According to Bloomberg, more than 8 million Americans are late on rent as prices increase. Property owners and managers that are not paid on time face a number of increasing yet unnecessary frustrations. Not only do you have to chase people around, but it can have serious consequences for you and your rental business.
As the inflation of prices doesn’t show any signs of slowing down it makes us question just how serious these consequences will be. Two things can happen:
- If you fail to collect rent, you will lack the capital for property improvements and limit your own growth.
- If your tenant pays late or doesn’t pay at all, it can put a strain on your owner relationships which can result in loss of business
If you want to keep yourself away from these situations, while keeping your tenants happy and avoid paying for costly litigations, hiring a professional virtual rent coordinator can ensure you are collecting in full, on-time.
In this article we’ll:
- Discuss in-depth on what a Virtual Rent Coordinator is, and how they can benefit your business.
- Discuss the common excuses for late payment, and how you can mitigate them.
- Share tips on how to get paid on time without going through these excuses in the first place.
WHAT IS A VIRTUAL RENT COORDINATOR?
Rent coordinators are professionals who assist landlords or property managers with a number of specialized duties. They can basically help in anything related to the tenant and the landlord. This includes collecting rent payment, scouting for potential tenants, setting up payment plans for tenants, facilitating the move out process and everything in between. It is very possible that, with rent coordinators, property managers and owners no longer have to deal with tenants directly.
For these services, business owners may traditionally hire rent coordinators who would move into an office and do their work from there. However, with a world keen on digitizing processes, we have seen the emergence of virtual rent coordinators (VA rent coordinators). Although this involves remote work, this virtual alternative is more relevant, cost-effective and efficient. There are many ways a virtual rent coordinator helps carry out these duties, and ensure the tenant pays their rent on time. In almost all cases, they provide even better services compared to their non-virtual counterparts.
With that said, virtual assistants can perform a number of tasks beyond basic rent collection.
UTILIZING A VIRTUAL RENT COORDINATOR TO IMPROVE RENT-INCOME RELIABILITY
Having a reliable income stream is the goal of every landlord, and it’s important to understand that a property’s rent-income reliability is the result of more than just the tenant. It’s also the result of how well you manage your property and coordinate with your tenants. Virtual assistants (VAs) can help with:
- Handling tenant inquiries – As mentioned, maintaining a healthy relationship with your tenant can directly improve their reliability in paying rent on time. You could hire VAs who are known to have a proven track record in handling customer service efficiently, so that your tenants’ needs and inquiries are responded to promptly. This will make your tenants feel appreciated and respected, possibly leading to them giving you good reviews and potentially attracting new tenants.
- Processing applications – Reviewing the applications for potential tenants can be a tedious, but necessary process. This is especially true if you have multiple properties for rent, with multiple applicants. The number of paperwork and verification to go through can be daunting. That said, you could easily find one of our virtual rent coordinators who have had years of experience in this very field, freeing up your precious time that could be spent in more effective areas.
- Maintaining rent collection – Enforcing your tenants to pay online saves you time and effort, but there still may be work needed on your part. If you collect rent via an online tool, you could hire a VA to maintain it – they will keep up to date with any rent updates, make sure all the details are correct, as well as send notifications for late payments.
- Prepares approved rental agreements – Once you have approved the basic fundamentals of your rental agreements, your virtual rent coordinator can prepare one for any upcoming tenants, saving you the repetitive work of revising the same documents.
- Maintains records and files – While it would be neat to have everything stored online, there are certain risks and limitations involved. Some entities only accept physical documents. Plus, it is important to keep certain documents to avoid fraud and protect your most sensitive documents. Keeping such files updated and secure is part of a virtual rent coordinator’s responsibility.
- Coordinates billings – Although much of this can be sorted if you use an online tool for payment processing, this doesn’t stop the necessity to extract certain billing information once in a while for multiple purposes. Hiring a virtual rent coordinator can help you sort this out.
- Setting up tenant payment plans – These are arrangements in which tenants pay off their back rent over a period of time. The idea is to help them avoid eviction and keep the property occupied.
