It’s not easy being a landlord. You’re usually the de-facto villain for all your tenants, whether you like it or not. But landlords aren’t actually the bad guys (obviously). Your job is to provide your tenants with a habitable place to live in exchange for a rent check. That’s not villainous.
Still, there are things you can do to foster better relationships with your tenants, while also boosting the profitability of the property you manage. Here are 4 tips that every landlord should know. These tips will make your landlord duties much easier and ensure that you’re maximizing the property’s earnings.
Tips for Every First-time Landlord
1. Use a Property Management Company
We don’t have to tell you that the most difficult and time-consuming thing about being a landlord is dealing with all the maintenance issues on the property. It doesn’t matter how well you upkeep the place—there always seems to be something breaking, from the plumbing to the air conditioning. And no amount of upkeep can keep out rats or termites when they decide to move in, rent-free.
Many landlords keep an easy-to-access contact list of local contractors, from HVAC specialists to plumbers. They find the most reliable contractors who offer the best rates and call upon these contractors when their services are needed. It’s a good strategy, but if you manage multiple properties or dozens of different units, you might find yourself overwhelmed by the number of maintenance requests you receive.
You can make your life a whole lot easier by utilizing a property management company. A property management company will handle all maintenance requests for you, and they’re usually well-staffed so they can handle a large volume of requests. They’ll also collect rent for you, which is a nice plus.
When you get behind on handling maintenance requests, tenants can get irritable and are more likely to seek somewhere else to live—and don’t forget your property will lose money on vacant units. Furthermore, tenants are legally able to withhold rent when maintenance requests go unanswered for a long time.
Spare yourself the money and irritable tenants by having a property management company take care of maintenance tasks for you. It’ll enable you to be a more productive landlord because you’ll have more time to focus on conducting social media campaigns to draw new tenants and fill vacancies.
2. Always Screen Tenants
It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to make a good tenant out of a bad tenant. If a tenant consistently breaks terms of the lease, it’s unlikely that any amount of scolding or eviction threats will get them to shape up. That’s why it’s important to get good tenants from the get-go.
The best way to get good tenants is to utilize a tenant screening service. Tenant screenings are background checks on prospective tenants that evaluate their legal history and credit score. You obviously don’t want to offer leases to tenants who have a lengthy criminal record, and you might not want to offer a lease to someone who’s financially irresponsible. On that note, you can also use credit scores as a tie-breaker for candidates competing for a unit. Use a tenant screening service that will also provide a free eviction check—prior evictions are usually a good sign that a prospective tenant might not be a good one.
One last thing about bad tenants: you’ll inevitably have a less-than-stellar tenant during your landlord career. If the situation has deteriorated to the point where you’re going to evict the tenant, be sure to consult an eviction lawyer first. Even if tenants have consistently violated the terms of a lease, it can be notoriously difficult to evict tenants in some states.
3. Build Positive Rapport with Tenants
Your relationship with your tenants will always be more akin to a professional relationship. But you should strive to build a positive rapport with everyone who lives at the property. It’s true for your own benefit: if tenants feel like you’re a friendly and reasonable person, they’ll be more likely to behave on the property and not break any of the lease terms, and they’re also more likely to pay their rent and utilities on time. Consider your tenants as assets that will drive the earnings on your property.
And, besides: if you’re going to be interacting with these people on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis, why wouldn’t you want your relationship to be as pleasant as can be?
Don’t be afraid to show a little forgiveness. If someone is late on a rent payment, be cool about it and it might just inspire the tenant to be more prompt the following month. You can kill ‘em with kindness, even the most irritable tenants.
4. Familiarize Yourself with Fair Housing Laws Beforehand
No matter the relationship you may have with your tenants, it’s important to know the laws around renting and leasing your property. Being too nice or too lenient can prove to be a mistake if your tenants take advantage of you. On the flip side, being too strict or overbearing can lead to them taking legal action. For example: if you’ve ever thought of renovating or rebuilding an area of your property, that is something you’ll have to discuss with your tenant, as they are currently living on the property. Knowing your rights, and theirs will help avoid a potentially sticky situation and will ensure that you’re protected from any ramifications that could come from a fallout.
The most important laws to focus on are those pertaining to the Fair Housing Act. This is a Civil Rights Act that protects tenants from discrimination, but also lets you know exactly where the line is drawn so you never land in a compromising situation. All too often, first-time landlords believe they have more control over their land than they actually do, don’t let that be you!
As long as you and your tenants are familiar with the rights and responsibilities from each side, you should have no problem having a long and prosperous relationship together!
Remember, No-So-Villainous-Landlord: make your life easier by enlisting the aid of a property management company, knowing your rights as a landlord, by screening tenants, and by building positive relationships with your tenants. These 4 tips are lifesavers for any landlord.