DIY Landlords: The First-Timer’s FAQ
There are just some questions that are too hard to find answers to. Hopefully, these are some of them.
Royal Rose Properties is a firm believer in helping out Do-It-Yourself Landlords. From our perspective, the more of you that succeed, the more of you that may eventually get big enough to need our services — so we’re sowing the seeds of our own long-term success by being as helpful and useful as we can. That’s why, today, we’ve collected some of the questions we hear asked often by first-time landlords — the ones that don’t really fall into any clear category.
All of the neighbors around my rental are families, and I want my tenants to be a family so they fit in. Can I turn down a group of roommates if they apply?
No you can’t. The Fair Housing Act (FHA) creates a bunch of ‘protected classes’ that landlords aren’t allowed to discriminate against, and one of them is ‘family status.’ If a group of roommates applies and they give every indication of being able to pay rent on time and otherwise be decent tenants, you can’t decline them just because you’d prefer a family.
Is there any way I can absolutely assure that there will be no animals domiciled inside my properties?
No. You can put a no-pets clause in your lease, but tenants often sneak pets in, or at least try. Then there’s also the issue of service animals, which are not considered a ‘pet’ under the Fair Housing Act. Under the FHA, “service animals, assistance animals, and prescribed therapy or companion animals” are not pets, and if an applicant brings a note from any health care provider making it clear that the animals in question has one of those designations, there’s nothing you can do — including decline the application (presuming they meet all of the other qualifications.)
I’m a DIYer — do I have to hire a contractor to do my maintenance? If I do the necessary maintenance post move-out, do I get to pay myself out of the security deposit?
Yes, you can, but several states do not allow an owner to charge for their own labor to avoid abuse. Imagine being able to bill a tenant $1,000/hour for your time! Obviously, that would be an abusive hourly rate. Regarding materials you want to charge against tenants’ security deposits, you should have all receipts and have documentation to prove the tenants caused the damages.
Speaking of doing it myself, if I’m DIYing it anyway, what are the most profitable skills I can invest time into learning?
There are two routes to saving money by learning to do things yourself: saving on renovations, and saving on maintenance. If you’re looking to reduce your capital expenditures, learning how to do tile work is a huge boon. If you’re more worried about stretching your maintenance dollars, learning to take care of basic plumbing issues can save a huge amount of money.
But the real trick is finding peak RoI, and peak RoI can be found in mastering the art of painting. Not on canvas, but walls and especially trim. If you can paint the wall one color and the trim another while leaving a clean, straight line between colors where the two meet, you can paint a room — and nothing makes a house look better for less money than a fresh, clean coat of paint. So spend a little money gathering the tools of the trade and a little time watching tutorials on YouTube (this one is one of the most useful in our experience), and reap the rewards!