Any business, in order to operate and deliver its products or services, must have systems and processes.  In this chapter, I will be sharing with you many of the systems and processes we implemented to manage the 320+ properties we were responsible for.  The process is like any other . . . it is never finished.  There is always something that, while it works better since you changed it, is still not working as smoothly as you would like.  What I am sharing with you is basically a snapshot of where we are in this ongoing process.


 Every organization has to do filing.  It is simply a way to put important documents and information away in such a manner as to be able to find it again with you need it . . . and that is the acid test!  You may have an awesome filing system that you have implemented but if you can’t find what you need when you need it, you have to ask yourself: is this really working for me?

The starting place for us in dealing with our properties was to assign a property number to each property.  This number is used in paying invoices; in setting up our property management software and . . . you guessed it . . . in setting up our filing system.    We start out arranging all of the properties in alphabetical order, by their street name and then begin assigning property numbers to them.  Under this convention all of your properties on numbered streets would come before your named streets in the order of your streets: 6th street, 10th street and 27th street, then Apple Street, Boston Street then Orange Street.  If you have more than one property on the same street; the ones with the lowest house number would come before those with the higher ones.  As you are designing your property numbering system, one thing to think about is to allow enough unassigned property numbers between the assigned ones to allow for some growth.  We only re-assigned property numbers once in the five years that we owned the company.  This was mainly due to the fact that we more than doubled our number of properties during that time.  As you can imagine, because we had outgrown our numbering system, we had a lot of property numbers with decimal numbers so that we could fit them between two consecutive whole numbers:  #110, #110.2, #110.5 & #111.

Here is an example of a numbering convention which works:

Property #               Property Address


623 E. 6th Street






842 So. 18th Ave


622 West 120th E. Ave






123 Apple Street


129 Apple Street






855 So. Boston Street






27 Highland Ave.

OK, now that we have figured out how to number our properties we are ready to set our filing system.  We recommend that you use a three folder system for each property.  One is a colored folder; red, blue, green or even electric colors are available at your local office supply store.  The other folder is a plain-Jane manila folder.  The two folders rest in the third folder, which is a hanging folder.  All three folders have the property number and address on it.

The Colored Folder – The colored folder is for all of the legal documents relating to the property, or you could also think of it as housing all of the long-term documents.  On the left side as you open the folder, we keep all of the documents relating to managing the property; Management Agreement; property set-up sheets; Owner information, and copies of any letters to or from the Owner of the property, etc.  On the right side of the folder, keep all of the information relating to the current Lease.  On this side you will keep the Lease itself, the rental application, any Change of Terms, any Three Day Notices or written correspondence with the Tenant or notes of communication with the Tenant.

The Manila Folder – This folder is for all of the day-to-day stuff that goes on with the property.  On the left side, you will keep all of the HOA documentation; newsletters, notices, etc.  On the right side is where you will keep all of the paid invoices for anything on the property: mortgage statements; HOA statements; and paid contractor statements, as well as the work orders for that work.

Another thing that we put in the manila folder is the Lease.  I know, I just said that you will keep that in the colored folder . . . whassup with that.  If you re-lease the property during the year, we put the new Lease in the colored file and move the outdated Lease into the manila folder.  This way, you will still have access to this information without having to go to your archives.

As I have mentioned before, I tend to be an efficiency-driven sort of person.  When I first saw this filing setup, I pushed hard for going to the multi-tabbed, all in one folders.  The reason that doesn’t work as well for this system is that at the end of the year you will want to purge your files and essentially the entire manila folder will go into to your non-active file storage.  This becomes a very efficient process when all you have to do is remove the manila file, mark it with a colored tab with the year it was for and make a new manila folder to replace it.  Also, if you don’t purge your files each year, they would become so fat and cumbersome that you literally would have to rent a larger space to house all of your files!

Archiving – If you are going to keep physical copies of your old files, you will need to maintain a storage facility where you keep all of your file archives.  Typically this is for files on properties that you no longer manage, or for files on properties that you do manage, but the files are so old that the likelihood of needing to access them is minimal.  A good rule of thumb is that you maintain records for 10 years and then have them shredded.

Depending on how long we have been managing a particular property, we would generally keep all of the past year’s files for that property in storage in our office.  Now, if you have been managing a property for 15 years, that doesn’t make sense; information that is 3 – 5 years old is only going to need to be accessed once at the most, during a given year, so it really doesn’t make sense to use your valuable file/office space for that and it goes to storage.  At any rate, this three folder system is working well for us.

Physical Hard Copy Filing vs. Electronic

With all of your current year files and three–five year archives, your filing will require a lot of space.  That is valuable and expensive office space.  If you can eliminate several file cabinets then you could add more work stations and not have to rent larger space in order to hire new people as you grow!

I recommend that you start out scanning all of your documents that you would normally file . . . as they occur!  This will start to build your filing system and when it is time to purge your physical files and move them to another cabinet you can skip that step and move them to archive.  You will have the electronic files on your computers (don’t forget to have an off-site backup!)


We hope this posting has been helpful for you.

Thank you for reading!

Pat and Kris


For a virtual goldmine of  resources for time and money saving systems and secrets of the pros, visit our website at


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