5 Skills a Landlord Must Possess
In case you didn't already know, being a landlord is NOT a 9-to-5 job. You never know what issues are going to arise, but when they do, they always seem to happen at the most inconvenient times. If you are currently a landlord or thinking of becoming one, there are some key skills you must possess and perfect.
- Time management: As I said, you never know what issues will come up, but when they do, you have to set aside time to figure out a plan of attack and fix the issue quickly. Far too often I see landlords who do not have quality time management skills and their lack of skill affects the entire building. First the lawn doesn't get mowed and the grass becomes overgrown. Next, the paint begins to peel. Then garbage begins to pile up around the building. Before you know it, you've lost your "curb appeal." Because there is no "curb appeal" you have a hard time finding quality renters and become desperate. Finally, you find someone who seems to have their act together and you think, "I'll just rent to these guys. I don't have time to perform a credit and background check or call their references." Because you "didn't have the time" to properly vet your new tenants, they now are not paying their rent and you have to file for eviction, which costs you a couple thousand dollars in lost rent and court/attorney fees. You are now left with a unit that has been abused in every way possible and you need to repair/repaint walls, deeply clean everything, etc., etc., etc. Everyone knows someone like this - someone that just has so much going on that they can't seem to find the time to do the necessary things needed to maintain their rental property.
- Organization: A huge part of time management is organization. If you are organized then everything just goes more smoothly. As a landlord, a big part of being organized is developing a detailed filing system. When you are organized you will not spend your time looking for lost things like that heating bill, or that maintenance request, or the telephone number to the contractor who is supposed to come and repair your kitchen floor, because you will know exactly where it all is. Things you absolutely need to file are:
- Maintenance requests and tenant complaints
- Rental applications (Must be kept for at least 1 year because applicants have a year to appeal if they feel they were discriminated against)
- Vendor W-9s
- Rental receipts
- Prior tax returns
- Any notices you've ever given to a tenant
- Communication: Another key to being a good landlord is developing your active listening skills. When your tenants feel that you actually care about the issue at hand, things seem to go a little smoother. Take time to listen to what the tenant has to say and after they are done, reiterate what they have said back to them to make sure you have got the details down. This will tell the tenant you have been listening and will give them confidence that you will handle the issue at hand. Answer your phone and/or return calls within a reasonable amount of time. When a tenant calls you with an issue, don't wait a week to call them back. What kind of message do you think that sends?
- Budgeting: A lot of issues landlords face are directly related to money in one way or another. The best way to avoid issues with money is to create a budget and monitor it! At Stone & Browning we review all of our clients' budgets once a month. This will allow you to see where your money is going and develop a plan to increase your income (and decrease your expenses). With a budget you can also set money aside every month to make necessary repairs and develop a "slush fund" for those unpredictable events such as frozen pipes, appliance failure, and code violations.
- Treat being a landlord like a business: Yes, owning rental property is a business. If it wasn't, you wouldn't be paying taxes! When things need to get done, it is always better to do them ASAP rather than dragging your heels. Landlords have the amazing job of providing people with a place to live that is comfortable and enjoyable. However, things do not always go as planned and hard decisions need to be made. I like to say that there is a very fine line between being "friends" with tenants and being "friendly" towards tenants.