Five Traits of an Exemplary Property Manager

What Makes an Exemplary Property Manager

According to Rory Williams, Managing Partner at SVN/Demetree Real Estate Services

Owning a property designed to be leased or rented is a significant investment of time and money. These properties—including retail centers, office or industrial complexes, self-storage facilities and homes—also carry a number of inherent challenges. What if I can’t get a tenant? What if my tenant is behind in payments? How do I keep up with the maintenance demands of the property?

Enter, the property manager.

Just remember, you invested a great deal into your property. How can you ensure that you have the best property manager for the job? 

You can—and should—get references, check the person’s vacancy rate or ask the manager a battery of questions about tenant acquisition, maintenance, fee structure, etc. There are also personal traits you can discern by talking to a property manager. These are important markers that will help you make the right choice.

[bctt tweet=”How can you ensure that you have the best property manager for the job?”]

Look for these traits when hiring a property manager.

1. The property manager is an excellent communicator.

On the most basic level, this means he or she promptly follows up quickly on phone calls. If you leave a voicemail, and the property manager doesn’t get back to you, your tenant will probably be treated similarly. Additionally, if a property manager procrastinates, it could end up costing the property. You want a flowing pipeline of communication between all parties, so there are no misunderstandings – the root of so many conflicts with tenants. Being a strong communicator also means being transparent, upfront about everything that is going on in the working relationship.

2. The property manager is highly knowledgeable.

The industry is complex. There is much a property manager must know about the current market, screening tenants, legal considerations, preparing leases. Be sure the person you’re working with speaks with authority and conveys the clear impression of being an expert. A property manager should be able to answer questions easily about security deposits, tenant retention, rent—all facets of the business.

3. The property manager keeps the tenant relationship professional at all times.

The tenant/property agreement is a binding contract that needs to be maintained at a professional level. An exemplary property manager is trained to work with tenants on a professional, dispassionate level – as a business should operate. For this reason, the property manager is able to act as a wall of separation between property owner and tenant, relaying information and taking action as your official agent.

4. The property manager is good with numbers.

Must he or she be an accountant? Not necessarily. But again, you have a large investment hanging in the balance, so the more you reduce the margin of error, the better. A property manager should be math-savvy, able to quickly and accurately calculate your costs, extra fees, cash flows or whatever other numbers are involved in the transaction. Having additional accountant staff is an important hedge against any slips when punching out equations that affect your property. It’s also a big help at tax time. So be sure your property manager has this vital backup.

5. The property manager has appropriate resources.

A property manager should have the resources necessary to make your job easy and seamless. Accounting was already mentioned but you should also take a look at the accessibility to that accounting system and the reporting structure. If a property manager has a team of supporting individuals and the technology required for you to easily access that information, you are likely to maintain a more transparent relationship with him or her. Ask and be knowledgeable about the software capabilities to be sure you’re getting the most efficient and effective product.

To read more about property management, read our Sperry Van Ness Property Management Value Proposition here.

SVN PM Value Prop

The Dark Corners of the Commercial Lease: Part Four

The following was adapted from a lunch & learn presentation at Sperry Van Ness | RICORE Investment Management, Inc in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is part four in a four-part series. 

Demystifying the Commercial Lease: Part Four

A typical commercial lease is a comprehensive document that may be anywhere from 20 to 60 pages long. (Often with exhibits these things can be huge! So, reviewing new leases can be a real headache for an agent trying to sell or property manager taking on the management of a new multi-tenant property or shopping center.) When paging through a lease many provisions can seem irrelevant, extraneous, unimportant or rarely used. The fact is that every lease provision is drafted to address a specific event, need or situation that a landlord or tenant may face. Today, I was asked to address some of the more ‘legalistic’ provisions in the commercial lease in an attempt to try to ‘demystify’ them for you.

Also be sure to read part one of this series on Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment Agreements and ‘SNDA Agreements’, part two on Tenant Estoppel Certificates, and part three on Indemnification.

IV. Notices Under Commercial Leases

A vague or unclear notice provision can prevent the parties from efficiently enforcing critical rights and remedies under the lease. Notice provisions should specifically identify the acceptable methods of delivery and clearly specify when notices will be deemed to be effectively given. Further, notices improperly given (that is, that do not follow the letter of the notice provision) may be deemed to be ineffective or as no notice at all.

If hand-delivery is an acceptable means of providing notice, the parties should consider whether that method is likely to be effective under their particular circumstances, taking account of the size of the entities involved and other practical considerations. In addition, the hand-delivery method must expressly require an acknowledging signature, receipt, or other documentation to evidence the actual delivery.

