Top 5 things landlords need

So you want to be a landlord or you became one after getting stuck with the house flip that didn't go so well and think to yourself, "I want to be a landlord!" You think all there is to the game is finding people, putting them in, and collecting the rent but never considered asking who can be a landlord. There are things you need to know about being a landlord and here are the top 5 attributes you must possess if you want to be a landlord. Otherwise your venture into this business will quickly become a nightmare!
  1. You can't be a goody-goody, softy.
    You rented to a couple with two small children. For whatever reason you allowed yourself to get personally involved with them (which is a no-no) Five months into the lease the rent stops coming. You wait patiently two weeks past the rent due date and finally catch up with them since they stopped answering your phone calls. They tell you work has been "slow" but they will have the rent in a week and not to worry. A week comes and goes and there is no rent in your mail box. Concerned you go to the home and though you know they are home they refuse to answer the door. You start asking questions of who can be a landlord throw out someone like this.

    If the thought that evicting these people with children is unpalatable to you, you're in the wrong business. Being a landlord means making the tough and difficult decisions to keep your bottom line from bleeding red. If it means evicting ostensibly helpless people which sooner or later you will have to do, then you need to be strong enough to do it. Otherwise you can be staring down thousands of dollars owed you, a rental that is not producing, and hoping for the best the renters do the right thing not to mention questioning why you wanted to be a landlord. A good landlord will do what is needed to keep a rental profitable.
  2. Stuff will break! Be ready!
    Who can be a landlord? People who can fix things or know people can fix things on the cheap! You think your personal home is a money pit? Try renting out a home to a dozen different people, some of who respect themselves even less than your property. Sooner or later something in your rental will break or become damaged. A sink may start leaking or a furnace may go out. What will you do? Look up someone in the Yellow Pages and ask them to address your problem? Sure, that's the ticket. Just don't be shocked when your bill for the service is equal to two month's rent. A good landlord is prepared for the inevitable water heater problem. If you're good with this sort of thing and can do it yourself let your renter's know this. Set up a "service level agreement" where you will respond to certain types of problems in what manner of time. So if the toilet starts spraying water at 4:00am, let the renters know you'll be there as soon as you can (as soon as they act to protect the property by shutting off the water) If you prefer to source out this sort of work, have a list of people who can do the work on a moment's notice (see hiring good contractors) Preferably these are inexpensive contractors who do honest and good work. Either way, don't let your renters tell you about a serious problem and think it's something you can ignore.
  3. Be prepared for when the rent stops coming in.!
    Sooner or later the rent will stop coming. Be it a deadbeat renter or your rental is remaining empty longer than you thought. If you own a mortgage on the home, the lender doesn't care about your problems and will expect payments. The same as well of the property tax collector. What will you do when you need to make payments but there is no revenue? Or even worse, what happens when you need to fix a roof or a garage? It's best to figure out now and the best way to protect yourself is either have access to a line of credit or even better, have several months of cash ready to use when this happens. It's not a matter of IF but WHEN the rent stops coming in and how you, as a good landlord, will react.
  4. Know how to make things look nice on the cheap.
    Recently, I turned over a rental after young thugs who much trashed it. I could have gone out and contracted someone to clean and fix it but my wife and I did it ourselves. We bought .69 cent/square foot faux wood flooring, a good quality dark paint, some 2-for-$10 light fixtures, and a $89.00 toilet. After many hours and maybe $850 out-of-pocket costs, we had the home back into renter-ready shape inside of four weeks. If all you know are the best and most expensive housing items, then you're probably not going to make it in the rental business. Renters won't care about a marble counter top and and neither does a good landlord.
  5. Know your stuff.
    Do you know the laws governing what you can and can't do in your municipality as a landlord? A good landlord should! Step on them with a savvy renter and you may find yourself being sued. Even worse you may find your renters living in your home, rent-free, for a very long time. Even better know what you need to provide to renters as a landlord. If your laws force you to go over lead exposure laws then do it. Locally, this is a must and if you're audited and not able to prove this, you could be fined $1000s of dollars. There's more to renting than putting strangers in your home and collecting rent. Failure to follow these laws and regulations can dig deep into your wallet and your mind!