One of the toughest parts of a landlord or property manager’s job is keeping up with the constantly changing legislative updates and industry trends, mainly because there isn’t one resource that is relevant and comprehensive enough for all property managers and landlords.
Tenant-landlord laws vary significantly from state to state, and the condition of the housing market obviously differs depending on local housing supply and demand. This guide provides a rich array of resources to help you find the property management news you need to grow your business — and head off lawsuits.
Why Take the Time to Keep Up?The value of keeping up with legislative updates and industry news is twofold:
- Staying abreast of legislative updates minimizes risk for you as a property manager, since a violation of the landlord-tenant laws due to outdated knowledge could easily turn into an expensive lawsuit.
- Staying updated on your area’s rental market conditions ensures that your rental properties are priced competitively. This means always knowing the market rent level and vacancy level, both of which you should take into account when you help the property owner price his/her rental.
To keep up with local news, Lyle Haas of Colorado Realty & Property Management is highly involved in his regional NARPM chapter and regularly consults his law firm. When I asked him why he spends approximately two hours a week to keep up with the latest information, he said:
It is absolutely critical for a property manager to stay on top of legislative changes, because in the event that a legal complication arises, the property owner WILL hold you responsible and you’ll wish you had spent the time doing research beforehand to prevent it. In the rare instance where I had a lawsuit on my hand… crisis control devoured all my time and energy, which was time and energy I could have spent finding new clients and growing my business. If a few hours of my time each week helps me avoid a lawsuit that costs me thousands of dollars and halts my business, I would say the ROI of doing so is huge.
How Do You Keep Up?
I interviewed several property managers on how they keep up with their news, and the majority told me they consult their lawyers or property management associations, both of which regularly distribute newsletters. Several property managers also mentioned checking the blog and social media profiles of their property management software company (such as Buildium), as well as other third-party sites.
The most common pain point, however, is that while there are a lot of very useful resources out there, most property managers find it too time-consuming to monitor all these different channels. This post will not only provide a compilation of useful resources via different channels, but it will also show you how to streamline the monitoring of these resources.
Identify Your News Channels
Figuring out where to look for information is the first and the most critical step. These are the common places property managers go:
- Join a property management or real estate association
- Consult a law firm well versed in landlord/tenant laws
- Attend continuing education classes
- Check your state’s government agency websites
- Receive updates from your property management software company
- Follow major organizations and industry influencers on Twitter
- Join LinkedIn groups where property managers and landlords share information
- Check other third-party websites or blogs
Join a Property Management or Real Estate Association
If you haven’t already, the best advice you’ll get today is to join one of these organizations. The level of knowledge, network, and support is simply unmatched. Being a member enables you to attend the national conventions and regional chapter meetings to attend classes, network, and exchange knowledge.
I particularly recommend the National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) because this association is specifically for property managers, and its membership is growing rapidly. I’ve regularly interacted with NARPM members, and they are all very satisfied with how well-informed the organization helps them to be. However, since NARPM is present in only 22 states, I’ve provided you with three other prominent organizations — the Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM), the National Apartment Association (NAA), and the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) — that property managers can be a part of.
Use the links below to find the local chapter close to you. Many regional chapters produce periodic newsletters and that focus on new laws or industry trends in its area for the members, which are a lot more targeted than national level resources.
- Find your local National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM) chapter.
- Find your local Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) chapter.
- Find your local National Apartment Association (NAA) affiliate.
- Find your local Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) chapter.
- You don’t necessarily need to join the National Association of Realtors (NAR), but it’s worthwhile to check out your state’s association for realtors by searching in Google “______ [your state] Association of Realtors.” Several property managers said that these organizations send out very useful emails on new legislative changes.
IREM and NAA have periodic online publications available to non-members as well. They are concise and in easily digestible formats. IREM’s bimonthly Journal of Property Management is particularly well done. It offers comprehensive coverage of the real estate management industry. Each issue contains expert insight on trends and issues affecting all property types. Unfortunately the JPM cannot be delivered automatically to your inbox or subscribed via RSS feed, but it’s a well-structured publication, so it’s worthwhile to look for the newest issue when it’s released.
Real Estate Management News is a weekly list of news headlines compiled by IREM. It provides a weekly rundown of vital real estate management industry news, curated from thousands of trade, industry and business publications. Also, their Top Legislative News page is updated frequently.
