Top 25 Tips for Landlords from the Pros

Cody Cromwell
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Use Property Management Software

Some landlords might not feel necessary to use property management software since they think they can manage without it. However, these people eventually find out that it’s not the same.

Property management software makes a huge difference. Go from seeing your business from a distance to really being in the trenches managing your rental property. You will see your investments multiplied with this kind of software.

Another way to work smarter is to take advantage of advertising on the web was it comes free. There are many free listing services out there.

For every tenant that leaves early, there is another that will be on their way back. If you don’t want the inconvenience, you have to make sure you have your property in order.

Renting out your property can be a big endeavor, but you need to ensure you are organized so you can make it a success. If you need assistance with setting up your property management software or want some guidance on how to operate the software you already have, contact a professional.

Use High-Quality Pictures to Advertise Your Rental Properties

You’re probably not going to show the property on the same level of advertising efforts as a developer or builder might because there’s not as much manpower going into it on your end, plus you can’t really guarantee what type of traffic you’ll get from showing the property.

However, with some simple pictures, and have the numbers to back it up, you’re going to be able to show the property to your best advantage online.

Follow Tenant Screening Laws

Ensuring that you comply with employment and screening laws to avoid liability claims and fines for restricting potential tenants' rights.

Under the San Francisco Tenant Relocation and Demolition Ordinance, landlords can't refuse to rent to someone solely because they are unemployed or because they have been evicted from their previous residence.

You should also offer rental terms beyond the length of the actual lease, such as a guaranteed renewal option for an extended term if a tenant is interested in renewing their rental agreement.

You can check your state and local laws for more information on tenant screening requirements.

Be Honest about the Property

As one of the most popular ads tells us, your property must be the number one concern, so portray it that way. Find and use Craigslist or another online service that allows you to uncover and direct potential tenants to the less desirable units in your house (only a few are preferred, ones that are up to code and commercial-grade). Should tenants start complaining about turnover and need to modify their lease, you can always offer them the property you wanted to rent to them in the first place with no extra payment.

Don’t Just Market for People

With a small or large property, it's important to market to potential tenants.

If you are a tenant, make sure you notice any additional services you might need, such as package receiving, site preparation, even site work.

Focus on Long-Term Needs When Renovating

When it comes to making improvements to your rental property, size matters. The cost of a particular improvement will be far less than the savings you will receive by avoiding potential damage to a top-tier tenant.

A quick survey of your rental registry and the market will quickly reveal the most popular and affordable property improvements. But before you rush out and make the improvements, ask yourself what you’ll actually gain from the makeover. Should the improvements make the property more attractive to prospective tenants? Is it something that will benefit current tenants? Is there better use of your money? Or do you need a financial return on your investment? Also, keep in mind that tenants’ negative perception is a relatively permanent change; even if all of your suggested improvements are well executed, a tenant who feels as if they’ve been swindled when they move in and find broken windows and a foreclosed carpeting will not likely be a repeat customer.

Be Transparent About Rental Rates

It’s never a good sign that you’ve never even spoken to your tenant. When a new house, apartment, or a vehicle is rented, and the person has never even seen the interior, you know that you’ve chosen well. When dealing with a new renter, put your best foot forward and be as professional and transparent as possible. Be up front about what the house or apartment can fit in it. Let them know what basic utilities are included (like water and electricity) and what the full rent is going to be.

Many landlords prefer to mention that the rent is monthly and not weekly. This way, the renter knows what the rent is going to be and will not end up with a surprise fee whenever they are charged for a whole week’s rent in one shot.

Be transparent about what the rent is not included in. Let your potential renter know that extra costs will be necessary for, for example, trash service. Tell them what kinds of expenses will be subtracted from the total rent and be up front about how much is still going to be charged by the tenant.

You can also be upfront about the amenities that are available. Be clear about what you offer and let the renter know what the house or apartment is missing.

Allow Pets in Your Property

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If you have a duplex, triplex, or quadplex property, you are going to have to decide whether to allow pets on the property or not. If you don’t allow pets, it can cause problems with the neighbors and result in less than desirable tenants who have no other place to take their pets.

But some landlords have specific breeds of dogs they’re allergic to and allowing pets in the property would mean that those landlords will have to look away when a particular breed comes through – and that’s not a situation anyone looks forward to.

Even black Labs’ passing through your property can cause problems, and that’s another reason to decide if you’re going to allow pets in the property or not.

In Australia, the largest group of pets are pets. Big or small, they love a home to call their own. Making the decision to allow pets in your property is going to be beneficial in the long run.

Comply with Recognized Standards of Measurement

In most areas of the country, the standard for rental units is one square foot per person.

