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Being a landlord comes with challenges, frustrations, and a steep learning curve. However, mastering the art and science of landlording can help you earn more money from your rentals with less stress. If you are new to landlording or you simply want to improve your efficiency and effectiveness, check out this complete guide to landlording with 20 must-know landlord tips, followed by 75 bonus tips for those who desire a true deep dive into the rental world.
Top 20 Tips Every Landlord Needs
#1: Run your rentals like a business.
This is a business, not a hobby or a side job. Even landlords with only one rental should view this investment as a business. Take it seriously, have a process in place for accounting (such as REI Hub’s software), and don’t get too emotionally attached. Damage will occur, but it’s all part of the cost of doing business. Be tough on screening and stick to your guns on rules, you’re not doing this for charity, but to make money, remember that.
#2: Market the property online.
Haven’t taken your property marketing online? Now is the time. With the majority of renters falling in the millennial generation, the more online visibility you have the better. Opt for a free property listing syndication to increase interest without extra work on your part.
#3: Set the right rent price.
Do you always wind up with vacant units that are difficult to move? Consider running a rent comparison report to determine if your rent price is in the right range. Remember, pricing will also be affected by the condition of your property and the amenities offered.
#4: Always screen tenants.
If there’s one landlord tip to remember, it’s this one! Always screen your tenants to check their credit history, criminal background, and eviction history. These important screening factors will help you choose a qualified tenant and will protect you from facing costly evictions.
#5: Create a state or city specific lease.
Regulations for housing vary greatly from state to state and in some cases even between cities. Have an attorney help you create a state or city specific lease to ensure you cover all important bases.
#6: Always fill out a condition report.
When a new tenant moves-in, schedule a walkthrough and fill out a condition report. When a tenant moves-out, fill out the move-out condition report. This will help you stay on top of damages and will give you the paperwork you need to backup any security deposit deductions.
#7: Always get things in writing (aka document everything).
From your standard lease to amendments to any contract you are forming, always get things in writing. The more documentation you have as a landlord, the better. This goes for move-in and move-out reports as well. Verbal agreements are never as safe as written agreements.
#8: Don’t collect rent in person.
While collecting rent in person may seem like a thoughtful touch, it may become more of a time drain than anything. Conflicting schedules, last-minute emergencies, and rain checks could mean you don’t receive your rent payment on time. Skip the headache, and opt for one of the many other viable choices for rent payments, such as collecting it online, that costs you less time and hassle.
#9: Consider requiring renters insurance.
Renters insurance doesn’t just protect your tenants, it also protects you. Consider making this a requirement for renters.
#10: Know Fair Housing Laws.
One of the most important landlord tips – be sure you know the Fair Housing Laws inside and out. These laws must be followed in order to protect yourself from a lawsuit based on discrimination.
#11: Know your landlord/tenant laws.
Beyond just Fair Housing Laws, make sure you brush up on all your local laws and regulations regarding landlords and tenants. For example, in the city of Fort Collins, Colorado, it is required for landlords to provide screens for all windows on the house. Not doing so would put the landlord in violation of the city’s regulations.
#12: Communicate with tenants.
It’s a simple thing but it is also the number one complaint of tenants. Communication is key. From the moment you sign a lease to handling maintenance requests to communicating late fees, don’t ghost your tenants.
#13: Build a professional and consistent relationship.
From the moment you meet your new tenants, be sure you are building a professional and consistent relationship. The goal is to have a respectful relationship and this respect should go both ways. Be courteous and kind but firm and fair.
#14: Be firm on late fees and other lease agreement rules.
If you have a late fee for paying rent after a certain date, be sure to stick to that fee. If you charge a fee for snow removal if it isn’t handled by the tenant in a timely manner, be sure to charge the fee. It is important to remain consistent or tenants may begin to pay later and later. Additionally, it’s important to uphold the agreed-upon rules found within the lease agreement – otherwise the agreement could simply lose its significance.
#15: Routinely inspect your property.
It is recommended to inspect your rental properties at least once a year. However, every six months is ideal and will allow you to catch not only damages to your property but also will clue you into any lease violations.
