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The Next Donald Trump: Tips for a Landlord

Apr 5, 2008
These ten rules are an effort to gather the most common do's and don'ts of the relationship between a landlord and his tenant into a simple code:

1. Never fear a vacancy. Get rid of the bad ones quickly. To submit to a threat is no solution to anything. To accept a hard luck story instead of rent solves nothing. If he's that kind, you will be called unpleasant things later anyway when your kindness must be cut off.

2. Get a good tenant or none. It is far better to leave the flat vacant another month or two, than compromise your requirements. To take the unsuitable applicant because you dislike having a vacancy simply exchanges one headache for another.

3. Do not make any improvement or installation that is not needed to keep the building in good shape for the class of tenant you will get. Avoid overzealousness to improve, spend, or repair. Second only to the pitfall of no. 1, this is the major cause of owners not getting rich.

4. Give good attention to repairs. See the need with your own eyes. Talk to other owners or contractors. Learn the best measures for that type of repair. Except where you have a reliable mechanic, such as a carpenter, or it is a small repair, never give the job out on an hourly or cost-plus basis.

5. Treat the tenants fairly. Supply the services and repairs to which they are entitled, and to the extent that the letting reasonably calls for.

6. Never let the tenant's urgency become yours. Lack of heat, a roof leak, a burst pipe or other "life-and-death" emergencies must not get you excited any more than the phone company gets excited when you report your phone out of order. Nor for that matter does the hospital get excited when a call comes in that someone is dying.

7. Never get involved in inter-tenant feuds. It is best to refuse to listen.

8. Never try to improve the standard of living of anybody.

9. Keep away from the buildings except for minimum inspections. You will be buttonholed if seen about the premises, and there never was an apartment of any class where a tenant couldn't find something he wants you to correct.

Train the tenants to send the rent to you, preferably by mail, even if you must supply stamped envelopes. You can easily obtain a permit for the self-addressed type which you can give them generously and thus pay only a few pennies more than regular postage on those you receive.

10. Never sue anybody. You will avoid practically all need for it by following the practices learned here. At most you may want to file a small-claims action for rent occasionally, as a measure to teach a skipping deadbeat a lesson, and show the others in the town that you will not permit abuses, but that is about all.

You do not need to employ a lawyer for the small-claims action. Talk to the clerk of your local court and he will guide you in bringing your suit. If you checked the tenant before accepting him, you will usually receive the money before the date for court appearance. If not, and he contacts you with a cash offer of settlement before the trial, you should take it if it is at all within reason. You have better things to do with your time than chase him for $1 a week.

Follow the above rules and your position of landlord should be as close as possible to being stress free.
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