By Nichole Peterman
We all consider ourselves experts in our field. Often we take for granted that our clients and tenants understand all the property management terminology that we use on a daily basis. Effective communication is key to any successful business. As experts, we should seize every opportunity to share our knowledge and educate whenever we can. Below are some of the common terms that are misused or misunderstood in our industry everyday:
Landlord Insurance Policy: Many clients, especially ones that we consider the “accidental landlord”, might not realize there are many types of insurance policies a home can have. It is essential that they know the difference between a landlord policy versus a home owner’s policy. Spend the time to inform them on the “ins and outs” of property management. Clients need to understand the risk and liability if something happens at their home and they are not properly insured.
Additional Insured: A tricky term, even when explained properly to the client. Once an owner calls their insurance company occasionally the request can become lost in translation. Upon receipt of the policy, you realize the insurance company has the property manager listed as “additional interest” instead of “additional insured”. A great way to avoid confusion is to proactively explain to the client the difference between the two terms upfront. When they call their insurance provider they are educated to know the difference. Asking the correct questions before they hang up the phone will ensure the proper policy language will be in place.
Rent-Ready: Whether you are speaking with the owner, leasing agent or property manager; everyone has such a differing opinion of what it actually means. To avoid confusion there needs to be consistency with the definition in your office. In our office it means the utilities are on, home is clean, everything is repaired and functioning to the best of our knowledge. Bottom line… it is ready for someone to move into right now, today!
Mold vs. Mildew: These terms are frequently confused with one another and are not interchangeable; they have two very different meanings. As property managers, we also need to error on the side of caution with which term we choose when describing a situation. To prevent any liability on your part and having a tenant demand to out of their lease or threaten to sue, make sure an expert evaluates the situation and then proceed accordingly.
Liquated Damages: Some tenants may be unaware of what a legally binding contract covers when leasing a home. It’s more than just paying a specific dollar amount for rent by a monthly date. In a lease there are other terms listed in the contract and financial penalties are in place for not following those terms. They cannot wake up one morning and decide to add a pet to their family without first discussing it with the property manager or call in for a maintenance request but then not let the vendor in the home to address the concern. Every lease has a section where items are listed with specific dollar amount penalties if a tenant is found in violation. When signing a lease with a tenant, make sure they really understand what they are agreeing to and their performance obligations, especially when they are in a hurry because it is moving day.
Maintenance Emergency: Your customer service skills are really put to the test while handling an upset tenant concerning maintenance. In our world an emergency is a life-threatening or home-destroying issue such as a fire, flood, gas leak, break-in, etc… but in a tenants world everything is an emergency. Take a few minutes and really listen to what they have to say, make them feel important and provide assurance that you will address the issue in a timely manner. Putting yourself in their shoes while showing a little empathy will go a long way in the landlord-tenant relationship.
We should never assume that our clients and tenants always know what we are talking about. A little education and patience goes a long way to build a foundation for a successful business relationship. We did not become experts in our field or learn the correct terminology overnight. To truly be the best in our business we need to remember not to take our knowledge for granted and be willing to share with everyone.