1. Failing to Thoroughly Screen Applicants
Some landlords avoid a thorough screening of their tenants because they think that it takes too much time or money. However, it could cost you more in the long run if the tenant turns out to be a bad fit. Take advantage of free tenant screening and get a tenant eviction report, credit report, and criminal history.
2. Not Knowing Fair Housing Laws
The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and the presence of children. If your interview questions ask prospective tenants to provide information in these categories, you could be in violation of the act. Read more about Fair Housing laws. One way to keep from violating these laws is to be consistent with your rental process so that you're treating each applicant the same.
3. Pricing Rent Too High or Low
There are costs associated with maintaining the property, and you want to make sure your rent covers those costs. Take this into consideration when making upgrades to your unit. If you need to charge more to cover them, be sure the price is still competitive. If the rent is too high, then you may not receive many leads for your unit. Research rent prices in your neighborhood to see if your rent is competitive. One great resource for taking the temperature on your rent is rentometer.com.
4. Not Taking a Detailed Move-In Condition Report
Protect yourself and your tenant from a dispute over the property condition by diligently completing move-in and move-out reports. If you're not happy with the standard paper checklist, consider upgrading your condition report to a digitized report, like those offered at HappyCo.com.
5. Including Bad Photos in Your Listing
Make sure your photos make the right impression. Avoid using photos that are out-of-focus or include clutter. Take advantage of your property when it's vacant and get photos of the empty rooms. This will make your property look clean and spacious. A good photo allows your applicants to see themselves in your property. Check out this article for more information on the importance of photos in your listing.
6. Failing to Give the Property the Best Online Exposure
Create a strong online presence for your listing to attract the most renters. Sites like Craigslist.org allow you to post your listing for free, and there's free landlord software that will allow you to automatically post to several property listing websites.
7. Forgoing a Lease
Keep in mind that your rental property is a business. It might be tempting to forgo drawing up a lease for your tenant, but it could cost you. The lease is a contract that protects the landlord from future issues. The landlord is also obligated to follow the lease, so be careful about what goes into it.
8. Not Knowing Landlord-Tenant Laws
Knowing the laws before you come up with a lease or rental agreement could save you some time and help you avoid legal issues. As mentioned before, landlords have certain responsibilities, and some are defined by law. For more information on Landlord-Tenant Laws, check out JoeTenant.com.
9. Treating Property Management Like a Hobby
As a business, your aim is to make a profit off of the property. As mentioned in #3, pricing the rent too low is bad for business. Keep track of your expenses and don't forget to take those into account when you file your taxes.
10. Ignoring Tenants
Maintenance is part of the package when you own a property and repairs can be costly. Keep this in mind when you're thinking about your costs and consider putting some money aside for an emergency fund in case something unexpected happens. The landlord has a responsibility to keep the property up to a certain standard and it's good to prepare for this so you won't be surprised.