11 Problems Only Property Managers Have

by | BiggerPockets.com

Property managers play a unique role in the world, interfacing as we do between real estate investors and tenants, contractors and city officials, home-seekers and real estate agents. Few people get the chance to see the good—and bad!—sides of people from so many different socioeconomic levels, employment types, and motivation levels. The results are often painful—but even more often, in retrospect, hysterical. See how many of these you recognize!

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11 Problems Only Property Managers Have

1. The Case of the Non-Present Money

How many times have you seen a tenant rocking a new iPad or even a new car just after Christmas—and then pay late on rent because all of their cash went toward presents for their friends and family? On the one hand, yes, we know that Christmas does actually work that way sometimes, but seriously, don’t you think it would be wise to maybe ask for help paying your rent?

2. The Incredible Transforming Applicant

This is the end result of poor tenant screening—or perfectly good tenant screening with a tiny bit of bad luck. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do once your rock-solid-seeming tenant has turned into a monster is find the most efficient way to cut your losses.


3. The Prodigal Brother’s Dog?

There are a few often-repeated excuses we get when we find a pet in a home that doesn’t have a pet on the lease. The most common of them is, “It’s not mine, but the owner will get back any day now!”—and a complete pile. Pets aren’t allowed without a pet deposit, period. If your brother wants you to watch his dog while he’s on vacation, you call us and you get that pet added to your lease, and you submit a pet deposit. Sorry, Fido!

4. The Case of the Vanishing Social Life

There’s nothing quite like your third or fourth Friday night in a row spent elbow-deep in someone else’s broken plumbing or sputtering heater, especially when your family and friends are patiently waiting for their turn to be the focus of your attention. This is when knowing some trustworthy repairmen can really be helpful.

5. Late Date and Irate

It’s amazing just how many ways a tenant can accidentally show you that they may have more money on hand than their late rent would indicate. The question is, how aggressive do you get in pursuing that late rent? After all, those Amazon boxes may have been paid for several weeks ago and just shipped overseas from China. Right?

6. When You Don’t Even Know

You are about to enter another dimension—a dimension not just of sight or of sound, but of pure inexplicable chaos. This is the Tenant Zone! No, seriously, you don’t even know how much you don’t even know until you walk into a situation you thought made sense over the phone and find that the maintenance issue you thought you could fix with a green scrubby and some WD-40 turns out to be something that the laws of physics cannot explain. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

7. Lawyer Money Comes from a Different Wallet

Admittedly, the only real “problem” here is not laughing in the faces of the agitated evictees who throw threats like this at us—but hey, sometimes that’s hard!

8. TFW They Want The Whole Security Deposit Back And…

“Did I say wear and tear? I meant it was like this when I moved in. Honest!”


9. We Didn’t Let You…

Subletting may sound like something that medieval physicians did with a special variety of leech, but it’s actually much, much more disturbing than that—doubly so when your tenant is collecting rent from a tenant of their own and isn’t actually living at their listed address at all!

10. It’s Just an Uncooked Meal

One of the reasons why contract lawyers come at such a premium is that they can, hopefully, prevent situations where a single reasonably-misinterpreted word or phrase can mean the difference between a lease going off OK and a lease going to court and wasting everyone’s time and energy.

11. But I’m Only One Day Late

How is anyone supposed to get the idea that rent is due on the first if you always give them until the fifth before any consequences actually land on their heads? This is why our lease explicitly refers to the grace period as a privilege that can and will get taken away if it’s abused. That way, we never (OK, rarely) end up in this situation.

So, what do you think of our breakdown? Did we miss any commonplace situations that you think would fit in on this list?

Let us know in the comments!

About Author

Drew Sygit

Drew is the manager of Royal Rose Property Management, a fairly high-tech solution for Detroit Metro area property owners & investors.


    • Drew Sygit

      @JUSTIN SMITH: Yeah, and that gets ugly when one of the income-earners splits and the remaining one can’t afford the rent on their own, but claims they have nowhere to go and you’re heartless for tossing them and the kids on the street.

  1. Bernie Neyer

    Very entertaining article.

    The bit about the brother’s dog is spot on, sorry for the double entendre, but you need to watch out for other kinds of animals.

    Even though our contract says no pets allowed without a pet agreement and no dogs, cats or exotic animals one tenant claimed to be keeping a rabbit for a family member. I never could catch them with the animal, but did see the hutch.

    Rabbits will eat everything in sight. It ate the carpet and pad, and then the tenant tried to claim the vacuum did it and wanted me to buy a new vacuum claiming the carpet ruined it. After we got her out, we found Pot, which was probably the root of the problems with her.

    We also don’t give any grace period. The rent is due on the first, late on the second with late fees applying. We require them to contact us prior to the first if they are going to be late, and tell us when we will receive the rent. We remind them late fees apply and what they will be if we receive the rent when they say.

    If we haven’t received the rent or been contacted by the second we call them and ask, even leaving voice mail if they don’t answer, asking where the rent was. If they have a valid excuse, death, illness, etc., we can wave the late fees.

    If after all this they haven’t paid the rent or contacted us, we serve the premises with a 3 Day Pay Rent or Quit notice. That usually gets their attention.

    • Drew Sygit

      @SARAH P.: We allow a 5 day Grace Period as we’ve found local judges don’t look favorably on late fees tied to leases with a grace period.

      But… we had a tenant teach us a lesson several years ago when, they argued with us their rent was due on the 5th of the month, not the 1st. When we pointed out the Due Date language on our lease, they replied that since there was no penalty until after the 5th, that their rent was then realistically due by the 5th.

      As we couldn’t argue with their logic, we changed our lease to state that the Grace Period is a revocable benefit. While unfortunately, this means nothing to lower demographic tenants living paycheck-to-paycheck, it has helped curtail late payments with most other tenants when we remind them their Grace Period may be revoked if they consistently pay after the Due Date of the 1st.

  2. Shawn Johnson

    Great article Drew! I’m a fellow PM company owner and understand all of these with personal experience…now my staff does too. I really like your late fee perspective, even though we won’t be changing ours. It’s an interesting take. We have a 0 day grace period and the late fee hits at midnight on the second. I figure they have 30 day prior to figure it out. Once again great article!

  3. Reshawn Lee

    We are full time W-2 investors with 2 property managers. While there is a standard lease agreement in the state of Texas, they have different styles that allow us to learn from them both.

    1. Video the property before the tenant moves in. Make the tenat aware of the video.
    2. If you are managing property for others, encourage the property owner to purchase a home warranty. Fidelity has worked well for us.
    3. Require a large non-refundable surprise pet or subletting fee EX: $2,0000.
    4. Require all leases to end by the 15th of June in order to get a new tenant before school starts.

    • Drew Sygit

      @RESHAWN LEE: All great ideas! We follow all of them in our own way:) Also take a MoveOut Video after tenant has moved out.

      BTW: Check your state laws, because in Michigan, if we plan to use a video as evidence against a tenant, we are legally required to give them a copy.

  4. Joel Gierbolini on

    I am from the Miami area and hopefully soon ill by a multiplex this year. Does anyone know a good property management company in the Orlando and Kissimmee, FL area?

  5. Charles Beaumont

    I am a licensed RE Agent in Atlanta Ga. I have an opportunity to manage a 20 property rental portforlio for an investor. Do I need to have a Brokers License to legally manage the properties or could I act under the license of my Broker? I have my own company established as an LLC and would like to utilize my own business accounts rather than do everything under my Brokers company name etc. Any suggestions or advice would be greatly appreciated as to the best way to structure things. Thank you in advance!

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