There are 9 landlord tips I wish I knew before becoming a landlord.
- Treat it as a business
- Find a good handyperson or handyperson service
- Take your time finding the right contractor & don’t pay contractors in advance – ever!
- Make sure you/your tenants have accessible emergency services in disaster situations
- Learn the Residential Tenancies Act, and keep learning it
- Wait until you find the right tenant
- Stick to the lease and amendments
- Specify your expectations & document everything
- When dealing with volatile tenant issues, keep a neutral, professional tone
Landord Tips #1 Treat it as a business
· Know the laws
All businesses have laws they must follow and so do landlords and tenants. Renting out your property to a paying tenant is a business that is governed by the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) and falls under the municipal and federal laws such as the Minimum Housing and Health Standards, PIPA, PIPEDA, and The Human Rights Act, to name a few. As a landlord, you need to learn laws and acts that affect your residential rental property business.
· Do your due diligence
All businesses follow a sequence for attracting, screening, and onboarding new employees. Interviewing, checking references, and screening are part of the process they follow to find the right employee for their organization. That same holds for landlording. Landlords should also have processes and procedures for attracting, screening, checking references, and credit to verify the potential tenant is a good fit for your property.
· Look and act professional
While employers are interviewing employees, the employees are interviewing employers. The same could be said for landlords and tenants. If you want to attract polite, respectful, quality tenants, you need to act polite and respectful throughout the application process and have a quality property that’s clean and well maintained.
· Document everything
You probably wouldn’t accept a job without an employment letter outlining the roles, responsibilities, salary, vacation time, etc. As a landlord, you need to specify your expectations, and document the lease, amendments, payment method and date, move-in/move-out reports, pets, other occupants, complaints, maintenance, etc.
· Pay first, move in second
Don’t ever release the keys to your rental property without receiving the first month’s rent and security deposit. In any retail situation, you must pay before your receive the product. There’s sound logic behind that process. Why would you pay if you’ve already received the product? Even scarier – signed lease, no payment? You’ve got yourself a tenant.
Landord Tips #2 Find a good handyperson/service
A good handyperson can fix most household maintenance issues. A good handyperson is worth their weight in gold because they keep your costs down, your tenants happy, and can refer/sub-contract quality specialty services. Even better, know your maintenance costs for your rental property so you can plan for them.
Landord Tips #3 Take your time finding the right contractor & don’t pay contractors in advance – ever!
If you pay contractors before they complete the work, what’s their motivation to finish or even do good work? Unfortunately, that’s a lesson many new landlords learn the hard way. A reputable contractor may ask for a deposit and will have credit. They won’t expect you to pay in full until they have completed the project to your satisfaction.
Another beginner’s mistake is using to get the project done and not checking the contractor’s references. It’s easy to get burned for shoddy work. It will cost you less if you wait until you find a quality tradesperson you can trust. Landlord groups and Homestars are good sources for finding quality tradespeople.
Landord Tips #4 Make sure you/your tenants have accessible emergency services in disaster situations
Alberta and BC have been hammered with fires and floods in the past seven years. Natural disasters have doubled since 2006; it’s the state of the world. Preparing by finding a restoration service business and providing the contact information to your tenants is good practice.
Landord Tips #5 Learn the Residential Tenancies Act (RTA), and keep learning it
The Residential Tenancies Act (RTA) is the law that governs residential landlord and tenant relations. Each province has its own RTA. The RTA outlines laws for types of tenancies, breaking the lease, evictions, and just about every other landlord-tenant issue. As legislation changes, so does the RTA. Professional tenants know the RTA inside out. Make a point of learning the RTA and refreshing your knowledge regularly. If you don’t, you could easily become a victim of it.
Landord Tips #6 Wait until you find the right tenant
It’s easy to feel panicky when your property doesn’t rent right away, and it’s tempting to just take the first person who shows interest. Always follow your tenant screening process for every tenant, every time. If they don’t meet your criteria, let them move on. You’ll be much better off with a couple of months of vacancies rather than months of a bad tenant who doesn’t pay their rent or trashes your property. Processes are the building blocks of your successful rental business.
Landord Tips #7 Stick to the lease and amendments
If your lease specifies no pets and your tenants move in two dogs, or you find them breaking any of the rules in the lease agreement, put your foot down. It’s your business, your property, and you and the tenants signed a legal agreement. If you do not allow pets, the pets, or the tenants or both must leave. If you agree to an amendment, put it into an agreement you both sign/date. Just remember, if you bend the rules, the rules have no meaning. It’s your business; you need to be in charge.
Landord Tips #8 Specify your expectations & document everything
How do employees know their job requirements? The employer writes them into an offer of employment or verbally discusses them with the employee. Employers don’t expect employees to read their minds, you can’t expect tenants to read your mind either. Documenting your expectations for cleaning, pet requirements, maintenance, etc. is good business practice because there is no room for misinterpretation or “you didn’t tell me.” Make it easy on you and your tenants by documenting clear expectations.
Landlord Tips #9 When dealing with volatile tenant issues, keep a neutral, professional tone
Relationships are not always smooth sailing, especially when dealing with difficult tenants. When relationships become contentious and accusations fly, keep your tone neutral, professional, and always reference your responses with the appropriate landlord-tenant laws and your lease documentation. Keep emotions or any emotional statements out.
A good rule of thumb is to stay focused on the big picture. Is winning the battle going to cause you to lose the war? If you want to preserve the relationship and the tenancy, how can you approach the issue so that there is goodwill between you and your tenants? If you want to end the relationship with difficult tenants, how can you communicate professionally with the least drama?
Renting properties involves many responsibilities. From learning the RTA and the acts that affect your rental property business to creating and following processes for screening contractors and tenants and dealing with tenant issues, new landlords have their work cut out for them. Coming full circle – remember to start by treating your rental property as a business and keep the 9 landlord points in mind for a simpler, smoother landlording experience.
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