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Sunday, 21 July 2019
Agent Resource Center
This Old House - Do-it-Yourself

Screening Property Service Providers

Written by Posted On Friday, 12 July 2019 10:06

Landlords can’t do it all, there just aren’t enough hours in a day. Property service providers are an extension of you and in the end, their quality of work and professionalism are a reflection of your standards and priorities. Ultimately, you are deciding on whom to trust and that will impact the tenant relations and profitability of your portfolio. 

Important Reasons to Screen a Contractor

You will want to give the same attention to the screening process whether trying to find one of the most common contractors for property management, or a handyman, laborer, or independent contractor. Skipping or skimping on this screening process can lead to dire consequences. 
 

Liability

Some tasks require a licensed specialist. It is important to vet your contractors completely to avoid being exposed to liability issues. Ignorance, in this case, is not bliss. 


Costly Errors

Their reputation speaks to the quality of their craft. The cost to redo or repair shoddy workmanship is money better spent elsewhere. 


Tenant Relations

The politeness and professionalism of your service providers can make or break tenant relations.


Peace of Mind

Trusting your contractors when that emergency, disaster, or random event occurs can add some calm to your storm. Not to mention, a trusted resource frees to do other important work.

Designing a Vendor Policy

Start by educating yourself on current laws and regulations and then research advice from the experts in regards to compliance, documentation, vendor relations, etc. From there, so you don’t miss a step, consider creating a vendor policy and vetting procedures handbook to outline screening requirements as a handy reference for yourself and/or your staff with these additional ideas:


Screening checklist

Licensing and insurance validation worksheet

Bidding process procedures (if needed)

Steps for processing invoices

Completed vendor list (organized by type and priority)

Important Criteria to Consider in the Screening Process

Set or review your company or portfolio objectives before starting any screening so that you’ll be prepared to determine if the person(s) or company aligns with your organization's philosophies and goals. From there, give heed to the following screening criteria: 


Compliance

Confirm that each service provider (whether an independent contractor, handyman, or laborer) operates legally and in a compliant manner for their industry and related tasks. This may mean checking the Secretary of State and other regulatory licensing websites. 


Insurance

Make certain they are fully insured with coverage against losses. Speak with your insurance carrier about the minimum amount and type of coverage they will need to carry for different types of projects. Additionally, ask if you need to add them to your current policy for any reason. 


Experience

Verify the experience, training, education required of their staff and ask about their HR policies. It’s also a good idea to check up on any certifications to make sure they are current.


Subcontractors

Hiring outside help typically means they can use subcontractors so it is a very good policy to find out if and how they evaluate and screen subcontractor for risks. 


Reputation

Read online reviews, ask for references, check the Better Business Bureau and assess their customer relations and remarks on craftsmanship. 


Availability

Determine if they are willing to work within your schedule and deadlines. Before taking on a service provider for a large project, remember to ask about their contingency plan regarding staffing or project issues. 


Presentation

Meet with them in person if possible to assess their professionalism.


Background checks

Decide if you need to conduct a background check for criminal or other issues. If needed, research vendor screening companies that conduct these background checks on your behalf. Many will also validate credentials, fingerprint, and research reputation so it might be worth your time to outsource the entire screening process. 

Building Vendor Relations

Although the vendor screening process is vitally important, creating and maintaining good relations is a close second. Once you’ve done your due diligence and found a team of professionals to work with, it’s now time to build a healthy, long-term relationship. Procedures and communication are key. 


At the minimum make sure they know your procedure and payment schedule for submitted invoices. In addition, consider designing a policy and procedures handout to share and/or review with your vendor, especially on larger projects. Some suggested items to include would be: 


Contact information and hours (include after-hour contacts)

Expectations on tidiness and cleanup

Expectations regarding contact and interactions with your residents 

Timelines for projects 

The original quote

Property map or diagrams, if needed

Consequences for failure to complete


A happy independent contractor or vendor goes a long way in creating peace of mind knowing that you can trust them to care for your property as if it were their own. After outlining expectations and information, take into considerations adding these habits: 


Pay Invoices Promptly

Just as you expect rents to be paid on-time, contractors rely on timely payments as well. 


Engage in their Process

Set expectations before, during, and after a project or task. Be interested in their profession and work. Ask good questions along the way; you might just pick up some handy tips and important information. 


Create a Team Mentality

Set the tone that they are an extension of you and your team. Communicate that team mentality not only to your contractors but also relay to your residence the service provider is a trusted member of your team. This can help reduce complaints and encourage cooperation if access to a home is required. 


Demonstrate Gratitude

Add a note of thanks when paying invoices. Be observant and then compliment and thank them for their insight, craftsmanship, tidiness, professionalism, dedication, etc. You can do this either verbally or in a quick email, text, or note. Everyone likes to be appreciated. 


Lastly, remember to routinely review your policies, procedures, and current vendor list. A measured, thoughtful approach to
vendor screening will go much further before an emergency than would a reactive measure in a crisis. Choosing wisely and caring for your vendors reduces turnover which may, in turn, reduce costs and costly errors and improve tenant relations.   

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Heather Peake

Heather, a writer in the rental and property management industry, applied her skills as an onsite property manager and landlord for many years before lending her talents to Rentec Direct. She now focuses on sharing her research and insider insights with landlords and property managers in the trenches. To learn more about Heather and find valuable property management tips visit www.rentecdirect.com

www.rentecdirect.com
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