My favorite topic is documentation, and today we have some advice for landlords about the importance of documentation. Ask anyone who works for me – I love documentation. In fact, our operations manual for site managers and property managers has a note in the footer on every page that says: If it’s not documented, it did not happen. That will be the fact if you go to court. They’ll want to see the documentation. They cannot believe what you’re saying; they need to see it written and date stamped.
What Needs to Be Documented?
Everything needs to be documented. Every interaction with a tenant, vendor, contractor, or owner must be documented. If you’re a site manager, document everything. You want a record of who said what and why things were decided. This is for legal purposes, but often things don’t go to that extreme. It covers you in case it does, however.
When you have 300 units and everything is happening all the time, you’re not going to remember which tenant had a complaint or which phone call was pertaining to which unit. You need to document to stay organized. Text messages are coming in at all hours and you’re responding to emails, so you have to have a system where you can document and look back and see what is going on.
Documenting your application process is especially important. When someone applies for your property, you need to document every attempt to get their proof of income, document your attempt to contact previous landlords, and document the reason you are approving or not approving an application. If someone comes back and claims they were qualified for the unit but rejected because of some fair housing violation, you will be glad you have all the documentation in place to show what was or was not provided. Your documented application process will show why the potential tenant was rejected. Any fair housing official would not send you to court after seeing all that documentation. You’ll be prepared at all times. Fair housing fines are huge, and you want to avoid them.
Rental Increase Documentation
You need a documented system for analyzing market rent and deciding when to increase rent. If you get accused of increasing rent because of what someone did or didn’t do or because they were late two months ago, or because you’re retaliating, you can show with your documentation that you did not retaliate. The rent increase was not retaliation, but part of a systemized process you have always had in place. A paper trail will show that it’s not a personal retaliation.
The importance of documentation cannot be overstated. When in doubt, document.
If you have any questions about rental property documents or property services in Seattle, WA, please contact us at Olympic View Property Services.