Landlords: How to Deal with a Negligent Property Manager

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I have to admit that the words Property Manager cause my heart to skip a beat or two.  Since the beginning of time, the landlord/property manager relationship has been one of trial and tribulation, punctuated by moments of true cashflow actually getting to the landlord.  

For first time landlords who choose to use a property manager, the questions they ask and the decisions they make regarding selecting a property manager, will make the difference between their success and failure.

A very intensive discussion over on the BiggerPockets Forum is what got me thinking about property managers: New landlord, problems already, need help!

The story goes something like this… a new landlord hires a property manager.  The property manager claims to be legit, finds good tenants (yeah right), claims tenants aren’t paying the rent, and then it goes down hill from there. 

Back in February of this year I wrote an article that focused on hiring property managers, titled Landlords: 8 Tips for Hiring the Best Property Manager.  Please read the entire article and the comments; they are a wealth of information.

While this article might have assisted this new landlord to select a more effective property manager, that doesn’t do much to assist this new landlord now.

The discussions on the forum post above provide a great source of information for any landlord, regarding what to do if they find themselves in a similar situation.  And, while I don’t want to diminish in any way the insight offered via the many posts, there are a few additional recommendations I would like to add to ensure you as the owner/new landlord get control of the tenant and their actions immediately.

How to Deal with a Negligent Property Manager

  1. Fire the property manager as soon as you are convinced that they are NOT doing their job.  To do this follow your agreement with the property manager; it BETTER provide very clear guidance on how to get out of that agreement.  Send the notice via both First Class and Certified Return Receipt Requested mail.  Be sure to require your newly fired PM to provide you with all of the files on every tenant they are managing for you.
  2. If you are going to take over the management of these tenants, send them a letter identifying yourself as the new property manager.  (You can introduce yourself as the owner, but sometimes it is better to have the tenants believe you are the new property manager).  This letter gets sent First Class and Certified.  Make sure to inform the tenants where future rents should be sent and when those rents are due.  Follow the lease to the letter.
  3. If you are going to hire a new property manager, (first be sure to read the article managed above) ensure that your new manager executes just like you expect.  These actions start with number 4 below.
  4. Don’t assume the old PM has performed any of their duties.  Everything should be up for review, including total rents paid, all agreements, all inspections, and so on.
  5. Schedule an onsite Safe and Clean inspection as soon as possible.  It is imperative that the tenants put both a name and a face with the new manager.  Again, follow the existing lease regarding access to the property.  This inspection allows for that critical first meeting and allows you or the property manager to see the existing condition of the property as well as it gives the opportunity to convey critical contact information to the tenant.
  6. If the tenant is behind in their rent take action immediately to inform them that their rent is late.  This would include posting a Quit or Pay Notice and filing in court to commence the eviction process.  If you are unsure how this process works hire a lawyer immediately!
  7. Expect the tenants to play you or your new PM against the old PM.  Unless everything is in writing and the tenants can produce properly executed agreements follow the lease to the letter.  Don’t deviate and don’t allow exceptions at this point in time.
  8. Remember that your number one task is to fill the vacuum that could exist if your property manager was not doing their job, by letting the tenant know who is in charge and what is expected of them going forward.

One last item: the new landlord who is now getting some fantastic advice on how to proceed on the BiggerPockets Forums has every right to go after the property manager for fraud.  With that being said, I would not recommend that you take that action until… and this is critical… until you are convinced through consistent cashflow that your property is operating at its highest potential. Of course, you’ll need to confer with an attorney to verify that you have standing.

Remember your number one job as a property owner and landlord is to ensure your properties are performing at their highest potential, and chasing down a negligent property manager will only delay your cashflow.

Best of luck!

Photo: Cincy Project

About Author

Peter is an active and successful real estate investor in the Baltimore Maryland region for the past 8 years and is one of the founders of The Club Mastermind a real estate investing coaching program focused on local coaches helping investors to perfect their game.


  1. Great Post Peter,

    That thread you linked just makes my heart jump up into my throat as I read it. Man, that could have been me had I not read enough on this site to know better.

  2. I have yet to run into any landlord of more than 2 years who has not had property manager woes. Its sadly the norm rather than the exception.

    Some may believe in leprechauns and unicorns before they believe that good pm’s exist. They do exist, and when they are found, do not let them go. A good PM is worth far more than their monthly fees.


  3. I would definitely recommend hiring a property manager especially if you have many things going on. It’s true that property managers could literally be a pain, but there are some good ones out there that do a great job. I always advise people to hire a manager who’s is working for a company as you have more control over them.

    Thanks Peter,
    M Mark

  4. Hello,

    I’m new to real estate investment, but I hope to work with a property manager in the future. I really appreciate this article. I plan to do my research here so I can make the wisest decisions possible for my future and my family’s future.

  5. I wish I read this article before I hired my property manager. We hired her last year June and she seemed really nice and plus she was referred to us by some military families because she deals with military a lot. We had an agreement that we don’t want any pets in the house and we didn’t find out until the neighbors told us the tenant had a dog and a cat. I asked her and she said we agreed its negotiable on the contract which we didn’t have a copy of it. Nothing was negotiated with me. I have cat pee in my carpet my back yard has lots of holes in it from their dog it’s ridiculous what do I do?

