Managing Common Area Maintenance (CAM) expenses for shopping centers and office buildings can be a challenge and a lot can go wrong. Tenants may question your math and different tenants often have different CAM reimbursement requirements. To be successful at this you have to start early, be organized and have a plan. Below are four quick ways that you can increase your success as a commercial property manager.
- Summarize Lease Obligations for Each Tenant: You must start by being very clear on who owes what. Create a table that summarizes all of the CAM related lease provisions. Tenants often have caps on Admin costs, and sometimes have expense stops on certain items. There may also be a cap on property taxes. If the property recently sold at a higher price and the property taxes went up, this cannot always be passed on to each tenant.
- Invoice Coding: Clearly code and note expenses. Your organization here is essential to ensuring that you are billing back the right items and not missing anything.
- Finalize the Budget and Notify Tenants prior to January: Get the budget out early, do not put it off. When you surprise tenants with estimated expenses late it opens you up to criticism and pushback. Let tenants know in advance what you expect running the common areas for the year to cost. You will get any pushback early and can address it in advance.
- Be Conservative in your Estimates: It is much easier to give tenants a refund than it is to tell them they have to pay extra. When tenants get hit with a bill, it will create controversy and they will be more likely want to audit your calculations and bills. This adds significant additional time and stress for all parties. You are much better off being conservative in your estimates. This helps set appropriate expectations for the tenants and ownership. Exceeding expectations is a winning strategy.
Communication, organization and having a plan will always make you more successful. This is a technical work product but property management is a customer service business. By communicating with tenants early and setting conservative expectations, you are more than halfway down the road to success in this portion of the commercial property management business.