The parties should also consider whether to allow notice given by the more convenient methods of facsimile and email, which will depend, in part, on the term of the lease—facsimile numbers and email addresses will likely change over time. Also, the reliability of fax or email notices may be questionable. Sometimes, notice by fax or email will provide that they are not effective until confirmed by a more reliable method of notice, such as by certified mail, return receipt requested, or overnight delivery by national overnight courier service, capable to confirm delivery to a named recipient. Further, the notice provision should contemplate a method to change notice addresses and contact information, such as fax numbers and email addresses.

Related War Story: What constitutes an effective amendment of a commercial lease?

The landlord and tenant have had ongoing discussions about the tenant’s placement of a sign on the roof of an office building shared by the landlord, tenant and other tenants. The tenant had frequent email exchanges with the landlord on a weekly or monthly basis about its tenancy in general, including discussions about the sign. The tenant had been after the landlord for several months to consent to allowing the tenant to install an illuminated sign on the roof of the office building located downtown in the CBD and with significant expressway exposure. The landlord finally consented by email to permit the tenant to install the sign after reviewing renderings of the proposed sign prepared by the tenant’s sign vendor. The tenant had the sign constructed at the cost of $30-40,000 +/-. When the tenant had the sign delivered to the building for installation, the landlord refused to allow access to the roof for installation. A lawsuit ensued. The tenant’s claim to permit installation of the sign was determined by the court to require an amendment to the lease. The lease expressly stated that any amendment to the lease was to be in writing and signed by the landlord and tenant. The email ‘amendment’ was unenforceable, and in fact, was no amendment to the lease at all.

Further, under Ohio law, any material amendments to the lease must be signed with the same formalities as a lease, that is, in writing and with each party’s signature acknowledged by a notary public.

To read more on property management, click here.

SVN PM Value Prop


The Dark Corners of the Commercial Lease: Part Three

The following was adapted from a lunch & learn presentation at Sperry Van Ness | RICORE Investment Management, Inc in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is part three in a four-part series. 

Demystifying the Commercial Lease: Part Three

A typical commercial lease is a comprehensive document that may be anywhere from 20 to 60 pages long. (Often with exhibits these things can be huge! So, reviewing new leases can be a real headache for an agent trying to sell or property manager taking on the management of a new multi-tenant property or shopping center.) When paging through a lease many provisions can seem irrelevant, extraneous, unimportant or rarely used. The fact is that every lease provision is drafted to address a specific event, need or situation that a landlord or tenant may face. Today, I was asked to address some of the more ‘legalistic’ provisions in the commercial lease in an attempt to try to ‘demystify’ them for you.

Also be sure to read part one of this series on Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment Agreements and ‘SNDA Agreements’, and part two on Tenant Estoppel Certificates.

III. Indemnification.

Since a tenant of a commercial lease has both possession and control of the premises owned by the landlord (and the landlord does not), a landlord will generally require the tenant to indemnify the landlord in connection with any incident or event occurring on the premises or arising from the tenant’s occupancy or use of the premises. On the one hand, because the landlord is the owner of the space, if the tenant or its property is damaged, or if a customer is injured in the space, the landlord is likely to be sued for the damage or injury. On the other hand, frequently, landlords have little practical control over a parcel of property or interior store space after it is leased to a tenant. Further, landlords also do not wish to bear the cost of insuring for accidents in the tenant’s leased space.

A typical indemnification provision from a pro-landlord lease is as follows:

Indemnity. Tenant agrees at all times to indemnify, defend and save harmless Landlord and its members, officers, employees, agents, contractors, successors and assigns from and against any and all claims, actions, damages, liabilities and expenses, including, but not limited to, attorneys’ and other professional fees and expenses, in connection with loss of life, personal injury and/or damage to property occurring on the Premises or arising from the occupancy or use by Tenant of the Premises, or arising from any breach or default in the performance of any obligation on Tenant’s part to be performed under this Lease, or resulting from or arising out of the act or omission of Tenant, its agents, employees or invitees.

An indemnity provision is a contractual obligation of the tenant to pay for something (claims, damages, liabilities or expenses…) and it is separate and apart from other contractual obligations and damages under the lease or any other agreement. Therefore, an indemnity obligation by the tenant can be of great benefit to the landlord, since the landlord does not have to prove that its damages or expenses flowed directly from the tenant’s default under the lease in a court of law in order to get an order by the tenant to pay to the landlord.

