I don’t know about you but I think this whole work-from-home thing can be challenging. Before I embarked on my journey as a full-time real estate investor, I had the opportunity to assist my insurance clients while donning my pajamas and putting off a shower until the end of the day. It’s a bit difficult to convey but even though I was fulfilling my duties, sitting on the couch while banging out emails just never seemed like actual “work”. Granted, my dog loved the company but the barking binges during conference calls never seemed to go over well, either.
Most diligent home business owners know there are things you simply cannot do—like catching up on your beauty sleep and chatting with your sister for a couple of hours. Those transgressions would inevitably lead to problems. When I started my real estate investing company, my Chicago landlord responsibilities included a lot of dos and don’ts.
Chicago Landlord Responsibilities
I’ve seen my share of mismanaged properties and wonder how some Chicago landlords get away with renting unsafe dwellings and allowing tenants to do some outlandish things. It’s not my style. I can’t risk legal issues, insurance claims, and budget-busting fines. I’d rather toe the line and make more friends than enemies in this business.
Every fellow landlord I talk to agrees on one major principle: tenants can be difficult to deal with from time to time. If you’re among one of the lucky property owners, your tenants maintain the home, pay their rent on time, and respect their neighbors’ privacy and well-being. Unfortunately, only about 20% of my tenants fit that profile. However, despite my frustration, I realize I can’t arbitrarily clean house because renters derive certain protections from a lease just as I do. Be aware of some actions you can and cannot take in Chicago.
- Landlord’s Responsibility to Maintain. You must keep your properties safe and in good condition. Some of the key issues that city officials look for include missing handrails on exterior stairways, uneven or cracked sidewalks, and heating and electrical systems that do not meet building code requirements. In addition to inviting fines, these conditions can jeopardize the safety of tenants as well as pedestrians and service technicians. Create a checklist to be sure any potentially hazardous situations are diffused prior to and during the rental period.
- Notice of Conditions Affecting Habitability. Before you have a tenant sign a lease, you must be upfront about any code violations incurred in the previous year. In addition, should any vital services such as water or electrical be terminated by a provider or the city, you must notify tenants in writing as to how or if their space will be affected. Failure to issue these notices throughout the term of the lease could result in a cancellation of the lease or allow renters to remedy the problems on your dime.
- Prohibition on Retaliatory Conduct by Landlord. If you continually ignore conditions that might pose a threat to the health and welfare of a tenant, they have every right to file a complaint. Your best bet is to fix the problem, move on, and don’t attempt to get even with a tenant by voiding the lease or raising the rent. Any undue response could subject you to fines that equal the greater of two months’ rent or the actual amount of damages plus legal fees. Open communications and timely remediation of repairs will keep everybody happy and help protect your return on investment.
- Prohibition on Interruption of Tenant Occupancy by Landlord. You might encounter some trouble and delay collecting rent or entering a property to perform an inspection. Even though you might lose patience, you must pursue a resolution through the proper means as spelled out in the lease and mandated by the City of Chicago. A couple of unwise moves would be to change the locks or enter the property forcibly. These types of actions could result in fines between $200 and $500 for each day that a willful lockout occurs or blocked access continues. If uncooperative tenants don’t pay, follow the property management best practices and legal guidelines for collection or eventual eviction.
Avoiding Trouble When Managing a Rental Property
I found the best way to minimize my rental property issues was to gear my operations more toward buying, renovating, and selling homes. Good tenants are out there but finding them for most of your units is daunting. Furthermore, it became difficult and expensive to keep up with new and existing ordinances constantly. That’s why I changed my investment strategy and became an independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisee. Being a HomeVestors® franchisee allows me to work with a savvy Development Agent mentor who knows my local market and a network of professional real estate investment franchisees like myself who can advise me when there’s a bump in the road.
Perhaps it’s time to make the change in your strategy as well. Contact HomeVestors® to see how you can decrease the drama and maximize your ROI.
Each franchise office is independently owned and operated.