5 Tips for Winning the Absentee Landlord Game

Table of Contents

Owning residential real estate places a particular set of responsibilities onto a property owner, from determining the right rent price to managing multifamily homes. The fact that absentee landlords don’t live on their property (and often not even in the same area) doesn’t mean they should be any less available when issues arise, but “being there” can be complicated.

Distance can make the role more difficult, to be sure. Calls from tenants can mean traveling, paying another party to drop by for appraisal/repairs, or ending up with bills and expenses way beyond what you’re willing to pay. This guide will help absentee landlords limit troubles and trips by meeting all expectations and having safeguards against the unforeseen.

Be Certain of Absentee Landlord Obligations at All Times

The best absentee landlords care for the three P’s: property, people, and personal interests. Those first two factors have legal and moral requirements if they’re to be met successfully. Failure to do so negatively impacts the third.

Let’s explore these by breaking down the No. 1 tip for residential real estate, which has several important sub-points.

The More Insurance in the Equation, the Easier Being a Landlord Is

Sometimes property problems are accidental, sometimes tenants are to blame. Insurance coverage can prevent both parties from being negatively affected. Here are some details about proper insurance for landlords.

Make Landlord and Renters Insurance Essential

Being a landlord can be rewarding and lucrative, but inevitably there will be costly expenses and possibly even lawsuits. Every absentee landlord must make the best landlord insurance a priority to ensure that they and their investment are protected.

Renters Insurance Is Like Landlord Protection by Proxy

We recommend ensuring your tenants cover themselves too. Renters insurance protects the tenant and their possessions but can also shield landlords. These policies are particularly helpful if your rental is an apartment, condo, or multifamily unit where an incident in one space can affect others.

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Renters Insurance Can Save Landlords Money

A tenant’s renters policy can help absentee landlords reclaim their deductible after paying for property damage. It can also protect landlords from personal liability expenses. Tenants with high personal liability coverage are preferable.

Renters Coverage and the Law

Renters coverage is not legally required, but it’s within every landlord’s legal right to require renters insurance as part of the lease, or to add it as a requirement at a later date. Landlords are also within their rights in asking to be added to a renters policy as an additional interested party (AIP).

Does AIP Status Give Landlords Extra Coverage?

No, this won’t provide the landlord with any additional policy protection, but it does provide greater tenant transparency via regular updates on how the renter’s policy is being maintained and managed, which at least offers the landlord some greater peace of mind.

How to Explain Renters Insurance to Tenants

Refer to our guide on explaining renters insurance for how to answer tenant questions.

As you can see, it’s important for all absentee landlords to have proper levels of insurance for themselves and their tenants. Now let’s look at some other essential practices in optimizing residential real estate.

Absentee landlord texting a tenant

More Golden Rules for Absentee Landlords

Having both sides insured is the just the first step toward peace of mind for absentee landlords. Follow these tips to keep your relationships with your tenants on harmonious ground.

1. Know Your Tenants’ Rights (and Your Limits)

All forms of discrimination are illegal under the Fair Housing Act, and personal questions should be avoided beyond anything that may negatively affect the property. Tenants cannot be asked to make major repairs (sometimes not even minor ones) and have a right to 30 days’ notice before eviction proceedings. Read our blog for more on the landlord/tenant agreement and contact a professional for the bigger picture.

2. Drop By Occasionally for Pre-Arranged On-Site Checks

“Out of sight, out of mind” can quickly become “out of pocket” for absentee landlords. Pay your property a visit at lease-highlighted intervals to see its condition firsthand and how the surrounding area is being developed. Alternatively, send a trusted party, but don’t forget to give tenants the required notice in either case.

3. Secure Unoccupied Rental Property

COVID-19 is resulting in a lot of evictions, and there’s not always a new tenant ready to pay. Make sure doors are locked, all windows are secured, and smoke alarms are active in empty rentals. Vacant-property insurance is also a good idea for greater security on top of landlord’s coverage.

4. Stay Informed on the Real Estate Market and Trends

Monitor property values in your rental’s area to better evaluate your investment and keep a finger on the pulse of any upcoming local developments and tenant trends. Here’s some expert insight on how to start.

There’s a lot that absentee landlords can do for themselves. However, taking on too much responsibility alone can make the role much harder.

Common Pitfalls for Solo Absentee Landlords

Even the most diligent landlords can find some outside help to be a great relief. Consider the following before managing residential real estate by yourself.

  • Not every absentee landlord has a trusted party who can visit, inspect, or repair the property in their stead.
  • Emergencies may necessitate an immediate visit, which may be impossible for a landlord under some circumstances. Slow response times can endanger tenants and property while risking breaking the law.
  • Failure to draft and execute a thorough tenant-screening process can be a risky and costly proposition.
  • Not every landlord is a people person. This can make communication, conflict resolution, and rent collection uncomfortable experiences.
  • Staying fully compliant with the law can be a confusing and overwhelming task.
  • Effectively promoting a rental property to prospective tenants across multiple media can be a real challenge.

These aren’t the only challenges that can arise. Finding a partner to help meet the demands of residential real estate can make a huge positive difference for absentee landlords, their tenants, and their property.

Talk to the Experts at Nomadic if You’re an Absentee Landlord

Hiring a seasoned residential real estate management firm like the Nomadic Real Estate team guarantees that every aspect of the landlord/tenant relationship will be professionally handled, from legal matters and maintenance to tenant communication and agreements.

