Advice for Property Owners
Entering any new career involves a bit of a learning curve. Mistakes happen, but may actually help you become an even better landlord. If you’re planning to rent out your property or extra space, it’s important to collect landlord tips, so you can have a successful relationship with your tenant. These seven may be able to help.
Landlord Tip #1: Follow All Laws Concerning Rentals
Even though you own the rental property and will be selecting the renter, there are many rules for landlords to follow.
State Landlord-Tenant Laws
Each state, county, and/or city has specific landlord-tenant laws. For example, state landlord-tenant laws may require landlords to give a specific amount of notice before entering a tenant’s apartment, raising a tenant’s rent, or evicting a tenant.
Federal Fair Housing Laws
There are federal fair housing laws that aim to prevent specific classes of people from being discriminated against in any issue related to housing. Some states have additional fair housing laws that must be followed.
Building and Safety Codes
Your rental property must meet certain standards. For example, depending on your town’s laws, an inspection may be required to receive a Certificate of Occupancy.
Landlord Tip #2: Tenant Screening Is Essential
A tenant screening process will increase your odds of finding a tenant who will follow a lease and not cause issues at the property. A thorough screening may include:
- Creating qualifying tenant standards
- Offering a rental application
- Asking questions of the tenant
- Running a tenant credit and background check
- Verifying income and employment
Important: Follow state and federal Fair Housing Laws when advertising a rental and screening tenants.
Landlord Tip #3: Evicting a Tenant Takes Time
Even when a tenant breaks the lease and stops paying rent, there’s a lengthy legal process to get them out of your rental.
First, you need to send written notice, called a “Notice to Quit,” giving the tenant time to correct any bad behavior. If they do not correct the behavior, you can then file a formal eviction with the court.
Then, you’ll wait for a court date and, even if you win the writ of possession, the tenant will still be given a number of days to move out.
It isn’t uncommon for the entire eviction process to take a few weeks or a couple of months.
Landlord Tip #4: Hire Experts to Lighten Your Landlord Load
Without help, you are responsible for everything as a landlord—including lease preparation, marketing a vacancy, finding tenants, screening tenants, collecting rent, making repairs, and evicting tenants. Wearing that many hats can be overwhelming and time-consuming.
Outsourcing certain tasks to people like these below may help lighten your load.
- Attorney: Attorneys can prepare legal documents conforming to your state’s laws and can appear in landlord-tenant court on your behalf.
- Realtor: Realtors can find tenants for your vacancy, though you may pay a commission fee, which can vary by city
- Licensed Electricians, Plumbers, Contractors: With someone on call for routine repairs or emergencies, you avoid making a trip to the property.
- Property Managers: Property managers can handle all aspects of rental property management, from collecting rent to preparing tax information.
- Accountant: An accountant with knowledge of real estate and investment properties can help maximize your deductions and avoid any red flags.
Don’t forget: Legal and professional fees may be tax-deductible expenses for landlords.
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Landlord Tip #5: Keep Records of All Communication With Tenants
Whenever possible, communicate with your tenants in writing. Even if not legally required for you to communicate with the tenant in writing, it is always beneficial to have written proof if there is a dispute in the future. The landlord-tenant relationship could go sour and issues could end up in court. Having written proof could help you win the case.
For example, a tenant may complain that a repair was not completed in their unit. But you have written proof that the tenant refused to allow you into their apartment. As a result, the tenant will have a difficult time winning the case.
Legal notices should always be sent to the tenant in written form, including a Notice to Pay Rent or Quit and a Notice of Rent Increase.
Landlord Tip #6: Keep Detailed Financial Records for Your Rental
As a landlord, you’re considered a small business owner. So it’s up to you to keep accurate records of all expenses and income according to IRS standards. Landlord-focused financial software and apps are a great way to organize your daily and monthly income and expenses.
Keep receipts for any items you’re planning to deduct on your taxes, such as travel or home office expenses.
Landlord Tip #7: Carry the Right Property Insurance for Landlords
Make sure you have insurance coverage as a landlord and the proper amount of coverage for property and liability protection.
If a tree falls on your rental house, you want to make sure the resulting damage is covered under your insurance plan. If someone slips and falls on your property, you want to make sure any of your responsibility for legal or medical costs are covered.
Renters’ personal possessions aren’t covered by the landlord’s insurance. Make sure your tenants understand this, along with their options for obtaining low-cost renters’ insurance to protect their possessions and their liability.
With these tips in mind, you can work toward being the best landlord possible for both your tenant and property.