Hiding behind technology, an effective route for landlords desiring anonymous (fair) treatment

geralt / Pixabay

The world’s opinions remain uneven about many subjects. As this article delves into one of these sensitive subjects, caution is warned to readers of this blog who may take offense at the notion that discrimination based on race, gender, age or other category plays no part in the landlord business. It does. However, technology assists by partially shielding owners from its adverse consequences.

Collecting rent from a tenant who disrespects you for any reason creates difficulty. Similarly, showing property with an equally narrow-minded person may be counterproductive. Dealing with non-responsive or inefficient repair and renovation service becomes even more complicated when discrimination is ‘in the mix.’

In the past, landlords had (and still have) the option to outsource property management tasks to others. But, technology provides benefits to owners at minimal or no cost while hiding their identity them at the same time. One added benefit from employing technology instead of being more ‘personal’ is that many tenants prefer to deal with ‘faceless’ technology than with an actual person.

Examples of technology disrupting discrimination are as follows:

  • In New York City, many people of color experienced difficulty hailing cabs until Uber automated the process.
  • Basic haircuts and laundry services for men and women historically were disproportionately priced, until newer stores emerged allowing people to search for better options.
  • High-end jewelry or watch stores routinely hire employees whose physical attributes are often more similar to a narrow stereotype than representative of the population at large–until web retailers like Amazon arrived.
  • Telemarketers preferred to target older people, until call blocking, voice messaging and call screening became standard on most smartphones.

So how might landlords take advantage of technology? Here are a few ways:

  1. Use email and text messages instead of calling.  Texting has the added benefit of being responsive, allows photos and documents attachments, and is usually free with most cell phone service. Voice calling reveals age, gender and provides clues you may or may not wish to tell. Texting is the new email, so use this also to inform tenants of late notices, use it to provide the street address for repair people, have everyone send you photos of the building as attachments.
  2. Collect rent via Zelle, PayPal or another service. In addition to receiving the funds instantly in your bank account, owners also receive an email ‘confirmation’ which acts like a receipt–showing the date, the amount and the tenant’s name. Your email or phone number becomes your ‘checking account.’ Another added benefit is that both you and the tenant have some added privacy. – Tenants who do not have bank accounts may go to 7-11 and deposit funds via PayPal for a nominal fee.
  3. Do not share your social media sites with tenants. Also, if you have social media, do not include a personal photo or have other information about where you live.
  4. Someone other than you should serve tenants who you wish to evict.  It’s worth the 50 dollars to have another person perform this task (also, in the eyes of the tenant, it provides added credibility).
  5. Consider using services like Airbnb and ‘RadPad,’ which allows you to show the house to a tenant remotely. Once they view the house with a remote key, they are screened and accepted. (Many landlords opt to screen tenants before they allow them to see the house.)
  6. If you have an Instagram page for your house, avoid photos of yourself. Also, if you take a video of the land and home interior, be careful to omit any pictures of people.
  7. Forward all personal mail to another address. This advice may be common sense. That said,  stray correspondence often meets prying eyes of tenants. The info they gather from these letters provides them with clues about what type of a person you are.
  8. Finally, instead of inspecting the house, consider having the tenant take photos (or a video) and send it to you via email. (This is most useful after repairs to the property.) Most tenants are tech-savvy, and many would be willing to provide this info, instead of, an unannounced thorough inspection.  However, give it a try. You may be surprised how the tenant views your residence. True, this approach may not be a substitute for all landlords. However, a tenant-created photo bank keeps landlords from revealing identifiable information about themselves–and requires no effort.

Baron welcomes any comments about this post. What has been your experience with this subject?

Remote Property Management just became more reliable, secure and versatile

remote control
OpenClipart-Vectors / Pixabay

Going Remote

Now is a fantastic time in property management. Remote property management is far simpler.  And, it’s about time.

Tasks that used to consume time and effort can be expedited quickly without being physically on-site. The property manager no longer needs to dig into file cabinets for every question about a lease, or an owner contract, or a maintenance bill — as these functions are all now safely and quickly accessed remotely through email, cloud storage applications, and legally binding digital ‘signing services.’ It’s almost like property managing finally caught up with the world of apps.

No longer do we have to worry about misplacing our list of vendors, or clients, or emergency contacts. Everything is digitally accessed instantly. Even signing a lease can be done digitally with the automatic transfer of funds from a tenant’s bank with applications like Venmo or Zelle. All rent can be paid remotely by electronic transmission, thereby eliminating hours of work going through accounting books to log in the checks.

Maintenance control is also much easier to track. Managers no longer have to remember or go through pages of complaints from a tenant. Databases are better suited to maintain tenant complaints. Social media platforms for maintenance specialists provide the landlord access to providers, even in the most remote location. Remote landlords can negotiate when they are to arrive and when they expect job completion. Stored PDF files replace paper bills. Quick retrieval of these stored documents automates tax filing. These new platforms verify when the payments we made after the job concludes, and allow landlords to rank the service provider based on his craft.

