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Foreign Countries Start Legislating for Professional Property Management

IREM’s influence begins to spread globally.

Mention the Balkans, and your first thoughts may be of hard-to-pronounce places, like Ljubljana. Serbia has its share with Vrnjačka Banja and Čačak.

But this little country—it’s smaller than Indiana in square miles and only slightly larger in population (if you count Kosovo)—is making progress in the arena of property management. It joins a growing roster of foreign countries that have legislated the need for professional property management.

This is true progress, not only for the global practice of property management, which clearly it is, but equally for the Republic of Serbia. Housing is above all a cultural issue. It speaks most directly to the health and wellbeing of those residents. It’s a right, not a privilege. (As I write these lines, the irony occurs to me that we here—in the richest country on the planet—struggle to provide adequate workforce and affordable housing.)

Serbia is not alone. Japan has also joined the ranks of countries legislating professional property management. (For the record, with a landmass a bit bigger than Montana, Japan boasts a population a little larger than a third of the U.S.)

As Teruo Suenaga, CPM, CEO of Amix Co. Ltd in Tokyo, said in the January/February issue of the Journal of Property Management, “There is a large chance that a law for the management of rental housing will be passed in 2019.” He stated that there, it’s a matter of registration. “Currently, 4,000 management companies across Japan are registered, but this system is voluntary, so you can operate without registering.”

But the issue picked up steam when a management company that was not part of the system went belly-up. “It became a major issue,” he explains. “Now the government is considering legislating the system and requiring property management companies to register. As an industry, there’s support for requiring registration that would eliminate irresponsible managers.”

This could increase the prospects for managers in Japan . . . eventually. “If the rental housing law passes in 2019 and the management industry gains more recognition,” he says, “those of us in the industry would be incredibly happy. However, once the law is passed, it will be over a year until it goes into effect.”

Which brings us to the question of professional property management. This is key, for as the above-mentioned bankruptcy demonstrates, professionalism implies the presence of standards, best practices and ethics. At the very least, it implies the existence of a track record and knowledge of what works and doesn’t work.

Of course, the operative word there is “implies.” Ethics and standards are two of the bulwarks of property management in the U.S., regardless of the property type. Along with ongoing education, they also form the three legs of the platform on which IREM stands. Indeed, with an ethics framework in place to guide the performance of its individual members, we believe that the vagaries of implications can be replaced with clear-cut standards of operation.

Our global net is spreading. With chapters now in Brazil, Canada, China, Japan, Korea and South Africa, we continue to spread the gospel of property management. This presence provides a unifying focus of best practices.

As that net continues to spread and more countries follow the lead of Serbia and Japan, despite bureaucratic delays, the role of property management continues to elevate, from one-off isolated endeavors to a unified and trusted profession. That’s progress in anyone’s book.

Don Wilkerson is the 2018/2019 president of the Institute of Real Estate Management. In addition, he serves as president and CEO of Gaston and Wilkerson Management in Reno, Nev.

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