Whether you have one property or many, being a landlord can be rewarding – or a big headache. The best way to ease the potential stresses, especially if you are doing this long distance, is to be great at it. Half of the equation is getting and retaining the right tenants; the other half is about actually being a terrific landlord – and marketing yourself as such – to draw the best tenants to you. AHRN.com has seven tips to help with it all!
Set the Tone with the Property
Part of getting great tenants is doing your part to make the property as appealing as possible: clean, organized, a groomed outdoor space, with everything working and up to code. This sets the example of the quality you’re about – and expect from them!
Charge Reasonable Rent
You want to set rent high enough to attract people who earn an income that you can depend on without pricing yourself out of the market. Once that’s determined, some opt to set the rent at $20 less than the going rate to attract more people to choose from. Once you do have a great tenant, don’t raise the rent each year. If you have someone great, they’re worth their weight in gold. Not to mention that what you save in the move out/marketing/vetting/move-in process is often more than what you’d earn with a rent increase – and the risk of losing good people because of it!
Find the Right Tenants
First there are the basics. You want someone who can afford it. A good rule of thumb is checking that they make 3 times the rent each month. You should also do a credit and background check. Ask for references, and listen for current/past landlords’ feedback regarding tenant cleanliness, prompt payments, and being sorry to see them leave.
Use your instincts with people. For example, not all young kids are partiers or irresponsible. Listen for cues when meeting potential tenants. Those with pets do increase the potential for damages, but you can attach a pet addendum and take extra security deposits to cover yourself. While you’re permitted to choose between applicants, you are not allowed to discriminate based on race, creed, gender, disability and the like. Make sure you understand the Fair Housing Rules and the Fair Housing Act of 1968.
Ultimately, be cautious about taking someone because you’re desperate or do not want the property to sit open for a few months until someone good comes along. It can cost you much much more in the end!
Do It By The Letter of the Law
Do your research! Remember this is a legal situation – your rental agreement needs to be in full compliance with your town and state. Make sure your agreement spells out exactly what your expectations are and that it is legally vetted so it’s in compliance with your state municipality. You can put anything in, but keep in mind that if something should happen, you can only go to court for what’s governed by law.
Things like the requirements for holding security deposits and how they’re to be held, criteria for safety features like alarms and fire extinguishers, what you can hold back from a security deposit, what work is deductible if you do it versus if a handyman does it and everything in-between vary from state to state. Landlordology.com is a great resource to start your research.
Be Clear and Upfront
Educate your new tenants as to what you expect in terms of cleanliness, notification, recycling and garbage, if repairs are needed, if there is an emergency, as well as the terms of their lease. This way everyone is on the same page. Make it easy for them to get rent to you by leaving self-addressed stamped envelopes with them for the year. Train them to be on time by sending a letter promptly if they pass their pay-by grace period. And do charge the late fee if they miss it. You want to be nice but not a pushover. You set that rule so abide by it – be sure they do too!
Perform Check-ins Early On
Give a call within the first month to be sure everything is working. It’s a nice way to let them know you are conscientious. It’s also prudent to stop by on occasion to supply a new recycling bin, change out filters, check alarm batteries, etc… as a way to see how things are being maintained. If you do this in the first 60 days, you can catch things before they become problematic.
Stay On Top of Things
Give good tenants what they need when they need it and they will not want to leave. Respond quickly when contacted for repairs or problems. Have a list of reliable handy men prepared, as well as a budget set aside. If you’re long distance, definitely consider using a service like American Home Shield, which takes care of a lot of this very affordably.
Go the extra mile if you are hoping to keep a tenant for several years. For example, have the grass cut and flowers planted when they move in (this also subliminally sets a standard for them to keep). Leave a little welcome basket – a note saying how glad you are that they are there, a roll of address labels, a change of address packet from the post office (which usually includes coupons to Lowes/Home Depot and the like) and a couple of bottles of water. If they are making a long trip or have kids, you can have a dozen eggs, bread and milk waiting in the fridge. Throughout the year, if they’ve been wonderful, reward them with a $25 gift card to the local coffee shop or market on a birthday or at the holidays.
When you are a good landlord, it almost guarantees happy tenants! Everyone wins this way. Finding the right people and setting the stage for everything to be positive from the very beginning goes a very long way to creating a great experience for you both.
Rochelle Joseph is a Writer and Image and Marketing Consultant who has had experience marketing, renting, buying and selling her properties for over 20 years. She has written and edited for several publications, including the Boston Book Review, The Emerson Review, ZooBorns.com, WildLife Magazine, the Houston Zoo, The Wildlife Center of Texas, One Spirit Interfaith Seminary as well as AHRN.com. She currently writes at her great gifts blog at http://lookyhereu.blogspot.com and her animal blog at http://naturegirrrl.blogspot.com