The Industry Insider is a weekly newsletter from the NAA. Use it to get a quick summary of noteworthy articles pertaining to the industry. The NAA also offers other free weekly publications focused on topics like technology, marketing, green practices, etc. Read the descriptions to see what might be relevant for you.
Consult a Law Firm Well Versed in Landlord-Tenant Laws
You likely already work closely with a law firm that specializes in landlord-tenant laws, and depending on the complexity of your state’s legislative system, maintain regular communications with your lawyer. Thus, I’ll focus on where you can go online if you want to seek out legal information yourself. The following three sites are all maintained by legal professionals:
- NOLO’s Landlord-Tenant Laws by State
- HG’s Legal Resource on Property Management
- The UpCounsel Newsletter is a bi-monthly newsletter that provides legal advice to a combination of different businesses, but you can opt to only receive residential real estate news.
Attend Continuing Education Classes
Continuing education typically isn’t a state or federal requirement for property managers. However, many of the property managers I interviewed still regularly attend classes because they find these classes to be the easiest, most fail-proof way of staying informed. For instance, Lyle Haas, the president of Colorado Realty & Property Management, says he requires his employees to attend continuing education on new fair housing legislation twice a year, as well as any other courses related to new legislation:
The time commitment is worthwhile for me because this is how I make sure our firm is the most informed and prepared to service our property owners, who rely on us to know our stuff.
On the other hand, for some designations or certifications, a certain number of continuing educations is required. IREM is one of the largest organizations to offer designations for property managers, and they offer accompanying continuing education courses.
Check Your State’s Government Agency Websites
It is worthwhile to follow news released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). It’s easy to stay updated through the organization’s blog (The HUDdle), but you can look up specific regulations in your state through HUD’s official site. For information on lead-based paint, mold, and carbon monoxide regulations, check the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Finally, to find your state’s government organizations, simply google “List of Government Agencies for ______ [your state]”
Receive Updates from Your Property Management Software Company
Property management software is intended to boost your efficiency in day-to-day tasks, and part of the service is providing useful and up-to-date information that will help you run your business better. For instance, while Buildium has a product-focused newsletter for its customers, they also release one that is relevant for all property managers: The Property Management Pulse (subscribe here). It includes industry updates, tips, and best practices each week. This publication is especially useful because Buildium often features guest bloggers from other companies within the property management industry, so you end up receiving news and information on quite a diverse range of topics.
Follow Major Organizations and Industry Influencers on Twitter
Twitter is a great source for real-time news updates; a Wall Street Journal study found that of the Americans who are on Twitter, 50% of them use it to get breaking news updates. However, unlike newsletters, which aggregate the important information and deliver it in a concise format, Twitter is a lot messier. Essentially, the cost of getting uncurated real-time updates is that you end up getting all sorts of updates at any given time…and your Twitter feed ends up cluttered with non-industry related tweets.
If you only want to spend 5 minutes on Twitter every morning, getting updated on industry news while you wait for your coffee, then it’s best to separate out your property management-related handles from the rest and organize these industry handles into separate lists so you know exactly what you’re getting when you access the list. For national news, I’ve listed four Twitter Lists you can subscribe to directly, allowing you to just view discussions taking place in the property management space. I’ve ordered them from the most targeted to property managers to the least:
- Property Management News. This is a
public list from Happy Inspector (@HappyInspector).
- Housing News. This is a public list from HUD (@HUDgov)
- Information Providers. A list from the Institute of Real Estate Management (@IREM_info)
- Industry Pros. Another list from the Institute of Real Estate Management (@IREM_info)
For regional news, I’ve lightened your workload in finding Twitter handles relevant to your area. Go through each of the two lists below and only subscribe to the organizations in your region for targeted local news:
- Property Management Associations. A public list by Happy Inspector (@HappyInspector). This lists national & regional associations for property managers to follow for relevant industry news. Look through the members and subscribe to the ones in your area.
- Official HUD Twitter accounts. A public list by HUD (@HUDgov). Includes all the regional HUD agencies. Look through the members, and subscribe to the ones in your area.
You’re probably wondering: If I only subscribe to these instead of putting them into lists, won’t their tweets get lost in my feed like you said earlier? In a later section, I’ll show you how to use a tool called TweetDeck to track specific handles such as these.
