How Landlords Work

Property Managers

Property managers handle much of the grunt work, like collecting rent and making sure repairs are done in a timely manner.
Property managers handle much of the grunt work, like collecting rent and making sure repairs are done in a timely manner.
DK Stock/Getty Images

Not every landlord wants to be a property manager. Property management is hard work with long, unpredictable hours and possibly lots of phone calls from angry tenants. Professional property management companies can help a landlord write vacancy ads, screen tenants, write up leases, collect rent, provide day-to-day maintenance, arrange for repairs and answer the phone in the middle of the night when a toilet gets clogged. Property managers typically charge ten percent of the monthly rent.

Landlords should choose their property managers very carefully. Experience is very important. The whole point of hiring a property manager is to take some of the daily responsibility off the shoulders of the landlord. A good manager will be able to work independently and only check with the landlord on major repairs and possible legal issues. The property manager should have excellent communication skills. Ideally, he'll act as an effective buffer between the tenants and the landlord and will be able to clearly communicate the needs of both sides.

A savvy landlord will run a full background check on all of his potential employees, including property managers, to screen out any applicants with questionable moral or ethical character. Here's why: If the property manager perpetrates a crime against one of the tenants, the landlord may be held liable. The landlord should check with the property management company to make sure all of its employees are covered under liability insurance. If not, the landlord should get his property managers covered by his own liability policy.

Being a landlord means running your own business. Many landlords use special rental management software to keep track of their business expenses and income. A program like Quicken Rental Property Manager 2009 helps a landlord stay on top of bills, document expenses, maximize tax deductions and keep business finances separate from personal finances. Larger companies might rely on a Web-based system like Property Boss with features like work order tracking, online tenant screening, tax compliance, accounting and reporting.

The best way to succeed as a landlord -- and avoid some of the biggest legal hassles associated with the profession -- is to minimize the risks involved [source: Leshnower]. A responsible landlord is properly insured and pays his taxes. He makes sure that his property exceeds the minimum standards set by the state and local building authorities. He actively looks for and removes any potential environmental hazards like lead paint or asbestos that could affect the health of his tenants. He carefully screens tenants and employees to weed out potential criminals. And finally, he treats all tenants professionally and with respect, therefore avoiding the pitfalls of discrimination.

Many U.S. cities now offer training programs that prepare landlords to navigate the legal issues and evolving regulations related to owning and managing property. They also train landlords in techniques for improving relationships with tenants, maintaining properties, using the authorities to help root out criminal behavior in their rental units and improving property values.

For lots more information about real estate and financial management, follow the helpful links below.

Related HowStuffWorks Articles

More Great Links


  • California Department of Consumer Affairs. "The Eviction Process"
  • Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning. "Federal Laws."
  • Communities and Local Government (UK). "Assured and Assured Shorthold Tenancies: A Guide for Tenants." March 31, 2007
  • Global Property Guide. "Brazil: Landlord and Tenant"
  • Human Rights Watch. "China: Tenant Rights Advicate Arbitrarily Jailed." December 19, 2003
  • Jorgensen, Richard. What Every Landlord Needs to Know: Time and Money-Saving Solutions to Your Most Annoying Problems.
  • McGraw-Hill Professional, 2005.
  • Leshnower, Ron. "10 Steps Toward Low-Risk Landlording"
  • Portman, Janet. "What's the Best Way to Screen Tenants?" July 30, 2006
  • State of California Department of Consumer Affairs. "Refunds of Security Deposits"
  • Tenants Advice Service. "Tenants and the Law in WA." June 2007
  • The Village Voice. "The 10 Worst Landlords." June 27, 2006
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity.
  • United States Evironmental Protection Agency. Lead in Paint, Dust and Soil.
  • FindLaw. "Chart: Security Deposit Limits, State by State"
  • "History of the Manorial System"
  • Quality Tenant Screening Center. "Tips & Techniques"
  • "Leases and Rental Agreements FAQs"
  • "Renting out a property? Use a property manager" April, 2006
  • Nolo. "How Evictions Work: Rules for Landlords and Property Managers."
  • Nolo. "Leases and Rental Agreements FAQ"
  • Nolo. "Repairs, Maintenance and Entry to Rented Properties"
  • Nolo. "Tenant Injuries: Landlord Liability and Insurance FAQ"
  • Small Business. "Rental Applications for Prospective Tenants of Your Rental Property."
  • "About Deposits"