#16: Hire a professional to work on the property.
Never let your tenants handle repairs or upgrades to the property. Always use a professional for work. Investing in professional work will help keep your rental property in the best shape possible.
#17: Have a handyman, electrician, and plumber on speed dial.
Find contractors you trust and build a good relationship with them. Have them on speed dial and be sure you have contacts for emergency situations. Want to make it even easier? Allow your renters to schedule maintenance repairs around their own schedules, keeping you from having to meet contractors every time something pops up. This is especially helpful for remote landlords who live a state or 5 over.
#18: Keep up with maintenance and respond to maintenance in a timely manner.
If your tenants bring up a legitimate maintenance concern, respond as quickly as possible. One of the number one complaints of responsible tenants is a slow response from landlords to maintenance requests. Put yourself in your tenant’s shoes. Would you want to wait on the maintenance request? Additionally, by keeping up with maintenance, you’re protecting yourself from liability.
#19: Build a good network of support.
Don’t make the mistake of trying to landlord alone. Build a network of people who will support you and provide valuable advice. Whether you join an online community of landlords or a local meetup group, find like-minded people to help keep you on track.
#20: Keep happy tenants.
If you have responsible tenants who love your property, you will have a much less stressful life. Keep happy tenants as much as possible. Do extra things, such as upgrading an old appliance or replacing a sagging door, to help keep good tenants around.
For even more landlord tips, keep reading! Our 75 bonus tips are organized into sections so you can easily discover the advice that’s most important to you.
#21: Make it easy to swap out locks.
Similar to the above tip, if you own multiple properties, look into installing locks that are simple to swap out. When you turnover tenants, you will be able to rapidly change out the locks without hassle. Tired of swapping locks? Switch to a keyless entry system that lets you easily swap codes at the drop of a dime.
#22: Standardize your paint.
If you own multiple properties, choose one paint color for the interior walls and use it across the board. By standardizing your paint, you will save yourself time and money when you turnover units.
#23: Blow out sprinklers before winter.
If you live in a cold climate, don’t forget to winterize your sprinkler system. Hire a professional to blow out the sprinklers and arrange for outdoor faucets to be covered.
#24: Add tech features to the property.
If you are looking for upgrades that will help make your property more appealing to renters, consider some simple tech upgrades. Installing smart thermometers and USB outlets will help your property stand out from others.
#25: Maintain common areas.
If you own an apartment complex or other multi-unit complexes with common areas, be sure you maintain them. By keeping these areas clean, well lit, and inviting, you will improve the attractiveness of your property overall. Unkempt common areas will create a negative first impression for potential tenants.
#26: Remove snow and ice.
During cold weather, make sure you have a plan for snow and ice removal for multi-unit properties. Someone slipping and falling could be cause for a lawsuit.
#27: Include landscaping costs into your monthly rent for properties with yards.
Don’t leave landscaping up to the tenants. Hire a professional and charge the tenants for it. They’ll be happy to have a beautiful yard, which they don’t need to maintain and you’ll save your yard from neglect.
#28: Replace light bulbs in hallways.
Nothing will come across creepier to potential tenants than a dimly lit hallway. Install new lighting fixtures as needed and keep up with light bulb replacement.
#29: Keep an extra copy of the keys.
You never know when you might need to get into one of your rental properties. Having an extra set of keys can be critical when a tenant abandons your property or in the case of an emergency.
#30: Tell tenants to keep the heat at a minimum during winter months.
If you live in a colder climate, be sure your lease includes language about keeping the heat at a minimum amount during winter months. This can quickly become an issue if tenants leave on a vacation and turn their heat off, leading to frozen pipes and costly repairs.
#31: Make repairs before property showings.
Nothing hurts your chances of getting quality tenants more than showing a property that has obvious issues. Every tenant has heard, “We’ll get that fixed before you move in” and they’ll be skeptical from day one. Push your showings back a few days and make the needed repairs so when you do show your property, it shows as best as possible. You only get one first impression!
