One of the best tools a landlord can adopt early on is creating a rental property strategy. There are several "landlord how to" books on the market (see below for one of the better) but none can every adequately articulate qualities of becoming a landlord. As a landlord situations will arise that you will be tempted to deal with on a case-by-case basis. Your decisions will be based on the moment. This is a recipe for disaster. You should form an attainable strategy and stick with it. The following will address what is protocols are necessary for negative tenant situations and how to be a landlord:
1) When the rent stops. This should be your number one strategy as you will face it often and will be educational on your road to becoming a landlord. Often when renters are delinquent they'll perform in such ways as to avoid communicating with or deceive you with regards to where the rent is. None of that should matter if you spell out in your contract a set of protocols for delinquent rent. My lease spells out when late fees are applied to the rent but also spells out after a certain amount of days, I will begin eviction proceedings to which nothing will stop it even if the tenant has the rent after that date. If you have the same stick with it and under no circumstances should you deviate from it unless you truly deem the late rent to be due to an emergency but that emergency should be highly extreme and unlikely to happen.
2) Repairs. Your rental property strategy should also address who is responsible for repairs in the home. As landlords, we're responsible for the structure of the home (roof, load bearing devices inside) as long as it wasn't damaged by the renters. We're also responsible for heating during the winter. Have a plan established and documented regarding what you will repair. If a hail storm damages the roof you'll have to pay for it. If a renter damages the roof while installing a satellite dish, they're responsible. The same should be outlined for the water heater and other appliances. If it breaks and you're not responsible don't be talked into paying for it! Don't wait for an emergency situation to happen and you learn, in the trenches, how to be a landlord.
3) Utilities. If the water gets cut off, will you have it turned back on in your name or hope the renters can survive and don't abruptly leave? The same for heating during the winter. If the heat is shut off do you have a plan to keep pipes from freezing? Your plan should resemble mine and that is if the heat is shut off I will not turn the utility on in my name but will take necessary steps to keep the pipes from freezing including bringing in space heaters or having the home winterized. Don't allow a desperate situation for a renter to turn into money leaving your wallet.
4) Involving yourself with renters. My rule-of-thumb is to never get personally involved with renters. In the past I've been invited to BBQs and other events. I politely declined. I simply cannot allow myself to get involved beyond a business level with people that one day I may have to throw out of the home. Another reason is I've found renters who see kindness and empathy as a weakness to be exploited. Don't let attending a renter's Bar Mitzvah get in the way of your making a decision to protect your investment and your wallet.
5) Familiarize yourself with the law! If you think becoming a landlord is as simple as putting people into a home and collecting rent, stop right now and look up all available state and local laws regarding to landlords. Failure to do so can find yourself staring down a tenant lawsuit.
These are just some simple steps to writing your own personal "landlord how to" book on rental property strategy and a must-have for anyone interested in becoming a landlord. Otherwise, you may very find yourself in financial problems not to mention legal ones.