Joseph is CEO of TenantCloud, a cloud-based property management solution that helps landlords maximize revenue from rental properties.
As a landlord, you might be used to dealing with relative unknowns such as the condition a tenant will leave your rental in or how much it will cost to fix the washing machine — again. There are many services, systems and people you rely on on a daily basis that are almost entirely out of your control. What happens when one of those systems you rely on experiences a hiccup?
Take, for example, the current situation with the mail. Recently, the U.S. Postal Service, which processes and delivers approximately 472 million pieces of mail each day, has cut overtime hours and started removing mail-drop points in many cities across America as the new Postmaster General attempts to cut costs.
There are many impacts of delayed mail in all sectors of business, but receiving rent on time has become front and center for landlords as people struggle to pay rent, even without post office delays. Late rent can create a chain of events that include delayed or late mortgage payments and financial hardship. Being unable to control the factors that affect your livelihood can be stressful. In fact, it can cause everything from gray hair to arthritis if you’re worried enough. It’s crucial to be ready to reevaluate the way you do basic things and control what you’re able to.
Offer Tenants Online Rental Payments
Even before the current situation with the U.S. Post Office, delays in the mail or lost checks presented big issues to landlords. Instead of relying on a system you can’t control, such as the mail, consider giving your tenants the ability to pay rent online. Rental management software is easier, faster and more transparent, and it won’t have any interruptions come the election cycle.
Not to mention, paying online allows the tenant to have instant verification that the payment has been made and a receipt, so both parties know immediately and can keep accurate records. By using an online payment portal, there’s no guessing about when the mail will arrive, reducing your stress and putting one more thing within your control.
Digitize Your Documents And Correspondences
There are a million ways to communicate with a tenant, but each one requires tracking and storing all those messages. Though the world is changing fast with more and more ways to communicate, it is better to limit the ways and format of that communication to make your life easier. Whether that’s phone, voicemail, text or email, the more types of messages the more work you have to do and the higher chance something slips through the cracks. So what’s the solution?
Limit communication to a single source. Be sure it’s something you can easily keep a record of, which will help you manage your time and keep your correspondences organized and accessible. Personally, I don’t recommend the phone or text as your main form of communication. A tenant having your phone number means they can call you at any time. Being a landlord does require great customer service, but it also requires boundaries. Those boundaries should mean that you have set periods of time when you deal with issues for your rentals and not the instant a tenant has a broken light bulb. Instead, set up your communication through a business email so all messages can be stored and reproduced later if needed. Storing messages digitally helps when there’s a miscommunication with a tenant regarding their lease terms and/or a maintenance issue.
Similarly, switching from paper applications and leases to digital versions was a major time saver for me as a landlord. The application alone required printing out and filing in drawers that were hard to access, and sometimes I accidentally lost the application altogether. This can obviously create some serious problems. It was chaos, and I spent a lot of hours just coming up with a filing system.
Looking back now, the only reason I did it that way was because that’s how it had always been. Once I switched from relying on a traditional system, which was much more susceptible to human error, it changed everything for me. Now all documents are accessible on my phone, and I don’t have any filing cabinets. I can even inform the tenants of issues or look up an application or lease agreement without ever needing to look at a piece of paper.
Invest In Your Properties Upfront
So many landlords live on the extreme, miser side of cheap and thus extend that mentality to their rentals. Yes, rentals have renters and therefore damage is bound to happen, but some things require quality materials upfront. Spending a little more on things like the roof, quality paint and quality insulation can actually save you time and money in the long run. When you invest in quality materials, you can (for the most part) anticipate when maintenance will be required, rather than be on edge, wondering when the cheap appliance or solution will break down.
Time and time again I see people using the standard “cheapest option,” but take a minute to switch your frame of mind and consider why that doesn’t actually make sense. A quality roof can give you as much as 20 more years without having to replace it. Cheap paint comes off with washing, then starts to peel off the texture and damage the sheetrock. Good insulation keeps the unit better prepared for temperature changes, so tenants won’t need to change the thermostat as much, and thus, there will be less wear and tear on the furnace.
When systems you depend on as a landlord experience delays or disruptions, it’s important to be flexible about adopting new solutions. When at all possible, it’s important to take control of systems and processes that are controllable. Finding even little ways to adjust and make our lives more organized can save us a lot of time and stress in the long run.