If you’re considering becoming a landlord, there’s a few things you may want to keep in mind. There’s a huge difference between property ownership and property management, so before you get yourself into anything, make sure you understand the basics. Here’s a few tips to get you started. 

Screen Your Tenants

You don’t want to hand over your keys to just any ole’ Joe off the street. Knowing upfront you have trustworthy and reliable people moving onto your property will save you a lot of trouble and heartache later down the road. For example, a history of eviction, poor credit, inconsistent employment and even criminal history are important red flags. Learn how to run a background check or credit check on tenants through reputable services that provide all the necessary details. Placing a good tenant is the first step in cultivating a long-term profitable relationship, and taking the time to find the right renter now will pay off later. 

Stay Close

It’s helpful to live close to your rentals properties, as this allows you to check in when you need to. While you don’t necessarily want to be at everyone’s beck and call, solid landlords make themselves available when tenants encounter trouble, such as broken appliances, leaks, or other maintenance issues. Living close-by also makes it easier for you to show newly available spaces to potential renters. If you opt out of hiring a property manager and plan to act as the primary contact, you’ll find shortening the commute between your home and your rental properties was a wise move. 

Set Boundaries

“Firm, but kind” should become your mantra when it comes to collecting rent checks. It’s very important to start with a strong precedence of timely payment. Tenants should not only be made aware of when rent is due, but understand the acceptable forms of payment, as well as where the payment can be submitted. You can set up a rent reminder text message to be sent out each month. It’s also good practice to make sure tenants pay a late fee if they fail to pay on time or if their payments don’t go through properly. While it’s nice to be likeable, it’s also important to set boundaries. You may form close relationships with some of your tenants, but you don’t want to get into a situation where a one-time break turns into a habit or late payment. Nip it in the bud and set up strict payment policies up front. 

Know the Law

Specific landlord-tenant laws, covering a variety of allowances, vary by state. Becoming an excellent landlord means doing your research and reading the fine print. It’s easy for new landlords to breeze over the particulars of their state’s housing law, but missing out on some of these details could get you into some sticky legal situations down the road. The amount of notice you need to give tenants before visiting the property, as well as how much notice tenants need to give before vacating among other policies are all governed by state. In addition, most fair-housing violations involve situations beyond discrimination, so make sure you do all your research or speak with a real estate lawyer to ensure you’re protected. 

Make Smart Investments

While purchasing and managing property has the potential to bring solid returns, it’s a good idea to either consult with an expert and do some research before buying.  If you’re a first-time buyer you’ll want to take a close look at the current market and pinpoint the areas that have the highest returns. You’ll also need to factor in how much you’ll should charge tenants to cover the maintenance, property taxes and the mortgage. Additionally, before buying anything, always have a well-reviewed home and/or building inspector take a look at the property. The last thing you’d want to do to invest in property with existing issues you’re not prepared to deal with, and your future tenants most likely won’t be very happy if you’re unable to keep up with the maintenance.