Tenant payment plans can be set up manually through a process that involves sending out reminders and making phone calls. If you have multiple tenants who need help paying their back rent consider using a virtual rent coordinator to handle this task for you.
- Move Out paperwork and fee assessments – As a property owner and manager, you want to ensure that your property is returned in good condition. This includes having all appliances and furniture in working order, trash removed and everything cleaned before your tenant moves out. Not to mention all the paperwork involved.
Having a virtual rent coordinator makes this entire process much easier:
- They will collect all of the documents from both parties
- They make sure that everything gets done in a timely manner so there is no unnecessary delay in getting your money back from your tenants
- They’ll handle all communication with the landlord on your behalf and make sure everyone is on the same page. This way you won’t have to worry about forgetting anything or getting bogged down in unnecessary details.
Here are more Effective Ways To Find (And Use) A Virtual Rent Coordinator.
Following are some examples of the kinds of scenarios you might face and how to solve them.
MOST COMMON REASONS FOR LATE PAYMENT AND ITS SOLUTIONS
Whether you’ve just started in the rental business or been in the property management industry for a while, we are sure you’ve heard every excuse under the sun when it comes to late payment excuses. Some are causes for sympathy, others outright unreasonable. With that said, the show must go on: it is not only the tenant’s responsibility but property managers and owners as well to ensure they are constantly in a position where they must pay rent in a timely manner.
Let’s take a quick look at the most common excuses and how you can mitigate them to ensure your rent collection is paid on time:
“I can’t pay this rent on time as I had other bills to pay.”
Regardless of what financial commitments tenants decide to put themselves in, once signing the lease they have a responsibility to continuously pay the rent on time. Rent must be taken into consideration first, before taking on any other financial commitments. As far as this excuse goes, it is important to keep your written policies very firm in stating that there is no excuse for not paying rent on time. Your virtual rent coordinator should impose a late rent payment fee to mitigate your own financial consequences or inconveniences as a result of their delayed payment.
“My car broke down so I can’t get the rent to you”
Depending on how long their car will be in the workshop for, it is more than fair to expect the rent payment in a timely manner. Public/private transport exists for this and many other reasons. You can also encourage online methods so tenants do not even have to step outside their house. Make sure your virtual rent coordinator follows up and provides them with the various online payment methods that are available to them.
“Something came up which I needed to pay for (Medical etc.)”
Although easier said than done for some people, being financially responsible means having an emergency fund to prepare for such cases. It is inevitable that people face unexpected spending at some point in their lives. However, this does vary case-by-case. For example, if you have had a long-term tenant who has a good record of paying rent on time, and they informed you that their latest rent payment may be late due to the pandemic, then as a gesture of appreciation it would be fair to take this into consideration and accept a delayed rent payment. Ask your virtual rent coordinator to make a chart or file organizing tenants into different categories that define them based on their payment history with you.
“I lost my job”
Although unfortunate, this is also where the emergency fund comes into play. Tenants should have an emergency fund to cover at least 2-3 months worth of rent, should anything happen to their income. As much as we want to be compassionate to others’ misfortune, landlords simply cannot generate their livelihoods without rent payments. Thus, ask your virtual rent coordinators to not hold back on exercising your right as a landlord to evict the individuals according to your state laws. This may be harder to do especially when we sympathize with the individual. Having virtual rent coordinators to look past it can help in this situation and put structure in place.
“I went there to pay, but no one was able to attend me”
This could be an excuse just to delay payments. Regardless, if this was true, it is the tenant’s responsibility to pay their bills during business hours (assuming they are paying in person). If the agreement was that rent will be paid in cash, and the landlord or rent collector indeed was not available even during business hours, then it is the landlord’s fault, not the tenant’s. If you are sure you are not at fault, then it is in your right to impose a late rent collection fee, assuming it is a written policy agreed and signed by both parties. Hiring a virtual rent coordinator can ensure tenants are not showing up unannounced or that they are left unattended.
