How to automate landlord responsibilities

Written by Sarah Block on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, Leases & Legal, Maintenance & Renovations, Move-in/Move-out, paid, Rental Advertising, Screening, Software, Step 1 - Perform Research

Landlord automation - life's a beachWhen I became an accidental landlord in 2011, all I knew for sure was that I needed a tenant, and fast.

Over the years, I have learned how to manage my properties through systems and processes that practically automate all landlord responsibilities. Since then, I like to say “life’s a beach” . . . or at least that’s true for my life as an independent landlord. Today, I’ll share my landlord automation secrets.

Step 1: Finding a tenant

The first thing I do with my rentals is to take great pictures that showcase the properties and surrounding towns. I write ads that help prospective tenants see themselves in that environment.

Related: How to Write an Attractive Property Listing in 8 Steps

From there, I create a Google Drive folder and put photos and ad descriptions in it as well as a Google calendar for showings.

This is where the automation comes in.

  • Post your ad through syndication sites like Apartments.com and Cozy’s Property Listing portal.
  • Use an app like Calendly to automate scheduling showings, which populates on your Google Calendar.
  • If you want, you can even automate showings by using smart technology like Rently that allows prospects to schedule the showing from their smartphone and open the door for them. I wouldn’t recommend doing this one though if there are current tenants. Also, there is no replacement for meeting a prospective tenant in person.
  • The rental application can be done online for free with Cozy’s rental application. The application includes a background and credit check, which is always recommended.

Step 2: Set up lease and rent collection

Creating a lease and rent collection system is the most important step. If your lease isn’t legal or your payments aren’t automated, that is potential money out of your pocket.

Have an attorney create your first lease, ensuring that it is compliant with your local area.  This lease can be customized for all other tenants. So, it is a one-time cost that will save you big money throughout the life of your rental.

  • Use DocuSign to have the tenant sign the lease and store on Google Drive or your Cozy portal, providing access to your new tenant.
  • Set-up automatic rent collection with Cozy’s rental payment portal. It’s free for both the landlord and tenant as long as they pay with an ACH. A bonus: Cozy automates late payments.

Related:  The landlord’s guide to rent collection

Step 3: Move-in checklist

Think of a new tenant moving in like a new employee starting a job. There is an onboarding process.

  • Start with a move-in inspection with the tenant. Have the tenant sign it. This will be gold when the lease is up if there are any issues. You’ll have proof the tenant agreed the unit met their expectations. On the other side, if an issue needs to be resolved, the tenant can fill out a maintenance request, and the entire process is tracked.
  • You can track any tenant onboarding and maintenance expenses for tax purposes and write them off during tax season using the landlord portal.
  • Build a small team of contractors that you can rely on. You will need a handyman and a cleaning crew for maintenance and turnover needs. Having this team in place from the beginning saves you time throughout the lifetime of the rental.

Related:  The perfect tenant move-in package

By taking a small amount of time upfront to set up systems, processes, and automation, being a landlord becomes much easier. While landlords jest that owning rentals are anything but passive income, it can be much more passive with a plan in place.

How to protect your tenant’s sensitive information

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in data storage, edited, For Landlords, frugal landlord, paid, privacy, rental maintenance, Software, Step 9 - Manage Lease & Collect Rent

The massive Equifax data breach of 2017 revealed that identity thieves are constantly updating the methods they use to steal sensitive information—and they’re getting better.

That should concern any landlord or property manager who collects personal data. Keeping credit card and Social Security numbers out of the hands of thieves calls for advanced IT skills beyond the scope of many property owners and managers. It’s one reason you should consider working with third-party online property management agencies.

1. Use firewalls and passwords

Storing the data you get from tenants in an unprotected file on your computer is like leaving a large sum of money on the hood of your car while you go shopping. If someone doesn’t steal it, you’re having a very good day.

Tenants and potential tenants shouldn’t have to rely on luck. At the very least, you need to enable a firewall on your computer to protect their data.

By itself, however, even that won’t necessarily keep out a determined hacker. You can add a second level of protection by using only a password-protected Wi-Fi connection, but this may mean keeping a second laptop for use in coffee shops and other public places.

2. Understand the malware factor

Hackers continue to devise new ways to lure you to fake sites and persuade you to click on links that download malware onto your computer. Once their software is past your firewall, only your anti-malware software stands between it and the sensitive information you’re storing. Keep your anti-malware software up-to-date. But even if you do that, there’s no guarantee that hackers aren’t one step ahead of you.

To show how easy it is to lure viewers, software engineer Nick Sweeting created a copycat Equifax site after the data breach. It was so convincing that some Equifax employees were fooled into navigating to it. They were “Rickrolled” (re-directed to a video of Rick Astley singing “Never Gonna Give You Up”) when they clicked on one of the tabs—a favorite internet prank. The stunt underlined the disturbing fact that fake sites can persuade viewers to click through. Those that do could potentially download malware without ever being aware of it.

3. Call the pros

It’s better to hire a lawyer than trying to represent yourself in court. In the same way, you can manage your own files, but it’s better to use an online property management system, the most reliable way to avoid having your data compromised. For example, Cozy protects you in these ways:

  • Transmits data using only the secure HTTPS protocol
  • Limits the amount of data it stores (Cozy never stores the results of background checks or credit card numbers.)
  • Encrypts all data it stores on secure servers
  • Submits to regular audits by third-party firms to ensure security

Cozy also only shares information with trusted third parties as required to provide services, prevent fraud, or satisfy legal requirements. All this security comes with an easy-to-use interface.

4. Go it alone

Property management companies charge a fee for the services they provide. If your budget won’t accommodate that, and you choose to store data yourself, you may find the following tips helpful:

  • Access data only when using a secure, password-protected Wi-Fi network.
  • Install high-quality anti-malware software, and set it to update automatically whenever an update becomes available. Set up a firewall.
  • Set up two-stage authentication. For example, have a verification code sent to your mobile phone whenever you log into your computer.
  • Avoid storing credit card and Social Security numbers. If you must keep them, store the numbers separately from the corresponding names and addresses. This may involve establishing a system to link them, which you should keep in yet another location.
  • Activate a tracking/recovery system, such as Lojack or Find My iPhone. This gives you and law enforcement officials a better chance of recovering your computer if it gets lost or stolen.

5. Take privacy seriously

Landlords must provide a safe and secure place for their tenants to live, and they have a responsibility to protect any sensitive information they collect. The consequences of identity theft can be as devastating as a physical accident. If investigators trace the theft to negligence on the part of a landlord, they could be liable. If you don’t have the time or skill to keep data safe, companies like Cozy can help.

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