Sep 20

I wish to throw this question out for discussion:

What is the most important thing you know?

We all come from different backgrounds and have had different experiences.  Individually we know what we know, but no more.

Collectively we could be pretty smart and achieve more.  That is part of the power of a discussion list like the list I moderate ApartmentAssoc or the ones I participate on such as MadisonApartmentOwnersLandlordAssociationOrg or the hundreds of other groups on Yahoo Groups or Google Groups.  You ask a question and get an answer.

But what about the question that you do not even know you should ask?  So go ahead add what you think is the most important thing you have learned about landlording to the comment section.

[Note I am importing replies from the above Yahoo Groups into this comment section for all to read]

22 Responses to “What is the most important thing you know?”

  1. kathy J. says:

    On LandlordAssociationOrg [at] kathy J. comments:

    All bad tenants like to say they are good tenants.

  2. rexx892 says:

    On LandlordAssociationOrg [at] rexx892 comments:

    I had recently asked about scams tenants pull because I wanted to know before it happened to me and I posted about the one I recently am going through. I think if we all tell eachother our experiences and we help eachother with what we do know; then thats all we can do. Learn from other’s mistakes. I hope others learn from my mistakes cause I made pleanty lol.. The most important thing I know? **** is what I don’t know.****** I know I don’t know everthing unlike my teenage son. He knows it all. lol

    So I guess the most important thing I know is I acknowledge what I don’t know.

    Great topic Tim!!!!!!!!!

  3. Sunjit says:

    On ApartmentAssoc [at] Sunjit comments:

    The credit report does not lie.

  4. Wayne says:

    On ApartmentAssoc [at] Wayne comments:

    I know this is a tough job. I know we are alone in it, the city wants are money, the courts don’t care about if we get justice or not, DNS wants to tell us what to do, The state wants to take away our rights, and the tenants don’t want to take responsibility for anything, and we can’t get enough landlords together to fight these issues. Any Questions?


  5. John Fisher says:

    On ApartmentAssoc [at] John Fisher comments:

    I have learned that real life situations can make the best laid plans and policies useless… That to be successful, you need to be able to adapt and change to a different focus or business model as economic or legislative conditions warrant. I have learned that you can never rely on doing things “the way we always have”

    I have learned that the only thing in this business that doesn’t change…. Is that there is constant change

    John H. Fischer

  6. Tom C. says:

    On ApartmentAssoc [at] Tom C comments:

    What a great question Tim!

    My answer.

    We can continue to do our best to be the little, unique, compassionate Boddhisatvas that we all are, while we

    · Set and enforce clear personal boundaries,

    · Set and enforce clear and reasonable operational rules;

    · Recognize we run businesses;

    · Recognize we don’t run social service agencies. We pay taxes for others to provide those services.

    · And the above helps us be kind, efficient, sustainable, and successful.

    Be well – Tom C.

  7. msjvalentine says:

    Something else to look out for: My current tenant admitted to my property manager that he had a bad credit rating but blamed it on his identity being stolen. He provided a police report and letters to and from a credit agency to back up his claim.

    He has been weeks late on the rent every month, and I believe he falsified those identity theft documents.

    The only reason I haven’t evicted him is that the rental market is awful, and it would take me many months to find another tenant (my house was vacant for eight months before he moved in). Plus, I do always receive the full amount of the rent, just not when it’s due.

  8. janice tabbut says:

    Here is the scam that took me with my first tenant. Husband and wife (and 6 kids) rent the house. Only the husband signs the lease. His income is disability. Her income is real estate agent. He pays on time, on time, on time, late then in full, late and partial, later, then nothing. I evict. Husband calls my realtor (who got me the tenant) and says she should evict the wife, wife threw him out, he’s living in his car. Realtor tells him to call me but he never does. In court wife says she threw him out, can she sign the lease on her own. I let her sign a lease which includes monthly payments towards his arrears. She pays the first month plus prorate in cash. Never pays anything again. I evict. Sherriff shows up and she pays everything she owes according to the court decree in cash. The judge would not allow the arrearage into the amount due. She never pays anything else. I evict. Sherriff shows up to evict, she’s gone with 90% of her belongings left behind plus cockroaches. I had to dispose of all that junk and there was a lot. Minor damage to the property. I can’t go after the husband’s income because it’s disability. His part time job is in another state, not worth pursuing. Trying to attach her paycheck and having a hard time finding her.

    From now on, both parents will sign my lease or I won’t rent to them. And if one defaults they both have to go. I don’t believe these two were separated or divorced. I believe the whole story was a scam.

  9. kathy J. says:

    All bad tenants like to say they are good tenants.

    kathy J.

  10. Polly says:

    Always do a full background check and if the tenant brings a credit report so you don’t have to run one or brings letters from references, run the credit check and call the references anyway, they can be printed out and “adjusted” to make the tenant look better than they are.


  11. Sue Lee says:

    Being upfront and taking extra, preventative steps makes it easier to deal with confrontations. And be stern, as it is a business, but courteous in any situation.

  12. Diane says:

    I need to be clear in all my dealings and be certain that my tenants understand. Sometimes people will agree but I come to find out later that we didn’t have the same interpretation of what was said. I like to write things down. I tell them it isn’t a matter of trust, but a matter of memory – I can easily forget what was agreed to after a few weeks, or even days!

