Property Management and the Accidental Landlord

An accidental landlord can be defined as someone who falls into the role of landlord out of necessity as opposed to a purposeful business venture.  There are several different scenarios that could land someone in this position but the one that pertains to the relocation industry is a transferee having to leave home because of a temporary work assignment. In this situation, transferees either rent their home because they plan to return in a few years, or they rent because they are upside down on their mortgage and can’t afford to take the financial loss with selling.  In either case, many employers include a relocation benefits package that includes Property Management services.

While having a Property Management company assisting with the day-to-day details of renting a home, it is important for homeowners to have a clear understanding of their role as a landlord. The following details some of the most important aspects of that role:

HelpfulTipsRental Income

It is an unfortunate fact that not all tenants pay rent on time. A few will need a gentle monthly reminder to send that check in and a smaller few will fall several months behind. A Property Manager will do his or her due diligence to follow-up with tenants on past due rent but they aren’t always successful. The moral of the story is that homeowners should not necessarily count on rental income to pay their monthly mortgage or other equally crucial bills. When it comes down to it, it is important to have funds set aside to pull from in the event that rental income doesn’t come through as timely as expected.

Repair and Maintenance

In an ideal world, a transferee settles into their new home and job without having to devote any energy to being a landlord. Realistically, this is not always the case. Furnaces break, severe weather causes issues and ovens stop working. Because the landlord is inevitably responsible for the cost of repairs that are not deemed the tenant’s fault, Property Managers must keep them in the loop and obtain cost approval for repairs. It isn’t fun to approve the cost of an expensive repair but when the situation arises, it is often unavoidable. Transferees should have an understanding that they will still be responsible for repairs and maintenance to the property even while they are on assignment.

Security Deposits

Security deposit disputes are hands down the most contentious part of the rental process. Property management companies help facilitate the process but it is the landlord who is responsible for making the final decision in regards to how much money the tenant is gets back. Because of this, it is extremely important to have clear expectations as to what constitutes normal wear and tear versus damage. Some important things to remember when considering the condition of the house are the length of the lease and if pets, especially large dogs, were permitted to live on the premises. It is safe to say that the longer the lease term, the more acceptable wear and tear there will be.

One way to help combat security deposit disputes is to ensure extremely detailed tenant move-in and move-out inspections. The old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” definitely holds true in this case. Without proper documentation, it is very difficult to argue either side of a dispute.

The Flip Side

All the above being said, a Property Manager makes it much easier for transferees to act as landlords. There are many services offered through Property Management that make the process much more seamless and hands off for the transferee.

– Financial Management: There are almost always bills that need to be paid and being relocated across the country, or even the world, can make that cumbersome. A Property Manager can assist with paying taxes, insurance, utilities, landscaping, general maintenance and repairs.

-Tenancy Management: While the final decision on choosing tenants is up to the landlord, a Property Manager works with a local agent to market the house, collect applications and obtain background and credit checks on any prospective tenants. Once tenants are in place, the Property Manager assists in rent collection and subsequent transfer of monthly funds to the homeowner.

-Emergency Repairs: When a critical response is needed at 3am, a Property Management company is there to step in act in the homeowner’s best interest. They are available 24/7 to consult and facilitate emergency repair situations.

The Bright Side

No one dreams of being an accidental landlord. However, with an experienced Property Manager driving the process, the day-to-day transactions and unexpected events are much less of a hassle for the transferee. A happy transferee makes for a happy client and your Property Manager plays a crucial role in that.

Candice Venditti, director, Client Services

Dwellworks, LLC