Zen And The Art Of Landlording

On any given day at RentPrep we get a hundred phone calls from landlords. While the typical caller wants a simple question answered, like “Do my tenants need to have a SSN to perform a background check?” or “What is the average credit score of a renter?” sometimes we get questions that simply cannot be answered.

Questions like, “How much time can pass before I should feel comfortable renting to a person with a felony criminal record?” or “What should I charge for an application fee?”

Of all the questions we shouldn’t be able to answer, the one I have no problem with came from a conversation I had with one particularly angry landlord. Outraged by the destruction his tenants caused to his property, he asked me “Why does this always happen to me?”

As this landlord explained his current situation, I began to pick up on the patterns of a stressed out landlord. During the course of the conversation he mentioned things like the fact he chose to forego screening the current tenants, and when they were late with rent, he would repeatedly call them and bang on their door to “get answers” as he put it.

Why does this always happen to me?

To be very blunt, my answer is – this always happens to you because you’ve allowed it to happen.

Of course not screening tenants is just asking for trouble. In the case of this particular landlord who called a tenant screening company for advice, clearly he understood the consequences of not performing his due diligence before handing over the keys to a six figure investment. But what about the way he dealt with his anger towards the tenants not paying him? Could this have contributed to his problems?

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned,”  said Buddha.

The landlord who treats managing rentals like a business does not let anger get the better of him. Of course dealing with a non-paying tenant is frustrating. And I don’t think any landlord, or reasonable person, would argue that the landlord has every right to be upset in having to deal with these situations. The real issue though is – what good does it do?

I imagine the landlord lets his anger eat away at him, allowing his thoughts to consume him during a family meal. Every internal thought filled with the frustration of what’s happening to him and how unfair the situation is. This obsession is what leads them to say or do something that will end up making matters worse or get them into legal trouble over their actions.

Now imagine a property manager who has to deal with the exact same situation of a non-paying tenant. But in this scenario the property manager works as an employee for some big real estate investment company.

Obviously they have the luxury of not being personally affected by the situation, but the real advantage is the very specific systems in place to deal with these situations. If the tenant doesn’t pay the rent, a 3 day notice is given before an eviction is filed. They don’t bang on the tenant’s door demanding payment or yell at them on the phone. They work within a system that functions for the benefit of the business they’re in – managing properties.

Preventative measures like screening tenants will certainly reduce the risk of loss, but there are never any guarantees. You might just be the unlucky first landlord who has to evict the tenant. So what can be done to not only do the right thing for your business and property, but also your sanity?

Follow these three keys

  • Screen your tenants. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
  • Build systems. Knowing what steps to follow in a worst-case scenario will keep you from missteps and mistakes
  • Have a Zen mind. Put aside anger and other emotions that cloud your judgment and keep you from managing rentals like a business

When you take the time up front to set yourself up for success, you’ll experience it.

What are some ways that you practice “Zen and the art of landlording?” Please share this article and let us know in the comments section below.