I once made loan payments to a company for almost a year before I discovered my mistake.
You see, I never actually took out the loan.
But, the book keeper found some of the preliminary paperwork, and started making the monthly payments.
The loan company didn’t catch the mistake either.
Of course, they refunded my money.
This happened because I wasn’t paying attention.
What do you need to pay attention to make sure you aren’t overcharged by your property management company? This article gives you three specific items.

#1. Clerical Mistakes

Clerical mistakes are honest mistakes. They are not an attempt to defraud the property owner.

The only way to catch clerical mistakes is by looking closely at your monthly statement. There are some property management companies that don’t provide monthly statements. How in the world can you make certain that you aren’t being overcharged if you aren’t receiving a monthly itemized statement?

Here is a checklist of the items to pay attention to:

ItemChecked
Income
Rents
Late Fees (Should they have charged?)
Other Income
Expenses
Management Fees
Leasing Fees
Other Administrative Fees
Maintenance Invoices
Utility Bills
Other Expenses

You can copy the above table and use it as a monthly checklist to evaluate your statement. It shouldn’t take very long to check the statement as long as everything is there. That includes copies of all invoices and receipts. You absolutely need those in order to verify the information on your monthly statement.
If the property management company is not providing that information, you need to insist on it.

#2. Asleep at the Wheel

Asleep at the wheel is another honest mistake.
But those honest mistakes are costing you real money.
Sloppy property management practices can also resulting in overcharging.

Here are some common issues to watch for:

Utility bills you shouldn’t be paying for.

Utility bills that you are being charged for when there is a tenant in the property who is responsible for utility bills. Did the property management company neglect to switch the utilities off after the tenant moved in? This is a good reason to make sure you are getting copies of the lease so you know when the tenant moved in.

Property management company is not charging a late fee when it’s appropriate to do so.

Be sure the management company isn’t just pocketing the late fees. That shouldn’t be happening.
Are your administrative fees correct? Make sure that you aren’t being charged for type of administrative fee that is not appropriate. Sometimes management companies have minimum charges that people don’t expect. Or, they are charged for something out of the blue.

Mistakes on invoices.

Are you being charged for something that the tenant should be charged for? For example, if the tenant flushes something other than toilet paper that causes the plumbing to become clogged, the tenant is generally responsible for the plumbing bill. The property owner will likely get reimbursed for the service call once the tenant pays the property management company for the service call. Just make certain the property management company is charging the tenant for the service call.

Overcharging for maintenance.

Licensed contractors such as plumbers, electricians, and heat and air can get expensive, and there isn’t much getting around that.  But you don’t always need a licensed plumber to clear a clogged drain.  Or, a an electrician to change out a light switch that has gone bad.  A general maintenance technician can take care of those items.  And, it shouldn’t be costing you $50 per hour or more for those tasks.

Too much vacancy.

There are several problems that result in too much vacancy. All of them are caused by an “asleep at the wheel” attitude by the property management company. One could be taking too long to go from vacant property to finished make ready to listing and showing for rent. Another could be having the property listed at the wrong rental price, inadequate advertising, or not having everything done on the make ready so the property doesn’t show well.

We have one long-term client who always has a list of questions about each statement.  It definitely keeps us on our toes.  And, they have caught a few things that have ended up saving them some money.

#3. Outright Stealing

The example I gave above of my mistaken loan payments was an honest mistake.

Outright stealing is not the norm.  However, there are plenty of examples of property management companies that have defrauded their owners.

Just do a google search for “property manager embezzling”.  You will see dozens of article about a property managers getting busted for embezzling money from their owners.

You can even find several when you search for Oklahoma City property managers embezzling.

It’s not surprising. Embezzlement is a fairly common crime.  Many times, the embezzlement can go on for years without detection depended upon how careful the perpetrators are.

There are two ways that property managers can steal from their owners.

Pocketing Income Not Reported to the Owner

The first way is to pocket income that is not reported to the owner. For example, they can under report the rent they collect. This is where an audit of your books every now and then can make sense. You should be getting copies of the lease and the ledger.

In so doing, you can compare the lease to rental collections that are shown on the ledger. If there is a discrepancy, start asking questions. Compare those to what is reported on the monthly statements.
This implies a monthly itemized statement is an absolute must.

Creating Bogus Invoices

A second way is to invent bogus expenses. For example, a company might create a bogus invoice for work that was never done. I’ll admit, this one would be harder to detect. See if there are materials charges. If so, you should be getting copies of the receipts. Do the dates on the receipts make sense? If the management company can’t produce receipts, that’s a red flag.

Again, this implies that a monthly statement is an absolute necessary so you can closely scrutinize expenses.

One thing you should do before hiring any property management company is to check the criminal background of the people you are talking to at the company. And, the owner of the company. In Oklahoma you can go to http://www.oscn.net. It is a free service offered by the state that has criminal records for everyone convicted of a crime going back several decades. You can search them by name.

You can also do a google search on them.

This is not an exhaustive list of ways you could potentially be defrauded.  I’m certain their are many others.

Here is more information about how OKC Home Realty Services helps with Oklahoma City property management.