When I advise landlords about handling tenants, one of the very first things I tell them is to get rid of any notions or ideas about tenants that don’t mean too much or that can’t be enforced. Such things as how many visitors your tenants can have, how late can their backyard party last – or any notion that landlords are responsible to enforce the civil peace! I often explain it this way. Should a fire break out at my property, don’t call me, call the fire department! Fires are their specialty, not mine. If a shooting happens, no need to call me, call the police! Landlords are totally useless around guns – and “heaven forbid”, should someone die in my house, don’t call me, that’s a problem for the county coroner! It’s certainly not a landlord issue!
The rules that I insist must be followed are:
- Timely rent payments and the collection of late fees when rents are not paid in a timely manner. If you don’t collect late fees, tenants will have no incentive to pay on time.
- No extra persons are allowed to move into my houses without my authorization. I don’t automatically deny permission if an additional tenant doesn’t exceed my occupancy limits, provided he or she fills out my rental application and is qualified to be added to the rental contract.
- Parking unauthorized cars on my property (sometime towed there) is not permitted! I do not allow tenants to work on cars, other than for minor maintenance. Non-running cars, with their hoods up- or sitting on wood blocks, portrays an unsightly image for any property. It also sends the wrong signal to the kind of tenants most owners are looking for! If you allow trashy-looking cars to accumulate on your property, it won’t take long before the property looks like a junk yard! Enforcing this rule takes diligence, but it pays off nicely at the cash register.
Emotions Should Not Control Landlord Decisions
If you are intimidated by tenant threats or if you are hesitant to begin a non-pay eviction because your renter’s mother-in-law has passed away again at some remote location near Disneyland, you’ll have great difficulty operating your rental business. Ask yourself these two questions. How many supermarkets would tell their customers – go ahead, take our groceries home without paying. We really believe your check is lost in the mail. Or, how many banks do you think might tell you – it’s perfectly alright to skip the mortgage payment this month because we’re really concerned about the well being of your non-paying tenant?
Obviously, the answers are none and none! No business could operate very long listening to all the hard luck stories and neither can you. Fair business dealings are the key to a landlord’s success. No jury would ever judge it fair for your tenants to make up excuses for not paying their rents. Therefore, your decision to quickly evict non-paying renters is based on simple fairness. It should never be based on personal feelings or emotions! Ya got it?
Most collection problems arise because landlords are “wishy-washy”! Don’t confuse this with being charitable or big-hearted. Make no mistake here, wishy-washy landlords want their rents like everyone else and they’re not likely to be any more charitable! Their real problem is they don’t know exactly what they should do to enforce collection. Instead, they accept “Mickey Mouse” excuses. If any landlord wishes to test out what I’m saying here about being big-hearted and charitable, then try this exercise. First, make sure you collect the full rent when it’s due. Next, fill out a proper receipt for payment and hand it to your tenant. Now, after you’ve counted the money and put it in your wallet, and after you’ve given your tenant a rent receipt and you’re halfway back to your car in the parking lot – now spin around quickly, walk back to your tenant; pull out your wallet and give your tenant all his money back! Now, that’s a true act of genuine charity. Wouldn’t you agree?
Think about the supermarket cashier. If you don’t pay, you don’t get the groceries. State laws provide adequate remedies for landlords who get stiffed. The eviction laws are the rules of the game for tenants and landlords. Owners, who don’t know these laws from start to finish intimately, are bound to become the victims when their tenants don’t pay. Smart property managers (owners) must be in a position to “jump in” and act swiftly when their income is threatened, otherwise; they’re throwing money down a rat hole.
Jay P. DeCima, aka Fixer Jay, lives in Northern California where he operates multiple rental properties. With nearly 50 years’ experience, he’s a street-wise landlord and best-selling real estate author.
Jay’s recession-proof, adding value techniques are ideally suited for small-time, Mom & Pop investors seeking faster paydays and financial security. Jay’s self-help books have been voted #1 by both the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Sun during the past 12 years.