60 Questions to Ask Before Hiring A Property Manager

1. Will I have one specific property manager? Who will be my property manager?

You want to know who will be your specific property manager and know their name.

2. How long have you been a property manager?

The length of time is important to know. However, a strong company ethos coupled with employees who care, can out perform any service a veteran of the industry will provide if he no longer finds joy in his work.

3. How many units do you manage?

Size can be a benefit, it can also be a detriment.  The most important aspect to consider is a ratio of staff to doors.  Also, if you are interviewing a single operator or a mom and pop outfit, be sure to find out who handles tenant issues and turnovers while they are on vacation or sick?

4. What is the average length that clients stay with you?

When clients remain with a property manager for longer than a couple of years, it usually means they are pleased with the service.

5. Do you just manage or do you sell too?

This is an important question.  Many property managers are active licensed agents.  This can be a conflict of interest.

6 What do you offer that sets you apart from other companies?

You want them to sell themselves, to tell you what they do differently from other companies. Remember, this is an interview for both parties.

7. How often do you communicate with the homeowners?

This is very important. Communication is a very big concern and a common complaint regarding property management companies. It is really important to know over what issues, with which methods, and how quickly you will be notified. The best way to have clear expectations is to understand when they will notify you and when they will not.

8. Do you provide the owner’s information to the tenant?

Some people hire property managers so they do not have to give their information to tenants. So this is important.

9. Do you have a policy about landlords contacting the tenants?

Some management companies will not allow the landlords to contact the tenants in the house.

10. Do you have a requirement for your property management clients to use you when they buy or sell investment property? Do you charge if the tenant decides to buy the house?

Many property management contracts require the owner to pay fees if the tenant decides to buy or the owner sells the property. Make sure you check this clause closely.

11. What is your turnaround time on phone calls and emails from owners?

Some of the biggest complaints about property management companies are people not hearing back or receiving return phone calls quickly enough. This is why you want to know what to expect and how long it takes to hear back from your property manager.

12. What is your monthly charge?

Every management company calculates their fees differently. Some charge a flat percentage that includes everything. Others do percent plus added charges, so make sure you are looking at everything so that you are comparing apples to apples.

13. Who is the lease between?

In some places the owner is on the lease. In other places it is the management company on the lease.

14. Do you provide a copy of the lease to the owner, and if so, when?

15. What lengths of lease do you offer?

Some property managers only do a month-to-month lease, others do a one-year, some do multiple.

16. Do you charge extra for month-to-month leases?

17. Do you do have a lease-break policy?

When tenants break their lease it can be expensive on the owner. Make sure you find out if you are covered in this event.

18. Do you have lease language that requires the tenant to pay for any damage they cause that is not wear and tear?

19. Do you troubleshoot with your tenants when they call for repairs?

One of the things that helps to reduce service calls is to troubleshoot with the tenants. Asking them simple things like if they tried the breaker, put a new light bulb in the socket, etc. can save the owner a lot of money. Also, ask if the tenants are required to pay the service call if the maintenance issue is a tenant fault item.

20. Who pays for pest control?

Make sure to go over who is responsible.

21. How much move-out notice do you require?

Different companies and areas have different rules.

22. What is your lease renewal policy?

You want to know if they renew everyone or if people with specific dings against them are not renewed.

23. Do you charge for renewals?

Some companies charge a renewal fee to the owners when on a % plus fee structure.

24. Do you perform a market evaluation for every renewal?

Keeping abreast of market rents is important.  A market evaluation and recommendation to raise rates if needed would be a beneficial service.

25. How do you determine to raise the rent or keep it the same?

Will they raise rates on good tenants? Is there a reason they wouldn’t raise the rent even if the market called for it? This is important since some managers do not believe in raising the rates.

26. What does the monthly fee include?

Make sure you know exactly what you are paying for. Some places are more full service than others. Every agency has different standards and goals. I know some agencies who do professional photos and others who charge for it. So get them to go through what it includes.

27. How is the money disbursed?

Many property management firms only send checks, so this is a very important question.

28. When is the money disbursed?

This is a very important thing to know, so that you can plan your cash flow.

29. What is your advertising strategy?

Every company has a different marketing plan.

30. What rental price do you recommend?

You want to know what they think it will rent for and why. Some places will overprice the rent (higher monthly fee since it’s a percentage), while others will underprice the rental (quicker to rent). The best way is to make sure it is priced right.

