To manage your property or hire property managers?

What you need to know:

Property managers can help you avoid making mistakes in handling your property since they understand the dynamics of the real estate business with hands-on experience

For the first few months, Geoffrey Mbabazi had issues with his tenants. Some did not pay in time, while others wanted him to pick the money physically at the premises, which was inconvenient because he stayed and worked far away.

Eventually, Mbabazi hired Wilken Property Services to manage his seven self-contained single-bedroom units in Bulindo, Wakiso District. The company took 10 percent of the total rent collected per month.

“I could get my money on time, without the hassle of calling the tenants or driving there,” Mbabazi told Daily Monitor. “And I had no problem with the property manager for the time I dealt with them.”

How it works

Sharon Nabafu, legal/ senior operations manager, Wilken Property Services, says before a propert managemnet firm takes over management of a property they first inspect it to ascertain basics like tenability of the property and its surroundings, among others.

The property must also meet their financial threshold. If you are just a beginner, she said, you can even manage houses of Shs100,000 but we have a minimum value we consider.”

After the inspection,  the firm and the landlord sign an agreement, detailing, among others, the landlord’s personal details, terms of rent collection, contract termination, insurance, and the landlord’s interaction with tenants.

“We don’t want that landlord who agrees with us but then secretly engages the tenants,” Nabafu says.

Not that the agreement completely cuts off the landlord-tenant relationship, but Nabafu says if a landlord must meet the tenants, or pass by the property, it must be official. He or she must inform the managers, who inform the tenants in time.

It is mainly for security purposes.

“In most cases the tenants don’t know the landlord; and sometimes there are cases of imposter landlords.

What they do

Nabafu says a property management firm’s main guarantees to the client or the landlord are: consistent rent collection, full-time occupancy, paying for utilities and maintenance.

On entry, a tenant is given a checklist of the status of the taps, the lights, the walls, floor, among others. And upon exit, that checklist is what determines whether the tenant should compensate for any major breakages or damage caused to the property.

The company also enters a tenancy agreement with the new tenant, based on the landlord-tenant laws of Uganda.

They charge 5 to 15 percent of the total rent collected per month, depending on factors such as proximity, among others.

Nabafu says a good property manager should balance the interests of both the landlord and tenant.

“We always look for the middle ground, because both landlord and tenants can refer us to new clients. ”

More so, today’s tenant can be tomorrow’s landlord, and the reverse is true.

“So everyone is our potential client. And not every conflict should end in court.”


Nabafu says there are unscrupulous landlords who ask money from the tenants even after contracting a property manager. But she says most challenges are caused by tenants. Some damage the clients’ property, others escape with rent arrears, which sometimes ends in courts of law. 

She adds that URA tries to educate the public about computation and assessment of income tax but city councils like KCCA and municipal authorities need to double their efforts regarding knowledge about property tax, to ease the work of property managers.

Ruthless property manager

Some property managers pay the landlord first and reclaim their money when the tenants pay. Mbabazi, who owned rentals in Bulindo, says those ones are not good.

 “They usually harass the tenants, because what matters to them is retrieving their money. That can eventually force tenants to vacate and brokers can discourage tenants from occupying the house.”

 That is why Jalia Namyalo prefers dealing with landlords to property managers. If you fail to pay rent for a genuine reason, like illness, job loss—which are inevitable—Namyalo says the landlord can understand and pardon you, unlike the property manager.

From her experience, property managers demanded that rent for the following month be cleared upfront and failure to do so by a day or two could trigger embarrassment.

She remembers one of her neighbours who was humiliated for failing to pay rent for one month.

“The debt collectors entered her house threatening to confiscate her stuff, even before she returned home.  It was a total embarrasment,” Namyalo says.

They later settled the matter, somehow, but the tenant eventually vacated the house, and eventually, the company also stopped managing that particular property in Masanafu, along the Northern Bypass.

Namyalo says the only advantage of dealing with such a property manager was the pressure to pay in time in fear of embarrassment. She does not even remember any maintenance they did on the house.

She assumes it would have been different if they had not dealt with the landlord first.

“We somehow found a problem adjusting to the new system of dealing with a third party.”

Mbabazi sold his rentals after a year,  to venture in other investments. But if he is to invest in real estate again, he insists, he would hire a property manager.

Likewise, even though as a tenant Namyalo preferred dealing with the landlord directly, she says if she was to own rentals, she would hire a property manager, “because tenants are also not easy to handle.”

The ideal landlord

Even when the 2020 Covid-19-induced lockdown was eased and businesses gradually attempted to recover, many landlords and tenants of residential and commercial buildings were still caught in the tricky question of arrears accumulated during the months most people were forced to stay home. 

In April, 2020 Daaki Investments, a company that handles its own properties, made news when it exempted its tenants of that month’s rent to help them cope with the lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.

According to Madina Nantale,  an administrator  at Daaki Investments, the firm gave its tenants an offer to pay any portion of the arrears they could afford (say, two out of five months) and the rest was waived.

Those who could not afford even that would be allowed to vacate the estate without having their property confiscated.

The main cause of tenant-landlord wrangles is rent arrears and increment.

Nantale’s advice is simple: if your tenancy agreement demands that you pay in the first week of the new month, notify your landlord if you won’t be able to pay in time, before that date comes. «It will save you the embarrassment of the confrontation,» she told us in a past interview.  

Try the digital way

If you think you cannot afford the services of a property manager yet you do not want to shoulder the burden of collecting rent, looking for new tenants, among other things, you can consider the digital alternative.

Gandapps REM, a property management system software in Uganda for managing apartments, plazas, arcades, rentals in Uganda, is one of the platforms that gives you online control of your property.

Samuel Ssemuyaba, a Gandapps director, says all you need is to install the app on your computer, tab or smartphone. You will pay Shs2m for installation and a hosting fee of Shs180, 000 every subsequent year.

Ssemuyaba says others charge even Shs700,000 per year but to Gandapps a good client relationship comes first, adding that the app is very user-friendly and very easy to customize. “For example, if a client requests in time to have an extra item on their report, we do it.”

He adds that it manages most departments of property management.

Since 2014, the app’s clientele involves owners of rentals, schools, hospitals, hotels, among others. 

Through the app, the property owner gives a report detailing the property: how many units, location, among others.

Before accepting a potential tenant, you want to know their ability to pay according to their credit history, criminal background, and eviction reports. That sounds too Western, right? Gandapps helps you with screening the potential tenants.

The property owner also chooses how they will be paid: mobile money, bank account or credit card and provide the relevant details. Plus, the tenants and owners get access to view their accounts with the included portals too.

 The owner also sets a date on which the Gandapps sms system sends an automatic reminder to the tenant to pay their dues.

 How do I know if my house is vacated?

Ssemuyaba says if the property is digitised with maybe the clock-in software, for instance, it is easier to know when the tenant no longer accesses it.

The other way is installing CCTV cameras, and upon receiving footage of an empty premises, the landlord knows the client moved.

“But it doesn’t mean you don’t even call or text your tenant at all. Once in a while it can give you timely feedback.”

And when you notify Gandapps, the app sends your info to over 20 popular rental websites, advertising vacancies at your property, accompanied with pictures, details and pricing.

 However, Ssemuyaba says, clients don’t know what they want as their preferences change instantly. “For instance you might send him or her a report and he or she suggests a change within a short time. It becomes a bit challenging.”

He also says lack of consensus between the business managers can delay decision making, like in cases when the headmaster appreciates digital technology but the school owner prefers the traditional paper system.

Otherwise, those who have chosen it, he says, have made the right decision.