#32: Take good photos.
Yet another important landlord tip – make sure you take high-quality photos that showcase the best of your property. A picture is worth a thousand words, and in the case of rental property listings, it is worth even more. A listing without photos or good photos is much more likely to be passed over.
#33: Worry about curb appeal.
First impressions are important for attracting qualified tenants. Make sure you consider the curb appeal of your property before you schedule showings. Is it overgrown? Does it need a paint touch up?
#34: Show like a pro.
The way you handle property showings will dictate a lot in regards to how many tenants are interested in applying to the property. Be sure you brush up on how to handle property showings and put a professional foot forward.
#35: Open doors for your showing.
It’s a small detail, but opening up doors will help your showing go smoother. Most people won’t open doors that are closed and you could be missing out on showing off some of the best features of the property. Open closets, cabinets, bathrooms, and extra bedroom doors before guests arrive.
#36: Know the condition of the property before you do a showing.
If you are showing an occupied unit, be sure you know what you are getting into prior to the day of the showing. Schedule a time for you to walk through the property prior to the showing with current tenants. This will prevent you from showing a property that is uninhabitable or filthy.
#37: Keep common parking lots well lit.
To help keep your property safer and more inviting, be sure you keep all common parking lots well lit. This can help cut down on crime and unwanted behavior.
#38: Take photos when the property is vacant.
When your property is vacant, be sure to snap photos. This will help when you have to show an occupied unit as potential tenants will have an idea of what it will look like when they move-in. This can help them imagine their own belongings in the place instead of the current tenants.
#39: Consider hiring a professional photographer.
If you have a multi-unit building, consider hiring a professional to take photos of each unit type. You can then re-use these professional photos every time there is a vacancy.
#40: Utilize open house showings for busy markets.
Cut down on how much time you are showing your property by scheduling appointments into open house showings. This is particularly useful in high demand markets. You will only need to prep your home once, instead of 20 times.
#41: Provide clear instructions for the next step.
If you have interested parties after showing the property, make sure you provide clear instructions for the next steps that need to be taken. If you have an online rental application, direct applicants to the correct place. If you will be screening them, let them know about any screening fees.
#42: Stick to 12-month leases in college towns.
Don’t offer nine-month leases in college towns as this will leave your home vacant and unpaid for over summer breaks. If nine-month leases are normal in your town, consider offering lowered rent to those who sign 12-month leases and higher rent prices for those who sign a nine-month lease.
#43: Read applications thoroughly.
Don’t skip this landlord tip – when you receive an application, make sure you take the time to read through it thoroughly. You might be surprised at how much people will reveal on an application. Skimming it could cost you valuable information.
#44: Don’t undervalue eviction reports.
While credit checks can help you gauge the responsibility of a tenant, eviction reports are more valuable. If you see a pattern of evictions with an applicant, you can quickly see what issues you may be dealing with down the road.
#45: Call references.
Not only should you ask for references, you should take the time to actually call these references. Previous landlords and employers are great references to ask for and follow up with. Be cautious of relying on personal references.
#46: Verify employment.
Proof of income is an important part of the screening process. Verifying employment will help protect you from fraudulent pay stubs.
#47: Verify ID.
If you are working with someone who is relocating to the area, you might not be able to meet them in person. It is important to verify their identity during the screening process in order to guard against identity theft. Opting for a reputable company like TurboTenant to handle your screening will help protect you from fake identities.
#48: State your criteria publicly.
Your screening criteria should be set before you ever begin screening tenants. Make it public to help avoid accusations of discrimination. For example, in your property listing state your credit and income policies as well as any extra policies such as “no smoking”.
Tenant Relationship Tips
#49: Provide a tenant welcome package.
When new tenants move-in, consider putting together a small tenant welcome package. This goes a long way in establishing a positive first impression. You can also use a tenant welcome package as a way to remind tenants of important phone numbers, policies, and to set the right tone. For example, you might include some helpful cleaning supplies, a gift card to a local pizza place, a list of emergency contacts, and their list of responsibilities, such as yard work and snow removal.