A pro-landlord indemnity provision will seek to cover not only claims arising from events or incidents occurring within the premises but also those of invitees, such as customers, suppliers, employees and vendors of the tenant, occurring outside of the tenant’s premises, for instance, on the sidewalk in front of an office or storefront or in the parking lot of an office or shopping center. A landlord believes the tenant should be responsible for such claims since these persons are coming to the tenant’s premises for the purposes of conducting business with the tenant. However, if the area is a common area such as a sidewalk or parking lot under the landlord’s control and a business invitee slips and falls on accumulated ice, the landlord is likely responsible for some or all of the claim. Further, a tenant can be responsible for the negligent or intentional acts of its employees, agents or invitees under the indemnity clause. [Keywords indicating coverage for negligence: claims… arising from the acts or omissions of the tenant, its agents, employees or invitees… ]. Lastly, a pro-landlord indemnity provision will protect the landlord from liabilities, damages and expenses arising from the tenant’s breach or default under the lease.

Ohio Law – Premises Liability:

“Occupation [or] control… is necessary as [a] basis for liability of such party for personal injuries resulting from the condition of such premises.” See Cooper v. Rose, 151 Ohio St. 316 (1949).

“One having neither occupation nor control of premises is ordinarily under no legal duty to an invitee of another with respect to the condition or use of those premises.” Brown v. Cleveland Baseball Co., 158 Ohio St. 1 (1952). Shump v. First Continental-Robinwood Associates, 71 Ohio St. 3d 414 (1994) (citing each of the above cases with approval).

Protections for Landlord from Claims (Order of Recourse):

1. Tenant – obligations under lease, includes an indemnity obligation to the landlord (solvency of the tenant and its business);

2. Tenant’s Insurance – the tenant’s coverage should be ‘primary;’

3. Tenant’s Guarantors – always require (or ask for) guarantors;

4. Landlord’s Insurance – the landlord’s coverage should be ‘secondary’ to the tenant’s which is primary; and

5. The landlord’s limitation of liability in the lease itself (liability of the landlord shall be limited to the landlord’s interests in the property and any judgments shall be satisfied solely out of the proceeds of sale of the landlord’s interest in the property. No personal judgment shall be taken against the landlord or its partners, shareholders, directors, officers…).

In summary, an indemnity clause is an important ‘catch-all’ protection for the landlord, providing protection and an obligation of the tenant to pay for all sorts of claims arising from the tenant’s use and occupancy of the premises, including the negligence [acts or omissions] of the tenant, its agents, employees or invitees, as well as for damages, liabilities and expenses arising from breach or default in performance of the tenant’s obligations under the lease.

To read more on property management, click here.

SVN PM Value Prop


The Dark Corners of the Commercial Lease: Part Two

The following was adapted from a lunch & learn presentation at Sperry Van Ness | RICORE Investment Management, Inc in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is part two in a four-part series. 

Demystifying the Commercial Lease: Part Two

A typical commercial lease is a comprehensive document that may be anywhere from 20 to 60 pages long. (Often with exhibits these things can be huge! So, reviewing new leases can be a real headache for an agent trying to sell or property manager taking on the management of a new multi-tenant property or shopping center.) When paging through a lease many provisions can seem irrelevant, extraneous, unimportant or rarely used. The fact is that every lease provision is drafted to address a specific event, need or situation that a landlord or tenant may face. Today, I was asked to address some of the more ‘legalistic’ provisions in the commercial lease in an attempt to try to ‘demystify’ them for you.

To read part one of this series on Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment Agreements and ‘SNDA Agreements’, please visit here.

II. Tenant Estoppel Certificates

Estoppel: A legal bar to alleging or denying a fact because of one’s own previous actions or words to the contrary. Merriam-Webster Dictionary online.

An estoppel certificate is a document designed to give a third party critical information on the relationship between the landlord and a tenant. The third party is frequently a prospective purchaser of the landlord’s real property containing the tenant’s premises, or a lender who will be secured by an interest in that property. Typically the deal that the landlord is making requires the landlord to obtain such certificates from its tenants and present them to the third party for use in its “due diligence” review of the property. Estoppel certificates are a significant issue in a sale or refinancing because they provide independent verification to the buyer or lender of the cash flow from the tenant’s rent payments. They also help the buyer or lender identify any lease defaults or disputes with tenants that could cause a problem after closing.

