Checklist for a Long-Distance Landlord

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Post from MilitaryByOwner

Whether you weren’t able to sell your home before a military move or you’re choosing to hang onto your real estate investment, you’ve done it. As a military homeowner, you’ve decided to rent out your home!

The prospect of becoming a landlord, especially a long-distance one, can be scary. But there’s no need to tackle this scenario alone -- there’s plenty of guidance for military members and spouses who’ve taken the leap from homeowner to landlord. Let’s start with some of the basic steps you’ll need to know.

1) Understand the legalities and paperwork involved

Since this is now a rental property and no longer your current home, whether or not you plan to return to it in the future, it’s time to treat it like a business. For starters, take a look at 5 Steps to Take Before Becoming a Landlord for details about the Fair Housing Act, paperwork you’ll need to track, and help deciding if you’ll use a property manager or not. Then, download MilitaryByOwner’s free resource, Landlord/Tenant Ebook, for even more guidance on the “legalese” you’ll need to understand.

2) Screen potential tenants

You may be able to snag a referral from a trusted friend or family member to find the perfect tenant, and you’ll probably advertise your home on a site like MilitaryByOwner. No matter how you found your renters, it’s important to obtain background and credit checks, eviction history, and other information about potential tenants. Use a tenant screening tool like TransUnion’s SmartMove to make this a streamlined task.

3) Use state specific legal forms

Since state laws vary, it’s important to use the correct legal documents like those from US Legal Forms. Your lease should include details such as your deposit requirement, monthly rent and when it’s due, whether pets are allowed and pet deposits, expectations for lawn care (will you provide it or is the tenant responsible?), and if the tenant can paint or make other modifications.

4) Inspect and document

Conduct a walk-through of your property and document the condition of the house and yard. Take photos and video! Then, have your renter fill out a walk-through checklist of their own, so you can compare for any discrepancies and address those immediately. Also plan for a final walk-through when they vacate the home.

5) Designate someone to make regular property checks

Whether you’ve hired a property manager or you’re asking a local friend to periodically check on your rental home, decide now how often the checks will be and what they’ll entail. A simple drive-by to view the state of the home? An actual periodic walk-through? Include those requirements in your lease.

Many landlords plan on a scheduled yearly walk-through along with quick visual inspections during routine maintenance or repairs. Bathrooms, kitchens, and landscaping are important to regularly check, as they would have the most expensive repair or replacement costs. While no one wants to feel that their privacy is invaded, tenants should also have a realistic expectation for inspections of the property.

6) Organize your finances

Create a system for tracking your rental property expenses and income (even if someone else is managing the property for you). Plan for future costs by keeping a reserve fund for regular and seasonal maintenance, pest control, and the home repairs that will crop up.

7) Check your property insurance requirements

You’ll need to convert your homeowners insurance to rental property insurance. Also note that many landlords require tenants to provide proof of their own renters insurance before finalizing the lease, since your insurance will not provide coverage for their belongings.

While it can be difficult to leave your home in the hands of someone else, staying informed and organized as you manage your rental property will go a long way towards alleviating potential concerns. MilitaryByOwner helps make the transition to long-distance landlord a smooth one. Connect with us for resources like a rental walk-through checklist, legal forms, resource articles, and free downloads for your military landlord journey!

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