Seven Rent Collection Tips for Better Property Management

In a perfect world collecting rent from your tenants would be simple. Every tenant would pay their rent on time, in full, without a reminder. But we don’t live in that world, and the truth is that even the best tenants can miss a rent payment. When you’re in the business of Atlanta real estate management you need rent paid on time each month to keep your business afloat. In order to avoid becoming a collections agent or facing an eviction, you need to start early in the rental cycle. Read below for our seven steps for better rent collections that will help you not only avoid evictions but will establish a great tenant-landlord relationship.

Step 1: Strict Tenant Screening

Finding a high-quality tenant starts with proper tenant screening. Every resident over the age of 18 should be screened, even if they are not responsible for paying rent. And while tenant screening cannot predict things like a job layoff, it is the best way to ensure your tenant is capable of taking care of their responsibilities. Here is what we recommend:

  • Background Check: Perform a criminal background check on every applicant. Take note of anything concerning that shows up, such as a recent felony conviction.
  • Credit Check: Property management experts will tell you less than perfect credit isn’t always a reason for concern. After all, many tenants rent while they build their credit and save in order to buy a house. However, you will want to steer clear of tenants with recent bankruptcies, auto repossessions, evictions, or anything else concerning on their credit report.
  • Employment and Income Verification: Always verify your tenant’s place of employment and their income before approving their application. As a rule of thumb your tenant should earn three times the monthly rent in order to qualify.
  • Rental History: Tenants applying for your rental should supply information about their rental history. Even if they do not have an eviction on their record, there could be other red flags. A history of late rental payments, property damage beyond normal wear and tear, or lease violations could disqualify them from renting your property.

After more than 30 years in the Atlanta real estate management business we can tell you that most evictions could be avoided with proper tenant screening. For more information on how to screen tenants visit our blog post here

Step 2: Setting Clear Expectations Upfront

You found a tenant, screened them, and now it is time for lease signing and move in. You may think the hard part is over, and now you can just sit back and collect the rent checks each month. However, before you move on, you need to set clear expectations for your tenant about rent. Turnover and evictions are often caused by simple misunderstandings between tenants and landlords, which is why we work hard to communicate clearly from the very beginning. 

When your tenant signs their lease point out things they need to know, including

  • Rent due date.
  • When rent is considered late.
  • What fees will be added to late payments.
  • Process of notifications and eviction.
  • What forms of payment are acceptable.
  • How to contact the landlord or property management company for questions or concerns about rent.

It is important to be firm but fair when discussing rent payment with your tenant. When they know exactly what to expect from the tenant-landlord relationship, you are setting yourself up for success.

Step 3: Establish Incentives

Let’s face it, paying rent is not always going to be at the forefront of your tenant’s mind. Some tenants are simply forgetful and need a little incentive to remind them. Rather than waiting until they miss a payment and hitting them with a late fee, we suggest establishing incentives for on-time payments. Our Specialized Resident Benefits Program offers savings to tenants who pay their rent on time. Tenants can save hundreds of dollars each month on things they buy every day. We find that when tenants are offered incentives like our benefit program it makes them more likely to pay their rent on time and in full every month. Talk to one of our property managers today for more information about our Specialized Resident Benefits Program.

Step 4: Technology Driven Atlanta Real Estate Management

How do you collect rent? If your tenant has to mail a rent check or deliver it to your office once a month you are living in the dark ages. Paying rent with a physical check is not only a hassle for everyone involved, it increases the time between collecting rent and receiving funds.

Cut down the barriers to quick and easy rent payment by using a technology-driven platform like our tenant portal. By logging on to their personalized tenant portal your tenant can easily pay rent, from the comfort of their own home, any time they want. No more writing out a physical check and placing it in the mail or delivering it to your office. 