Most commercial or retail leases have provisions which require the tenant to prepare and sign estoppel certificates (or estoppel letters as they are sometimes called) upon the landlord’s request. To avoid disputes about the content of the estoppel certificate, a good practice is to attach the actual form of estoppel certificate as an exhibit to the lease. Typically the tenant is required to certify that as of the date of the document certain things are true, or to specify in some detail why they are not true. Topics usually covered include:

(i) the date of lease commencement, the dates of the current term and any options to renew;

(ii) the amount of current rent and the date through which rent has been paid;

(iii) whether the tenant’s lease is in full force and effect and has not been assigned, modified, supplemented or amended;

(iv) whether all conditions under the lease to be performed by the landlord have been satisfied;

(v) whether any required contributions by the landlord to the tenant on account of the tenant’s improvements have been received by the tenant;

(vi) whether there are any existing defaults by either party or claims, defenses or offsets which the tenant has against the enforcement of the lease by the landlord;

(vii) whether any rent or related payment obligation has been paid more than one month in advance; and

(viii) whether any security has been deposited with the landlord.

The tenant is usually required to state that its disclosures in the estoppel certificate may be relied upon by the specified third party or parties. The tenant’s knowledge that the landlord, purchaser and/or lender are relying on the estoppel certificate means that the tenant could be held liable to the third party if the certificate contains untrue statements. By signing the estoppel certificate, the tenant “estops,” or prohibits, itself from taking a position contrary to what it stated in the certificate. The danger in certifying to something that is not accurate is that the tenant may be giving up the right to contest it at a later time. For example, a tenant who signs an estoppel certificate stating that there are no landlord defaults may have a difficult time later if it comes to light that there was a landlord default, even if it was unknown to the tenant at the time, during the period covered by the estoppel certificate. One way that tenants try to lessen the possible harmful effect of an inaccurate estoppel certificate is to qualify the statements “to tenant’s actual knowledge” or “to the best of tenant’s knowledge.” Leases usually require the tenant to prepare and sign the certificate within a relatively short period, and authorize the landlord to prepare and sign the certificate in the tenant’s name if the tenant does not respond within the allowed time. Further, failure to timely provide the estoppel often constitutes a default by the tenant under the lease.

Note: There can be estoppel certificates of various types, including landlord estoppel certificates.

To read more on property management, click here.

SVN PM Value Prop

Choosing the Right Vendor for Your Property

Property Management Challenges

In our many years as a property manager we have faced numerous challenges with our vendors. Here are a few examples:

  • A sewage pump failed over the weekend and we called a vendor who wanted $5,000 to replace the sump pump. The pump cost was $1,000. We needed it replaced but ended up negotiating with the vendor to reduce the price. This company paid the technicians half of everything they brought in as a commission. You can imagine how they priced their emergency response.
  • A roofer installed a new roof. They issued a warranty on the roof. Within a year, the new roof started leaking and unfortunately the roofer went out of business, so the warranty was worthless.
  • A painter bid a project and asked for half upfront to cover painting expenses. After we paid half upfront, he ignored the project, took the money and went on vacation. We ended up litigating.
  • A drain cleaning company cleared a drain line. Unfortunately, the cutting tool on their drain cleaner destroyed the pipe. Was the pipe old? Or did they destroy the pipe?

As you can tell, there is room for error…and errors cost you money. Your goal is to limit the errors and in turn improve property operating returns.

Vendor Pricing

Most of us are driven by vendor pricing. We want the least expensive price we can find — that is just natural. Unfortunately, the lowest price often produces substandard work due to lack of licensing or insurance, miscommunication or plain old inexperience.

Scope/Specifications (Spec)

First, you need to provide your vendor with clear instructions. Do you really know what you want? In particular, do you have a special siding you want to use, a special roofing system you want installed, or a paint job completed where the paint has a mold inhibitor included?

Your property might need a paint job, but you may not know how to get a vendor to do this correctly. To get help on this you can meet a few vendors and get educated or you can go to a paint store (where they have paint specifications or specs on file to get direction). You can also hire a consultant (an engineer or an architect) to help you with details. In other words, you need to learn how to manage major repairs and get them done right.

It makes sense to meet with at least three vendors and obtain three bids. Make sure they detail what they are going to do. I usually also ask for a hand sketch of the property or the job to help visualize where repairs are going to take place, especially for siding and asphalt repairs. This process is somewhat time-consuming, but the investment in time is worthwhile if we want the best quality we can afford.

This painting scope is an example of a “Spec”:


  • Your contact details
  • Preferred timeframe

Surfaces to be painted: Specify the material of each interior and exterior surface (brick, wood, plaster, metal, cement, render, etc.) and whether they are new or previously painted. The material and condition of the surface will impact the level of preparation required, the sealing process required, and number of finishing coats needed.


