The relief you may feel by having your property rented can be very short lived if you do not protect your investment. In your relief, you may be in such a rush to get them in that you overlook some basic rules of being a landlord. However, make sure to document everything you say and record the move in condition of the property. Getting a tenant and removing a vacancy is nice, but if you are not careful, all you are doing is pushing a headache back until their lease is over. Taking a proactive approach to renting will go a long way in protecting yourself from tenant disputes.
It is not being paranoid to say that every major conversation you have should be noted along with every change in the lease or agreed upon change to the property. Like any other investment you have, you need to make sure your investment is protected. Very few landlords think about the worst case scenario when they rent, but one bad tenant can wipe your business out. By taking notes or saving emails, you give yourself at least some level of protection in the case that a dispute comes up. This could be the only thing you have if it becomes your word against your tenants.
In addition to conversations, you should document any funds received along with the condition of the property. Most disputes with tenants come about at the end of the lease – arguing about the move in condition of the property vs. the current one. If you take digital photos of all rooms and send your tenant a copy of these when they move in, it should alleviate most disputes. If there is furniture that is left in the property, you could take pictures of couches, tables and anything else of value that you intend to keep in the property. This process will take less than ten minutes to do but can save you hassle and headache at the end of your lease.
The same approach should be taken when it comes to handling security deposit and other funds received. The security deposit should be kept in a separate account from your personal funds. At the end of the lease, your tenant has the right to earn interest on their security, however small that amount may be. Keep this money in a dedicated account and forget about it for nine months. If you dip into this account over the course of the yea,r it may affect how you view the move out condition and this could cloud your judgment and create a bigger problem than it should be.
The more that is documented between you and your tenant, the stronger position you will be in the event of a dispute. No landlord, or tenant for that matter, goes into a lease thinking something bad will happen, but the reality is that it does. Between pictures, emails and signed changes to the lease, you should be in a good position when the lease is over. Getting a tenant into the property is important, but not at the cost of jeopardizing your property in nine months. If you are not documenting everything, you could be setting yourself for disaster.