Monthly Archives: January 2008

New in 8.1 - Report outputs to CSV file correctly

Posted on January 31, 2008

This was something mentioned by someone during last years survey - thanks whoever that was.

When a report is output to a file, and the file type is chosen as a CSV file, then any commas in the actual contents of the report, such as the number 1,000 (where the comma is the thousands separator) the output got all messed up, because the commas is supposed to represent the gap between the fields.

Now when outputting to a CSV file, all commas in the actual contents are removed.

While I was at it, I decided to update the icons used on the screen output for the printer button and the navigation buttons to something a bit more modern.  You will have to wait for the release to see what I came up with.

New in 8.1 - 6 month average on the cashflow graph

Posted on January 28, 2008

The cashflow graph can sometimes get some quite wild variations from one month to the next due to one-off events. 

This new enhancement in version 8.1 is a second line on that graph which shows an average of the preceeding 6 months.  This tends to iron out the fluctuations and provides a better indication of the general cashflow trend.

RentMaster and Windows Vista

Posted on January 26, 2008

Someone asked for it, so here is.  A blog on Windows Vista and what impact it has with RentMaster.

Windows Vista has been rather problematic for software developers in general.  Microsoft decided to make Windows Vista a lot more secure to stop hackers and malware and spyware and viruses from attacking your computer.  In the process of doing this they changed a lot of things that go on under the covers in Windows, which meant that a lot of software that used to work fine in Windows XP or earlier did not work in Windows Vista.  Some would argue that Microsoft made a mistake, while others would say that it had to be done to make windows more secure.  Personally I am still using Windows XP as I prefer it over Vista at the moment.

Fortunately the impact on RentMaster software has only been small as follows

- There is a separate install package for Vista.  Vista comes with a lot of the files required by RentMaster preinstalled.  (The same applies to Windows XP actually).  The problem with Vista is that Vista does not like you over-writing those files, even if the file you are writing is exactly the same as the file it already has.  So the Vista installation package has removed the files which it already has, making it a smaller download.  The core RentMaster software is 100% identical to the windows XP version.

- When running the install, you need to run it as an administrator.  This is because you are installing files to the hard drive, and non-administrators are not allowed to do that.  Instructions here

- You can not do a database compaction if you are running RentMaster as a non-administrator.  If you try to do a database compaction and it detects you are not an administrator, it will tell you it cant be done.  This is a limitation of the Microsoft Access Database Engine, which I can not change.  To run the software as an administrator, instead of clicking the RentMaster icon to run it, right click the icon instead and choose Run as Administrator.  This is similar to the instructions above on installing the Vista version.

- The tutorials and demos require Adobe Flash Player to be installed on your computer.  In Windows XP and earlier if you tried to run a demo the system would tell you that you need to install the Flash player if you dont already have it.  In Windows Vista it just keeps quiet and the demo does not run.  In this case you will need to go to and download the Flash Player manually, then try the demos again.  (Actually I suspect Internet Explorer version 7 might do the same thing in Windows XP, but I am not 100% sure on that).

So as you can see the known limitations are quite minor and all have work-arounds.  So really RentMaster can run just as well in Vista as it can in any other version of windows. usage statistics

Posted on January 26, 2008

The web site has 3 login areas.  One is for tenants, one is for landlords, and the third is for the property manager.

I collect a very small amount of general statistics about the usage of these 3 web sites.  Those statistics indicate that the people who are really benfiting from the web site the most are the landlords.  Even though there are far more tenant logins than landlords, the landlords login get used about twice as much as the tenant login.

On reflection this is probably not that surprising.  The tenants generally know how much rent they have paid and when, because it is themselves who have paid it.  However the landlords are a bit more in the dark about which of their tenants have paid and when.  So the landlord login is the one which take them out of the dark and answers their curiosity.  Without the use of these landlords would probably either wait until their end of month statement arrives or they would make a phone call to the property manager to find the same information.

Property managers probably have even less use for their login.  There are even less property managers than than landlords, and they mostly have access to the software on their desktop computers.

The amount of statistics I gather is just the number of people that log in each day.  It does not record who logs in or when or which company they belong to.

Issue : Blank rows in the property list screen.

Posted on January 22, 2008

An error in version 8 has been found which creates what looks like blank rows in the property list screen.  Real properties are hidden by these blank lines.  This issue will not affect all people.  It will only affect people who have got properties set up as 'units'.

No data has been lost, it just can be seen.  However you could still access these properties by going to the owner details screen and clicking the properties tab.

This issue has been fixed.  The new version is version 8.02 and can be downloaded now.  Sorry for the inconvenience.

Tenancy end dates.

Posted on January 21, 2008

There is a system option called 'Automatically Close Tenants after the Tenancy Closed Date'.  By default this option is turned on, which means that when the tenancy end date is reached, the tenant is automatically closed.  Previously people could turn this option off, which means that the tenancy end date can come and go and the tenant still remains open.

As a result of one of the fixes in the last version 8 release, turning this option off no longer works.  A complaint I have previously received from clients is that the correct rent amount for the last rent period around the tenancy end date was not being calculated correctly.  The rent amount would always be the full amount for the rent period, not a smaller amount if the tenant moves out in the middle of the rent period.  So now the rent accumulation stops on the actual end date as set on the tenant details screen.

