Nationwide, nearly two-thirds of all rental properties are self-managed by their landlords. This statistic holds true locally in Prince William County as well. Each year, in December, as many of these landlords start thinking about their New Year’s resolutions, we begin to get calls from landlords looking for professional management services. Most of the time, this decision is because the DIY landlord just jumped into management with little research or training ahead of time.
Based on my conversations with these DIY landlords who now realize that property management is more than just asking the tenant to make a direct deposit into their checking account each month, we’ve developed a list of the 13 most important things that a DIY landlord should know before getting started.
- The eviction process – If tenants are late with rent payments, Landlords should know what notices are needed and how they must be served, what documentation is needed, and what circumstances will require an attorney. Now with the impacts of COVID, landlords should also be familiar with how the CARES Act and recent eviction moratoriums impact what restrictions may be in place. The best strategy will also include researching tips for screening upfront in order to minimize risks of eviction.
- Virginia Residential Landlord Tenant (VRLTA) laws that apply – Landlords should be familiar with resident agent requirements for out of state owners, annual smoke detector certifications, and required notices to tenants regarding rights and responsibilities. New VRLTA laws typically become effective each year on July 1st.
- Maintenance Requirements – Landlords should be aware of the 2020 new law regarding 14 days to address health and safety issues.
- Inspections – Landlords should set up a regular schedule for inspections and provide sufficient notice to the tenants. During these inspections, in addition to verifying that tenants are complying with the terms of the lease, landlords should also be looking for conditions like rotting wood, peeling paint, and dead or overgrown trees that may need to be addressed.
- Adherence to Lease – Landlords should not make exceptions to the lease terms as it sets up a pattern/dynamic that is difficult to control. Any exceptions that are granted should be documented in writing.
- Use of Home Warranties – Landlords should understand the pros and cons of using a Home Warranty (MOSTLY CONS). See our blog on this topic for more information.
- Use of Licensed Vendors – Landlords should understand the risks associated with using unlicensed or uninsured vendors. Many Landlords try to save money on maintenance and end up having work done that is not consistent with building codes.
- Procuring the next tenant – Showing the home while tenants are still in place may present a challenge if the landlord does not live locally. Landlords may wish to use a Realtor for this process even if they are handling the management themselves.
- Planning and Budgeting – Landlords should have a plan and a budget in place for expected or preventative maintenance. Decks need to be power washed and sealed/stained, algae will grow on siding, trees will grow and scrape the roof, shingles will be blown off, condensation drain lines need to be cleared, dryer vents will need to be cleaned, appliances will break down, sump pumps will fail……all of these expected or preventative maintenance items remain landlord responsibility.
- Deferred Maintenance – To best protect their long-term investment, Landlords should not defer maintenance. Rotting wood at the roof line will soon become water intrusion into the bedrooms….deferred maintenance items will become much more expensive when lead to secondary damages that can no longer be delayed.
- Inspecting after major weather events – Landlords should not leave inspections after major storms to tenants. After major wind or hailstorms, it may be advantageous to have a roof inspection.
- Requiring renters’ insurance and selecting appropriate landlord coverages – Landlords insurance will not cover damages that are caused by tenant’s accidents. Landlords should require renters’ insurance and follow up each year to ensure the policy is renewed. Standard landlord policies do not cover sewage backups and several other common problems. Landlords should consult their insurance agent and discuss coverage option.
- Allowing for dogs (dangerous breeds) and understanding service animal and emotional support animal regulations – Landlords should review their insurance policies restrictions for certain breeds of dog that are considered to be aggressive. Landlords should also become familiar with the requirements to allow emotional support animals when the tenant’s need is properly documented.
Many landlords can manage their own properties effectively, sometimes even from a distance. But the COVID dynamics are making that a little more difficult. If are considering professional services, please give us a call! We appreciate the opportunity to provide excellent service.