Managing a single property as a landlord can be an overwhelming amount of work…
… especially if you’re doing it yourself.
Forget about it.
Even if you enjoy the process, it’s a big job and there are a lot of things to learn, remember, and maintain to manage multiple properties simultaneously.
As property managers ourselves, we’ve learned a lot about what works even before creating the fastest-growing (and best-reviewed) tool for property managers.
To that end, we thought we’d put together a collection of some of the best tips for landlords we’ve ever seen.
Let’s get started.
19 Landlord tips to get the most from your properties
Below, we’ll break down some of our best tips for a variety of categories. Including:
- Property maintenance
- Tenant screening and leasing
- Managing and communicating with tenants
- Rent and accounting tips
- Legal tips
Let’s start with some tips for taking care of your properties:
Property maintenance tips
First, let’s talk about tips related to property maintenance.
That can include inspections, regular maintenance, renovations, and more.
1. Find service people you can count on
If you’re a landlord, chances are you depend on contractors to complete most of your maintenance jobs.
Assuming that’s the case, you need to work to find a team of dependable repair and service people of various types that you can count on, whether that’s:
- Or other
Having good people you can count on will mean the world in the long run, as one undependable person can make everything more difficult.
2. Plan for seasonal maintenance
Planning ahead can be tough.
But depending on where you live, not planning ahead for seasonal maintenance needs can really cut into your budget and do so suddenly in a way that can lead to cash flow issues.
The solution is to map out those periods in the year and save more when you have it so that you’re not pinched when you don’t.
So, consider things like:
- Snow removal
- Leaf removal
- Tree trimming
- AC repairs
- And anything else that comes up on a seasonal basis
3. Consider hardwood floor
Quick tip: hardwood floor is generally easier to maintain than carpet.
If you’re looking for ways to reduce your long-term maintenance costs, that’s worth considering.
Fewer stains, money saved on cleanings, and generally gives a better impression during showings.
4. Carefully consider pets and adjust deposit accordingly
Allowing pets might, at first, seem like a preference thing.
But while pets– especially dogs– are awesome, when it comes to your tenants, it could mean additional upkeep costs long term.
Damaged floors, floor cabinets, and carpet are all things that can come from pets living in a unit over the course of a lease.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t accept pets. Just make sure that you require a healthy pet deposit that takes these potential costs into consideration so that you’re covered for any potential damage.
That might be preferable, as allowing pets leads to its own drawback: fewer applicants.
5. Stay on top of inspections
Regular inspections are your best friend when it comes to reducing property maintenance costs and covering yourself.
You’ll need any damage to your properties and units to be well-documented in case you run into a difficult tenant.
But, also, regular inspections remind your tenants that you value the state of your units and they should do their part to maintain their home.
They also ensure your tenants are always living in safe conditions, which then further protects you and your investment.
Just make sure you’re following local laws regarding tenant privacy and advance notice before doing your inspections as every area is different.
Tenant screening and leasing tips
Next, let’s talk about tips for the screening and leasing process.
6. Make your lease crystal clear
Your lease is, in a way, the starting point of their relationship with you and your property.
For this reason, it’s important to make sure that your lease makes it crystal clear what you’re expecting from them.
- What they can and can’t do, and
- The repercussions (cost) for breaking a section of your lease
If this is clear up front, your tenant will know what is and isn’t allowed and (typically) abide by those rules.
When they aren’t clearly outlined, you’re far more likely to run into the very issues you’d like to avoid.
7. Have a thorough screening process
Similar to the last point, having a thorough screening process allows you to avoid potential issues before they occur.
Each check you do in your screening process is an opportunity to avoid a tenant that you otherwise might not want living in one of your units or properties.
Of course, these are all generalities. Someone without great credit might be cleaning up their financial situation.
Someone with clean credit might be about to tank their credit report, unbeknownst to you (or them, for that matter).
The point of screening tenants is to avoid those behaviors which are more likely to signal a bad tenant.
That can include screening for:
- Criminal record
What you screen for is entirely up to you, so make sure you carefully think about your screening process and take the necessary steps to implement it.
8. Treat your tenants like customers
It’s easy to fall into the trap of treating tenants and your property differently than any other business, even more so with tenants.
The problem with this is it typically leads you to be laxer about your tenants, especially if the property you’re renting was once a personal property that you decided to rent out.
Again, think of your property as a business and your tenants your customers. Whether that comes to:
- Deciding what to put into your lease
- What applicants to accept, and
- What rental price to set
Your job is partly to delight your customers, but it’s also to be profitable.
You can delight your customers without letting them take advantage of you and you can treat your property like a business while maintaining a great relationship with those tenants.
9. Plan for early lease exits in advance
Inevitably, you’ll have a tenant who wants to exit their lease early. It happens to everyone eventually.
And while it’s not the biggest deal, it can be entirely unexpected.
Also, if you haven’t thought about this in advance, you could be caught in a difficult situation.
Do you collect the remaining rent left on the lease? Did you include a clause in your lease saying that you would?
There are different ways to go about it, such as:
- Allowing your tenant to pay multiple months of lease payments to “buyout” their lease, or
- Continue paying their lease until you re-fill the unit
However you prefer to do it, the important part is that you decide this in advance so it’s stipulated in your lease and you know your gameplan.
Managing tenants and communication tips
In this section, we’ll talk about tips for working and communicating with tenants.
