There are many steps a landlord can take to ensure positive relationships with tenants and to reduce the likelihood of disputes. One of the first steps any landlord should take is to comply with any and all federal, state, and local laws and rules regarding housing.  In addition, you can take several steps that go beyond mere compliance to create smooth relationships with your tenants.

One of the main tasks in becoming a successful landlord is to become knowledgable of the law and be well equipped to handle the problems that you will face.

Before Tenancy Begins

Make Sure You Have Adequate Insurance: Your insurance plan should obviously include coverage for disasters such as earthquakes fire, and flood.  In addition, get coverage for vandalism and other property crimes. You should also get liability insurance to protect you from any personal injury claims your tenants might bring against you.

Choose Your Tenants Wisely: You should perform a thorough background check on prospective tenants. Check credit histories, references, and backgrounds.  Make sure you choose tenants based on permitted criteria (i.e., don’t discriminate), but also be sure to choose tenants who are likely to pay rent on time and keep the rental unit in good condition.

Make Sure Everything Is In Writing: When you do select a tenant, make sure everything that relates to the rental agreement is in writing. For example, make sure that the tenant’s name is in writing as well as the agreed rent, length of rental, and anything else that you deem important.  Also, document any repairs or complaints you receive from the tenant during the tenancy.

Be Fair and Consistent In Dealing with Security Deposits: As a landlord, security deposits are only allowed to be used for certain things and in certain manners. Come up with a clear system for how to deal with security deposits and be fair and consistent.  Also, return security deposits as soon as possible.

After Tenants Move In

Keep the Rental Property in Good Condition: Make sure to check up on the rental property and make any necessary repairs. If you find a problem or receive any complaints, act quickly and make the necessary repairs. Indicate on the lease whether you want the tenants making the repairs themselves.

Make Sure That Premises Is Habitable For Residence: In residential leases, there is an implied warranty of habitability in which the landlord has the duty to make the premises habitable and suitable for human residence. This means that there must be running hot water, sanitary conditions, and any standard housing code requirement. A breach of this duty without timely repair may allow tenant to be able to terminate lease and not pay rent or repair the defect itself and reduce it from future rent.

Respect Your Tenants’ Right to Privacy: Your tenants have a right to privacy, just like every other individual. Anytime you have to enter a tenant’s rental unit, be sure to provide notice to the tenant. Twenty-four hours is usually satisfactory, but if you can provide more and try to accommodate your tenant’s schedule, everything will run much smoother.

Take Steps to Prevent Crime: As a landlord, you can be liable for the criminal acts of strangers and the criminal acts of your tenants. Take whatever steps are necessary to protect your tenants from the criminal acts of strangers and be aware of any suspicious acts of your tenants.  The costs of paying to prevent crime are lower than the costs of a crime occurring.

Inform Tenants of Any Lead In the Building: If your building contains any lead, in the form of lead-based paint or in any other form, be sure to let all tenants know of this and inform them of steps they can take to protect themselves.  Also, provide notice of any other toxins or hazards.

Landlord Rights

Enforce Your Rights: One of the most difficult parts about being a landlord is knowing when to assert your rights. It is possible for a landlord to waive certain rights if the landlord does not constantly enforce them. Allowing a tenant to be late on rent or to fall behind in payment and then make up the amount in the future can be interpreted as a waiver of the right to demand strict enforcement of rent payment.

Guard Against Tenancy Alteration: Although landlords have the duty to keep the property livable, tenants have the duty to refrain from changing the property without the express permission of the landlord. Landlords should conduct periodic inspections of the property after giving the tenant advanced notice. Remember to inspect the property and not the tenant’s personal life. Checking the electricity or the water is recommended, but going through the tenant’s clothes is not.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Landlord tenant law is under constant change and the above tips are just a few of the steps you can take to make your life as a landlord easier. An experienced landlord tenant lawyer will know the law in your area and can answer questions you may have about how to deal with situations you face.