Owning a rental property is a great investment. Those dreams of passive income and exiting the rat race finally start materializing. It’s not been easy and you deserve to just kick back and soak up the good times. Not so fast. As a landlord, and a newly minted one at that, there are a number of fundamental mistakes you can make that will have your tenants leaving faster than you can imagine. Here is a list of five of the top things you can, and possibly will, to a certain extent, do that will have you lose your tenants fast. Hopefully you will learn quickly too and bounce back.
Asking the wrong interview questions
When interviewing a new tenant, some questions are off limits if you want to gain a new tenant and avoid a lawsuit. Asking questions that have to do with someone’s ethnicity, race, sexual orientation and other such personal matters are a sure way of turning off a potential tenant. Asking picky questions about their life is also a way of showing the tenant that they would rather be living somewhere else. Asking very objective questions related to the landlord/tenant relationship is all that matters and understanding and respecting this will reassure your potential tenant that you are keeping it strictly business and impersonal.
Let’s assume you managed to wrangle in your new tenant and they are happy with the place and all systems are a go. You give them your bank account number, or take their credit card number, agree on the rent and poof, you disappear. You get back to your life and assume all you will ever need to do for your property is collect cash. Dead wrong. Tenants need a landlord who can address their concerns when the need arises. It could be something as simple as rent agreement clarification or something as major as a safety requirement; tenants loath absentee landlords because they feel abandoned with no recourse for their issues. Remember, it is your job to keep your tenant happy and satisfied with the property; it is only their duty to abide by the agreement signed.
On the complete opposite side are those landlords who become your newest family member. They want to come and “inspect” the house every weekend. They want to know which new job you got, what you are going to name the baby that is on the way, if you plan on buying a new car any time soon. The list is endless, and the level of their involvement exasperating. If you find yourself acting like this, rest assured you will be out of a tenant very soon. Of course there are those instances when this actually works out, but they are the exception rather than the rule and you run a high risk of getting onto your tenant’s nerves by acting this way. Limit your involvement to once a month and only delve into personal issues as a matter of courtesy, not intrusive prying.
Safety and repairs
If you cannot take care of your property you are courting trouble with your tenant and the law. Repairs and safety features are the exclusive domain of the landlord. You may surcharge the tenant for repairs but it is you who will have to make those repairs. Safety features such as window guards, staircase railings and locks are not things to be trifled with. If you approach these issues casually, you may be in for a rude shock when you land yourself in court for reckless endangerment through neglect. Inspect your property once a month and keep a house repair/deprecation log that will help you keep track of all that needs to be repaired or replaced and when.
Increasing rent haphazardly
It’s mighty tempting to want to increase your rent to keep pace with your lifestyle needs. It may be that as some financial pressures befall you, you would like to pass on the cost to the tenant through a raise in the rent. This will not always work out. Renters have one thing in common; they work hard to make the rent, every month of every year. They do not have the luxury of increasing their income at a whim and a landlord who increases the rent inordinately is taking this critical issue for granted. Understanding this and allowing your tenants some stability of rent over a few years spread will make it easy for the them to stick with you for a long time to come.
Scott Ryan is a writer, aspiring designer and long-term tenant. He currently writes for Morris Brothers Music, a store that specializes in new and used musical instruments and accessories.