5 Common Landlord Mistakes

I could call this article “Been there, done that.” If you got ten experienced landlords in a room and asked them to share the dumbest things they’ve ever done, I guarantee you that some of the common mistakes I’ve listed here would come up.

Hopefully, after reading my shortlist of blunders, you’ll be able to avoid the missteps and save yourself time, money, and grief.

Failing To Check The Information On The Rental Application

The day after you list your property for rent, Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful schedule a time to tour the house. They arrive in a late model car, are well dressed, and present themselves impeccably. You develop an immediate rapport. You show them your rental, and they love it. They hand you a completed rental app along with a check for the security deposit.

Then something happens – your kid gets sick, a water heater bursts at another property, your pet goldfish dies – and you forget to run a credit check on the Wonderfuls. Now it’s been days, and Mr. and Mrs. Wonderful are calling asking you if it is okay for them to move in this afternoon.

You figure, no big deal. I’ve got a million other things to do today. Those two nice people will be the best tenants I’ve ever had. You say sure, stop by and get the keys.

Three months later, your rental home is abandoned, you’ve only been paid one month’s rent (the next two rent checks from the Wonderfuls bounced), and you have two grand worth of damage to repair before you rent your property to another tenant.

Whose fault is this? Don’t blame the Wonderfuls. They were just doing what grifters do, moving from place to place pretending to be decent folks.

Always run a credit check and verify the information on the rental application. No exceptions.

Getting Angry If The Rent Isn’t Paid On The First Of The Month

Wait, what? When the rent is due, the rent is due. The first means the first. Some landlords get irate if the rent is not paid in full by midnight on the first of the month. They will leave angry messages for the tenant or even knock on their door and start screaming.

Most of the time (not always), failure to pay the rent on time is a temporary problem. A gentle reminder a day or three after the rent is due will usually result in an “I’m sorry, I forgot to take care of this because (insert an excuse).”

My point? Don’t immediately overreact. A good relationship with your tenant is essential for long-term success. Especially if they have paid the rent on time for months (or years), be empathetic, not accusatory. Assume goodwill.

Being Unresponsive To Your Tenants

Landlords often make this mistake without really realizing it. Let’s say you’ve got some good tenants in your single-family home. They pay on time, don’t cause any trouble, the property looks good, etc.

But they’ve called you three times in the past couple of months asking if you’d consider replacing some damaged carpet in the master bedroom. You meant to call them back, and you even intended to schedule a carpet install, but you just dropped the ball.

A few months later, these same tenants are concerned about a leaky roof. This is a big deal, and you know it, but you’re on vacation, so you can’t get to this problem for two weeks. It’s nearly a month before the roof gets fixed.

When the lease comes up for renewal, your good tenants say no thanks. We’re moving on. Why? They’re polite and say that they need more space, want to change neighborhoods, or something else, but the real reason is they feel like you don’t care about their concerns.

Turnover is bad for business. If a tenant asks for something reasonable, make sure she gets it – on time, every time.

Delaying Important Repairs And Maintenance

Those rain gutters on your rental property, the ones that are almost falling off the eaves in certain places, you’ll get to those next summer. That twenty-year-old HVAC system – it still runs, so what’s the hurry, right? Why rush out to spend seven thousand dollars on a new furnace and AC unit? Those giant trees in the back, sure they need to be cut back, but that’s a significant expense, and those super long branches aren’t hurting a thing, right?

When the gutters literally fall off, and water pours down your walls destroying siding and damaging the foundation, your HVAC unit goes out when it’s five degrees below zero, and you can’t get a contractor out for a week, and one of those huge branches comes crashing down on your tenant’s car during a thunderstorm, then you’ll regret not taking care of these problems before they metastasized.

Keep track of all required major maintenance and repairs. Make sound decisions, and keep everything in good working order to avoid expensive complications and emergencies.

When In Doubt, Check It Out

Your home is rented to a lovely young couple. They’ve been tenants for a year and a half – no problems, so far, so good. A friend of yours in the area tells you that more people live in the home than just the couple. Instead of two cars in the driveway, there are four cars regularly parked at the property.

You call the tenants, they deny that anyone else is living there. You say, “Okay,” and let it go. A month later, you drive by and see the four cars plus four extra people in the backyard, including two dogs.

Whatever it may be – unauthorized renters or pets, running a business from your rental home – or even something more severe like dealing narcotics or excessive noise complaints and police visits reported by your tenant’s neighbors, check it out. Ignoring problems does not make them magically disappear.

If you have a residential property or properties in Westchester County that you are interested in renting, now is the time to put them on the market. At Sterling Property Solutions, we have a team in place that can answer all your questions and address any challenges.

If you are already a landlord and no longer have the time or desire to handle rental property management on your own, we can help. Maybe your current property management company is not giving you the top-tier service you deserve. If so, reach out. We are there for you.

Please give me a ring at 914-355-3277 or send me an email at [email protected].