10 Tips for Being a Better Landlord - dummies

10 Tips for Being a Better Landlord

By Robert S. Griswold, Laurence Harmon

Being a highly qualified landlord who is committed to customer satisfaction plays a big role in avoiding the legal pitfalls of managing residential rental properties. If you treat your residents with contempt and fail to address their needs, you’re likely not to be respected by your tenants.

Assess your landlord readiness

Not everyone is cut out to be a landlord. In fact, even some landlords aren’t cut out to be landlords. Before you choose to seek your fortune in the residential rental industry, take your pulse, and make sure you have the following:

  • A property manager or building supervisor or the desire and energy to be one.

  • Knowledge of your and your residents’ legal rights and obligations.

  • Attention to detail.

  • Patient persistence.

  • Assertiveness.

  • Cash-flow management skills.

Maintain rapport with residents

The best ways to maintain positive relationships with residents is to develop rapport. In other words, focus on customer service. Satisfied residents rarely complain or file lawsuits and are more likely to pay their rent on time, take care of their rental units, and get along with their neighbors.

If possible, get to know a little about each of your residents on a personal level — without becoming intrusive. Landlords and residents are much less likely to get into bitter disputes and much more likely to settle their differences outside of the courtroom when they know, respect, and trust one another.

Establish professional relationships

Networking is an excellent way to become a better landlord. Just be sure you network with the right people — other competent and dedicated landlords, property managers, bankers, attorneys, contractors, and so on.

Use your smartphone or computer to store the names and contact information for professionals in your industry who seem to be very good at what they do. Don’t hesitate to call for assistance.

Join an association

A great way to connect with colleagues is through your local landlord, apartment, or real estate investors association, such as the following:

  • National Apartment Association (NAA) . Mouse over Join, click Find an Affiliate, and use the search page to track down state or local affiliates. Click an affiliate’s link to visit its website and find out more about it.

  • Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) . IREM is an affiliate of the National Association of Realtors and an international community of real estate managers dedicated to ethical business practices, maximizing the value of investment real estate, and promoting superior management through education and information sharing. To find a state or local chapter, visit IREM’s website, click Chapter, and click Find a Chapter.

Take landlord training courses

Several states and large cities offer free or low-cost landlord training programs that cover just about everything you need to know about screening, contracts, codes, exterior maintenance, property management, fire and safety inspections, eviction, and keeping crime out of your rental property. These training programs are valuable, especially in bringing you up to speed on the basics and on local ordinances and building codes.

Get certified

To become more educated in property management and build your credentials as someone who’s committed to excellence and is ethical, work toward becoming a certified manager. The Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) offers three certifications for individuals:

  • Certified Property Manager (CPM)

  • Accredited Residential Manager (ARM)

  • Accredited Commercial Managers (ACoM)

Keep abreast of legal developments

Several governing bodies — federal, state, and local — enact and enforce legislation and regulations that affect residential rental properties and landlord and resident rights and obligations.

The two best ways to keep abreast of changes to laws and regulations is to have someone who’s more qualified do it for you:

  • Attorney: Many attorneys who specialize in serving landlords keep their clients informed of any changes they need to be aware of.

  • Trade association: National landlord or apartment associations and their local affiliates may post changes to laws or regulations on their website or inform registered members via email or text.

Be proactive

To be a proactive landlord, you need to do the following:

  • Inspect your rental property regularly for maintenance and repair issues, if allowed by law.

  • Encourage residents to report maintenance and repair issues.

  • Respond promptly and courteously to all resident requests and concerns.

  • Work closely with local law enforcement to prevent crime rather than merely calling 911 when a crime occurs.

  • Notify residents in writing in advance of anything you’re planning to do that may inconvenience them or disturb their peaceful enjoyment of the property.

  • Stress the importance of customer service and satisfaction with any and all of the people who work for you.

Hone your communication skills

By improving your communication skills, you can reduce the number and severity of misunderstandings between you and the people you interact with on a daily basis. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep everyone in the loop.

  • Listen more than you speak and ask questions to clarify a situation before you make any statements.

  • Write clearly and succinctly. Visit Plainlanguage.gov for guidance.

  • Speak with residents in person or over the phone about more complex and sensitive issues.

Hire an expert when necessary

A qualified professional in any given field can perform a task better, faster, and often for less money than a do-it-yourselfer.

When deciding whether to perform a task yourself, consider the costs, including the lost income you could be making by investing your time in more lucrative activities. Consider the fact that you can deduct the money you pay a professional from your gross profit, but you can’t deduct the time you invest in a project.

Also think about the potential risk. In addition, if you don’t do quality work, you may need to redo it or hire a professional to do it right, and you’ll be responsible for any damages that occur due to the lack of quality the first time.