As soon as you close on your first Howard County rental property, the feeling of pride and accomplishment cannot be beat. While being a landlord sounds amazing and can provide a reliable source of income, there’s more to it than one might imagine. Follow these simple rental tips and new landlord ideas we’ve compiled to make sure you’re well versed in how to be a successful landlord in Howard County.
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH:
Research can be your best friend when starting any new venture, and property ownership in Howard County is no exception. The first thing you should research is exactly what laws are on the books as far as rental properties. are very tenant-friendly (probably one of the most friendly counties in the US in this regard); as such, the laws are continually changing in favor of renters specifically.
Tips for being a new landlord abound, so investing some research in screening reports, lease violation notices in MD, the rental eviction process for MD, and understanding the Maryland state inspection checklist is a smart first step.
If the thought of legalese and legal jargon is overwhelming, it would be best to hire a property manager. A good property manager will know the ins and outs of these legal stipulations and will know how best to keep your property well within legal limits.
As a minimum requirement, you should know and understand the Federal Fair Housing Act (FFHA) before placing your property on the market. When you are marketing on Zillow, Craigslist, Apartments.com, or any other property-based selling/renting site, the language you use must follow the FFHA to avoid any penalties.
The importance of understanding Maryland’s laws and the changing tides of rental properties cannot be understated; if a landlord is not in compliance, the excuse of “I misunderstood” will not be accepted.
2. THOROUGH TENANT SCREENING:
People, unfortunately, lie; rental applications are no exception. Your task is to separate the bad from the good tenants not only through the rental application but through extensive background checks. Credit checks, criminal background checks, and any/all past evictions (if they exist) are crucial for giving you a clear picture of who will be living in your property. If a tenant does not want you doing a background check of any type, consider this a red flag. Those without any issues to report will be more than willing to have their record scrutinized.
Make sure your process is fair across the board. For instance, ensure your process and what you require from background checks are the same across the board. Don’t be discouraged if a potential tenant doesn’t work out! It is better to wait a little while longer for a good tenant than to have a bad tenant who may be more trouble than they are worth. The eviction process alone is difficult, expensive, and time-consuming. Bonus Tip: Make sure to screen your vendors too! It’s important to find the right vendors that you can rely on when maintenance issues arise.
3. ENFORCE 6-12 MONTH INSPECTIONS:
Letting your Howard County rental property sit stagnantly is a surefire way to miss potential issues. No one wants to discover a lead by walking into a flood. Regularly scheduled maintenance and upkeep checks can help zero in on problems. What looks like a nuisance to a tenant, like a leaky faucet, can be a much bigger problem for a property owner. As a landlord, your interest and investment in the property will always be higher than the tenants.
To do this in the most organized and effective way possible, create a landlord inspection checklist to follow for all your properties. A checklist will make sure your property is adequately maintained. Make sure your tenants know their responsibilities for the property but count on doing seasonal checks to make sure these tasks are performed (such as covering water spigots for the winter or changing air filters as suggested by the manufacturer).
4. DON’T WAIVE FEES:
It is tempting to want to give your tenant the benefit of the doubt and allow leeway on late fees, rent payments, or other charges. However, it sets a bad tone for both that tenant and other tenants. Unless there is a legitimate, acceptable reason for the issue, don’t fall into the habit of waiving a fee for a tenant or allowing them to pay later. One-time late payments are okay in some instances; use your best judgment but try not to make it a habit.
You might be accused of being too harsh but, at the end of the day, tenants who cannot pay their rent on time are not people you want in your building. Stay uncompromising when it comes to charging late or maintenance fees and always make sure your tenants follow their lease.
5. DO A THOROUGH LEASE REVIEW WITH YOUR NEW TENANT:
It is essential to make sure your tenants understand their lease. This way, everyone is on the same page, and there will be no chance for a tenant to feign ignorance when/if they break an aspect of their lease.
This review of the lease, point by point, should be done before the tenant moves in. Make sure they understand what their responsibilities are as tenants, as well as your duties as their landlord.
To go the extra mile as a landlord for your Howard County rental property, provide each tenant with an informational packet to outline their responsibilities. In addition, include things like how to perform maintenance and for what they are responsible (such as shutting off water valves, how to replace air filters and which type to purchase, where they are allowed to park their vehicles, etc.).
6. GETTING THE PROPER INSURANCE FOR YOUR HOWARD COUNTY RENTAL:
Insurance can be a bit tricky, and sometimes the insurance will not cover damage done by tenants. To end up without having coverage for an incident because you didn’t do your homework is a bad place to find yourself in.
Make sure you go over with your insurance company representative exactly what you are covered for, in case the worst were to happen (such as being sued for an injury on the property), so you know you are covered. The best rule for successful property ownership is that you can never have too much insurance, even for situations you feel could never happen. It is better to have too much insurance and not need it rather than need it when you do not have it.
To cover yourself as far as tenants are concerned, make sure each tenant has renter’s insurance. Make keeping up with their renter’s insurance a condition of their lease. Also, be sure that every year they have an updated copy of their renter’s insurance agreement before they renew their lease (these dates should coincide if they get their renter’s insurance before they move in).
Renter’s insurance provides both you and your tenant with peace of mind and protection as well. Making sure you are fully armed with available knowledge will keep your investment safe and your stress level low. There is also no harm in asking other landlords for help and learning from their successes and failures, as well. Do your homework and you will enjoy this enterprise, as will your tenants.
These rental property tips can help virtually any Howard County landlord find ways to get the very best tenants available. If you’re in the market for a property manager to help you with any of these tips, contact our team at Bay Property Management Group Howard County today.