    • I am in the middle of a huge mess because of my property manager. He rented my property to
      what he said was a great tenant, who works for Disney and makes lots of money.
      The second call from him was, “oh and the renter has two roommates”
      Third call was that the roommate was pregnant and had two dogs.
      Long story short, the original renter has moved out, no one told me. The roommates are subleasing out a room and they are pregnant again. Not only are they pregnant, they are planning a home birth.
      When I finally asked the PM for a walk through I found the yard has been left for so long it looks like homeless people live there. Vines growing up through the roof,clutter, weeds and a greenhouse where the tenants are growing peyote. Did he do inspections, I don’t think so.
      I had the yard cleaned and the tenants claimed there was mold, ok, here we go. No it is mildew because the house is not ventilated properly.I told the PM to serve them with a 60 quit notice,
      which he did then he quit. Leaving me with the legal mess, and will not give up any of the file he has. I am in the process of eviction, the renters want more time so they are claiming a disability and wanting “reasonable accommodation”
      I Just want them out.

  6. I am fed up with non paying tenants and lousy property management company. First this stupid property management company sends eviction notice to the wrong house. Then when they serve the summons they dont have both renters on the summons so court date rescheduled. Then this next time the tenants bring pictures of something that needs to be repaired and he reschedules YET AGAIN. He says the handyman should do repairs first yet that handyman has yet to be in contact with me after leaving an email on monday and a voicemail yesterday which was ignored. I the homeowner am the real victim while the other parties could obviously give a shit!

  7. I’d like to highlight to majority of landlords and freeholders to stay clear of Trinity Estates. I have had several bad experiences with these guys and they tend to work in the most unethical way. There is little transparency with access to financial statements and charges for services which either are not delivered to the agreed standards or charged for services which don’t exist. I have experienced these cowboys charging for landscaping when a property had no garden, furthermore being charged for cleaning services which would never turn up. The company is also impossible to deal with from a “management” perspective. I have called on many occasions to complain/ request etc. all communications need to happen with an “imaginary estate manage” who is supposed to call back but never does. They have furthermore hit me with excessive late payment fees whilst in dispute about some of the items mentioned earlier and issued there lawyers JB Leitch to collect fees and late payments as well as lawyer fees. All in all stay clear and save yourself a world of pain. Trinity estates are the worst company I have dealt with in 25 years of being a landlord.

  8. We are in a middle of a big problem with PM and we are from out of state. PM let a problem persists for almost two months without telling us, and is now blaming us for not acting fast enough. He told us it was not his job to deal with the owner above us. He has been manipulative, at times uncooperative just so we fire him and let him be resolve of all his responsibilities. PM very unethical and had been accused of groping our previous tenant. PM had to go to court but case was dropped/dismissed because tenant moved out. We knew about this after it happened. Does repairs we were not aware of and charges us and the tenants for repairs. We think PM wants us to give up and to sell our property at a lost so he can purchase it. He has been very difficult. We told him to be there for repairs but is giving us a hard time. So we told him to do his job. He got upset.

  9. I recently asked my property manager to hold off on renting a property. He proceeded to show it and accepted an application and a deposit with doing no checks on the tenant. I instructed him to return the deposit as the home was not for rent. He refused he will not give me a sum of amount owed to him or the application. Can I change the locks on the home legally?

  10. Pennysue munz on

    Boy was I taken. After my father died I wanted to sell his house. I was contacted by a property manager who said she had an excellent tenant for me. Went on and on about how blessed I was to have this tenant. I live in town 5 hrs. Away. I am senior citizen, handicapped, and I’ll. Without my permission or a contract in place, this manager let this women move in. After tenant moved in I was told she would not have any money until her income tax check came in. I was so upset. Again I was told this was an excellent tenant and I needed to be grateful. From there it went down hill. Tenant moved in in feb. it’s now July and things continue to go down hill. I have a lawyer, but I had been given wrong last name for tenant. An investigator had to be hired. All paowork had to be done over. Property manager said ” I am done with this”. This is still costing me a lot of money every day. This could go on for a long time to come at my expense.
    Pennysue munz

  11. I am a tenant in a commercial property space who is encountering a horrible property manager. I have been in my space while the building has changed hands 3 times and never run into any major problems dealing with property management until now. I pay my rent in full and on time. The other businesses are also having issues, so it isn’t just me. I only have one year left on this lease and I will definitely leave, but I am completely stressed out about the harassment and threats and I am looking for a way to resolve the issue. I can’t continue to be constantly threatened by defaults on things that are happening in the common space that are not my responsibility (as per lease) and eviction, especially being 8 months pregnant to boot. I own residential rental properties and as a landlord, I would want to know if this was happening to my tenants, so from my perspective there must be a reasonable way to handle this unreasonable property management company. If anyone has any suggestions, I would love to hear them. I don’t want to go to court or threaten people or be involved in anything of that nature. I simply would like to pay my rent and run my business in peace. Thanks!

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