Calendar icon May 3, 2023

How Property Managers Can Automate Rent Collection

Automated rent collection is a system that enables property managers to collect rent payments from residents via electronic means such as online portals, direct debit, ACH, direct deposit bank transfers, or debit card/credit card payments. 

This simplifies the rent collection process, saves time, and minimizes errors associated with manual processes and payment reminders. It also provides residents with a convenient and secure way to make payments, leading to increased satisfaction and retention rates.

In this article, we’ll talk about some of the best online rent payment systems, the best strategies to automate rent collection, and how to implement these strategies. We’ve got insights from Wolfgang Croskey, a leader in the industry. 


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Today's Expert: Wolfgang Croskey, Founder & President of How’s My Rental

What is automated rent collection?  

Automated rent collection leverages single family property management software to streamline the process of receiving rent payments from residents. While traditionally, rent collection might involve paper checks or manual online payments, automated rent collection automates these steps, thus alleviating the issue of late rent payments. 

Residents can schedule recurring payments or make one-time payments (or partial payments) electronically through the software, allowing the software to automatically debit the designated bank account on the due date, eliminating the need for manual processing and the potential for missed payments or late fees. 

Best automated rent collection apps for property managers  

1. SecondNature

At Second Nature, our focus is on improving the lives of both residents and property managers. That's why we've designed digital solutions aimed at adding value and alleviating rent collection challenges for all parties involved.

With our Resident Benefits Package, we offer a range of features designed to encourage timely rental payments and assist residents in bolstering their credit, safeguarding their identity, and maintaining financial stability.

Learn more now

2. Buildium 

Buildium is a property management platform that provides a range of features, including online rent payments, payment processing, tenant communication, maintenance tracking, and financial reporting.

While Buildium does not publicly disclose specific pricing information, its website indicates pricing is based on the number of units you manage. 

Learn more about Buildium

3. AppFolio 

AppFolio is a cloud-based property management software that offers online rent collection, security deposit, tenant screening, property inspections, and accounting/bookkeeping software features.

AppFolio’s pricing structure is tiered, with the specific cost depending on the number of units you manage and the features you require.

Learn more about AppFolio

4. Avail 

Avail is a cloud-based rent collection tool that allows PMs to automate rent, send rent reminders, track payments, and manage rental properties.

The pricing for Avail depends on the number of units you manage, with increased discounts for larger portfolios. 

Learn more about Avail

5. Rentec Direct

Rentec Direct is a software platform for property managers that offers features such as online rent payments, tenant screening, lease tracking, and maintenance management.

Rentex Direct pricing scales with the number of units you manage, with economies of scale for larger portfolios. 

Learn more about Rentec Direct

6. Latchel

Latchel is a cloud-based solution designed specifically for single-family home and small portfolio landlords. It offers functionality that automates and centralizes various aspects of single-family property management, including resident support, maintenance management, online rent collection, video-based troubleshooting, and a resident portal. 

Specific pricing details are available via a consultative process.

Learn more about Latchel

7. DoorLoop

DoorLoop is a cloud-based solution designed to cater to a variety of property types, including single-family homes and multi-tenant buildings. It offers tools to streamline property management tasks, including marketing and leasing units, screening and managing tenants, processing rent payments and managing leases, tracking maintenance requests and coordinating repairs, and generating financial reports for property owners.

Pricing is tiered based on the features you require.

Learn more about DoorLoop

8. YardiBreeze

Yardi Breeze is a cloud-based solution offered by Yardi, a venerable company in the real estate and property management industry. The software offers features designed to streamline tasks typically encountered by landlords or property managers, including marketing and leasing vacant properties, screening and managing residents, processing rent payments and rental applications electronically, tracking maintenance requests and repairs, and generating financial reports for owners and real estate investors.

For quotes, contact Yardi Breeze directly.  

Learn more about YardiBreeze

9. RentRedi

RentRedi is a mobile-first property management software that allows landlords to collect rent payments online, screen tenants, and manage maintenance requests through a user-friendly app.

RentRedi’s pricing structure is subscription-based and ranges from $12/month (paid annually) to 29.95/month (pay-as-you-go). 

