The 3 Biggest Headaches New Landlords Have
1. The rent did not arrive on time, and I don’t know why.
Without a clear picture of why rent has not yet arrived, a simple issue with either the check getting lost in the mail or a delay from a new direct deposit process with your bank can quickly send your mind wandering down the rabbit hole of bad renters. As a military family, it isn’t as though you can simply drive across town to check on your house or call into your property manager’s office; you likely may not even reside in the same state as your rental property, let alone the same town!
A question of Did the tenant not pay? leads to Will the tenant pay? If they didn’t pay, then perhaps the tenant is not even living in the property, you wonder. In that case, what if squatters have moved in? Oh no! Before you alert your unsuspecting local police department, pick up the phone and call your property manager.
2. The rental amount isn’t the same as usual. It’s much less, and I don’t know why.
With no accompanying statement, a new landlord may quickly wonder if either the tenant didn’t provide the correct amount of rent or the property manager didn’t send the correct amount. It’s far more likely, however, that a portion of the rent went to a regularly scheduled maintenance issue, such as an annual termite inspection or HVAC system inspection. It could also have gone to a repair, a replacement of an appliance, or a service call for your home warranty if you left the details with your property manager. In most cases, your agreement will specify that your property manager has the authority to spend up to a certain dollar amount each month on maintenance and repairs without first consulting you.
Providing your property manager with a set repair budget is a good idea if you don’t want to be called for small items. For OCONUS families, you may also want to consider giving even more leeway to your property manager until you return, as it may be difficult for you both to get in contact with one another within a reasonable time to confirm costs of small repairs. After all, you don’t want to lose a tenant over a toilet repair because your property manager couldn’t get in touch with you easily, do you?
You can read more about managing responsibility for maintenance and repair issues in our article Is Your Tenant Responsible for This? As soon as you’re done, pull out your property management contract, reread it to find out how much you permitted your property manager to spend, and then request an itemized statement from your property manager.
3. My property manager rented our home to a non-military family, and I don’t know why.
It’s okay. Civilians don’t bite, I promise. Some civilians even live on the military installation where you work. While it’s normal to want to rent to someone from your community, in our article How to Select the Best Fit for Your Rental Property, you can read why renting to military doesn’t ensure that either they’ll pay rent or that they’ll maintain your property. In fact, you may even have a better return on your investment by renting to a civilian family. There’s a chance they’ll remain in the home for longer, which means not only less wear and tear on your home from the move in-move out process, but also a lower likelihood of your home remaining unrented for a period. Military families move an average of every two to three years, which most civilians find appalling (just look at your neighbor’s faces when it comes time to PCS). Didn’t you just move in?
Anyway, be nice to civilians. You’ll be one again one day, and you may even have the good fortune to live safely among them. If you’re concerned about who is moving into your home, just ask your property manager. Seriously. Discuss tenant screening and request that you approve all prospective tenants.