Keeping yourself—and your tenants—happy
A live-in landlord, also known as an owner-occupied landlord, is a landlord who lives in one part of the property while renting out another part of the property to a renter. Succeeding as a live-in landlord is a mix of giving the tenant their privacy, being reasonably accessible for issues and concerns, and establishing and enforcing rules.
Understand State Rules for Owner-Occupied Landlords
Every state has a set of landlord-tenant laws that outline the rights and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants.
There may be times when a landlord who lives in the rental property may be exempt from following certain rules.
For example, owner-occupied properties with four units or fewer do not have to follow the Federal Fair Housing Act. Security deposit rules may also not apply, such as in New Hampshire where live-in landlords with five or fewer units are exempt from those. Therefore, it is as important to understand the rules that apply to you as it is to understand the ones that don’t.
Set Primary Method of Communication
Boundaries are essential when you are a live-in landlord. If you do not set specific requirements, tenants may abuse the ability to come knocking on your door or car window whenever they see you.
There should be a specific method by which tenants should contact you about issues related to the rental property. You can decide if this is by phone or by email. This allows the tenant to reach you easily while giving you some distance and privacy from them.
Set Reasonable Contact Hours
For the same reasons as mentioned above, you should also establish reasonable business hours when tenants can contact you for non-emergency-related issues at the property. The exact hours are up to you and should be whatever you feel comfortable with. For example, you may only be comfortable being contacted from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., or you may prefer to designate a longer window of time.
Tenants should also be aware that they can contact you at any time for emergency situations, such as a fire or broken pipe.
Do Not Rent to Friends or Family
While it may be easier to find a family member, friend, or friend of a friend to rent your property, it may be better to find and screen a tenant on your own. You do not want a good relationship to turn sour if conflicts come up in the landlord-tenant relationship. You may also begin to let the rules slide if you are renting to someone you know, and this could hurt you down the road if you eventually need to evict the tenant.
Address Issues Immediately
Because you are living in the property, you will be able to spot issues in the common areas of the property quickly. You should address these immediately before tenants have a chance to complain about them. You should also address any tenant complaints quickly because you live nearby and will be seeing the tenant frequently at the property.
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Hire a Third Party When Needed
While it can be tempting to address all issues yourself because you live in the property, there are times when it may be better to hire a third party to do so. For example, hiring an outside company to do monthly pest control will help a tenant feel like you care about keeping the property clean.
Quiet Hours May Become More Important
Every landlord should have a quiet-hours clause in their lease, but this becomes even more important when you are actually living at the same property. Noise is often one of the biggest complaints in rental properties, and you may want to minimize these issues with tenants from the beginning.
Keep It Professional
Living at the property, you will be seeing your tenants frequently, so it can be easy to become friends with the tenants. You need to remember that you are running a business and need to maintain a professional landlord-tenant relationship. The tenants need to understand that you own the rental property they are renting and that you expect them to be respectful of the space and the lease terms they have signed.
Do Not Let Lease Rules Slide
When living at the property, it can be easy to let a tenant pay rent a day late or allow them to watch their aunt’s dog for a week. However, once you let the rules slide once, the tenant is more likely to break the original rules again.
You need to enforce the terms of the original lease the tenant signed. If the rent is not paid by the fifth of the month, for example, it is considered late. If you do not allow dogs, do not let the tenant dog-sit.
The tenant agreed to the rules when they signed the lease and there is no reason they should not follow them now.
Do Not Abuse Landlord Right to Entry
As a live-in landlord, you may be tempted to break the rules yourself. Your state may require 24 hours’ notice to enter a tenant’s apartment, but you may be tempted to go into a tenant’s apartment to fix an issue without the required notice simply because you are there and available. Do not break the rules, always give the proper notice, or you could be accused of harassment.