The following is a priceless list of advice from many successful landlords around the country who have learned from the school of hard knocks. Learn from their wealth of experiences. It is not necessary to learn everything the hard way!

 

  1. Assume that all prospective tenants are lying and be happy when you can prove they aren’t. 100 screened people to one signed lease used to be the norm for me. Now it’s nothing to weed through 300-400.
  2. Advertise the unit until it is actually rented. It’s not rented until you have a signed lease, deposit, first month’s rent, and utilities in their name.
  3. Ask about pets, felonies, past evictions, why they are moving, and for references. Then assume they are lying, and double check all.
  4. Try to get market rent. Call around, look around, internet search. I would check Zillow, Craigslist and Zumper to look for comparable places. Do not be afraid to set it too high. That will cut down on some unqualified prospects. If nobody responds, drop it after a week then lower it to make a judgement on what market should be.
  5. Follow up after move-in to ensure rules are followed.
  6. There is an entire, fully-packed, two-day Landlording Bootcamp available on MrLandlord.com. There is an online version, and an in-person version. You’d be hard pressed to find a better teacher on the subject of landlording and how to run your rental business than Jeffrey Taylor (aka Mr. Landlord).
  7. DO NOT RUSH to get a tenant in! Take your time and educate yourself first. Just like you can’t advertise yourself as a dentist and start pulling teeth with no training, you can’t be a landlord / property manager without training. Well, you could, but it would work out about as well as the dentist.
  8. Start learning your state Landlord/Tenant laws. STUDY them until you really understand them. 
  9. Find a local lawyer who specializes in landlord/tenant law and evictions in your jurisdiction. Begin a relationship and pay for an hour of Q&A with him/her to make sure you FULLY understand all the laws.
  10. Get as much rent as you can. Do not advertise a low rent thinking it will get you a better tenant, it will have the opposite effect, every dirt bag in your town will be calling you.

  1. Do not, under any circumstances, rent to family, in-laws or friends. No way.
  2. Never accept any excuse for unpaid rent. (Let’s see now —how many excuses are there? Infinity sign.)
  3. Try to rent to applicants who are collectable whenever possible.
  4. Get rent through automatic payments where you take the money on rent day, not when tenant gives it to you.
  5. Don’t be lax on inspecting the place on regular intervals.
  6. Don’t rent to people with high turnover jobs, fast food, retail clerks, gas station workers, hotel workers, wait staff, etc. They are the first ones laid off. Nothing personal but if they get laid off, with the current COVID stuff, you likely won’t be able to evict them if they don’t pay. And beware of renting to students during this COVID stuff; if the school closes down, they will either leave or may not pay.
  7. Without fail, go to your local landlord/tenant eviction court and sit in. You’ll hear every lie under the sun. You’ll learn the names of some of the deadbeats so you’ll never rent to them. You need to learn how the judge rules on cases and evidence. They are not all the same. You will learn the identity of the eviction specialist lawyers, which ones are good and which are not. Get to know the best lawyers. Get their cards. Listen to what they say. This will help you immensely.
  8. Join your local landlord association.
  9. Know that an applicant has to fill out an application and provide you with “supporting” documents. When they put down their name, you will need to see and copy their State Driver’s License (a picture ID). When they put down their Social Security Number, you want to see their Social Security Card. When they put down salary, you will need to see their pay stubs AND a bank account showing their checks being deposited. Anyone can purchase phony ID, pay stubs, etc., via the internet. You will also have to run their credit, eviction background, criminal background, etc. You can now even do “document” screening through sites like MrLandlord.com.
  10. Set up your system of how your rental business is going to run. Do not be agreeable with a tenant to operate in any other manner than your system. Example: If you shipped a package via UPS and suggested they drop part of their system and do what you suggest instead, would the UPS driver accommodate your request? Never. Neither should you.
  11. Regarding the lease you will use; while you can start with a generic one, you need to vet it against your state laws which vary greatly from state to state.
  12. For first payment on a lease, do not accept personal checks … certified funds only. Get the largest security deposit your market will bear or is allowed by law in your state.
  13. Don’t give tenant your full name or phone number … you are Josh the property manager and use your Google voice number for them.
  14. Read up on fair housing laws.
  15. Treat your rentals like a business, even when you only have one or two units. The habits you establish today will follow you into the future. If you get lazy/sloppy, your life will be hard. If you are punctual and professional, your life will be easier and you most likely will make money.
  16. Only take advice from happy, wealthy landlords.
  17. Go look inside the current home of any rental applicants before you let them move into yours. THIS will save you THOUSANDS$$$ and HEADACHES.
  18. Read the MrLandlord.com Q&A forum daily, it will teach you SO much.
  19. You must run a credit check or any other background check permitted in your state.
  20. You must get over being a nice guy and get comfortable with quickly saying “No”. For example, no you do not qualify, no you cannot make security deposit in payments, no you cannot have pets, no you cannot have your entire family living in a one-bedroom apartment, no you cannot have your friends and relatives do their laundry in your unit, no you cannot run a business out of your apartment, no you cannot be late on your rent, no you cannot park a non-working vehicle in assigned parking space and the list goes on and on. Saying no is part of being a landlord. Remember, you are in charge and not the tenants.

 

The tips in this column are shared by regular contributors to the popular MrLandlord.com Q&A forum, by real estate authors and by Jeffrey Taylor, [email protected]. To receive a free sample of Mr. Landlord newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit their informative Q&A Forum at LandlordingAdvice.com, where you can ask landlording questions and seek advice of other landlords 24 hours a day.