The 9 Things I Hate the Most About Being a Landlord

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I got out of the so called rat race and into real estate about 12 years ago. My decision to venture into real estate had, in part, been based on a dream — a dream of being able to just sit back and do whatever I wanted to while the rent checks rolled in.

Deep down, though, I knew that my venture into real estate would be a bit more challenging, and it has been. In fact, some parts of this business are downright loathsome. Of course, the gurus out there did not tell me about those aspects of the business. They just shared the parts about collecting rent checks. So, you newbies out there with stars in your eyes, please take note that there are some negative aspects to this business. I guess that is true about any business, but the key is to find ways (and the strength) to overcome them.

So what is so bad about being a landlord?

The Phone Calls

When you become a landlord, your phone begins to ring. Sometimes that can be good; other times it can be bad. Good or bad, there comes a time when you’ll be ready to throw your phone in the river because it never seems to stop ringing. Prospective tenants call looking to rent an apartment. Current tenants call to tell you something is broken, that they will be late with their rent or to complain about something else. There is always someone calling.

And the more you grow, the more your phone rings.

Eventually, you have to do something to stop it, but you still need to communicate. Texting is a wonderful solution, as is an answering service. Even hiring an assistant becomes a real possibility. Sure, you still have to take some calls, but managing them becomes key if you are going to continue to be successful.

millennials-hate-voicemails

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

The Attitudes You Deal With

It is amazing what non-real estate people think about what I do. I can’t count the number of times when I tell folks that I am a landlord, and they instantly reply, “Oh you’re a slumlord.” I never really expected this when I got into the business, and I am still shocked by this attitude today. I could get angry and give some snide reply, but I have found that being nice, explaining what I do and even telling tenant horror stories usually wins the day.

Being the Lone Wolf

Being a small landlord generally means being out on your own. No longer can you hang around the water cooler and gripe with your co-workers. Griping seems like a simple thing, but being able to gripe with like-minded people is important. It is a sort of therapy. It releases tension and steam.

One way to combat this is by joining a local real estate group group or real estate club. Doing this was one of the best things  I ever did. It is great to have a network of understanding friends to talk to when you have a particularly bad day.

The Misunderstandings

Sort of like being called a slumlord, many people have a complete misunderstanding of what it is I do. They seem to think that being a landlord is just about collecting rent. And while that is part of it, they do not understand the efforts I have made and the business I have developed to be able to collect that rent.

I have to find decent properties to buy. I have to find other people’s money to buy them. I have to rehab and maintain those properties. I have to find, screen, and deal with the tenants. I have to keep the government off my back, along with a whole host of other daily activities that take a lot of time and effort. I would like to see others try to do this job. A kind word and a bit of education go a long way here.

The Paperwork

The paperwork that comes with this job is overwhelming. There are leases, move-in forms, move-out forms, work orders, receipts, invoices, checks, W-9s, 1099s, 1040s, 1065s, deeds, mortgages, notes, envelopes, stamps, etc., etc. Be warned, newbies, the paperwork can quickly bury you. The problem is, it all must be done to run your business properly. At first, you will likely to be able to handle most of this yourself. But as you grow, you will need help. Do not neglect to spend the money for this help; otherwise, you will become a paper-pusher rather than a landlord and investor.

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Everyone Thinks I’m Rich

People tend to hear the word “landlord” and instinctively think of money — and that I have lots of it. While I may have a bit of equity here and there and rents checks coming in, much of that goes right back out. Because…

Everyone Tries to Get Into My Pocket

Tenants want breaks on their rent. Contractors inflate their prices, and the tax man is always around and coming up with something new. Every day someone is trying to dig deeper in my pockets, and one of the toughest parts of this job is keeping folks’ hands out of it.

Related: Millennials HATE Voicemails: Here’s How That Affects YOU As a Landlord

The Constant Negotiation

Everybody always wants to negotiate. Applicants want to negotiate my rental criteria. Tenants want to negotiate the rules. Property owners want to negotiate prices. Being a landlord is being in a state of constant negotiation. This is one of the major changes of leaving the 9 to 5 world. And I do not think it will ever stop until I get out of the business. Stand firm and learn how to do it. If you can’t, you are in for a rough time.

