Becoming a private landlord can be a huge step forward in someone's professional journey – After all, it's a massive opportunity to take charge and build a business. But what exactly does being a private landlord entail, and how does it impact life from the renter's perspective? Here's a quick look at what to expect.
What makes someone a private landlord?
A private landlord is an individual who owns and rents out property. In other words, they don't count on a professional property management company to help them handle their business, although they may use tools like online portals for renters.
Most private landlords in the US are small-scale, with just one or two properties, and many get their start as accidental landlords. For instance, someone might move to a new home and decide to rent out their old one rather than sell it.
There's also an intentional dimension to the trend: More and more people are becoming professional landlords by choice. These individuals buy properties specifically to rent them out, often as a means of building secure wealth through investment.
From a legal standpoint, the role of a private landlord is to provide a safe and secure home for their tenants. In other words, property owners are responsible for ensuring rental units meet accepted minimum standards for safety and habitability.
In return for providing a home, landlords charge their tenants rent. The amount of rent a landlord can charge is largely determined by the local housing market.
Related Reading: How much can I rent my house for?
Although landlords can often command higher prices by furnishing their properties with nice amenities, this strategy has its limitations: Renters will only pay what they think is fair.
Private landlords have certain rights and responsibilities. For example, they have the right to evict tenants who damage their property or don't pay their rent. They also have an obligation to make sure their property is safe and habitable and to fix any problems that arise.
The bottom line is that as a private landlord, the individual takes on all the risks and responsibilities by themselves or with their partners. That means they need to maintain sufficient landlord insurance coverage for fire damage, flooding, weather, and other eventualities – otherwise, they're on the hook!
The Pros and Cons of Being a Private Landlord
There are pros and cons to renting your property as a private landlord instead of a property management company. Here are some things to consider when making a choice:
Private landlords typically charge lower rents than property management companies do. Because they don't have to spend money on business expenses like employee salaries, marketing, and maintenance, they can pass on the savings in the form of reduced rents. The big caveat to this rule is that renters might have to come up with more money upfront since independent landlords tend to require bigger deposits to reduce their risk.
Private landlords are typically responsible for all maintenance and repairs on the property. As a result, the amount of time tenants spend waiting for things to get fixed depends on how responsive and proactive the landlord is. As a private landlord, you are the one fielding all maintenance requests directly, which can mean being responsive at all times of day.
Property management firms are typically unable to be flexible when it comes to things like rent prices, lease terms, and pet policies. For many renters, this can be a complete dealbreaker: Larger companies may be more prone to escalate the situation than to negotiate, especially with newer tenants. Independent landlords are usually able to be more understanding which can result in a broader market of renters available to them, although the flip-side is there is usually increased risk associated.
Private landlords typically have more direct, casual communication with their tenants. This can mean a more friendly environment when it comes to repair requests, rent payments, or accommodations for special circumstances. It also means landlords are typically required to be responsive and mantain open liens of communication with their renters.
Most private landlords screen their tenants less thoroughly than property management companies, which can make it easier to get approved.
Things To Keep in Mind As a Private Landlord
These are some things that tenants typically look out for when looking for a private landlord to rent from:
The landlord's reputation
Ask around or search online to see if there are any complaints about the landlord. Googling someone's name is usually a good start.
Make sure the landlord is registered with the appropriate government body. In some cities and states, for instance, landlords must be registered with special regulatory boards.
A written lease agreement
Lease agreements outline tenants' and landlords' rights and responsibilities, and they should never be solely verbal. Even if a renter ends up going month-to-month after the initial agreement expires, it's a good idea to get any additional changes in writing.
Landlords who provide leases in writing may be viewed as more reliable in the long run as they have a well documented relationship with their renters.
Keep track of all communications with the tenant
Building an organized record is just as important for tenants as it is for landlords. For instance, if a landlord wants to adjust the rent terms, the tenant should ask them to send an email or text message specifying the new amount.
This is a far better option than simply relying on verbal conversation. If a dispute arises, having this information easily accessible makes it easier to resolve the situation without outside intervention: Both parties can just refer back to the record.
Have landlord insurance
This is by far one of the most important elements of being a private landlord. Even when tenants have renters' insurance to protect their personal possessions, their policies may not cover certain events beyond their control, such as hidden building deficiencies that cause them personal harm.
Insured property owners will be protected if something goes wrong to cause damage to the property, such as a fire or water damage. If you're properly covered, you won't have to be as concerned with being at a loss should there be an unforeseen circumstance causing damage to the property.
How To Be a Good Private Landlord
If you're a landlord, your business is only as good as your tenants' experience. Here are a few tips to help you be a better independent rental owner:
Be responsive to your tenants' needs
If your renters need something, do your best to accommodate them promptly. The longer they have to wait, the more they'll start looking elsewhere for places to stay.
Maintain your rental units proactively
Regularly inspect your units and finish repairs without being asked. Adopting a proactive approach helps you stay on top of day-to-day property degradation without falling behind.
Put frameworks into place to do repairs before you need them. For instance, if you have a plumber or handyperson on call, then you'll find it way easier to take sudden surprises in stride and keep tenants happy.
Related Reading: 11 Tips for New Landlords
Deal with tenants fairly
Be consistent in applying rules and procedures, and be willing to shift gears if you think it will help you forge a healthier business relationship with your renters. Acting in an upfront way – such as providing more notice than is legally required when you plan on increasing the rent – can often head off lots of bad blood.
Be available to your tenants
If they have questions or concerns, they shouldn't need to hunt you down to get answers. You obviously wouldn't want to have to chase them around to collect rent, so be professional by extending them the same degree of respect.
Be flexible. Life evolves, and tenants' needs change with it. It won't always be possible to accommodate their requests, but you should always make an honest effort.
As a landlord, you're responsible for the property you own and rent out to others. If something happens to your home, apartment, condo, or other assets, such as a fire or severe weather damage, you could be held liable.
Landlord insurance can help protect you from financial loss if your property is damaged or destroyed. It can also help cover the costs of any legal action taken against you by your tenants.
Take the First Step to Building a Successful Rental Business
Being a private landlord can be incredibly tough. You won't necessarily have the legal clout, funding, and marketing power that property management companies use to expand their businesses. If you're new to this field, it can be easy to feel extremely overwhelmed.
Taking a professional approach to your landlord journey makes it way easier to thrive – and investing in proper coverage is the first step. Learn more by getting a quote today.