Property Management: How Important is Documentation?

Ever pay a bill twice because you forgot to record the payment?  Or come to tax time and couldn’t find that donation receipt from last summer?   There is no substitute for good documentation and accurate record keeping. 

Tracking monthly rent payments is just part of property management.  At renewal time, the Landlord will want to know if their tenant has always paid rent on time.  Did a rent payment ever return for insufficient funds?  How many days late was the tenant in paying rent?

What about other documentation.  It has been said the faintest ink is better than the strongest memory. 

Let’s take that a step further – if you can photograph it, do so.  There are apps for your smart phone that will date stamp a photo.  Why?  Date stamped photos are hard to refute when it comes to tenant damage.

You’ll want to advise your client to document condition of their property prior to the tenant’s move in.  Is the mailbox rusty?  Refrigerator clean?  All light bulbs working?  Take photos of what’s good and what’s not.  A good property manager will take 200+ photos of a property to document move in condition.  This level of detail is key if a tenant damages the property and your client expects to use their security deposit to make repairs.

At move out, it’s time to document condition again.  Photograph and write down observations.  What has changed?

Other things to document – Does the lease list all the occupants of the house?  How many pets there are?  How many vehicles should be on site?  Checking the property against good records can reveal lease violations such as “guests” that have moved in, unauthorized pets, or extra vehicles.  Your client will want to agree with their tenant about what is allowed and document violations.

The Professional Property Manager should use good documentation and accurate record keeping to protect your client and their asset.  Look for one that already has the systems in place to create and utilize good documentation and record keeping.

Guest contributor Marye Davenport, Property Management Director 3G Properties