#50: Be fair with tenants.
If you have responsible tenants, treat them fairly. For example, if you have a tenant who has paid rent on time for three years and one month they are three days late because of a family emergency, be fair and take into consideration how they have handled things in the past.
#51: Learn how to discern.
Being a landlord requires a good deal of discernment. You will need to learn how to discern between truth and lies, between trustworthy and unreliable. This takes practice and the longer you are a landlord, the better your discernment will become.
#52: Give your tenants emergency contact info.
Nothing is worse than a tenant not knowing who to contact in the case of an emergency. For example, if pipes are leaking in the middle of the night, who should they call?
#53: Keep in mind your online presence.
Be aware that there are places where tenants can review you and your properties. Make sure to monitor your online profile. In the future, there’s no doubt that landlords will have a rating system. This means you want anything out there to be positive starting today. Also be careful when posting on public forums with your real name. Tech-savvy tenants can easily find things you have said about them online.
#54: Don’t show up unannounced.
Even though you may want to do a drive-by or drop-in inspections, you need to respect your tenant’s space and give them notice if you are going to be stopping by. Brush up on your state-specific, landlord-tenant laws here!
#55: Live up to your promises.
If you say you are going to do something, then do it. It’s amazing how many landlords promise to do property updates, fix issues, or offer to include utilities, only to disappoint their tenants when updates are never done, fixes continue to be neglected, and power is shut off because bills were unpaid. Treat your tenants well and they tend to return the favor.
#56: Keep expectations reasonable.
Tenants are only human. Although it is reasonable to expect your property to be standing in 12 months when your renter’s lease is up, be cautious to expect your tenants to be perfect, or the property to look better than it did when the lease started. Having unrealistic expectations will only frustrate you as the landlord and place undue stress on tenants that otherwise may be great renters.
#57: Know when to be compassionate.
Although we’ve talked a lot about running your rentals like a business, the best businesses are ones that are compassionate about their customer’s needs. Even Amazon is willing to be lenient with or refund customers when circumstances demand it. Listen to your renters and understand that things happen sometimes that require understanding from you, the landlord.
#58: Ask for one month’s rent and security deposit up front.
Before you hand over the keys to your home, be sure you have collected the first month’s rent and the security deposit. Check local laws to determine what amount you are allowed to charge in regards to a security deposit. Traditionally the security deposit is equal to a full month’s rent.
#59: Require certified funds prior to move in.
When collecting the first month’s rent, make sure you get certified funds such as a cashier’s check or money order. Move-in time is often when fraudsters will make themselves known.
#60: Have late fees.
Pocket this landlord tip – make sure you establish a set amount of money you will be charging in late fees and include it in your lease. Detail exactly how many days equals “late” and what the fees will be for each day late. Check with local laws and regulations before creating your late fees.
#61: Raise rent prices regularly.
If you hold off on raising the rent because good tenants stay year after year, you will have a battle on your hands when you inevitably need to raise the rent. Encourage your tenants to understand yearly rent increases are to be expected to keep up with the rise in costs to own a rental.
#62: Check all your rent receivables.
When you manage more than one property, it can be easy to lose track of things. Be sure you are vigilant about your rent receivables. Don’t miss out on rent payments due to being disorganized.
#63: Know your tax advantages.
Make sure you know the best way to handle taxes and your rental property. Be sure you are getting every tax advantage you can while following all the tax regulations for your city and state.
#64: Itemize damages.
If there are damages caused by a tenant, be sure to itemize them, and give notice to the tenant before you require money or withhold anything from their deposit. You need to account for each issue, as well as provide the cost you’ve incurred to fix it. Receipts are not necessary, but be fair in what you are charging for typical repairs. If you end up in court over damages, no judge is going to let a $500 charge for a broken lightbulb fly, even if it is in the lease.
#65: Make copies of rent checks.
For your records, be sure to make photocopies of your renter’s payment checks. Should you need to evict or send a tenant to collections, courts may ask for proof of payment. In the event that you are awarded additional money, these copies could enable payment to be withdrawn and deposited into your account.
