Long-term renters looking to make their next move will probably encounter two parties that are essential to the process: a rental agent and a property manager (or property management company.)
It is just as likely that you will find overlap in the apparent responsibilities of these two professionals. If you are looking to rent property or work in one of these capacities, communication is key to defining the responsibilities of rental agent and property manager so that clients, whether the property owner or the lessee, are satisfied in their needs being met.
What’s the difference?
While rental agents more often deal strictly with the process of advertising and finding prospective clients for properties, property managers tend to the day-to-day interactions with renters and act as bridges between the lessee and the owner or rental agent.
Some rental agents act as property managers as well, but it is more likely that property managers take on rental responsibilities. In other words, you are more likely to find that rental agents specialize solely in the process of procuring clients.
Rather than differentiate between the two roles, it might be more helpful to delineate the most common responsibilities for the two roles so that should you be involved in a split system, you can clarify the duties each party should take on.
There are a number of rental responsibilities that seem to fall more under the purview of the rental agent. These would include:
● Advertising: The rental agent should be responsible for crafting ads that clearly lay out the nature of the rental space, availability, and terms of lease. The agent should also determine the best means of advertising and work within the lessors budget in procuring advertisements.
● Establishing rental cost: Because the agent is either communicating with the landlord or acts as landlord, it is usually within their role to set rental prices. It is, however, advisable that the agent communicate with property managers who may have a better idea of pricing property to move based on conditions, area, and renter responses.
● Creating lease agreements: Again, the unique role of the rental agent as landlord or first point of communication with the owner makes them most qualified to create at least the base rental agreement. There may need to be communication between property manager and agent based on the lessees’ needs or special requests, but the rental agent is the most likely source of final agreement in these situations.
● Qualifying renters: Especially in situations of prequalification, it is more efficient for the rental agent to do credit checks and review references or institute background checks, particularly in situations where multiple properties are under consideration. This prevents unnecessary viewings where clients are beyond their means. It is, however, advisable to allow property managers to be a part of the qualification process as their experiences with renters often gives them the ability “to read” potential problem clients.
Property managers tend to have a much more hands-on role in dealing with properties and renters. Furthermore, they act as liaisons between the lessee and the rental agent. Duties more suitable to their role are:
● Collecting and adjusting rent: Because property managers deal with renters daily, they are in a better position to collect payments and to read clients needs, in accordance with the nature of the market and the conditions of the property, as far as adjustments to rental values. They should, of course, communicate these needs to the agent so that advertising and agreements can be altered.
● Property maintenance and repair: Property managers know the requirements of rental spaces and often keep a bank of repair people or employ an onsite maintenance staff. They are, therefore, the most qualified to make decisions on the necessity of repairs and routine maintenance, to judge costs involved, and to deem proper completion. It is important though to communicate with rental agents concerning costs and necessity so that landlords are kept informed and can make budgetary decisions.
● Handling complaints, emergencies, move outs, and evictions: Property managers are often onsite or quickly reachable by renters, so are the best first point of contact for emergencies and complaints. Furthermore, they can usually connect with the proper personnel quickly. Because they deal with move outs and evictions on a regular basis, they will know the protocols necessary for both processes.
● Office responsibilities: Again, because property managers deal daily with running properties, it is more likely they will take on the responsibility of managing staff, maintaining vacant properties, keeping records, filing taxes, and managing budgets.
The Importance of an Open Channel
As you establish a rental situation, the most important part of the process is clear communication between owners, rental agents, property managers, and clients. An effective procedure should not only delineate responsibilities, but also create protocols that keep all parties informed and satisfied.
Some methods that facilitate ease of communication and provide quick, clear feedback are:
- Coordinating marketing efforts: The rental agent will likely be responsible for the majority of the property’s marketing and advertising efforts. Since they acquire and place the renters, and collect a commission as a result, sending a positive message about the property is just as important to them as it is to landlords. Therefore, rental agents and landlords must coordinate on the kind of messaging they want to use in marketing efforts to accurately (yet appealingly) represent the property online and in brochures.
- Creating a strong and consistent first impression: Clearly define terms of rental agreements, your policies, expectations of renters, and responses before the property is ever rented and be sure all parties have a complete understanding of the terms. Rental agents should ensure to keep close contact with the property management team to make sure the application and approval process is carried out expediently and see the initial agreement process to completion.
- Responding in a timely manner: Whether you are the agent or the manager, quick responses to lessees makes them feel heard and keeps them up-to-date on progress.
- Communicating thoughtfully and professionally: Both owners and renters can be quick to anger, especially during times of stress. As an intermediary, crafting a thoughtful response to requests or complaints can go a long way toward easing tempers. Even when someone loses their cool, maintaining a professional tone will help you keep renters in the long run.
- Putting everything in writing: Informing clients of intended actions in writing not only keeps a record, but it also eases clients’ minds to see the clear steps you will take. Property managers should CC rental agents on all communications related to the application process, and vice versa.
Don’t let miscommunication lead to frustrations in your rental situations. With clear decisions on roles and responsibilities, you should be able to keep your clients content and broker long-term lease relationships.
Megan Glenn is a writer for Discount Two-Way Radio, where she covers effective facility management and communication strategies.