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First-Time Landlord Checklist: Nine Things to Follow for Success

This is a guest post by Financial Wolves, a blog about making money with side hustles to help you achieve financial freedom.

Renting out a house for the first time? It’s okay to be nervous. After all, moving is as stressful for landlords as it is for tenants. As a new landlord, you need to learn all the legalities involved in leasing out a property. There are many things you need to keep track of, so it’s smarter to follow a first-time landlord checklist.

A more stable form of investment, becoming a landlord, holds many benefits. You can generate passive income and even create wealth for retirement. Consider our guide to how much money a real estate investor should make to determine if you are getting compensated for your work.

To help you make the most of it, here’s a list of everything you need to know and answers to your first-time landlord questions.

First-Time Landlord Checklist: Nine-Step Guide

What to do for first-time landlords? Well, checklists are very useful tools, particularly for inexperienced people. They help organize your tasks and make sure you don’t miss anything.

For landlords, it’s even more important to follow the process, particularly the legal nitty-gritty. Otherwise, you’re liable to legal action from your tenants.

To prevent any unwanted situation, here’s a checklist for you to follow:

Safety Measures and Inspections

Firstly, your tenant’s safety is your top priority. You have to perform routine checkups of the property to ensure everything’s okay. Additionally, depending on the country you live in, there’s a list of safety measures you need to take legally. 

For example, landlords have to install (functional) smoke alarms on every floor of their property.

Moreover, carbon monoxide detectors need to be installed in every room that has a fuel-burning appliance (namely the kitchen).

Here’s a list of things you need to ensure are safe and viable to live in:

  • The infrastructure of the building (walls, roofs, stairs, floors);
  • Communal areas like staircases and hallways;
  • Plumbing, electrical, ventilation, HVAC systems, elevators;
  • Hot water heating systems.

Additionally, make sure there are no rodents or vermin infestations. Also, there shouldn’t be any environmental contaminants such as lead, mold, or asbestos.

Fixing/Cleaning the Place

If you haven’t passed a safety inspection, this is the time to fix the problem. For example, if something’s wrong with the plumbing, have it fixed as soon as possible. Moreover, make sure smaller things like doors, windows, lights, or cabinets are perfectly functional.

If a door lock or window hinge needs replacement, it’s ideal to do it before potential tenants see the property. Once a tenant moves in, all utilities have to be working properly. Lots of landlords face problems with property maintenance

Consequently, if there’s a solid foundation, you won’t need to perform maintenance jobs as frequently. 

Additionally, clean the place if necessary. Once they’ve moved in, tenants are responsible for their own cleaning and maintaining. However, as a landlord, it’s your job to provide your tenants with a clean and hygienic space to move into.

Get Your EPC (Or Equivalent)

EPC stands for Energy Performance Certificate, which reports how energy efficient your property is. You also need to include your EPC rating in any advertisements. 

It’s best to check with local officials on what’s the EPC equivalent in your area. In essence, you need your EPC even before you start looking for tenants. Once you have it, you can follow any suggestions to improve your rating.

Immigration Right to Rent

What’s this? With current political turmoil regarding immigrant status, most legislation state landlords must check their tenant’s legal status in the country. You can check your tenant’s immigration by assessing their identity documents.

These include:

  • Passports;
  • Identity cards;
  • Permanent resident cards;
  • Travel documentation (showing an indefinite leave status);
  • Right to Rent document from Home Office Immigration;
  • Proof of registration as a legal citizen.

Most of these checks you can do yourself. Alternatively, you can hire an agency to do any extra checks. Once you’ve performed the check, you’re legally required to report the tenant’s affirmative/negative status. 

Property management software like Landlord Studio can allow you to comprehensive tenant screening reports quickly and efficiently.

The Lease Agreement

Once you’ve found your tenant, the next step is to come up with an appropriate lease agreement. A lease agreement includes:

  • Name of all parties involved (tenant and landlord);
  • Term of the agreement;
  • The amount of rent (over a certain time);
  • Terms for security deposit and other fees;
  • Right of entry*;
  • Prohibition of illegal activity and other disruptive practices;
  • Agreement for maintenance;
  • Accountability for damages to the property;
  • Right to keep pets (or not);
  • Limitations on tenancy (for example, subleasing).

