expensive problem. You need a solid screening process.
Another expensive problem is turnover. When tenants can’t wait to leave your property, it’s likely due to the rental experience they’ve had. Turnover is expensive. It’s bad for business. When you rarely have tenants renewing their lease agreements, find out why. Look for a property management partner with impressive retention rates.
Accounting Should be Clear, Detailed, and Accurate
You should receive detailed financial reports and accounting statements every month, and you should also have access to those records on your owner portal 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. You should be able to see how your property is performing in real time, and you should expect an accounting every month when rent comes in.
If you don’t understand what you’re reading or financial reports are unclear and lacking detail, you need to find a new property manager with better accounting practices. You’re not only trusting a management company with your property – you’re trusting them with your money.
Look for hidden fees or unexpected costs in your statement. If you see charges that you weren’t expecting or weren’t informed about, talk to your property manager and get an explanation that makes sense. Discuss any future costs that you might not know are coming. Investigate your management contract to see if these were ever disclosed before you signed.
Changing property management companies can seem like a huge undertaking. But, you want to protect your property and the health of your investments. Don’t wait too long when you know your relationship isn’t going anywhere. If you’d like to talk about your options, please contact us at Prestige Real Estate & Property Management. We manage homes in Sonoma County, including Santa Rosa, Windsor, Sebastopol, Petaluma, and Rohnert Park.