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Be an ethical landlord

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in edited, ethics, For Landlords, landlord, Landlord Tips, paid, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

communicationWhen a landlord has high standards, renters enjoy peace of mind. They know their comfort, safety, and happiness are important.

In return, an ethical landlord enjoys the benefits of happy renters who are more likely to treat the property with care and respect…and stay longer. And that’s good for business.

An ethical landlord has a mission: to supply comfortable and safe housing for a fair price. Here are the traits and practices you should adopt if you want to take this mission seriously.

1. Be accessible and responsive

Whether it’s noisy neighbors, a plumbing leak, or a fallen tree, problems happen. When one arises, renters need to know whom to call. And when they make the call, someone should answer. An ethical landlord will rarely have renters say, “I’ve been trying to get hold of the landlord, but no luck.” Even if it’s a problem you can’t fix immediately, such as rude neighbors, make it clear that you’ve heard your renters’ concerns, and you’ll take appropriate action.

Related:

3 must-learn landlord communication lessons

How to handle noise complaints from neighbors

Noisy neighbors drive me crazy. Now what?

2. Do maintenance right away

When things go wrong, renters’ lives are affected until those problems are fixed. An ethical landlord takes care of problems, whether they are leaks or toilet clogs, as soon as possible. If you can’t respond yourself, have a professional relationship with a local maintenance contractor who can respond on your behalf. It’s not a bad idea to develop a network of tradespeople to ensure that one contractor’s full schedule doesn’t prevent repairs from happening quickly.

Related: How to build a little black book of contractors

3. Set clear boundaries, but be flexible

Tenants have the right to enjoy your property, but they should never lose sight of the fact that it’s yours. The best place to assert this is in the lease, where you spell out your preferences and any rules you want tenants to follow. They’ll appreciate learning these rules before they sign the document, rather than after they’ve become settled.

An ethical landlord recognizes that life is unpredictable and can bend the rules when the situation calls for it. As the saying goes, “stuff happens.”

Related:

Compassion after the storm: Four ways to be there for tenants

7 extraordinary lease clauses I can’t live without

4. Be fair with money

You’re trying to run a business, but don’t gouge people. Besides, if your rents are too high, you’ll probably have difficulty renting your place. Research rental prices so you know what your property is worth on the rental market. A great tool for doing this is a Cozy Rent Estimate report. Set prices in a way that keeps you in the black without creating hardships for your renters.

Charge a security deposit—that’s standard practice—and return it in a timely manner to renters who fulfill the requirements for getting it back. If you need to keep some or all of it, give tenants’ an itemized list of charges.

Related: How to set the perfect rent price for your rental properties

5. Keep good records

When disputes arise over the condition of appliances or structural issues, you’ll be on firmer ground if you have clear records. Those records should include the dates when appliances were bought or serviced, dated statements from property inspectors, and invoices from maintenance and repair pros. When in doubt about whether damage is due to normal wear and tear or to renters’ negligence, those records can help avoid “your word against theirs” scenarios and keep you on the moral high ground. Besides maintenance history, your records should include a move-in checklist.

Related: 10 documents every landlord should keep on file

6. Keep renters in the loop

Good communication involves more than just being responsive. You should also be proactive when you become aware of issues that will affect renters in the future. Whether it’s a hike in the gas bill or the rent or an impending improvement project, renters appreciate knowing about it as far in advance as possible so they can be prepared.

7. Respect privacy

An ethical landlord doesn’t place property ownership above respect for privacy. Local laws may allow you to enter a renter’s home to perform inspections or repairs, but you should never do so unannounced. Make an appointment. That way, renters can be prepared for you, and they won’t feel violated.

Related: Can a landlord enter the property whenever they want?

8. Be careful with private information

When renters sign the lease, they entrust you with sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers. Abusing this information or losing it through carelessness is a violation of privacy, even though you may do it inadvertently. Taking care of that information by storing it safely, and using it only when necessary, shows your respect for privacy. If you keep the information on a computer, make sure the files are protected by a firewall. Better yet, store sensitive files on an external drive.

