As a part-time landlord, or a full-time one for that matter, you’d rather not spend your time managing frequent turnover of your rental property, much less dealing with unhappy or difficult tenants.  Here are some tips for finding and keeping solid renters:

  1. It’s said about home-buying that you make your money on the purchase.  It can be similarly said about landlording that the initial step of selecting a tenant provides you with the best odds for a positive experience.  Carefully screen all applicants by running a credit check, a criminal background check, and calling their current employer and landlord to verify their present status.  Also, when interviewing your potential tenants, listen for things such as their typical work schedule, how they spend their time, their hobbies, etc. as insight into how they live.  Trust your instincts and don’t gloss over potential red flags (for instance, a couple is applying but requests to provide personal info for only one of them).  By doing these things, you’ll likely have to pass over some prospective tenants before finding the right one - when this happens, be glad you won’t find out if skipping one of these steps led to a non-paying or irresponsible tenant.

  2. Set a competitive rent price by studying nearby comparable properties in local For-Rent listings.  Once you have good tenants, consider not increasing the rent for as long as possible to encourage them to stay.  Even a brief vacancy can cost a lot more money than you’d earn through a rent increase over a couple of years or longer, particularly when considering the costs of cleaning and repairs, changing locks, and your time spent showing the place.

  3. Edit the language in your lease agreement specifically for your requirements.  For example, you may want your tenant to be responsible for mowing the yard.  A generic lease agreement might not include this, therefore be sure to add this clause. Do not rely on oral agreements for these types of (mis)understandings.

  4. When a problem arises related to heating or cooling, an appliance, or a utility (as it inevitably will), have it fixed without delay.  Not only is it your obligation but your tenants will appreciate the responsiveness.   In return, most tenants will respect your property and their own lease obligations even more.

  5. Clean your rental thoroughly, including outside areas, before showing it to prospective tenants.  Setting a high standard for initial appearance not only helps attract quality renters but also establishes a benchmark showing how well maintained the place can be kept, not to mention how clean the tenant must leave it upon moving out in order to receive their full damage deposit refund.

  6. Write firm language in the lease establishing the rent due date and daily charges for late penalties, then hold to this policy.  Paying rent on-time is the tenant holding up their end of the bargain, thus should not in any way appear negotiable.

  7. If possible, have the tenant set up utilities in their names, so that the utility company is responsible for pursuing any delinquent bills.  Note that some jurisdictions require that certain utilities be billed directly to you as the property owner.   In this case you’ll have to forward each bill on to the tenant, provided that’s how you set up your lease agreement.

  8. Treat the tenant with respect in all communications.  Remember that they are ultimately a client who pays you for your services.

Following this advice will help you make landlording an easier and more profitable experience.  Furthermore, having long-term quality tenants will leave you with more time for endeavors other than landlording!