Electronic payments are beneficial for property owners as well. When a tenant pays their rent online the funds are electronically deposited into the property owner’s account via ACH. The process is simple and quick and ensures your rental income is delivered on time. For more information on how we use leading technology for property management, visit our recent blog post here

Step 5: Automatic Collections Process

We recognize that even when all the steps above are followed, a tenant may still miss their rent payments. When rent is not paid on time what do you do? In order to be fair you must have a process in place before your tenant signs their lease, and clearly communicate the process to your tenant. At Specialized Property Management Atlanta every time a tenant’s rent is not paid on time it triggers an automated collections process. This process ensures tenants are given proper notice of late rent, fees, and consequences if the rent is not paid. Here is the process we use:

  • Warning of overdue rent
  • Notice 1
  • Notice 2
  • Notice 3
  • Eviction

Evictions are bad for both the tenant and the property owner, which is why we do our best to avoid them through expert property management. However, when an eviction becomes inevitable our team is respectful yet tough to ensure your investment is protected.

Step 6: Legal Expertise

Evicting a tenant is a legal process that, if not handled properly, can be costly and drag out for months. Filing and delivering the appropriate paperwork, showing up to court, and making sure you have all of your documentation in order takes time. In addition, if you are evicting a tenant for non-payment of rent, every day that your tenant remains in the property is a day you are not collecting rental income.

In order to minimize rent-free days and get your investment back up and running our Atlanta real estate management experts move through the eviction process as efficiently as possible. After over 30 years in the business, our team has the legal expertise you need to process an eviction fairly and quickly.

Step 7: Keep the Process Professional

In property management it can be difficult to separate the personal from the professional. After all, you are dealing with your tenant’s home and personal space. However, at the end of the day, owning rental property is a business and all interactions should be handled professionally. By setting expectations early, communicating clearly, and handling all issues professionally you are setting yourself and your tenants up for success. 

If you are finding it difficult to keep the professional and personal aspects of owning rental property separate it is time to hire a property manager. Our team of property managers handle every aspect of the rental cycle with ease and expertise. Whether it is collecting rent, sending late notices, or beginning the eviction process, our property managers will navigate the process effortlessly. Just look at what a few of our property owners and tenants have to say about their experience with our Atlanta real estate management company:

“This company as a whole works together and it’s so refreshing. …the showing process was seamless and the team was readily available for questions. I wish all companies worked like this one.”

– Eddie C. Google review

“I am really impressed with this organization. The communication and professionalism is beyond excellent; they are light years ahead of all of the property management companies I have done business with.”

– Andrew W. Google review

“SPM has a lot of systems and procedures in place that were lacking for me before.  I feel like if I ask a question or if my tenants do, they will be quick to respond and know what to do.  So far my experience has been good!”

– Jessica F. Google review

If you’re ready to leave the headache and hassle of managing rental property behind, give us a call. Our experienced professionals and proven processes will work to turn your investment into a success.

To request a professional Atlanta real estate management quote call us today at 404-596-8454.

How Atlanta Property Management Companies Help Landlords Avoid Legal Problems

Rental property ownership, like any investment, comes with a certain amount of risk. However, with industry knowledge and planning you can decrease that risk. Before you invest in real estate you should know what risks you could be facing, and how best to avoid them. As one of the top Atlanta property management companies we can help you avoid the legal hassles that will put your investment at risk. Read below to learn our best tips for avoiding legal problems as a landlord.

Know the Law 

When it comes to managing rental property, local, state, and federal laws abound. From your neighborhood HOA bylaws to Federal fair housing laws, it can feel like there is no end to the rules you must abide by as a rental property owner. With so many different rules and ordinances, which are often being changed, it can be difficult to keep them all straight.  But ignorance of these laws, no matter how small they seem, is not justification for breaking them.

The numerous housing laws, rules, and ordinances protect both homeowners and tenants, ensuring that neither party is treated unfairly. However, if you are found to be in violation of certain laws you could be facing steep fines. In addition, if your situation requires professional help, attorney fees can be $250 per hour or more. Being in violation of just one law could wipe out your profits for the year. Working with a professional Atlanta property management company not only helps you avoid the hassle of keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of laws and regulations, but you avoid the high cost of violations.

Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act was put into place to help those with disabilities from being discriminated against in a variety of ways. In housing, it means that Americans with disabilities must have equal access to resources and features. For example, if the only way to get into your rental property is to walk up several steps, an individual in a wheelchair will not have equal access. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that you allow tenants to install adequate access features, which in this example is a wheelchair ramp. It also allows property owners to require the tenants to put the property back into its original condition when moving out.

