In my interactions with UAA members and landlords across Utah, most recognize what a wonderful state we live in when it comes to property rights and landlord tenant law. They recognize that Utah is one of the best states in the country to be a landlord. We have a quick eviction process. We are a collection friendly state. The fees we pay for rental properties are relatively low and the regulation, in most cases, is fair and reasonable. And yet, we are a state where there are fair laws for renters too.
From time to time I landlords call who are very frustrated. They rail on how terrible our laws are – how tenant-friendly our laws are and how landlords have no rights. They say they have been a landlord for years and the laws, judges, police, or <insert your preferred villain here> are all working against landlords.
In a recent class, a gentlemen kept reiterating how awful our laws are and how tenants can get away with just about anything. As we discussed it, I expressed my opinion that if tenants are getting away with anything, it is probably because the landlord is letting them! The landlord either does not understand the law or, if they do, they hesitate to jump through the minimal hoops it takes to address issues. It became clear as we continued through the class that most problems landlords cause are “self-inflicted” and can be avoided. The problems we have are quickly dealt with if we know how to proceed. I wanted this month to talk about five common “self-inflicted” damages and how we can avoid them.
Problem 1: Renting to someone we shouldn’t.
There are several renters in Utah with more than seven evictions on their record, yet they have no problem finding landlords to rent to them that they then stiff and become a pain for. The solution is background checks and having professional rental criteria to limit risk.
Problem 2: Tenants continually paying late.
The solution is to not let tenants pay late. Either we train our tenant or they train us. It is a self-inflicted wound to have a chronic late payer. They do this because you let them get away with it. STOP IT. Require on-time payment, late fees when they pay late, and evict immediately if they don’t pay. Evictions take an average of 25 days and about $500, if done right. It is that easy.
Problem 3: Tenants violating your rules.
They move in extra people, unauthorized pets, they smoke where it’s prohibited, etc. Solution – Get to know the “Three Day Comply or Vacate” notice and serve it the minute tenants violate the first rule. Either we train them or they train us.
Problem 4: Outrageous damages caused by tenant.
The solution is quarterly inspections. Look for damage. Fix it now and bill the tenant. If we make them fix the first damage they do, they are likely to be more careful later on. Either we train them or they train us.
Problem 5: Tenants leave while owing lots of money.
The solution is higher deposits, enforce your rules, make people pay rent as they go, regular inspections, etc. The things we all know we are supposed to do, but let slide all to easily.
Almost all of our problems as landlords are self-inflicted. Reduce them by applying basic principles of management such as good screening, enforce your rents and rules, deal quickly and professionally (by serving notices) with problems, and do regular inspections.