At the time of creating the 'Automatically Close Tenants after the Tenancy Closed Date' option it was not possible to set the tenancy end date to 'None'.  Now that the ability to set the end date to None exists, this is the method that should be used if you want the tenancy to continue past the date originally set as the end date.  Either that or set the end date to the new expected end date.  The 'Automatically Close Tenants after the Tenancy Closed Date' option will probably be removed from the next release.

For those that want to keep a record of the original end date I suggest you either create a note or a custom field on the tenanst details screen to hold that information.

If this new way of handling tenancy end dates is going to be a problem for you, then I suggest you stay on version 7.9 while you consider the alternatives.

RentMaster Survey Results

Posted on January 13, 2008

Thanks very much to all those people who chose to take part in the resent RentMaster Survey.  Survey results are here

Here are some of the key findings.

- Most people are very satisfied with what the software does and how it runs.

- 98% of you would recommend this software to your friends.  A very satisfying result.

- Most people use only a very small number of the overall features.  Most features people have never used.  Either people dont need them, or they dont know they exist.  A tutorial CD might help.  Although I think this is quite common with most software.  For example in a word processor, you really only need to open, save, print and maybe spell check.  But most word processors can do a whole lot more.  With RentMaster most people can get by with just the cashbook and reports.

- There were a lot of improvement suggestions which was fantastic.  Some of those changes have been made in version 8.0.  Some of the change requests actually already exist, but the person must not have been aware of it.  Some changes have gone in the too-hard or outside-the-scope bins, and others may come in future releases.

To view the full survey results, go to

Please read before updating to version 8.0

Posted on January 13, 2008

The method of calculating the rent arrears total for tenant's has been changed in version 8.0 which means that some tenants arrears totals may be different after upgrading.

The way the rent arrears were calculated previously was to store a running total in the database.  The problem with the running total is that if there is an error in calculating the running total at some point the balance will always be out by the same amount for then on, in effect hiding the problem.  In very old versions of RentMaster (i.e. about 3 or 4 years ago) there were problems calculating this running total.  Also in an older version, up to about 2 years ago, there was the ability to manually over-ride the running total, in effect allowing you to create the inbalance yourself (or fix an existing inbalance).  This ability to edit rent period paid amounts should never have been allowed, as it allows the user to mask the real problem instead of fixing it.  The edit ability has been removed.

The way the arrears total is calculated now is to add up the sum of the rent and extra charges owing from all the rent periods, and subtract the sum of the rent and extra charges payment transactions.  So it is calculated fresh each time it is required.   If a tenants balance is not correct then it means that either the transactions have been recorded wrong, in which case the transactions can be added, editted or deleted, or the rent owing amount is wrong, and this number can be changed as well on the rent periods screen.

Most tenant balances will not change after the upgrade.  It is more likely to affect clients who have been using RentMaster for a long time, and who have long term tenants.  This new method of calculating rent arrears is the same method that has been used by the NZ T41 Rent Summary report since its creation.

A program has been created which will analyse your database and tell you which tenants balances will be fixed after upgrading.  You can download this program from .  This program will calculate the arrears balance using both the old and new methods, and report which, if any, tenants balances will change after upgrading.

For those technically minded, in the database the rent_periods.paid and rent_periods.extra_charges_paid columns are no longer used, although they are still being updated.

Also rent this other blog entry before updating to version 8.0

New - Statements for closed tenants

Posted on January 8, 2008

A customer has pointed out a flaw in the way the statements are being printed, in that they are excluding tenants who are closed, but still remain open for additional transactions.

This has been changed in the next release.  The 2 tenant statement formats and the tenant invoice reports now print for closed tenants who are open for additional transactions.  This makes sense because if they are open for transactions, then they must owe money.  So we should still print a statement for them.

New - Editable payees

Posted on January 5, 2008

This was asked for in the recent survey, so now it is available.  You can now edit the list of payees.

A payee is still created by creating a transaction using the payees name.  However now you can choose to hide specific payees so that they do not appear in the list, you can delete payees, and you can change a payees name if it is mis-spelt.  However deleting a payee and renaming a payee does not have any impact on any existing transactions using the payees name.

Restored a database by mistake?

Posted on January 4, 2008

When a database restore is done, it overwrites your existing database with a copy which was on your backup.  If you accidentially do a restore instead of a backup, this means you will be over-writing your real database with an older one, which you dont want.

However when a database restore is done behind the scenes it takes a copy of the old database before it gets overwritten.  This file can therefore be used to undo a restore if required. 

For those technically savvy enough, the old file is called property.old and the new database is called property.mdb.  Deleting the property.mdb file and renaming the property.old file to be property.mdb does the undo operation.

New - Average Monthly Vacancy Days graph

Posted on January 2, 2008

A new graph type has been created which shows the average number of days of vacancy.  This takes the total vacancy days per month and divides it by the number of properties you were managing in that month.


New - Monthly management fee graph

Posted on January 1, 2008

For property managers, the key statistic they are interested in is how much money they are making for themselves.  So a new graph has been created which shows the total management fees collected on a monthly basis.  Hopefully over time this graph will slope up to the right and not down.

 Happy new year everyone.