First Time Landlord Checklist

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First time landlord here. My husband and I are currently under contract for our first rental property (multi-family home). It comes with tenants on both sides (one until March, one until September). We plan to move in as soon as the earliest lease ends. We had our inspection yesterday and we definitely need to fix a few things, the most pressing being two tall decks that act as a front and back entrance to one of our units. Does anyone have a comprehensive checklist of things to do, for first time landlords? We have never owned a home before, but have a pretty good idea of what it takes to maintain one. Are there any things you wish you did when you first got started? Having tenants with current leases gives us a bit more time to figure out what we want to add in ours. It feels like crunch time and we are trying to do things right, but it sometimes feels like we are missing things. 

Thank you in advance for taking the time to answer this! 

- Laura

  • Buy the Bigger Pockets lease and forms for your state.
  • Pick out your property management software (and accounting software if it's not included). 
  • Have a WRITTEN Late rent policy and process. 
  • People talk a lot about selecting a tenant and that's important but it's also important when you offer your unit to have a process for negotiating a move in date and collecting the pre-move-in funds. We will hold a unit for up to 14 days with a non-refundable reservation fee to give tenants time to schedule their move and come up the full payment required to move in. We struggled along at first and had people not come up with the money on time or  think if they move in on the 20th they are only paying a partial month of 10 days rent. NO.  Now we don't play those games. We require a fulll month's rent in addition to the security deposit prior to move in. We then apply the overage to the next month and the remainder is due on the 1st of the next month (new tenant's first full month).
  • Also have a WRITTEN pet addendum and
    a WRITTEN parking addendum.

Are you looking for a property maintenance checklist?  Something more specific to rentals?  

Start with your home inspection.  It should have pointed out any safety issues and things that required maintenance soon.

Look for ways to tenant-proof the properties.  Here's a BP article with a few tips.  

Don't over-invest.  Remember, it's a business first and your live-in hack second. Look for improvements that provide high value to tenants but don't cost much.

-Bedbug treatment 

-Family pack of Roach spray 


-Bullet proof vest 

-Big Bottle of mad dog booze to celebrate after you get your first months rent ! 

@Laura P. there are a ton of things you can/should do but it's difficult to put it all on a list. Start with the biggest things first and then work your way down to refine the list.

The first thing I would do is purchase a book on how to manage your property. Biggerpockets has one that I've heard good things about. I'm a property manager with 350 renals so I don't feel the need to read it myself and can't vouch for it. I can vouch for "Every Landlord's Legal Guide" by NOLO which is the book I recommend the most to new Landlords. It's written by attorneys and includes your state-specific laws. It's full of practical advice on marketing, screening applications, building a lease, dealing with late rent, etc.

Once you have a basic understanding of what a Landlord does, start making a spreadsheet list of everything you will need to know to do:

  • Marketing vacant units
  • Screening applicants
  • Lease agreement
  • Collecting rent
  • Late rent
  • Lease violations
  • Complaints from neighbors
  • Unauthorized animals
  • Unauthorized roommates
  • Pest control
  • Landlord terminate lease
  • Tenant terminate lease

I would start chronologically based on which problem I'm more likely to face first. In your case, the tenants are already in place so you need to figure out how you are going to collect rent, what will you do if they pay late, or what if they don't pay at all. Research what state law allows, find out how others handle it, and develop a policy. You can even pre-write your warning letter, notice of eviction, etc. If you do it now, it's easier to keep it short and professional vs. trying to write one when you are angry with the tenant.

That's it. This is a long process but you can knock it out much quicker than you thought if you treat this like a business. I recommend setting a goal of developing one policy per week and you'll be done in less than a year. Then go through and review/refine two policies a week and you'll continue to sharpen your skills.

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