10 Tips for Every Landlord

Whether you own a single-family rental house or multiple apartment complexes, as a LANDLORD you are aiming to run a profitable business. To a Landlord, the primary objective is to earn income from the rent collected from tenants. These are some simple suggestions to ensure that as a Landlord, you run your operation successfully.

1. Screen the Tenant

Always get your Tenant’s background, credit history, employment, income information, and references. Get to know your tenants as you will be giving them full access to your property. Verify the prospective tenant’s income by asking for paystubs, bank statements, and tax returns. Have the tenant sign a credit report authorization so that you can run their credit. The credit report is especially important because it will help indicate whether the person has a history of paying rent or bills late, have filed bankruptcy before, or has ever been evicted.

2. Have a Written Agreement  

Whether you’re renting the property on a month-to-month basis or on a longer term, always sign a written agreement with the tenant. Generally, you will sign a rental agreement for a short term tenancy, and a lease agreement is for a set period of time, usually a year. The Agreement will document the important facts and terms of the relationship between you and the tenant, and spell out the duties and responsibilities for both parties.

3. Handle the Security Deposit Properly

Landlords generally require a security deposit from tenants. Typically, it is one month’s rent, and the security deposit is intended to cover any damage to the property that goes beyond normal wear and tear, and in the event that tenant breaches the lease resulting in the landlord incurring monetary damages. Under California law, a landlord may charge a renter the equivalent of two months’ rent if the residence is unfurnished, and three months’ rent if the residence is furnished. In California, the security deposit may NOT be non-refundable, and must be returned to the tenant, with an itemized statement of deductions, within 21 days after the tenant has surrendered the property back to the landlord.

4. Maintain and Repair the Real Property

Your written agreement should list out what type repairs and maintenance are the responsibility of the landlord’s or tenants. Generally, larger maintenance tasks and most repairs will be the landlord’s responsibility while the tenant would be asked to take care of minor repairs or maintenance like general cleaning, plunging toilets, and replacing light bulbs. However, the Landlord must arrange for repairs promptly. If you fail to conduct repairs in a reasonable time, the tenant may earn the right to withhold rent, repair the problem, deduct the cost from the rent, sue for injuries caused by the defect, and/or move out without giving notice.

5. Provide Proper Notice before Entering 

Even though you own the property, when you rent it out to the tenant, the tenant gains an exclusive right to possession of the property. You therefore must give proper notice to the tenant before entering the premise, and it is recommended that you do so in writing to avoid any disputes. In California, a landlord is required to give at least 24 hour notice before entering a rental property.

6. Conduct an Inspection with Tenant before Move-in

Meet with your tenant and inspect the property with a thorough walk-through. Have an Inspection Checklist ready where both the landlord and tenant can make notes of any critical maintenance issue can avoid future disputes on whose responsible and who caused it. Having the home inspection before a tenant moves in and after the tenant moves out will give you the proper documentation to show any damage caused by the tenant.

7. Disclose all environmental hazards

Lead and asbestos are common concerns in older buildings. Federal law requires landlords to disclose and warn tenants of the presence of lead paint, and many state law requires landlords to take action to remove it. Under federal law, asbestos must be contained or removed if it pose a health hazard, but no prior disclosure is required. Mold is also a common hazard for tenants. The landlord is responsible for controlling and treating mold that is not caused by the tenants. Landlords are increasingly being held liable for tenant health problems relating to environmental toxins in the rental premises, therefore always address any potential environmental hazards with the tenants, and take action to treat them.

8. Provide a Habitable Premise

A landlord must provide a “warranty of habitability” to the tenant, meaning the landlord must maintain the leased dwelling in a habitable condition throughout the term of the lease. This also implies that the landlord must maintain and repair the premise to keep it in a habitable condition.

9. Have Property Insurance

Purchase sufficient property insurance for your rental property. An insurance policy can help protect you from lawsuits by tenants for injuries or claims of discrimination, from damages caused by an unruly tenant, and also from losses to your rental property caused by natural causes or from a burglary or vandalism.

10. Open Communication with your Tenant

Always communicate with your tenant, and do it in writing whenever possible (whether by email, text, or written notices). If an issue arises, immediately address it with the tenant to avoid any potential misunderstanding or resentment later on. Keep in mind, it is in both parties’ interest to have a good working relationship for the tenancy.

–by Kevin Liu, Esq.

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