Both current and prospective landlords can benefit from our experience, insight, and commitment. Contact Nomadic Real Estate for more information about your Greater D.C. property management needs.

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Enhanced Reporting

Your portal includes a selection of extremely useful reports. Reports are available in the “Reports” section, and are distinct from the financial statements. Unlike financial statements which are static records, Reports are dynamic real-time records that will update with current data every time you view them. 

Scroll down to learn more about Reports:

Navigate to the "Reports" module in your portal:

  • Keep in mind, these reports are dynamic records. They will refresh to display current information every time you view them. 

Enhanced Rent Roll Report:

  • The Enhanced Rent Roll Report will show the rent amount, last payment date, move-in date, lease expiration date, and security deposit amount for each of your tenants. 
  • It will also show a portfolio summary with occupancy percentage, vacancy loss, and more!

Unit Comparison Report:

  • If you own multiple units (or buildings) with Nomadic, you’ll get access to the Unit Comparison Report. 
  • This report enables you to quickly compare financial performance between your units at a glance without toggling between individual reports. 

Income Statement Month-Over-Month:

  • The Income Statement Detail – Monthly Report serves as a month-over-month record of portfolio performance. You’ll see itemized income and expense categories and can track monthly. This report will update with fresh data every time you view it. 

Financial Statements

Financial statements will be published to your portal on a monthly basis. The statements are found in your Documents library, and provide a historical record of all financial performance. The statements serve as a snapshot of financial performance over a given period, and are static documents (unlike Reports, the statements do not update/change in real-time). 

Scroll down for more info about the Financial Statements in your Documents library:

The Documents area contains monthly financial statements:

  • The statements in the Documents are are static documents. They are posted to the portal once a month to serve as a historical record of financial performance. 

Download a statement to see month and YTD financials:

You'll also find a month-over-month operating statement:

Portal Communication Tool

You can use your owner portal to communicate with our team. Any messages you send through the portal will go straight to your Account Manager. When we reply, you’ll get an email notification and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

Here’s an overview of using the communication platform:

Click "Communications" and navigate to "Conversations":

  • The communications module will contain a record of all messages that you create through the portal. 

Click the "New Message" button and send your message:

Responses will show up in the conversation ticket:

  • You’ll get an email notification whenever you get a response, and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

You can reply in-line using the comment box:

Each conversation will be logged in its entirety:

Understanding the Ledger

Your portal includes a ledger with all transactions. The ledger is populated with data in real-time as transactions flow through our accounting software. Much of this information is also available in the Reports area, as well as the Statements in your Documents library, but the ledger is the most comprehensive resource for diving into the details. 

Please scroll through the sections below to get a better understanding of how to interpret the ledger. 

By default, transactions are sorted chronologically:

  • The date reflected in the lefthand column is the actual transaction date, not the “bill date”. This is the date the transaction was actually processed. 

If you have multiple properties with Nomadic, you'll see the address for each transaction in the "Location" column:

  • You can filter the ledger to look at just one property, all properties, or specific sets of properties. 
  • If you only have one property with us, you’ll just see the ledger for that property. 

The Description column displays the transaction type:

  • BILL: this is an expense transaction, such as for repair costs or management fees.
  • CHARGE: this is a transaction  billed to the tenant, most typically a rent payment. 
  • NACHA EXPORT: this is a credit we processed to your distribution account. This type of transaction is how you get paid! 

The Amount column shows the dollar value of each transaction:

  • Positive Amounts: if an amount is positive, it reflects a transaction that is payable to you. Typically, this will be a rent payment that we collected from your tenants. On occasion, a positive number could also signify a journal entry or credit adjustment. 
  • Negative Amounts:  if an amount is negative, this is a transaction that is either payable to Nomadic or is an amount that has already been paid to you. Typically this will be for repair costs or management/leasing fees. Owner draws (net distributions into your checking/savings account) also reflect as negative amounts, since they have already been paid to you. 

The Account Balance column shows a sum of positive/negative transactions at a given point in time:

  • Account Balance should always equal zero after a net distribution has been processed. When the balance is zero, this means that all expenses have been paid and you’ve received the remainder as net operating income, leaving a balance of zero (meaning: no one is due any money, as all funds have been distributed appropriately). 

Navigating the Propertyware Owner Portal

Your portal includes some extremely useful features that help you understand your property’s financial performance at a new level, with real-time transparency into every transaction.

Scroll through the snapshots below for an overview of portal navigation! If you need more help or have specific questions about using the portal, you can reach out to your Account Manager any time for a screen share. 

You can filter all info by date range or property:

View a snapshot of income and expenses on your dashboard:

See every transaction in real-time on your ledger:

Statements and forms will be posted to your documents library:

View a suite of real-time financial reports:

See a running list of all bills, and drill down for more detail:

Under Bill Details, you'll find dates/descriptions/amounts and more:

You can also communicate with your Account Manager through the portal:

How do net distributions work?

Net distributions keep your accounting clean and simple. Each month we’ll collect rent from the tenants, deduct any repair expenses for the previous month and any management/leasing fees for the current month, and credit the remaining net operating income to your account. 

You’ll receive a statement via email each time a net distribution is processed, and can view all transaction details in your Propertyware owner portal.