8 Ways to Be a Good Landlord (and Still Earn Money)
Like good fences make good neighbors, good landlords make good tenants.
Now, of course, every building owner and property manager knows that it’s nearly impossible to weed out all “bad tenants,” and some good tenants may struggle as well. When a renter can’t pay or runs into a rough patch, it’s not always their fault (and they could eventually become happy, satisfied tenants again). So how can you be a good landlord and still earn money?
If you own a building and rent property, there’s a lot on your plate. Chances are, you’re focused on collecting rent on time, minimizing vacancies, and keeping your workload manageable. Property management is no small task. There are many concerns to juggle, especially when you have many renters under one roof.
At the end of the day, landlords should focus on retaining good renters AND maximizing their rent earnings—a delicate balance. You want to keep on-time, responsible, conscientious renters happy and satisfied with the space. At the same time, you want to be sure your buildings are operating at a gain, not a loss.
So how can landlords hit this balance? Here are 8 ways to be a good landlord while still managing to turn a profit and retain those responsible renters.
1. Communicate EVERYTHING
The very first rule of being a good landlord is to communicate, communicate, communicate. If you think you’ve shared enough information with your renters, chances are, there is something you’re still leaving out. Set up an email group or even a social media group for communication. Keep residents apprised of changes to the building, news, and any updates that they need.
Do your renters know how to get in touch with you for emergencies? Do they know the protocol in urgent situations? Do they understand when rent is due, what the property rules are, and what’s expected of them? Landlords should remember that rental communication is always a two-way street. The more you communicate with your renters, the more likely they will be to connect with you and take responsibility for the space.
Savvy communication fosters a sense of buy-in and community in your building. If your building feels like a micro-community, renters will want to stay. They will also be better neighbors.
2. Put it in Writing
If you’re operating with a lease template that’s over ten years old, chances are it’s time to have it reviewed again by a professional. Over time, conditions can change. You may have outgrown certain rules (like no pets allowed), or you may have had experiences that showed deficiencies in your lease.
Due to the sensitive nature of renting, you must have your lease reviewed by a legal professional when you make changes. A lease is a legal agreement, and it’s typically not acceptable to change it in the middle of an agreed period (so you may need to wait until lease renewal time to make rule or rent changes).
It’s essential to protect yourself with a properly executed rental agreement. Be sure that you’ve documented any accommodations as well. Some renters will do their own snow removal or minor updates in exchange for a rent discount, for example. You should write down these types of agreements as amendments to the rental lease.
3. View Renters as Human Beings
As a building owner, you should have empathy. If you want to be a good landlord, it’s kindness and understanding that will make all the difference. Of course, you’re running a business, and you want to earn as much as possible. At the same time, it’s useful to see each tenant as an individual human with differing circumstances.
When a renter runs into a delay or accidentally bounces a rent check, don’t assume the worst. Work together to resolve the issue by contacting them right away. If it were just an oversight (and they’re otherwise on-time responsible renters), it would likely be better for you both to let the accident go.
Of course, some renters try to game the system or don’t care about respecting the property. In these cases, it’s also essential to have empathy for the neighbors and good renters in your building who don’t want to deal with a difficult resident. When in doubt, seek legal advice to help you navigate challenging situations.
4. Be Upfront About the Rules
One of the most significant issues that renters and property owners face is miscommunication. How many times has a renter said, “I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to do that!” Although some unknowns may surprise you (Barbecuing indoors? A pet monkey? Removing a wall?), most renters will respect the rules provided they are clearly outlined.
Renters, especially first-time renters, often aren’t sure what’s expected of them. Rules can vary by building and landlord. One landlord may have no concerns about parties, painting, or subletting. Other landlords may prefer to run a tighter ship.
Your building rules should be part of your rental agreement and should also be shared clearly with renters. You may need to periodically remind renters of certain rules, such as those for common areas. Keep everyone informed and on the same page (and remember, typically, you should only change the rules during lease renewal).
5. Make Repairs Quickly
One of the ways to be a better landlord is to make repairs quickly and as promised. When a tenant raises a concern, you should address it as soon as possible. You can make this easy by ensuring you have active service contracts and repair agreements with companies like your water heater provider and landscaping company.
Tell your residents how quickly they can expect repairs resolved. Let them know when you plan to address it and give them as much notice as possible. You should address issues like a broken pipe or fire damage right away, of course, but be careful not to put less dire projects on the back burner.
Residents need a comfortable, safe place to call home. As a property owner, it’s your job to ensure that they get what they’re paying for. Addressing minor concerns and inconveniences may seem unimportant, but it can make all the difference in retaining satisfied renters.
6. Outsource Tough Tasks
Buildings may not have a property manager or maintenance professional on staff, and if you do, they may not be trained to fix or repair everything. Most maintenance pros can handle minor updates and small repairs. Electric, plumbing, water heater repair, and larger construction endeavors should likely be handled by a trained professional specializing in these types of jobs.
If you don’t work with a property management company, you may want to consider the value of your time and if it could help you be a better landlord. Outsourcing some of the administrative tasks of your building can free you up to tackle the bigger jobs.
It’s also important to realize that you may not be a jack or jill of all trades as a building owner. It’s okay to hand off projects to those who can do them more reliably and efficiently. Quick fixes and hacks will often lead to more significant concerns in the future.
7. Keep Your Building Safe
Safety is another crucial issue that landlords need to address. There are many areas of safety to examine and explore, too. Security is essential, and you should protect your building with working locks, cameras as needed, and other security measures.
If your property features a pool or a water fountain, you’ll want to maintain all safety protocols around the water. Is your pool fenced and properly cared for? Is the signage maintained to let residents know if a lifeguard is on duty? Are you properly treating the pool with chlorine?
Safety can also extend to the health and safety measures within your building. Make sure that repairs are taken care of in common areas. Address loose railings, broken equipment, and other safety concerns right away. Update your safety guidelines for weather and health emergencies—do residents know how to evacuate and where to go? Share and post this information to keep your building safe.
8. Beautify the Space
If you want to be a good landlord, you need to keep your building attractive and appealing for renters. Everyone wants to live in a clean, inviting, beautiful space. It doesn’t need to be a luxury high rise penthouse, either. Even small studio units should be well-maintained and cared for.
Check the outside of your building as well as the inside. Maintain the property with landscaping and basic yard work. If the building needs updates and repairs, don’t put them off and risk losing renters. If you want to attract happy, satisfied renters who pay on time, keep the space nice.
For many renters, it’s not JUST about the price. Most renters are willing to pay a little more for a welcoming, beautiful spot. Today, as telecommuting has become more prevalent, renters may spend a lot of time in their space. Help them feel at home in a beautiful, clean, well-cared-for building.
Being a good landlord doesn’t mean you need to change your approach to renting or make sweeping changes to your building. You can be a better landlord by merely making a few small shifts in your style in many cases.
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