Residential Property Management/Query on Renting


Good day
With reference to the renting out of a townhome for the first time I have the following questions:
1. Lets say a renter is responsible for the water & electricity bills and they leave the property with a few months of electricity / water bills. How does the landlord protect himself from being responsible for this debt and any other debt that the renter incurs on the property?
2. How does one set up a lease in which a realtor / property manager is paid once the landlord collects his or her money. For instance I have been told by realtors that the usual policy is that the realtor / property manager collects their % of the lease whether 8% or 10% upfront once the lease is signed or they  request the first months rent. What i am getting at is that if the tenant leaves 3 months later (breaking the 1 year lease), the landlord has to pay again to find another tenant and also since the realtor has collected his or her money upfront he or she does not have as much interest in the property. From the perspective of the landlord, how does he structure the agreement in a way that if he does not collect money from the tenant the realtor / property manager does not get paid. What are some of the things that a landlord can do to get around this?
3. How does a landlord do the screening and background checks himself, what are some of the credible do it yourself resources?

S. Mahabir:

1.  The Owner of the property is likely responsible for unpaid utility bills if a tenant leaves them unpaid. I suggest you check your local utility company's policy on the matter. Note water charges are usually a public utility and charges run with the property, not the tenant (like RE taxes). You may always try to collect the money from the former tenant through a collections agency or small claims court.

2.  Please understand I am not an attorney and offer no legal advice. I suggest you have your counsel review any management contract that is being offered by your property manager.

It is customary that a property manager earn a % of the monthly revenue AFTER it is collected, ensuring your interests are aligned. For example, if the rent is $800 and storage another $50, the property manger should be collecting $850 per month. If the fee is 8%, the property manager would earn $68 each month, paid at the end of the month.

The property manager may also earn a leasing fee. However, I suggest there should be a clause in your agreement protecting yourself from the scenario described in your question.

3.  There are numerous sources for tenant credit/background check. We use CareLogic SafeRent. They have a small owner division that may be reached here:

Best of luck and let me know if you have any further questions.


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K. David Meit, CPM


Real estate investment, operations, renovation, marketing, and administration. Specializing in urban multifamily, DC rent control, property repositioning, change management and building high performance operating teams. For more information, please visit


I have over twenty-five years experience managing all classes of multifamily property in New York City, Washington, DC and the Maryland and Virginia suburbs. I am President & CEO of Oculus Realty, LLC, a licensed real estate broker in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. Oculus is an Accredited Management Organization (AMO) through the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM). I have earned the CPM and ARM accreditation through IREM and GRI designation though National Association of Realtors (NAR). My career includes successful management and executive positions at Bozzuto Management, Forest City Residential, DARO Realty and Vornado Realty Trust.

Institute of Real Estate Management Ethics and Discipline hearing Committee, Chair Region 3 Education Committee, Chair West Central Maryland Chapter 92, President (2012) Apartment and Office Building Association Advisory Board Member National Apartment Association Property Management Associations President, 2004 National Association of REALTORS


Boston University, BA New York University, Schack Institute of Real Estate, Property Operations Institute of Real Estate Management, CPM designation

Awards and Honors
Institute of Real Estate Management AMO of the Year Award 2015 CPM of the Year Award 2012 Past President's Award 2012 Property Management Association PMA Presidentís Award, 2003, 2005 PMA Vision Award, 2004 Property Manager of the Year, 1998 Apartment & Office Building Association Outstanding Leadership Award, 2006, 2008, 2011 AACE Award Washington, DC Service Team, Sedgwick Gardens, 2004 AACE Award, Virginia Garden New Upscale, Regentís Park, 1998

Past/Present Clients
My clients include high net worth individuals and family offices looking for long term income and appreciation from investment real estate.

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