Landlords and tenants alike need to be extremely careful and exercise due diligence when considering to use the services of Linda Steele, AAA Florida Rentals or Barbara O'Donnell.
I hired Steele and O'Donnell to lease a never lived in home. A year later, several months of back rent was owed and I was left with a home that had ruined/destroyed carpets, walls and doors. My property was inspected by a respected professional (licensed/bonded) and described as "rough and terrible" needing "thousands in repairs" and Steele described it as in "good" shape and needing to be released immediately. Steele nearly demanded to do the repairs herself, as she has several different entity companies (do your research) so she profits if properties suffer damage. Get the point? She profits with your loss.
First, property management is a big deal. It can be the difference between a successful investment or failure. Do you want someone with a criminal history (public information) and someone who has been fined by the FL Real Estate Board and had her real estate license revoked/suspended (public information) managing your property? Do you want someone who claims to be BBB accredited (and advertises this on her website) yet, the BBB has revoked/suspended their membership/accreditation managing your property? Simply, exercise due diligence and do some research into the "ethical practices" they claim to use and compare it to their history.
Second, if you do use Steele, demand ALL lease agreements up front. I requested this no less than four times, and she ignored me every time - until I threatened legal action. What I found is that Steele had charged a "release fee" equal to an entire months rent payment and kept this money and only returned it when the eviction process unfolded and legal action was about to result. The most unethical part, was that Steele negotiated a lease renewal with a tenant who was over a month behind in rent, released without my permission (while we were discussing finding a new tenant) and charged the fee - which the tenant thought was her MONTHLY RENT. When I continued to request these documents, Steele acted like I was incovieniencing her and I was asking something out of the ordinary. Do not trust her word on anything and get everything in writing. If you use her, make contact with the tenant and insure what Steele is telling you is true (if rent is late - inquire with the tenant why, it's possible the rent isn't actually late).
Third, if a nearly destroyed (one year used) home and secretive releasing fees and failure to share simple documents isn't enough -- Steele was late with the rent payments (after collecting) and on one occasion, she collected partial rent and only paid it to me after TWO requests and it was SIX weeks from when she collected. In addition, the "deposit" was sent to me in the form of a money order with no explanation and when I inquired why no formal report and corporate check - she cited "problems with my bank".
Fourth, because of Steele's history - demand to deal with only ODonnell. In over a year of dealing with these people and numerous messages left for ODonnell, it was only Steele who seems to run the day to day operation. In fact, ODonnell is the licensed agent of the organization and in over a year of dealing with these people and numerous messages left for ODonnell, I didn't speak with ODonnell once. After numerous emails sent to ODonnell, she never responded - only Steele.
Also, property management is a major undertaking with your investment - so take the time to meet with Steele or O'Donnell in person. If you can safely navigate the abandon cars and garbage outside their "home office" and survive the cigarette smoke and the "personal assistant" who needs some serious dental help, consider yourself lucky. It's a small glimpse into their professionalism and a foreshadowing of the risks you are taking with your investments.
There are a lot of ethical and able property managers in the area. Don't choose one blindly and in haste. Head the warnings of those who have complained to the Licensing Board, The BBB and filed reports here on Ripoff Report.