All major real estate companies standardize the measurement of their rental units to one square foot per person. It’s important to understand, however, that these measurements include existing fixtures and furniture in the unit. This means that a one-bedroom apartment in a larger complex measures approximately 48 square feet, while the standard one bedroom apartment in a brand new high-rise building is only 44 square feet.

A 50-square-foot apartment does not have the same appeal as a 75-square-foot space … and vice versa. In addition to making sure that your unit is well-lit and air-conditioned, you should also make sure that the area you’re renting is not larger than the space you’re intending to rent it out.

In addition to the standard one square foot per person, some landlords in Florida have adopted a 1080 sq. ft. rule for rental units in the state. However, this is not the industry standard and you might want to discuss this with your prospective landlord.

Write Letters of Appreciation to Tenants

Landlords generally don’t like doing this, because they only get a few of these. Yet, reviewing tenant letters is one of the best ways you can make sure that you maintain a good tenant relations.

First, you need to find the right tenant letters. Something like their lease or May letter should suffice, though you could go the extra mile and write them the thank you letters they deserve.

But if you really want to get a certain tenant to pay more attention to you, send a letter thanking them for something they’ve done.

Retrun the Deposit

If your tenant takes good care of your property, consider returning their deposit with a letter of your own.

Praise Your Tenant for Their Improvements

It’s always good to compliment your tenant for their improvements. You can, however, be a bit more creative than that. You can suggestions improve the property, too, and make your tenant think that you’d like them to do more for the property. You can also tell them exactly what the improvements would do for you.

If your tenant doesn’t like your suggestions, let them know that they’ll get them back (by way of the deposit).

Install Smart Locks in Your Rentals

Smart locks are a great way to prevent your property and belongings from being stolen. Smart locks are essentially locks that integrate with a smartphone app. It’s the easiest way to ensure your renters have the keys to your property, but you have a copy of the same. Smart locks also offer many other features and benefits!

Get Set for a Smart Lock

Before you buy a smart lock you will need to get everything set up and ready to make using your smart lock smooth and hassle free.

Invest in a high quality lockset. Your smart lock has to be strong to work properly, and you'll want a lock with a reliable mechanism. The lockset should have a nameplate on it with the manufacturer's name and model information, and a card allowing you to register the product.

Make sure your existing smart lock works with your new one. The number and type of smart locks varies widely, with nine major ones along with many smaller ones.

Check the compatibility of your smart locks with WiFi connectivity on your smartphone. Check with the manufacturer of your new smart lock to make sure it doesn't have any special setup requirements.

Test the connected smartphone app. At the very least, you'll want an app that has the basic features. To test it, open the app and unlock your lock.

Make Your Property More Attractive with Landscaping

Unless you’re renting to college students or house flippers, it may seem silly to spend a lot of money on landscaping. But landscaping can actually affect your rental property values and tenant satisfaction, so check out these suggestions from experts to make sure your property looks great.

Try to maintain a minimal amount of landscaping so that the focus remains on your rental property instead of the landscaping. If you have a block of landscaping, focus on creating an attractive planting rather than trying to add every single plant that you see.

A backyard garden is a nice touch, but avoid doing too much landscaping so that the focus feels like it’s on your rental property and not your backyard. You should also avoid adding too much landscaping outside of the property.

Ensure that your landscaping is well maintained by checking for weeds, excessive growth, unkempt plants, and full/empty containers.

If you have a lawn, keep it well maintained by mowing the grass regularly. If your tenants are paying a lawn maintenance fee, then they may appreciate seeing the lawn gets cut regularly.

Provide alternate landscaping alternatives. If your rental property doesn’t have a lawn, then you can add an attractive alternative by installing some form of manmade ground cover. Manmade ground covers include mulch, gravel, sand, and decorative stones.

Attend Promptly to Your Tenants Property-Related Concerns

Although you are the landlord and owner of the property, it is advisable that you stick around and attend to your tenants property related concerns. For the tenants, you are an extension of the local authorities which means that if you are out of town or busy, then you might not be around to take care of the emergency problems.

Physical location might not be a factor, you could be miles away and still need to look after the concerns of the tenants. There have been various instances where the landlords have not been around to help the tenants in times of distress and have left the tenants stranded.

As the advocate of the tenants, you need to be available to attend to any property related issues whenever asked. You don’t know how much a small service like this can mean to a tenant. It shows that you are not totally detached from them and are willing to help address any trouble they are having.

If you are in the market for a new property, ensure that the property manager attends promptly to the concerns of the tenants. If you want a property and you are not impressed with the services rendered by the property manager you might not trust the property manager to deal with your property.

If you think you are being cheated by the property manager, make sure they take down your details related to the property in the event of transfer or you can report them to the proper authorities.

Offer Concessions & Extend Lease Terms to Keep Tenants

As a landlord, it’s essential to understand the tenant-landlord relationship. You’ll need to communicate clearly and understand your tenant’s likes and dislikes so that you can offer the kind of concessions that will keep them satisfied. It’s just good business sense.

