Proper document maintenance is a must in real estate, especially if you hope to protect yourself and your property management business. Meticulous and comprehensive documentation allows property managers to access vital information at a glance, prevent mistakes and even uncover potential opportunities. However, they may not be sure which paperwork is most beneficial or necessary for their operations.
Below, 14 members of Forbes Real Estate Council discuss the most important operational documents for property management. If you manage one or more properties, ensure you always have copies and backups of these important lists, records and agreements on hand.
1. Due Diligence
As more assets are acquired, owners should learn from their past mistakes or oversights. Apply these lessons to a comprehensive and evolving due diligence document that helps to ensure the same mistakes are not made twice. – BJ Turner, Dunleer
As it relates to retail properties, if landlords have given exclusives to any tenants, it is important to have one document that details out all the exclusive language in one place. We have even had a landlord put the document into the lease as an exhibit so there was full transparency on what uses are and are not allowed. – Carrie Bobb, Carrie Bobb & Co
3. Leases Addendums
Property lease and addendum maintenance are critical to success. In particular, specifying expectations for payment options assures timely rent delivery on a monthly basis. This section of the lease, or dedicated addendum, should include details of potential savings with different payment options as well as penalties with non-compliance. Clear upfront communication is essential. – Ellen Calmas, Neighborhood Pay Services / NPS Rent Assurance
4. Note And Mortgage
We raise a lot of money from private investors to do our renovation projects, so having a note and mortgage document has saved me a lot of money on paperwork costs. Additionally, it has allowed me to move quickly and put my investors’ money to work. My lawyer drew these up for me a few years ago, and I have used them hundreds of times now! – Bill Allen, 7 Figure Flipping
Too many property managers will find a lease online, assume it’s fine to use for their tenants and call it a day. I can’t discourage this strongly enough. Your lease isn’t a formality; it’s an essential safeguard. Hire an attorney who knows the pertinent laws in your city and state to create your lease. It may be more expensive at the outset but it can prevent a lot of issues down the road. – Ken McElroy, MC Companies
6. Company Governance Records
There may not be one “most important” document. Loan documents, tenant leases, insurance policies, major vendor contracts, service agreements, financial and tax records are all vital to asset ownership and operations. Company governance records are also important. – Anne Keshen, RMT Capital Management
7. Property Improvements List
A detailed list of property improvements with dates, vendor names and costs is essential to any real estate investor. This is helpful to schedule future improvements and to justify property valuation when it comes time to sell. Also, don’t use paper! Have a cloud solution, such as Google Docs or something similar, that you can access and modify from anywhere, is always backed-up and can’t be lost. – Megan Micco, Compass
8. Resident Issue Logs
We maintain copies of all resident issues, including the resolution of the dispute. This ensures that we have a well-documented record for future reference. – Mark Tiefel, Capital Equity Group, Inc.
9. Profit And Loss
The P&L, short for profit and loss, is the single most important document. The profit and loss statement is a metric of the property’s health. It tells you what expenses have incurred and how much income was collected in a given timeframe. This document serves as a vitals check on the property so that you can address issues in a timely manner. – Pam Scamardo, TPK Properties LLC
10. LLC Incorporation
As a property investor, it is essential to mitigate your exposure to potential liability. Holding title in an LLC can help provide owners with an additional level of asset protection and shield their personal assets. Ask your real estate broker for a CPA or attorney recommendation to help you navigate these waters. – Tara Hotchkis, Compass
11. Maintenance Calls And Work Orders
Maintain a record of exactly when a maintenance call was requested, what the request was and the timing it took to respond, then prove that it was completed and documented. The entire timeline should be documented, including photos and all communication with the tenant, which can help illustrate why the timeline to completion was reasonable. – Ari Rastegar, Rastegar Property Company
12. Trusted Vendor List
A list of trusted vendors and backups is key—phone numbers, addresses, correspondence, contracts and previous documents associated with the property’s vendor history. Why is this so important? You don’t want to be fumbling and cold-calling phone numbers when a water main breaks, the roof leaks after a storm or a rodent takes up home in a tenant’s space. – Charles Argianas, Argianas & Associates, Inc.
13. Commercial Building System Records
Keeping good records on HVAC and other commercial building systems is critical. Many equipment manufacturer warranties rely on meticulous records and regularly detailed maintenance reports. Additionally, many commercial leases shift responsibility from tenant to landlord relative to building systems if the equipment is not maintained properly along with the proper documentation to prove it. – Jonathan Keyser, Keyser
14. Business Continuity Plans
Covid taught us the value of business continuity plans (BCPs) and the need to keep them updated. These operational contingency plans prevent future problems and lawsuits while maintaining physical and financial stability in uncertain times. The BCP should go beyond simply casualty and unforeseen situations. A good BCP for an asset should include a strategy during downward economic trend cycles. – Jacob Bates, CommonGrounds Workplace
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