31. Do you recommend any work be done to get top dollar?

You want to know if they have any recommendations to get the best rental price from the unit.

32. How long do you think it will take to rent out?

Vacancy is lost revenue. Often times it’s better to go cheaper than vacant.

33. How quickly do you schedule showing/return calls?

It is important to fill a vacancy as quickly as possible. For property managers who are not quick to respond to inquiries and requests for showings, this can be as much the issue as the price. The convenience of secure self-showings are the most beneficial way to achieve fast, quality tenant placement.

34. How quickly does it take you to approve tenants and have a lease signed?

Expediency is important. Tenants may abandon an application in favor of another property that accepts them sooner.

35. What is your schedule for payments when installing a tenant?

It is important to know the process so there are no surprises.

36. Do I pay any fees when the place is empty?

It is important to know if a company is going to charge you while your unit is empty. Some areas charge seasonal fees (opening/closing pools, winterizing homes) even if the home is not occupied.

37. What is your termination policy?

While you might have no desire to self-manage or to have a different company in mind, know that things can change. You want to make sure you are covered and have a very clear exit agreement.

38. Do you require tenants to have renters insurance?

This is very important.  It will protect you from tenant caused damage to your property – (fire, water, etc.)

39. What is your late policy?

The key to keeping tenants on time with the rent is to have consequences. Therefore, it is very important to enforce the late policy. You want to know their exact process.

40. What is your late fee amount?

Since a late fee is one of the biggest incentives for the tenant to pay on time, this is very important.

41. How many evictions do you usually perform each year?

Knowing the number of evictions as a percentage of doors managed is a good indicator of how well the management company qualifies their tenants.

42. How do you handle the eviction process?

You want to know when the company will start the eviction process. Do they do it in-house or hire someone? What is their procedure and how do they proceed?

43. Is the eviction part of the cost or is it an additional cost?

44. What is your application and screening process?

45. What are your screening requirements?

Do they accept foreclosures, short sales, 400 credit scores, evictions, etc.? Remember, you are picking someone that you can trust so you can be hands off. This is why it is very important that you agree with how they qualify prospective tenants.

46. Do you run it by me before you approve them?

Fair Housing regulations would make it very difficult for a management company to run final approval by the owner.  Any management company offering that option is likely a candidate for a Fair Housing violation investigation and penalty. Best practice, suggested by Fair Housing, is “first qualified applicant”.

47. What form do you use for the move in/move out inspection?

This is what will be used to prove tenant damage.

48. Do you take video or pictures? What is your criteria for what you put down on the forms?

The more detailed you are, the easier it will be if you go to court, so this is very important.

49. How often do you do inspections during a tenant’s term?

Some property management companies do yearly inspections while others only perform a walk through inspection when a tenant vacates the property.

50. How do you document the inspection, and do you send it to the landlords?

If they are supposed to do inspections, you want to make sure you receive a copy. You also want to make sure the inspections are documented.

51. How do you handle the security deposit?

You want to know where the security deposit will go and who holds on to it (them or you).

52. If there are damages upon move out, who does the accounting (you or the owner)?

If the tenant does a ton of damage, you want a property manager who is going to pursue the tenant for you–first by taking it out of the deposit and then by sending them a bill for the rest.

53. If the tenant has damages that exceed the security deposit, do you come up with the documents and pursue the tenant?

This is important because every company is different. So it is important to know who is responsible for what.

54. When do you return the security deposit? Do you get approval from the Owner first?

There have been a lot of issues with property managers returning the money too soon and missing deductions for tenant damage.

55. Do you do a pre-inspection prior to the tenant move out, or a post-inspection?

56. What is your maintenance minimum/policy?

A lot of companies have a number, say $300, where any repair under that they will approve.

57. Do you charge for an additional fee for maintenance?

Some companies charge 2% or more on the repair cost. So this is very important to know.

58. Do you get multiple bids? If so at what amount?

59. Is your maintenance in-house or a vendor?

This is good to know because this is often a profit center for management companies who have in-house maintenance departments. Their management fees may be lower, but they make it up in maintenance costs.

60. How do you handle off-hour emergencies and what constitutes an emergency?

You want to know if they receive the calls or if it goes to an answering service.