How to Be a Rockstar Landlord: 6 Tips for Success

by | BiggerPockets.com

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.

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.

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.

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

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, 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.

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.

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

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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 tenants 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 during 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.

If you’re a landlord, do you have any tips you’d add to this list?

Leave a comment, and let’s talk!

 

About Author

Brandon Turner

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.

10 Comments

  1. Ashley Jannetti

    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.

  2. Karin U.

    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!

  3. 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.

    • Rion Redinger

      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.

  4. Stephan Cheek

    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.

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