Rental Property Management Software Guide

All landlords and property managers want to find the best rental property management software for their business. Factors like affordability, customization, simplicity, and the ability to grow your business are all considered when choosing your perfect rental management software. There are many options when choosing a software in our increasingly digital era, and it is important to choose one that works best for your business.

You don’t want to end up among many landlords who are unsatisfied and frustrated by their current property management software. The goal of your software is to simplify and streamline your rent collection process, not cause you a headache. Your perfect rental property software is right here waiting for you. It’s simple and organized with unique features you’re going to love.

Rental property management software: What is it?

Rental management software allows landlords and property managers to automate and simplify the responsibilities of running a property. This gives you more control and organization over your properties and saves you time.

Rental property management software: Who is it best for?

Rental management software can benefit professional property managers, real estate investors, DIY landlords, and anyone who owns or manages rental properties. The purpose of a software is to streamline the management of your business in a time efficient way whether you are managing a single rental property or thousands of units.

Pricing of your rental management software will vary based on the company. Some companies will claim to be “free” but have hidden fees such as payment fees and return fees that tenants have to pay, monthly minimums, or additional fees so it doesn't take 5+ business days to receive your money. Other property management systems are actually free, and offer basic features that serve landlords with a small number of units. Companies that have a large number of features and mostly serve larger property owners often charge monthly and/or annual fees. When searching for your rental management software, it is important to consider which types of landlords each software serves best.

Rental property management software: What are the different types?

  1. Residential
    Residential property managers need a software with features that help manage leases, communicate with tenants, track expenses, and screen tenants. These managers want to reach out to tenants enough to remind them of payments, but not too much to overwhelm them.
  2. Commercial
    Commercial property managers need a software that will help them track performance, improve their strategy, and analysis. Some important features for a commercial manager include automation of standard tasks, quick property maintenance, and lease data from many contracts. Since commercial leases often have more advanced terms, look for rental management software that allows multiple late fee and multiple daily late fee options to be stacked together so that lease terms are properly tracked.
  3. Investment
    Investment firms need a software that will keep them updated and ahead of their competition in an ever changing, fast-paced industry. Some important features for an investment firm would be help reducing errors in reporting, and accuracy in their financial documents.
  4. Retail
    Retail real estate managers need a software that will help with analyzing performance and strategic planning. They need technology to help make decisions using data in order to optimize the tenant mix.
  5. Affordable Housing
    Managers of affordable housing have the goals of taking care of tenants, while meeting compliance, funding, and reporting requirements. Important features for affordable housing managers would include help complying with requirements, connecting with tenants, automation of tasks, and screening tenants.
  6. Home Owners Associations (HOA)
    Home Owner’s Associations have the goals of satisfying tenants while also protecting profit margins. For this group, a software would always be relevant and updated, and able to help overcome challenges in reporting and revenue tracking.
  7. Public Housing
    Public housing agencies have to comply with regulations, meet daily demands, and manage different subsidy types. Software solutions that save these agencies time and effort are useful for public housing managers.

Regardless of the use of a rental management software, it keeps managers and landlords up to date and involved in their business.

What to look for in your rental property management software

A good property management system should provide the landlord with everything they need to successfully manage their properties all in one organized place. Your software should help you in the management process by simplifying these things:

  1. Online rental applications
    • Easy to send an application link to applicants
    • Ability to post the application link on websites
    • Ability to add your custom screening requirements to the top of the application to ensure you receive qualified applicants
    • Applicants should be able to attach documents throughout the application for validation, such as pay stubs, drivers license, pictures of pets, etc.
    • Receive notification that an application was completed and shared with you
    • Ability to mark an application as approved or declined and add personal notes about the decision
    • Ability to quickly find applications by searching by unit, date, or applicant's name
    • Ability to hide applications that you finished with (they are still stored in the system)
  2. Tenant screening
    • Credit Report
      • A credit score is a number based on an applicant's credit file to represent their creditworthiness. This can be an indicator of an applicant's likelihood of making on-time payments, including rent payments. A credit score is provided by one of the national credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion, Equifax), which track loan and payment history. Experian provides the following information about "What is a Good FICO Score?".

