Making sure a rental property runs smoothly is a landlord’s primary responsibility. They may also have to create lease agreements, screen tenants, and market rentals, but these all simply contribute to the overall goal. Although there are many different approaches to this task, there are a few things you can do to ensure a successful experience.

Treat Your Rental Like a Business

Don’t assume that just because you own a rental property you can sit on a beach 365 days a year and generate income. In addition to managing properties, you also need to manage your finances in case of unforeseen events. Do you have a system in place to manage maintenance requests when you’re unavailable? Have you set aside ten percent of your rental income for repairs? Situations like these are inevitable, and it’s important you have a plan in place.

Screen Out Bad Tenants

Run a thorough credit and background check on each potential tenant. Ask for referrals from previous landlords and make sure their income is at least three times the amount of rent each month. Avoid tenants with past evictions and always be sure to follow Fair Housing laws.

Get Professional Help

Don’t let your pride get in the way of doing a job right the first time. Even if you know the basics of maintenance, it’s a good idea to call a professional and make sure the fix lasts a long time. The same goes for legal help as well. Even if you feel you have a handle on the jargon of rental leases, you may want to call in a lawyer to double check your work and make sure nothing in it will cause problems later.

Keep Tenants Happy

It is much cheaper to retain current tenants than to find new ones. To ensure your tenants want to stay, make sure you’re doing repairs promptly, keeping the property in good shape, and treating tenants with respect. You may also want to reward positive behaviors by rewarding on-time or early rent payments with prizes such as movie tickets, dinner vouchers, or other small rewards.

Document Everything

Simply “shaking on it” doesn’t do much good in court. To best protect your interests and investments, it’s best to get everything in writing. This also includes your move out and move-in inspections. Have the tenant sign off on any damages before moving in and photograph what the property looks like so you have evidence of any new damage when the tenant vacates the property.