#66: Hire a good CPA.
One way to ensure you file your taxes accurately while taking advantage of any breaks you can is to hire a quality CPA. A professional can help you keep your business on track and will help you better understand your finances.
#67: Add a coin-op laundry machine for multi-unit properties.
If you have an apartment complex or a multi-unit property, consider installing a coin-operated laundry service to make some extra cash. Your tenants will love the convenience of on-site laundry.
#68: Consider adding solar panels to your property.
Green energy is the way of the future. Consider investing in solar panels for high-end properties. This will improve their market value and allow you to charge more in rent while passing on energy savings to your tenants.
#69: Don’t invest in renovations that won’t produce higher rents.
This is a business, focus on investing time and money in efforts that help grow your business. If needed, take your personal style out of these decisions and try to focus on what renters see as valuable.
#70: Offer covered parking spaces.
Another great addition to a multi-unit property is covered parking. Create a few covered parking spots on the property and charge rent for those who wish to lock down a covered parking spot.
#71: Build up a reserve.
There will come a time when there are problems with your rental, be sure that you’ve put money aside so when these issues arise you are not forced to change your lifestyle to fix them.
#72: Rent extra storage space.
If you have small units, consider adding storage sheds to your property. Rent out extra storage space for those that need it. This will be more convenient for your tenants than renting at a storage facility and can earn you extra money.
Law Resource Tips
#73: Have an attorney assist with evictions.
Evictions rarely go smoothly and they require a lot of paperwork, knowledge, and of course, money. Successful evictions can happen and hiring an attorney is the best way to make an eviction go well. If you want to avoid an eviction, a cash for keys agreement is an excellent alternative.
#74: Place your properties into an LLC to mitigate risk.
Common practice is to have each property in its own LLC so they are all isolated from one another. If a lawsuit arises, only that one property is at risk, not your personal income, property or the rest of your portfolio.
#75: Know the laws regarding service and support animals.
You can quickly land yourself into a legal mess if you are not 100 percent familiar with the Fair Housing Laws surrounding service and support animals. Be sure you protect yourself from a lawsuit by understanding your responsibilities as a landlord.
#76: Know the protected classes in your area.
While there are federally protected classes that exist no matter where you own rental properties, some cities and states have their own set of protected classes. Be sure you know them before you begin screening tenants.
General Landlord Tips
#77: Be wary of 3rd party relocation companies.
These companies do not always have your best interest in mind and might be lenient in their screening process in order to place a client in a home.
#78: Join a local landlord association.
These associations will help you as they will provide you with law updates, landlord tips, and resources.
#79: Consider extended leases.
Turnover is timely and expensive. Try to retain renters through longer leases. While the negative side of this is that it makes getting rid of a bad tenant harder, long-term leases are ideal if you have excellent tenant screening and a property in a great neighborhood.
#80: Buy property with existing tenants.
Normally you can get a deal on a property with existing tenants since other buyers may not be competing for these properties. This also ensures you’re getting rent from day one. Vet these tenants well and demand an estoppel letter. If you do it right, it can be a great way to increase your portfolio easily without the stress of finding new tenants right away.
#81: Empower tenants to call emergency services.
Allow tenants to call plumbers and emergency contractors immediately when there’s a problem, should they not be able to get a hold of you. Save a lot of headaches by accepting the fact that you may not be the best person to call in all situations.
#82: Use a PO Box.
It’s easy to collect mail at a PO Box, and difficult to keep your tenants from bothering you at home. Have all rent payments sent to a PO Box and keep your personal address private. You never know the lengths a tenant may go to to get your attention.
#83: Don’t hesitate to hire for your weaknesses.
If you continue to grow your portfolio, at some point you may need to assess your weaknesses and hire accordingly. For example, if you know you are extremely disorganized with paperwork, it might be worth hiring someone part-time to help you organize.
#84: No Parties.
Put it in your lease that you don’t allow parties, loud music, or kegs of beer (seriously put this in your lease) so you are covered should there be noise violations, issues with neighbors or damage to your property. Even though tenants may still have parties, at least it’s in writing that they agreed not to. Any issues are their responsibility should they arise.
