Property Management Record-Keeping: First Steps
We’ve talked about why you need to have a focus on record-keeping when you’re managing a property, and briefly reviewed what documents you need to keep. (We will explore that further in this series.)
But how exactly should you go about keeping our records? What do you need to do?
We are at the intersection of increasingly streamlined emerging technologies and old-school filing cabinets. Old habits die hard, and you may find your work or personal office strewn with years’ worth of documents. Or collecting dust in metal drawers and hanging folders with labels long faded. In the 2020s, our society is heading in the direction of remote operation, system integration and an emphasis on a greener, more paper-free world – and that’s the world you need to be part of as a property manager!
Rather than compare the benefits of physical vs. digital record management, let’s agree that physical records are going the way of the floppy disk and that you must take steps towards digitizing your records.
Where to start:
Determine Who Your Document Retention Officer / Team Is
As we previously discussed, if you are a business of one person, then this will be your task. However, if there is an ability to delegate then you’ll want to assign a person to head your Document Retention Team. This person or team will be in charge of:
- Developing, implementing, and maintaining the records management program
- Establishing protocol for records management in accordance with the document retention policy
- Determining what will be taken care of by the company / employee / team and what will be outsourced to a third-party company or software
Inventory Office Records
Before you can go about how to manage your records, you need to know exactly what it is you have on hand. By reviewing the materials that you have been keeping, either physically or digitally, you can then determine whether something is a record or non-record.
A Record has information created or received by your organization in pursuance of legal obligations or in the transaction of business, and has value requiring its retention.
A Non-Record is exactly what it sounds like – something that doesn’t need to be kept! This includes reference materials, junk mail, and duplicate records. (Get rid of those ASAP!)
Create a Document Retention Policy
There are general guidelines to follow when creating a document retention policy, but the best way to make sure that your retention policy is tailored to you and understood by your document retention officer and / or team is to make one of your own and detail what will be stored as well as how.
This policy is a teachable document that can be referenced by anyone in the company. It will give you and any employees or assistance clear directives on how your documents are managed.
Establish Your Records Retention Program
Your Records Retention Program is the system that takes all of the above information
and puts them into action! You will combine your document retention policy with a schedule, so that you are retaining the correct records for the appropriate amount of time – no less, and no more. You are not archiving your records; you are storing them for exactly as long as they legally need to be retained.
Taking the time to lay the groundwork and establish best practices may seem either like overkill or a major pain (or both) but it is absolutely necessary in order to move forward with properly sorting every record that you have on your tenants, properties, tax information and more!
When in doubt, let a professional Property Management Company like Frontline sort it out! Any landlords in the DFW and surrounding areas who suddenly feel out of their depth should contact us today to learn more about how we can increase your bottom line by protecting your Frontline!