Whether you’re a novice or a veteran, here are 9 landlord hacks that save you time and money and fast-track your learning curve.
Landlord Hack #1 – Paying the whole year upfront – scam or blessing?
Nothing is more enticing to a landlord than a tenant asking to pay a year’s rent upfront. Before you let the dollar signs blind you and accept the money, firstly check to see if your province/state landlord-tenant laws allow upfront payments, and if so, are there any conditions?
Ask the tenant why they want to pay upfront. Are they trying to avoid regular contact with the landlord? Did they receive an inheritance, divorce settlement, win the lottery, sell something? Make sure you know the reasons.
Upfront payments are not always a smokescreen for illegal conduct. Many parents want to help their adult children with their college expenses and budget a year’s fees for their son/daughter’s student rental. Some companies have a policy of paying employees rent upfront, and some prefer to pay rent in advance.
Always verify the information they are providing is accurate. Running a credit check shows the tenant’s credit history and highlights any red flags such as unpaid rent, liens, collections, or bankruptcies.
Landlord Hack #2 – Tenant Screening
Do you have a tried-and-true tenant screening process that works? If not, use my 5 Step Tenant Screening Process! As a landlord, it’s important to prove fair behaviour by consistently using the same process for all tenants, every time. Your process is your safety net for finding quality tenants, and it lets the potential tenants know you have high standards.
Tenant Screening Hacks Cleaning and Pets
- For a quick and dirty tip to check a tenant’s level of cleanliness – look inside their car- a clean car means a clean house.
- Animals- People often refer to their animals as family members and may not give you an accurate answer if you ask if they have pets. A better approach is to ask how many animals they have. If they tell you their pets live with their friend, mother, sister etc., there’s a 100% likelihood they will move their pets into your rental property. Let them know about your pet policies/fees and stick with them.
Landlord Hack #3 – Scams
Scams are widespread. Scammers use your pics, ad content, and rental address, with their contact information and a cheaper price. They’ll tell potential tenants that they’re out of the country and that after the tenant pays the rent/security deposit, the tenant needs to change the locks themselves before they move in. Yikes! You can’t get rid of the scammers, but you can watermark your images with your contact information, making it difficult for scammers to use without being caught.
Landlord Hack #4 Never publish the actual address of your ad
Advertised properties are a beacon for professional tenants, thieves, and illegal activity. It’s best not to make the address public; instead, use a postal code in the area, or specify the neighbourhood, but not the actual address.
Landlord Hack # 5 – Make Sure you have a legal lease
Non-profit landlord-tenant organizations have teams of lawyers who create legal leases that stand up in court. Anything not included in the lease, such as smoking, allowable pets, pet leases, parking, specific maintenance, be sure to include in the lease or on an addendum you both sign and date.
Landlord Hack #6 – Don’t assume your tenants will read the lease
You may assume your tenants will read the lease, but that’s not often the case. Have your tenants read each clause in the lease and initial/date each paragraph. Initialling/dating each clause proves the tenants have read the entire lease and agreed to its terms and conditions.
Landlord Hack #7 – Tell them what you want, put it in writing
Do you expect your tenants to change the furnace filter every month? Do you want your tenants to shovel the show? Whose responsibility is yard maintenance? What about cleaning? Tell them, show them how, document your expectations in the lease or an addendum, and have them sign/date it. Give your tenants a copy and keep your documentation for three years. One of the most important landlord hacks is having clear, documented expectations which set the stage for positive landlord-tenant relationships and eliminate ambiguity.
Landlord Hack #8 – Invest in digital bookkeeping
Make a habit of recording your rent payments, bills, expenses, tenant documents, repairs, maintenance requests, action taken – everything. If CRA asks for documented proof of your business transactions or if you ever go to court, you have evidence. Plus, it’s just good business practice to get into the habit of bookkeeping and record keeping. Cloud storage allows access to your records anytime, anywhere in secure storage. An excellent tool to get you started is Tenantcube – your information lives in the cloud and is accessible 24/7, and best of all, it’s free for landlords of under three units.
Landlord Hack #9 – Plan ahead for maintenance
Experienced landlords know that regular maintenance inspection checks contribute to a well-run property. Inspections provide information about which operational and capital expenses you need to do right away (such as changing washers in leaky faucets, or painting) and which can be scheduled at a later date (such as furnaces, hot water tanks, or rooves). Maintenance checks are one of the top landlord hacks. Regular maintenance ensures you’re not caught off guard.
Another maintenance hack many landlords use to save time and money is standardizing paint colours for walls, ceilings, decks, and hardware for all rental properties.
To take advantage of these landlord hacks and get access to even more helpful tips, tools, and educational resources for DIY landlords, sign up for a membership for Landlord Fundamentals 101. To save even more time and money, combine Landlord Fundamentals 101 with one-on-one coaching to qualify for the Canada Alberta Job Grant.
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