Landlording & Rental Properties

How to Be a Rockstar Landlord: 6 Tips for Success

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary, Real Estate Investing Basics, Business Management, Flipping Houses, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Wholesaling, Personal Finance, Real Estate Marketing, AskBP
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How would you like to work 168 hours a week, never travel anywhere, and spend your days dealing with the ungrateful, entitled, lowest common denominator of public society?

No?

OK good, me neither. So, today I want to share with you my top tips for AVOIDING that lifestyle while still owning rental properties.

That’s right. You can be a rockstar landlord without being a slumlord — and today, I want to offer six tips for doing just that.

Let’s get to it.

Single Family Rental House***Hey – you! Just a quick interruption to this post. You obviously care about rental properties. So why not come to this week’s LIVE BiggerPockets Webinar? We’ll be talking all about the best ways to get started with rental property investing. Sign up now! Okay – back to your regularly scheduled blog post!**

1. Treat Landlording as a Business

Look, you don’t see Howard Shultz making lattes, Mark Cuban playing one-on-one with Shaq, or Donald Trump swinging a hammer.

Why?

Because these people run businesses. And if you own rental properties, you run a business too.

So start acting like it!

Take it seriously.

Build processes and systems that you can follow. Be consistent. Hire stuff out. Be organized. Know your numbers. Stop getting so emotional about everything.

It’s a business — and it’s time you started acting like it.

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2. Provide a Great Home

If you want to attract weird tenants, provide a weird home.

But if you want great tenants, provide a great home. Fix the property up right before a tenant moves in. In the words of my friend and fellow landlord Darren Sager, make your home “tenant-proof” by using materials that won’t break down quickly.

Related: The 9 Things I Hate the Most About Being a Landlord

Your property doesn’t need to look like Buckingham palace, but it should be clean, durable, and better than average — because that’s exactly the kind of tenant you want to attract.

3. Get to Know Your Fair Housing Laws

If you really enjoy lawsuits and paying big bucks to bad tenants, ignore this tip.

But if you want to remain legal and avoid being called a lot of terrible names in the paper, listen up.

You need to learn what your Fair Housing Laws are.

Fair Housing Laws exist on federal, state, and local levels and are designed to make sure discrimination doesn’t take place against a “protected class.”

Protected classes include race, color, religion, sex, familial status, handicap, national origin, and potentially more depending on your local laws.

While it seems pretty obvious on the surface, sometimes it can be easy to discriminate and not even notice. For example,

“Yeah, this property is on the second floor, so probably not ideal since you have a wheelchair.”

or

“You know, I have another property that might suit you a little better since this is a high-crime area and you are a single woman.”

or

“It’s a small studio apartment, so we can’t allow seven kids.”

Each of these could get you in hot water, so be sure to review your local, state, and federal Fair Housing Laws.

4. Wait — and Don’t Wait — for a Great Tenant

I know, that’s kind of a weird tip, but hear me out.

One of the best tips I ever received when I bought my first rental property was this: Wait for a great tenant. It’s better to have a property vacant longer than rent to someone who will drive you crazy or who you might have to evict.

While this is fantastic advice, I want to amend it.

Don’t just wait for a great tenant to find you. You have to go out and find them!

In other words, take your marketing efforts seriously so you have an endless supply of tenants calling to rent your property. Then pick a great tenant and move them in.

Now, speaking of finding a great tenant…

5. Take Your Tenant Screening Seriously

Tenant screening is one of the most important jobs of a landlord.

Screening is the process you go through to make sure the tenant who has applied is going to be that ideal tenant you want.

Because let’s be honest: People lie. Screening is how you verify they are telling the truth.

Related: Landlords: Forget Being “Nice.” THIS is the Key to a Good Tenant Relationship.

When screening tenants, be sure to:

  • Run a background check to make sure they aren’t evil minions.
  • Check their employment status and verify their income.
  • Talk with their previous landlords — because how they’ve been in the past is how they’ll be in the future.

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6. Train Your Tenant from Day One

No child is born knowing how to drive a car. You have to train them to be great drivers!

In the same way, you must train your tenant to be great tenants. It doesn’t come naturally to most.

Training involves two aspects:

  • First, you must establish rules and guidelines up front. How do they know that blasting punk rock music at 2:00 a.m. is bad if you don’t tell them? This is why a solid lease agreement is so important.
  • And second, you must enact punishment if they break the rules.

No, I’m not talking about beating your tenant with a leather whip.

I’m talking about penalties when they break the rules. If they are late on the rent, charge a late fee. If they move a pit bull into your “no pet” rental, make them give it away or face eviction.

