How to Help Out Your Property Management Company, Follow-Up

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I received some really great response to my post, 10 Ways to Help Out Your Property Management Company, and some important questions that I want to address here.

Jason asked: “What items would you suggest when someone already has a property manager?” Kudos to you, Jason, for wanting to improve your relationship with your PM!

  1. Communicate through email rather than phone calls. Phone calls are quite disruptive in any office and it’s best to create a paper trail of your communications in case you need to prove a point at some time in the future.
  2. Ask what your PM needs from you. Each office is run a bit differently and needs will vary. Your property manager will appreciate you being available as there may be things missing from your file that they would like to have; i.e., location of water shut-off valves or HOA information.
  3. Systems and vendors. Allow your management company to handle as many of the issues that come up as they can. For example, we have some owners who say they will handle maintenance issues themselves or hire their own handymen. That creates a middle-man for us to deal with (the owner) and they don’t always do what they say or can’t get their subs to do what needs to be done in a timely manner. This creates an unnecessary chain that slows the process and the end result for a frustrated tenant. A good management company will have systems and people in place to handle management needs as they arise.
  4. Respond quickly. When your management company contacts you for any need – repairs that need to be done, rental amounts that need to be negotiated, etc. – respond quickly, just like you would want from them. As a management company, we work for the homeowner. However, when a tenant has a need that has gone on for days because we’re waiting to hear back from the owner, we are sometimes forced to make decisions for the owner to keep the tenant satisfied and even to keep the property in “habitable” condition. We always want the owner to have the final say, but that requires their prompt response. We had one tenant go without heat for five days because the owner was slow to get their heat repaired (and it was cold out!). We finally sent our own HVAC crew and had it repaired in spite of the owner’s demand to use their own people.
  5. Relax and let go. If you have a good management company, let them manage! Take a cruise and know they have it under control. We have handled hundreds of properties and I have no idea how many tenants. We really do know some of the best ways to get and keep a property filled. For example, many owners start out by saying that they don’t want pets in their home. I explain the fact that many (most?) people have pets so they’re eliminating a huge percentage of the population who are potential tenants. Beyond that, many people will simply say that they have no pets when, in fact, they do. I encourage owners to allow pets but charge an up-front non-refundable deposit and even a monthly fee for allowing the pet. That way, someone else is paying down the mortgage and our owners are being reimbursed for any damage the pet may cause. Win/win!
  6. Know that the contract goes two ways. If you’re not happy with your management company, let them know why in writing. If the issue(s) cannot be resolved to your satisfaction, move to another property management company at the end of your contractual agreement (or sooner if there is a major problem).

Related: Property Management from a Property Manager’s Perspective

Tiffany asked: “What can owners expect from good managers? Please include frequency of updates, response time, and time to fill vacancies.”

I like to consider myself a good manager… so I’ll share some of the things we do:

  • We ask homeowners to communicate through email. It’s much easier for us than phone calls and creates a necessary paper trail. Our office answers 99% of the communications the same day. Our only exception would be occasionally on the weekends.
  • Time to fill vacancies depends upon the property – condition and location – just like when selling. We do our best to inform each client what their property needs: cleanliness, wall color, landscaping, etc. If a client refuses to respond, we can’t help that their property stays vacant. We market “everywhere” online so our phone rings constantly! We often fill properties within 48 hours – average is two to three weeks.
  • We like to set expectations low as far as pre-emptive communication from us. Property owners hear from us if their property goes vacant or needs repair, and when it is filled after vacancy. Other than that, they can expect their check from us once a month and should relax, knowing we’re taking care of things. They also receive a monthly email newsletter from us sharing what we’re communicating to their tenants that month (time to clean out gutters – suggestions for reducing heating bills – monthly schedule of property inspections, etc.).

Thanks to everyone for your comments and questions! What can you add to this list?

Photo: Bill Ward’s Brickpile

About Author

karen rittenhouse

Karen Rittenhouse has been investing in real estate full time since January 2005. In that time, she has purchased hundreds of single family properties, opened a full-service real estate company, a property management company, a coaching/training business, and written three books on real estate.


  1. Thanks for sharing this info Karen – this is an awesome perspective to have on this. It’s easy to forget that a PM has to please both the tenant AND the property owner (I have to imagine that can get stressful). This is a great reminder for me.

  2. Karen,
    This was a great follow-up to a great initial article. Your management company sounds just like the one I use…very professional and detail oriented. I liked what you said about e-mail versus the phone. Interestingly, I use e-mail mainly for the paper trail but it makes sense that it is so much easier for the PM on the other end. I feel the same way at my own job so it makes sense to treat my PM the same way I would like to be treated!

