How to be a responsible landlord

By Dustin Graham

Deciding to invest in real estate for the purpose of generating rental income brings along some important accountabilities. Both landlord and tenant have a multitude of obligations they must adhere to. Rather than focusing on legal obligations, for the purpose of this article, we’re going to discuss some “extracurricular activities” that a landlord should consider.

1. Don’t be the minimalist landlord. Think about going beyond the minimum. For example, if you need to make repairs so the unit is in good repair and suitable for habitation, think about making some added improvements as well. At minimum, a unit that is well put together and up to code will generally command a higher rent price.

2. Be accessible. Landlords have some legal obligations to respond to property-related issues, but what about the non-critical enquiries from a tenant? Encourage your tenants to contact you (or your property management company) at any time if required. Be available to them and pride yourself on promptly responding. It only takes a moment of your time to answer a simple question about the property. This goes a long way to helping build positive rapport with your tenants. If you outsource your property management, then ensure they hold the same values.

3. Treat your tenants well. A satisfied tenant will generally always help more in the maintenance of the home. Show your appreciation to your tenants and acknowledge their willingness to pay rent on time, make minor repairs, help with upgrades, etc. I’ve seen landlords give gifts at different points throughout the year, offer half rent for a month, etc. Landlords that have a good working relationship with their tenants tend to experience fewer tenant-related issues.

4. Know your rights and legal obligations. Regardless of the location of your rental properties, you must follow your legal responsibilities as a landlord. For general, day-to-day questions visit the Landlord and Tenant Board website, but for more complicated issues you may need a lawyer. Regardless of the particular issue (i.e. non-payment of rent, maintenance complaints, contract disputes, eviction, etc.) be sure to know your legal rights and responsibilities before you act.

At the end of the day the market is filled with great landlords and others that need some “help”. There are too many rental properties with tenants living in homes that are, in my opinion, uninhabitable. Some landlords have a terrible reputation in the tenant market and have had a hard time finding tenants as a result.

Conversely, landlords that go above and beyond often have tenants that will reciprocate the goodwill gestures. The difference between a landlord and a great landlord is not a big leap, but it can yield substantial rewards.

Dustin Graham is a sales representative with Re/Max and the leader of The Graham Partners team located in the west Greater Toronto Area.

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