Are you a new landlord? Do you know some of the most common mistakes new landlords makes?

Perhaps you have an investment property or maybe you are looking to purchase real estate to bolster your portfolio.  It may seem like a good time to purchase a rental property given the increased demand for rental homes, but being a landlord is not as easy as it may seem and there are some costly mistakes new landlords make if he/she does not prepare themselves to avoid the common pitfalls that go along with the investment opportunity. To assist you in your investment endeavors we have listed 10 common mistakes and how to avoid them:
1. Not Running Credit/Background Checks: If you are not running credit and background checks, you need to; you never really know if a person is representing all they are to you without a non-biased report. Look for any negative trends in the credit history. Verifying employment is also recommended, obtain copies of their most recent pay stub or other income verification from an outside source. Have a verification release signed by the potential renter to obtain information from employers and past landlords and then follow up on sources for accuracy.
2. Not Counting on Vacancies: There usually is a gap in time between the date a renter moves-out and stops paying rent and the time a new renter is found and starts paying rent. Set up a savings account to cover expenses for up to 3 months. While you are at it, establish a maintenance account for ongoing recurring items such as leaky faucets or toilets.
3. No Written Rental Agreement or Lease: The days of “My word is my bond” and handshake deals are a thing of the past. Rental agreements and leases are legally binding agreements that create a contract and define the terms or understandings of each party. Without a legal “contract” you will have a hard time enforcing terms or ending tenancy should you need to go to court. Make sure you are using a document that is compliant with your state laws.
4. Not Inspecting or Neglecting the Property: The property that you are renting-out is your responsibility. You are required to maintain the interior and exterior of the property and good renters expect to move into a clean, well-maintained property. By ensuring the property is “market ready” (meaning, the property is maintained to the level that you would move in to it) before you secure a renter, you can ensure the renter is happier and you have to deal with fewer phone calls. As the owner of a rental property, you are required to make sure that your property meets local and state health and safety standards.
5. Delaying Legal Actions/Evictions: Delaying legal action or the eviction process when renters default on their lease obligations (including not paying rent) can be very costly. File necessary legal actions timely to help mitigate lost income and potential damage to your property.
6. Not Keeping Up on the Rental Market/Not Raising Rents: Do your research and due diligence to ensure your rental rate is appropriate for your area. If you already have your property rented, but do not increase the rent upon renewal, you may not be managing your investment effectively. Thinking that the renter will move or that you do not have enough time to re-rent the property are common fears, however, those fears do not make you any more money. Renters do not expect rents will never go up and in-fact many expect a modest increase each year.
7. Not Giving Your New/Renewing Renters a Lead Based Paint Disclosure: For most rental property owners and as of December 6, 1996, the Lead Based Paint Disclosure law went into effect. According to the law, every owner with a property built prior to 1978 must give all new and renewing renters a disclosure and pamphlet on lead paint. Failure to do so could result in a $10,000 fine.
8. Not Paying Your City Rental Taxes: Most cities in the Phoenix metro area require a rental tax to be collected and submitted to the city on a monthly basis.  If this tax is not paid you may be subject to extensive fines.  Be sure you check with your local city and/or the Arizona Department of Revenue for the amount of tax to collect and filling guidelines. 

9. Not Factoring in the Value of Your Time: Unless you are a full-time real estate investor, odds are your primary job is not being a landlord. But now that you are a landlord, you are probably spending several hours a month dealing with your rental, especially during a lease turnover. One big mistake new landlords make is not valuing their time. Ask yourself, “What is my time worth?”, do a little math and then determine if you are still getting a return on your investment. If not, you may want to think about what you can do to ensure your rental property is working for you instead of the opposite.
10. Not Accounting for the Learning Curve: Finally, a common mistake new landlords make is becoming a landlord without accounting for the learning curve. Not accounting for your lack of experience can cost your long-term. You should either get great advice from experienced landlords or consult with professionals such as attorneys with experience in landlord/tenant and investment property laws and a licensed property manager to ensure you are covering your bases and not dealing with unnecessary risk with your investment property.

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