  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Trims
  • Floors


  • Siding
  • Roof
  • Gutters / drain pipes
  • Fence / gates
  • Doors
  • Windows
  • Garage
  • Garden paths

Preparation Required. This is the most time-consuming part of the painting process and most critical for long-lasting results. Preparation items to include:

  • Re-putting of window glazing
  • Mold removal
  • Washing / cleaning of surfaces
  • Dust, grease or scale removal
  • Rust removal
  • Loose or flaking paint removal
  • Patching holes, cracks, broken plaster
  • Sanding
  • Removal of fittings
  • Priming and sealing
  • Caulking of windows and doors
  • Soffit and siding repairs

Painting Materials and Colors: Some colors will require more coats than others. The more specific you can be about colors and materials, the more likely they will be able to achieve the desired outcome. Include in the brief:

  • Color schedule
  • Brand of paints
  • Gloss level
  • Depth of paint application
  • One or two coats?
  • Paint samples

Method of Application: The best method of application will depend on the type of finish being applied, the desired results, the type of surface and your budget. The three methods are:

  • Brush
  • Roller
  • Spray painting

Clean Up: Ensure that the quotes include information on clean-up procedures including:

  • Rubbish removal
  • Paint disposal
  • Splatter removal
  • Landscape / outdoor furniture protection

Vendor Relationships

Over the years of owning and managing property you will have developed special relationships with vendors you trust, i.e. those that come back and repeatedly do a good job. Most of the time you will have received a referral from a friend, or through a rental owners organization, like the Rental Housing Association (RHA) or the Metro Multifamily Housing Association (MMHA).

You might search online or turn to online directories such as Angie’s List. I caution you to be careful when using the internet exclusively. Vendors who are very tech savvy will have stacked the deck and may be paying to maintain their web reputation.

Smaller, more cost-effective vendors will be harder to find on the internet. You may have to rely on word of mouth. Always ask the question if the referral source is getting paid for referring the vendor.

Other key items to consider as you chose vendors to work on your property:


  • Do they care that the job is done in a professional manner?
  • Will they do it right the first time, using products and parts that will last?
  • Will they limit their work to repairs authorized by the Landlord?
  • Does their staff have the right skill set? Are they well-trained?
  • Will they issue a warranty or guarantee for more than 30-days?
  • Do they have general liability and worker’s compensation insurance?
  • Do they have a contractor’s license and are they bonded?
  • If they hire sub-contractors to perform the job, who is responsible for liens and quality control?

Emergency Vendors (such as plumbers, electricians, basic carpentry/handy person)

  • Are they available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year?
  • How much extra do they charge for emergency response?


  • Is your vendor willing to admit their mistakes?
  • Will they give you a credit?
  • If required, will they redo the job?


  • Will the job site be cleaned before they leave?
  • Will they protect tenants’ possessions?

The Fine Print

Make sure you understand the language on the back of the bid.

  • The vendor’s rules they ask you to comply with
  • When the late fees kick in and at what rate they accrue
  • Collection procedures if you do not pay
  • Mediation to solve disputes
  • Lien releases for large jobs


We use most vendors over and over again. They are part of our team and we need them to deliver a quality job on a consistent basis. Therefore, it is our responsibility to be clear in our instructions and expectations. We also need to acknowledge excellence and pay them on time. Vendors have bills, employees, health insurance and taxes to pay. If we expect them to deliver for us, we should behave responsibly as well.

The vast majority of vendors are trustworthy. What differentiates vendors is their experience, their tools and equipment, their overhead, the quality of their staff and their problem solving techniques. Your job as a property owner is to clearly spell out the job scope and pick the best vendor for the job. Unfortunately, this is not easy, but the tips in this article will simplify the process for you and improve your maintenance results.

To read about the benefits of franchising for property managers, click here.

SVN PM Value Prop

The Dark Corners of the Commercial Lease: Part One

The following was adapted from a lunch & learn presentation at Sperry Van Ness | RICORE Investment Management, Inc in Cincinnati, Ohio. This is part one in a four-part series. 

Demystifying the Commercial Lease: Part One

A typical commercial lease is a comprehensive document that may be anywhere from 20 to 60 pages long. (Often with exhibits these things can be huge! So, reviewing new leases can be a real headache for an agent trying to sell or property manager taking on the management of a new multi-tenant property or shopping center.) When paging through a lease many provisions can seem irrelevant, extraneous, unimportant or rarely used. The fact is that every lease provision is drafted to address a specific event, need or situation that a landlord or tenant may face. Today, I was asked to address some of the more ‘legalistic’ provisions in the commercial lease in an attempt to try to ‘demystify’ them for you.

I. Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment, and ‘SNDA Agreements.’

