Since the title is Top 5 mistakes of landlording, I am taking financing out of the equation. I will assume the property was purchased correctly and now we are dealing specifically with management (or lack thereof) issues:
1. Renting to family or friends.This is the biggest mistake I see in the business. I don't know how many properties I have purchased from people who didn't want to kick out Jr. because he hadn't paid rent in the last 10 years. (I have one in escrow now and sis hasn't paid her $250 rent, on a $1,200 rental in the last 15 years.) I once went to inspect a house where a nephew was living. It was lunchtime. He was drunk. After about 20 minutes in the house he pulled a handgun out of his surf shorts and pointed it at his pet goat.
2. Treating your tenants like friends and/or commingling tenants and relationships.This goes right along with #1. Being a landlord is being in the people management business. Being friends with your tenants shows them you are weak. They will attempt to take advantage of you. Our philosophy; Rule with an iron fist and a smile! Treat them fairly, but if the rent is late, it is time to start thinking about moving to another place. I know a few landlords who have started relationships with their tenants. Hands down, they all agree this is the biggest mistake they have made. A great motto you can use: Pay the rent or don't pay the rent. Just don't park the car with the oil leak in the driveway!
3. Not raising rents for fear of tenants contacting you.
When I contact a private seller of rental property I always ask three question;
1. How much is the rent?
2. How long have your tenants lived in the property?
3. When is the last time you have been inside?
When the rent is way under market, I bet you can already guess the answer to the next two question! The #1 reason landlords don't raise rents is because they don't want to deal with their tenants. They keep the rents low in hopes the tenant will not contact them about the property needing repairs. What ultimately happens however, is that the property slowly starts to fall apart. The landlord won't raise the rent for fear of the tenant complaining about things that need work or moving out. The tenant won't contact the landlord about things that need work for fear of having the rent raised. Don't be a part of this double edge sword. If the rents are going up in your area, raise them accordingly.
4. Not inspecting your properties annually.
Not inspecting your properties leads to them accumulating massive deferred maintenance or shabby repair work by the tenant. All the money the landlord thinks he is saving every year by not fixing things or having his handy tenant fix them compounds annually and the repair bill becomes so high they end up selling the property for pennies on the dollar to investors like me.
5. Unnecessarily paying utilities for your tenants. I don't pay any utility for any of my properties. I look at this as subsidizing my tenants lifestyle at the expense of my financial freedom. If they can't afford to pay their own utilities, they can't afford to rent from me. Even with our housing clients, they all pay their own utilities. If you are giving away free gas, electricity, trash pick up, or water, I highly encourage you to send out notices today, that your tenants will be required to switch service into their own name.