“We are still waiting on the repairs we requested from you”
Normally, tenants are not allowed to withhold rent due to repairs not being done. There are exceptions to this. One example could be when the repairs are a necessity to keep the accommodation liveable. It’s also best to ask your virtual rent coordinators to check on which state laws allow rent-withholding as a self-protection measure.
With that said, if the laws of your state do not require you to make the repairs before rent collection, your virtual rent coordinator may inform this to your tenant. If they still refuse in satisfying the rent collection, we suggest you proceed with either late payment fees, or the eviction process.
“I already sent a check! Are you sure you did not receive it?”
This may be a common excuse left by tenants to delay their payment, as it shifts blame to the postal system. Bear in mind, it is very unlikely for the postal system to have lost such packages. In this case, ask your virtual rent coordinator to question your tenant on the posting details:
- Was it first or second-class mail?
- What day did you send it?
- What was the check number?
While keeping your questioning in a respectful way, you may get a hint of the truth based on how they react. If they get very defensive and refuse to answer your questions, chances are it was all a bluff and you can proceed with late payment fees.
“I don’t have enough money for the full rent at the moment. Can I pay it partially for the time being?”
There aren’t any laws saying you have to accept or decline, but the repercussions of accepting a partial rent payment can vary by state. In some areas, a partial rent payment is still classified as late rent payment. Thus, you are still within your rights to proceed with an eviction, if you see fit. Of course, this depends on the grace period of your contract and/or state. However, there are some states that prevent you from evicting your tenant IF you accept the partial rent payment.
If you decide not to accept partial rent payments, ask your virtual coordinators to communicate this clearly to your tenants that you do not accept anything less than the full rent payment when it is due.
Some reasons may seem more valid than others, while a few may simply be outrageous. We’ve even heard horror-stories from landlords, saying a tenant did not pay their rent because their ‘daughter had prom!’ Another individual, the tenant’s son, mentioned their father (the tenant) passed away, thus could no longer pay rent. Some years later, the landlord sees the ‘deceased’ tenant working at a gas station in town.
Even after doing everything above, you might still be hearing some excuses. Let’s look at the ways a virtual rent coordinator can nurture its tenants to help better ensure you get your rent money on time.
HOW VIRTUAL RENT COORDINATORS CAN IMPROVE GETTING RENT ON TIME
There are a multitude of things you can do to ensure you avoid getting rent payments late. We can break this down into relationships, process and communication.
With money being a large part of the relationship, it is very common to hear of sour relationships between tenants and landlords. This can potentially lead to tenants prioritizing finances outside of rent, neglecting the importance of paying on time and avoiding (or ‘ghosting’) the landlord. Such a relationship may demotivate the landlord with their responsibilities to the tenant and accommodation in question (such as repairs and maintenance).
A small thing landlords or property managers can do is have a virtual rent coordinator (VA rent coordinator) to check-in on your tenants outside of just asking for rent. Perhaps you could ask to make sure if everything is functioning as intended? Your VA rent coordinator could even arrange for a small thank-you note sent to your tenant(s) for their ongoing business relations, which could go a long way. It wouldn’t hurt to get an inexpensive gift to accompany this as well. If you are renting out multiple properties within the same space, having your VA rent coordinator remotely organize a small community get-together once in a while isn’t such a bad idea, either.
There are two benefits from this:
- Firstly, tenants will be less likely to avoid you because you will no longer be purely associated as a source of financial stress.
- Secondly, you will build a relationship with your tenants in such a way that you foster trust, care, and most importantly, respect for one another.
As people naturally place higher importance towards people they care about and respect, tenants will be more likely to pay rent on time if these values exist in your relationship.
Finally, your virtual rent coordinator can also provide gestures of appreciation for tenants who have been keeping up with their rent in a timely manner. Perhaps you could officiate this reward system in a written document, or keep it as a surprise? Either way, rewarding good behavior is a great way to encourage its repetition.