The Bad Tenants

This is perhaps the worst part of the business. Even after 12 years and lots of lessons learned, a bad tenant still comes along every once in a while. Usually something happens in their lives, and they turn bad. They lose a job or fall off the wagon, something neither they or the landlord saw coming, but they take it out in part on you and your property. They stop paying rent, force an eviction and perhaps destroy your property. This is perhaps the worst of the landlording business. And nothing I have learned so far is completely effective at eliminating them.

If nine things are all I can think of, life can’t really be all that bad. And, in fact, it is not. I certainly do not wish I had never gotten into real estate, and I do not think I could ever go back to the 9 to 5 world again. So if you want to make the jump into landlording, by all means, do so. Just go in with your eyes open, and understand that not everything is wine and roses.

Thanks for listening. I feel better now.

Landlords: What do YOU hate most about the business?

Leave your rants below!

About Author

Kevin Perk is co-founder of Kevron Properties, LLC with his wife Terron and has been involved in real estate investing for 10 years. Kevin invests in and manages rental properties in Memphis, TN and is a past president and vice-president of the local REIA group, the Memphis Investors Group.

34 Comments

  1. My biggest complaint is when people who cannot manage their own finances try to tell me how to manage mine. Rather than get angry, I just give them a quick finance lesson. People who cannot do math always think you are just being mean and greedy when you do not give them what they want. For example, a tenant who I was on good terms with tried to tell me that it would be better to replace her furnace rather than repair it. She “never” asked for anything so there should be enough money for this. I explained to her that since her rent was $550 per month and my payment was $350 per month, that left $200 per month for everything else. I then explained how the property taxes were $100 per month and the insurance was $50 per month. The remaining $50 per month amounted to $600 per year and she had called me to fix a main sewer line clog twice that year at a cost of $150 each time. I then explained how a furnace installation would run about $3000, so at a rate of $300 per year I will have saved enough to buy her a new furnace in 10 years, but it could be sooner if she quit clogging the sewer line with baby wipes!

    FYI : Don’t assume I am stupid for buying such a poorly performing rental. I paid off my 10 year mortgage later that year and installed a new kitchen for $3000 and furnace the following year for $1000, so that I could charge $650 for rent. I net $5000-6000 on this paid off house each year. (which I purchased with no money down)

    • Joe Harper

      It still amazes me when I ask my tenants “do you know what PITI is?” And not one tenant has any idea. They think that rent is all profit and I certainly don’t deserve to make any money. It does explain why they keep asking me to upgrade vanities and appliances. Today a tenant asked me for a water hose and became indignant when unsaid i would let her borrow one.

    • Kevin Perk

      Michelle,

      I agree. Many people have no idea how money works and flows, much less how a business works. And I’ll be the first to admit that I did not either and had to learn myself. Question is, how do we solve that problem? I barely learned anything about it in grade school and it can be bypassed completely in college. Any thoughts out there?

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

      Kevin

      • Well, you would assume that the solution is to implement education. However, as an educator and a parent, I can tell you that the attempts to do this are not terribly helpful. My kids were taught in their mock economy at school that the goal was to spend all your money on consumer items and go into debt for them. My daughter was told that she was not “allowed” to pay cash for a car and given options for car loans with varying monthly payments. She said fine, then give me a bus pass!

        There were no options for investing in real estate. Thankfully, I had already taught her at home or she would have been brainwashed. One of her teachers told her that the stock market has outperformed all other investments. When she provided him with data showing that real estate had better returns, he just said “you don’t want to fix toilets”. She told him that is why you hire a plumber. She was a pretty sharp 12 year old.

        I would like to see successful individuals provide online instruction that is required of all high school students. There could be different presenters for stock market investing, different types of real estate, running a business, personal finance, etc. However, the schools are run by the government and sadly, I don’t think they really want people to be educated in this field.

  2. Jade Spell

    Great comments, Kevin. Concerning the attitudes, I’ve found a disturbing number of non-RE investors who think landlords are “greedy” on rent pricing and should give people a “break” on rent increases since we must surely be part of the 1%-ers. This sentiment seems to be pervasive in tenant activist groups in some tenant-friendly states. Another attitude I’ve found is that some believe the government should step in and keep landlords from “buying up all the property”. These kinds of beliefs are why non-real estate investors and some tenants take a stance that we can just buy or replace any new appliance if they aren’t pleased with what’s in place.

    A bit of education could truly go a long way to help others understand what it is we do.

