As a long-standing provider of property management, D.C. investors, we want you to know: if you're still collecting paper rent checks from your renters, you're living in a bygone era. Social distancing might very well be the situation that forces many investors to modernize the way they collect rent, fees, and other dues—not only in a crisis but as a long-term solution.
What happens when your residents struggle to pay the rent if they can't bring you a check in person? You don't want to provide a viable opportunity to withhold the rent. While we enjoy largely reliable mail services in this country compared to the rest of the world, sending the rent by mail is no longer justifiable.
Taking a proactive approach now and making it easier for tenants to pay the rent helps them stay current on their payments. It also enables you to get paid every month.
Follow these tips from the best property management D.C. offers to make paying the rent easier for your tenants through social distancing—or any crisis.
As a note: This post is not a substitute for proper legal counsel. When in doubt, it's best to reach out to the experts at EJF Real Estate Services or obtain guidance from a skilled attorney.
You Should Already Be Online
If you don't already have a way for tenants to pay the rent online, now is the ideal time to set up an online payment system. Providing a secure online tenant portal makes it easy for your renters to leave paper cataloging behind and pay their rent through ACH or with a credit or debit card.
An online system also helps you and your renters to maintain social distancing without delaying rental payments. Using an online portal makes it possible for tenants to set up reminders or automatic payments, an increase in convenience for them. If they're out of town when the rent is due, tenants won't risk a late fee when they can set up a payment while they're away or log into a portal and make a payment remotely.
You'll find that crafting and implementing the payment plans required of investors by the D.C. Council are far easier to manage via a digital medium, as well.
Offer Incentives to Make the Switch
Many renters look for rental homes that offer an online payment system. As your expert provider of property management, D.C. investors, we can tell you that when you market the availability of an online tenant portal, your properties will instantly become more attractive to quality tenants.
What about your current tenants who have consistently paid you by mailing in or dropping off a check every month? How can you encourage them to take advantage of rental payments online? Once they've gone digital, you want them to continuously favor the use of technology—even after social distancing is no longer required.
One viable method is to temporarily waive any payment fees for tenants who switch their rental payments to your online system. You don't have to do that forever, but consider covering the online payment processing fees for them through the end of their current lease term.
Most tenants will appreciate the ease-of-use and convenience of an online payment system. For those who resist a change in their rental payment habits, let them know how an online portal benefits them.
- No more stamps—or wondering if your rental check was lost in the mail.
- No more trips to your home or office to drop off a check.
Plus, paying the rent online makes you a more efficient landlord. Tracking payments becomes easier when you use an online payment system linked to your bank account and your tenant's payment history. When you save money on your operating costs, this could reduce the amount you may need to raise your rent to meet the demands of your overhead expenses.
What If They Refuse?
You're unlikely to have a renter so stubborn that they refuse to let go of their paper rental checks. However, if you happen to have a resident who pays for everything either with a check or cash, they might struggle to transition to a digital payment platform.
Investors still need to honor social distancing: if tenants can't come to your office and hand you a check, set up a secure dropbox to receive rental checks from your tenants who are reluctant to go digital.
A Portal Is Much More Than a Rental Payment
In addition to the perks of paying the rent online, your tenants will benefit in many ways when using an online portal. If paying rent online isn't enough to help them go paperless with their payments, highlight the other benefits of the portal!
- Renters can easily review lease agreements and other documents.
- Residents can submit maintenance requests (without having to call).
- Tenants can sign documents digitally (no more trips to the leasing office).
- As an investor, you can easily review payment history and confirm payments.
- 24/7 access makes payments or maintenance requests from anywhere simple.
An online portal makes life easier for everyone!
You may initially transition your renters to an online payment system to work through the social distancing crisis. However, as the experts in property management, D.C. investors, we recommend maintaining online payments as your long-term solution.
Professional Property Management Is Your Support
Relying on the experts to help you collect the rent during social distancing benefits you and your tenants even more than an online portal. The cost of your current landlord software is probably comparable to hiring a property manager—but we can do so much more for you!
EJF Real Estate Services can help tenants transition to an online portal for rental payments. We'll also work with tenants who still want to write checks while following social distancing protocols. However, our skills are not limited to these areas alone. We've been serving the Washington D.C. property investing community for over 20 years, and we've learned a thing or two in that time.
Take advantage of our insight by downloading your free copy of our Collecting Rent in a Crisis Handbook. Only 71% of renters in the D.C. area were able to make their payments in April; 84% were able to make payments (or partial payments) in May. With June rapidly approaching—and no definitive, additional support in sight coming from Capitol Hill—now is the time to put a plan into action.