        Credit Score Rating % of People Impact
        300-579 Very Poor 16% Credit applicants may be required to pay a fee or deposit, and applicants with this rating may not be approved for credit at all.
        580-669 Fair 17% Applicants with scores in this range are considered to be subprime borrowers.
        670-739 Good 21% Only 8% of applicants in this score range are likely to become seriouly delinquent in the future.
        740-799 Very Good 25% Applicants with scores here are likely to receive better than average rates from lenders.
        800-850 Exceptional 21% Applicants with scores in this range are at the top of the list for the best rates from lenders.
      • It may be helpful to receive a credit report that contains all of the trade lines for the applicant to help provide a more accurate picture of the applicant. Trade lines are what credit reporting agencies call the detail that makes up the score. Trade lines typically contain: lender's name, type of account, current status, date that account was opened and closed, current balance, credit limit, monthly payment, and payment history.

        It may be helpful to understand if the applicant's debt is owed to a landlord or a different area such as student loans, medical bills, credit card debt, etc. These details can help your decide if you should approve the applicant.
      • Not all landlords use credit reports. A credit report is one variable in the decision to approve a rental application. The value of a credit report may depend upon the property type. For higher-end properties, the tenants are expected to have a good credit history, and a poor credit report can be a red flag. For lower-end properties, many of the tenants are expected to have lower credit scores, making the credit score less important in the decision process.
      • Landlords can use a hard pull or soft pull when obtaining a credit report. A hard pull is typically used for a new loan or credit card and can stay on your report for up to two years. Multiple hard pulls can reduce the applicant's credit score. A soft pull is typically used by employers, insurance companies, and other companies that are monitoring to see if a credit status is changing. It is preferable for a landlord to use a soft pull so that the applicant's credit score is not affected.
      • Landlords may report information to credit bureaus. If this information is positive (good payment history), then it may help increase a tenant's credit score. If this is negative (late payments or an eviction), then it may decrease a tenant's credit score.
    • Background Reports help ensure that landlords are providing a safe environment for all residents. Good tenants reduce the amount of property management time required and help to preserve the value of properties. Important items that should be on a background report include:
      • National reports (better than state specific reports because tenants move between states)
      • Criminal report, most wanted databases, and national sex offender public registry
      • Eviction information including public court records, tenant judgments for rent, tenant judgment for possession and money, unlawful detainers, failure to pay rent, and writs and warrants of eviction
      • Income/Asset estimates
      • Employment, previous addresses, and AKAs
  3. Managing lease agreements
    • Ability to charge rent monthly, twice a month, or weekly and set the specific day(s) of the month that rent is due.
    • The ability to automatically add late fees according to your lease needs.
      • Late fee: Ability to apply a late fee to the tenant's account with a custom description explaining the reason for the late fee. Ability to apply any number of grace period days after the rent due date before the late fee is automatically applied. Ability to choose a fixed late fee amount or a percentage of the rent amount initially due.
      • Multiple late fees: The ability to "stack" or have multiple late fees. This is often needed in commercial leases. For example, rent may be due on the 1st of the month and a 5% late fee is assess if rent is not paid on the 10th of the month and another 5% late fee is assess if the rent is not paid on the 15th of the month.
      • Option to setup discounts for paying early. A lease may indicate 5% NET 10, which means that the rent is 5% less if paid by the 10th of the month. The rent can be set at 95% and 5% can automatically be added with a custom description of "past the 5% discount" on the 11th of the month if the rent is not fully paid.
      • Daily late fee: Ability to add daily (or other frequencies) late fees with custom descriptions. The fees will be added until the rent is paid, the end of the month, until a specific day of the month, until the next rent is due, or when a certain number of fees have accumulated. It is also important to be able to set a maximum amount that will be added to ensure compliance with state laws.
      • Ability to stack any combination of multiple late and daily late fees.
      • Ability to automatically add a return fee to a tenant's account. For example, the lease may stipulate that a $50.00 return fee is added if a bank payment bounces or returns. This amount should automatically be added to what the tenant owes and be paid to the landlord.
    • Flexibility in setting the lease end date. Ability to have a month to month lease, a fixed term lease (ends on a specific date), or a fixed term lease that automatically converts to a month to month lease after the initial term.
    • Ability to upload a signed lease agreement so there is always a copy easily available.
