How landlords can easily monitor their rentals on the cheap

Oct 29 2012

Over the years, my rental properties have seen some kind and gentle people that I truly miss, but not many.  Due to where my properties are located, I am forced to pick from a pool of people you generally would not allow into your home.  Among that pool of applicants, I am forced to pick from those that suck the least so very often I get ne'er-do-wells, riff-raff, and sundry petty minded people.

My rental properties are located within somewhat close proximity to me.  It's a 25 mile, one way trip to get to either of them.  I can't be there all the time but there is a resource there that can be;  the neighbors!

Here are some easy steps for you to utilize your neighbor resources to keep an eye on your rental properties.

  1. Get to know your neighbors!  This can't be stressed enough.  They're the ones who are always there and can be your eyes and ears.  Get to know more than one set of neighbors.  They know the area well and know the types of people who permanently live in the area.
  2. Give your neighbors a means to immediately contact you. I gave my neighbors my cell phone number and let them know I was available any time they needed to contact me or if they have any questions or concerns about the property or tenants, I was always available. This gives neighbors a sense of empowerment and to let them know you do care about them and are not a "scumlord."

    This has worked so well in the past, I have had neighbors call regarding possible drug situations, tenants stock piling furniture outside as if to move, etc.

  3. Get your neighbor's numbers for yourself! Let the neighbors know anything they tell you will be held in confidence. Doing this will guarantee you a wellspring of information about your property and tenants. This has worked very well for me in the past when I was concerned about tenant behavior and activities. I could easily call and ask what the tenants were up to or if they had been around for awhile.
  4. If your rental has a neighborhood watch and/or HOA, make yourself acquainted with them. Spending an hour of your time at a local community meeting can reap future benefits with locals and neighbors close to your rentals. Give them your email address and let them know you're available for any questions or concerns. The neighbors will be more likewise to contact you for problems with your tenants.
  5. Don't set limits on what you are willing to be called about! If you give up your contact information, you will may find yourself being contacted by neighbors for all sorts of non-issues. Talk with them over these issues, look into them, and move on. Do not scold them or tell them you don't care as this can shut down that particular flow of information very quickly!
  6. Beware the neighbor whose intent is to control your tenant's every actions! In one of my units, I was forced to field the concerns of neighbors over my tenant's parking on the street in front of other's homes. The problem is the streets are public and people can park where they like. I did, however, phone the tenants and asked if they would consider following that street's customs.

Neighbors are often the most under valued means landlords have for monitoring their units with no cost. Permanent neighbors have a vested interest in your rentals which should be utilized and cultivated. You can't be at your units all the time but they can and if allowed, they will be there to help you monitor your units. The risks of having an over-reaching neighbor who wants to control your units are there but far outweighed by the benefits of such a neighbor/landlord relationship.

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