Join LinkedIn Groups Where Property Managers and Landlords Share Information
Though both social media networks, LinkedIn differs from Twitter in that its discussion board format is better suited for discussions and follow-up questions. If you have a LinkedIn profile (you should!), you can see new posts from these groups when you browse your news feed. Click through each link and click “Join” to become a member. Even if the group is locked, the group administrators are pretty quick in approving your requests to join:
- National Association of Residential Property Managers (NARPM)
- Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM)
- Building Owners and Managers Association International (BOMA)
- National Apartment Association Community (NAA)
- National Association of REALTORS®-Official Group (NAR)
- The Property Management Network
- Commercial Real Estate Investment, Development, & Property Management
- Residential Property Management Professionals
- Property Management Insider
- Property Management Professionals
- Fair Housing Act
- Inman News – Real Estate Connect
- Online Marketing for Property Managers
- Property Management Software
- Tech Savvy Property Managers
- Buildium Property Management Software
Check Other Third-Party Websites or Blogs
These are informative blogs or websites that property managers have recommended to me, all of which I follow myself. Many of them are updated quite regularly, so it’s too time consuming to check them individually, and if you subscribe to have all the blog posts emailed to you, your inbox will quickly be overflown. Thus, to help you monitor all of them in a glance, in the next section I will also go over how you can use a RSS feed to streamline your information intake. I recommend the following blogs/websites targeted specifically for property managers:
- All Things Property Management
- Let’s Talk Property Management
- Fourandhalf Marketing Blog
- Rentals.com Company Blog: Just For Property Managers
- Property Management Insider
- Happy Inspector’s Property Management Blog
The following blogs/websites are not targeted specifically to property managers, but contain information for brokers, real estate agents, property owners/buyers, and real estate investors. However, much of the legislative news and industry trend information is still relevant for property managers:
- The HUDdle (U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development)
- Inman News
- Bigger Pockets Blog
- Zillow Blog
- Just for fun: Terrible Real Estate Agent Photographs
Hacks that Streamline Your Information Flow
Now that you’ve located all your news sources, let’s discuss how you can monitor them efficiently. The presumed method is to check each channel one by one: Maybe you read your NARPM and All Things Property Management in the morning… and when you remember, you check a couple of blogs… then later when you saw that you have a new Twitter follower, you remember to look up NARPM’s Twitter handle and one of your lists. While this approach works, it is tedious and time-consuming. How can you streamline your news intake? I’ll discuss three tools that can help streamline some of the channels:
- RSS feed (The Old Reader): Consolidates all the new posts from blogs to one platform
- Google Alerts: Searches the entire web for information based on a topic you’re following, so you don’t even need to know where to look.
- Social media monitoring tool (TweetDeck): Allows you to monitor all your handles, lists, hashtags, and even search terms on one dashboard.
Earlier in this post I recommended blogs to follow. It would be too time-consuming to check each blog for new content individually. You could subscribe to have new blog posts emailed to you, but this will quickly clog up your inbox. A useful alternative is to use a RSS (which stands for Really Simple Syndication) feed, which aggregates all the blogs you follow into one application so you can browse the latest posts from all the sites in one location.
I personally like using the The Old Reader, whose interface is very straightforward and resembles the deceased Google Reader (Google’s old RSS feed). There are a lot of different Google Reader alternatives to choose from, and this article outlines 10 good ones.
This is what my RSS feed looks like. You can see on the left all the blogs/feeds I follow:
In the left column, the green bubble next to each blog tells you how many new/unread posts that blog has since I last checked. By setting the view to “List mode,” I can also see previews of the newest blog posts (below where it says “You have 362 unread posts”).
To subscribe to a new blog or website feed, just click the “Add a Subscription” button on the upper left corner, and enter the URL of the blog or website feed. Remember the list of blogs I recommended earlier in this post? Plug all of them into your The Old Reader to get started.
Sometimes you know what kind of news you want, but don’t know which sites will cover it. In this case, you should set up Google Alerts, which scans the web for your chosen keywords and notifies you when a newly posted content contains those keywords. To set up Google Alert, go to https://www.google.com/alerts, enter the keyword you want to track into “Search query,” and for the preferences start with:
Result type: Everything
How often: As-it-happens
How many: All results
Deliver to: Feed
This will allow you to capture the most comprehensive results, and view it the most often, so you can quickly figure out which keywords work and which don’t. Over time, if a keyword is generating results that are not targeted, change “How many:” to “Only the best results,” and you can adjust the frequency of delivery based on how many results are generated/how often you want to be notified.
