Landlord Blues

The Landlord Blues

Monica Schaefer
MilitaryByOwner Advertising, Inc. 

hand-key-leaseThere is a reason why people tread lightly when deciding whether or not to become a landlord. With the current market trends, it is a leap of faith that more and more people are taking. The fear that lies beneath is that your tenants will destroy the home you have come to love. 

As someone who has been a landlord for more than 10 years, I would consider myself to be savvy. However, a recent turn of events has made me reevaluate my self-imposed title!  

The first home that my husband and I purchased 14 years ago just came back on the rental market after the tenants of 3 years moved out.  I knew that it was time to update the home with new paint, carpet and blinds, but what I didn’t anticipate is the extensive amount of damage that the tenants had done to the house and had failed to report. It is a story that makes a landlord cringe, you know the one, tenant drives car through garage wall and covers it up with drywall patches, or leaves water running on kitchen counter until the wood rots and the counter collapses.

But as with every situation, there is always a silver lining and the one in this story is that there are lessons to be learned and ways to improve on being a better landlord and maybe some of what I have learned will help you.

We have chosen different methods for managing our homes throughout the years. We have employed the services of a property manager, purchased home warranty policy and have managed the property ourselves. What method you choose depends on your location and your comfort level and all of them have advantages and disadvantages.

The bottom line is, whichever method you choose there is due diligence to be done. Whether you choose your tenants yourself or you hire a property manager to take care of that for you, there is an important relationship that needs to be developed.

When hiring a property manager, be sure to check with friends or neighbors for a recommendation of someone they have used. It is imperative that you hire someone that you feel has your best interest at heart and ultimately someone you can trust. Ask them how frequently they will visit the property. Do they just do drive-by inspections, or do they actually enter the premises on a regular basis? Are they willing to make house calls if they are unable to get a hold of the tenant? When it comes to maintenance items, how quickly will they contact you once a problem has been reported and how quickly will they have someone on site to fix the problem? Will the cost of the repairs come in the form of a deduction from the rent, or do they require a maintenance fund? 

By asking these questions, you can determine if this particular property manager is someone that you can entrust your home with. They represent you, but they also represent the tenant, so it is important that they will manage your home according to your desires.

If you choose to manage the home yourself, you will have the opportunity to establish a relationship with your new tenants. It is hard not to jump at the first interested party, but once again, remember to do your research, particularly in this current market. 

I had two families that were interested in our home. One was a Marine Corps family and the other was a local civilian family that was loosing their home due to foreclosure. While I wanted to rent to a military family, in the end there were a few things that just didn’t add up during our conversations. After extensive research, I was able to determine that they would only be in our area for 6 months on temporary duty, and although they had agreed to sign a 1 year lease, they knew that we would honor a military clause. After all of the heartache that has gone into repairing our home, I hardly want to do it again in 6 months. But without taking the time to research the situation, I would have been blindsided by a short term tenant.

Family #2 had obvious financial problems that were an instant red flag, but through numerous conversations with them, I began to realize that they, like many other families, were caught in the recent mortgage crisis. Was their situation a result of bad luck or bad planning? I started my research by running a credit, conviction and eviction report through Tenant Verification Services. It came back much like I anticipated, so I verified their employment status and salary. I also decided to call some personal references they had given me. Of course, no one is going to give you a reference of someone they think will say something bad about them, but even when friends are giving glowing recommendations, you can get a sense of who they are and what type of tenant they will be. 

In the end, because of the financial instability, I took measures that will hopefully protect me, my family and our home. Requiring a larger deposit, asking for a direct allotment into our account and offering to help boost their credit rating by reporting timely payments are just a few of the things that I hope will make for a long and rewarding relationship between landlord and tenant.  And if not, well then at least I know that I did my due diligence and that sometimes being a landlord means singing the blues!