Phil Querin Q&A: Major Management Mistakes - Identifying Issues Before They Spiral Out of Control

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November 12, 2012

Question. As new managers, we are concerned about being able to spot problem issues before they get out of control. What are some of the major management mistakes we should watch out for?

Answer: There are several issues that I see repeatedly. Here are a few: 1. Managers not adequately papering their file before taking legal action against a resident. Judges want to see that you’ve “walked the extra mile” with the resident, making every reasonable effort to bring them into compliance. This means starting with a personal conversation with them about the problem and then making notes of the date, time, and matters discussed and the resident’s responses. Next try a note or letter without using a formal termination notice. Only after it becomes apparent that you will have to go the formal route should you do so. 2. Failing to act promptly when a resident violate the rules. Although many things are not waivable, such as maintenance violations, some definitely are, such as unpermitted pets or occupants. When there is a belief that the resident has either an unapproved pet or occupant, the resident should be contacted immediately. With pets (assuming they are not in violation of the rules against breeds, or numbers), you want to promptly get them onto a Pet Agreement. With occupants you should use the Occupancy Agreement and run a background check. (Make sure you don’t require a financial background check, since that is not permitted on occupants – only tenants.) If the resident delays in complying, get a 30-day notice issued and do not accept rent until the matter is resolved. I have seen too many managers accept rent and work for months with the resident, not realizing that they are being lulled into believing the resident will ultimately cooperate – until it’s too late. 3. Failing to properly prepare a notice of termination. Oregon law is very strict when it comes to the preparation of notices. Even the slightest error can be fatal. Make sure you’re using the correct MHCO form [e.g. don’t use a 30-day notice for failure to maintain under ORS 90.630, when you should be using a 30-day notice for repair and deterioration under ORS 90.632.] When you draft the notice, have someone else read it for content and accuracy. Then do so again yourself. If you realize that you sent out an incorrectly prepared notice, send out a corrected one and state that it rescinds and replaces the incorrect one. 4. Accepting residents you have doubts about. Always do a “gut-check.” If you think the applicant would be problematic, look closely at their application and references. While you cannot and should not reject applicants arbitrarily, if they are on the cusp – i.e. you could legitimately accept or reject - give careful consideration to your decision and don’t let it be dictated by your desire to just fill a space. 5. Not understanding the range of solutions when dealing with a residents. By this I mean, don’t just fire out a notice as a knee jerk reaction to a violation. A good example is a resident who is intoxicated and gets into a verbal altercation with another resident. Say it gets out of control, and threats are made by the resident. If this is unusual for the resident and out of character for him, don’t simply send a 24-hour notice. The law is quite clear that you are not to use a 24-hour notice if another form of notice, e.g. a curable 30-day notice would work. Remember, a repeat violation with six months following the date of the 30-day notice gives you the right to terminate with a 20-day non-curable notice. Judges don’t like to terminate manufactured housing residents, given the drastic consequences. You want to show the judge that you were not being heavy-handed, but tried the most rationale and reasonable approach first.

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