11 Things Landlords Should Be Doing Every Year… But Probably Aren’t

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I’m perhaps the world’s biggest procrastinator.

I mean… seriously, why do today what you can put off ’til next week?

However, this procrastination habit hurts my business, and I’m intent upon fixing it before something bad happens! Therefore, I wrote this post today for myself, to help me remember that I need to stay on top of these things and hopefully help some of you in the process.

Without further ado, I give you:

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11 Things Landlords Should Be Doing Every Year… But Probably Aren’t

1. Renew the Lease

Unless you purposefully rent month to month, it’s wise to re-up your tenants onto another year long lease. In most states, an annual lease will revert to a month-to-month lease if you don’t renew the lease each year.

One bonus tip: If you are renting a unit during the winter, only sign a 6 or 9 month lease to begin with, so the renewal date will end in the summer, when units are easier to get filled; then renew with a one year lease after that.

2. Verify Market Rent and Be Sure You Are Up to Par

The rental market is fluid and, as such, the market rent is bound to change. Each year, you should verify that all your rents are close to what the market will bear, or you could be throwing your good money out the window.

Related: So, How Much is the Rent? A Quick Guide for Determining the Perfect Market Rent

3. Smoke Alarm/Carbon Monoxide Inspections

As I mentioned on last week’s Podcast (Episode 99), I recently did a smoke alarm check at my apartment complex and found almost 70 defective or missing smoke detectors. SEVENTY! I hadn’t checked in many years, and over time, it appears, it’s easier for a tenant to simply throw away a smoke detector when it starts beeping than put a new battery in it. Crazy.

Do yourself a favor and check for smoke alarms each year. And if you are in a state (like mine, Washington) that requires carbon monoxide detectors in all units, be sure to do that as well.

4. Check for Water Leaks

In the inspection I just had done on my apartment complex, we also discovered numerous water leaks that are probably costing me $500 or more each month! Faucet drips, toilets running, etc. Water is not cheap in my area, and outside of my mortgage, water is my greatest expense. So be sure to check every year (or more often) for any potential water leaks and get them fixed promptly. Remember: tenants don’t always report leaks and other problems because they don’t want to rock the boat.

Related: 12 Things I HATE About Landlording (with Gifs!)

5. Make Sure Your Keys Work

Tenants change their locks for a number of reasons. However, as a landlord it’s important that you have a working key for all your properties, so you gain access if you need it and the tenant is not home (legally, of course). There is nothing more frustrating than having a maintenance person (who you are paying by the hour) show up to do work, and the key you gave them doesn’t work. So check the keys once a year, and verify you have the correct one.

6. Check Your Insurance Rates

Insurance is a funny industry. They get you to switch with super low rates; then, for no real reason start raising your rates. No wonder every single insurance company claims “users who switch save an average of $hundreds of dollars by switching to us!). For that reason, it’s wise to shop around for better rates at least once a year.

That said, switching insurance companies can be a nightmare sometimes, so only switch if you will be getting significant enough savings or improving your coverage considerably.

7. Get Updated Contact and Emergency Contact Info

I don’t know about your tenants, but mine seem to get new phone numbers every week. This is why it’s important to double check all your contact information annually, so you always have the best contact number for your tenant. While verifying their phone number, also get their email address and emergency contact information as well, just to be safe.

8. Change Furnace Filters (or Verify Your Tenant is)

Furnace filters need to be changed often, and although it’s likely the tenant’s responsibility, they probably aren’t doing it. Therefore, it’s YOUR responsibility as the landlord to verify that this is being done.

9. Clean The Gutters

If there are trees located near your rental property, likely your gutters will need to be cleared at least once per year. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this yourself, hire a professional — it’s not too expensive. Keeping the water flowing the way you want it to flow is fundamental in keeping your property in the best shape for the longest time possible.

10. Renew Your Rental License

Many areas require your rental property to be registered or have a license, and this usually needs to be done every year. In some areas of the country, if you fail to register, your tenant can actually get rewarded monetarily. Yes, that means you’ll end up paying your tenant!

