First-Time Landlord – Your Guide to Renting Out a Single-Family Home

“First-Time Landlord: Your Guide to Renting Out a Single-Family Home” by Attorney Janet Portman, Marcia Stewart, and Michael Molinski is one of the NOLO/USA TODAY collaborations that are described as the leading publisher of legal information for consumers teamed with the nation’s largest circulation newspaper, to produce great books that feature up-to-date legal and financial expertise, a reader-friendly style, and USA Today’s famous graphics. I find these books to be just that, a great series of books and this one is no exception. I liked it and found it very practical.

“First-Time Landlord” provides a very good overview of being a landlord of a single-family home, and much of the information is relevant for other types of properties as well. The book is easy to read, organized well, and contains all of the basic topics you should know if you desire to be a landlord. However, for some topics, you will want more detailed and in-depth information and will have to look to other resources. In fact, there are several places in this book where they refer the reader to “Every Landlord’s Legal Guide” also published by Nolo. (I own and have reviewed that book and think it would be an excellent companion to this one)

This book covers the following topics:

One: Is Owning Rental Property for You? This chapter focuses on the good and bad parts of being a landlord and gets you thinking about why you want to be a landlord, what kind of property, what your profit may be, and what your goals are.

Two: So Happy Together: Landlording With Family or Friends. Should you be a landlord with a friend or family member? This chapter will help you decide, and provide guidance on how to do it.

Three: Preparing and Marketing Your Rental Property. This chapter is an overview on making sure your property is in rentable or better condition and then how you should go about advertising and showing it.

Four: Screening and Choosing Good Tenants. Remember the movie “Pacific Heights” where Michael Keaton terrorized his landlords Melanie Griffith and Matthew Modine? You don’t need a tenant that bad to realize the difference good tenants and bad can have on you being a landlord. This chapter will help you find good ones.

Five: Preparing a Lease and getting the Tenant Moved In. This chapter provides some information on lease and rental agreements but is one of the chapters that refers you elsewhere for assistance in drafting the document you choose. Good chapter for introduction to topic.

Six: Manage Your Rental Income to Maximize Tax Deductions. Because tax laws change so often, I recommend you use this chapter, which has some good advice, as a starting point to know what to talk about with your tax adviser. It is good basic advice, but you should seek professional advice from someone in your state and who keeps on top of all of the changes.

Seven: Keeping Things Shipshape: Repairs and Maintenance. If you own it, you are going to have to deal with fixing it. This chapter provides some good advice on the legalities of your obligations as well as some suggestions on adopting a good maintenance and repair system. For those not into handyman activities, the provide some information on hiring someone else to do the work.

Eight: Landlord Liability for Injuries, Crimes, and More. This chapter provides some basic information regarding liability for tenant injuries, environmental health hazards, crimes and some guidance on insurance. Every landlord need to be aware of these issues and unfortunately may have to seek further information if something bad happens.

Nine: Living in Perfect Harmony? Dealing With Difficult Tenants. You will not always have ideal tenants, and even if you do some problems may arise. This chapter has some good basic information on common problems and some suggestions on methods to resolve disputes. I’m glad they listed mediation, because as a mediator, I feel this is a great way for disputes to be resolved, rather than entering more expensive litigation. I would suggest learning more about the topics in this chapter from other resources since it could be very important during your time as a landlord.

Ten: Don’t Want to Do It Alone? Hiring a Property Manager. This chapter explains what a property manager does, and helps you determine if hiring a property manager is right for you. If it is, this chapter provides some guidance on how to find a good one.

Eleven: Read to Quit? Exiting the Rental Property Business. All good things come to an end, and this final chapter will help you plan your exit strategy. Good things to consider when you are ready to sell.

No one book has everything you need to know about the real estate business. However, if you are thinking about becoming a landlord, this is an excellent starter text to provide you with solid basic information. After reading this book you will be able to determine if you really want to be a landlord and will have the knowledge to get started. You will then probably want to invest in more real estate/landlord resources. This one is an excellent start!

Alain Burrese, J.D. is a mediator/attorney and an author/speaker through his own company Burrese Enterprises Inc. He teaches people to live with the warrior’s edge and make things happen through his writing and speaking on a variety of topics focusing on the business areas of negotiation and success principles as well as self-defense and safety topics. He is the author of Hard-Won Wisdom From the School of Hard Knocks, several instructional dvds, and numerous articles. You can find out more about Alain Burrese and read many more reviews, articles and more at his website

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