Free Advice for Landlords, particularly owners of investment property

I wrote the following screed after cleaning our bathrooms and bedrooms carefully enough to remind me of the all the little things that I would fix, if it were my property. I am both landlord and tenant at this moment, and it’s an interesting way to see the world of real estate for rent.

To the landlord who aspires to competence:

Every building contains hundreds of minor errors, invisible faults, and premature wear spots. These details are the devils that threaten your investment, the principal capital itself.

Some of your residents will bring important problems to your attention, conditions which will cost you hundreds of thousands of euros/dollars/pounds in the future.

Furthermore, the most consequential problems appear to be petty as renter’s complaints. An unsealed shower which makes a tiny puddle, or a loose screw holding a soap dish, may be early predictors of a full and unscheduled renovation of the flat downstairs.

Some of your renters are just annoying. But some are noticing things that matter — to you. Things that the builder hid from you, that your inspector thought you didn’t want to hear about, that your maintenance staff doesn’t have time to notice.

The chances that this complaint is the one that really matters means that it’s foolish to dismiss it.

And this fact has nothing to do with the goodwill you could generate by being responsive. You’ll lose money, in the long-term, from unplanned capital expenses, not from a plan for slightly higher maintenance costs.