Big Challenges of Property Management: Applications Edition

People really just don’t apply themselves to their applications.’.

3D checklist for rental requirements.

When it comes to property management, every phase of the cycle has its own unique challenges. This month, we’re going to ‘go deep’ on a few of the most challenging areas of our business, talk about what our greatest challenges are, and how we’re currently trying to address them. Today, we’re going to let you in on the most significant challenge faced on the regular by our Applications Department.

How It’s Supposed to Go
In magical fairyland, each application would come in accompanied by a check for the app fee, along with the following paperwork:
• Identification (driver’s license or something equivalent),
• Income information, including paystubs, 1040 and W2/1099 forms,
• Supplemental income info such as SSI, Child Support, and other non-employment income, and
• Banking information (at minimum a completely un-redacted bank statement).

Then, the Applications Department does verifications — in other words, they contact certain people and verify the information on your application (essentially, your residential history and your employment history) with those people. They include:
• Your previous landlord(s),
• Your current and in rare cases your previous employer(s), and
• Your listed references.

The next step is to run your credit report and analyze it for signs of financial instability or shadiness, run you through our criminal background check, and calculate your debt-to-income ratio to make sure that you’re making enough money to pay your rent without too much strain.

If you pass all of that, you’re in! But there’s one more wrinkle: if you don’t pass all that, you’re not necessarily out. We absolutely will give you the chance to explain almost any negative aspect of your application, and if we believe the explanation suffices, we will waive that requirement. We’re pretty strict about it, but we do understand that everyone has some weirdness in their lives, and we won’t penalize you by default if your weirdness happens to be your employment history or even your criminal background.

The Challenge: Getting Documentation
Once again, as with the Maintenance Department last week, the Applications Department’s biggest challenge is that a startling number of our applicants will turn in some of the documentation that we ask for, but not all of it. And then they will ignore us for weeks on end while we repeatedly leave them messages or emails asking for the parts they’ve missed. Often, when we do finally get ahold of them, they will shout at us about how we’re making this all too difficult and they don’t want to work with us anymore.

We used to believe that this was a problem with our applicants — we assumed that the major reason why someone would refuse to give us an un-redacted bank statement is that they had something to hide, for example. But we’ve recently come to realize that the problem isn’t with our applicants…it’s with our communication. The Applications Department has a habit of letting people leave messages rather than answering the phone, and of replying to messages without a lot of urgency.
What we’ve learned is that if we don’t show urgency in getting your application processed, neither will you.

What We Do About It
Our Applications Department could definitely still use a bit of improvement on its phone game, we admit. But over the past couple of months, they’ve gotten significantly more aggressive about letting people know when (and how) their applications are incomplete, and about telling them exactly what we need in order to continue moving forward.

We still get plenty of applications that never get finished — but that’s something that happens to every property manager. Sometimes, people just find another house they like better, and there’s nothing you can do but shrug and keep processing those applications that are pouring in.

Posted in: 1. Property Owner Blog Posts, Finding Tenants, Screening Tenants

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