Congratulations! You have decided to own a rental property. Becoming a landlord is exciting and can be very rewarding, both personally and financially. But you have a big decision to make: should I “DIY”, or should I hire a property management company? Here are 7 questions to ask yourself when making that decision. You may find that when you DIY, you're not as protected as you should be.
1. Do you really have time to manage properties?
Many novice landlords, in addition to overseeing their rental property, are already working a 40+ hour work week and have their own family and social lives they should rightfully enjoy. Other landlords may be retired, or do not live near their property, and must take the time out of their busy schedule (or their golfing and vacation schedule) to maintain their rental, deal with tenants, etc. There is a reason that management companies exist- because it is a full-time job to manage rentals! Do you have the time to spare? Will your quality of life suffer?
2. Are you in compliance with the ever-changing landlord/tenant laws?
We cannot stress enough how important it is to be in compliance with landlord/tenant laws. If you're not careful, there could be some very negative consequences. It is paramount to understand the laws surrounding tenants and Fair Housing laws, both state and federal, as well as other city and county ordinances in your area. The pandemic has created a barrage of new regulations for both Oregon and Washington, and major cities have been making significant changes to their landlord/tenant laws (see our previous blog posts). It can be a daunting task to know and understand these laws, what your obligation is to your tenants, and staying on top of any updates to the laws (especially if you are not familiar with deciphering legalese).
3. Is your marketing reaching quality tenants?
Sure, taking a couple of pictures and writing a description of your rental property may not seem like a big deal, but when it is put up against hundreds (or thousands!) of other rental properties with professional photos, videos, and thoughtful marketing descriptions, how can you make your property stand out? Everything is digital now; newspaper and local magazine ads listing rental properties are a thing of the past. At TMG, we utilize software that assists us in posting to a large variety of websites all at once, in addition to utilizing a professional photographer to take property photos and create videos. Knowing which websites to post your listing and producing high quality content, is incredibly necessary to get your property in front of as many prospective renters as possible. If you aren't adequately marketing your property, it could take longer to fill vacancies and your selection of quality tenants is diminshed.
4. Are you adequately screening prospective tenants?
Once you have found prospective renters, now it’s time to screen them! Are you aware of the many laws surrounding Fair Housing? Most renters are; and as a landlord, you are required to abide by these laws or you could face serious legal consequences. Setting rental criteria, performing credit and background checks (in addition to reading and understanding them), contacting previous and current landlords (and knowing what questions to ask), knowing how to appropriately charge deposits, and how to deal with reasonable accommodations (like emotional support animals), are just the beginning.
5. Are you properly protected in your lease documents?
Move-in inspections, documentation, and finding the right lease: where to start? Creating a lease template that you found on the internet is an option, but are you sure it complies with local/state/federal laws? The lease dictates more than just rent; it outlines the tenants’ responsibilities for the next year-plus in your rental property. Knowing how to document the property prior to the tenant taking legal possession of the home is of utmost importance so that you can accurately assess and charge the tenant for any damage to the property when they move out.
6. Do you have the skills to do maintenance yourself? And do you have relationships with vendors?
Some landlords are extremely “handy” and have the maintenance skills needed to maintain their property. However, not all of us possess those skills (or don’t live in the area) and must vend out all their maintenance needs. Do you have reliable contacts who will do the work correctly, for a fair price, and are licensed, bonded, and insured? Scheduling maintenance brings its own headaches, as there are also laws stating the timeframes a landlord must respond to various types of maintenance needs. And let’s not forget those dreaded 2:00 am phone calls for a water leak or some other major emergency. DIY-landlords must respond and handle them regardless of when they occur.
7. Do you know what to do when things go south? What if you have to evict a tenant?
We have all heard the landlord horror stories of when things “go south” with a tenant. From non-payment of rent to a variety of lease violations, dealing with removing a tenant from a property is one of the worst situations a landlord could face. Knowing the legal processes to remove your tenant correctly, and how to prevent evictions from occurring in the first place, can save you significant time, money, and headache.
How TMG Can Help
There are many successful DIY Landlords out there. We applaud you for your efforts in this undertaking and we know how hard you work! We don’t want to discourage any landlord from self-management, but we know from our 35+ years of experience that the amount of time, knowledge, and energy required of a landlord to maintain a successful property is often overwhelming (and sometimes impossible).
In addition to offering full property management services, TMG also offers Tenant Placement Services, for a self-managing landlord who just needs property marketing to find and screen qualified renters and put them on a high-quality lease agreement. This service takes a significant portion of the process and stress out of your hands.
Below is an overview of the services we provide in a standard management package. We're certain utilitzing TMG to manage your property will end up saving you time, money, and precious energy. Our services pay for themselves.