Finish by clicking “Create Alert,” which directs you to the dashboard displaying all your query items and alert settings. Any alert that you set as “Deliver to: Feed” you can track using the RSS feed you’ve set up in the previous step. To import a Google Alert query feed to The Old Reader, follow the steps below:
Click on the Feed icon
This takes you to a new webpage, which may appear as random codes. No matter, copy the URL in the address bar.
Go to your The Old Reader, click the button “Add New Subscription”
Paste the URL of the Google Alerts feed into the Feed URL field, then click the plus sign. You’ll see the Google Alert appear as a new Subscription.
You can see the Google Alerts I’m tracking at the bottom of my The Old Reader left panel. I like to separate my Google alerts from the blogs, so I created a folder that contains all the alerts at the bottom of the column. To help you get started, I will suggest a few “search query” keywords. I like starting with broad topics so I capture as many results as I can, which gives me an idea how active the industry is:
“landlord tenant law 2013”
“landlord tenant law”
So while query item “landlord tenant law” produces more results, “landlord tenant law 2013” produces what I consider to be more targeted results, since the articles tend to focus on new laws that will come into play in 2013. I also do a variation that targets the state I am in:
“landlord tenant law California 2013”
“landlord tenant law California”
Personally, I follow changes to the Fair Housing Act rather closely, especially due to the recent controversy with NAR amending its Code of Ethics to add gender identity/sexual orientation to its fair housing protections. To help me stay updated on this particular law, I used the “Search query” keywords:
“fair housing law 2013”
“fair housing act 2013”
Notice that the two keywords mean the same thing, but I still created two separate query items in order to comprehensively capture people using both terms. When you create your query items, think of all the ways someone might be discussing the particular topic. Finally, the last trick is to add your company’s name as a query item. You may not get results often, but it’s a nifty monitoring tool for your brand when someone is talking about your company and service.
Social Media Monitoring Tools
Remember I mentioned that I will show you how to track the individual Twitter handles of your local associations? In TweetDeck, you can choose multiple Twitter handles, search terms, hashtags, and lists to follow on your dashboard. To get started, follow Twitter’s step-by-step directions for using TweetDeck.
Essentially, for each new item you want to monitor, you add a new column. Then, every time you open up TweetDeck, that column will display a feed of all the latest tweets from that item.
There are four types of item you may want to track:
1. A person or organization’s Twitter handle
For example: @Buildium, @HappyInspector, @NARPM
This pulls this person or organization’s latest tweets
As mentioned before, if you found a local association’s Twitter handle, this is how you monitor all the tweets by that association
2. A search term
For example: landlord-tenant law, fair-housing law 2013
This pulls all the latest tweets that contain those search terms
Most of the query items in your Google alert works in this case
3. A hashtag
For example, when Happy Inspector hosted the webinar “Top Mobile Apps for Property Managers,” I designated the hashtag #TopPMApps for discussions/questions/feedback
If an event has a designated hashtag, you can follow all the discussions surrounding the event by monitoring the hashtag
4. A Twitter list you’re subscribed to
For example: The lists I recommended earlier in this post
This pulls the latest tweets by any of the people/organizations contained in the list.
To track #1~#3 (handle, search term, or hashtag):
Put the handle, search term, or hashtag into the search bar on the left
Click on the correct result generated
Click “Add Column”
To track #4 (List):
Click the “Lists” option on the bottom left
Select the List you want to monitor
Click “Add Column”
The last benefit of TweetDeck is that it’s a great tool for managing your company’s Twitter account, which can help grow your business. Here’s an article that gives a basic outline of how to do that.
There are other social media monitoring tools available as well. Some, such as Hootsuite, allow you to track Facebook and LinkedIn (in limited capacity). To see other alternatives, check out this article, which outlines 10 free social media monitoring tools.
At the end of the day, nothing beats face-to-face interactions and a support network of property managers sharing their knowledge, but building up your network takes time and attending in-person events is energy-consuming. Thus, a combination of online and offline resources will allow you to gain the most comprehensive view of your industry in a time-efficient way.
Special thanks to Lyle Haas, the President and Managing Broker of Colorado Realty and Property Management. His vast knowledgeable about the property management space served as a fantastic resource for this blog post.Read more on Team