Firing a Property Manager mid-Contract

8 Replies

Looking for advice on how to handle a negative relationship with our property management company. We have been pretty unhappy with their services for the entire time we've been working with them, but they do the bare minimum- they found a tenant, we get paid every month and a statement in the mail. The quality and demeanor of the service has been inadequate IMO but nothing to fire them over.

Recently, we received a bill for almost $1000 for repairing a window screen. This repair took place over the course of 3 weeks and we received no communication about it and were never asked to approve the expense. Our contract places a $500 limit on unauthorized expenses unless it's an emergency. When I asked to have a conversation about it, the owner of the company insisted that this was an emergency repair. She was extremely rude and actually told me that I should end the agreement- by buying out the rest of the contract (pay them 100% of their fee for the remaining 10 months on the lease).

Does anyone have an experience like this? Is it worth fighting over? Or should we just eat the fee and go separate ways? The property is in Maryland if that helps at all. Appreciate anyone's advice or sharing similar experiences and how they were resolved.

Assuming your window is not of extraordinary size, that price is outrageous!  Additionally, I can't understand how a screen replacement could ever be an emergency.  You should ask for a copy of the vendor's invoice so you can see if the charge is legitimate.  Call the vendor directly and ask them to explain to you why a single window screen costs $1,000.

The way the owner addressed your concerns is highly unprofessional and it's clear from what you've said that she isn't all that interested in retaining your business.  I would suggest you send written notice to terminate the contract based upon their negligence for approving that repair without your consent.  If she tries to threaten you or fight back, cite the approval clause in your agreement and ask if she wants to go to court over it.  Also, make sure you get everything in writing - no phone calls so you have documentation if you do have to proceed with litigation.  My guess is she will back down once she realizes you refuse to be taken advantage of anymore.  Best of luck to you!

Laticia

@Laticia Braxton I do have a copy of the invoice but it's a great idea to reach out to them directly for some more context around what took place. The invoice says upon replacing the screen they found the sash balances were broken and replaced those as well. Not sure how expensive that would normally be but definitely doesn't seem like an emergency to me and doesn't explain why we weren't contacted. The repairs actually took place over 3 visits in a three week timeframe. 

They claimed this was an emergency in case someone fell out the window- any ideas if that would hold up in court? It was a second floor window and the screen was ripped but not missing.

Hello Sabrina,

Sounds like your management company doesn't take your relationship seriously.  Check your agreement with the management company, there should be a clause that gives both parties the right to cancel the agreement for any reason.  Most often it is a 30 day notice but some may require 60 days .  Either way, don't stay with a company if you don't fell it's working out.  Good luck

A few things...

1. Definitely reach out to them directly to get answers.

2. Check your PM contract to see if the contract allowed the PM to mark up your repairs (that could be part of the total cost).

3. For $1,000 you probably could have gotten a brand new window installed (again not sure of the size but for a residential window repair that seems ridiculous)

4. A screen does not prevent someone from falling out of a window.  If the window was broken, the PM should have notified you immediately upon their notification by the tenant, advised the tenant to keep the window closed until the repair was done and should have then discussed pricing with you and gotten your approval.  

I am not an attorney (disclaimer) but if your contract states they must have your consent to spend anything over $500 and they failed to get your consent, I can't see how a judge would not see things in your favor.  

I have been through this before.  I paid off the mortgage on my properties and decided it was time to hire a property management company and take life a bit easier.  Before they were hired, I would do turns in 1 to 2 days.  I always had the new tenant ready by the time the old tenant moved out, did repairs and any cleaning and got the new tenant in.  When I hired the property management company, they went 4 months or longer without finding tenants for vacancies.  I also was getting billed outrageous amounts for repairs that they said were being done.  I was living out of the state at the time so I made a visit to the properties and arranged to have my father, a CPA, come and do an audit of their books for my account at the property management company.  This is what we found.  Vinyl being replaced in a duplex unit:  Only part of the original floor was replaced with a totally different kind of vinyl laid along side of the original vinyl.  The original vinyl was an off grey brick pattern and the new  vinyl that was replaced, under a table area where chairs had ripped the floor, was a greenish yellow flower pattern..It was awful.  The audit of the books showed why my repairs were so high.  For one unit that had 8 windows where the blinds were changed,  they had charged me for 36 blinds.  Since none of the other 11 units in my portfolio got new blinds, we learned that they were used in someone else's property and I paid for them.  So I tried to cancel the contract and they sued.  I showed up with evidence and the judge ruled against me.  I had to pay the balance of the contract to get my properties back.  It was a terrible experience, which I  now realize that I am not over yet even though it has been many years ago.

So I started a software company for property management to make it easy for landlords to manage their own units. That solved the problems.    

Suggestions: If you have a clause that allows you to give notice and get out of the contract, I recommend that you do that immediately.  Also if you choose to fight this charge, your documents will be your friend.  If you can prove that they did not notify you properly, you may win in court, but that will probably not get you any money.  It will get you the ability to fire them without having to pay their fee.  But the judge will probably rule that you owe the bill unless they did something provably wrong. The easiest solution seems to me to call the vendor directly and see why this "screen" replacement was so outrageously expensive. If  you find fraud, that is another issue and can actually be reported to police.  Good luck.  Please do post what you decide and the outcome.

Come on. No screen is an emergency and the Property Manager should have contacted you. Even if there is an emergency, they should deal with the emergency and then call you as soon as possible. It sounds like they didn't contact you at all but just sent you a bill. You can easily replace an entire window for $500.

Write up your complaint with and cite the specific clauses they've violated. Demand termination and full justification for the cost or you will sue them in Small Claims for damages.

In the meantime, find a new Property Manager. You can start by going to www.narpm.org and search their directory of managers. These are professionals with additional training and a stricter code of ethics. It's no guarantee but it's a good place to start.

1. Ask how many units they manage and how much experience they have. If it's a larger organization, feel free to inquire about their different staff qualifications.

2. Review their management agreement. Make sure it explicitly explains the process for termination if you are unhappy with their services, but especially if they violate the terms of your agreement.

3. Understand the fees involved and calculate the total cost for an entire year of management so you can compare the different managers. It may sound nice to pay a 5% management fee but the extra fees can add up to be more than the other company that charges 10% with no add-on fees. Fees should be clearly stated, easy to understand, and justifiable. If you ask the manager to justify a fee and he starts hemming and hawing, move on or require them to remove the fee. Don't be afraid to negotiate!

4. Review their lease agreement and addendums. Think of all the things that could go wrong and see if the lease addresses them: unauthorized pets or tenants, early termination, security deposit, lease violations, late rent, eviction, lawn maintenance, parking, etc.

5. Don't just read the lease! Ask the manager to explain their process for dealing with maintenance or problem tenants. If they are professional, they can explain this quickly and easily. If they are VERY professional, they will have their processes in writing as verification that it is enforced equally and fairly by their entire staff.

6. Ask to speak with some of their current owners and current/former tenants. You can also check their reviews online at Google, Facebook, or Yelp. Just remember: most negative reviews are written by problematic tenants. The fact they are complaining online might be an indication the property manager dealt with them properly so be sure to ask the manager for their side of the story.

I hope this basic guide helps. If you have specific questions about property management, I'll be happy to help!