    • Ability to share the lease with all tenants on the lease. Each tenant should be able to log into their tenant portal and be able to download any leases or other documents that the landlord has shared. Tenants should also be able to share signed lease agreements or other documents with their landlords.
  4. Collecting rent and online payments
    • Offering tenants an option on how to pay. Common methods include:
      • Bank Account: Tenants should be able to enter one or multiple bank accounts and select the appropriate bank account when making a payment.
      • Cash: Tenants should be able to make cash rent payments at retailers and have the payments be automatically posted to their account and automatically transferred to the landlord's bank account. Paying at a retailer is much safer for the tenant and landlord than paying cash to the landlord directly or placing cash in a drop box.
      • Credit or debit card: Landlords should have the option of choosing if tenants can pay with a credit or debit card. Tenants can contest credit card transactions for 180 days and it can be be difficult to win some cases with credit card companies.
      • Alternate payment methods. Some landlords accept payments through Zelle, Venmo, or PayPal. There should be the ability to enter these payments for landlords and tenants to have a full payment history available.
    • Partial payments. Ability for landlords to choose to allow partial payments for each lease. If partial payments are not allowed, then the tenant must pay the full amount currently due and cannot pay a smaller amount. By allowing partial payments, a tenant can pay a smaller amount than what is currently due.
    • Applying payments in the correct order is critical when assigning late fees and keeping records accurate. The following options should be available in a property management software:
      • Apply payments to the oldest item first
      • Apply payments to rent first, then if rent is fully paid, apply to fees
      • Apply payments to fees first, then if fees are fully paid, apply to rent
      • Payments should automatically be applied and include a tool to manually change how they are applied in case of special circumstances. Some state laws mandate how payments are applied.
    • Ability to add multiple tenants on a lease. Each tenant should have their own portal to make payments and see the history for the entire lease.
    • Ability to mark a tenant as "inactive". This is important for two reasons.
      • Single tenant moving out. If you have a lease with multiple tenants and one tenant moves out and another tenant moves in, you need the ability to mark the tenant leaving as "inactive" so they don't continue to receive lease notices. This allows the current lease to stay active.
      • Eviction process. If you mark all of the tenants "inactive" on a lease, this immediately stops all tenants from making a payment. This can be very important since the eviction process could be delayed by a month or more if the landlord accepts a small tenant payment.
  5. Sharing and storing documents
    • Ability to upload and securely store important documents. e.g. purchase agreements, loan documents, management contracts, maintenance contracts, etc.
    • Ability to share documents with all tenants on a lease. e.g. move-in checklist, lease agreement, move-in pictures, etc. The tenant should be able to log into their portal and see all of the documents that have been shared with them.
    • Ability to share documents with all tenants at a property. e.g. Pool rules, upcoming maintenance, etc.
    • Ability for a tenant to share documents with the property manager. e.g. proof of renters insurance, leases that tenants have signed, etc.
  6. Communication with tenants
    • Ability to send messages to all tenants on a lease.
    • Ability to send messages to all tenants at a property.
  7. Advertising your properties
    • Ability to enter pictures and a description of each property.
    • Ability to send property information to marketing websites, such as Zillow, Rentals, and Zumper.
  8. Expense tracking
    • Ability to enter an expense. (including the date, vendor, notes, and an image)
    • Ability to split an expense across any number of properties or units. An invoice is often across different units.
    • Expense splits can be assigned a different categories. (either a standard tax category or a custom category)
    • Ability to assign each expense split as a capital expense, which may need to be treated differently when filing taxes. For example, a new heating unit may be a capital expense which may need to be amortized instead of completely expensed for the current year.
  9. Accounting tools
    • Ability to post changes to a lease and the option to send a notice to all tenants on the lease.
    • Ability to post any new credit to a lease and the option to send a notice to all tenants on the lease.
    • Ability to post any new payment to a lease and the option to send a receipt to the tenant making the payment.
    • Ability to create a profit and loss statement and balance sheet.
    • Ability to create a rent roll.
    • Ability to download various reports, including all history, over due charges, deposits, payments, billing, and expenses.
    • Ability to download into QuickBooks, Xero, FreshBooks, or other accounting packages.
  10. Maintenance requests
    • Ability for tenants to notify landlords of problems and include pictures or a short video.
    • Ability for a landlord and tenant(s) to communicate back and forth and record a full history of the communications.
    • Ability for a landlord to approve, prioritize, and assign work orders to internal or external maintenance workers.
    • Ability to schedule maintenance work with tenants.

