Common Mistakes New Landlords Make and How to Avoid Them
April 27, 2023
Property management is a major responsibility for landlords, and can be both time consuming and costly. But there are some common traps that landlords can fall into, which can compound the issue. Avoiding these issues from the start can save landlords significant time and money, and ensure they start off with efficient systems in place for effectively running their multi-unit residential business.
Some landlords, especially inexperienced landlords, might use a lease that does not cover everything it should. A lease is the most important tool a landlord has to communicate expectations to a new tenant, including their responsibilities and legal terms of their tenancy. For instance, the lease should explain to tenants that they are responsible for reporting maintenance issues in their unit to the landlord in a timely manner, and how to do so (e.g., by email, etc.). The lease can also dictate terms such as any relevant limitations on the installation of appliances such as dishwashers or air conditioning units, as these can drive up utility costs, and incorrectly installed appliances can lead to serious liability and/or cost issues in the case of resulting property damages or injuries.
It can be easy when you have a tenant renting a unit to just come do repairs as needed, and otherwise let them take care of the unit as they please. However, being proactive with property maintenance can really pay off. Conducting unit inspections once or twice per year can help spot issues before they become more costly. For instance, if a fridge has an expected lifespan of 10-20 years, inspecting it once a year or so allows the landlord to ensure the appliance is being maintained properly so that it can last as long as possible. Overall, regular unit inspections allow a landlord to ensure their property continues to be well maintained, and is a great opportunity to reset expectations with tenants.
Landlords need to have an open line of communication with their tenants. Landlords must communicate certain building and unit related information to tenants in a timely manner (e.g., elevator maintenance work, window washing, etc.), and are legally required to respond in a timely manner to certain tenant concerns, such as safety issues and maintenance issues. Establishing means of responsive communications at the outset of a tenancy is vital. A contact sheet can be given to a tenant when they sign their lease which lays out how to go about reporting issues or making inquiries, how best to get in touch with the landlord in the case of an emergency (e.g., flooding, locked out, etc.), and what timelines to expect in response to certain issues.
Maintaining a friendly and responsive relationship with tenants can be incredibly beneficial, as
Landlords who aren’t familiar with their local building codes, can find themselves in significant legal and financial trouble if they make modifications to their property without following the proper procedures. One common example is a landlord converting non-living space, such as a garage or attic, into a residential unit, or adding or removing walls in an existing living space. Permits may be required, and specific space and material needs must be met for the space to be considered livable. Failing to follow proper procedures, including attaining the requisite inspections and permits, can lead to hefty fines and increased construction costs due to having to remove any faulty or improper work and then conducting the necessary work with the proper processes and oversight in place. It is always best to ensure a thorough understanding of local building codes before carrying out any capital work.
Rights and Responsibilities
Landlords need to know their rights and responsibilities, as well as the rights and responsibilities of their tenants. Without this knowledge, landlords can make serious missteps that could land them in legal trouble. For instance, if a tenant has not paid rent for a few months, it might be tempting get the tenant out as soon as possible. But legally, a landlord must follow the eviction process set out by the Landlord and Tenant Board (LTB), including providing the tenant with an N4 Notice to End a Tenancy Early for Non-payment of Rent, and submitting an L1 Application to Evict a Tenant for Non-Payment of Rent and to Collect Rent the Tenant Owes to the Landlord and Tenant Board. The LTB will provide a judgement on whether the tenancy can be terminated, what outstanding balances if any are to be remitted to the landlord, and will establish the timelines for eviction and payment where applicable.
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