#85: Be organized.
One of the most common mistakes of landlords is to take landlording lightly and not keep great records of everything. Being organized will allow you to manage efficiently, keeping your time commitment low and your profits high!
#86: Set office hours.
Set up times that your tenants can communicate with you and expect a prompt if not immediate reply. This will teach your tenants to call you during those hours rather than anytime they want. Obviously, this doesn’t pertain to emergencies, but regular every-day questions and needs.
#87: Don’t let family or friends walk over you.
Don’t feel pressured to discount your property just because you know a potential renter. Now that you are a landlord, people will ask to rent your place at a fee they see as realistic. Friends and family discounts will eat into your profits. Not only that, these renters tend to be higher maintenance.
#88: Play the part of the property manager.
Even if you own the property and don’t hire a property manager, acting as the property manager allows you to be stern and direct with tenants. It’s not about deceiving your tenants, it’s about being in the mind frame that this is your business and having the ability to take emotion out of decision-making. If you struggle with confrontation and being firm, telling your tenants you are the property manager can save you from sob stories.
#89: Utilize technology to streamline and become more organized.
Technology can help keep you organized and save you from drowning in piles of paperwork. Take applications online, screen tenants through an online service, and create a dedicated email address just for your rentals. Find all the tech tools possible to make your life easier.
#90: Practice patience.
Having a rental sit vacant for a few weeks while you find the right tenants will always prove to be a better decision than rushing the screening process to accept mediocre tenants solely because you feel pressure to get your property rented quickly. Do your due diligence and rent to the best prospective tenants, not the first ones.
#91: Prepare for vacation time.
Be sure to have emergency plans in place when you are away or on vacation. Accidents still happen when you are unreachable, so have a list of contractors and service providers available. Ask a fellow landlord to cover any calls from your renters, or hire a temporary answering service.
#92: Choose a backup contact.
Always have a backup contact point for your renters should you be away from your phone for longer than their needs can wait. Two backup contact points are even better. Communication is key to landlording, so find another landlord or two you can trust and become one another’s backups.
#93: Don’t be flashy about your lifestyle, but dress nicely.
If you are a well-off landlord, don’t rub it in your tenant’s face. Asking for a $25 dollar late fee may garner resentment when your tenants see you in your brand new Benz or flashing your gold watch. But, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t dress nicely. Every time you have a planned meeting with a tenant, dress accordingly for the given situation. Remember you are running a business.
#94: Walk prospective applicants to their car.
After you have shown the property to interested applicants, walk them to their car. By getting a glance at how clean they keep their car, you can get an idea for how well they treat their home.
#95: Never stop learning.
If you have read these 100+ tips for landlords, then you are someone who is willing to continue to learn. No matter how long you have been a landlord, never stop learning. Continue to educate yourself and stay up-to-date on the latest and best ways to market your property, screen tenants, and handle the management of your portfolio. The more open you are to learning, the better a landlord you will become as the years pass.
Landlord Tip FAQs
Is becoming a landlord worth it?
At TurboTenant, we believe that a rental property is an investment that is well worth your time and money, as long as you do your due diligence to vet your potential tenants. By selecting responsible tenants, you’re ensuring that they pay their rent on time, take care of the property, and don’t require you to go through a landlord’s biggest nightmare – an eviction.
How do I become a good landlord?
Unfortunately, not many of us can become great landlords overnight (in our dreams, right?) – that’s why we encourage all landlords, both novice and experienced, to always be open to learning. Continued education will keep you up-to-date on the latest and best practices to market your property, screen tenants, and handle the management of your rental portfolio. Ready to learn more? Check out our additional blogs with topics on everything under the (rental) sun.
How do landlords decide who to rent to?
As a landlord, you have the right to choose the most qualified tenant as long as your decision is based on legitimate reasons, such as adequate income, credit score, or eviction reports. Additionally, the decision should be compliant with fair housing laws.
This post was updated June 2021.