Landlord Basics: Organizing Property Files

papers

(This post is part of our “Landlord Basics” series, which seeks to help the new landlord / investor understand some of the basics of tenant relations and property management.  Click here to view the entire Landlord Basics archive.)

Organizing the files you keep on a rental property can become a real challenge, especially as your portfolio grows.  By starting early, and having a defined system for dealing with paperwork as it comes in, you can lower stress and prevent paperwork overload!

Each property that you own should have several files associated with it.  The first file created should be one containing copies of the deed, mortgage information, tax assessment, and other information pertinent to the ownership of the property.  Using copies in this folder is important, because the original documents should be kept in a safe deposit box, or at the very least a personal safe.

The second file created should contain tax information, paid tax bills, and other documents related to taxes.  This will keep your tax information at hand, and give you the ability to refer to historical data on the property without much difficulty.

Keeping maintenance files together in one folder will help you reference past maintenance items quickly.  If you create a standardized maintenance form for each maintenance call, you can easily staple quote, receipts, and other documents to the original form, so you can have all the information on one job in one spot.  You may want to make a copy of the completed maintenance form to put in the unit or tenant folder.

Organizing the rest of your files can be done one of two ways: broken down unit by unit, or tenant by tenant.  The advantage to breaking things down unit by unit include the ability to reference all information on that unit, such as tenant information, maintenance items, utility bills, and more at once.  If you go with the tenant by tenant filing system, it makes it much easier to track tenants from application to end of tenancy, and in some cases post tenancy (collections activity, court actions, etc).

The final folder I would include should be one that is on your desk at all times.  This folder includes the unpaid bills, maintenance tasks not completed, and other items needing attention before they can be filed away.  Having this information at your finger tips will limit trips back and forth to the filing cabinet.  Once an item is taken care of, it can be filed appropriately, thus keeping you more organized.

By starting early, and staying on top of things, you can defeat the paperwork monster that plagues investors and landlords!  Keeping organized will help you use your time more efficiently, and allow you to better manage your properties.

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