About 20% of the accounts we manage have a tenant already in place when we take-over management. Some of these tenants were place by the landlords themselves. Some of these tenants were placed by real estate agents and many are currently managed by other property managers. No matter what the source of the tenant, here's our process for getting the account started.
After the property management account is initiated we need a copy of all documents available and pertaining to the property. For example, we'll want a copy of the lease and any records of maintenance and complaints. Whenever possible we like to get a copy of the original rental application so that we know whom we are dealing with. We need a copy of the renter's insurance and we'd like a copy of the landlord's insurance.
For the purposes of maintenance and inspections, we need a copy of keys to the rental. We need to know what keys and passes have been issued to the tenant.
We mail and email the tenant a "Notice of New Property Manager" which formally introduces the tenant to us and gives the tenant instructions for paying rent. We also send the tenant a copy of our Tenant Handbook to familiarize the tenant with our standards and practices. We reach out to the tenant informally by phone and we stop by the property to introduce ourselves.
We schedule an inspection to determine if there are any outstanding maintenance issues. If we find any issues we report those to the landlord immediately.
There is often a transition period which can be rocky. New accounts often come to us because the property has been mismanaged in the past or because of tenant issues or because of both. During the transition period we firmly, politely and professionally acquaint the tenant with our manner of doing business.
Tenants who have been running roughshod over landlords often get upset and want to return to their old ways. The first thing they will do is attempt to by-pass us to get in touch with the landlord. It's important that the landlord break off all communication and relay all attempts at communication to us. Once the tenant realizes we are their only point of contact the situation immediately begins to improve.
When things have gone wrong we bring the tenant and the landlord back to the lease and the requirements of the Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant Act. This is to say: we give the tenant everything that the tenant is entitle to under the lease. At the same time, we have an expectation and requirement that rent is paid in full in a timely manner. Additionally, we do not accede to tenant demands that are above and beyond those that are required by the lease. Tenants do not bully us.
Again this transition period can be a little rough, but tenants come to respect us and most usually tenants come to appreciate us. When there are landlord tenant issues, most often the landlord is at least partly to blame. Once the tenant understands that we attend to business in a workmanlike and professional manner they begin to appreciate the fact that we know what we are doing and that we won't let them have less than what they are entitled to. This steadiness gives them a sense of security and once they know our expectations we generally don't have further problems.
Sometimes we inherit tenants from other property managers. This is usually the easier transition because we do all the same things as the other property manager, except perhaps we are often more responsive and more professional than the prior property management company. (This is not meant to imply that most companies are less professional than us. There are many very fine competitors in Northern Virginia. It's just that it is more likely that we are inheriting that business from a company that is not properly attending to business at this time.)
It has happened that we have inherited tenants that are "not fixable". We have inherited tenants that are destructive, abusive, do no follow rules and who don't pay rent. When this happens, we move toward eviction as swiftly and cleanly as legally possible. There is a fee that the attorney charges to make this happen and we pass this fee on to the landlord, but it is better to pay this fee quickly and end the pain quickly than to continue in an untenable situation.