If you are a landlord, make sure to check out these 5 mistakes to avoid!
1. Not running adequate checks on a potential tenant.
You might feel rushed to get a tenant into a rental property to avoid vacancy costs, but many tenant issues cost more in the long run. Make sure to use a detailed tenant application that provides all the information you need, and pay to obtain the credit history of the potential tenant. If the applicant has a history of late payments, it’s not a good sign. Additionally, another mistake to avoid would be to make sure to request references and follow up on them.
2. Thinking the property will always be rented.
Make sure to budget for vacancy and maintenance costs. Even a wonderful tenant may not renew their lease for a variety of reasons, and when they move out, there is still basic maintenance required on the property before new tenants can move in. Additionally, budget much more than you need for vacancy and maintenance costs.
One story we read on BiggerPockets.com was from a landlord who allowed a judge to become his tenant, despite some “white collar” legal troubles in the past. The tenant ended up being manipulative, refused to pay and would not move out. While the landlord filed for eviction, the legal process was time consuming since the judge knew many evasion tactics. The landlord came close to losing the house because he never anticipated having to cover the vacancy/holding costs for so long – definitely avoid this landlord mistake.
Summary: expect the unexpected.
3. Not meeting state and local housing codes and laws.
This one’s a doozy. As a landlord, you are responsible for making sure the property meets certain health and safety standards. If you don’t, your tenant has legal grounds to break the lease agreement (read: stop paying rent, or worse). The tenants could also sue you or be entitled to payment for any injury due to your neglect.
There are two reasons tenants can legally avoid paying rent, and one of those reasons is if the house is uninhabitable or has issues that are not fixed in a timely manner.
In general, as a landlord, do EVERYTHING by the book. Period. Even if you think you are justified in your actions, make sure you know your state laws regarding landlords and tenants. You don’t want a tenant to ever be able to point a finger.
4. Not enforcing lease terms.
Even if the tenant is a friend or family member, always enforce your lease terms. If the lease states that there are penalty charges for late rent, charge it every time. If your lease doesn’t allow pets, make sure to penalize the tenants; and if they keep the pet anyway, evict them. As soon as you start going against the lease agreement, not only does it make it harder to enforce it later, but it could give the tenant legal grounds not to pay. If your tenants think you are lax about the lease terms, they will take advantage of it, even if it is not conscious.
5. Not writing it down, a classic landlord mistake to avoid.
Once again, even if you know the tenant well, keep records of every communication between you and your tenants. If you have a verbal conversation, make sure to follow it up with an email confirming the discussion, or a handwritten note that you keep a copy of (not ideal). Hopefully, you will never have a legal issue with your tenant, but if you ever have to go to court, you will be VERY grateful for the documentation. Keep everything – voicemails, emails, texts, written notes, etc. These might be what support your allegations later.
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