The holiday season is coming up fast. If you have a property manager handling your multifamily units (apartments or townhouses), make sure that he or she is proactive about reducing the unique risks that arise at this time of year to both your residents and your buildings. Here are some of the things that a good property manager should address:
1. Winter Parking
Make sure that your property manager sets expectations for your residents before the first snowfall hits. Annual notices should go out that address if (and where) residents are expected to shovel or salt. Unless parking slots are assigned, residents should be reminded that clearing the snow from one in the morning doesn't automatically reserve the spot for the evening after work. It should be clear that any attempts to "reserve" a spot with the use of lawn chairs or other items won't be tolerated.
2. Household Guests
You can expect a lot of your residents to have overnight guests during the holidays. This can present a different parking problem: guests who compete for spaces normally reserved for residents. If your complex has extra spaces, your property manager should have a system in place to allocate those spaces to overnight guests and provide temporary identification for their cars. That way your property manager can keep track of what cars are supposed to be on the lots and keep an eye out for strangers that don't belong. Make sure residents know what towing policies are in place and enforce them.
3. Theft Prevention
People in the United States do about 45% of their holiday shopping online, and a lot of people send gift cards and money to relatives through the mail. Thieves know it. Multifamily units are easy to target because people don't know all their neighbors and are likely to overlook a strange face or two. You want to make sure that your property manager is doing everything that he or she can to make your properties less attractive for a thief. If your property manager has an open office during business hours, consider allowing residents to use the office as a safe drop-off point for package delivery. Make sure that your property manager also has someone assigned to stroll the area to watch for suspicious activity and thieves.
4. Holiday Decor
You don't want to be seen as the Grinch and forbid outdoor holiday decorations altogether, but you also want to reduce your liability for accidents that are the result of over-eager decorators. Almost 6,000 people a year fall while putting up holiday lights. Your property manager should let residents know that outdoor lighting will be handled by the management and ask residents to keep their lights inside the buildings. In the interest of fire safety, residents should be asked to stick to artificial Christmas trees. That can help reduce the possibility of fires from hot holiday lights that come into contact with dry pine needles.
It isn't possible to totally eliminate the seasonal hazards that come along with owning rental properties. However, a good property manager who stays on top of the situation and is responsive to your concerns can help you reduce the risks. That makes the holidays safer and easier for everyone involved. Are you still trying to manage your properties yourself? Consider taking a step back and hiring a professional this year. You may enjoy the freedom that comes from putting someone else in charge for a while.