EPMEPM: Best Practice & LegislationEPM: Video

A Matter of Trust

JESS KINDT, HEAD OF Property Management Operations for Boutique Group Place Estate Agents in QLD, is heavily focused on the professional and personal development of their Staff. Fiona McEachran of Console met up with Jess this month to discuss trust accounting.

Throughout her 10-plus years in the property industry, Jess has managed large residential, commercial and industrial properties, sold both residential and commercial, directed rental departments, assisted in project marketing and leasing, and played a major part in trust accounting and business administration.

Over the years, she has gained a wealth of knowledge and experience; so when it came time to sit down and chat with someone in the know about the importance of trust accounting best practice, Jess was the perfect fit.

FIONA: What do you think are the priorities for trust accounting?
Jess: I think that you definitely need someone experienced in trust accounting, not just accounting. It’s important for that particular person to have a good understanding of the property management business as a whole and not just the accounting side, because ultimately, yes, we’re dealing with numbers and money, but we’re also dealing with people and people’s incomes.

FIONA: Do you see trust accounting at the heart of a property management business?
Jess: The heart of a business is really the property managers. What trust accounting allows us to do, if it’s done well, is enable our property management staff to work at their very highest performance and provide exceptional customer service. If we can get those things right, you’re going to have fewer clients questioning statements and fewer tenants questioning their ledgers. It allows them to just get on and do their job without worrying about that.

FIONA: What legislation exists at the moment that is a priority for property managers?
Jess: Obviously, as property managers, we are governed by a range of legislation with everything we do on a daily basis. Specifically, with property management trust accounting, we refer to the Agent’s Financial Administration Act 2014 that governs the way we receive rents, how we disburse them, how we hold them, how we receipt them, and all the obligations around all of those practices with our trust account.

FIONA: What key tools do you think are necessary to manage a trust account?
Jess: You need to ensure that the person who is managing the account has experience, and I think it’s important to have a good combination of accounting experience and property management experience.

One very important key thing is to go with a property management software provider who works well and communicates with your IT systems. It’s like Murphy’s Law with trust accounting. What can go wrong will usually go wrong, so it’s important that you’ve got a good platform with good support so you can call and have immediate attention given to resolving that issue as a matter of urgency.

FIONA: Can you tell me what are the biggest mistakes you’ve seen made with trust accounting?
Jess: One of the biggest mistakes I see is inexperienced staff reversing and journaling funds and disbursing; they do all of these things, and they don’t really have the professional experience to know what the consequences will be.

That’s where the overlap comes from property management versus trust accounting, ensuring the trust account manager is communicating well with your property management team. It’s about making sure clients aren’t given unrealistic expectations and that everything’s in line with our trust account processes and procedures. It’s also about minimising errors by having more attention to detail. All of these are human errors, so if we can be more aware of that risk we can try and minimise them as much as possible

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