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7 Things Bad Landlords Don’t Do

Being a landlord is a tough and varied job. It requires the wearing of many different hats. A landlord has to be an accountant, a contractor, a guidance counselor and much, much more in order to be successful. Most landlords do a pretty good job at juggling all of these responsibilities.

Unfortunately, there are a few bad landlords out that that make this already tough job even more difficult. These bad landlords get the courts involved in our business. They get code enforcement involved in our business. They get legislatures involved in our business. They get reporters to dish out a fair share of bad press about us. The term “slumlord” starts to get applied to all landlords, no matter how they run their business. They just generally make it harder for the rest of us because of their bad actions.

Over the years I have found that many bad landlords are not necessarily bad people. Instead they just do not understand or know how to run their landlord business. They fail to do several key things that all landlords must know or do in order to make things run smoothly.

So what are the things that bad landlords don’t do?

  1. Bad Landlords Don’t Screen Their Tenants – There are bad tenants out there that prey on these bad landlords. They smooth talk you into letting them rent your place. They flash a lot of cash upfront. They lie, lie and tell more lies. If you fall for the talk, the cash or the lies you are going to learn a hard lesson. You will likely spend thousands trying to evict them and they can turn a great property into a problem child in a matter of months. Proper screening is perhaps the most important thing a landlord can do to prevent a lot of the other problems we encounter.
  2. Bad Landlords Don’t Understand Cashflow – Cashflow is king in the rental property business. If you bet on anything else, like appreciation, you are setting yourself up for failure. If you are not bringing in enough cash to cover all of your expenses, the bills will creep up on you over time until it is just too much for you to handle and your property goes into a death spiral downward.
  3. Bad Landlords Don’t Fix Things – Not fixing things when they break often leads to a death spiral for a property. How? Something breaks, then tenants complain, things remain unrepaired, then tenants start to leave. This spiral does not happen overnight, but rather slowly. Good tenants are simply not going to put up with a lack of service and repairs. These landlords may think they are saving money. But in the long run they are shooting themselves in the foot.
  4. Bad Landlords Don’t Do Preventive Maintenance – Speaking of things breaking, some things will break if you do not do a little preventive maintenance. These landlords again think they are saving money, but they are not. Condensers simply need cleaning, filters need changing, walls need painting, etc, etc. I hate spending the money as well but I have come to learn that if I do not spend it now I will end up spending a lot more later on.
  5. Bad Landlords Don’t Have House Rules – House rules are a very important part of your lease (You are at least using a lease right?). House rules spell out when people should be quiet, when and how long guests can stay, where trash should be placed, if you can use candles (Nope!), and whatever else you feel you need to include to maintain a desirable property. We go over our house rules word for word with our tenants during the move in process to be sure they are understood. It shows tenants we care about our properties and it helps insure that there are no misunderstandings later on.
  6. Bad Landlords Don’t Train Their Tenants – No, I do not mean train like a dog on a leash. What I mean is if you do not set out the rules from the start and enforce them (see above), your tenants will learn to take advantage of you. So, you must train them early on that you are not one to be taken advantage of. If they are late on the rent, charge the late fee. Otherwise they will learn it is ok to be late. If there are complaints from other tenants, give a warning notice, quickly. Otherwise they will learn that their behavior will be tolerated and that it is useless to complain. You have to be very proactive with your tenants. The old saying is true, if you give some of them an inch, they will take a mile.
  7. Bad Landlords Don’t Keep Learning – Every day is a new day that brings new people and new experiences. You cannot just keep dealing with these new experiences the same old way. You have to keep learning and keep adapting your business or you will simply get left behind. This is one reason that I find my local REIA so important. The education and networking opportunities that are available just cannot be found anywhere else.


Don’t be a bad landlord. Do the seven items listed above. You will be amazed how much smoother your business, and your life, will be.


What else do you think bad landlords fail to do? Let me know what I left off my list with your comments.

4 Responses to “7 Things Bad Landlords Don’t Do”
  1. Theresa says:

    I could not agree more with all of these. I do have a question though–when you inherit tenants from a property purchase, how do you handle the transition with them? Obviously you can’t “screen” them at that point…and one would assume there is a lease already in place. Do you have them sign a copy of your rules once you close? Do you have the option of instituting a new lease with them or do you have to wait until their lease with the previous owner expires? If they have no lease with the previous owners do you require them to sign one, including rules, with you upon closing?

    I ask because I did inherit a problem tenant that I finally just got rid of. Now I can implement proper screening for future tenants, but I hope to purchase more rentals. I know this is a situation I’m likely to encounter again and would appreciate hearing how you handle it.

    • Kevin says:


      Inherited tenants can be a problem and I have had my fair share of them. You basically have to live with whatever lease or rules are in place when you purchase the property. Their lease (contract) trumps your purchase. So you cannot force them to sign a new lease or house rules or evict them before their lease term ends. One way to protect yourself is to use an estoppel agreement when you purchase a property. This agreement spells out the details of the agreement the tenant has with their landlord and can save you a lot of headaches once you take over the property, especially if there is no written lease. I wrote about estoppel agreements here, check it out and use it.

      Thanks for reading and for commenting,


      • Theresa says:

        Thanks Kevin–I have read your estoppel agreement information before (Unfortunately, not before I bought the property!) and will certainly be using them in the future.

        As a follow up, if you inherit a GOOD tenant, do you then sign a new lease/rules with them as soon as possible? (Once the current lease runs out or right away if there is no current lease.)

        Thanks again!

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