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Help! I Just Inherited an Investment Property, I am Now a "Landlord" What Should I do? 7 Golden Rules to Know

This cry for help came in from one of my clients via a voice mail message. Owning a rental property provides great tax breaks and potentially good financial returns, but also exposes the individual to major legal liabilities. This individual was in a lot of trouble and needed to take a quick lesson in Landlord 101. Based on my experience, I  put together the following list of 7 basic aspects for my new investor-client to study, and to help him become a good law-abiding landlord and a savvy investor.

  • Educate yourself about your duties, responsibilities and liabilities of a landlord. It is a business in which ignorance is NOT a defensible argument. If you have to go to court to either collect your rents, evict somebody, or even worse; being sued by one of your tenants, you better know your job very well and be prepared, it could cost you the entire investment property and more, if you are not.
  • Join a group of "Apartment Owners Associations." Become a subscriber and get involved in their discussions.  These people will be your best allies. The AOA group provides professional guidance and will help and support you in making your business of providing housing for others more profitable, easier and more enjoyable. They will have real time alerts on new laws and local proposals that can affect the business of apartment owners.
  • Chose your tenants carefully! Be fair and color blind when interviewing potential tenants. There are strict rules about discrimination of any kind. Your own personal beliefs should not dictate who you rent to. Develop a consistent and clear procedure to always use when choosing your tenants. Tests are regularly conducted by the Fair Housing authorities and the penalties are severe.
  • Maintain your rental properties! Landlords who do not spend money in maintenance or repairs, will invariably spend much more money defending their actions or lack off in court when a tenant gets injured or harmed because of lack of maintenance. The value of a rental property is based on income and overall physical condition. A clean, safe and well maintained property will always provide high rental values with less tenant turnover.
  • Do not get personal, seek legal advise when dealing with trouble tenants. There is a set of steps that must be followed exactly when enforcing a lease or rental agreement. The correct forms must be used, the timing must be absolute, and even the wording on the document must be specific and appropriate for each situation. If it is not done right, the entire process must start all over again. Let the professionals handle these situations.
  • Know thy Limits...! Even if you consider yourself a "handyman," and know how to swing a hammer or use a power tool, know when to call the professionals. Can you really tackle a plumbing or an electrical problem? Hiring the right professional could shield you not only from personal injuries to yourself or your tenants but from legal liability. The key here is to do it right; do not think "expenses" think instead "tax reductions."
  • Put together a team to help you run your business. Do not wait until you need an attorney to look for one. Begin by asking other landlords in the area if they know someone locally. If possible, get to meet them, find out what their fees are, their work schedules, where are they located etc. Do this for everybody. You will need a good plumber, electrician, roofer, flooring specialist and painter. If you do your homework, you will know exactly who to call when an emergency arises. Taking care of tenants problems right away is a good solid block in which to build a strong relationship with the most valuable partner you will have in your rental business: YOUR Tenant.

Hold up your rental values!A rental property pays back at least in 3 different ways: Appreciation: in a healthy real estate market, properties go up in price. Depreciation: When you own a rental property you can deduct the improvement (the value of the building) one 27th of its value every year for 27 years. And finally, Income: the rent paid by the tenant, minus expenses. Keep your tenants happy and they in turn will respect your property, pay you good rents and stay in place longer.

The Realtors In Motion       Antonio & Alexia Cardenas   

                  "The Realtors In Motion" 

         CRS, GRI, E-Pro Certified. SFR (Short Sales, Forclosure Resource) Serving the east shores of the San Francisco Bay, Alameda county: specially the following cities: Castro Valley, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Hayward, Oakland, Pleasanton & Dublin.

                  Visit us on line at:

www.listedbyantonio.com or call (510) 326-4263

                     Call us, We'll come and TANGO with you!

Comment balloon 5 commentsAntonio & Alexia Cardenas • February 16 2010 11:37PM

Comments

Great post.  Get yourself a group of support staf in a database, and go for it.  Being a landlord is not so bad.  Screen the tenants, and make sure the property is well taken care of.  Also make sure you know of a good collection agency.  There is nother worse than trying to run your business and trying to collect Rent from a troublesome tenant (especially one you inherited).

Posted by Geoff ONeill (John L. Scott Medford) over 10 years ago

Thanks Geoff, I did not think of a collection agency, but I'll bet it comes in handy. with the employment figures so high, this would be a problem. I appreciate your visit.

Antonio

Posted by Antonio & Alexia Cardenas, "The Realtors In Motion" (Alameda County - San Leandro, CA.) over 10 years ago

Antonio & Alexia, 

You write a very thorough top seven points about being a landlord.  While no one task is that tough, there's enough going on that seems to be making my phone ring and inox get filled more and more each day, as folks call in professionals.  

Thanks for sharing.  Love the join a group/association, that's where they'll really learn if they want to do it themselves.  (You can learn the hard way as one person, but you are much better off having others around you can kick ideas back and forth with.)

All the best, Michelle

Posted by Michelle Francis, Realtor, Buckhead Atlanta Homes for Sale & Lease (Tim Francis Realty LLC) over 10 years ago

Thank you Michelle, dealing with tenants is not for everybody... no matter how prepared you think you are, there are surprises and one must simply learn how to deal with them in a manner that helps you keep your property and stay out of court. Thanks for your visit.

Antonio

Posted by Antonio & Alexia Cardenas, "The Realtors In Motion" (Alameda County - San Leandro, CA.) over 10 years ago
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