No, I’m not saying that property management rocks. In fact it quite often sucks. What I’m saying is that there are rocks (noun) for property management, and for everything you do in life.
There’s a great video of Stephen Covey putting rocks, sand a pebbles into a jar. The only way it’s all going to fit is to start with the big rock first. If you do that one thing, everything else will fit.
For property management, I have a very simple rock.
We provide homes for people.
Everything else I do fits into that somehow. In particular, it’s the one thing that gave me a 100% success rate when taking cases to the Residential Tenancies Dispute Resolution Service (RTDRS or just DRS). We’re providing a home for someone, and if we as investors, landlords and property managers take that to heart, we’ll understand how all the other people fit into the picture, as well as running our own business in a more sustainable, more ethical way.
When I take an issue with a tenant to DRS, no matter how poorly they’ve behaved or how much rent they owe, I walk in the room knowing that we’re providing them a home, and we’ll give them a fair chance to make it their home. There’s a basic, universal set of rules people will agree on, and if everyone understands my Rock, we’re all much more apt to obey the rules.
My Secret to Winning at RTDRS
People are allowed to stay, provided they agree to pay. That’s what the rock looks like when I’m in the hearing room. I don’t have any hard rules about when they have to pay, as long as it’s reasonable. Usually it involves making bi-monthly payments on their pay period, as much as they’re comfortable paying often about 130% of their monthly rent. That gets most people caught up in 2-3 months. I ask for an order stating that, as well as a Cinderella order stipulating the payment of monthly rent on time for as long as the hearing officer will give it.
That’s really it. Once they’ve agreed to pay on time, we’re all in an agreement that meets the rock. We provide a home for them, and they agree to make reasonable payments. It’s crystal clear what will happen if they don’t pay; they’ll have to leave. Because we have an order, once they miss a payment, even by a day, I call a bailiff company and they go get possession, usually the same day.
Until I realized that my rock was why I always ‘won’, we’d always struggled with making evictions and making tenant behavior issues into a win-win situation. We were good at getting rid of non-payers and handling a large number of units, but it wasn’t usually a positive experience. After I started explicitly saying ‘we provide people homes, and we want to give them a fair chance to stay’ we would actually have people apologize as we’re moving their stuff out and we’re changing the locks.
We went into the hearing room having treated them as real people, better than they expected. Most tenants go into the process expecting a landlord who is going to try everything they can to have them kicked out. When they find kindness, compassion, and someone who is willing to treat them as an equal, they treat us as real people.
Our tenants are happier, our owners get more consistent cash flow and I get a little job satisfaction.