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Digital Landlord: Benefits, Considerations & Tools

So much of being a landlord is done on paper, with one-off phone calls and text messages filling the gaps. But, with property management software, digital landlords don’t need to wonder where that application ran off to or which property needs maintenance. 

Now, landlords collect rent, screen tenants, and manage maintenance from their smartphones and laptops. It’s a great way to make the devices you use more productive while making life easier for your tenants. 

In this article, we’ll go over what a digital landlord is, the benefits gained from using software, which management tasks that landlords can automate, and how to transition from a life of back-and-forth communication and document handling to sublime simplicity. 

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What is a digital landlord?

A digital landlord is somebody who owns physical rental properties and uses technology to manage them. Some operate long-distance properties, while others work closer to home. A number of landlords manage a mix of both. 

No matter the distance, digital landlords make use of property management software to make the critical tasks associated with landlording hassle-free and streamlined compared to traditional management means. 

For example, digital landlords collect rent electronically rather than meeting in person to collect a cash, check, or money order. 

Benefits of Digital Property Management

Landlords who choose to manage their rental properties digitally gain a number of benefits over landlords who don’t take advantage of software tools. Below are some of the main benefits. 

Increased Efficiency Through Automation

Property management software automates critical tasks like rent collection, lease agreement generation and signing, tenant screenings, and maintenance requests. 

For landlords with tight schedules, automation helps free up time to focus on other aspects of their business or personal lives. 

Improved Communication and Organization

Digital tools centralize tenant communication into online portals and mobile apps. When paired with document storage and organization, these tools enable landlords to centralize all their communications and documents into a single location. 

Now, rather than using multiple applications and digging through paperwork for specifics to communicate with a tenant, landlords can find all their critical information in a single spot. 

Increased Scalability

You’ll struggle with administrative work unless you hire a property management company or a few assistants to help you with all the paperwork and tedium associated with running a rental property business. 

On the other hand, DIY property management software helps landlords complete repetitive tasks like collecting rent, listing properties, and recording expenses so they can focus on growing their business instead. And when the time comes to add more properties, you simply add them to your dashboard along with the others. 

Reduced Costs

Of course, if you choose an expensive software solution, you might not save any money. Suppose you can find a free solution to help you manage your properties, though. 

Rather than hire staff or spend long hours running your business, free and fair-priced digital tools can help reduce expenses associated with labor, paper forms, postage, and late rent payments. 

Key Considerations for Digital Landlords

Compared with landlords who operate in a single state, many digital landlords often run their businesses across state lines. For them, the biggest consideration to account for is how different states legislate landlord-tenant laws. 

Of course, all landlords must also account for federal Fair Housing laws, which we’ll also examine. And, if you’re going to go digital, it makes sense to know what exactly you can digitize to get a better feel for how your processes will change as you make the transition. 

Landlord-Tenant Laws

The laws in one state will differ from those in another state. You should be on the lookout for how each state legislates the following aspects of running a rental property business: 

A firm understanding of how each state you manage properties in handles these critical topics will enable you to make decisions that contribute to your continued growth and success.

For an interactive breakdown, be sure to visit our state page.

Fair Housing Act (FHA) Laws

As it relates to landlords in general, it’s important to steer clear of FHA violations. 

Because the penalties can be severe (a $16,000 penalty for the first violation), we think it’s important to go over the finer points for digital landlords as they consider making the transition to a digitized approach to rental property management. 

Protected Classes

The FHA prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, and disability. As a landlord, digital or not, you cannot discriminate against these classes when filling your rental property. 

Advertising

Any rental ads you have (digital or otherwise) cannot demonstrate a preference for any protected class over another. Don’t use phrases like “no families” or “Christians only” when drafting your listing. 

Instead, focus on the features of the property itself. 

Tenant Screening

You must apply consistent criteria for all applicants. For example, you can’t drug test some applicants and not others. You must apply the same screening processes to every single person you choose to screen. 

When deciding on who to rent to, base your decision on factors like creditworthiness, rental history, and income verification.

Communication

Treat all potential and current tenants with respect, and avoid making discriminatory comments during communication, even if you’re just joking around.

Reasonable Accommodations

You may be required to make reasonable accommodations for tenants with disabilities. Accommodation examples could include installing grab bars, allowing a service animal or modifying entryways to increase accessibility to the property. 

What Landlords Can Digitize

Now that we’ve mentioned some areas you can look into to avoid missteps let’s get to the fun stuff and talk about all the different tools digital landlords can use to streamline property management. 

Rent Collection

Digital landlords accept rent payments from the payment methods their tenants use daily — namely debit and credit cards — via online rent collection tools. Plus, if tenants would rather pay via ACH, that’s an option as well. 

Meeting your tenants individually or waiting by the mailbox for checks and money orders to arrive is a pain. Instead, rent payments simply appear in your bank account, so you can spend time doing what you want instead of chasing down payments. 

Property Marketing

One of the most time-intensive tasks that landlords and property managers have to complete is listing their properties on the most popular listing sites. Often, that means creating listings for multiple sites and submitting them one by one. 

As a digital landlord, you’ll need an easier way. With automated property marketing, you can create a listing and send it out to all the most popular listing sites with a click. Then, you can manage your leads from the same interface. 

Rental Applications

Most old-school landlords have a tried-and-true rental application they use for each of their listings. They hand it out to each potential renter, and the renter fills it out and then gives it back to the landlord. It’s kind of like how applying for a job used to be. 

Now, landlords can invite interested renters to fill in their personal information online, upload their ID, and answer industry-standard questions without having to engage in back-and-forth communications. 

Tenant Screening

Nowadays, digital landlords don’t have to take those crumpled rental applications and hope they input the renter’s information correctly into a tenant screening service. Instead, they invite renters via email and the tenant fills in the information themselves. 

The result is increased accuracy and a more secure tenant screening process because tenants don’t have to hand off their social security numbers to landlords and hope the paperwork gets shredded afterward. 

Lease Agreements

Much like rental applications, landlords often re-use their lease agreements. But that’s not always the best plan of action — legislation changes can upend even the most iron-clad leases if they’re not regularly updated. 

Digital landlords use services that can help them generate state-specific lease agreements so they remain compliant in the states they do business in while providing the ability for tenants and landlords alike to sign agreements without meeting at the coffee shop. 

Maintenance Management

Of all the manual tasks out there, maintenance management might be the best opportunity for long-distance digital landlords to streamline their property management tasks. 

With automated maintenance services, landlords can field maintenance requests from their tenants and send them to qualified contractors who complete the work with a budget in mind. If you don’t have to fix a leak or drive 300 miles to your rental in the next state, it’s a great way to keep your tenants happy while protecting your property. 

While services like this aren’t available everywhere, if you’re in a covered area, they can be a lifesaver. 

Move-In/Move-Out Inspections

One of the most annoying things for landlords and tenants alike is battling over a security deposit. Digital move-in/move-out reports stamp out disagreements with cold, hard photo evidence. 

For digital landlords, they’re invaluable tools that not only save time and money but provide added peace of mind by providing snapshots of the state of your property during each vacancy cycle. 

How to Become a Digital Landlord

The most critical step to becoming a digital landlord is to sign up for a free TurboTenant account. Without spending a dime, you can collect rent, screen tenants, list your properties, and start the process of modernizing property management. 

No matter where your properties are located, your experience level with property management software, or the number of units you have, TurboTenant makes it easy to manage your rentals via its online portal or mobile app.

Get started today and make manual, time-consuming tasks a thing of the past.

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