Tips for Being a Good Landlord
Being a good landlord means more than just being a nice person or even being fair. Whether you are just starting out or have been a landlord for a period of time, laws and situations change. There are a number of ways you can legally protect yourself as well as provide a good living experience for your tenant. Charity Day, Director of the Housing Consumer Education Center in Turners Falls, MA, offered some good tips for being a landlord.
“All landlords should take classes whether they have been a landlord for a while or are new,” said Day. Day said that housing laws vary around the country and “if you are not in compliance it will cost you a lot more in the long run.”
Before the tenant moves in
Be aware of what is legally allowable to charge your tenant. For example, in Massachusetts, you can charge a first and last month’s rent, and a security and key deposit – nothing else. You can’t charge anything additional for pets nor can you charge an “application fee”.
Day said that landlords should begin by being careful screening the prospective tenant. “Landlords should be doing a thorough and fair application process. They should be checking references and either requesting documentation of income or a release (of information) to contact their employer,” she said.
Before the tenant moves in, Day said to make sure to do a careful walk-through with the tenant and to make note of any maintenance or concerns the tenant may have. “The property should be in the condition everyone involved is anticipating,” said Day.
Leases and expectations
“You want to make sure the tenant understands your expectations before they move in,” said Day. While some landlords opt for what is an acceptable “standard” lease (which can be found online and at some office supply stores) for their state, you may also include specific stipulations. “Trash is a big one – where does it go and where is it stored,” said Day.
Other stipulations may include specific “quiet time” hours, or rules relating to smoking in or near the property, or even rules about children’s toys blocking entryways. “It’s better if everything is in writing. You can’t enforce something if it isn’t in writing,” said Day.
I have been a landlord for over 12 years, and I found it is also a good idea to be very clear about when the rent is expected to be paid. If you live in the same building with your tenant (s), timing of rental payments can be a thorny issue if not made very clear from the start.
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