As a landlord, you want to make sure that you and your property are always safe and secure. There are certain risks associated with owning a rental property, as is true with any investment. It is essential that you learn how to mitigate risk and be prepared if any issues arise.
Screening potential tenants is crucial for your rental business. It may be tempting to skip this process and pick the first person who’s interested, but that may cause you problems in the long run. Conducting a background check and contacting past landlords is a great way of finding out what kind of person your prospect is. Someone with good credit, a clean record, and a happy ex-landlord will probably be a good tenant. Additionally, you should always keep the Fair Housing Act in mind and never discriminate against potential or existing tenants.
One of the most significant ways you can protect yourself as a landlord is by getting landlord insurance. It’s not mandatory for you to get landlord insurance, but it will definitely be helpful in the long run. Typically, landlord insurance covers property damage, loss of income, and liability claims. Tenants are unpredictable and sometimes, you may run into professional tenants who make your life a nightmare.
A lot of landlords tend to rely solely on homeowners insurance, which doesn’t give them the specific coverage they need. Homeowners insurance does not account for the losses associated with collecting rent. Keep in mind that owning a home is a lot different than owning one and renting it out. Tenants may injure themselves, destroy your property, stop paying rent, or sue you. With landlord insurance, you can be sure to be protected against these potential events. You should also require your tenants to obtain renters insurance so both parties are covered and protected.
Most states allow for landlords to charge a security deposit at the beginning of the lease. A security deposit is paid by the tenant and returned to them when the lease has ended. If the tenant has caused any damages or incurred other fees, the amount will be deducted from the security deposit. Whatever is left over will be returned to the tenant. Tenants are hoping to get their security deposits back, so it’s a great incentive for them to take care of the property and adhere to the lease agreement. Also, this way, landlords are positive that they have money to pay for any damages caused by the tenant.
The Lease Agreement
Having a rock-solid lease will definitely save you the trouble of disputes with tenants and legal issues in the future. The most common rental agreement doesn’t involve an actual lease and is completely verbal. Although this is usually what happens, especially if a landlord is renting to a friend or family member, it’s essential that you write a lease agreement that is tailored to your property.
You can write your own lease, but for maximum security, you should contact an attorney to write one for you. This way, you can ensure that your lease is legally compliant and protects your rights. The more specific your lease is, the more protected you are.
In addition to a thorough, detailed written lease agreement, you should extensively document the condition of your property. Before your tenant moves in, you should take photos or videos of the entirety of the unit. Be sure to showcase the condition of walls, ceilings, doors, floors, windows, appliances, lighting fixtures — pretty much everything. Save the files in a format that allows for them to be time-stamped, and store them somewhere you can easily find them. If you have them on your computer, it’s a good idea to copy the files over to a flash drive as a backup.
When the tenant moves out, you should also take pictures and videos of the conditions they left it in, especially if there are any damages you need to charge them with. Documentation is extremely important because it provides evidence in the case of a legal dispute.
Scheduling regular walk-through inspections of the property will help you keep your tenants in check. As a landlord, you have the right to do a walk-through of your rental unit as long as you give the tenant a 24-hour notice. (Check your state laws to see requirements for notices.) You should have about 2 walk-through inspections each month/rental term to ensure that tenants are maintaining the unit. Regular inspections will give tenants the incentive to clean up and keep the property in a good condition.