Taking on the title of “landlord,” can be daunting. It is by no means easy, but you can create a checklist for yourself so that each time you are approached by your renter, you are as prepared as possible. Here are some tips to help ensure that as a landlord you are giving your renter the best possible experience, and that you are earning good, consistent income from your rental property.
- Manage The Property Like a Professional
If you’ve never managed a rental property, or find yourself spending hours of your time on routine maintenance, it may be worth hiring a property manager – at least in the beginning. Handling rental properties is very different from owning a for-sale home. It takes a lot of work to get and keep your property rented. Working with an experienced property manager for the first few rounds of renting will ensure you aren’t missing anything that will deter a renter from choosing your property, or running into any surprise issues along the way.
- Be Strict With Your Screening Process
When choosing tenants, you can’t be too careful. Your rental application should include an extensive background check, credit check, reference checks and employment verification. Certain scenarios, such as pets, may require asking for a larger security deposit. Give yourself a budget that allows you to take your time finding a tenant that will care for your home as if it is their own.
- Follow the Laws
You may not be aware that each state has its own individual set of rules and requirements for landlords. Make sure your property complies with local housing laws by doing routine research or consulting an attorney. Consider researching a list of “what-ifs” so you know your rights and your tenant’s rights in any scenario. You can also go through a local landlords association for more guidance.
- Have a Thorough, Well-Written Lease
Do not fast-forward through this one! It is recommended that you always work with an attorney when curating your tenant/landlord lease agreement for your property. The lease should clearly lay out the tenants rights and responsibilities in detail, and it should be signed and kept on file by both parties. The lease should include terms for late fees, maintenance procedures, and disclosures. Having this in writing and signed can clear up any dispute before it takes a worse turn and ends up in court, but is documented in case of that scenario. It can take months to evict a tenant, so if you catch an agreement not being followed early on, you may save yourself time and money in the long run. In addition, include any incentive programs or policies you have created to keep good tenants happy. Even if the tenant doesn’t sign up for them initially, they may appreciate knowing about them from their neighbors when they renew for another year.
- Take Advantage of Extra Income Opportunities
Don’t overlook opportunities to earn extra income. Consider adding in amenities that are not included in your rent to increase your cash flow, such as laundry machines or parking. These items will help you attract tenants when competing with other rentals in your area. You may also consider renting out rooms if you have a larger house and it would be helpful to offset the mortgage payments during slow periods.
- Use Property Management Software
Technology is your friend when it comes to managing multiple properties. Property management software can make it easy to manage all aspects of your rental business from tenant screening, maintenance requests, billing, rent collection and more . Look into various programs available on the market before deciding which one is right for you. Not only will this take some of the work-load off your shoulders, it will also make sure all of your business data is in one place, official and on record, and accessible by you and/or your staff.
- Send Reminders for Routine Maintenance
Using e-mail to remind tenants about upcoming seasonal maintenance is an efficient and polite way to keep your tenant informed and your maintenance up-to-date. Your tenant should know up-front and with plenty of advanced notice what dates you’ll need the house vacant and available for your entry. They should always know when you will be coming into the house if they are not present. Provide a schedule of key times throughout the year when you will do regular upkeep–like landscaping or gutter cleaning. This will not only save you back-breaking labor on weekends, but it will also help prevent issues like mold development, pest infestation and more and your paper trail will prove that you always kept your client informed.
- Increase Your Rental Rate Annually According to Market Rent
While you don’t want to raise your rates too drastically, you should raise them every year according to the current market rent. You should write an official landlord notice document and give at least 30 days notice or more if you can. Typically you can set a fixed-price agreement for a certain period of your lease, and once it is up you should raise to current market rates.
- Keep Good Tenants with Incentives
There’s nothing like an incentive to bring back a rental who is thinking of moving out. Instead of just calling your renter and asking if they’re interested in renewing their lease, put together an incentive package so they can stay at your home without making too much of an investment . Usually this means adding storage space or offering maintenance assistance–like painting around windows or fixing leaky faucets–so that they are reminded of their appreciation for your property. It is always nice to show a renter you appreciate their care for your home with a thank you gift or card as well.
- Require Renter’s Insurance
Just like in your own home, there is always a chance that something in your property breaks, even if it isn’t the renter’s fault. This is why you should require all tenants to carry renters insurance or some other sort of coverage in case an accident does happen. Most insurance companies offer special rates for multi-unit properties and you can avoid getting hit with a huge repair bill when there is nothing left to collect from.