How to protect yourself as a landlord

It’s easy to find rental advice for renters, covering tenant rights and what recourse they have should things go sideways.

However, a landlord must understand how to protect themselves as well. Property is a significant investment and a lot is it stake when it is leased out.

Insure the property

Although you may not be living or working in the property, you still need to maintain full insurance on it. This should include everything from intentional property damage to liability. While you do not have full control over your property, you do still have the ability to protect it and yourself.

Require tenant insurance

As part of the rental agreement, require your tenant to provide proof of insurance for the period of the lease. You can determine what coverage should be included in their insurance policy, and your legal counsel should be able to advise you on what to request.

Review the rental agreement with a lawyer

Hire a lawyer that specializes in real estate and rental agreements to review your lease. There are many federal, state and local laws that impact what you can and cannot put in a rental agreement. Be certain you are on the right side of the law, or you could be vulnerable to legal action.

Require a move-in inspection

Whether or not required by law, always go through a move-in inspection with the tenant. Document, and have the tenant sign off on an itemized list detailing the condition of the property. Should the tenant damage the property during their stay, this list will give you grounds for legal recourse. If possible, support the list with photos.

Screen tenants

This is a tricky but important process, due to varying and changing anti-discrimination laws. You want as much assurance as possible that a potential tenant is trustworthy, but you absolutely cannot eliminate prospects for reasons that can be considered discriminatory. Consider asking a property management company to handle the screening process for you.

Use legal counsel for any eviction

The law tends to favor tenants in evictions. A landlord must clearly document their reasons for an eviction and must provide a certain amount of warning before removing a tenant’s possessions. You must also have evidence and documentation of this warning. Even then, the tenant might be able to take certain actions, such as paying the rent owed, that allow them to stay.

When approached with proper care, renting property can make for a great supplementary income. Work with a lawyer and your insurance company to make the process smooth for you.