The first topic is Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment. These are separate concepts and may appear, separately or together, in a commercial lease. There are also Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment Agreements, commonly called ‘SNDA Agreements.’ However, it is important to understand that the three concepts do not always exist together.

A. Subordination.

1. Priority of Interests in Real Estate. Any discussion involving ‘subordination’ necessarily involves an understanding of how priorities of interests in real estate are determined. (I am speaking of such items as deeds, leases, mortgages, mechanics liens, and so on.)

a. For an interest in real property to receive priority it must be properly executed, acknowledged and recorded.

b. As a general rule, first in time is first in right unless there is an agreement to the contrary.

2. In Ohio, a sale of property at foreclosure results in termination of any lease that was made subsequent to, and is subordinate to, the mortgage. A lease that is prior in time to the mortgage remains undisturbed by the foreclosure.

3. A lender or mortgagee may voluntarily elect to subordinate the mortgage to subsequent leases. Similarly, a lease may provide that it will be subordinate to any future mortgages. In any event, it is the party with priority who must consent to making another interest superior to its own. Simply inserting a provision into a lease or a lending agreement that such interest will be superior to all other prior and subsequent interests will not force a party with priority into a junior position.

B. Attornment. Many lenders will require that any leases entered into by the owner/borrower contain a subordination provision in favor of the mortgagee/lender. This agreement is often coupled with an attornment agreement. An attornment agreement is an agreement in favor of the lender in which the tenant agrees to recognize the purchaser at foreclosure as his new landlord. Such an agreement overcomes the obstacle of automatic termination of subordinate leases upon foreclosure by providing that, in effect, the tenant will enter into a new lease with the purchaser on the same terms as the old lease. Therefore, the lender is assured that at least some rental income will continue after foreclosure (i.e. rental cash flow is maintained). The attornment agreement may also provide that the attornment be at the lender’s option. In such an instance, the lender would then have the right to terminate the lease or hold the tenant to its obligations.

Attorn: Means to agree to be tenant to a new owner or landlord of the same property. Merriam-Webster Dictionary online.

C. Non-Disturbance. A lender may also execute a non-disturbance agreement in favor of one or more tenants. Under such an agreement, usually entered into directly between the lender and the tenant, the lender agrees that in the event of foreclosure, the lender will not terminate the tenant’s lease or otherwise disturb the tenant’s rights so long as the tenant complies with the lease. Such an agreement protects the tenant against risk of foreclosure, and usually is coupled with subordination and attornment provisions for the lender’s benefit. Thus, regardless of priority, the lease survives foreclosure and the tenant attorns to the lender or purchaser at foreclosure. As a practical matter, where the lease is long-term or the tenant intends to make substantial improvements to the leased premises, it is advisable for the tenant, as part of its lease negotiations, to protect its investment against the risk of foreclosure by obtaining a non-disturbance agreement from any existing mortgagee and by refusing to subordinate its lease to any future mortgagee unless the future mortgagee enters into a non-disturbance agreement for the tenant’s benefit.

Note: A lender or landlord does not have to offer an SNDA Agreement. A lender may only offer a subordination and attornment (at the lender’s option) agreement, a SA Agreement (if you will), since this is most in the lender’s favor. A savvy or well-represented tenant will know to ask for a non-disturbance agreement as a ‘quid pro quo’ for a subordination and attornment agreement.

[bctt tweet=”SDNA Agreements in a #CRE Lease: Don’t disregard it b/c you don’t understand it. Learn about it here:”]

D. SNDA Agreements. The Subordination, Non-Disturbance and Attornment Agreement (“SNDA”) is often misunderstood by landlords and tenants in a lease transaction, and consequently is frequently disregarded. The failure to obtain an SNDA for the benefit of a tenant may result in an unanticipated early termination of the lease. In the face of economic uncertainty, it is helpful to review the importance to a tenant of obtaining an SNDA from existing mortgagees of the landlord.

It may seem counterintuitive that a lender would consider terminating a lease upon foreclosure and forfeiting the associated income stream, but if the rent due under the lease is below-market at the time of foreclosure, or if the tenant occupies a small space or portion of a floor, or the successor landlord desires to use the space himself or for other purposes, it may be in the best interest of the successor landlord to extinguish the lease. If the lender is not bound by a non-disturbance obligation, the lender has all of the flexibility and bargaining power.

In conclusion, and at the risk of redundancy, it is important to stress the advantage to any tenant, and especially a tenant with a long-term lease or which has made a substantial investment in its tenant improvements (i.e. expensive buildout or ground lease with construction of the tenant’s own building) to have the right to secure a SNDA from all existing mortgagees of the property and a commitment by the landlord to obtain such an agreement from future lenders as a condition to granting subordination to future mortgagees.