In addition to equal physical access, the ADA requires that Americans with an assistance animal are given equal access to housing, even if the property has pet restrictions. If an individual has an assistance animal they may request to keep their animal as a reasonable accommodation. Because the animal is not a pet, you cannot charge extra fees such as “pet rent.” 

As an experienced Atlanta property management company, Specialized Property Management Atlanta can help you navigate these types of requests and ensure you are accommodating to any potential tenants with disabilities.

Fair Housing Act

The Fair Housing Act, and other laws like it, aim to make housing fair for everyone. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development

“It is illegal to discriminate in the sale or rental of housing, including against individuals seeking a mortgage or housing assistance, or in other housing-related activities. The Fair Housing Act prohibits this discrimination because of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability.”

Fair housing laws are not only about legality, they are about common decency. As a rental property owner, you must act fairly to all prospective tenants. For examples of what housing discrimination looks like visit the Housing and Urban Development website or our recent post here

Georgia Habitability Laws

It is important to remember that while your rental property represents an investment for you, for your tenant it is a home. Your tenant should reasonably expect their home to be safe and habitable, and Georgia law requires it. Your Atlanta property management company will help you understand what this means in your unique situation and location but, generally, landlords and tenants are responsible for different aspects of home maintenance. According to the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook a landlord must “maintain the building structure; keep electric, heating, and plumbing in working order; and exercise ordinary care to keep the unit and access safe for tenants.” Tenants can expect they will be protected from the elements, have running water, plumbing, electricity, and functioning smoke detectors. In addition, they can expect that they will not be subjected to noxious smells, mold, noise, or garbage.

If your tenant brings a maintenance issue to your attention and you fail to respond you could be faced with a lawsuit, your tenant could “repair and deduct,” or they may move out and claim “constructive eviction.” All of these situations are costly and cause unnecessary tension between the landlord and tenant. The best way to avoid these adverse situations is to work with a professional Atlanta property management company. The qualified team at Specialized Property Management Atlanta works hard to ensure your property is safe and habitable for your tenants. With our 24/7 emergency call line, there will always be someone on the line to help your tenant with maintenance issues.

Licencing Requirements

It can be tempting to fix everything at your property on your own. After all, you can find instructions for just about any home maintenance project on the internet, and with a little elbow grease you can save a lot of money. Some property owners decide to hire a “handyman” who may have some practical experience but doesn’t have a license or insurance. Before you replace a toilet or install an electrical outlet, take a step back and think about the consequences. 

If something goes wrong you could be looking at property damage and a possible lawsuit. Most states require professionals, such as electricians and plumbers, to be licensed and have liability and workers comp insurance. Saving a little bit of money is not worth the liability you open yourself up to when choosing to DIY maintenance around your property. Fortunately, as your Atlanta property management company we will provide a list of vendors who perform high quality, cost-effective maintenance around Atlanta. 

Accounting Laws and Money Management

One of the most misunderstood aspects of property management is the security deposit. We often see first-time rental property owners mishandle security deposit funds, thinking it is simply part of their monthly cash flow. Security deposits serve as a protection for property owners. If a tenant moves out without notice while still owing rent, or causes property damage, the security deposit is meant to cover these costs. However, if the tenant gives proper notice, and the damage is limited to normal wear and tear the security deposit must be returned within one month.

Accounting laws dictate how security deposits should be handled, giving clear and specific instructions to property owners. Handling these funds incorrectly could result in fines up to three times the amount of the deposit. When you work with a professional Atlanta property management company like Specialized Property Management you can be sure your security deposit is kept safe and distributed correctly at the end of your tenant’s lease.

In addition to keeping track of the security deposit, property owners should keep a good record of all transactions and communications with tenants. Detailed and accurate records, including when and how you responded to requests, are invaluable to property owners. If a lawsuit is filed, these records are often pulled up as a primary source of reliable information. Make sure you keep time and date stamped records for the length of time required in your specific location.

