Tips For Renters: Working With Property Management Firms

Most apartment complexes and even some rental homes are actually managed by a property firm. You may not ever meet the actual property owner, since most of your dealing will be with the property management firm. The following tips can help you have a good experience when working with these third party companies.

Tip #1: Create your own paper trail

Most property managers are skilled at creating a paper trail to protect both themselves and your from any issues down the road. Just in case, though, it is also a good idea to know what kind of paperwork to keep:

  • A copy of the lease and any related addendum, such as pet agreements.

  • A move-in report. If you aren't provided one, fill out your own documenting any damage or wear on the unit. Take photographs, if necessary. Turn in a signed copy to the firm and keep a copy for yourself.

  • Copies of any invoices or receipts from work completed on the unit during the time you live there.

  • Copies of canceled checks or receipts for all payments you make, including rent and deposits.

Tip #2: Ask about maintenance expectations

Are you expected to switch out light bulbs or handle minor issues, such as a clogged toilet? For rental homes, is grounds-keeping your responsibility or that of the owner? Talk to the property manager if these things aren't clear in the lease so you aren't surprised with a bill or the need to make your own repair arrangements. For example, a non-structurally damaging crack may be considered cosmetic, so the property manager nor owner is expected to fix it.

Tip #3: Know the emergency repair protocol

Ask the property firm ahead of time what the protocol is for an emergency, such as repairing a furnace on the coldest night of the year. Some firms will provide you with an emergency handyman service number to contact, while others prefer you to call them first because they have their own repair staff. Still others encourage you to bring in your own repairman and then bill the property owner for the repair.

Tip #4: Be upfront with issues

Don't try to hide things from your property manager. Their goal is to work with the tenants on behalf of the owner, but their loyalty is to the owner. This means they will be forced to evict you if you fail to pay rent, are chronically late, or are damaging the unit. It doesn't matter how nice or friendly they seem – they must do their job. Be upfront if you have issues. Discuss options if you will be late on rent, for example. Many property managers and owners are willing to work out payment arrangements with otherwise good tenants for a short-term financial difficulty. Click here to learn more about property management in your area.