For many landlords, the idea of managing their own rental property or portfolio of properties seems relatively straight-forward. In many cases, particularly with single properties, an owner might manage just fine, provided the tenant pays on time and looks after the property. But things don’t always go as planned. Since March 2020, landlords have battled with keeping and sourcing good tenants, mounting rental arrears fairly, and difficulty evicting non-paying tenants – and expert rental agents have been lifesavers for their clients.
Whilst many challenges have abated somewhat with the lessening impact of the pandemic, the reality is that the intricacies of rental portfolio management are best navigated with the expertise of accredited rental agents.
But “expertise” and “accredited” are key terms here. What should you look for in a professional estate agent, or “property practitioner” (the new term used for “estate agent” since implementation of the Property Practitioners Act, 22 of 2019), to make sure that you are getting someone who will manage your property investments with the care they deserve?
1. Good estate agents are equipped to handle arrears
Whilst tenant arrears are improving, 45% of respondents that took part in the annual PayProp State of the Rental Industry Survey for 2021 reported arrears were worse last year than before the pandemic. This percentage improved from 77% the year before, but it is clear that arrears are still a concern.
Forward-thinking rental agents have powerful tools and tested processes to identify bad tenant behaviour, such as late and non-payment, before it becomes a major issue. The best platforms can remind tenants to pay ahead of the agreed date, or when a payment is missed, and can issue further reminders or even letters of demand when necessary.
However, in the current climate it is far more constructive to work closely with tenants to assess affordability and agree on payment plans. These are all processes, negotiations and conversations that a professional rental agent is skilled at undertaking.
2. Good agents are equipped with technology for professional property management
Good agents are able to navigate the property rental lifecycle – from listing a rental property, to attracting, assessing and securing suitable tenants, facilitating and managing the lease, managing the property including tenant requirements, and most importantly, keeping an accurate and transparent window on payments and transactions relating to the property. As a property owner, doing this for one property can be challenging enough, but with several properties in your portfolio it tends to be overwhelming. Technological solutions are available to rental agents that can automate this journey to offer professional and reliable assistance.
3. Good agents are PPA-compliant and display impeccable ethics
The new Property Practitioners Act is now in effect, and governs the activities of all property practitioners in South Africa. Amongst these regulations are stringent rules about the signing of mandates, disclosure with regard to properties, introduction of and dealings with lessees, and the management of funds pertaining to property rentals and sales. Good agents abide by the Act ensuring that all property transactions are open and honest. As a landlord and property owner, dealing with such an agent offers the peace of mind that all transactions are compliant with legislation and ethically sound.
4. Good agents continually update and hone their skills
Under the new Act, agents are required to undertake professional development activities every three years to update their knowledge and improve their professional service. Every property practitioner must complete at least 12 modules of continuing professional development with a minimum of four modules completed each year, ensuring that they keep up with the latest regulatory requirements and industry best practices.
In trying conditions great agents balance technology, sound financial management, impeccable ethics and legal compliance with resilience, local market knowledge and empathy to serve all parties well. As a landlord, there’s no better partner to have.