The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic as it relates to housing providers have been severe and widespread. Everything from rent collection to deferring maintenance in an attempt to maintain social distancing have been an enormous undertaking. Housing providers were thrown curveball after curveball since the beginning, requiring them to maneuver the unknown and comply with the ever changing mandates for their renters. Not only was the inability to collect rent during the pandemic a huge challenge, but also the ongoing obligation to maintain the property and to control emotions brought on by all the stress the pandemic created.
The obligations of being an investment property owner were not put on hold during the pandemic, but COVID made it extremely more difficult to fulfill them. If tenants are unable to, or refuse to pay rent, housing providers are still obligated to manage tenant disputes, ensure safety when and if a tenant contracted COVID, and maintain the property when many maintenance services are limited.
Landlords were never relieved of their duties during COVID unless the landlord-tenant relationship ended. While we hope to never face another widespread calamity such as COVID-19, there were many lessons learned that we can take with us in the future.
Today I want to discuss the 5 lessons landlords learned from COVID-19 in 2021.
The most important line of defense during COVID is communication. Tenants are human, and the best way to manage and minimize problems is to keep open communication with all tenants at all times. Don’t make it difficult for a tenant to approach you with a problem, be prompt to respond and be courteous. Try to give them an answer, or at least, let them know that you’ll look into it and get back to them. When a tenant calls you with an issue or challenge, the last thing they want to hear is no. Try to extend the same courtesy that you would expect when you are a client of someone else. As a bonus, open communications help you maintain the property and resolve minor issues before they become major problems.
2. SCREEN YOUR TENANTS
Your first line of defense when placing potential residents during the pandemic is to screen, screen, screen. No one wants to believe that people will lie on their rental applications, but they do. You cannot take a rental application at face value, you MUST do your due diligence in screening and verifying the information that has been provided is accurate. A high credit score may indicate a person who cares about their credit. They likely have a habit of paying their debts on time and in full. They may also be less likely to believe the misconception surrounding COVID-19 that they are excused from paying rent.
You may consider hiring a professional property management company to do this for you. At Envy Property Management, we have strict policies and procedures in place when screening and placing new residents. You too can place quality tenants, reduce the need for costly evictions, and make the most money possible on your investment property.
3. MAINTAINING PROPERTIES
During the pandemic, it was difficult for landlords to enter their property, especially when people were told to remain at home. However, landlords were still required to maintain the property. Most people who’ve owned a home know how much time it takes to maintain it, this exact same concept applies to rental properties too! You can’t just allow tenants to live in un-maintained homes, you must keep up on maintenance, regardless of the current state of affairs. Maintenance will cost you time and money 100% of the time, however, to keep that passive income flowing, you must keep your property looking good and tenants happy. You would never expect to drive your car without ever needing to change the oil, so why would you ever expect a home to remain maintenance free.
Of course, when you hire a professional property management company like Envy Property Management, all maintenance is handled for you. Taking out one of the biggest stressors of owning rental properties.
4. THE IMPORTANCE OF CASH RESERVES
During the COVID-19 pandemic, property owners paying federally backed mortgages were allowed to forego their required payments. That may not be the case next time. Landlords must understand that the mortgage is not their only expense and having a healthy cash reserve is vital to being a savvy investment property owner. Don’t get stuck in a pinch because you failed to hold onto a reserve of money to help fund unexpected expenses.
5. HAVE GOOD LEGAL COUNSEL
The laws in Utah are very complex and constantly changing, COVID-19 only exacerbated this. It’s easy to forget something or misunderstand something, and then you’ve made a mistake that has the potential to be very expensive and time-consuming.
While courts were closed during the pandemic, when they reopened, many landlords were unable to evict tenants for non-payment of rent as courts could not hear cases predicated on non-payment of rent. Some landlords sought eviction based on a breach of contract claim but unfortunately contract claims are not as straightforward and easy to prove as non-payment of rent.At the end of the day, the pandemic was and is a challenging time for landlords, and their tenants. Landlords should remember that they provide the necessity of a home to tenants, and have a duty to maintain that property. Owning rental properties is a business and no business is without risk. The most important thing is to understand your duties as a landlord, minimize risks, and keep your investments profitable. Knowing how to professionally handle times like COVID-19 is crucial, and yet another reason to use a property management company like Envy Property Management. You can always ask us for valuable tips and extra resources to make the choice simple and painless. Give us a call today, 801-337-4337 or visit our website at envypm.com where you can easily view our three-tiered pricing plan, so you can choose the package that best fits you and your needs.