Show up to the Lease Signing with Concessions

Offering concessions during the lease signing can prevent unfortunate situations down the road. If you’re not making an effort to meet one of your tenant’s needs, do whatever it takes to make that happen. This doesn’t necessarily mean agreeing to a tenant’s request; it could mean offering the right kinds of concessions to make them happy.

If you’re thinking of offering concessions, a good rule of thumb is to think about what your tenant needs and how you can provide it. For example, if your tenant is a vegetarian, consider offering them coupons for local ethnic restaurants or coupons for the local farmer’s market.

Winterize Your Property’s Plumbing While It’s Vacant

While winter is a great time to repaint and upgrade a room or two in your home, it’s also an ideal time to improve your home’s outdoor systems such as your HVAC, chimney, or fuel lines so that your home performs well in the cold.

You don’t have to shut off your gas or electric line or pull up your heating ducts and plumbing system alone, though. If you are a landlord, you can hire a professional plumber to do all of this work for you.

And then, with the warmer weather upon you, you can simply turn everything back on.

Some of the best properties are located in the warmer areas of the country or in the South, so if you’re a landlord in the Northeast, for instance, you’ll want to take advantage of the cooler temperatures to winterize your property’s outside systems. Just be sure to let your tenants know that you are taking care of their home and leaving it in tip-top shape so that they will leave it right as they found it.

Conduct a Property Walk-through with the Tenant Before Move-in

As a landlord/investor, you should always perform a walk-through of the property with the tenant prior to move-in. Homes are typically not the cheapest purchase, so many landlords walk by their properties for a day or two, just to see how things look and feel. And the tenant has a right to know these things as well.

One of the biggest downsides to not walking the property and taking care of the small details, is that it can cost YOU MONEY down the road. If the tenant takes part in the home inspection, YOU will be purchasing insurance for the entire property (appraisal, insuring it, etc). If the tenant has a real estate agent, THEY will be paying their commission (between .5% and 1.5%).

Here are some of the potential issues that could be found during the walk-through.

Cutting Costs

Waiting until the move-in day is too late as the property is already filled with dirty clothes and boxes.

Set a Realistic Pricing Strategy by Conducting a Comparable Rental Analysis

With that in mind, it’s important that you set your pricing strategy correctly. You need to consider just how realistic the potential rent is for the property.

Our professionals perform comparative rental analysis, comparing similar properties in your area to your own property to determine the most realistic range of apartment rentals in your area. The way we compare is by physically surveying neighboring properties, calculating the average housing cost and the current vacancy rate.

These numbers are then used to produce a market rent estimate for the property in question. Once you have this, you can then figure out how much your property is likely to rent for.

When setting price points, you need to consider the market; otherwise your property will sit empty. The “effective” rent is determined by the lowest price a property could be rented for and the highest price at which it could be rented for.

Pricing a property correctly is one of the most important first steps you can take. Make sure you look at comparable properties and use these expert strategies to ensure your property will bring you the most profit.

Prepare a Comprehensive Landlord-Tenant Agreement

Prioritize Renovations Relating to Health & Safety

The first step in prioritizing renovations is to consider health and safety. Taking health and safety into account is important to both tenants and landlords.

The primary purpose of safety and security measures put in place by landlords is the protection of their tenants. A proactive landlord will also consider the needs of their tenants and act accordingly by providing upkeep to their property and minimizing disruption during renovations.

Landlords and tenants also have a mutual responsibility to each other. The landlord has a responsibility to make sure that the property is safe to live in, and the tenant has a responsibility to make sure that their property is safe to live in and that they take proper care of it.

If a tenant neglects their responsibility to take care of the property, then the landlord has the option to take action to make repairs or to allow the tenant to assume that responsibility.

Prioritizing improvements and renovations based on the safety and well being of tenants is a good way to ensure that the renovations are done right for everyone involved.

Prioritize Security and Enforcement with a Good Security System in Place

Security is also a top priority when making renovations. A security system should be put in place before renovations begin, because it will ensure the safety of the property while it’s in its current state, and it can give you peace of mind that you are covered when and if you make renovations.

Know Your Expenses & Know the Market

Maintaining a rental is not an inexpensive, but it’s important. You might want to consider getting a manager; especially if you’re the only landlord.

Managing your business can be demanding, but successful landlords believe in delegating as much of it to trusted individuals so that they can focus on their business without the distractions of daily operations.

A good manager, like a good co-listing agent, should be able to understand the market, their role in your business and how tenant selection, screening, and credit would best work with your business.

Know the available inventory in the marketplace, understand the market and be willing to negotiate, developers built the right to take your property and build luxury apartments and townhomes on it. Your two choices are to sell or try to think like a landlord again.

