9 Trust Accounting Mistakes You Need to Stop Making Now

Posted by
on Feb 19, 2018

As Oscar Wilde famously said “experience is simply the name we give our mistakes”. So if you’re currently making these common trust accounting mistakes, be sure to correct them before it’s too late.

And if you’re not making any of these trust accounting mistakes, congratulations! However, be sure to keep them top of mind as you develop your trust accounting policies and procedures to minimise the possibility of error.

1. Not reconciling daily

One of the most common trust accounting mistakes property managers make is not reconciling daily. You should make sure your accounts are balanced every day so as to maintain the most accurate, up-to-date records. This way, come mid-month or end of month, you can rest easy knowing that you’re not forgetting something crucial.

Additionally, any discrepancies in your accounts are easier to spot on a daily basis rather than on a monthly basis. This means that mistakes won’t be allowed to snowball and any unlawful transactions will be easier to detect.

Similarly, it’s crucial to reconcile your current software prior to upgrading to a new software. This ensures that your data is up-to-date and free of mistakes when you migrate over. If you’re looking to upgrade your property management software, the PropertyMe setup team can help you with your data and run a trial migrate.

2. Misallocating trust funds

While this may seem like a no-brainer, some property managers give in to temptation and misallocate funds that belong to other clients in order to pay off mounting rent arrears. These discrepancies can not only snowball into a bigger problem but can also result in audit breaches and a potential visit from Fair Trading. Simply put, don’t risk it. Ever.

Likewise, you should never withdraw cash from your trust fund, no matter how insistent your owners or tradies are. This is bad practice and can result in loss of license and hefty penalties from the authorities.

3. Not establishing trust-specific rules 

Every property management business should have its own set of trust-specific policies and procedures. They should be formal and detailed to ensure compliant trust accounting and consistency across the business. As part of the procedures, it’s also helpful to develop standardised forms and checklists to minimise any chance of error.

4. Not knowing the position of your trust accounts

Are you crystal clear about the exact position of your trust accounts? If the answer is no then you’re making a huge trust accounting mistake.

As a licensee, it’s crucial that you know what you’re signing off each month as any discrepancies will ultimately be your responsibility and can cause irreparable damage to your reputation.

5. Hiring the wrong person for the job

Trust Accounting Mistake Hiring Wrong Person

Similar to being hands-off with your trust accounts, hiring the wrong person for the job can be detrimental to your business. An inexperienced or underqualified staff member might make some small mistakes in the first few weeks. Over time, these can lead to an assortment of band-aid fixes, time wasted during mid-month and end of month and ultimately, a mess of a trust fund.

Rather than spending time and money cleaning up your trust fund in retrospect, it’s always better to spend a little more money hiring someone that has proven trust account management experience.

6. Lack of adequate backups

Imagine working on receipting rent, paying bills and disbursing funds all week, only to have your server-based trust accounting software crash. Bam. You’ve lost a whole week’s worth of precious data.

Not backing up daily is one of the most common and most avoidable trust accounting mistakes. While it can be a pain with legacy software systems, cloud property management systems like PropertyMe do it automatically for you so there's no excuse.

So if you’re sick of manually backing up your data, simply upgrade your software to ensure your data is protected at all times. Is your data as secure as you think?

7. Disbursing funds before a transaction closes

Trust Accounting Mistakes Disbursing Funds Early

Another common trust accounting mistake is early disbursement of funds. Under no circumstance should this happen before the keys are exchanged and the required paperwork completed as deals can fall through and last minute agreements may be made which would then require numerous adjustments.

So not only are early disbursements a headache for your trust accountant but it also results in non-compliance - it’s simply not worth it.

8. Manually entering in data

The more manual data entry there is, the higher the chance of simple data entry errors that can eventually snowball into massive trust accounting headaches. While this can’t be avoided, it can be minimised with data entry policies.

Additionally, with the rise of real estate robots and automation, you can use a property management software with built-in automation such as bill scanning, bank file import, automated disbursements and triggered messages to minimise the chance of human error.

9. Not making full use of your trust accounting software

As technology advances, cloud trust accounting software has become the standard, with new features being released monthly. Yet, many property managers choose to stick to what they’re comfortable with to the detriment of the business.

It’s important to embrace change and make full use of your software in order to stay competitive in the real estate industry. Staff training sessions and online webinars can not only unlock functionality but can also make your business more productive, cost-efficient and competitive in the long run.

All in all…

To stay compliant, avoid mid and end of month stress and streamline your business, be sure to stop making these nine trust accounting mistakes:

1. Not reconciling daily

2. Misallocating trust funds

3. Not establishing trust-specific rules

4. Not knowing the position of your trust accounts

5. Hiring the wrong person for the job

6. Lack of adequate backups

7. Disbursing funds before a transaction closes

8. Manually entering in data

9. Not making full use of your trust accounting software

Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this blog post, you may also be interested in the Top 6 Benefits of Cloud Property Management Software, 5 Most Common Misconceptions about Cloud Property Management Software and 7 Habits of Highly Successful Property Managers.

Did we miss a trust accounting mistake? Let us know in the comments below.