No walk in the park: why you need a property manager for your investment
Many people think that managing their own investment property will be simple. Collect the rent and inspect the home occasionally, they think. How hard can that be?
But the reality is much more complex, because as with most things in life, it is not always smooth sailing.
The average person does not have the expertise on some of the pain points around managing a property, and that is where the true value of a skilled property manager lies, as Monika Minko, General Manager of Independent Property Management explains.
“You’re paying for our knowledge, and our ability to handle the difficult situations. We know the legislation and we know the steps to take to resolve a problem.”
Here are some of the common complaints Monika and her expert team hear from landlords, and how they resolve them.
My tenant has stopped paying rent
“If your tenant isn’t paying their rent, there are specific steps you need to take,” Monia explains.
“A private landlord can take the tenant to ACAT (the ACT Civil & Administrative Tribunal), but if they haven’t followed procedure, they probably won’t get the outcome they’re looking for.”
For the average person who checks their bank statements monthly, or when a payment bounces, it could be weeks before you realise a tenant has missed a payment. By then, you’re already behind the eight ball.
“We have an established arrears management procedure,” Monika says.
“We generate daily reports so that we can see as soon as someone is in arrears.
“If it gets to the 4-day mark, we’ll give the tenant a call. If it gets to 8 days, we’ll issue the official Notice to Remedy.”
If the tenant still doesn’t pay after that, it’s off to ACAT to obtain a Notice to Vacate.
“The faster you deal with the situation, the better,” Monika advises.
“A landlord can ask for the rental arrears to be paid, but a tenant who isn’t paying their rent may not have the money to pay back what they owe. If you let it drag on for months, that’s months of rent you’ll never see again.”
My tenant won’t leave the premises
There are various reasons for wanting your tenant to move out, including them being a nuisance to neighbours, not paying rent or because you need the property for your own purposes (such as to sell or move into yourself.)
How you deal with the situation is key.
“We had one tenant in an apartment complex who was consistently playing very loud music in the early hours of the morning. We had complaints from the strata manager,” Monika remembers.
“We gave him a verbal warning first, to give him a chance to remedy the problem.
“He refused, so we sought instructions from the landlord and then issued a written Notice to Remedy and finally a Notice to Vacate.”
Monika estimates that the whole process took a couple of months.
By contrast, Monika recently spoke to a private landlord who has been waiting for his tenant to leave for the past six months.
“The owner gave the tenant a Notice to Vacate back in September, with a generous notice period in accordance with the lease agreement.
“The tenant immediately stopped paying rent but refused to budge. The landlord doesn’t want to pay the fee to go to ACAT, so he’s just trying to wait it out.
“Meanwhile, there is no rental income coming in, the arrears are racking up, and he can’t rent the property to anyone else.”
My tenant won’t let me inspect the premises
“This one comes up a lot,” Monika explains.
“It was especially common during the COVID-19 pandemic because tenants were wary of possible infection.
“But even before all that, it was always an issue. Especially if there’s already a tarnished relationship between tenant and landlord, they do sometimes refuse to let us in.”
As a landlord, you must provide your tenant the right to ‘quiet enjoyment’, which means that you cannot turn up unannounced and demand entry.
“This is another area where we have to be very careful that we’re following the correct procedure so that we’re complying with the legislation,” Monika cautions
“The first step is a letter that provided them 7 days' notice of an inspection. If they still refuse, we can go to ACAT and get an access order."
My tenant wants an emergency repair
Your tenant calls on a Saturday evening, telling you there is a plumbing emergency. What do you do next?
“We see this from two sides,” Monika says.
“If something is a real emergency, you don’t want to risk leaving it until Monday and having the problem get worse.
“So you need to establish a way for tenants to take urgent action if they can’t get hold of you immediately.
“On the other hand, you don’t want to be paying emergency call-out rates on a weekend if you don’t have to.”
Property managers solve this problem in a couple of ways.
“What we recommend to all of our landlords is a system which empowers tenants to arrange for emergency repairs themselves, Monika says.
“So for example if a hot water system fails on the weekend, they can call one of our approved plumbers and ask for advice.
“The tenant receives a checklist as part of their on-boarding information, which defines which repairs count as emergencies and which ones do not.
“If it is an emergency, they can spend up to 5 per cent of their usual rent on a repair and have that reimbursed.”
Those relationships also help landlords with proactive maintenance.
“What we often see with private landlords is that they’re busy, they work full time, and it’s easy to put off maintenance problems until they become urgent.
“Whereas because our job is to be on top of these things and be proactive, we will get professional advice from our trusted contractors, not just about emergency repairs, but about future maintenance issues.
“For example, they will repair a hot water system but also let us know that it’s 10 years old and will soon need to be replaced.”
My tenant isn’t taking care of the property
The other side of the coin to the tenant who is quick to identify and resolve issues in the property is the tenant who doesn’t care for the property themselves.
What tenants see as a bit of a harmless mess can cause real damage to your property.
If, for example, the exhaust fan in the kitchen isn’t cleaned and degreased, it can clog, causing poor ventilation and grease stains on the walls.
Dirt or gravel in the bottom tracks of a sliding door can cause it to stick or even break.
“This is a really delicate area,” Monika says
“Because a lot of people see it as a criticism of their housekeeping skills. But the reality is that if it is not handled well it can really damage the relationship between landlord and tenant.
“As property managers, we’re a neutral party so it’s easier for us to deal with it.”
Not only does a property manager help resolve issues that arise, but they will also reduce the chances of any issues happening in the first place.
“Prevention is 100 times better than cure,” Monika says.
“A lot of problems can be avoided just by vetting your tenants properly in the first place.
“A landlord might let someone move in because they’re a friend of a friend, so they don’t check references or financial history.
“Because we do a comprehensive check, we make sure that our landlords have great, reliable tenants and are far less likely to run into problems.”
For more information on Independent’s expert property management service, get in touch here to find out how we Make It Happen.