Adding Up Late Rent Losses

How is an apartment community affected by late rent? Unpaid rent obviously affects a property’s financial performance. It’s lost or at least delayed revenue. Expenses related to unpaid rent start with filing fees, court costs and attorneys.  However, the impact on the property greatly exceeds these financial costs.

The amount of time dedicated each month by the onsite team to collect late rent is a huge drain on a limited resource. Time.

The reminder efforts encouraging residents to pay rent and avoid late fees consume time.  Whether it’s email, phone calls or posting notices, the minutes per resident preparing notices, emails or making calls add up to hours.

Follow up calls securing commitments for unpaid rent, again absorb time. Knocking on doors, posting notices, sending emails, or leaving voice mail messages for outstanding rent balances require hours of time each week.

Adding Up The Time

For everything household that fails to pay rent by the due date, the leasing team will dedicate a minimum of 10 to 15 minutes per household encouraging, reminding and counseling residents.  The conversations start with the importance of submitting their required rental payment. Continued calls describe the court process and outline how an eviction will be initiated.  On a property with 200 apartment homes, if 80% of the residents pay on or before the first of the month. That leaves 20% of the residents needing follow up…40 households..Preparing, and executing those calls..with a 10 minute expectation; that’s 400 minutes, over 6 hours.  So we start with 6 hours of delinquent rent follow up in week one.  Hopefully reduced by half each week that follows.  This results in an average of 10 or more hours per month.

The extended collection process for slow, and unpaid rent that lingers past the late fee deadline requires repeated calls, notices eventually copying documents for the attorney, or to simply file in court. Again, a continuing time commitment.

Last Minute Collections

Calendar late rentI worked with a property that struggled every month to meet the required objective of less than 2% unpaid rent at the end of the month. As late as two and three days before the end of the month, we would be tracking 7 and 8% unpaid rent. “Don’t worry” was the response, “we always get to the goal.” And they usually did, but to know every single day, calls needed to be made, post notices, or knock on doors up to the very last day of the month. Only to watch the calendar change to the next month and begin the entire process over again.  Every day time was dedicated to rent collection.  Thirty days, in a month, even a half hour every day.  Fifteen hours a month that could be used for marketing, outreach or resident retention.

Imagine how the schedule and responsibility for the leasing team would be different if no one had to be scheduled for late rent follow ups. The example showed the customer service reminder call could easily take 4 to 6 hours. As the number of unpaid rent decreases, with late payments straggling in, the difficulty of contacting and securing a commitment for payment increases requiring more …TIME. For the handful of residents that remain unpaid after mid month, the time investment grows to an hour plus; repeated phone calls, possible travel to court and waiting for the legal hearing.

I Wish I Had Time To…

It’s easy to add up the time required for each step of the late rent collection process. For all of the tasks that we struggle to find time for:

-More resident appreciation functions
-Outreach Marketing
-Preferred Employer Contacts
-Attending Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Meetings.

Improving timely rent payments will result in decreasing the time needed to collect late rent. Reducing the time for late rent calls increases time for “Other Things.” Finding ten hours a month is only the starting point. In a years time, that 120 hours has added 15 days worth of time to pursue activities that will improve your property.

How much time do you spend collecting unpaid rent each month? What would be something you could add to your property’s schedule if you could decrease the late rent collection activities?

Lori Hammond
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