Time to Vent
Sometimes when you’re in the business of doing something, you tend to develop this sense that everyone else knows the ins and outs of what you do. It becomes a 6th sense, so much so that it leads you to falsely believe everyone knows about it like you do.
The easiest example of this happens in our jargon when we speak to each other. Those from the north refer to it as pop, while southerners say soda, and which one is right remains a mystery.
The other day, I had an epiphany thanks to a confused tenant. I was sitting in my office when I heard an incredibly distressed voice coming from the lobby. I looked up and saw a woman anxiously asking our receptionist to speak with someone about some issues at her property. I went about my work as a member of our maintenance staff greeted her and sat her down in the office adjacent to mine. Even though I was deep in my work, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on their conversation.
“I’ve been trying to get a new ceiling fan in my property for months now, and you people won’t do anything about it. Why won’t you spend a small amount of money and make this improvement to your property, and help me by replacing that old dilapidated fan with a new one that actually works!”
I slowly lifted my eyes up from my laptop with a confused look on my face as I sat in deep thought. In that moment, I was finally able to understand the confusion. I could understand why tenants tend to have an absolute distaste for property management companies. I felt dumb for not understanding why tenants leave so many property management companies bad reviews. I realized she thought we owned all the properties we managed.
I was dumbfounded.
That one simple sentence made me realize that there is a huge, HUGE misunderstanding with property management.
It’s not a very common term, or a common business for that matter. Even before I started working for a property management company, I had no clue what they did, how they made their money, or what type of client they helped. It’s certainly not a glamorous business that has a big beautiful store front, or one that sells the year’s most anticipated product, no. It manages investment properties for those who own them.
Rather than sit at my desk, and allowing this poor woman to continue feeling angry that we weren’t willing to replace her old non functioning ceiling fan, I invited her into the conference room to clear the air.
It was like a light bulb went off. Her physical appearance, body language, tone of voice all changed at once. It was like in an instant she finally understood the process. Owner owns the home, asks us to manage it. We take repair requests from the tenant, pass it on to the owner, they give us the approval or denial to fix it.
In this woman’s case, we got the denial to fix her fan, but selfishly, it was a blessing for me to finally understand why we’re typically disliked by tenants as we’re not often seen as the middle man, rather the property owner.
That afternoon, I was explaining the situation to a coworker who does a lot of our property inspections. When I told him the story, he immediately lit up and couldn’t wait to tell me a story of his own.
“That’s so funny you say that, a few months ago, I was doing a renewal inspection while the tenants were home. This guy was getting so mad at me and going on and on about how we refused to fix some framing around one of the doors, and a few other things like that. He said ‘How can the owner of this company own all the hundreds of properties you manage, and not have enough money to fix a little bit of molding around my door!’”
While he was telling me this story, I was upset at myself for not realizing it sooner. “How many cases of this are there?” I kept asking myself.
He continued on, “I stood right there in that doorway and explained to him we don’t own the properties, and we’re at the mercy of the property owner on if they want to fix something. Now, by law, there are certain things they must fix, but most of it, they don’t”.
As I went back to my desk, I thought of that soda vs pop analogy. I realized I had been in the property management game for so long, I forgot people don’t have the same knowledge of it as I do. It’s second nature that we can only repair a property when the owner gives us the ok. We are paid by them, so we work for them. It’s like a verse in the bible of property management: “get written approval for repairs, or suffer the wrath of the upset property owner.”
But can we really blame tenants for being upset with us? We’re the ones doing the inspections, we collect the rent, we provide the lease, etc etc. Naturally, they’re going to look for someone to blame when they can’t get something fixed, of course, why not make it the property management company?
The point here is to educate everyone on what property management is, and how it works, so frustration, blame, angst, happiness, or whatever it may be, is used properly.
In fact, most of those working at property management companies rent homes themselves, so they understand the different struggles that come with being a tenant. But they also understand how the system works, and can only pass along information to the property owner as they are the ultimate boss.
Think about it from a different perspective. What motivation would a property management company have to not want to do repairs to a property? Homes that don’t have repairs done are harder to rent, don’t bring in as much rent money which lowers our profit, gives the company a bad reputation for managing run down properties, etc. In fact, the property management company wants the opposite. We push for repairs to be done when we believe they will benefit not only the property owner, but the tenant as well.
So when is it appropriate to be mad at the property manager?
The time when a tenant should be mad at their property manager is when they neglect, forget, or refuse to send the tenant’s repair request to the owner. In that case, they have made no attempt to fix the issue. If they take your request, send it to the owner, and they deny the repair, there’s absolutely no reason to be upset with your property management company.