Landlording & Rental Properties

7 Ways to Become a Better Landlord

Expertise: Landlording & Rental Properties, Personal Development, Real Estate News & Commentary, Business Management, Flipping Houses, Mortgages & Creative Financing, Real Estate Deal Analysis & Advice, Real Estate Wholesaling, Personal Finance, Real Estate Marketing, AskBP, Real Estate Investing Basics
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House with "For Rent" sign in front

I am a landlord. I have a lot of rental properties, and I manage them myself along with my wife and other team members. And I want to be a good landlord.

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Why is that?

Because a good landlord makes money. A good landlord retains tenants longer. A tenant who likes where they live and likes their landlord is going to stay way longer, meaning less turnover, less hassle, more money in my pocket. So, I want to be a great landlord.

Well, how do you do that?

Here I’ll go through seven different strategies for becoming a great landlord, and hey, if you like this video make sure you click that thumbs up button below on the video.

All right, with that, let’s get to it: the seven steps for becoming a great landlord.

How to Become a Better Landlord

1. Be organized.

In other words, treat your business like a business. See, a lot of people (myself included) get into landlording and then treat it like some pastime or quick hobby. It’s not that big of a deal.

It’s only one tenant. It’s only one thing. At the beginning, that’s what people do.

But I would encourage you to treat it like a business from day one. What does that mean? Be organized. Keep your paperwork in folders. Get a file cabinet. Maybe get a phone number—even if it’s a free Google voice number.

Keep organized. Pretend you have a business of 1,000 units. How would you organize that at the beginning? And then you’ll grow into a more organized business . The more organized you are, the more happy everybody is, the more streamlined your business runs.

8y8You’re not getting 3 a.m. phone calls from tenants who are angry at you for some broken thing, because you’re organized. So, your entire operation runs better.

Related: 5 Tried & True Tips to Succeed as a New Landlord

2. Understand your local laws.

Look, every single state is different in regard to the laws governing landlord and tenant. But also cities have their own laws, as well. You need to be aware of what your local laws are, which means you’re going to have to do some reading.

I lived in Washington state for the longest time, and so of course, I read the Washington State Landlord Tenant Act, and we read it every year to make sure there were no changes. Then, I moved to Hawaii. Guess what? I read the laws for Hawaii rentals, because these are things that impact my business.

You know, a quick way to land yourself in jail is to violate some tenant housing issue—so don’t do it.

3. Be firm but fair.

Look, I am a nice guy, and in my disc profile, I’m a high I. I like to be liked. I want people to like me.

So, when a tenant asked me a question: “Hey, can I have a dog? It’s a cute little dog.”

I want to say, “Yeah, go ahead have the dog. Now, in some units, I do allow pets, and other ones, I don’t.”

My response is always to want to be liked and to be a nice guy. But what we’ve discovered is that when you take whatever, you’re kind of like a parent who just gives their kid whatever it wants.

You want candy? Sure. YouTube nine hours a day? Go ahead.

How do you feel about those parents? Not real great, right?

But the tenants are the same way if you just let them do whatever they want. It actually is worse for them.

So as a landlord, I’ve discovered that you need to become firm but fair. It means don’t treat your tenants differently.

Be fair to them all the same; treat them with respect but you need to be firm. If you said the rent was due on the first, make the rent due on the first. If they paid it the second, we charge a late fee.

I know that’s not a very nice thing to do, but if you let them go without paying a late fee, oftentimes then they’ll pay late next time or the time after.

I mean, this is not a probably. This is almost always how it works. Ask any landlord who hates their life and has trouble getting rent from their tenant. It’s almost always because they weren’t firm with their tenant.

I’m not saying being mean to them. I’m not saying you need to be a nasty landlord. You need to be firm but fair.

4. Do what you say you’re going to do.

So many landlords out there say they’re going to fix the leak, or they’re going to improve the property. They’re going to paint something or do whatever. They’re going to show up at this time. But they just don’t do what they say they’re going to do. So, not only does that make your tenant frustrated, but it also makes your property worth less value over time because you’re not maintaining it the way you should be.

If you say you’re going to do something, hold to that like it is the most important commitment in your life.

rent online concept, woman using internet website for rental apartments, houses and flats

5. Treat your tenants with respect.

You know, I’ve noticed sometimes in the landlord community that there’s a tendency to treat tenants as like “oh, they’re just a tenant.” But at some point weren’t we all tenants?

Most of us were tenants at some point in our life. A tenant is just another person who has chosen not to invest in real estate right now or not to buy their own home.

They’re just people like you and me, and so, don’t treat them inferior. Don’t act like you’re better than them. You just have a business that serves them—and yes, serves them. You have a business that they get served by.

Remember that. Treat them fairly, and they’re going to appreciate it and respond in kind.

6. Pay your vendors promptly.

I have a lot of friends who are contractors. I've also met a lot of contractors in my day. And one of the most frustrating things to a contractor is when they have to wait one or two or three months to get paid.

I mean, think about it. If you were a paycheck-to-paycheck kind of contractor, trying to put food on your table for your family, and you get a call from a landlord who said, “Can you come fix this broken pipe?”