Keeping Private Information Secure

Your tenant trusts you with their private information, such as their social security number and bank account information. While it is unlikely that you would intentionally share this sensitive information, unintentionally sharing it can lead to liability. How would you unintentionally share your tenant’s private information? It is easier than it sounds and is typically due to a lack of digital security. If you are asking your tenant to share sensitive information over the internet make sure you have a secure route to do it. Our Atlanta property management company provides a secure owner portal and tenant portal to view and share important documents, ensuring that private information stays private.  

Stay Up to Date and Vigilant

What is our best tip for avoiding legal issues as a landlord? Remaining constantly vigilant when it comes to the ever-changing landscape of property management. Understandably, many rental property owners don’t have the time or interest to stay on top of it all. Managing a rental property is a full time, nights and weekends type of job. But even if you don’t have the time or interest, you can still have a successful investment. Working with Specialized Property Management Atlanta not only reduces your legal risk, it provides you with peace of mind and a higher return on investment. 

Don’t take unnecessary risks with your investment. Trust the impeccable integrity, proven systems, and local expertise of our team of professionals. To request a professional rental management quote from the top Atlanta property management company call 404-596-8454.

Specialized Property Management Expands into Birmingham, Alabama

Specialized Property Management, has announced its expansion into Alabama. The Dallas-based rental management company continues to expand into select markets, providing unparalleled service to both individual rental property owners and large investors in Birmingham.

Six Ways Property Managers in Atlanta Reduce Vacancies

Vacancies are as much a part of owning rental property as collecting rent checks or performing maintenance. Even the best tenants with long leases will eventually move out. When you own rental property it makes sense to plan and budget for vacancies and all the costs associated with turning over your property. 

While the average rental home vacancy is over one month, some vacancies can last even longer. And every day without a new tenant is a day without rental income. That is why our Atlanta rental property management team works hard to reduce vacancy days. With help from local experts, you can reduce vacancy days and protect your investment. Read the top six ways we reduce vacancy days below.

1 – Preparing the Property for New Tenants

Putting your vacant property back on the market as soon as possible is a top priority. Or is it? Unfortunately, what many inexperienced property owners don’t know is that rushing to list your vacant property can actually make it less marketable. Always wait until your old tenant has moved out to relist your property. New tenants can be swayed by the sights, sounds, and smells of another tenant in transition. In addition, you should perform a few basic maintenance tasks before posting pictures or scheduling shows. Here is what we recommend:

  • Rekeying: Your property needs to be rekeyed after every tenant to ensure safety. This step is quick and easy, and should never be skipped. After rekeying make sure you install a lockbox to make showings easy. Our property management company uses secure electronic entry boxes to further increase safety. 
  • Improvements: If your property needs improvements, such as putting on a new roof, now is the time to schedule them. We do not recommend showing the house while making repairs or improvements. Our professional property managers in Atlanta will help you identify areas that need improvement, repairs, or just a little bit of attention.
  • Cleaning: Give your rental property a deep clean, including shampooing the carpets and washing the windows inside and out. You never get a second chance at a first impression so make sure your property looks its best before putting it on the market.

If you are new to owning rental property, it is important to make sure your rental is up to code according to the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook. Your property manager will help you understand what this means for your property specifically. In addition, we perform periodic inspections to ensure the property continues to meet local, state, and federal standards. That way, when it comes time to put your property back on the market you already know it is up to code. With experienced property managers getting your rental property ready for new tenants is efficient and thorough.

2 – Expert Property Managers in Atlanta Set Accurate Rent Rates

Most property owners know setting your property’s rent rate too high is one cause of an extended vacancy. But did you know that setting the rate too low can also be bad for business? A rent rate that accurately reflects the current market conditions will lead to fewer vacancy days and more profit. Here is how it works:

  • Too low: Many inexperienced property owners think if they price their rental significantly lower than competing properties it will reduce vacancy days. Even when this plan works out, which it does not always do, these property owners aren’t getting the full value of their investment.
  • Too high: As we stated above, pricing your rental too high leads to extended vacancy days. An extended vacancy means that even if you do end up renting at a higher rate the money you lost due to the vacancy is not offset by the higher rent.
  • Just right: Our expert Atlanta rental property management team will look at what your property has to offer, compare it to other local properties, and help you set a rent rate that will bring you high-quality tenants quickly, without missing out on profit. Without professional evaluation by a local expert, you could be missing out on investment income, or setting yourself up for an extended vacancy.