Schedule My Rent has many of these features and adds new features every month.

How to choose the best Rental Property Management Software for you?

These key questions will help you determine which software will serve you and your business best.

  1. How long does it take to receive money?
    Research how long it takes for money to be transferred to your bank account. Some companies are slow to make transfers and it may take 5-7 days. Many companies deposit funds in 3 business days, which may be a standard feature or may cost extra. Schedule My Rent is one of only a few companies that offers the option of transferring money to your bank account the same day that money is withdrawn from the tenant's bank account.
  2. What is the real cost?
    Look at the total cost of operating different software solutions. There are several areas to consider.
    • How much time do you save?
      Look for solutions that are highly automated to reduce the amount of time you have to spend on simple tasks. For example, when collecting rent online, tenants should automatically receive rent reminders, receipts when they pay, various late fees, return notifications, etc. It should also be very easy for landlords to see the payment status across all units. Investigate how automated each provider is.
    • How much does the service cost?
      Different property management systems charge differently, but the most common methods are:
      • Number of units: There is a fixed monthly charge for every unit entered or a price change when you reach a certain numer of units. Some providers have a fixed minimum charge even if you have fewer units.
      • Number of payments: There is a fee for each payment received.
      • Additional processor fee: There may be a fee from a separate company, such as Stripe, which may contain both a monthly fee and transaction fees.
      • Other services: Tenants are often charged for credit and background reports, tenant rental insurance, credit card processing fees, and other items.
    • Are there hidden fees that tenants pay?
      Does the rental management software have hidden fees such as monthly minimums, annual fees, tenant payment fees, or return fees? Some providers charge tenants for bank account payments and for returned payments.
  3. Can you get questions answered?
    It is important that you can contact your provider on the phone, chat, or leave a message that will be returned quickly.
  4. Is the software cloud-based or installed?
    This is extremely important when considering a property management software. A cloud based software will provide you with data security, doesn't require a dedicated computer, and you can access to your account anywhere from computers, tablets, or phones.
  5. Are you able to scale up your rental management software?
    Cloud-based software typically scales from one unit to hundreds or thousands of units. Software that is installed on your local computer may have constraints because of the size of the computer, the size or reliability of the Internet connection, etc.
  6. Tenant portal for tenant to help themselves?
    Each tenant should have their own account to store their personal payment information, to see lease terms, to see what is due and what other people on the lease have paid, and to see a complete lease history.
  7. Does the property management software have the features you need?
    Different landlords manage different size properties. You need a software that will be compatible with your number of units. For example, Schedule My Rent focuses on landlords with 1-500 units.

It is important to consider property management software by how useful they will be to you, not how aggressively they are advertised on the Internet. A software that is easy to use, relevant, simple, and has a knowledgeable customer service base are going to be more useful for you.

Benefits of a Rental Property Management Software based in the Cloud

  1. Better Security
    Having your data stored on outside servers has many security benefits that smaller local servers don’t have. Companies such as Amazon Web Service, Microsoft Azure, or IBM Cloud all use the cloud to store their data. The security benefits of the cloud are data encryption, fire wall, security professionals to identify hackers, and better software and hardware resources.
  2. Lower Cost
    Because the cloud is a network of computers with modern resources, they don’t need a local server with an administrator. You can save in the areas of maintenance, upgrades, administration, programming, and hosting by using the vast cloud system.
  3. Better Performance and Compatibility
    The cloud system offers many more opportunities for software compatibility. Property management companies can run their systems through mobile, desktop, Windows, Mac OS, iOS, or Linux.
  4. Adaptability
    Using the cloud, there is no constraint based on data storage, number of users, and computing. Property management software solutions based in the cloud can help with your company specifically regardless of size.
  5. Connectivity
    You can access your account through the cloud basically anywhere, anytime, and on any device. Communication and connection are simpler through the cloud.
  6. Updates and Recovery
    If you do get hacked, your system through the cloud will be recovered automatically and much more quickly than a local server. Time when your system is down is valuable time wasted, so it is important to have a fast backup plan in place.

Upgrading Rental Property Software

More and more people are upgrading to more modern property management solutions as older platforms are becoming less useful. With new expectations, more properties, technology and regulatory changes, and updated software features, old platforms are being pushed out of the way to make room for more modern solutions.

Modern software that is continuously improving is important for managing your properties. In order to stay up to date, many landlords have to move from old legacy applications to newer platforms. It is important to discuss this with your current system.

Our property management software is always changing and improving to help you as a landlord and your tenants. Our team works to fix all bugs and upgrade our software and provide you with new convenient features to better your experience managing your properties.

Important information and tips regarding your rental management software:

When managing a property, it is important to keep both landlords and tenants satisfied. Along with this, surveys show that the priorities of property management companies are profit, growth, and efficiency. The right property management software will provide you with the right platform and tools to do all of the above.

Choose the best Rental Property Management Software for you

Schedule My Rent has features that are useful for any type of property manager. Our site has an organized landlord dashboard that keeps landlords aware of rent payments on all of their units and properties. Our software is continuously evolving and adapting to meet your needs as a landlord and satisfy your tenants. Schedule My Rent’s site is secure, connected, and easily accessible through our cloud-based software and we are always here and ready to help. Choose the best Rental Property Management Software for you and your business.

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