Learn more about RentRedi

Benefits of Automated Online Rent Collection 

Rent collection software offers a variety of benefits that are specific to SFR property management companies. After all, the impact of reducing workload and saving time adds up, especially when you need to devote so much of your energy to operations across a dispersed area. Here's a closer look at the advantages:

Reduced workload and time savings

Automating rent collection eliminates the need to chase individual payments, freeing up time for tasks that can be time-consuming, such as inspections or maintenance coordination. 

Fewer late payments

With on-time automated payments, rental income (and therefore cash flow) becomes more predictable. This allows for better financial planning and budgeting for property maintenance, repairs, or unexpected expenses.

Simplified accounting and record-keeping

For property managers, autopay eliminates the need for manual rent collection processes and reduces the risk of late notifications or missed payments. Rent collection features also help streamline accounting processes by providing accurate and up-to-date records of rent payments. And of course, recurring payments can be set up to occur automatically, saving property managers time and reducing the need for follow-up with tenants. No more existential dread around rent time!

Reduced risk of errors

Manual processing of checks or cash can be error-prone. Automatic rent collection minimizes the risk of human error in recording payments, ensuring accurate financial records and avoiding potential miscommunications or disputes.

Improved security

Automated rent collection platforms typically use secure payment processing systems to safeguard sensitive financial information. This provides peace of mind for property managers and residents alike, as their payment data is protected from unauthorized access or fraud.

Potential for scalability

Even for smaller companies managing a few properties, automated rent collection lays a foundation for a more efficient system. As your portfolio grows, the automation remains in place, simplifying rent collection regardless of the number of properties you manage. In fact, Wolfgang Croskey says automation can level the playing field.

“Technology is the great equalizer,” he says. “It allows us to compete with these nationwide companies and to provide not only the same level of service but to be able to pivot and adapt much quicker than those larger companies can. So for me, you're a smaller company, AI and Automation Tech is that equalizer that's going to allow you to shine just as well as these larger companies.”

Enhanced resident communication and satisfaction

For residents, recurring rent payments provide a convenient and hassle-free way to pay rent on time every month. It eliminates the need to remember to make a payment, reducing the risk of late fees and improving their credit score by building a consistent payment history. 

Property managers who are reporting rent payments to credit bureaus (such as TransUnion) as part of a Resident Benefits Package can use this as a massive incentive for residents to automate payments. Additionally, tenants can set up recurring payment options using their preferred payment method, making it easy and flexible for them to manage their finances.

The other component of improving the resident experience is offering mobile app-based automatic payment methods. That’s why allowing residents to pay rent with Apple Pay or Google Pay is gaining popularity across the property management industry. Zelle is another payment service that can help with ACH payments without transaction fees. PayPal and Venmo are other mobile payment platforms. With these mobile payment apps, renters can pay their rent using their mobile devices.

It’s a win for residents because they can easily make automatic payments on the go using their smartphones without the need for a physical wallet or a business day visit to a bank or property management office. Additionally, these mobile payment methods are highly secure, as they use biometric authentication to ensure the transaction is authorized by the account owner, minimizing the risk of fraud and identity theft.  

A note on credit card payments

It’s important to note that some property management companies have experienced the rare but profoundly irritating (and costly) phenomenon of chargeback claims in relation to rental payments made by credit card. If you’re in the market for software that supports automated rent payments, this is an important issue that you should raise with the sales representative.


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Use Second Nature to Automate  Rent Collection

At Second Nature, we’ve built digital products around creating ease for residents and property managers – adding value and reducing headaches for everyone involved.

Our Resident Benefits Package provides services that incentivize on-time rent payments and support residents in building credit, protecting their identity, and remaining financially sound.

Rent doesn’t have to be stressful for everyone involved. In fact, using the right tools, rent collection can become as easy as – you guessed it – Second Nature. (We had to.)