    I was lucky to find a great PM company and have handed over the reins. Being a small town, it’s easy enough to know if something were to go wrong but in almost a year, nothing has. They have exceeded my expectations. They keep a $250 reserve for small repairs and of the two I’ve had, I don’t even know about it until I get a reduced check and invoice copy. I love the fact that, with a full-time job of my own, I have a trusted PM I can count on. It makes things so much easier and I know the tenants must appreciate the quick service.

    Thanks again for the great info and tips!

  3. The main take away for me in Karen’s writing about what can be done to help your property manager is “relax and let go.” As Karen knows, in North Carolina, our regulators view the Owner and the Property Manager as the same entity for purposes of compliance in the reasonable care of handling maintenance issues. As a property manager in the Raleigh area, I don’t mind accepting this high standard when I am in control of the vendors. Compliance can be more difficult otherwise.

  4. Jason Minnich on

    So I recently made a post about the issues I’ve been having with my property management company, your post gives me hope they aren’t all bad but at what point do you decide to pull the plug and find a new company? How difficult is that transition for an owner? And finally would you give notice you are looking, moving or what? How do you break the news to the tenant? Since I’m stationed across the country I can’t shop for a new manager in person so I really want to have my ducks in a row before I pull any triggers. Thanks!

    • Jason:
      Different people have different tolerance levels; I have a pretty short fuse. I would give the property management company two chances to respond to my complaints. If they didn’t, I would inform them that I am changing companies.

      The transition should not be difficult, but read your contract to see what “out” it gives to you and to your management company. As a management company, we have “fired” owners before. Yes, I would give notice.

      You might try contacting real estate agents in the area to help you find reputable management companies. The agent will help you in the hopes of listing your property at some future date. Agents are usually aware of management companies, but you definitely want to check referrals rather than just getting a random list of names and phone numbers.

      As a management company, we contact the tenants and inform them that we are now managing the property. You should contact them as well, but only after the change has been made. The tenant will need to know where to begin sending their payments. Everything else in their rental contract is valid and remains the same. We always have them sign a new contract but the terms are “copied” from their existing contract, including the expiration date. Once the contract with the old management company expires, we renew the contract with our own terms, if any are different. The monthly rate is still ultimately determined by you, the owner.

      The management company works for you. If you’re not getting the service you deserve/desire, move on.

      Hope this helps and thanks for asking.

  5. Jason Minnich on

    Thanks a lot! I don’t know why (or if its possible) to link my BP forum account to these commends but its the same over there. I will definately look around. Before I left I did my research on PM companies but I’m just not appreciating their service 100%, I’ll give them one last chance but if I don’t get more transparency into their process I’ll go about finding someone else.

    Out of curiosity, do you see any benefit from going with a local group vs a national franchise? REAL property managers has offices in OH and CA but I’m really not seeing any benefit from going with two different franchise locations because this seems to be a very local specific concept, I honestly don’t know the real benefit of the franchise on its own, unless the policies they set and their visibility is really that much better. Anyway, Thanks again!

    • Jason:

      I don’t know anything about franchises except that, as you mentioned, they all have the same set of rules they’re supposed to adhere to. Thing is, you’re still dealing with the owner of the franchise who is either good or not! So, no, I really see no benefit there. Keep searching until you find a company that suits you.

      To your success!

  6. Karen,

    I appreciate the followup. The email idea has my intrigued. I will talk to my pm and see what they prefer. I end up talking to my pm about once per week, but I also have several properties and they end up initiating the phone call about 50% of the time. My conversations are more for me to understand what is happening with my properties not to micromanage (otherwise what is the point of having a pm). How often do you face to face meet with your owners? Is it productive or a waste of time?

    The only thing that gets my goat is a no response within about 48 hours (2 business days). It makes me question their response to tenants. I have fired 3 pm’s over the years (one was myself).

    Karen thank you again. I look forward to more posts from the PM perspective, it really helps us owners work better with them which is good for all parties involved.


    • Jason:

      We don’t do face-to-face with property owners. No need. Everything is communicated online. Saves everyone’s time.

      Can’t imagine what you talk to your PM about every week – especially with only a few properties. They should be functioning with tenants and quiet! We have hundreds of owners. If we had to talk to each one every week, I would have a full-time employee just for that! No, there is no need for that much conversation.

      Good luck to you and thanks for communicating!

  7. These are some great tips to have a better experience with a property management company specially the point on sending an email rather then calling at a random time. An email will give you the time to properly explain your issue and the property manager will also be able to read it well and respond correctly compared to a call where a lot of detail can be missed.

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