Related War Story: A commercial bank had entered into a ground lease with a developer and constructed a branch bank in a popular shopping center development. The bank spent several million dollars to construct the branch bank and to enter into the ground lease (PV of long-term grounds rents was considerable). Although this development was a great success, the developer/landlord lost the property in a foreclosure action due to the fact that this development was cross-collateralized with another unsuccessful project that was in foreclosure. A review of leases revealed that the bank’s ground lease was subsequent to the developer’s mortgage loan and the bank did not have a non-disturbance agreement with the developer’s original lender. The purchaser from the lender realized the bank’s error and negotiated a handsome payment from the bank in exchange for a non-disturbance agreement with the new purchaser.

Lesson 1: A tenant in a long-term lease or that makes substantial improvements to its premises, such as construction of its own building, whether an IHOP restaurant, branch bank or Advance Auto Parts, should always negotiate a lease provision stating that in exchange for any subordination of the lease to the landlord’s mortgage and attornment by the tenant, the lender agrees not to disturb the tenant’s tenancy so long as the tenant complies with the lease.

Lesson 2: Landlords/developers should never allow their projects to be cross-collateralized; each project should stand on its own in terms of rental income and financing.

To read more on property management, click here.

SVN PM Value Prop


Finding the Right Property Manager for Your Rental Property

How does the “right” property manager enhance the value of your rental property?

No property manager can execute perfectly, but the “right” property manager knows how to keep properties functioning and making money 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

What sets these property managers apart?

The most important thing the “right” property manager can do for you is to keep your property rented. 

  • In order to do this, they need to manage the tenant mix. The wrong tenant mix can destroy a property. Tenants with felony records, a history of evictions and poor credit do not help in building a strong, positive cash flowing property. At the same time, the manager has to comply with all federal credit and fair housing practices including the requirements for accepting medical assistance (companion) animals.
  • It helps if the property is located in a great location, but even if a property is located in a “C” location surrounded by crime, the right tenant selection can save it. Of course, a property that is surrounded by barbed wire to keep the “bad element out” can be a bit intimidating. Property managers are not miracle makers, but they are tasked with helping owners and tenants to make a property as safe as possible. Renting to drug dealers, sex offenders or tenants without a visible way of making an income does not assist in making a property safe. A tenant’s number one requirement is to feel comfortable in their rental home/apartment and the property manager’s job is to do their best to achieve that.

Property managers need to make it easy for a potential tenant to rent a property.

  • Clear and easy web access is critical
  • Online applications make it easy to apply
  • Ease of access to a rental unit and meeting with an on-site manager who wants them as a tenant and welcomes them to the property
  • Signage at the property that makes it easy to find the on-site manager
  • On-site flyer boxes with current rental information

Does the property look good?

 Tenants and owners both judge a book by its cover. The potential tenant will drive on by if:

  • The property does not look clean and picked up
  • The property looks worn out and needs touch-up paint
  • The asphalt looks old and the parking lot is not seal coated
  • The landscaping is tired, overgrown or packed with litter
  • The decks are cluttered
  • The rental units are not cleaned, do not smell great and are not rent-ready
  • The manager is not available

Behind the Scenes

Like a movie director, a property manager has to direct many pieces of the puzzle to get a property to operate properly.

  • Property owners want to see monthly checks
  • They want clear reporting/accounting systems that help them track the progress of their properties
    • Rent roll
    • Balance sheet
    • Profit and loss reporting
    • Aged receivable reporting
    • Clear monthly property summaries
  • They want their property manager and vendors to be honest

This week a client told me a story of a competitor who spent $30,000 on repairs to properties. They even supplied the bills. But when the owner inspected the property unit by unit, the repairs were not completed. Appliances were billed for but not installed, nor were the floor repairs.

Property managers should:

  • Have excellent, reliable vendors who are licensed and bonded
  • Make sure invoices are clearly marked by unit
  • Spot check property inspections to prove that the work has been completed as invoiced
  • Have vendor policies in place that protect clients, properties, and the property manager
  • Make sure vendors get paid on time. Vendors that are not paid on time don’t have the financial resources to do the job right the next time

Excellent property managers:

  • Train their staff continuously in the following areas:
    • Customer service
    • Landlord-Tenant laws
    • Federal laws
    • Maintenance terminology
    • Emergency response
    • Use of property management software and technology

The “right” property manager focuses on:

  • Preventative maintenance
  • Staff availability 24 hours a day – 365 days a year
  • Planning ahead:
    • Using an annual management plan
    • Developing an annual budget and managing to that budget
    • Using experience to help set a property into the marketplace so it can compete for new tenants, increase value through careful expenditures, well-planned property upgrades and rental increases

All of these items build the basis for a consistent and thoughtful property management process, but one person cannot do them all by themselves. It takes the right property management company, with the right infrastructure, vision and team of professionals.