Keep learning

Property Management Pest Control Gone Wrong: Resident Horror Stories & Nightmares

In the world of property management and real estate investing, maintaining a clean and pest-free environment is central to the well-being of the residents who live in your properties. That being said, effective pest control is not only a best practice, but also a strategic move that enhances your properties’ living experience, making your life as a property manager easier and your residents happier. Pest control is crucial for several reasons: Investing in pest control saves significant potential costs by avoiding large-scale infestations and property damage, enhancing resident satisfaction with a healthier, pest-free environment, and preserving property value. This approach reduces health risks, protects against liability, and maintains a good reputation by demonstrating the property management company’s dedication to providing safe, comfortable living spaces for great tenants. Ultimately, pest control sets professional property management companies apart from DIY and amateur real estate investors by safeguarding both residents' well-being and property assets. By addressing these points, you can foster a positive living environment that benefits both you and your residents. It’s important to note that our goal is not to call out “good tenants” vs. “bad tenants.” Instead, we always aim to foster a constructive dialogue focused on addressing problems and finding solutions. By emphasizing respect and fairness, we can help create a positive environment that benefits all residents, ensuring their rights and dignity are always respected. Also note that even though we here at Second Nature prefer the term "resident" over "tenant" to foster the human element, the word "tenant" may still be used occasionally due to its long-standing legal and real estate context. "House of Horror" Stories Most property managers have encountered their share of resident horror stories – and many, not for the first time. These tales often involve unexpected and severe pest infestations, made worse by residents' behaviors. Indeed, from bedbugs and roaches (the truly bad tenants any property manager is looking to be rid of) to animal issues, the range of pest problems is vast and daunting. Our "House of Horror Stories" video provides a vivid account of these situations, including some landlord horror stories that are too distressing to include here. Maggots falling from the ceiling: A tenant reported maggots falling from the ceiling onto their bed. The pest company discovered that these maggots were larvae of beetles infesting the air ducts in the neighborhood. Pets and extensive damage: Animals in one property caused extensive damage by covering all floors with feces and chewing through doors, door frames, flooring, HVAC systems, and appliances, with clean-up costs exceeding $15,000. Flushable wipes backup: A tenant flushing baby wipes caused a major sewage backup, leading to water damage throughout multiple rooms (including the living room and master bedroom), with clean-up costs close to $5,000. Donkey in the basement: During the purchase inspection, a donkey was found tied to the deck and later moved to the basement to hide it from animal control, calling for its quick removal. Rodents damaging appliances: Rats infested a property, chewing through a new dishwasher, insulation, and electrical wires, requiring repeated pest control visits and extensive repairs. These stories from a range of contributors highlight the unpredictable and often extreme challenges property managers face in maintaining their properties and ensuring the safety and well-being of their residents. How to Control Resident Pest Issues A robust pest control program is often the property manager’s best friend. After all, infestations can be difficult to proactively defend against, given that background checks, references, and tenant screening go only so far in uncovering the pest issues that can befall even the best tenants. Regardless of the challenges residents may present, a comprehensive pest control plan can mitigate potential infestations before they escalate into true horror stories. This includes timely intervention, and educating residents about maintaining cleanliness. Providing residents with clear guidelines on waste disposal and food storage can also significantly mitigate pest problems. Additionally, offering pest control services as part of a Resident Benefits Package can encourage residents to report issues early, allowing for swift action. Planning Ahead When dealing with problematic residents, it's essential to have a clear action plan. Issuing notices to clean the property promptly (e.g., with a 7-day notice period) is a critical first step. Leveraging a notice-to-clean template can streamline the process and ensure that you comply with tenant laws and legal standards. If worst things come to worst, an eviction notice may become necessary. However, this process is governed by various rules and regulations that can differ significantly across federal and state lines. It's important to be well-versed in these laws to avoid legal pitfalls. A detailed “notice to vacate” template can be incredibly helpful for property managers looking to take care of these complex situations. Nipping Things in the Bud In conclusion, maintaining a pest-free environment is integral to property management success. On-Demand Pest Control is a service in Second Nature’s fully managed Resident Benefits Package (RBP). It offers predictable, cost-effective, and fast solutions when a pest issue arises. Instead of expensive scheduled preventive treatments, residents can request service as needed. This approach ensures fast response times, directly addressing the problem at hand and saving costs over recurring treatments Property managers simply select the best pest plan from four tiers of service levels to include in their RBP. When an issue arises, the resident reports it in the On-Demand Pest Control portal, and the pest issue will be resolved. Learn more about On-Demand Pest Control by getting in touch, or read our latest study on the impact of our RBP on the resident experience.

