I vividly remember my first crisis as a landlord.
I had been renting the lower half of a duplex to a young man. Without my knowing, he had passed the unit off to a friend of his with no legal agreement in sight. The friend proceeded to bring in six or seven rotating friends who crashed on his floor. They would party until 3 am. The upstairs tenants were timid and either did not think to tell me any of this or did not want to. By the time I did hear about it, the police had been called by neighbors, and let us just say the cops found something green and illegal growing in their living room.
To top it off, they had not been paying their electrical bill. (Can you guess? I did not know that either or I would have done something.) The city shut off their electricity and I lost money on a perfectly good refrigerator, now ruined.
Never again, I thought. I will never be a landlord again. Fortunately, I stuck it out. Over the years, I have dealt with other crises, but I also have learned how to avoid and navigate them.
The real tragedy is how naïve I was about the business. I had been so sure that being a landlord would be simply a side gig, a great way to make money, and a pleasant, light-on-the-hours source of income.
If you share my sense of eagerness, then you are in for a rude awakening — maybe. What I learned from this crisis and the others during my time as a landlord is that it can be stress-free. You just have to make the right moves.
Older and wiser, I now offer my best tips for living life as a landlord, stress-free:
- Use landlord software. Use landlord software. Please. Nothing makes your life easier than a program like Turbo Tenant. It is mobile, it follows you around wherever you go, and you can use to post listings, set up a rental application form, and do background checks on applicants.
- Do as much as you can online. Can your tenants pay rent online? Can you ask them to apply online? If you are not waiting for the mail to come in, then you are stressing less. Online transactions are instantaneous, and you can collect your rent checks and not being among the stressed 66% of landlords.
- Be ready for repairs. When something breaks down, your blood pressure goes up if you are not prepared. If you do not want to be available for every maintenance need, hire a maintenance employee for your building. It is a good idea to keep a repair fund on hand, so the cost of breakdowns will not stress you out. They will happen, but you will feel better if you are prepared.
- Stay separate. Any job that requires you to be available 24/7 is bound to be a source of pressure. That was my mistake when I first started out. To stay sane, you have to keep strict office hours. This might entail hiring a property manager or someone to take emergency calls when you are not “in the office.” Just make sure you have a time when work can’t reach you, no matter what it is.