Process (Choosing a tenant)
This topic can range into many areas, but it all begins with choosing a tenant. Ideally, you do not simply accept the first tenant that walks into your office. During your review of your tenant’s income, your virtual rent coordinator can run some background checks on them to help ensure their monthly income is at least triple, or more, than the rent for the accommodation (as per the property management industry’s standards). This way, there is leeway to take food, transport, luxury and other financial commitments into account.
Once you’ve vetted potential tenants, virtual rent coordinators are even able to showcase properties virtually to them! But if ever they do decide to visit the physical space virtual rent coordinators will help organize ideal dates and times with them and the property owners and managers who will be showing the property. Keep in mind: when meeting with your tenant, be respectfully aware of their attitude. It is unrealistic to expect that every tenant behaves like Mother Teresa, so do keep in mind any red flags you notice during your encounters. This can give you an insight on how reasonable of a tenant they will become, in terms of requests and complaints.
Your virtual rent coordinator can also uptake the important task of verifying a would-be tenant’s credibility and reliability. Depending on their situation, they will ensure to call their previous landlords to understand past experiences. This helps you further understand your potential tenant outside your first few impressions. Although you may face rejection, talking to their past property owners and managers could provide
Digitizing your property management means streamlining workflow processes to provide efficiency, transparency and reliability.
Looking at payment types, your virtual rent coordinator will streamline your payment systems and provide only two options either via card payment or bank transfer only. This can save you a lot of trouble along the way, as ‘cheques bounce, mail gets lost, and drop-off locations are often targets for theft’. Virtual rent coordinators will help you to create an online website to have easy access for all your rent-related payments, or will utilize one of the many online services that provide this. This way, payments would be extracted directly from the tenant’s bank account, leaving a clear digital trail. Moving this process online also creates visibility on remaining and upcoming payments. Some popular website tools are Buildium, TurboTenant, AppFolio, Propertyware and SimplifyEm.
A number of these online tools even provide a subscription service – meaning the rent will automatically be deducted from the tenant’s account when it is due. Virtual rent coordinators will even set ‘rent due’ reminders, so your tenants will always be reminded of upcoming rent without you having to send emails or text messages.
This ties closely to building a relationship with your potential tenant, as well as covering your responsibility to list down your requirements and expectations as clearly as possible. Hiring a virtual rent coordinator can ensure your rental policies are clear in your written documents, as well as drilled down to your tenants. Your virtual rent coordinator would:
- Clearly establish all the different methods of payment available to them
- Outline when the rent will be expected, and its frequency
- Emphasize the consequences of not paying on time
- And clarify if there is a one or two-time grace period (It is recommended accepting late rent payment only once!)
- Make sure documents and contracts are signed, so both you and your potential tenant are on the same page.
This will protect you for any possible legal issues that may pop up down the line.
Good and consistent communication leads to a better form of respect and can lead your tenants to be prompted to provide referrals to other friends and family, provided they experienced good service.
To summarize, it is entirely up to the property owner or manager in accepting certain excuses. However, it is important to note that there are specific situations in which landlords cannot evict a tenant despite rent not being paid.
Although the steps above may seem daunting to some, keep in mind you do not have to do everything yourself. For many rental business owners, it is a necessity to identify the areas they can delegate to others so that they (in this case, the property owners and managers) can focus more on overall business growth. A modern solution to this problem would be hiring virtual rent coordinators to take some weight off your shoulders.
Technology evolves at an incredulous pace. We are consistently introduced to new inventions, which in turn provides new approaches to old problems. It is so important for rental businesses to stay ahead of this trend, ensuring they remain relevant and competitive in the property management market. It is unreasonable, especially for DIY landlords, to put everything on their shoulders. If branching out and growing your business is important to you then it’s crucial:
- To recognize areas you could spend less time on
- To Identify your strengths and weaknesses
- And to get help
On that note, VAs are one of the popular approaches to these old problems. They can cover your weakness with a skillset that transcends borders. For the outstanding service, it even removes the weight of paying for a physical office or insurance which ends up saving cost. It goes without saying that virtual rent coordinators are the path to the future – and the future is NOW!