Remote Property Management and Security

One of the most important aspects of being responsible for numerous properties is that property’s security. How do you maintain safety when a homeowner is away, or the home is otherwise empty?

A new batch of hardware and services such as Ring and Skyfall perform property management tasks which were until now, unheard of. These products offer the convenience, safety, and data security management expected of more expensive options. In many cases, the only cost to the landlord is the upfront cost of the unit. Ideally, these services can be used to protect and monitor property during offseason times when the unit is vacant.

Remote monitoring and cloud recording features of many cameras and other devices allow the manager a level of on-site security without being physically present. These devices may also provide an excellent visual deterrent to intruders. Stored video footage generated from these cameras is instrumental for security and police investigations, and even allow the vigilant landlord to speak to the would-be intruder before they enter the empty unit.

Instead of purchasing a traditional lockbox, and leave physical keys at the premises, technology allows the remote landlord the option to text a virtual key to anyone within seconds. This key can be programmed to only open at specified times and dates. Upon arrival, the visitor’s time would be recorded, logged with notification sent to the landlord. Also, some remote locks can secure themselves, as well as activate other devices once the visitor is inside.

More Now and in the Future

Even connected thermostats provide a landlord the capability to notify in real time the state of the vacant property’s climate control. Managers can activate and deactivate them remotely, on demand. This feature comes in handy for the remote landlord if the guest forgets to turn off the climate control inside a vacant unit, or if the landlord wishes to pre-heat or pre-cool the house before the arrival of a future guest.

These and many other examples are showcased in this website, which is dedicated to technology supporting the remote manager. I welcome your comments.

Eliminating risk during the tenant search using widely used non-social media platforms

There may be many valid reasons landlords prefer one technology over another with help locating the ‘perfect,’ solid tenant who pays on time, keeps the property in order and will stay the full duration of the term. However, another factor one should consider is reducing risk by only advertising on widely used platforms. Reliance on social media should be limited to the greatest extent possible.

The Dangers of Social Media

Avoiding discrimination is in everyone’s interest. Among other things, one of the (many) hot-button issues of the day is avoiding the appearance of preference based on protected categories (race, religion, age, sex, disability, etc.). Preventing costly lawsuits and avoiding being ‘labeled’ on social media are two good reasons. Baron also would add that practicing basic ethics and equity in good citizenship would be a third.

In August of 2018, the Federal Housing Authority filed a suit against Facebook for housing discrimination.

Among other things, landlords were leveraging the platform to (intentionally, unintentionally) publicize to only certain groups. On the face of this, this may not appear to be anything illegal. However, HUD argument focuses on the selected-advertising itself as a violation of fair housing laws.

Where to Market Rental Properties

Baron recommends that each landlord review marketing to prospective tenants.  Due to the loosening of real estate regulations, allowing public access to MLS listings in 2010, many services are open. Some sources are exclusive to various communities, so cast a wide net. Among those free MLS services which cast an extensive net include:

  • Zillow
  • Rentals.Com
  • GoSection8.Com (for LLs who accept vouchers)
  • Zumper
  • ForRent.Com
  • AHRN – locates prospective military tenants
  • Anvil

Baron Property Management has also used other free services:


Craigslist (seems crazy, but even for mid to high ranged rentals, this free site gets results)


AHRN (military)

Rental Advertising to Avoid

BPM advises caution using social media sites–specifically ones that screen ads or where photos are displayed




Get more tips on using technology for remote property management.

Technology prevented a landlord’s house from burglary, literally

burglar breaking into house or rental property
TheDigitalWay / Pixabay

One of my favorite themes deals with technology for landlords.

In this example, the “Ring” doorbell app discouraged burglars ‘in the act.’

Certainly absentee- or long-distance landlords holding vacant property may find this small app useful for other applications as well. Specifically:

a. Viewing conditions in the neighborhood in real-time, and especially personal property located within viewing range

b. Verifying contractors or other deliveries to the home

c. Checking the credentials of an unknown person by asking them questions in real time.

d. Monitoring the landscaping in front of the house (to what extent your lawn is satisfactorily mowed, watered, etc.)

Concerns with Technology

Baron Property Management strongly advises landlords not use any home technology with occupied properties. In this case of a doorbell camera which is in the exterior of the house, this type of surveillance would be unethical with tenants involved. There are indeed not only privacy considerations, but also landlords may be breaching tenants rights of exclusive access to the home and creating a legal cause of action by the tenant.

Strong Buy on voice-activated doorbells for the absentee landlord. (Security, Safety)

Buy on voice-activated doorbells as a tenant feature. (Some services require a monthly service fee. Some tenants will like the idea of using voice and video to ‘screen’ guests before they enter)

As such, for any/all devices which can be remotely activated Baron recommends:

i. Full disclosure of all devices, explicitly, with the tenant in the lease.

ii. Transferring the remote capabilities of these devices to the tenant–so that they are the sole operators– one the lease is signed. Disconnect or remove any devices tenant elects not to accept.

iii. Provide training to the tenant, if necessary so that they understand the capabilities if they so choose.

iv. Ensure tenants are financially responsible for any monthly fees, and also any damages caused should they be damaged or missing.

