How We’ve Improved Our Tenant Delinquency With Custom Automation

by | BiggerPockets.com

This is part of a series of automation projects we’ve implemented for our buy-and-hold real estate business. This post will show you how we’ve automated our delinquency report and follow up with delinquent tenants.

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Delinquency Report

We have a bunch of mobile home and land properties that serve the lower-income demographic who consistently live paycheck-to-paycheck. As we’ve accumulated more and more properties, the tasks of following up with delinquent tenants, setting and managing payment plans, and handling the whole process of filing evictions through eventually having the sheriff involved (if necessary) to escort the tenant out became too much for me to do. So I outsourced it to a couple people on my team.

This was better (for me!), but it’s still a tough task. We use Appfolio as our property management software, and it has a delinquency report that is fairly customizable. It’s good about showing all tenants who owe more than $x amount, but I wanted to see a report of everyone we’re evicting, those recommended for eviction, and those who are delinquent but not yet recommended for eviction.

tenant-screening-tips

Related: 4 Practical Ways to Increase Tenant Happiness (& Quality)

With some custom automation, we have a script that does just this. It runs three mornings per week and posts three lists like I previously mentioned into Slack (our hub for team communication). It also includes any tags (like information on a payment plan), as well as a link to their Appfolio tenant page.

Here’s a quick sample of what it looks like:

Currently Evicting:

  • John Red (101 Main St) owes $750 (1.5x monthly rent); last payment $500 on 10/1/17; promised to pay $300 every 2 weeks beginning 1/1/2018; link to tenant page

Recommend for Eviction:

  • William Orange (102 Main St) owes $700 (1.4x monthly rent); last payment $500 on 10/5/17; hasn’t responded to texts or emails; link to tenant page

Delinquent but not yet Evicting:

  • Susan Yellow (103 Main St) owes $250 (0.5x monthly rent); last payment $250 on 12/1/17; link to tenant page

The “x monthly rent” number above is the tenant’s balance owed divided by his monthly rent. Our rents vary from $150 per month for lot renters (own their own home but are renting the land from us) up to $1,000. By seeing the number of months late instead of just balance owed, you can identify your problem tenants more quickly. For example, a lot renter who pays $150 per month but owes $450 is generally in a more problematic situation than the tenant who pays $1,000 per month but owes $500.

The script as we have it set up looks at the number of months late, day of the month that the script ran, last payment amount and date, and whether or not we have a button checked that we’re evicting a tenant.



Related: What to Do When Your Tenant Drives Through the Living Room

Contacting Delinquent Tenants

It’s important to persistently contact delinquent tenants to remind them that rent is due and that an eviction is in progress or upcoming.  Several reminders per month spread out over emails and text messages have led to more tenants contacting us to schedule payment plans leading to fewer tenants leaving or evicted.

Here’s an outline of our automation:

  • Appfolio is configured to send out reminder emails a couple times per month.  
  • We have up to two text messages sent out when late fees begin and when the eviction is upcoming based on the day of the month and amount owed asking the tenants to contact us to schedule a payment plan.  
  • We send out a text message when the tenant’s name appears on the recommend for eviction list (sent at most once per month) reminding them to contact us before we begin the eviction.

In the meantime, we’re also contacting manually anybody who hasn’t responded to our messages.

  • We send out a text message when a tenant bounces a payment (and lock out their online Appfolio account until they discuss the situation with us).
  • We lock out their online Appfolio account automatically when they’re a few days away from their eviction court date so that any payments made must be in certified funds.
  • We also send tenants a text message near their court date offering cash for keys (we give them money in exchange for them leaving the home in good condition).

I hope this gives you some good ideas to improve your delinquency. Please don’t feel like you need Appfolio or Slack to do this. Reach out to me if you’d like assistance in getting this set up.

What steps have you taken to automate your tenant management?

Comment!

About Author

Aaron Kinney

Aaron Kinney has been investing in mobile home and land properties since 2011. He writes about this occasionally at MobileHomeEbook.com and helps real estate businesses implement automation at SelahSoftware.com.

13 Comments

    • Darin Anderson

      AppFolio is targeting larger multi-family customers. For smaller independent landlords it seems price prohibitive to me. A couple years ago they used to be $1.00 per door per month with a $200 minimum and $400 on boarding fee. They have since raised their prices to $1.25 per door per month with a $250 minimum and a minimum $400 on boarding fee.

      It seems like a nice system but they are charging you for 200 doors minimum even if you only have 10 or 20.

      • Aaron Kinney

        Hey Darin,

        You’re right that Appfolio is expensive. We made the switch to Appfolio around 40 doors and have made it more cost-effective as we’ve grown. I like it as it’s the most feature-rich plus they constantly improve it.

        But if I was starting over, I would probably use Cozy.co.

    • Christopher Rankin

      Hey Margie,

      As said before Appfolio is expensive if you have a smaller portfolio. Property is a cheap alternative but in my opinion not nearly as good but it’s more than adequate for most needs.

      I’ve spent the last 7 years building property management automations just like the process described by Aaron. I’ve developed a platform specifically for solving these types of issues and we can integrate with Excel or any other tool you’re using to manage your portfolio. My current customers have as little as 1500 units and as many as 10,000. But our tools work for very small operations as well. The cost to you would only be $25/month.

  1. Dave Rav

    Hey, awesome post Aaron! Thanks for sharing your experiences with managing tenant delinquency and the automation behind one system’s methods.

    I own a small MHP and have been experiencing some of the things you mentioned. Though I dont use a software program, I still try to automate my process for following up as much as possible. Unfortunately, I rely heavily on mailed letters. This can be a pain, as its not instant in its production and delivery (like a text). I have be sure I am at my computer to generate the letter (not merely my smartphone), print the letter (now, I do use templates so I just need to input the tenant’s name then print), and place in stamped envelope. Then drop it in the mail. However, I think the letters make a greater statement than any text or phone could. Letters come across highly “official” to the tenant. Its something about that written word on a piece of paper. The lack of personal touch, sometimes gets a deadbeat, apathetical, or otherwise unresponsive tenant to act. Texts and calls can easily be ignored. I have had two instances in the last 2 weeks where tenants CALLED ME after receipt of the letter. They were definitely on the defensive and ready to resolve the issue.

    Something else I’ve done is mailed tenants a blank copy of the eviction form with only their name on it (to SHOW them we are strongly considering eviction and all we need to do is finishing completing the form). When one sees an official county document, they tend to act quickly. Upon receiving the eviction form, I once had a tenant pay me next day full rent plus $200 in fees and admin costs. Thats effective.

    In my experience, its just been powerful and effective. Despite its inconvenience. One major thing is i wish the postal service could get it to my tenants quicker (24 hours or less). I have even tried to obtain prepaid 2nd day postage, that I could affix at home. It doesn’t exist! I guess I could try one of those home postage systems or whatever.

    • Christopher Rankin

      There’s two ways this can be done from Propertyware.
      1. Generate a report and get the API link. The API link can be a .CSV or .JSON document which you can then use to automate email or text messages to your tenants.
      2. Use Propertyware’s SOAP API. Better if you have lots of units. I mean over 1000 units.

      I’ve spent the past 7 years building automations for property management operations. I’ve automated the entire leasing and work order cycle using Propertyware for up to 10,000 units. I could help you if you’re interested set up an automated alert system.

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