A quick guide to keeping property management records

Geoff Roberts
Geoff Roberts | 3 min. read

Published on April 25, 2011

Keeping records on-hand is important for a number of financial and legal reasons. Just because you’ve paid off an account or a tenant has vacated a unit, it doesn’t mean that you’ll never have cause to deal with these individuals again. Whether it’s for taxes, future loan applications, or legal issues down the line, you always want to be sure you have access to the information you need at any future point. Following are a few things to keep in mind about keeping records.

What Kind of Records Do Property Managers Need to Hold On To?

As a business owner, you will want to hang on to records that pertain to:

  • Personnel
  • Tenants
  • Financial transactions (both payments received and payments made)
  • Property-related information (both your properties and your clients)
  • Insurance
  • Legal documentation
  • Audit documentation

How Long Do Property Managers Need to Hold On to Records?

The answer is: It depends. While the default answer for this question tends to be “seven years,” that is only the case in certain instances. Different types of records should be kept for different periods of time. Standard time periods include one year, three years, seven years, and, in some cases, permanently. As it relates specifically to property management, you will want to keep the following information for these specific periods of time:

One Year:

  • Employee applications
  • Purchase orders
  • Meeting minutes

Three Years:

  • Banking records
  • Expired insurance policies
  • Correspondence (with clients, tenants, real estate agencies, vendors, etc.)
  • Internal audits

Seven Years:

  • Accident reports/claims
  • Accounts payable ledgers
  • Accounts receivable ledgers
  • Bank statements
  • Expired contracts and leases
  • Employee records (seven years post-termination, not beginning of employment)
  • Expense reports
  • General journals
  • Invoices (both incoming and outgoing)
  • Payroll records
  • Purchase orders

Indefinitely:

  • Articles of incorporation
  • External audits
  • Canceled checks for property purchases and taxes
  • Deeds and mortgages
  • Year-end financial statements
  • General ledger balances
  • Licenses and permits
  • Property appraisals
  • Property records (costs, blueprints, etc.)
  • Tax returns

Happily, thanks to digitization, keeping all these records doesn’t mean that you need to have stacks of boxes clogging up office space. Many of the items included in this list can also be kept electronically. (For more on this, check out our guide, 12 Steps to Paperless Property Management!)

Remember, though, computers crash and are replaced over time, and records can go along with them. Particularly when it comes to records that should be kept for longer periods or permanently, make sure that they are electronically preserved either on an external drive or on a secure server. If your records are overwhelming (or if you want to digitally archive all old records in one fell swoop), outside contractors that specialize in this function can be hired. Hard copies of vital records (such as deeds, mortgages, and property records) should be protected in disaster-proof climates, such as a safe or vault.

Read more on Accounting & Taxes
Geoff Roberts

Geoff is a marketer, surfer, musician, and writer. He lives in San Diego, CA.

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