  3. Jealousy. Plain and simple.

    I would like to think that I am successful in life, not by chance but by design. Each twist and turn in my career, I turned into a positive. Although people will tell you that they are happy for you, they really want you to be as miserable as they are. The question I get is “Why do you get that and I don’t?” It’s hard to think, “Ok, I’m going to take my valuable time and explain why.” It would be so much more fun to say, “Well, that’s because you’re not me!” Kevin, there will always be haters!

    My 9-5, before RE and early retirement was being a pharmaceutical rep. When I would tell people what I do, they would say things like, “Oh, so you’re a drug dealer?” or “Oh, so you’re a caterer?” Again, I had to do everything I could to keep from saying, “Do you make $150,000 a year doing your cubicle hell job?” or tell them about the sales meeting that I have to go to in….Hawaii for a week.

    RE is hands down better than any corporate job because of the FREEDOM!

    • Kevin Perk

      James,

      I agree with your last statement about the freedom. Jealousy is certainly part of it, but would add ignorance to the list. There is a lot of ignorance out there about what we do, how a business works and economics in general.

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment,

      Kevin

  4. Kimberly H.

    We’ve gotten the slumlord comment too. I’m just like, sure, if you consider making rentals in a lot of ways better than my own home and rents that are $1350-$1700 slumlord rents then sure. And the paperwork…wow…I’d like to get some help with that but I keep thinking I need to clone myself…

    • Kevin Perk

      Kimberly,

      Its amazing how my properties always get fixed up before my own home :).

      Do get some paperwork help. You will wonder why you did not do it sooner.

      I appreciate you reading and taking the time to comment,

      Kevin

  5. Kellum Lewis

    Thanks for a great article, Kevin. I especially liked reading, “Being a landlord is being in a state of constant negotiation. . . . Stand firm and learn how to do it.” The hardest thing for me was balancing being a “nice guy” (for instance, when tenants called to say rent would be late because such-and-such happened) with the necessities of running a business. I’ve had to learn to say, “I’m sorry, that sounds awful. However, you still have to pay your rent on time or I will have to start eviction proceedings.” I’d call this, “Learning how to be the bad guy when you need to be.”

    • Kevin Perk

      Kellum,

      It is hard to be the bad guy. No one wants to be the bad guy, but you have to or your bottom line will really suffer.

      But think of it this way. Are you really being the bad guy for asking for what you are owed, or are they for trying to get out of it?

      Thanks for reading and for commenting,

      Kevin

  6. Erik Nowacki

    Thanks for the article Kevin. It’s always good to know that fellow landlords go through the same thing, it makes me feel less lonely…

    I recently had a tenant tell me that she couldn’t pay her rent on time this month because she had a lot of bills to pay. I calmly told her that she should look at all of those bills and first pay the ones that are more important than keeping a roof over her head. Most of my tenants are tenants because they can’t prioritize expenses.

    I just acquired a medium sized apartment complex in Memphis and the prior owner had let the tenants fall behind and get caught up when they get their tax refunds… Now I have to retrain these tenants that your rent is due, in full, every month and we do not play the “catch up at tax time” game. I’m sure I’ll have to evict a few before they all get the idea…

    So, for number 10 on your list I submit: Erase bad tenant habits that have been tolerated or encouraged by their prior landlords.

    Erik

    • Kevin Perk

      Erik,

      We tell our new tenants at lease signing that the first bill they pay is the rent, then utilities, then groceries, then gas, then everything else. Sometimes you just have to educate them because I have also heard the same excuses you have.

      I like you number 10 as well, but that could be an entire new post.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

      Kevin

    • Kevin Perk

      Jerry,

      Nope, I do not get involved. One thing we tell tenants on the front end is “you are all adults, act like it and work it out.” Do not get sucked in as they will only suck you in deeper.

      Thanks for reading and commenting,

      Kevin

  7. Alex Craig

    You nailed it on the attitudes. Most of the attitude comes form a lack of education. Like I tell my staff, over the history of medical science, cures for many diseases have been developed, but they have not come up and will never come up with a cure for stupid.

    There are 2 things I hate that you did not mention.

    1) It is never enough. I could give a tenant 1 million dollars and they would whine about the taxes.

    2) Any bozo can make a bad review. While our PM company has done well with this, I have a couple out there. My favorite was the one who said we are slum lords because she did not have a washer and dryer for 2 weeks. She failed to mention that we normally do not do this, but made an exception and since it was a stackable unit, it would take 2 weeks (which it did), because we were ordering direct from the manufacture. I guess my # 2 falls back on # 1.

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