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5 not-so-obvious tips from obviously experienced landlords

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Landlording is not rocket science but experience and attention to detail count a great deal.  

Here are five not-so-obvious tips experienced APIA landlords have to share with newbies: 

Tip 1: Find your inner Ebenesa

Every landlord lives with this constant tug-o-war between our inner Ebenezer Scrooge and Mother Theresa.  On the one hand, you are a property investor, and profit matters.  On the other hand, you also a person doing business with another human being and the business itself should not rob you of your humanity.  But the industry sends out mixed messages that only confuse newcomers even more.  You are told to hawkishly watch every expense because you are not a charity.  But then you shouldn't disrespect your tenant so much so that you subject them to sub-human living standards.    If you buy into all your tenant's sob stories then you will never receive a single cent rent.  Yet having the surety of long-term tenancy incentivises you to continue communicating and negotiating with your tenants to resolve day to day issues.  What are you to do?  The answer is never at the extreme ends of the spectrum.  You need to find your inner Ebensa and find it fast.  Make a commitment to yourself as to what type of landlord, investor, and human being, you want to be and be consistent.  Set up clear and defined rules to guide you through rent arrears, repairs and maintenance, tenant screening, and any other day to day issues of being a landlord and stick to them.

Related article: The best piece of advice you will ever receive as a landlord

Tip 2: Be careful with your words

We are operating in a high demand low supply rental market right now.  Each time you grant a tenancy to someone, you will likely be disappointing a bunch of other applicants.  You are not obligated to disclose the reason behind your selection so always err on the side of under sharing that information.  This is a self-protective measure because most of us are part time sole operators and simply do not have the type of corporate resources at our disposal to score and clean up every statement before it is made.  Sometimes, an innocent preference flippantly said could be misconstrued as discriminatory with severe consequences for the landlord.  To the successful tenant say, 'Because you are the best applicant on merit, I will be happy to accept your application on signing of the tenancy agreement, payment of the bond, and payment of 1/2 week(s) of rent in advance.'  To the unsuccessful tenant simply say, 'Regrettably, in this instance, you are not the best applicant on merit.  I will not be accepting your tenancy application.'  Don't get dragged into discussing why you have arrived at the decision you had. 

Related video: How to reference check a tenant properly?

Tip 3: Walk your tenant to their car

If you are doing the open homes yourself, you would be wise to walk a prospective tenant to their car.  A quick glance at the interior of a person's car can often tell you a lot about how well they respect their private space (and ergo, how well they will respect the rental property once it becomes their home).  While this is by no means definitive, many experienced landlords use this technique as a quick indication of how orderly the tenant's life is likely to be like. 

Tip 4: Record everything 

Keep a tenancy diary and get into the habit of logging all the communications between yourself and your tenant.  If you say something to your tenant verbally, always follow up with a written confirmation of what had been said (an email starting with 'Confirming our conversation today...' will suffice).  Tenancy dispute is an inevitable part of residential tenancy.  At some point in time, you will disagree with your tenants over issues of different magnitude.  When that happens, it helps to be able to furnish a meticulous log of background events to help manage the dispute.  

Tip 5: Always have your business hat on

Always say what you mean and say what you mean.  When a tenant rings you in the middle of the night about a broken pipe, it is tempting to agree with everything, promise the earth just so you can get off the phone and back to sleep.  As a landlord, you mustn't be flippant with your words nor give thoughtless undertakings.  Programme your tenant's number into your phone.  When you see their caller ID come up, ask yourself if you are in the right frame of mind for a business call before answer.  If you are feeling frazzled or any less than confident, then an automated text along the lines of 'Thanks for your call, I can't talk now but I will call you back as soon as I can.' will, at the very least, buy you some time to take a deep breath and put your business hat on.  Of course, do call back in a timely manner.  When you make a commitment to yourself to only have mindful conversations with your tenants at any given time, you will be less likely to say things you don't actually mean.

There are loads of great landlord tips around and these five are by no means exhaustive.  Do you have any great tips yourself to share?  Comment reply below!


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