How to Be a Landlord

Barry Maher was renting out apartment units in California when one of his tenants called to complain that another renter was keeping a dog in the building, something that the lease the prohibited. Cats, however, were permitted in the complex, a loophole that the accused tenant clearly intended to manipulate.

“She said ‘oh, I would never have a dog. What I have is a special breed. It's a dog cat, a mix of a cat and a dog," Maher tells MainStreet. “It was so blatant and so crazy that I actually spent a moment thinking, ‘Is there really such a thing?’”

Obviously, being a landlord isn’t exactly a walk in the park. It may, however, be a responsibility that many property owners are considering. According to recent research, the rental business is booming. MPF Research, a Texas firm that analyzes the apartment industry, found that occupied apartments increased by 215,000 in major U.S. markets in the first half of 2010, the largest increase the firm has reported since it started tracking apartments in 1992.

Moreover, the rate of vacancy fell to 6.6% in June, down from 8.2% in December. That said, renting a property isn’t for everybody.

“Being a property owner is a business,” Alabama landlady Victoria Ashford points out.  "One of the biggest mistakes would-be landlords make is thinking it is a little side-gig that they can dabble in or take lightly.“

Robert Griswold, author of Property Management Kit for Dummies, agrees, and says that prospective landlords need to ask themselves if they have the time, skill sets and, most importantly, the patience to pull it off.

“You need to be of a certain temperament,” he explains. “You definitely need to have a backbone. Many people chose not to rent because they don’t want conflict in their lives. You need to ask yourself if you are ready for it.”

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