There is a big difference between being a rental property owner and a landlord. Anyone that owns a rental property is technically a landlord, but being a good one takes a special skill set.
There is more to the job than just waiting by your mailbox to collect rent checks. The best landlords understand what is needed with the property and take immediate action. They know how to effectively communicate with their tenants and sense problems before they happen. They also know their limitations and if there is a problem they can’t handle themselves, they get someone else to do it. There are many qualities that separate a landlord from an ordinary property owner. Here are five traits that make a great landlord:
- Good Tenants. The best landlords understand that everything starts with their tenants. You can have a great rental property but if your tenants are lack quality, it won’t make a difference. Getting good tenants isn’t a matter of luck. Of course there is always a small degree of luck involved, but you can greatly reduce your risk with how well you screen. By taking the extra time before the lease starts, you can give yourself the best chance for success during it. There are many landlords who commit to the first interested party. The current tenant gives them the name of someone and they jump before they even do their homework. Nothing can derail a landlord quicker than a bad tenant. Every interested tenant must be screened in the same manner. Start with an application and follow up with any references listed. As difficult as a bad tenant is, a good tenant will make your life that much easier. Take the time to get to know your tenants before you commit to anyone.
- Availability. If you commit to running the property yourself, you need to be available when needed. There is nothing that gets tenants angrier than not being able to reach their landlord. Regardless of how great your tenants may be, there will always be issues with the property from time to time. Most of these are small in nature, but that doesn’t mean they should be ignored. If the washing machine breaks you need to get it fixed as quickly as possible. At minimum, you need to return calls, texts or emails within 36 hours. Even if you are not able to fix the problem right away, you still need to be able to communicate with your tenants. What may seem like a small issue to you can be of great importance to them. Every time you ignore a tenant, you increase the chance that they will sour on you and the property. This can lead to them treating the property abusively and neglecting to tell you of circumstances that might lead to future problems.
- Ability To Sense Issues Early. Small issues usually lead to big problems. The best landlords have an ability to sense things early on. Tenants that are a few days late on rent could indicate that they might face bigger issues later on that may lead to eviction. As soon as a problem arises, get to the root of it. This is not only the case with tenants, but also with everything else associated with the property. A clogged toilet may just be a clogged toilet but also could be a sign of a sewer backup. Good landlords are willing to pay for preventive maintenance to avoid long term issues. They also never put a band aid on a property that needs fixing. You may be able to get away with this for a few months but eventually the issue will come up again. The earlier you sense and deal with problems the smaller they become. Good landlords have a way of doing this.
- Firm But Fair. As a landlord you need to strike a balance between firm and fair. There are times when you may need to loosen up from a hard line stance you have taken. In doing this however, you cannot compromise your core values. If you don’t allow smoking or pets in the property there, has to be a consequence for the action. The minute you allow your tenants to break the rules, you can bet they are going to do it again. Their defense will be that since you allowed it once they thought the policy may have changed. While you may not think that breaking a rule is a big deal, it can have an impact down the road. Smoking and some pets can leave a stench in the property that will reduce the interest as well. Good landlords take time to think about what they want on the lease and what the penalties will be. Once something is on the lease they will enforce it.
- Are Ready To Act. Having the ability to fix small repairs in the property is a plus. For every landlord that can fix a leaking faucet, there are two that cannot. If you are not handy, you need to have a rolodex of people that are. There are a handful of tasks that need to be updated with a rental property from time to time. Everything from maintenance of the furnace to removing snow from the driveway needs to be done from time to time. It is often too late to start making calls after there is a problem. Good landlords are always building their contact list and have two or three people they can call at any time. You never want to scramble around looking for people when you need them. Not only will this drive you crazy, it will end up costing you more as well.
Owning a rental property is a great way to build your portfolio, but does require a good amount of work. The little things you do can make all the difference between a good landlord and a great one.