In a nutshell

When landlords maintain high ethical standards, it’s a win-win-win for landlords, renters, and the community at large. Not to mention it’s also good for business.

Spring maintenance checklist for landlords

Written by Chris Deziel on . Posted in edited, For Landlords, Maintenance & Renovations, paid, rental maintenance, spring, Step 10 - Repair & Maintain

communicationWhen March goes out like a lamb, it’s time for landlords and tenants to look at property matters that developed during winter’s deep freeze.

Spring maintenance items that affect habitability are most important, but it’s also the best time to address small defects that could turn into big ones, if they’re left unaddressed. Summer is coming, the best season to make repairs.

Warming temperatures create a good opportunity for landlords and property managers to inspect rental units and make a plan for spring maintenance. Tenants could handle some of the maintenance—especially in the yard or garden—but leaks, burst pipes, and other problems that affect habitability most likely need professional attention.

Related: 8 home repair tasks every landlord should learn how to do

Exterior inspection

Walk around the property to see the extent of winter damage. On this walk, try to do the following:

  • Check the roof and siding for deterioration. You don’t have to get on a ladder to see roof damage. Missing or broken shingles are usually visible from the ground.
  • Look for gutter leaks. Ice and snow are hard on gutters, and any leak you see should be repaired as soon as possible to prevent damage to the siding or erosion around the foundation.
  • Test the outdoor faucets. If water froze in the pipes, they may leak.
  • Inspect the walkways and driveway for cracks. This could happen from earth movements during freezing weather. These cracks need to be repaired or water will seep through them and cause further erosion.
  • Note any rot. Look on wood siding, trim, fences, or decking. A small amount of rot isn’t an urgent problem, but if the rot is extensive, now is the time to deal with it.
  • Pay attention to the condition of the lawn, garden, and surrounding foliage. Spring is the best time to prune back any branches that threaten to block windows or overhang the roof later in the summer.

Related: How to easily track maintenance requests and repairs

Interior inspection

If winter weather has caused any interior damage, tenants will probably know about it, but they might not let you know. It’s a good idea for a landlord or property manager to do a quick walkthrough to check a few things:

  • Assess the damage caused by roof or siding leaks. This could range from soggy drywall and mold to warped flooring or compromised electrical fixtures.
  • Note the condition of the floors and carpet. People tend to track salt-laden snow through the house on cold winter days.
  • Turn on the air conditioners. You want to make sure they work. Now is a good time to replace the filters.
  • Check for pests. Look for termites, cockroaches, and rodents. Critters tend to hunker down in the walls during winter, and they’ll still be there when spring comes.

Related: Ask Lucas 030: How do you perform an annual property inspection?

Handling spring maintenance

When it comes to repairs that affect habitability, such as major leaks and resultant water damage, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to do them or hire someone to do them.

The responsibility isn’t as clear-cut when it comes to defects that only affect the tenant’s enjoyment of the property. Peeling paint and displaced walkway pavers may be unsightly, for example, but they don’t stop life from going on. It may make sense to give tenants the option to make some of these repairs themselves. To avoid confusion over the issue of who’s going to pay, include a lease clause or amendment that covers it.

Lawn and garden maintenance is one area that the lease should cover. Many tenants like landscaping and may even consider a green light to do it themselves a perk of living on the property. But other tenants prefer this job be done for them. Landlords might consider charging more per month if they need to provide landscaping services.

General indoor cleaning is another lease topic for areas such as hardwood floors (that can suffer damage from salt and water), an unfinished basement, and the fireplace or wood stove. Whether it’s spring maintenance or year-round maintenance, it helps to clarify responsibilities in writing.

Related: Should a tenant be paid for doing yard work?

Get your game on

Once you’ve made your game plan, itemize the repairs you need to make with some urgency, and take care of those as soon as possible. Leave the others for later, but keep the list as a reminder. Priorities tend to change as the weather warms up and summer arrives, but winter will come again, and problems you don’t handle this year will be there next year. And they’ll be that much bigger.

 

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