3 – Aggressive Advertising In Local and National Outlets

Once your rental property is prepped and priced how do you attract high-quality tenants? When you only advertise on a few websites or with a simple sign in the yard you are limiting your reach. Not only will it mean fewer applicants to choose from, it will take longer to receive any applications at all. Our team of leasing experts use yard signage in addition to advertising across dozens of websites. We list your rental property on popular real estate websites applicants from all over the world visit. We also use local advertising methods including posting your property on our own rental listing page. The bottom line is, the more exposure your rental property gets, the less time it will sit vacant.

4 – Shorten Response Time By Using Property Managers in Atlanta 

When it comes to learning the details of a property or scheduling a showing, tenants don’t like to wait around. The longer a tenant has to wait the more likely they are to move on and find another property. For some tenants, waiting even 24 hours for a response is enough to make them move on. That is why it is imperative that you respond quickly to requests for information and showings.

This can be difficult for property owners who manage their own rental properties. With daily responsibilities like a full-time job and family, managing a rental property often has to take a back seat. Property owners who hire professional property managers lease their properties faster because there is always someone on call to answer questions and schedule showings. 

At Specialized Property Management Atlanta we not only have managers on call daily to answer questions, we include a number that potential tenants can call or text on the yard sign for more info. When an individual contacts our property managers for a showing we work hard to schedule the showing with one of our experienced agents as quickly as possible. Short response times by our Atlanta rental property management team reduces vacancy days and increases the number of applicants so you can pick the best one.

5 – Collecting Applications and Screening Tenants

How do you choose the best tenant for your property? And what does picking a tenant have to do with reducing vacancy days? Experienced property managers will tell you picking the right applicant is one of the most important parts of owning rental property. With the work you put into your property before and during the leasing process, you should have multiple applicants to choose from. Your property manager will collect applications and set to work screening immediately. While screening applicants is not a process you want to skip or take shortcuts in, when you know how to properly screen an applicant you can expedite the process. Tenant screening should always include the following:

  • Criminal background check
  • Credit check
  • Employment history
  • Income verification
  • Rental history

Our team knows how to screen applicants quickly and thoroughly so you can pick the best tenant for your property and get them in their new home faster.

6 – Managing Lease Signing and Move-In

Comprehensive Atlanta rental property management should always include lease signing and move-in procedures. After screening applicants and choosing the right one the leasing documents must be created quickly, so there is no delay in move-in. Having an experienced property manager on your side will help this process move quickly and efficiently, without cutting any corners or making costly mistakes. Our property managers speed the process further by providing secure owner and tenant portals available 24/7.

Property managers prepare leasing documents that are specific to your property. The lease should include information like when the rent is due and who is responsible for lawn care. At lease signing your property manager will review the lease with the tenant to ensure they understand their responsibilities. In addition, your property manager will perform a move-in inspection taking note of any maintenance issues and answering any questions your new tenant may have. With an experienced property manager handling lease preparation and move-in procedures, you can reduce vacancy days and start off your tenant-landlord relationship on a good foot.

Get Unsurpassed Service with the Top Property Managers in Atlanta

While all of our vacancy reduction tips are worthwhile, the only way to really ensure you reduce vacancy days is to work with the experienced professionals at Specialized Property Management Atlanta. Our team has the experts you need on hand to make the most of your investment. Just check out this recent Google review:

“Specialized Property Management has been very instrumental in vetting and placing qualified tenants into my rental property. Communication with the whole Specialized team is second to none. I would recommend Specialized Property Management to anyone looking to rent out their property with very little time spent empty.”

– property owner Manny B

With unsurpassed service you can be sure your rental property and tenants are well taken care of, saving you time and money at every stage of the leasing cycle

To learn more or schedule a professional rental management quote call 404-596-8454.