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The following list is compiled by an experienced landlord and contributor to  Thanks, Ralph(WA)!

1. I like to think that I am a good judge of character but I’ve been fooled before. So always verify your applicant’s credit, employment and rental history.

2. Look at the applicant’s car to know that your property will be cared for in much the same manner.

3. An applicant who claims to have been a victim of unfair circumstances will often make you a victim of unfair circumstances.

4. Do not rent to friends or friends of friends.

5. Pets cause problems more often than not.  If you’re going to accept them you need to be compensated for the extra wear tear and risks that you will be taking on.  However, a “No Pets” policy is the best policy.

6. Replace water heaters every 10 years whether they need it or not.

7. Keep the gutters clean and the moss on the roof at bay.

8. Do not provide or loan lawn mowers, string trimmers, or power tools of any kind. You’ll get them back broken and if someone gets hurt you might get sued.

9. Don’t let residents do their own painting. They often botch the job.

10. Don’t hand over a signed contract until you have a completed inspection report filled out and returned to you.  It’s best to be present when the resident inspects.

11. Take lots of pictures and video before each residency.  Include the front page of that day’s newspaper to verify the date.

12. It does no good to prohibit anything in your lease unless you have you have effective and immediate remedies included in your agreement or available by statute.

13. Require residents to carry renters insurance for their protection and yours.

14. Include wording in your lease that limits your liability during periods where the rental is rendered inhabitable (through no fault of the landlord) to abatement of rent during that period.

15. Include a modest rent escalation clause in your lease (I use 2.9% per year).  It gets them used to the idea and prevents you from agonizing about when, whether, and how much to increase the rent.

16. Avoid roommate situations if possible.  They are inherently unstable.

17. Get a Lowes credit card and you’ll get an automatic 5% discount on your purchases.

18. Get a Home Depot card and ask them to match the Lowes discount.

19. If you are ex-military disregard 18 & 19 and ask for a 10% discount at Lowes and Home Depot.

20. I have had bad experiences with Section 8 situations and recommend that you avoid them.

21. Give your number to the neighbors and ask them to let you know if there are any problems or concerns.

22. I offer well-maintained rentals that are very competitively priced but I insist on well qualified residents.

23. I also ask for 2 year+ leases whenever possible.  Those who rent from me know they are getting a good deal and are usually willing to commit to a longer lease.

24. Make sure that residents understand that if they cause stoppage of the drains, they will get the bill.  Feminine hygiene products, wet wipes, foreign objects, or even large wads of toilet paper should not be flushed down the toilet.

25. Place battery-operated water leak alarms under the sinks–Best $10 you can spend.

The following is a happy ending to a landlord tale that could have turned out very bad.
Back in 2009, I hired someone to seal up and dry out a rental property basement.
I paid $1,250 (1/2 down for supplies) to a man who was supposed to do the basement sealing work for me.  I always check out the resident’s background, but never thought to check out the background of a contractor until it was too late.  Basically he skipped a few days after getting the check, without buying any supplies or doing any work.

In 20 years of landlording before that, I had never had a contractor rip me off.  He left the state without ever doing anything.  I filed a police report and eventually it went to small claims for theft by contractor and the state became the prosecuting force.  There was a warrant put out for his arrest.  My name was not on the court case.

After filing suit, I discovered that he abused his girlfriend and also that he had killed someone a decade or so before that.  I was not going to back down but decided not to attend the proceedings so that maybe he would had forgotten what I looked like, as I had forgotten what he looked like.

Luckily I got a picture of him from the victim advocate.  I didn’t want him to come to my house and not have me even recognize him.  Although he came back to the town where he originally lived (more than an hour from me), the police could never seem to catch him.  FINALLY he was stopped for a traffic issue and arrested.  He was bailed out (by his girlfriend) and again escaped out of state, but for some reason he must have been tired of running.  He turned himself in but then kept coming up with excuses and doing various things to prolong the court case.  I was notified of all court proceedings and could ask questions, if desired.

FINALLY he was found guilty and his attorney called me to see what name they should make the money order out to.  Apparently it was a condition of the court that he had to pay the restitution up front.  It was a LONG time coming (5 yrs), but that $1,250 felt SO good to deposit it into my account.  The lesson here is to check out those you have working on your property, or they can cost you thousands.


You should always be looking for ways to protect your investments.  When your income depends on owning property to rent, you’ll start to see risks everywhere.  But you can take a few simple steps that will help reduce the likelihood a catastrophe will happen to one of your properties.  One of the simplest things you can do is to install a fire extinguisher in the kitchen of each property you own.  Your insurance company may even give you a discount if you do so.

An extinguisher in each kitchen can keep a small grease fire from turning into a blaze and burning down your property.  Of course, you need to check extinguishers on a regular basis to make sure they’re still functioning.  Each one will have a date from the manufacturer that states when it needs to be replaced.  Some great times to inspect extinguishers are when you rent each property, when you do your annual inspection, or at the start of each year, but always stay within the manufacturer’s recommendations.  If you indeed provide the extinguisher, you should consider charging a deposit for it.  A few people will steal anything that’s not bolted down, and you don’t want to pay for new extinguishers every time a resident moves out.


What are the insurance coverage implications of terminating a lease after a major loss?

Insurance policies that provide coverage for loss of rents typically pay for the rents that you are owed as a result of a valid lease while the covered property remains unfit for habitation.  Using this framework, let’s examine two possible scenarios:

Scenario #1. Landlord leases property to Tenant effective on January 1, 2013 for a one year term.  Property burns down on February 1, 2013.  Landlord terminates the lease by providing written notice.

Scenario #2.  Landlord leases property to Tenant effective on January 1, 2013 for a one year term.  Property burns down on February 1, 2013.  Tenant terminates the lease by providing written notice.

The only difference between Scenario 1 and Scenario 2 is the party terminating the lease, yet they may have drastic differences in coverage as applied by an insurance company.  Let’s assume that both policies are identical and both provide coverage for loss of rents.  Which Landlord would have Loss of Rents coverage as outlined in the examples above?

Landlord in Scenario #2.
Most policies provide for loss of rents coverage for rents that are due to you.  In scenario #1, the Landlord voluntarily terminated the lease so it could be argued that she is no longer due the lost rents as a result of her voluntary termination. Conversely, Tenant in scenario #2 terminated his lease as a result of the loss, and Landlord in scenario #2 has lost rents as a result of Tenant’s lawful termination. There may be additional implications surrounding your insurance claim, the loss of rents is just one example. You should contact your insurance agent for any questions you have about coverage including loss of rents, vacancy, and business interruption with extra expenses such as tenant displacement.

This is why, it is important understand the effect a particular decision may have on your insurance claim should you experience a loss.

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