When Things Get Out of Control
Whether you’re new to a Property Management role and have walked into a ‘business in crises’, or if you are just going through a rough patch in your existing role, the fact is – you will get through it unscathed by taking a structured approach to addressing the issues. There may be sleepless nights, ‘dinner meetings’ and an increase in caffeine consumption BUT the storm will pass.
We’ve all been there. You start to feel things slowly sliding, creeping up on you and the tell-tale signs begin to appear. You might start to notice an increased number of phone calls from unhappy clients, routine inspections that haven’t been completed, lease renewals lapsing and maintenance getting out of control. Where do you start? Read on for 10 quick tips.
The first thing in a situation like this is to OWN IT. Recognise the problem, plan the solution and take action! Minimising the fallout sometimes means making things harder to make them easier. The priority is to get a really clear and accurate snapshot of where things are at – do not rely on the data in your Trust Account because as you’ll soon recognise (if you haven’t already) this data can be inaccurate and issues can be hidden. If there are skeletons in that closet, the sooner you get in there and rip them out, the faster you will clean things up.
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At times like this, it’s best to tackle the riskiest areas first. These may not be readily apparent so let’s do some digging.
- Vacancy Rates. Call any client with a vacant property but first review the advertising and the recent activity. Your first priority is to get these properties leased.
- Arrears. Get an accurate picture of where your Agency sits – check your Trust Account with a fine-tooth comb. It’s scary how easy it can be to move a ‘paid to’ date in order to hide an Arrears issue. Don’t forget about checking Arrears for invoices as well.
- Maintenance. This is usually the biggest beast to tackle and definitely one of the areas where your Agency is most exposed to risk. Send out an email to EVERY Tenant. Ask them if they have any outstanding maintenance and ask them to report it AGAIN. Believe me, your Tenants will respond and you’ll be able to prioritise that list as the maintenance comes in. You can’t address what you don’t know about. So, although you may be wondering why you would unleash that fury upon yourself, just think about the potential for litigation if you don’t take appropriate action.
- Routine Inspections. Print out a list of your entire Rent Roll. Manually check when a Routine Inspection was last undertaken at each property. Prioritise those that are overdue and put a plan in place to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Consider hiring temporary staff to catch up, or outsource if necessary. If using either of these options – ensure that anyone performing these functions holds the appropriate licence/registration.
- Bond Refunds & Lodgements. This is particularly important to check if you have had staff turnover. Have the Bonds been lodged accurately and on time? Have all outstanding Bond refunds been processed? Review your processes and checklists if they haven’t.
- Smoke Alarms and Pools. Do you have an accurate assessment of where your compliance levels are at? Do you have any non-compliant properties? Obtain a report from your Smoke Alarm Servicing Company to find this information. Identify the managements you have with pools and then cross check for current Certificates. You can use the applicable Government website to do this if your Agency records are out of date.
- Trust Accounting and Payments. It is good business practice to review your Trust Account regularly and ensure everything is in balance. Investigate the reason for any adjustments or monies that need to be forwarded on to the Public Trustee.
- Insurance Claims or Tribunal Hearings. Find out if you have any pending insurance claims or upcoming Tribunal hearings. What do these relate to? Are the issues indicative of any failings in your systems and procedures? Ensure that the correct information is compiled and recorded and follow-up any actions required to reduce risk to the Agency.
- Pick up the phone and call your Landlords. Do they have any issues or concerns that you can address? Nipping problems in the bud can save you a lot of time down the track when they become unmanageable.
- Don’t Forget your Staff. Take the opportunity during this review period to sit down and have one-on-ones with your staff. It is likely that they will be feeling their stress levels rising. Feeling supported and valued during this time will greatly assist in improving morale and encouraging buy-in to the review process.