Idiot Proofing: Vendor Over Charging

I’ve been going over some old posts and have noticed more than a few with the theme of the residential managers giving vendors/contractors the go ahead on work and additional charges that the park owner would never have authorized. Sometimes it seems this is a result of collusion between the manager and the contractor, but usually it appears to be a case of the manager’s poor judgment.I was thinking about this and wondered if it would be smart to post a sign at the park’s entrance to the effect of this:POSTEDAttention, all Vendor, Contractor:Residential Management is not authorized to approve any work over $200.Approval for work exceeding this amount must be obtained from Senior Management at:555 222-3344The wording could be improved, but I think you get the idea – if I did not approve the bill, I am not going to pay it, so don’t try to hustle the dummy manager into to saying it’s OK for you to gold plate all the mail boxes. Do you think this would help stop a recurring area of abuse?

What are you going to do the first time you have to enforce the rules of the sign?  Will the sign make a difference if you were to tell the vendor you won’t pay?  The vendor can sue you, put a lien on your property (in some circumstances), but in reality it may be a coin flip whether they give up or you have to force them to stop hassling you for payment.  Or is the sign designed to deter the manager?  I don’t think a vendor is going to look at the sign and think “boy, better check with senior management” if the on-site manager was the one who called them out (to fix whatever problem you are having).  It’s just one of those things I think will be disregarded in practice.Curious if anyone feels different, though.Brandon@Sandell

You need to train your onsite manager on how to handle vendors and contractors. Make the rules simple and easy to understand. If you feel you can’t trust them or if they violate your guidelines  then you need to search for a new manager. Overrunning  expenses can be a big deal, especially if it is ongoing. Ask me how I know.Bret

This problem will only be solved by properly training and communicating with your manager.  Or, if the manager repeatedly defies the direction you give him/her, then terminate your manager.  Whatever you do, don’t tolerate this situation and try and solve it with a sign.Give you manager the benefit of the doubt.  Put your policy in writing, review it with him/her on the phone (in person if possible) and ask your manager to sign it.  Then if it happens again, it is time for you to terminate your manager and hire and train someone new.But be sure you are really doing a good job managing your manager.  I’ve found it is all-to-easy for me to not give clear direction, expect my managers to read my mind, and to then be upset afterwards.  It’s always easier to be upset - than to think up front about what sort of signals and direction I’m actually giving my direct reports…(!)  So push yourself hard to be a good/clear manager.My 2 cents worth,-jl-

I was just talking to a person who manages many parks and who is known to many on this site. He told me of a occurrence of just a month or two ago:Tree trimmers were sent to a park to trim a few trees. The estimate was for $2k. They asked the residential manager if he wants them to trim up some of the other trees while they were there. Makes sense, sure go ahead.  They did. They billed $24,000.If that sign was up the owner could pay $2k and tell them to go to hell. If they took it to court, he could make the case that he was in the right and the tree trimmers were just trying to take advantage of a dim witted manager (who lost his job over it.).  Otherwise, well, it looks pretty bad.

great input!

I think there was a post about this a long time ago (like a year ago), but the thing that comes up with respect to this in our parks on occasion is that the asphalt/paving company comes in, late in the day, with some “hot mix” that they have left over from another job.  It’s going to go bad (like the proverbial melting ice cube) and they’re not going door-to-door with the stuff; they come by because they’re desperate to get rid of it and think we’re likely to want some.  There’s no time to get bids or check on the crew’s quality (bonus for them if they just got done with a city contract).  We don’t negotiate, but we say “yes” or “no.”  Here is a case where the manager is going to be under some temptation to tell us, “they’ll do a great job filling potholes/repaving the XXX problem area, it’s only $2000” and “the park really needs it!” and then after we agree the manager can pay $1000 to the contractor and keep $1000.  Same thing can happen with roofing glop that someone occasionally comes by trying to seal-coat the roofs.  (White roofs -> energy efficiency for cooling season --> probably a good idea?  We don’t do it to mobiles we own, but maybe we should.)But, I have to say that I agree with RandyCA that the problem seems to typically be poor judgment rather than collusion. For such an unreasonable bill, I think I wouldn’t pay it and instead take it to a local attorney and chalk that up to the cost of doing business.Brandon@Sandell

Never agree to an open-ended contract, and teach your managers to do the same. On the asphalt trick explained above, the normal procedure is to agree to a price per ton, have the guy estimate how many tons – without having it in writing – and then the final bill is literally ten times the amount he threw out. All you have in writing is how much per ton, so when you say you never greed to 10 times X, they say “I told you that I didn’t know for sure how many tons were on the trucks” and then, when you don’t pay, they put a lien on your property and you eventually have to pay to re-sell or refinance it. The solution" NEVER let anyone on your property without a complete bid in writing.