11. Thank Your Tenants

Finally, don’t forget that tenants are the lifeblood to your business. Therefore, be sure to do something nice for your tenants at least once a year to let them know you care about them. This could be as simple as a Christmas card or a phone call thanking them for renting from you and wishing them a great year. Being the holiday season, now is the perfect time to do that, so if you haven’t ordered your Christmas cards yet, do it today.

One of the biggest killers of cash flow is tenant vacancy, so by appreciating your tenants, you’ll find tenants that stay longer and are more pleasant to work with the rest of the year.

Related23 Totally Awesome Life Hacks for Landlords (To Save You Time, Stress, and Money!)

Conclusion

I know you are busy — I am as well! However, being a landlord has certain responsibilities if you are going to build a solid, long-lasting business, and this list should help you get you on track.

But now it’s your turn… what am I missing?

Leave your comments below, and let me know what other tasks a landlord should do at least once a year!

(Special thanks to Darren Sager for his help on this post!)

About Author

Brandon Turner

Brandon Turner (G+ | Twitter) spends a lot of time on BiggerPockets.com. Like... seriously... a lot. Oh, and he is also an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, traveler, third-person speaker, husband, and author of "The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down", and "The Book on Rental Property Investing" which you should probably read if you want to do more deals.

19 Comments

  1. Thanks Brandon, keep up the good work.
    Number 3 and 8 for me.
    so i changed my get the rent routine to getting it in person, so i could change the air filters myself. better this than a heater replacement (in mid-winter……).
    P.S. old air filter had 1.2 years

    • Brandon Turner

      Hey Tony, thanks for the comment! Not a bad idea – picking up the rent so you can do that stuff. The other day I stopped by a rental to drop off a form, and in 5 minutes I was able to fix 3 maintenance issues that would have taken 3 separate contractors to fix, each with a service charge. Sometimes just showing up occasionally can save a lot of money!

      • Thanks Brandon.
        instead of me being pissed off at the renter for the 1.2 year of unchanged air filter(the provided filters just sit there…), i twisted to “it’s for your in door air quality”. helps that they have a daughter with some type of allergy…
        Now the tricky question: what’s your MPG (miles per gallon) hit because you carry so many tools in the back?
        by the way, what vehicle you use in general?
        i managed for about 1.5 years with a sedan…. but boy, with 3 projects i was pushing it…

        • Brandon Turner

          Hahaha – I use just my little Toyota Prius for 99% of everything. I have a Ford F150 but I drive it maybe 20 miles a month. That Prius, at 50mpg, is amazing, and with the seats folded down, i can fit almost anything in there. I picked up a Dishwasher last week! Fit like a glove!

  2. I had an older house that needed the sewer line rodded out every 12 to 18 months because of tree roots, so I decided just to have it done every June. It cost me about $85 each time but I didn’t have to worry about angry tenants calling me about the sewer backing up.

  3. Roberto Andrade

    Great “Quiiick Tiiips”

    Reg. No. 8, in addition to filters, I include an HVAC preventive maintenance per year, it is $75 per unit (and check out for any City rebates), keeps the units tuned and mitigates any potential breakdown.

    I would add three more:
    i. CapEx reserves review (for each case)
    ii. Roof inspection, special for those older roofs and/or trees.
    iii. Property tax protest (at least in Texas)

    GodSpeed!

  4. 70 smoke detectors not working. That’s not bad. In 30 years I have never found a working smoke detector in a vacated unit. Never understood why people don’t value their own lives.

    Every year an outside paint touch up tour in a good idea. You can then schedule it when the winter is over

  5. Drew Sygit

    1. Be careful when renewing leases, if done incorrectly a landlord may unknowingly open themselves up for a brand new Move-In Checklist, letting the tenant out of responsibility for damages already done! Make sure your renew lease CLEARLY states the date of the original lease and that this is an extension of that lease.

    2. We often tell a tenant, we want to extend, that the rent for your home has gone up by $x/month, but you’ve been such an excellent tenant we want to ask you what increase you think is fair. Surprisingly most offer a number we are comfortable with!

    3. We’ve started using sealed smoke detectors with 10 year batteries to avoid tenants using the batteries for something else (xmas toys?)!

  6. It’s kind of news in a way that Starbucks is known for charging outrageous prices for their drinks, and this price cut is another way for them to keep you addicted to their coffee, but mostly just a free press release for them…

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