Everyone at a Property Management Company is a Detective

Property managers have a particular set of skills….

A man with a dog inspecting an old couch.Here are a couple of short anecdotes of times when someone at our property management company had to do some genuine detective work in order to fulfill a role that seems like it should be a fairly straightforward set of tasks — just to show you the surprising mental demands that our industry can put on even its entry-level employees.

Where’s the Owner?
Our Maintenance Department had a bid that they obtained from a contractor, and the next step in the process is to inform the owner that we have a bid, and get them to approve or decline it. This particular owner had no physical address, no phone number in the US (which meant we couldn’t send them text messages), no voicemail box set up, wasn’t answering their phone, and wasn’t answering their email.

Weeks went by, and we accumulated several iterations of “we called, we emailed, still no response” notes in the Work Order history. Finally, in desperation, the person managing that Work Order turned to the Internet. She looked up the owner’s name and discovered that it was too common to narrow down. She looked up the phone number we had for the owner and it was unlisted. Finally she looked up the email address and discovered that it was associated with a specific business based in Malaysia.

So, she used Google Translate to get an English copy of the company’s website, and searched through it for mention of the owner by name. She got lucky in that the owner in question was the vice president of the company, and from the company’s “about us” page, she got an updated email that successfully connected her to the owner. We got the bid approval, and the work finally moved forward — but only because of the amateur sleuthing of someone whose stated job is managing projects, not Sherlockery.

Who Pays for the Garbage Can?
Our Tenant Liaison (T/L) got a call from a new tenant asking us to pay the city’s fee for bringing a new garbage can to their new residence. Normally, this is a simple matter: our lease states clearly that our tenants pay for their own garbage cans. But this tenant was a take-over from a different property management company, and had never signed a Royal Rose lease.

So, our T/L looked up our records for a copy of the lease that the tenant had signed with their previous landlord. She found it, but it was a scanned copy and it was particularly blurry on one half of one page, right in the middle of the ‘tenant’s responsibilities’ section. She then called the previous landlord and asked them for a fresh, electronic copy of their lease. When she received it, she looked it over and discovered that it didn’t mention the issue of paying for garbage cans at all.

The next place to look was, of course, the law. The T/L grabbed an electronic copy of the Michigan Compiled Laws as well as a few documents put out by the Michigan Legislature that deal with landlord/tenant relationships. Unfortunately, garbage cans aren’t covered in the law (that she could find), so the effort she went to was fruitless.

Finally, the T/L turned to precedent — she searched our records for the last time that a tenant hadn’t paid for a trash can (which is not an easy thing to do). She discovered that, predictably, we had gotten a blight ticket from the city for having trash outside of a can at the curb, and we had charged that tenant the cost of the ticket. They had paid it, and then smartly had paid for the trash can they needed. When she presented the tenant she was currently handling with that scenario, he understood that he wasn’t in a position to make the demand he was making, and paid for his own trash can.

Who’s the Real Landlord?
While processing a rental application, one of our Application Admins tried to do a verification of rent call – a normal part of their job. Before calling they looked up the owner in public records, which happened to be an LLC. So, when they called the landlord on the rental application they asked several open-ended questions to verify they were speaking to the actual owner or their manager. Well, the person they spoke to didn’t seem to know anything about the property or the “owner LLC” and actually hung up. This led our admin doing their best Sherlock Holmes inspired work – they looked up the LLC online and found the business address. They looked up the business address and found it was the address of one of management competitors that we have a good professional relationship with, who they called and found out they were not only managing the property, they were evicting the tenant that had applied with us. When they confronted the applicant with this information, the applicant stated they send us proof they weren’t being evicted and then we never heard from them again.

These aren’t quite everyday occurrences around here, but they’re far more commonplace than you might expect. This is why Property Managers have to hire intelligent people that are dedicated to solving problems instead of just passing the buck — because everyone at a Property Management company has to be a detective.

Posted in: 1. Property Owner Blog Posts, Hiring Property Manager, Managing Rentals

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