Saturday, October 25, 2014

So, you're a landlord...

Some of us have intentionally set out to become landlords and consider rental property to be a hobby AND part of a retirement plan.  Others have ended up landlords through a variety of life changes and real estate market fluctuations.  What we share is the desire to keep our real estate investments in good shape, providing a return on our investment, and to avoid untoward catastrophes.

I suggest owners of rental property put some thought into why you have the property, what your goals are for the investment and think about if you have any values or personal priorities you want embodied in your management style.  For example:  One might say, I own a rental house because I couldn't sell it in the downturn, I'm doing okay now, so I want to keep the property with the goal of paying it off and having the rental income.  I'm an organic gardener and have had the property certified as a neighborhood wildlife habitat and want it kept that way.  Or I'm really just flipping it, so I want to maximize the value today and sell it now. and so on.  My husband and I believe in the value of companion animals and are active in animal rescue. We allow, or even encourage animals in our properties.

And then, its super important to be aware of the various local, state and federal laws effecting your ownership.   This includes fair housing laws, habitability standards and the like.  Oh, and don't forget the IRS.  I talked to a gal recently who had been renting her house out for a year (she's out of state for a few years for work).  She hadn't realized she was supposed to be reporting that rent as income.  There are also some good tax benefits of owning investment property, so the IRS isn't all bad.

A good place to start on all this is at the City of Portland's Landlord training class.  This class is a joint project between The Bureau of Development Services, Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Fire and Rescue.  Its a full day class, free unless you choose to purchase the $20 manual.  Per the city's brochure on the class, it aims to accomplish two important goals:

1) That effective property management and maintenance can have a positive impact on the health and safety of communities.

2) That there are accessible, legitimate techniques that can be used to stop the spread of illegal activity and property damage on rental property.

Upcoming classes are Monday November 3, Saturday November 15, Monday November 17 and Saturday, November 22.  Locations vary, but are all in central locations.  Classes run from 8:30 - 5:00 with an hour for lunch (on your own).  There is no free lunch ;)  You can register here.  This class won't give you everything, but sure is a good place to start.

There is also a private class coming up on December 18th, being put on by Sterling Education Services.  Also, a one day class, it focuses more on key elements of Landlord-Tenant law. the cost is $339, with some additional fees for optional materials.  visit  for more information, and to register.

 Another good tip; it is important to use good forms that are in line with the current Oregon statutes of landlord tenant law.  I see way too many self written leases.  The Metro Multi-Family Housing Council suggests using forms from Tenant Technologies.  There are on line versions, or real paper ones you can purchase.   If you do nothing else, using the right forms is a must. 

And one more tip.  We've been using SmartMove for our tenant screening. It is an online service with no cumbersome process for establishing an account.  The portal allows you to send an invitation to a prospective tenant, from which the tenant enters their identifying information ( social security number, date of birth etc).  Since you, the landlord, never see the personal information of the tenant, you are freed of the secure record keeping requirements necessary to safeguard such information.  The system can provide credit, criminal background and eviction reports.  And, the prospective tenant can easily pay they screening fee on line. 

If you've been thinking of buying rental property, or have a rental you'd like to sell, give me a call.  503-312-8038  I'd be glad to talk with you.  I am not a property manager and can't advise on property management issues.  I can suggest a few property managers if you'd like to go  that route.

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