Most landlords and property managers do their due diligence with prospective tenants. They check credit histories and references, previous rental experiences, and income stability.
They can do all of this work, putting in the time and effort to check someone out thoroughly and still find themselves in a position where a renter fails to pay their rent, leaves in the middle of the night, and/or does damage to the property in excess of the security deposit.
Sometimes renters experience unexpected difficulties that delay timely rent payment. The landlord may be able to reach out and resolve the problem themselves. Other times, renters can leave a property without taking responsibility for their debt. If the property has incurred damage, it may not be rentable until repairs are made.
Without a tenant and no payment coming in, property managers may find their own financial situation tenuous. Even when the tenant is still residing in the property, property managers may prefer to use avenues other than legal action or eviction.
On their own, this can prove burdensome. Involving a collection agency can put a property manager in a better position to resolve the situation and collect on the debt owed to them.
Property managers and landlords are responsible for a lot more than collecting monthly rent. They often manage multiple units and need to handle each of those tenants and their residences.
This can involve making repairs, handling complaints, and doing general maintenance. They arrange for services like landscaping, trash pickup, and sometimes security. Bills such as mortgage and insurance must be paid by the property manager or landlord as well.
It can be hard to find the time to fit all of this work into the day. The last thing a property manager wants to do is repeatedly contact a tenant or former tenant seeking payment. Worse yet, many non-paying tenants leave no new contact information. Even with the internet, it can be nearly impossible to track someone down if you don’t already know how to do it.
More importantly, property managers are not trained in how to handle collections. While reaching out is always the first step, it’s more complicated when it goes beyond that. Federal and state laws govern debt collection.
There are specific rules regarding where and when a debtor can be contacted. Word choice in those contacts is important. Anything that can be perceived as a threat, no matter how it is meant, can create legal problems.
Attempts at debt collection made by a property manager are often ineffective because the tenant or previous tenant is merely annoyed by the contact. They know the property managers’ options are limited while trying to collect without assistance.
Unless the issue is escalated and a third-party is involved, they may find the problem too easy to ignore. When a collection agency is involved, the situation often becomes more concerning to the tenant.
Collection agencies are staffed by trained and experienced employees who are better able to track down non-paying tenants. They have tools and software at their fingertips designed to aid them in their search for debtors. Finding and contacting people who owe money is what they do every day.
Utilizing a collection agency enables property managers to continue to attend to the myriad demands and projects required by their job, preventing a backlog of tasks from piling up and turning into tenant complaints.
The laws governing debt handling are complicated and specific. In addition to federal laws, state laws also dictate what is required and what is prohibited when attempting to collect a debt. A collection agency is well-informed about current and changing laws and knows how to work within those parameters to get the best results. This protects the property manager from fallout resulting from inadvertently violating a law and being negatively affected by a lawsuit.
The unfortunate truth is that renter debts are difficult to collect. People move on without leaving new methods of contact. It’s imperative to get moving on the collection process quickly. Letting late fees and past rent accumulate is a bad risk since higher overdue balances don’t mean more money; they mean a lower rate of recovery.
A collection agency can become involved in the process early, even without an eviction or any kind of judgment, and that’s advisable. The older a debt is, the harder it is to collect. Additionally, once the tenant finds a new property, one of the weightiest consequences of their non-payment is weakened.
A collection agency can report the debt to credit reporting agencies, thereby making it harder for the tenant to secure a new lease. Getting this done early can put pressure on the tenant and result in a faster resolution.
The collection agency needs copies of all the documentation the property manager has regarding the debt, including a copy of the rental agreement and the stipulations regarding rent payment, late fees, and any security deposit that was collected.
Documentation related to contact with the tenant, including copies of letters, emails, and notes regarding telephone contact are valuable as they serve as proof of the timeline for when collection attempts began. The best practice for handling tenants of all kinds is document, document, document, and this is especially true when dealing with a late or non-paying tenant.
Collection agencies generally handle fees in one of two ways. Some agencies will charge a flat fee. They work to recover the debt for that fee. If they recover the debt, anything collected goes to the property manager.
Other agencies, like Alexander, Miller & Associates, work on a contingency basis. They accept no money upfront, which keeps the property manager from losing money chasing money. Instead, they take a percentage of anything collected. While this may mean that they receive more than an agency charging a flat fee, it also ensures they are completely invested in resolving the debt.
They only get paid when the property manager gets paid. So if the property manager doesn’t get anything, neither does the collection agency. Nothing is lost in the process, and no additional financial risks are taken.
There’s some confusion about the impact of eviction laws relating to Covid-19. Although there’s an eviction moratorium, renters are no less responsible for their rent than they were pre-pandemic. Renters’ debts have not been forgiven. Evictions have been paused.
Documenting contact with renters informing them of their late payments and financial responsibility remains key to pursuing the debt. They need to understand that although they are allowed to stay in the residence for now, they will still owe rent and any related fees or fines once the moratorium is lifted.
Due to the moratorium, notifications must be done with care and attention to detail to comply with the law. Collection agencies understand the tightrope that must be walked to do this without overstepping laws.
If you’re a property manager or landlord, you know how much time it takes to do your job. It can be hard to find the time to add one more task to your agenda. Independent attempts and costly legal fees are time consuming and costly.
You don’t have to let debt recovery slip while you focus on higher priority tasks. At Alexander, Miller & Associates, your debt is our priority. We can help you get resolution or settlement without any risk to you. Our professional debt collectors are ready to work for you.