For the past three years, I've been a landlord of a duplex in the Metro-Detroit area. This has been my primary source of income and is probably one of the smartest things I did during my college career, other than going to class. It was smart for a number of reasons: It paid much of my living expenses; I learned to live alone; I enjoyed my autonomy; and I've learned some valuable business lessons. Especially in todays market, if you're in the position to, buy a house and rent it out.
That being said the learning curve can be steep at first. You need to know how to interact with potential tenants, somehow striking a balance between friendly neighbor and the guy who has to collect rent. Emphasis tends to shift towards the latter at the expense of friendliness most of the time. Writing your first lease, enforcing it, collecting rent, raising rent, negotiating rent, evicting tenants, going to court, not to mention daily upkeep are regular activities as a landlord. All of them can be very stressful, especially when your full-time occupation is as a student or something else.
I recently finished going through a very nasty eviction process with one of my tenants. I live in the lower unit of a duplex, renting out the upper, and the garage. I had a family of a husband, wife, and two kids renting the upstairs. One day they stopped paying rent. More specifically, after paying the move in cost, they never paid rent again. The husband worked two jobs, while the wife was a stay at home mom. When they decided to get a divorce, both of them came to me to settle their problems. The husbands had signed the lease, and he wanted the wifes new boyfriend to be banned from the house. The wife countered the husband was abusive and wanted him banned instead. When I told them that I couldn't enforce anything without a police protection order, their vision of me changed. First, they saw me as a way to get even with each other. That never really changed, but instead they decided the fight through me.
The husband moved out, a boyfriend moved in, drugs and cigarettes were being smoked upstairs, and no one was paying rent. When I started the formal eviction process, the squatters got malicious and discovered they had access to the circuit breakers in the basement and passed the time turning my power off. One thing I learned very quickly during this process is that the police are very much not on your side. No matter how many times you call 911 because your power is being turned off and threats yelled through your door, they will refuse to respond (at least in Metro-Detroit). In fact, this happened three times before I had to move out of the while the courts proceeded with the eviction papers.
40 days, two destroyed walls and a destroyed refrigerator later, and they're out of the house and I've moved back in. With calm restored, I can look back at the long view of the experience and say this has been a positive adventure. Having gone through some of these experiences I can also share with you these tips for renting.