self-managing landlord

Top Five Pitfalls to Avoid as a Self-Managing Landlord

If you are considering renting out your home as a self-managing landlord, you may have started researching what being a self-managing landlord truly entails. It can be complicated to learn about the fine details of managing a property, but it is essential to take the time to fully understand what goes into it. This will help you to protect yourself, and your home. Below we have gathered the top five pitfalls to avoid as a self-managing landlord. 


Federal, state, and local laws regarding renting out your property can be complicated. 

Something that is the most concerning for new self-managing landlords is being compliant with local laws regarding renting out their home. California specifically has complicated laws regarding what type of dwelling can be rented out, how you are allowed to advertise the property, what the guidelines for fair housing are (see below), how you respond to maintenance concerns, and even how to use the damage deposit or how much the damage deposit is for the property. Someone who is new to renting out their property may be uncertain about some, or all, of these points. 


Although it may feel overwhelming to become up-to-date on rental guidelines in your state before you have a tenant move in, it is truly essential. The ramifications of renting out your home without fully understanding the laws surrounding it can have very real, and serious consequences both legally and financially. 


When you are unfamiliar with the federal, state and local regulations, small things can get glossed over. For example, taking photos of the property prior to renting it out is essential. You must have documentation of the condition of the property prior to the tenant moving in, and may have issues disputing the security deposit without this proof. This is just a small example of issues that can arise when you are not up-to-date on industry laws and best practices.


If you are looking into how you can abide by federal, state and local laws, it may also help to check out this document from outlining security deposit return guidelines. 



Make sure you and your tenant have a written rental agreement. 

Having a thorough and complete written rental agreement in place is hugely important in protecting yourself when renting out a property. It is extremely important to ensure that all legally required disclosures and addenda are included in the document. Although most people, regardless of experience with renting, know that having an agreement written up is essential, they may not know to take the appropriate measures to ensure the written rental agreement is complete and binding, with all of the correct pieces in place for the tenant to sign.


It is worth it to reach out to a law firm to ensure that the written agreement is complete, clear and protects you in the event of a tenant not paying rent, causing damage to the property, violating the agreement, or needing to be evicted. This is not something that a self-managing landlord should write on their own, in an effort to best protect themselves financially and the wellbeing of their property. Although you may know specific rules you would like in place (for example, not allowing smoking on the property), it is still something you should convey to a well-informed professional who can ensure the written rental agreement does not have any glaring problems or missing pieces.


One of the reasons our clients come to us after considering self-managing, is the realization of how much liability the property owner can have if mistakes are made throughout the process. We highly recommend taking as much time as possible to research and understand your options before deciding that you are ready to self-manage a rental property. Spending a little money up-front to ensure you are compliant can save you thousands, or more, in the long run. 


Maintenance concerns should be handled efficiently and quickly. 

Although it may seem like a given that maintenance concerns should be handled quickly, there are some guidelines that you should follow when attending to them. The lease you put together should detail any repairs that the tenant is responsible for, so it has been clearly outlined in advance of the tenant moving in.


If maintenance concerns that you are responsible for come up, it is essential that they are taken care of as quickly as possible, by licensed professionals. If a maintenance issue is not addressed quickly, it can spiral into a larger issue. For example, a leak may not be a huge issue when taken care of promptly, but would be a large issue if mold began to grow as a result of the leak not being addressed fast enough. 


Make sure you understand fair housing laws. 

This is one of the most important pieces when considering becoming a landlord. Spend as much time it takes to fully understand fair housing laws and regulations in your state regarding fair housing. Fair housing law covers specific, protected classes, including:


  • Ancestry
  • Citizenship
  • Color 
  • Disability (physical and mental)
  • Family status 
  • Immigration status 
  • Genetic information
  • Gender, gender identity, gender expression
  • Marital status
  • Primary language
  • Medical condition
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex/gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Source of income


Mistakes made even before a tenant moves in can be the cause of legal issues and fines. The property needs to be marketed properly, and you can not discriminate by gender, religion, orientation, race, or other protected classes. It’s essential that you ensure your advertising is as inclusive as possible.


When you are reviewing applications, you must be careful not to reject a tenant, or choose another tenant over other tenants based on any of these characteristics. To best protect yourself as a landlord, ensure you have gone through, and fully understand, fair housing law in your state. It is worth it in the long run to ensure how you market the property, and ultimately how you select a tenant, is in accordance with these guidelines. 


Protect yourself by exploring all of your options, and being realistic about your current bandwidth and knowledge.

One of the best pieces of advice that we can give is to take the time to research the ins and outs of the industry, and then take inventory of how much time you can truly dedicate to renting out your home and self-managing the property. If you do have the bandwidth to self-manage, you will be confident in your ability to do so. If you do look into all options, and research all that needs to go into self-managing a property and determine that you will not have the bandwidth to do so, then you can confidently consider other options, such as hiring a property management company. 


If you are considering self-managing your property, you may be feeling overwhelmed at all of the available information, and all of the hoops landlords need to jump through. Even simply educating yourself on all of the federal, state and local laws can be quite a task if you don’t have previous experience or knowledge of the laws and how they work together. Whether or not you choose to self-manage your property, or decide to go another route, we are here to answer your questions, provide you with resources and ensure you are as protected as possible. We welcome anyone who is considering this path and are happy to help others stay protected and confident in their choice.


If you have questions about what self-managing entails, you can call us at (805­) 267-­1158 or visit us at Our team of specialists can answer any questions you may have about what working with a property management company would look like.  

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