Landlord Protection: Does it Exist?

Is there any wonder that there are so many tired landlords out there? Dealing with tenants can be frustrating, time consuming, and costly…

Certainly, the majority of tenants are relatively “good” (but remember… they ARE renting and don’t have the same pride of ownership that owners have). Even so, there are a few really bad apples that can cause substantial damage to your properties and cause you a lot of unnecessary frustration.

The only real landlord protection is being proactive and not giving ANY wiggle room at any time. You will hear sob stories. You will be called names. Your tenants may even threaten to sue you (yes, they usually don’t have a single leg to stand on, but they will still threaten!).

When you’re a landlord, you’re ALWAYS the “defendant”!

However, there are a few CRITICAL THINGS that you can do to protect yourself as a landlord.

Include these 3 things in every lease

  • Specifics on payment penalties and how partial payments will be applied.
  • Late payment penalties and charges for various items such as service of notices. Be sure to note that rent and any fees must be RECEIVED by the due date, not postmarked by such date. It is the tenant’s responsibility to get the payment to you on time. Period.
  • Inspection clauses and repair requirements

Conduct An Initial Walkthrough and Document

  • Conduct an initial walkthrough and give the tenant 48 hours to notify you in writing of any other defects or issues they would like to have noted.

Inspect the Property Monthly

  • Either enter the property yourself on a monthly basis or send in an authorized representative. If there is anything that the tenant is required to repair, send a certified letter detailing what needs to be repaired and give them a hard deadline to cure.
  • Make copies of your initial walkthrough report and bring it with you when you do your monthly inspections to note any current defects, issues, or repair items that either you or your tenant is responsible for.

Send A 3 Day Notice Within 24 Hours of Non Payment of Rent

  • If the tenant has not paid the rent in full according to the terms of the lease – and any grace periods permitted – send a certified letter immediately.
  • If the tenant DOES pay the rent, be sure you send them a separate bill for any fees incurred (In some states, you cannot include late fees on a 3-day notice or the fee for service).

Make Copies of ALL Rent Checks AND Envelopes

  • This will help when it comes time to collect late fees and deduct such fees from the security deposit.
  • Note the date of receipt in your accounting software for easy reference.

Follow Through

  • When you say you’re going to do something, do it. In other words, if you send a 3-day notice to quit, follow through with the eviction process until they either pay or get out.
  • If you DO evict a tenant, go the extra step and file a judgment. You may not get it overnight, but it will remain on their credit report and you may also be able to sell the judgment to recover a portion of your damages.

Sign A New Lease Upon Expiration (If You’re Letting the Tenant Stay)

  • In some states, a month-to-month lease (even if it is a carryover from an annual lease) does not necessarily enforce all of the terms of the original lease. If you’re renewing the lease, sign a new lease. This will afford you the best protections.

Ultimately, the only landlord protection that you have is documentation… documentation… and more documentation. If it comes down to the courts or the tenant decides to speak to an attorney, you want to make sure that you have all of your documentation. They will be hard-pressed to fight you if you do.

I realize that this may sound like a lot of work but I can tell you from first-hand experience, that if you set up these systems and get them in place from the get-go, it will save you a world of hassle in the future.

I also realize that most of this is common sense, but I can’t express enough how important it is to implement from the get-go. You MUST have these policies and procedures set up.

Note: If the tenant is receiving any kind of government aid, copy his/her casework and the caseworker’s manager. Submit everything in writing to these folks to afford you the most protection as the landlord. By being proactive here, you will ensure that YOU ARE PAID before this tenant is able to get another voucher in the future.

Disclaimer: Always seek legal and tax advice from qualified professionals especially when dealing with issues surrounding landlord protection.

If you’re a landlord who has a new tip or recommendation, please add your comments below. Together, we can all keep an eye out for one another 😉

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