Three Steps to Becoming a Successful, Lazy Landlord
On my first trip to the doctors office this year I went through that painful experience that we all must endure… updating my personal and health information. My brain immediately goes into shut down mode as I am trying to conserve the calories that my mind is going to consume filling out paperwork. I profess to the receptionist that nothing has changed but she insists they need t for “their files.” Reluctantly, I sit down with the plastic clipboard and begin to slog through the same questions I filled out last year. Name, Date of Birth, Insurance Info (didn’t you just take a copy of my insurance card?) and a complete health history later, I flip the paper over and realize they want all this information again on the next page. My pace quickens and my handwriting worsens as I go into the “power through it” mode. Finally, with the completed packet in hand I return the information to the front desk and sit down waiting for my name to be called. It’s enough to make me forget why I am even there in the first place. It reinforces this truth; when you don’t Like to do something, you don’t do it right.
Then my mind starts thinking, there must be a better system, a better way, to make this process less painful and feed my need to thrive and not just survive. Let’s face it, most of us want to take the easy or lazy way when it comes to moments like this. Then when I step back and look at how we as landlords handle our own paperwork and process, I see some of the same stumbling blocks in the way we do things. The big difference is, I know there is a better way because I use Rent Perfect every day.
There are three major tools that every landlord can implement starting today to begin the process of transforming their management style to that of the “successful lazy landlord.”
Tool #1- Check your checks
At a bare minimum, every application you receive for a potential tenant should include a thorough check of each applicant’s identity, credit, criminal, and eviction history. Just like your favorite weatherman, we forecast the future by examining the past.
- Identity- How sure are you of the identity of the person applying for your property? It’s easier than ever to fabricate your identity, create fake social security cards and identification documents. If you don’t really know who is applying, how could you possibly trust the results of any future behavior?
- Credit- The financial past of your applicant is usually indicative of their future behavior. Few things impact a person’s decisions more than their financial strains, so knowing how your applicant has behaved in the past is a great indicator of how they will honor their commitments to you moving forward.
- Criminal- While the courts across the country continue to soften their stance on criminal behavior, does that mean you should do the same for your applicants? Statistics show that over 90% of offenders have repeatable criminal habits that don’t go away. And guess what, criminals tend to hang out with others who are involved in criminal behavior. Actively protecting your investment property should always include a criminal background check of EVERY applicant on the lease.
- Eviction- Although the courts have tried to make this more difficult, there are still ways to see if your applicant has a history of leaving their landlord high and dry. An applicant with more than one eviction should be a red flag to you to exercise great caution when considering them as a tenant.
The more you can know about the past, the better decision you can make to find success in the future.
Tool #2- Throw away the manila folder!
And while you’re at it, toss that big metal filing cabinet too. Gone are the days of processing paper applications and leases. It’s time to embrace the digital world in regard to being a “successful, lazy landlord” as you can now manage everything right from your favorite device.
- Online applications- In the past, I would collect a paper application from an applicant and then go to my office and spend hours taking their written information and re-entering it into a word processing program. I was operating more like a data entry employee than a landlord. Programs today allow the applicant to login, supply the required information, and complete the application process all on their own. All I have to do is go and review their supplied info.
- Lease- After you have collected all their information digitally, it is simple to take that information and add it to your leasing documents, with many programs being able to automatically generate a lease at the click of a button. Again, not having to re-enter all of this information is a huge time and energy saver.
- Move-In Inspection Process/Pictures- With a digital move-in inspection process, your tenant can document the condition of the property exactly as it was at time of possession. No more guessing or relying on memories at the end of a lease; you have it fully documented and stored for easy access and comparison.
The days of gathering and keeping track of paper throughout the entire rental process are over. Toss that manilla folder and embrace technology in your quest of becoming a “successful, lazy landlord.”
Tool #3- Make Collecting Rent Easy
There’s nothing a landlord loves more than seeing the rent paid in-full and on-time every month. Technology has made it easier than ever to make this process seamless for the landlord. Find the right technology partner that can help you in the following ways:
- Send upcoming rent notices- Your rental collection program must be able to begin notifying your tenant of rent due at least five days in advance. Ideally, they should receive a reminder that your rent is due in five days… your rent is due in four days…etc. Take away the excuse from your tenant that they “didn’t know” ever again.
- Receive rent right into your bank account- Rid yourself of running to the mailbox in hopes of finding that rent check. Have the funds directly deposited into your account.
- Automatically track late fees and payments- No one wants to be the nag when it comes to getting paid. The right program will track late fees, send “late rent’ notices automatically, which frees you up to do other things. Collect and track payments to ensure you are getting the rent and late fees paid in full.
This step in becoming a “successful, lazy landlord” might be the most critical as you collect rent 12, 24, 36 or more times every month for the term of the lease.
I invite you to step back and look at your current practices from both the landlord and tenant perspective. Are there tweaks you can make that will benefit both you and your tenants in terms of making the process a little less painful for both of you. Nobody wants to just survive as a landlord and by putting some of these tools into practice, you’ll see your business (and you personally) thriving in no time.
Scot Aubrey is Vice-President of Rent Perfect, a private investigator, and fellow landlord who manages short-term rentals. Subscribe to the weekly Rent Perfect Podcast (available on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts) to stay up to date on the latest industry news and for expert tips on how to manage your properties.