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Quick guide for landlords hiring a property manager

If you're looking for a property manager to help rent and manage your property, here are a few tips for preventing problems and protecting yourself from fraudsters.

ASK

1. Get the full name and contact information of the person or company whose employ.
2. Check the property manager's Department of Real Estate license, which must be valid and active to collect rent and manage your property. (Note: resident property managers do not need a real estate license.)
3. Ask the property manager for professional affiliations or certifications with property management organizations, and then verify those on the organization's website.
4. Find out how long the company has been in business.
5. Ask how many properties are being managed and by how many employees. Make sure the answer is reasonable.
6. Get information on how tenants are screened, to include employment verification, prior rental and eviction history, etc.
7. See how many tenants have been evicted in the last year. This can also help you find out if tenants are being property screened.
8. Ask how long it takes to fil a vacancy. Make sure the answer is reasonable.
9. Find out what insurance or bond the company may have
10. Make sure the property manager has a trust account for security deposits and rents if they're not held in an escrow account or given directly to you.

READ

1. Study California Tenants: A Guide to residential Tenants' and Landlords' Rights and Responsibilities, a Department of Consumer Affairs publication available at www.dca.ca.gov.
2. Read the property management agreement carefully; there may be clauses that may not be agreeable to you.
3. Make sure the agreement explains any additional fees charged for markups, accounting, etc.
4. Confirm that the contract clearly identifies how repairs are handled and expended.
5. Be sure that the contract requires monthly accounting reports and has a clear termination date.
6. Get a copy of the signed property management agreement and lease agreement.
7. Review all of the accountings that you receive from the property manager.

RESEARCHM

1. Call the Department of Real Estate at 877-373-4542 or go to www.dre.ca.gov to check the license. Make sure the license status is "Licensed" and that an agent with a salesperson license works for a broker. Look into any prior disciplinary action or restrictions on the license.
2. Check the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, and other sources for reviews and complaints.
3. Review your insurance policy to see if you're covered against fraud by a property manager.

AWARE

1. Be wary of individuals who won't meet with you in person.
2. If rent checks paid to you by the property manager are consistently late or short, or if a rent check bounces, ask the property manager for an accounting of your funds. Consider filing a complaint with the Department of Real Estate as there may be issues that warrant an audit.
3. Be on the alert if the property manager does not send copies of invoices to show proof that expenses were incurred and paid.
4. Be wary if the property manager does not disclose all income sources from managing your property, including any ownership interest in maintenance or repair companies used.
5. Consider that you may be able to file a claim with the Department of Real Estate against a property manager who defrauds you if the property manager is licensed by the Department of Real Estate.
6. Most importantly, trust your instincts and common sense. If you have a feeling that something isn't right, report it.