This is the third article in a series of three from Ownersite Technologies about ensuring the maintenance of a secondary property, including vacation homes and rental dwellings. The topics include maintenance tips, owners’ rights when renters do not take care of a property, and how to work with tenants to maintain a home and maximize its value.
Renting a property is never an easy task. Many investors turn to property management companies to handle the responsibilities because of time restrictions or fear that there will be problems with the tenant that require the expertise of a professional that understands and enforces the laws on their behalf.
Do not believe all the horror stories. A number of home investors will tell you that the job of a landlord does not have to be that difficult or troubling if you find good tenants and you work together to maintain the property in a way that is mutually beneficial. There are many ways to create a long-term partnership if a clear agreement is reached and consistent actions illustrate each party’s willingness to maintain the property.
Understand Your Tenant’s Perspective
Everyone is different and you cannot believe what a wide range of personalities or expectations you will encounter once you become a landlord. Try to see their position by putting yourself in their shoes so you understand what their expectations might be of you as the landlord and what you are providing them in terms of shelter and quality of life.
Looking at it this way may help you see beyond just your position as a business person. Taking this approach will help establish a good working relationship that results in a long-term rental rather than the time-consuming task of interviewing and checking new tenants every few months or once a year.
Agree on Expectations and Communicate
The best approach you can take as a landlord is to keep the lines of communication open so the tenant knows that they can speak to you when needed. Developing mutual respect for each other’s roles as well as putting all agreements on expectations in writing will help to ensure a pleasant experience. Make sure that everything is understood from the beginning for both of you. If you do not start out on the right foot, it may be a difficult journey and lead to problems. Also responding quickly to any requests will put your tenants at ease and create a good partnership.
Divide the Labor
While our previous article provided a list of maintenance chores for both the landlord and the tenant, there may be some instances where consensus is reached that the tenant will maintain property and make all necessary repairs. Often, renters that plan on staying for the long term like to know that they can paint, garden, or add upgrades to the home to make it more enjoyable while they live there.
Usually, the rent is adjusted to reflect this extra work and expense on the behalf of the tenant. It is important that the tenant understand that they must get written permission from you prior to forging ahead on their redecorating or remodeling projects. They should also provide copies of receipts for any items purchased so you can have an accounting of why the rent was reduced during certain months. This kind of assistance not only helps you lighten your load in terms of maintenance, but it also provides an incentive for the tenant to stay longer and can potentially add value to your investment.
To make a lease more inviting, you might want to consider including certain maintenance services within the monthly rent to justify what you plan to charge. These services might include pool and spa or gardening services. You might also want to replace carpet or freshen up the home with a coat of paint. All of these actions will send the right message to your tenant that you are willing to maintain the home so you would expect the same.
Keep Your Distance
Always view your investment rental as a business arrangement with your tenant. It is not a wise choice to get into friendships because the lines will be blurred as to who is responsible for what and each side may then end up taking advantage of the other. It is best to just have a good tenant that pays the rent on time and keep the place well maintained.
Take care to do your maintenance and repairs to the property when your tenant is not at home. After all, no one really feels that comfortable having someone they really do not know very well in their personal space even if the property is not their own. Both you and your tenant should agree when it might be an opportune time for both of you to conduct any maintenance on the inside or outside of the property.
Create a Maintenance Schedule
Mistakes happen and disagreements can result. As a landlord, you may be consumed by your work or numerous properties, forgetting to keep up with certain maintenance tasks. This can cause friction with your tenants who do not want to take it upon themselves to remind you or get stuck with the work.
An online home maintenance schedule with e-mail alerts to your e-mail, PDA, or cell phone will remind you when it is time to take care of certain tasks at your investment properties. You can suggest that your tenant keep a similar online schedule of their agreed-upon tasks so that each of you has a sense of when the other will be keeping up on certain tasks. This will help both of you also track tax deductible expenses.
Services like Ownersite Technologies, which offer this convenience, can also offer an online depository to keep all types of information about your second home, including an inventory of each room to ensure nothing has been stolen or damaged. While this will help you reclaim the value of items with your insurance company, it will also keep clarity and transparency with your tenants so that they know you have accounted for every item on the property along with photographs. This also provides a sense of security and cuts out any misunderstandings. If a situation were to occur where you had to go to court – and you would hope that it never reached that point – you would also have specific documentation.
Develop Long-Term Profitable Relationships
Your tenant wants a place they can call home and you need someone to take care of the property for you. By reaching consensus as well as defining clear roles and responsibilities for each of you, there is the opportunity for a long-term profitable relationship. It is well worth your time and money to ensure that you keep a tenant for the long haul instead of having a high turnover or the risk of no interested parties.
Be sure to read our other articles about maintaining a vacation home or rental property as well as how the maintenance work is divided between you, as the landlord, and your tenants in a way that lightens the load for both of you.