Calendar icon July 3, 2024

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Your Guide to Property Management Laws, Regulations, & Rules

Property management activities involve overseeing rental properties, ensuring they’re maintained, residents are managed, and finances are handled effectively. While a real estate license is not always necessary to manage rental properties, licensing requirements can vary significantly by state. Typically, states may require property managers to hold a real estate license or work under a licensed broker. Property managers should familiarize themselves with the specific regulations in their state to ensure compliance. What Are Some Important Property Management Rules and Regulations? Property management laws encompass various areas, ensuring the safety, rights, and responsibilities of both property managers and tenants. Key areas include: Anti-discriminatory laws: Fair housing laws such as the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act (FHAA) prevent discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or disability. Lease paperwork: Legally binding lease agreements must include specific terms and comply with local regulations. Safety, maintenance, and repairs: Property managers must ensure properties meet habitability standards, including weatherproofing, heating, water, and electricity. Financial management: Proper handling of security deposits, monthly rent collection, and financial records is essential to comply with regulations and avoid disputes. Property management laws by state Each state has specific property management laws that property managers must adhere to. For instance, in many (but not all) jurisdictions, property managers must obtain a real estate broker license to operate. These laws are typically drafted and enforced by various regulatory bodies such as the state's Department of Real Estate or similar agencies. For instance, the California Department of Real Estate is responsible for regulating real estate activities, brokers, and salespersons, including those who work in property management, while the Texas Real Estate Commission handles these responsibilities in Texas. These agencies ensure compliance with state licensing laws and often provide resources and guidelines for property managers of both residential properties and commercial properties. Below is a table linking to the respective government sites for state-specific regulations: State State Body Alabama Alabama Real Estate Commission Alaska Alaska Real Estate Commission Arizona Arizona Department of Real Estate Arkansas Arkansas Real Estate Commission California California Department of Real Estate Colorado Colorado Division of Real Estate Connecticut Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection Delaware Delaware Real Estate Commission Florida Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation Georgia Georgia Real Estate Commission and Appraisers Board Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs' Real Estate Branch Illinois Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation Indiana Indiana Professional Licensing Agency Iowa Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals, & Licensing Kansas Kansas Real Estate Commission (for commercial real estate property management only) Kentucky Kentucky Real Estate Commission Louisiana Louisiana Real Estate Commission Michigan Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Minnesota Minnesota Department of Commerce Mississippi Mississippi Real Estate Commission Missouri Missouri Division of Professional Registration Montana Montana Department of Labor and Industry Nebraska Nebraska Real Estate Commission Nevada Nevada Real Estate Division New Hampshire New Hampshire Real Estate Commission New Jersey New Jersey Real Estate Commission New Mexico New Mexico Real Estate Commission New York New York State Division of Licensing Services North Carolina North Carolina Real Estate Commission North Dakota North Dakota Real Estate Commission Ohio Ohio Division of Real Estate & Professional Licensing Oklahoma Oklahoma Real Estate Commission Oregon Oregon Real Estate Agency Pennsylvania Pennsylvania Real Estate Commission Rhode Island Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation South Carolina South Carolina Real Estate Commission South Dakota South Dakota Real Estate Commission Tennessee Tennessee Real Estate Commission Texas Texas Real Estate Commission Utah Utah Division of Real Estate Virginia Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation Washington Washington State Department of Licensing West Virginia West Virginia Real Estate Commission Wisconsin Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services Wyoming Wyoming Real Estate Commission Note: This list excludes resources from Idaho, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Vermont. Tenant screenings Tenant screenings are a critical step in property management, involving background checks, credit checks, income verification, employment verification, rental history, and proof of ID to assess prospective tenants. This process helps ensure that potential renters are reliable and financially responsible. It's important to obtain signed consent before running credit checks, as required by the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), to comply with legal standards and protect tenant privacy. Another important guidance is provided by the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits discrimination in housing-related activities based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, and disability, ensuring equal access to housing for all individuals. Learn more about Tenant Screening Tips for PMs Lease agreements A lease agreement is a legally binding contract between the landlord and tenant, outlining the terms of the tenancy. Key components of rental agreements include lease terms, rent amount, security deposit regulations, and common clauses such as maintenance responsibilities and lease renewal terms. Regulations governing lease agreements can vary by state, so it's essential to ensure that leases comply with local laws. For instance, state laws often contain security deposit limits, provisions for the return of unused portions, as well as a clear accounting for any deductions. Consulting with a lawyer is crucial to ensure your agreement is legally sound and reflects your specific circumstances. We’ve shared some relevant resources below: Learn more about property management agreements, featuring a free template Learn about security deposit insurance, and its pros and cons Financial management Effective financial management in property management involves establishing clear rent collection procedures and maintaining organized financial records. This includes tracking rent payments, managing tenants’ security deposits, and adhering to landlord-tenant laws to avoid legal disputes and financial penalties. Keeping detailed records can help property managers resolve issues efficiently and ensure transparency with tenants and property owners. Solutions such as property management software can streamline financial operations, automate routine tasks, and perhaps most importantly - ensure accuracy and regulatory compliance with respect to various accounting regulations and legal requirements. Evictions Evictions are a legal process to remove a tenant from a property. Common reasons for eviction from rental units include nonpayment of rent, property damage, lease violations, and criminal activity. Property managers must follow their state's rules for eviction notices, such as unconditional quit terminations and termination for lease violations, to ensure the process is lawful and fair. State laws regarding unconditional quit terminations and terminations for violation of a lease vary widely. Unconditional quit notices typically demand that tenants move out immediately without an opportunity to remedy the violation. States like Indiana and Mississippi allow landlords to issue these notices for serious or repeated violations, with Mississippi requiring 14 days to move out. For lease violations, the notice period and the opportunity for tenants to remedy the breach also differ by state. For example, in Kentucky, tenants generally have 15 days of written notice to cure a violation, but if the same violation occurs within six months, landlords can issue a 14-day unconditional quit notice. In contrast, states like Iowa and Maine require a seven-day notice period for tenants to address lease violations before eviction proceedings can begin. In California, on the other hand, tenants must be given three days or more to cure the violation before landlords can file for eviction (source). These legal nuances emphasize the importance of PMs and tenants understanding their specific state regulations to navigate eviction processes appropriately. Property maintenance and repairs Maintaining rental properties is a legal obligation for landlords, ensuring that properties are safe, habitable, and free from hazards like lead, asbestos, and mold. This includes weatherproofing, providing adequate heating and water, and ensuring electrical systems are functional. You can find out more about these issues in our Property Maintenance Guide for PMs. Landlords must also give notice to tenants before entering the property for repairs, as required by most state laws. When in doubt, consult a legal advisor to ascertain the specific laws that apply to you in your state. Tenants have the right to a habitable living environment, and failure to meet these standards can lead to legal consequences as well as issues with occupancy rates. Indeed, when landlords fail to make required repairs, tenants have several options depending on their state's laws. Tenants may withhold rent, make the necessary repairs themselves and deduct the cost from the rent, pay a reduced rent, report the issue to local building inspectors who can order repairs, or even break the lease and move out. Additionally, tenants can sue the landlord for a partial refund of past rent or for damages caused by the substandard conditions, including discomfort and emotional distress. Get our preventative maintenance checklist for property management Learn about the importance of pest control to maintain a pest-free environment Second Nature's Guidance Staying informed about state-specific regulations, maintaining organized records, and ensuring compliance with federal laws such as the Fair Housing Amendments Act is key to successful property management. On a practical level, understanding and adhering to property management laws and regulations is crucial for property managers to ensure smooth operations, maintain property value, and foster positive tenant relationships. Learn more about property management company best practices, marketing, and more in our Second Nature Community.

Calendar icon July 3, 2024

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