Yes, I know it feels weird being the enforcer, but rules benefit everyone, and by being a fair but firm landlord, you’ll gain their respect and have a long-term business relationship with them.

Of course, being firm doesn’t mean you can’t be a good person. Your tenant will respect you and stay for years if you treat them with the respect they deserve. Address maintenance concerns quickly, send a card at the holidays, and follow the Golden Rule — treat tenants the way you would want to be treated.

By following these six tips, you’ll find that landlording doesn’t have to be a drag. In fact, being a landlord can be one of the most rewarding and profitable roles you can play — if you are willing to do it right.

Landlords: Any tips you’d add to this list?

Leave a comment, and let’s talk!

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on Forbes.com, Entrepreneur.com, FoxNews.com, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather, and How to Invest in Real Estate, which he wrote alongside Joshua Dorkin. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.

    Ashley Jannetti Investor from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania
    Replied about 3 years ago
    This is a great article! I managed rental properties for three years before breaking out with a partner to start out own rental property company. The first year managing rentals for the company I worked for was definitely a challenge. I was still in college developing my leadership skills and Tenants walked all over me until I developed a back bone and enforced rules with consequences should they not be followed. I must say my company has been running so much smoother since developing my growth in this industry as a landlord. This article is very true to its word! Thanks for the reassurance.
    Mychal Raynes from Georgetown, Colorado
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Lots of good info that applies to a situation that I am in right now! I need to treat my rental as a business and start putting systems that make my life easier into place.
    Karin U. Investor from Maple Grove, Minnesota
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Great tips! I’d also expand on the end of #6 — making your tenant feel at home goes a long way. We send flowers the day of move in to welcome our tenant home as well as cards for holidays/birthdays. Just as we’re thankful to have a good tenant, we want the tenant thankful to have good a good landlord!
    Garrette Custom Homes
    Replied about 3 years ago
    Wonderful Tips you have shared.I liked all your tips but the best tip is” Take Your Tenant Screening Seriously”. While giving your home to tenant keep check that your tenant must fill rent deed which is given by you.
    Tobias Armstrong
    Replied about 3 years ago
    I really like the way you talked about becoming a great landlord. Like you said, I totally agree that screening tenants is one of the more important roles that you\’re going to have to undertake, but I also know there are certain businesses that actually can do the screening for you that can make this a little easier. Overall I loved your advice, so thanks for sharing.
    Tobias Armstrong
    Replied about 3 years ago
    I really like the way you talked about becoming a great landlord. Like you said, I totally agree that screening tenants is one of the more important roles that you\’re going to have to undertake, but I also know there are certain businesses that actually can do the screening for you that can make this a little easier. Overall I loved your advice, so thanks for sharing.
    Laurie
    Replied about 3 years ago
    These are great tips – I think the most important being the tenant screening process. I have known people that didn’t screen well and ended up with some really bad tenants. Thanks for sharing!
    Michael Mumenthaler
    Replied 4 months ago
    Question about the 7 people in apartment one… is this about assuming they have 7 kids or really denying them cause they have 7 kids and they won’t fit into a studio? Cause I see how the first can be bad but the second is pure fact.
    Rion Redinger from Clark County Washington
    Replied 3 months ago
    Michael – I think the main point is that you don’t mention the reason you are denying them for the rental in such a way that might get you in hot water with the department-of-making-you-sad (a.k.a. the government or authorities). You can always deny someone by saying that another applicant was accepted – no mention of the real reason, but you better make sure to have another applicant that was accepted if this is how you deny them. Make sure you respond to them and let them know that you may have other properties for them to look at if they would otherwise be a good tenant. You don’t want to develop a reputation as being non-communicative.
    Stephan Cheek Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied 4 months ago
    Great tips! When I screen tenants I always took a peak at the condition of their vehicle (if possible). Gives you some clues about how they will care for your rental. Also, when I found a great tenant I treated them well… I even sent them cookies at Christmas time. Most tenants only left after they had stayed for several years and had enough to purchase their own home.
    Eric Carr Real Estate Broker from Los Angeles, CA
    Replied 4 months ago
    Landlords For Punk and Pits!
    Jeffrey Bower
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Great tips! Love this.
    Denzil Meyers
    Replied 14 days ago
    Under the "train your tenants", I also make it clear in the application/interview stage that I make an effort to keep my property in prime condition, and I look for tenants who appreciate that, so we all can be agreed on that being a priority. I want them to enjoy the place as much as possible, and keep providing that for future renters. It's a huge deposit in my good-will bank, for later if and when any issues arise.
    Jim Delmonte
    Replied 4 days ago
    so, if you had a small studio apt. would you be forced to rent to someone with 7 kids.?is that statement illegal?