Successfully coordinating these items with the client’s priorities in mind makes for an exemplary property manager and property management company. Property owners in search of a property manager can use this summary as a checklist to establish a short list of companies that meet their needs. Good research should lead to good results.

Does that mean you will be hiring the least expensive property manager in the marketplace? Probably not. 

To maintain all of the above policies and procedures takes time, staff, experience and money. A low-cost provider will have a hard time delivering these items on a consistent basis. Rest assured, the marketplace can deliver competitively priced property managers who do an excellent job. It is these property managers who will be consistently focused on increasing the value of your property.

Sperry Van Ness® property managers are dedicated to providing excellent service. To read about the benefits of franchising for property managers, click here.

SVN PM Value Prop

Sperry Van Ness Advisor Earns Certified Property Manager Designation

Property Manager Sperry Van Ness International Corporation is pleased to congratulate Frances P. Eldridge of SVN-RICORE in Cincinnati, Ohio on her recent achievement of the Certified Property Manager (CPM) Designation. As Vice President of Property Management, Eldridge is also a member of CREW Greater Cincinnati and serves on the Community Service & Outreach committees. She has 17 years of professional experience in commercial real estate.

Eldridge earned her degree in real estate and marketing from the University of Cincinnati. She is a licensed sales agent in Ohio and Kentucky and licensed principal broker in Indiana. In addition to her CREW-Cincinnati membership, Eldridge is a member of IREM Chapter 9, the Greater Cincinnati Commercial Real Estate Council and the Greater Cincinnati Board of Realtors.

To learn more about the CPM Designation click here.

To find an experienced Sperry Van Ness commercial real estate Advisor in your local market, search here.

Three Questions You Should Be Asking Your Property Manager

Over the last few months, Charles Schwab has come out with a series of commercials that I think are absolutely great! The overall premise is:

“In life, you question everything. The same should be true when it comes to managing your wealth. Are you asking enough questions about the way your wealth is being managed?”

The same is true for your property. Try reading that passage again, but replace “wealth” with “property” or “asset”. Keep in mind, oftentimes your “wealth” is “property” or “asset.” As we closed out 2014, most of us looked back to reflect on the year now behind us. As we enter 2015, we now look to how we will reach our goals for the year ahead. How will we make 2015 better than 2014? When it comes to your property, there are 3 questions you should start the year off asking your property manager. These questions, include:

1. Is my property at risk?

A recent case study came out which showed amongst all property management companies polled, there was an average of only 15% of tenants that were compliant with the insurance requirements in their lease and even worse, only 4% of vendors were compliant with the property owners’ insurance requirements.

If you called your property manager today and asked for a list of every vendor on your property and their Certificates of Insurance (COI), would they be able to furnish them? Within the hour?

2. How are you proactively managing my property?

We have had wind and rain over the last few weeks that has wreaked havoc on the Southern California area. For some properties, this was not an issue because properties were properly inspected and actions taken knowing that we were moving into winter months. Would a roof inspection have shown issues that could have easily and potentially inexpensively been repaired? Did your manager go out and walk the property after the first rain and heavy winds?

If I asked you when the last time your manager was out at the property could you tell me? What about how many times within the past month?

3. How will you increase my Net Operating Income (NOI) in 2015?

This is what managing the asset is about. And when you ask this question, the leasing aspect shouldn’t be the only consideration. As we start of 2015, just like everyone who made a resolution or a goal to get to the gym, diet, lose more weight, did you or better yet, did your property manager, make a goal to cut the fat, shed expenses, and increase your NOI in 2015?

When was the last time your property manager checked in with you and asked what your goals for the property were? Or are they just hoping you don’t sell so they can keep the monthly income?

Start a conversation, ask the questions, and demand a timely response. At the end of the day, you may look at it as you are only paying them $2,500/month to manage it. When you should be looking at it as you are paying them $30,000 a year to care for the property, be responsive to your tenants, and continuously search for ways to increase your NOI. Or better yet, what else should your property manager being doing for earning that $30,000 per year?

Are you interested in receiving a free management plan for your property or properties? If so, contact our Property Management Product Council Chair, Nicholas Ilagan at nicholas.ilagan@svn.com