Learn more about using technology in remote property management.

Wild, loud parties as indicators for landlords

Clker-Free-Vector-Images / Pixabay

New Technology to Help with Noise

One of my beach rentals is located in a social neighborhood. Saturday night’s action was rotated often from house to house. Although many of the tenants who leased this property were aware of this ‘fact’, some preferred to ensure the loudness ceased at a certain time of the evening.

A new item on the market helps with ‘monitoring’ decibel levels from the exterior of residences. Noise Aware does not actually record conversations. Instead, it keeps tracks of the overall noise.

As a landlord with several properties, this device may be useful if your unit is located in a low density or rural area. Additionally, if your neighbors actually observe you placing this device on your home, you may encounter recalcitrant neighbors, which is something all landlords should avoid at all costs. Still, keeping an eye on noise may not be a bad idea to protect your home from unwanted property damages — notably, for the AirBnB landlord.

Concerns with Technology

Technology used by landlords to manage property extends the reach of the owner and opens up avenues for quality control and verification of events and actions. However, Baron urges caution with these applications when the property is occupied by a tenant. The future may actually permit anyone from a form of voyeurism simply by knowing where the Wi-Fi transmitters are located inside of a residence.

As such, for any/all devices which can be remotely activated Baron recommends:

i. Full disclosure of all devices, explicitly, with the tenant in the lease.

ii. Transferring the remote capabilities of these devices to the tenant–so that they are the sole operators– once the lease is signed. Disconnecting or removing any devices the tenant elects not to accept.

iii. Providing training to the tenant, if necessary, so that they understand the capabilities if they so choose.

iv. Ensuring tenants are financially responsible for any monthly fees, and also any costs caused should they be damaged or lost.

Progressing technology is changing remote property management.

Project-Based Property Management

TheDigitalArtist / Pixabay

Traditional Property Management vs. Project-based Property Management

During the lifetime of a managed property, the owner experiences many phases. In summary, if the unit is new, it must still be ‘made-ready’ for the occupant. Once occupied, traditional management of rent collection and managing the property create ongoing responsibilities. When the tenant vacates, a secondary or exit inspection occurs. After that, owners refund or charge the tenant amounts due.

A professional property manager performs all of these tasks on behalf of the owner.

However, this model assumes the owner wishes to hand over 100% of the responsibility to the expertise of the manager. It works most of the time.

However, It also assumes that the wishes of the owner are identical to the desires of the property manager. It restricts and often prohibits the owner from visiting the property, contacting tenants or intervening in remodeling decisions about the property — unless the property manager agrees, or acquiesces to allowing the owner to do so during their term.

Project-based property management differs from traditional management by specifying which tasks will be done by the manager and the owner.

For example, if the owner desires merely to delegate the tenant selection task to the manager and after that manage the property themselves, she/he may do so under a project-based property management model. The manager’s role would be limited to locating and placing the tenant under this arrangement. (*Most property managers would prefer not to do this, as their interest is often to secure a percentage of the monthly rent, instead of focusing on finding the best overall value for the owner).

How Technology Helps Project-Based Property Management

Technology has simplified the role of property management. Online services allow owners to evaluate rental amounts, perform tenant screenings, instantly collect rent via peer-to-peer networks, secure their premises through a variety of methods, enable entry access, and sign official documents. The smartphones which we are all attached to, allow for instant photos and messaging between owners, tenants and service providers — eliminating the need for a middleman. Social media yields a wealth of information about tenants (as well as owners and properties). Viewing and evaluating this info takes mere seconds. Finally, new online services replace the property manager entirely in that they book rentals, collect rent, inspect and manage the cleanup and send owners their funds more efficiently.

So will property managers be out of their jobs soon? Probably not. The majority of long-term rentals still involve property management basics. However, for owners, more options exist, which will make the process more efficient.

In continuing posts, I’ll expand on some of these ideas and provide more detailed examples of how project-based property management is a better solution for owners.

I’d be interested in your views on this. Is this your experience?



Effective Remote Property Management

Rental house in hand with repair, internet, tenant, and other property management icons
mohamed_hassan / Pixabay

It is a great time for property owners! This blog is dedicated to landlords desiring to make their lives easier with remote property management.

What are some of the headaches managing properties?

Dealing with the tenants would rank high on that list. Also, a close second might be appropriately responding to urgent property issues — cost/benefit of rental upkeep (ROI), finding the correct professionals to address your specific needs, and finally leveraging new technology to streamline landlording.

This last point is what Baron Property Management terms as ‘remote property management’.  If you are overseas or right next door, it is possible to effectively manage your rental as good as any real estate professional.

Upcoming blog posts highlight many of these tools and techniques, which you can accomplish yourself, with surprising ease.

If you have a comment about anything on this site, or any other information on the blog, you are welcome to contribute. Thank you.