It’s the middle of the night; things are leaking everywhere. (By the way, this hardly ever happens. It’s happened twice in my entire life. I’ve been a landlord 15 years and had over 100 tenants, and it’s happened twice.) But let’s say I call a contractor, and I say, “Hey buddy, I got this leak.”

If he remembers last time he worked for me, I took a month or two or three to pay him. You think he’s going to be jumping out of bed to go help me out? No.

Related: 4 Crucial Tips for Dealing with a Crisis as a Landlord

And it doesn’t take that much more work. This really comes down to the first tip I gave you, which was be organized. So, be so organized that you can pay them promptly—the same day or the next day. Then, the next time you call that vendor, whether it’s a contractor or somebody else, they’re like, “Oh yeah, I liked that person because they paid me quick.” And they equate money with doing the task.

The longer space you have between somebody doing a task and then getting paid for it, the less likely they are going to want to do work for you again in the future. All right.

7. Build systems to be able to automate and outsource things.

One of most important things as a landlord and a business owner that you can do is to build these systems and processes. The more systems and processes you can work into your business, the easier everything will flow.

For example, I’ll give you a real tangible example. When a tenant calls us, we have a process that we go through. We don’t just instantly go show a unit. That’s what a lot of landlords do. They instantly go and show a unit if anybody calls.

But then you get there and you find out the tenant doesn’t have a job. Or they’re wanted for murder, or they have 19 cats. So, you’re wasting your entire day to go show a unit.

Instead, we have a process with a checklist. The first thing on the phone,  we tell them about the property. We tell them our criteria. We ask them a few questions—the same questions—every single time. Because it’s our process, and we have those processes across our entire business and it makes us more efficient. It helps us work way less hours, and it makes everybody happier.

So, find ways to systematize and automate the various parts of your business.

Now, if you like those seven tips, make sure you give the video above a thumbs up and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

And if you want more tips on landlords, my wife and I wrote a book called The Book on Managing Rental Properties

Any tips you’d add to this list?

Leave them in the comment section below.

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He is a nationally recognized leader in the real estate education space and has tau...
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    Mark JOhnson Investor
    Replied 4 months ago
    Good article especially for the mom and pop landlords. #7 is the key if you want to own more properties. Continual process improvement is the key to greater success.
    Tom Kandle
    Replied 4 months ago
    I'm a full-time landlord people simply don't make enough money to pay the rent on time and trying to find quality help is impossible and I pay top dollar being a landlord is a disgusting job like I said I'm a full-time investor the eviction process is way too long tenet's take advantage of this all the time even if they have the rent try collecting it the checks are no good oh it's in the mail the mail never comes you set up accounts but they don't have time to put it in the account oh the banks closed so therefore you have to go over there two or three times a month to collect the rent and if you do credit checks everybody's bad in some states it's illegal to check on to see if they paid or gas or electric bill now it's getting so big they're going to stop you from checking to see if they have any evictions well I got news last 15 years at least I don't check credit or evictions you got the money pay stub and ID you're in so therefore locking us from checking credit won't do a goddamn thing make law a three-day eviction see how fast tenants straighten out their act
    Joseph M. Rental Property Investor from Sacramento Area, CA
    Replied 4 months ago
    @Tom Kandle: Dude, Ever here of a period?
    Mark JOhnson Investor
    Replied 4 months ago
    Regroup. Use plan B. Change what you're doing. Do not continue down your current path. It can be done without the issue you state but you must believe in yourself and be willing to change if your current processes don't work.
    Tom Kandle
    Replied 4 months ago
    1986 8 out of 10 tenants were good 2016 eight out of ten tenants or bad
    Mohammad (Asad) Asaduddin Wholesaler from Houston, TX
    Replied 4 months ago
    Great advice, Brandon. Talking about systems, i feel the need to add a history of repairs/maintenance. How old is an appliance or was the same repair done in the past, does help you make better decisions about replacement, tenant upkeep or contractor performance. Thanks.
    Mary Kae Heinzel
    Replied 4 months ago
    What are the prescreen to showing a property questions?
    Joseph M. Rental Property Investor from Sacramento Area, CA
    Replied 4 months ago
    Brandon, Here are two more that work for me. 1) Provide a quality product. This would mean, do not cut corners just to save a few bucks, install ceiling fans in each bedroom / family room / living room, use LED lights and make it sparkle (really clean). Have pride of ownership and quality for the area. This will attract better tenants, get more in rents and less turnover. 2) Make sure that you are NOT too greedy. On all of my rentals (30+), I make sure that I am about $25 below market rents for the area. Just that little amount will make a big difference in your occupancy rate. I have tenants that last years because we are slightly under market and provide a quality product. If you think you need the extra $25/mo., then save up because a turnover will cost you more.
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, MO
    Replied 4 months ago
    Great list! I would also add that you should set clear expectations, particularly with tenants. We have a one hour lease signing just to pound our rules into their head so there's no confusion later on, which just leads to problems for both you and the tenants.