House hacking: question about tenants

8 Replies

I am looking to dive into REI and I've decided house hacking is the best route to go. One of the things I am concerned about is tenants knowing their landlord is a door away and knocking on my door about any and every tiny issue. Obviously a good way to reduce this is screening my tenants but a lot of the multi family listings I am finding already are occupied. Any advice or helpful tips?

@Thomas J Kerns

My gf and I did the same thing and we are now almost a year in. We inherited a tenant that had 2 months left on her lease. We tried to fix things for her and she did bug us quite a bit about random things and stiffed us with a $700 water bill at the end on move out. 

The new tenant we were able to screen. She had some initial things for us to fix as they came up, but nothing major and it's mostly through text. She pays every month on time and the only annoyance is she likes to talk a lot. When you think about it though, i spend maybe like 1-4 hours a month doing anything which is very low and nice for the cash flow. She never knocks.

My advice is find out as much as you can about who is already living there, if they have been paying, make sure if you take over the lease you get the security deposit, check to see the water bill is up to date since the city just bills the address (we didn't check this and got screwed there), and if there are tenants that are month to month before you buy it, you can ask for them to vacate by the time you close if possible. 

Be professional and respectful to your tenants and everything should be okay as long as you screen correctly. Have an attorney write up your lease and explain the state laws. It cost us $500 and worth every penny. We have an awesome lease and feel peace of mind knowing we've done all that we can.

Landlords have a responsibility to train their tenants. You shape them into the tenant you want, If they are annoying you teach them that it is not appropriate and they will stop, or you get rid of them. It is a business and as long as you are professional about your dealings with tenants they will learn. Never develop a friendship with tenants, they never respect or fear a landlord that is a friend. 

The advantage of M2M leases is that you have total control over your tenants, when a tennat is not working out you have th eoption of replacing them. 

I agree completely with @Thomas S. on the training and the friendship part of landlord - tenant relationships. I house-hack and inherited the tenant that lives in the other unit. There wasn't a knocking on the door issue but our tenant was very text friendly at first. I chose when and how to reply to her texts to where now the few texts I receive are about an appropriate issue and not anything more. 

One great tip around is to have a 'rent talk' when you inherit or place a tenant. Just search that phrase and you'll find plenty of info on the details but it essentially spells out what priorities are for tenant and landlord, responsibilities, when and how to contact management/landlord, etc. It sets the playing field moving forward and if you stick to your guns they'll accept it and abide or they'll move on to a less stringent manager/owner they can manipulate.

I did it and honestly most of the time the tenants will respect your time. Of course there are always horror stories but take it all in stride. You could also look at the flip side of 1) at least they are telling you about issues and not hiding them and 2) living near your investment allows you to keep an eye on it better.

If it really gets bad with a particular tenant point to the section in your lease that says all repair requests must be submitted in writing. But overall, it most likely will not be anywhere near as bad as you are imagining it. 

A simple one-page list of "courtesy rules" will go a long way.

1. If you have a maintenance request or some other Landlord/tenant issue, please email me at (your email address). I will only accept maintenance requests in writing to ensure the issue is clear and it is tracked to completion.

2. If you have an emergency maintenance issue, call or text (your cell number) or knock on my door. An emergency is something that must be dealt with immediately to avoid injuring someone or damaging the property (i.e. loss of heat, broken water pipe, fire). A broken garbage disposal or dripping faucet is not an emergency.

3. You were given an opportunity to inspect the property prior to renting and everything should be as advertised. If something does not work or breaks, I will make repairs within a reasonable amount of time. However, I will not be replacing the blinds, adding an accent color, or installing a better shower head to suit your personal tastes.

4. I hope we can be good neighbors but please respect my space. I have a personal life and enjoy my privacy just like you enjoy yours.

Those are just some ideas. As @Thomas S. pointed out, this is your opportunity to "train" the tenant so they understand what is appropriate and what is not. If you wait until there's a problem and then try to address it, you may never be successful.

Another suggestion: create a company name and pretend to just be the "on-site manager" for the owner. All payments go right to the bank or a P.O. Box. All communication is by Email using a company email address. Set up a Google Voice number that only allows the tenant to leave voicemail messages and then you respond as the manager. If it's a maintenance issue, send a contractor so you don't have to be involved.

Originally posted by @Thomas J Kerns :

I am looking to dive into REI and I've decided house hacking is the best route to go. One of the things I am concerned about is tenants knowing their landlord is a door away and knocking on my door about any and every tiny issue. Obviously a good way to reduce this is screening my tenants but a lot of the multi family listings I am finding already are occupied. Any advice or helpful tips?

 Welcome to the site Thomas. House hacking is an awesome way to break into the game. I recommend it to newbies all the time. That said you are right. You are going to be in extremely close proximity to these people. Holding out for a vacant multi unit might not be a bad move. You do have your lifestyle to think about so don't look at this in a numbers vacuum. Your sanity is important as well. Also worth noting that depending on where you are living there are almost no fair housing issues with non licensed landlords who own less than 4 units & live in the building. What this means is you can literally deny any tenant you don't think you'd want to be neighbors with. Literally anyone for any reason you want.

James Wise, Real Estate Agent in OH (#2015001161)
216-661-6633

Congrats on making the plunge! House-hacking is a great way to start. I wouldn't worry about knocking on doors these days - especially if you're screening well and set expectations, precedents and thus boundaries early in the screening process.

I'm actually surprised at how many landlords will text their tenants. Similar to @Nathan G.   I explicitly state, "do not text" on my "Helpful Contact Information" addendum on our leases and other notices.  We also have office hours listed on that sheet (M-F, 9-5) This way when they call, you know it's important. It's too easy to hide behind a screen these days and fire off demands, thoughts, complaints about the neighbor's barking dog, etc... If tenants do text me and it's something that needs attention (i.e. when is my lease up, etc...) I call them back during business hours. A texting relationship is not something I want to get into with these folks.

Thank you all for the great information. What it seems this boils down to is training your tenant on when/what is appropriate to contact me about. I love the idea of just printing out a "courtesy rules" page to give to your tenants to set some guidelines. Also giving office hours on when they can text/call you for any non emergency. I looked into the "rent talk" and there's a good book by Mike Butler's Landlording on AutoPilot that apparently goes into detail on this so I'm going to check that out.

Thanks again for all your replies and welcoming me to the community. I've been learning a lot. 

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