5 Tips to Becoming and Unbreakable Landlord

If you are currently a landlord or thinking of becoming a landlord, then you probably have an investment property to rent.  Whether it's an apartment, a basement suite in your own home, or a half duplex, the same principles apply for how to navigate the challenges that come with the landlord role.

Your investment property is a crucial piece of your financial wellbeing, a part of your future, and taking time to learn what it takes to be the best landlord you can be is in your best interest to make that investment property work the hardest it can for you. It's like running a business: it takes time, hard work, and paying attention to make it a successful venture.

These are my 5 best tips for how to become an unbreakable landlord:

 1. Learn the rules of Residential Tenancy Act -- and stick to them.

Everything I'm about to tell you here is aimed at serving you if (or when) issues arise that could become an official dispute with your tenant.  These scenarios really highlight how precedence plays a role in determining the outcome of those disputes, which is why sticking to the RTA rules is the guiding mantra here.  You can avoid the issues by sticking to the RTA rules. 

For example, late rents. If a tenant needs an extra day for rent one time, it would be very nice of you to allow that extra time, of course. However, if that late payment behaviour becomes the norm with that tenant, and you eventually seek a way to oust them from your property with the help of the Residential Tenancy Branch, the precedent that you set by allowing late rent payments will NOT help you, and likely a ruling would be made in the tenant's favour.

Adhering to the Residential Tenancy Act and acting immediately on infractions (according to the procedure set out in the Act) is in your best interest.  other examples where this precedence issue can come into play include: if you rent to a tenant with a no pets rule and they surprise you with a pet on the premises, noise complaints from neighbours, parking complaints, bylaw issues, lack of care by the tenants, disrepair, etc.

Precedence comes into play in pretty much every issue, and the Residential Tenancy Branch takes precedence into account when making a ruling.

2.  Conduct your monthly inspections.

In the rules of the Residential Tenancy Agreement, it states you will conduct an inspection before the tenant occupies the unit.  Ensure that you make this initial inspection a priority, and document any existing damage or wear and tear.  Take pictures!

You are entitled to conduct a monthly inspection, and you should do this with your tenant present.  Have them sign the inspection reports.  These steps will ensure that any damage done to the property by that tenant will be identified quickly, and will be entered into the official record.  Again, along with tip #1, this is to solidify your case should these damages need to be presented to the Residential Tenancy Branch.

3.  Don't necessarily tell the tenants you are the owner. 

This applies mostly to rental properties where you are not residing (so, not your own basement suite for example). This applies to rentals away from where you actually live.

This tip is all about optics.  If you frame your landlord role as if you are a property management associate, rather than the actual owner of the property, you'll have an arm's length when it comes to handling direct requests from the tenant regarding extensions for late rental payments.  You can imply you are being held to account by the "powers that be" instead of BEING the "powers that be." While this tip falls into a grey area of truthfulness, it can be in your best interest to maintain that illusion of distance from decision-making, especially if you are likely to accommodate requests from tenants out of a perceived duty to "be nice."

4.  If you need a tenant to leave, it can be simplest to buy your way out. 

If a tenant is problematic, there are very few ways to oust them from your rental unit.  Even if they've defaulted on several months rent! In most cases, rulings by the Residential Tenancy Branch favour the tenant, and while this is often for good reason, it can shackle you to a terrible tenant which can put your property-- and your investment -- at risk.  If you really do need a tenant to leave, draw up a Mutual Agreement to End Tenancy document and consider offering the tenant monetary compensation an an incentive. Ensure they sign the document. The Mutual Agreement to End Tenancy will prevent the issue of their early departure from being presented to the Residential Tenancy Branch.  Disputes take time and energy to resolve.

If the tenant decides to leave early or if you provide the required 2 months notice if you are planning to move into that rental unit, still have your tenant sign a Mutual Agreement to End Tenancy asap.  That way, you can proceed finding another tenant if needed with certainty.  You can bank on the agreed-upon date of their departure and plan accordingly, without any last minute surprises.  It will cost you more energy, money and stress to omit this document from ending your tenancies.

5.  Treat your rental property as a business.

Renting your property IS a business.  Understand that owning a business has some stress, you need an objective, you need plans and procedures in place for resolving conflict, and you will need to respond to issues and potentially emergencies.  Owning a rental property is commonly referred to as "passive income" but it really is anything but passive.  Know that it takes work, some sweat, and resolve to become and remain a solid landlord. Build a business plan and stick to it to you have a guide to follow.  The work you put into this planning phase will absolutely come back to serve you well. Viewing your rental as a business will help you keep the priorities in focus.

Bonus tip: stay on top of market value for your rents.

Every year the Residential Tenancy Branch releases the percentage increases you can apply to your rental unit(s).  I encourage you to apply these increases as they are announced! While the increases can seem too meager to apply every year, keeping up with the market value of your rental will benefit you when you decide to sell your investment property.  Showing a healthy rental income on your unit increases the desirability of your property. It is critical that you keep up with the rental increases, if not every year then every two years.  If you are too relaxed with rent increases, you will be in a position to "catch up" after a few years of lagging behind the market value.  Stay on top of increases to get the most out of your investment.