  13. Teresa from pittsburgh pa says:

    One of the most important things that I know and just recently put into action is to listen and implement some of the things that others have tried and it worked for them. I have a tenant who is good in every way except she pays late. For one whole year I couldn’t get her to pay on time. She always called. Apologized. Took excellent care of property. But always paid late due to the way her pay dates fall. So I decided to send her and invoice with three different payment options. Option one: $690 due on the 1st. Option two: $725 due if paid after the 5th. Or $750 paid in two payments. $375 due by the 13th and another $375 due by the 28th. She called me as soon as she received the letter and was so excited. She said being that she gets payed on the 8th and the 23rd that option #3 would work out best for her. She thanked me and repeated several times that she will pay according to the terms of option 3. I also explained that if I didn’t receive the payment as instructed that I will file for eviction. No if ands or buts. She understood. But I was confused. Why pay $60 more each month than u have to. But she was elated. I had put off presenting this to her for a whole year thinking no one in their right mind would ever opt for this. Boy was I wrong. So learn from others and do it. If it works for them, it could work for you. Doesn’t hurt to try new and different things.
    Teresa from pittsburgh pa

  14. janice tabbut says:

    I’ve heard in some of the real estate classes I’ve taken that this is an option to offer tenants. The people who taught it also recommended added a convenience fee to the payment which you seem to have wrapped into your price. They always presented it as if it was good for the tenant and that they usually like it. You see to be living proof that such is the case. I agree with you that it seems surprising that the tenant would be happy to pay more. I’m glad it worked out. It seems like a win-win.

  15. janice tabbut says:

    The most important thing I know is this. You can’t do it alone. As humans we weren’t meant or designed to be alone. We were meant to be part of a team. Friendship, marriage, family, projects, work, real estate. It’s all about working with others. The sum of the whole becomes much larger than the sum of the parts. It’s by working together that we learn from each other. That’s why I like this list. I thank everyone for sharing their experiences. It helps me to do my job better.

  16. Polly says:

    We had a tenant that preferred to pay half the rent on each of his paydays, it was just easier on them that way and it meant the late paying stopped right away, I prefer to get it all in one go at the start of the month though, just easier on me and paying bills that come with the house, but will go to twice a month and a little bit higher rent if it means that is the only way to get the full amount and on time.


  17. mary mary says:

    The single most important thing I learned was to read the state landlord/tenant laws. Don’t just read them once. Read them several times until you really do know the requirements and where to find the exact wording when an issue comes up. Review them at least twice a year- just to keep it fresh and also to keep you abreast of any changes. After you know the law, follow it, be friendly but firm in dealing with tenants –“it is the law” goes a long way.

    After that, learned to document. Someone else said to write it out. Could not agree more. You will wish you had if you ever get someone who knows how to work the system. My spouse was adamant about documenting everything, Saved our behinds when a tenant from **** filed a discrimination suit with HUD. Takes the tenant about 15 minutes to file a complaint with HUD, and costs them nothing. If you can not defend yourself with documentation, you have a high probability of losing.

  18. Jim Cole says:

    Yup. I keep a journal of everything I do whether it’s replacing a
    faucet washer, re-keying a lock or having a conversation with a tenant
    about the rent or some other issue. You won’t believe how important
    small things can be when a dispute comes up. I make notes it on paper
    and date it. Every week or so I scan the recent pages into my PC in
    case the journal gets lost or stolen. If some issue comes where I need
    to go to court or something like Mary says, I word process the facts
    from my notes into a single document that I can send to the attorney or
    whatever, but I always make sure I archive the original hand written
    pages with the dates. — Jim

  19. LauM says:

    I do not know how to do a free background check – I do references – personal and work – check out the previous residence, the work place, and I guess that is all. Please fill me in on what I am not doing? I’ve lost at least $6, 0000 over the last two years on bad tenants. LauM

  20. Leslie says:

    We also take extensive notes either during any conversation with our tenants or immediately afterwards with dates and times. Just recently, because our current tenants twist the truth to suit their purposes, we have recorded each encounter. We have an i Pad that has a program to record audio. In our state it is legal if one of the parties knows the conversation is being recorded. ( That would be us.) My husband takes notes on the i Pad and records. We have a recording of our tenant stating he knew of the water heater leak on Sunday but had not called us until Monday night (when the room they wanted the carpet replaced in was totally flooded). And the tenant is an insurance adjuster so he knew the damage that a leaking water heater could do. Being a nurse myself it is ingrained in me to do defensive charting. We respond to each complaint in writing making sure that all facts go into the written record, including quotes of what the tenants said. All correspondence is sent certified with return receipt. This is our first experience as landlords and our tenants have taught us a whole lot. Also take time to compare the background check with the perspective tenants application very carefully. Our tenants lied in three places on the application, his business address that he wrote down as a suite number was a PO Box, yes he did have a bankruptcy, and the business he wrote down that he worked for, his own, was dissolved three weeks before he signed the lease. Do not be in a panic hurry to get your property rented and skip over your due diligence. It will bite you in the behind.

  21. James says:

    The most important thing I know is that I don’t know everything I am always Listening and Learning.

  22. Nadine says:

    There are always alternatives in getting the deal done. We just have to ask the right questions.

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