The Perfect Property

Just Bought a Rental Property? Here Are the Next 6 Things to Do

by Zachary Thompson

Becoming a landlord is an exciting new adventure. Buying and readying a rental property is a long-term investment that can lead to a lifetime income stream. But it's also a moment when you want to get the basics right and feel confident in what you're about to undertake. Following this handy pre-lease checklist for first-time landlords is a good place to start. 

Call the City. It's vital to make sure that the property tax bill is being sent to your home address so you don't miss anything. While you're at it, call the utility department that provides water and power to ensure those bills will be in your name and arrive to you on time.

Start Keeping Records. If you haven't already been keeping track of all expenses for your rental, it's time to start doing so. Your record-keeping system can be as simple as a file folder or binder in which you can keep all receipts, invoices, and correspondence (at least for tax purposes). Start a log page for expenses and one for income, and be sure you are tracking your mileage when traveling to do business for the rental unit.

Perform Any Maintenance. Make certain your unit or units are ready for new tenants by checking the service or maintenance schedules on appliances, furnaces, air conditioners, outdoor equipment, etc. Lax maintenance or nonfunctional equipment can cause more headaches once you get busy with other things and renters enter the picture. 

Educate Yourself. Understanding the state and local laws that govern rental housing, tenants, landlords, and leases is an important step. If you haven't been learning everything you can on the subject already, spend some time doing so now so as to avoid problems once you rent out. Books are available on the subject, too, and it's a good idea to join your local landlord society if possible. 

Contact Professionals. Start a network of professionals you can consult with regularly or hire in an emergency. Among such pros are an accountant, a lawyer with experience in landlord law, a handyman, a plumber, an electrician and a landscaping company. If you aren't sure if you can handle the regular tasks of managing the rentals—at least to begin with—you may want to look into hiring a property manager instead. 

Create a Lease. As a final step before actually starting to rent out your property, work with your lawyer to draw up a binding lease. Decide what features should be in it, including such things as who is responsible for what maintenance, like snow removal, and rules like noise or nuisance clauses, maximum number of occupiers, appearance of the unit, parking regulations and access to the property. 

Now your'e ready to move forward with starting your new life as a landlord. By following these 6 steps, you can ensure that you have the best start and can enjoy your experience better.