5 Top Landlord Mistakes (and How to Fix Them)

by Chris on November 23, 2015

Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s always nice when you can see it coming and take evasive action.  Review this list of common landlord mistakes — while there is still time to improve your policies:

Problem #1: The Absentee Landlord

Landlords who live a significant distance from their properties or who leave tenants to manage on their own are particularly vulnerable to income loss from damaged properties, problem tenants and criminal activity at the property.

Tenants who feel they can get away with breaking rules often do. Frustrated tenants will take matters into their own hands, whether it’s a repair or a dispute with neighboring tenants.

tenant screeningThe Fix:

Quality matters more than quantity when it comes to time spent managing properties. A landlord doesn’t have to be onsite 24/7 to be successful, but those who are never around rarely avoid problems.

Make your time count by multitasking on days when you can visit the property. For instance, plan routine inspections and repairs for the same day if possible. Careful planning and excellent time management are key.

Be present, even when you’re not. Create the impression that you are actively involved in the business of managing properties. Simple steps like carrying a clipboard with necessary documents when meeting tenants, professional-looking rental ads, conducting tenant background checks, and presenting a written lease agreement to incoming tenants help to create the right image.

Keep in mind that managing bad tenants should not be a landlord’s only focus. Carve out some time to encourage good tenants who are paying rent on time and taking care of the property. Tenant incentives can be as simple as saying thank you to upgrading old appliances or paint at the end of the first year’s term.

On a day-to-day basis, absentee landlords can use automated and digital strategies to stay in touch with tenants, including rent receipts or thank you notes for on-time rent, e-newsletters or placing notices with helpful information around the property.

When communication is kept to a minimum, it’s particularly important to keep it positive and upbeat. You don’t want your only interaction with tenants to be negative.

Problem #2: Taking Too Long to Respond

Tenants often list lack of response as the number one complaint against their landlords. No one likes to be ignored, and that’s especially troubling for tenants who are paying top dollar for the rental space.

The only way to keep good tenants is to respond immediately when they raise a concern. Not only does good response time increase tenant retention, but it makes it easier — and cheaper — for a landlord to resolve problems.

The Fix:

Make sure tenants can reach you any (reasonable) time. As tenants become confident that their concerns will be heard, they actually call less often and are less likely to overreact to a stressful situation.

Encourage tenants to call to report problems. It’s best to make repairs at the first sign of trouble. Don’t be short-tempered when you receive a call; your tenants actually are doing you a favor. Even with needy tenants who constantly want to stay in touch, it’s better they are calling their landlord then the alternative — like the police or building department.

The worst case scenario for landlords is frustrated tenants who decide to act on their own, like treating pest infestations with dangerous chemicals. That leaves the landlord unaware of the risks, and raises premise liability to critical levels.

Problem #3: Taking Sides in a Tenant Dispute

Tenant disputes are no fun for anyone. It’s important to encourage tenants to come forward when there are problems, and to work objectively in resolving disputes. Otherwise, a landlord could lose both tenants, and that eats profits.


tenant screeningThe Fix:

Don’t leap to judgment or buy into one tenant’s side of the story. Try to stay neutral, and focus on fixing the problem, not assigning blame.

If possible, resolve a situation through friendly communication, acknowledging both or all tenants’ viewpoints. Try to keep your own emotion out of it, and don’t let one tenant think they’ve got the upper hand. This helps everyone involved to stay calm, and leads to a more lasting peace. Lingering hard feelings are going to smolder and cause additional disputes.

Keep conflicts in perspective — it’s a very normal part of property management.

Problem #4: Not Properly Turning a Unit

Each time a new tenant moves in, be sure the rental unit is in the condition it should be when that tenant moves out.

Allowing a move-in when the unit has not been fully restored winds up costing in the end. Not only does it set the stage for a contentious relationship with the new tenant, it will be extremely difficult to assign any subsequent damage to that tenant.

The Fix:

It’s critical to plan move-in times realistically. While there is a concern that an applicant will walk if they can’t move in exactly when they want, it likely will cause worse disputes if they move-in while work is ongoing — while paint or carpets are wet, there are weird smells or noises, or work is scheduled for the first few weeks of the tenancy. If that work never occurs, the tenant may have grounds to break the lease. Then, you’re right back where you started.

Make sure you can offer a move-in checklist at move-in, not weeks down the road. Otherwise, the door is wide open for a tenant to claim that any subsequent damage was already there.

Problem #5: Becoming Complacent with Tenant Screening

Advertising that a tenant background check is required is a great way to discourage bad rental applicants and encourage the best. However, it is important to follow through. Otherwise, you may fall for the oldest trick in the book.

The Fix:

Don’t focus on tenants that you like personally or who seem charming. There is no way of knowing if that warm, fuzzy feeling you are getting is real, or a carefully crafted scam.

Good tenants are at the center of profitable rental businesses. Focus on applicants who can demonstrate a sense of financial responsibility. Stay away from those who have a bad rental history, like prior evictions, and check that you are not renting to someone with a dangerous criminal background.

The only way you will know for sure is to run tenants screening reports, which is fast, easy and inexpensive. Verify the information in the rental application, and check in with current and previous landlords before you agree to lock in a lease.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Jordan Leavitt January 22, 2016 at 7:10 am

I really like how you said that, “Landlords who live a significant distance from their properties or who leave tenants to manage on their own are particularly vulnerable to income loss from damaged properties, problem tenants and criminal activity at the property.” This is a very common issue that most landlords need to invest in a person who manage their property. I had to move away to another state for work and currently rent out my old house. Thanks for sharing because I think I will hire someone to look after my property.

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