Great landlords not only attract better tenants, but those tenants are more likely to stick around long-term. In a recent piece, we highlighted some of the most common expenses all landlords can expect to be responsible for. However, being a landlord—a good landlord—takes more than pulling out the checkbook as needed. While financial commitments to making sure a property is a safe, clean, and desirable place for habitation is naturally a top tier priority, there is more that goes into being a reputable landlord.
The Lease is Both the Tenant’s and Landlord’s Bible
When problems arise or a tenant gets testy, it’s easy for a landlord to fall into the trap of my building, my rules. The temptation to act fast should be met with reason, especially when the lease is readily available for both parties to review. Following the guidelines outlined in the lease should point to clear solutions, however if there are issues not outlined within the document, a landlord should always refer to their city’s ordinances for clarification and guidance.
Things like checking with state laws to ensure that renting to a minor is legal (it often is as long as a parent or guardian co-signs),knowing what a co-signer’s legal responsibilities are (often, full rent coverage in the event that the tenant has trouble making payments), and checking the names and signatures on the lease to make sure everything matches, are all critical when getting ready to bring in a new tenant.
The lease also helps create consistency in how a landlord operates the property and treats tenants. With little wiggle room for exceptions and decisions made based on emotions, the property is bound to run more smoothly when tenants are treated both equally and fairly.
Know the Laws
In the same vein as knowing—and referring to—the lease, being a reputable landlord is more than just owning property. Knowing federal landlord-tenant laws, state laws about rentals, and landlord’s legal responsibilities are all essential for not only upkeep of the property, but also for the safety and legal responsibility of the tenants. Some examples of laws all landlords should be familiar with are:
· The Fair Housing Act– Passed in 1968, this set of laws makes it illegal to refuse to rent to, sell to, or negotiate with any person based on their inclusion in a protected class.Classes recognized under the act include race, color, religion, sex, familial status, handicap or disability, and national origin.
· The Fair Credit Reporting Act – The result of a potential renter’s background check is known as the consumer report and includes things like a person’s credit history, rental history, or criminal history. However, a landlord can only obtain a consumer report if there is permissible purpose, and if in as a result of that report they react adversely to the rental applicant, they must give the applicant notice of that fact.
· Implied Warranty of Habitability – This guarantees that a rental property meets the basic living and safety standards before occupation. Things like pest control, regular maintenance, and general upkeep of the property all fall to the landlord to ensure safe, desirable, and legal living conditions for tenants.
· Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act – Passed in 1992, this act requires the disclosure of any information to potential buyers or renters on lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards before the sale or lease of most housing built before 1978.
A Good Landlord is an Accessible Landlord
Between the two extremes of disappearing whenever a tenant needs to reach their landlord, and constantly interfering (there is protection for that, too, known as the Quiet Enjoyment Law),is the sweet spot of a landlord being readily available at critical moments.Providing multiple means of communication is common practice, and while a tenant should never abuse the privilege of having multiple phone numbers or an email address, a landlord should be ready to answer a call and address any problems that may arise.
This goes hand in hand with good communication, which in turn develops trust between the two parties. Accessibility, open communication, and trust ensures that a tenant feels heard and cared for, and a landlord is less likely to fill vacant units from high tenant turnover.
Technology has been rapidly evolving and creating opportunities to better streamline processes and provide convenience. Offering online services for things like lease signing or rent collection is a great way to not only make the property that much more appealing and modernized, but also attract younger, tech savvy tenants. This also ensures that tenants pay rent more seamlessly and landlords get paid more quickly.
Going digital should also extend to things like signed paperwork and other important documentation that’s pertinent to the property.Keeping electronic files ensures that even if a paper copy goes missing or gets damaged in an unforeseen disaster, the digital counterpart is readily available with only one click.
Rental property owners want to run a profitable business and protect their investment. Knowing the legal rights, obligations, and common practices ensures a smooth experience for both tenants and landlords and helps minimize tenant turnover.
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