10. Set business-like office hours
Another quick tip: set strict office hours for your tenants to adhere to.
This doesn’t just refer to your physical office if you have one on the premises, it mostly refers to communications as a whole.
Make sure you have an automated voicemail set up that calls can go to after office hours, and only respond to inquiries during office hours.
11. Enforce the rules set within your lease
Sometimes, landlords don’t strictly follow their lease agreements.
There may be times when bending a rule is decided to be fine by you, but make sure it’s for the right reasons.
The important thing here is this: set the expectation for your tenants by showing them that you enforce the rules you’ve set forth.
As soon as they get wind that the lease agreement isn’t enforced fully, some will be more likely to bend those rules or outright break them.
12. Think about hiring a property manager or company
Especially if you own multiple investment properties, hiring a property manager can make everything so much easier.
It comes with a cost, but there’s a good chance you’ll find that cost to be worth it by way of the time savings and stress reduction benefits it nets you.
You’ll need to think about what your main timesinks are and what you really need help with.
Maybe you just need help with the leasing process and daily tenant communications, maybe you want help with the entire management aspect.
Then again, maybe it’s just the accounting you need assistance with.
Depending on what help you need will determine what property manager or company you go with, as there are companies who handle entire properties and others who just handle one aspect of property management.
Rent and accounting tips
Time to talk about the all-important rent collection and accounting.
Let’s start with…
13. Collect rent online, preferably with automated rent collection software
Nowadays, you shouldn’t need to lift a finger to collect rent.
With a great property management tool, you can not only set up online rent collection, you can collect that rent automatically….
… and you don’t even have to be the one to set up payment information.
(I did say you wouldn't have to lift a finger, right?)
If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it was just a few years ago.
But now, you can give your tenants access to a tenant portal that allows them to:
- Add payment information
- Make their rent payment
- Check payment history
- And even do things like submit maintenance requests
Depending on the tool, you can even set up late payment reminders.
So, rent is not only more consistent and on time but collected automatically each month, saving you time and hassle.
14. Be clear on your rent collection policies
We talked about enforcing the rules earlier, so we won’t harp on this point too much.
However, it’s worth singling out for the obvious importance of effective rent collection.
You need to have clear policies about rent collection. Including:
- How rent will be collected/is to be paid
- When rent is owed
- And what happens when a tenant is laid paying
And lack of clarity here will lead to your tenants becoming lax, paying late and inconsistently in general.
15. Don’t rent to friends and family if you can help it
Ever heard that saying, “don’t mix business and family”?
It applies to investment property.
The problem isn’t trust or noise or respect, some of the less problematic issues you might face with tenants.
The issue is actually a much bigger one: what if they’re having trouble paying rent?
Can you evict a loved one?
It’s understandable if you say no, as most would, but that will have repercussions for your business and put you in a very difficult position.
If you can, it’s best just to avoid it entirely.
16. Invest in a good accounting process
Good bookkeeping is critical to the success of your rental property.
Really, everything revolves around accounting from rent collection to maintenance and renovations.
That means if your accounting is a mess, your business probably is too.
Do yourself a favor and invest in a sound bookkeeping system, whether that’s in hiring an accountant or getting a good accounting software like QuickBooks.
You could even take it a step further and invest in an all-in-one property management solution like DoorLoop.
It comes equipped with a full suite of accounting features in addition to:
- Automatic rent payments
- Maintenance management
- Tenant portal
- Leasing tools
- And more
Lastly, we’ll talk about a few legal tips for keeping you protected.
Property management involves a number of legalities that can serve as pitfalls for the unsuspecting landlord.
So, it’s important to do what you can to make sure that never happens.
17. Carefully document each unit’s condition before a move-in with a checklist
This last one blurs the lines between property maintenance and legal protection, but the main point is to protect yourself. So, we’re dropping it here.
It’s vital to know what condition a unit is in not only after a tenant moves out but also before a tenant moves in.
And before you think those are the same thing, don’t be so sure.
You need to schedule a comprehensive walk-through with the new tenant so you’re both present when the information is recorded.
That way, later, they can’t say anything like, “it was that way when I moved in.”
To help you do a comprehensive check of each unit, check out our Complete Apartment Maintenance Checklist (+Free Download).
18. In fact, document everything
Moving beyond just inspections, it’s vital really to document everything.
When you sign a new lease, document it by keeping a copy for your records.
When you accept a rent deposit, document it.
When you complete a repair job, document it.
You get the idea.
The point is that you want to protect yourself from a situation where someone drops a false claim on you and you don’t have proof to back up your side of things.
This can be a pain, but something like property management software makes this so much easier by semi-automating the process of keeping copies of everything.
With DoorLoop, you have easy access to every record you need from copies of leases, maintenance orders, and accounting records including a full chart of accounts:
19. Understand your local laws
Chances are, if you don’t take the time to learn about your local laws, eventually you’re going to get burned.
There are all kinds of laws regarding housing, renting, and tenant protection laws you need to make yourself aware of.
Every state and city is different, too, so you can’t just do a quick Google search and read the first article.
You need to make sure you find the official documentation stating your local laws so you’re certain you’re compliant.
Use these landlord tips to get the most from your properties
Managing properties takes a lot of work, but it’s highly lucrative if you’re smart with your time, money, and resources.
Whether it was the rent and accounting tips that were most helpful to you, or the property maintenance tips.
We hope these tips help you improve how you manage your properties and your portfolio a whole.