There’s no denying that the role of property manager is a busy one. The daily to-do list can be demanding and that’s before any unexpected requests come through. No matter how diligent you are at getting things done and documenting them, when you get busy, things can slip through the cracks and details are often the first things that get missed. This can land you in hot water because a lack of evidence can cost you dearly.
A property manager learned a costly lesson about the need to maintain properly documented records after being held liable for a significant injury sustained when the tenant of a property being managed by the agency fell through rotting steps at the property. The agent had to pay more than $200,000 to cover the cost of the claim.
Why was the property manager liable?
The property manager was aware of issues with the steps because the tenant had advised them of their concern. While the landlord had been notified of the state of the steps through written reports, the property manager had neglected to document everything, such as what needed to be done and when. This meant the landlord was unaware of the urgency of the matter. Failing to seek instructions from the landlord in an appropriate and specific manner amounted to ‘no action’ on the part of the property manager.
Compounding the lack of sufficient detail in the reports was the fact that the landlord was not on email. As a result, the property manager had been posting the documents through the ordinary post rather than through registered mail, which would have provided them with written evidence.
After the tenant was injured, the landlord denied being aware of the issue with the steps, saying that nothing had been received in the mail from the agency. Unfortunately the property manager was unable to prove that the letters and notices had in fact been sent or delivered.
While the property manager had done most things by the book, without evidence that the documents had been sent or delivered they didn’t have a leg to stand on. In the eyes of the law, unless you have proof, it didn’t happen.
Had the property manager had access to Maintenance Manager, the system’s automated job workflow would have sought instructions and issued automated reminder follow-ups if those instructions weren’t received. The full audit log automatically generated by Maintenance Manager would also have helped in this scenario. Furthermore, if a PropertySafe Report had also been carried out at the property, it would have highlighted the steps as a safety risk and notified the landlord directly. Then if the landlord failed to take immediate action, the tenant could have been warned not to use the steps. This would have been seen as sufficient evidence in a court of law that the property manager had done everything in their power to protect the tenant.
The bottom line – document or have a digital record of everything! You never know when you may need it as evidence!