*Right of entry states the conditions under which you, the landlord, are allowed to enter the property and with what amount of notice. For example, landlords can enter their tenants’ homes to perform repairs or routine maintenance.

landlord signing document

Once you have the lease agreement, have a lawyer or legal expert go through it. Afterward, go through it with the tenant (in detail) to ensure no amendments are needed. If both parties are satisfied with all the terms, have the lease signed and dated.

Get Your First and Last Month’s Rent

The next piece of business is collecting first and last month’s rent. If you’re a first-time landlord, this must be very exciting. As any experienced landlord will tell you, always collect the first month’s rent as well as the security deposit before the tenant has moved in.

landlord checklist

There may be certain exceptions to this rule. For example, if your tenant is getting government aid, he/she can pay after the move-in date. Check for other exemptions under real estate law guidelines.

As for the last month’s rent, some countries legally require you to take both at the beginning of a lease. However, it’s not always necessary.

Related: The Best Ways to Collect Rent from your Tenants

Get the Locks Changed

Are you done with the above? Now, it’s time to get the locks changed. Technically, this step is only applicable if people were living in the property before the new tenant. If the tenant is the first ever to live there, you can ignore this step.

landlord rental property locks

However, if not, you need to get the locks changed. This is both a safety measure and a way to protect yourself from possible legal issues. 

The Move-in Checklist

This is an important step. When your tenant finally moves in, go over the move-in checklist together. The move-in checklist is a document that specifies the state of your property at the time. 

landlord checklist moving

In sum, a move-in checklist includes:

  • Tenant’s name, address, and apartment number;
  • The move-in date;
  • The move-out date (end of the lease);
  • Inspection results (both move-in and move-out);
  • State of each room in the unit (upon both move-in and move-out);
  • Proof that safety devices (like smoke alarms) are functional;
  • Your signature;
  • The tenant’s signature.

Once the tenant has looked it over, have him/her sign and date it as proof. As you can infer, move-in checklists are very important as they allow you to track the changes in your property over time. 

Remember to Give Your Contact Info

This may seem like a small thing to have on this list, but think of it as a fall-safe. In case of emergencies or complaints, tenants need your contact information. Responsible landlords always provide their contact information with prompt response rates.

However, ensure your tenants know to call within business hours (unless there’s an emergency). 

See if There Are Any Special Requests

Sometimes tenants have special requests. For example, the tenant may want to paint the walls another color as opposed to the standard white. Additionally, you may receive a disability accommodation request.

If the request is based on wants more than needs, you can decide whether you want to accommodate it or not. However, ensure that the condition is within the lease. Charging an extra fee for re-painting the walls is okay as long as it’s in the lease.

On the other hand, if you receive a request to accommodate a disability, you’re legally bound to follow through.

Documents You Need to Provide

If you’ve gone through our first-time landlord checklist, you know there are many documents you need to give/show your tenant

landlord checklist document

Some we’ve mentioned above, but here are the rest:

  • Government Checklist

Most governments (at a state or federal level) have checklists for each stage of the leasing process. You can easily find this checklist at your local government website. You’re legally required to give this checklist to your tenant. 

  • Gas Safety Certificate

Secondly, you need to pass inspections by the local Health and Safety Executive. The gas safety inspection, in particular, should be performed annually. Once you’ve received the certificate, give it to your tenant.

  • Deposit Protection Details

For example, in the UK, the law requires you to hold your tenant’s security deposit in a third-party, government-backed scheme. If you live there, you must give your tenant details of the scheme. 

Once you are ready you can use these apps as a real estate investor to track your cash flow and become a better landlord. 

Conclusion

Simply put, whether you’re a business professional or an avid investor, first-time landlords have their work cut out for them. Yes, follow this first-time landlord advice to avoid any legal liability. However, by following this first-time landlord checklist, you can become a more responsible landlord and investor. If you think this is too much work, you can always try real estate crowdfunding to invest in real estate for passive income. 

Through this guide, we hope we’ve made the process easier for you. Are you ready to be a landlord? Let us know in the comments below. 

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Financial Wolves

Financial Wolves is a blog focused on helping you make more money to achieve financial freedom. After repaying student loans, I’ve shifted my focus to make more money from side hustles, real estate, freelancing and the online economy. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.