Maintain the Property Properly to Avoid Rent Escrow

Regular maintenance and upkeep of the property will go a long way in ensuring that tenants stay in place. In the process, it will also ensure that the property stays well appointed with the properties, and you can also encourage tenants to use the property for social gatherings.

If you maintain the property properly, it will reflect positively in the minds of tenants and they will not feel a need to move to a better property in the limited options available in your locality. This will also help you attract tenants who are looking for the property.

The presence of trash indicates the presence of tenants, and hence, keep the property clean and neat. Preventing the spread of weeds and grass cuts will also go a long way in ensuring the presence of tenants.

You can also discourage tenants from throwing out their trash and keep them at bay by maintaining a garbage pick up route. The presence of a garbage pick up route ensures that tenants do not litter the property.

Maintaining clean restrooms will also go a long way in preventing the spread of diseases. Cleaning the restrooms or bathrooms regularly will show that you care for your tenants and want to ensure that they are not exposed to any form of diseases.

Take care of garbage disposal too if you want to provide quality living space. You can either get a trash can from the market or else construct your own to prevent the spread of rats.

The presence of old batteries and broken appliances highlight poor maintenance of the building.

Have an Open Line of Communication with Your Tenants

The number one tip for a pliable relationship with your tenants is to always keep them in the loop on any repairs that need to be made.

If units are part of a multi-family building, having a common management office will help keep your tenants abreast of any notices, repairs, and other matters concerning their building.

Having a good, direct line of communication between your tenants and yourself will help to keep a calm relationship between you and them.

Number of Properties

If you’re the owner of a single family home and only have a few tenants, it is still a good idea to have that open line of communication with your tenants because you don’t want to risk having some sort of problem occur with one of the tenants and not be able to immediately remove them from your property.

If you’re the owner of a multi-family building and you have many tenants, it’s still best to have that open line of communication because even though you’ll have a greater volume of tenants than if you were just the owner of a couple of multi-family units, you still don’t want to be caught off guard with any problems that might occur with a tenant.

Are They on Time?

Screen Your Tenants Thoroughly

At the Landlord Tenant Task Force, we’ve seen a lot of tenant “beg-a-thons.” The worst situations usually involve tenants who are desperate for a place to live.

People who are in need of an apartment are often unaware of all of their rights as tenants. A landlord should check everyone he or she leases to with a background check. This is very simple and should not require an attorney.

You should also inform your potential tenants about the apartment and what conditions are in the apartment as well as grill your tenant on their current living situation. This is a bit uncomfortable, but it ensures that you are not promoting a disruptive tenant who would not likely pass a background check.

If you decide to hire a tenant screening company, ensure it is local to your area. If you are in rural America, I would recommend checking with a rural screening company that can provide checks nationally.

Create a Docs Policy in Writing …

Landlords are required to carry their jurisdiction…s landlords’ law in their lease agreement in order to stay within the bounds of these laws.

Thinking about what type of rules are allowed in your lease can include, ….

Work with a Real Estate Attorney

Before handing over the keys to your property, you should have an attorney look over your rental policy and any other documents you may have drawn up. Simply put, the rules need to be written down and followed by all parties involved to make sure the property is protected.

In order to legally evict a tenant, a landlord requires two justifications: illegal activity and non-payment of rent. To evict someone due to criminal activity, you need to prove that the tenant has broken the law. To evict someone due to non-payment of rent, you need to prove that the tenant has been short on rent for at least 30 days.

All eviction notices in the state of Florida must include the date when the proceedings will begin and the date the notices are mailed out. Rent and court fees, along with all other statutory fees, are the landlord’s responsibility.

Know Local Real Estate Laws

Keep Security Deposits Separate

Require Tenants to Have Renters Insurance

Ask for a copy of the renters insurance and require your tenants to have the insurance. The purpose of this is to provide for damages as a result of a fire, hurricane or any other major hazard.

Most credit cards provides insurance when you are renting a residence, and this should be good enough to cover a few minor damages which may result in a lawsuit. In most cases, the landlord should cover the cost of this insurance in the lease agreement.

Other considerations:

Ask your insurance agent or agent with insurance for their recommendations. If your house is in foreclosure, make sure to notify the potential new owner of the required insurance requirements as a condition of sale.

For your protection, you may want to consider having your own comprehensive home insurance.

It is illegal for a landlord to refuse to rent to an insurance-covered tenant.

If the landlord grants a lease with the tenants required insurance, and the tenant fails to maintain the insurance, the landlord is permitted to cancel the lease and comply with the provisions of the NO FAULT ACT.

Certainly, there are cases where a tenant may be required to furnish proof of adequate insurance coverage. In the event that the landlord is entitled to the greater of the landlord’s coverage or tenant’s insurance, the landlord should ensure that the tenant confirms this at the beginning of the lease.

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