Think about the last time you were a tenant.  You were probably renting either an apartment, a condo or a home.  What do you remember about your landlord?  Are there things you wish they did?  Or are there things you wish they didn’t do?  Renting is not easy.  In most cases, it’s a temporary form of housing.  But it’s not your own.  As a tenant, you are relying on your landlord for many things, including repairs and maintenance.  What can you do to set yourself apart from other landlords?

If you are a great landlord, this could help you in the future.  When you have vacancies in any of your units or properties, happy tenants can help refer new tenants to you.  Great landlords have a system in place with how they recruit tenants. Great landlords also stay on top of collecting everyone’s rent.  And great landlords respond to repair requests quickly.  Great landlords do all of this in conjunction with maintenance and upkeep of the property.  Let’s take a closer look.

Finding tenants

Finding the right tenants for your property is very important.  A great landlord will do careful screening.  A careful screening consists of a credit check, a background check and also checked references.

Performing a credit check helps you verify your tenant has a good rental history.  Make sure they don’t have any evictions on their record and have the proper amount of resources to pay rent on time every month.  Collecting a deposit along with first month’s rent will help you when tenants give notice that they are leaving.

Secondly, you will want to do a background check.  This is important as you do not want to bring on a tenant with a criminal background.  You definitely don’t want a convicted sexual offender living on your property.  This will make it hard to rent other units on your property.  Also, be on the lookout for convictions involving recent acts of violence or assault.  If a potential tenant has any convictions that are drug related, including but not limited to possession, usage or trafficking, you want to steer away from that as well.

Lastly, make sure you are following all fair housing laws.  It is illegal to and you should not discriminate against race, sex, religion, color, disability, or family status.  If you have any doubt with sections of your rental application or lease, have an attorney look at your documents to make sure everything is OK.

Rent and Repairs

Now that you have fulfilled your occupancy and found some tenants, you can start making some money, right?  If only it’s that easy.  When managing tenants, you will receive a lot of phone calls.   There are so many different kinds of people.  And with that comes different expectations.

Managing your tenants falls into two main categories: rent and repairs.  Let’s first take a look at collecting rent.  You will be collecting rent from them on a monthly basis.  Make sure you have a policy included on the lease with how late fees are incurred.  If you have a tenant that is late consecutive multiple times, it may be sending a red flag that they can’t afford the rent.

Secondly, you will be receiving the most phone calls and messages regarding repair requests.  This can range from plumbing problems to HVAC issues.  Tenants will often call you with things they may deem as an emergency, but most of the time this can be a simple repair.  To make your life easier, if you have a good handyman or contractor on call, this is who you can forward the calls or messages to.  Make sure you respond to their requests in a timely manner.  Even if you can’t have the repair completed right away, let them know when it will be completed.  You don’t want to get into a situation where a tenant thinks they can withhold rent because their repair requests aren’t being responded to.

Property Maintenance

Basic repairs and ongoing maintenance of individual units in each of your buildings is a must.  One way to stay on top of this is when you are turning over your units, do thorough move-in and move out inspections.  This will make things very clear when collecting and returning deposits from your tenants.  You will know that your walls are in great shape if you paint them a fresh coat of paint every time after someone moves out.  Replacing the carpet each time is also a great way to keep the units in tip top shape.  Especially if any of your tenants had young children or pets.  Make sure air filters are changed regularly, and addressing any plumbing or HVAC problems or updates quickly can save you from costly repairs in the future.

Don’t forget about the common areas (lobby, elevator & parking lot) of your property.  The lobby of an apartment building has a lot of traffic.  Hiring a cleaning service to take care of this area will save you a lot of time and you will know it’s being taken care of on a regular basis.  They can make sure the floors are kept up, and the carpet is always looking good.  If you have any plants or trees in the lobby, hire someone to take care of these for you as well.

If you have a multi unit building with a parking lot where tenants park their cars, make sure to keep this in great shape too.  Pave it periodically as needed.  If there are large visible cracks, seal them and repave them so they don’t get larger.

In closing, a lot of these tips may seem at a glance like common sense.  But if you have a checklist that you can go through every time you acquire a new property or multi-unit building, this will help you make sure you aren’t missing anything.  The more properties you acquire, you will probably be less of a landlord, and more of a serious real estate investor. And you will need to hire a property manager.