tenants in a non owner-occupied duplex

I’ve now moved out of my previously owner-occupied duplex, and the duplex has been a “regular” (i.e. non owner-occupied duplex) now for a little over a year. For a while, the upstairs tenants stayed on; they had started living there while the owner (myself) was still downstairs, so it still had that sort of “owner-occupied” feeling, but now I have a whole new batch of tenants up and down, who are used to the owner being off-site the entire time.

I was a bit concerned that things would be different with the owner not around, but thus far haven’t run into any issues. The things that seem to have made a difference:

  • Keeping the property well-maintained: tenants can tell from the condition of the property how much it has been cared for in the past, and this sets the tone for how they should care for it.
  • Careful screening: checking references, credit reports, courthouse databases with just as much vigilance as if I lived on the property.
  • Being responsive and creating a good relationship with the tenants: all of the tenants know that this is the only duplex that I own, and that I once lived there myself, and that I want to keep the property in good shape to protect my investment as well as improve their experience there. This presents a different impression than the landlord who owns 50 or so properties and they’re just another number. Not that I’m saying all landlords who own 50+ properties are bad, just that it creates a different tone for our relationship.
  • Not being overly casual about the details: I have a very professional looking lease and stringent application process. Any changes to our agreement are done in writing. Making sure that all of my legal Ps and Qs are taken care of up front sets a precendence and expectations for how things are going to run.

I’m doubly thankful that things have gone well so far given the fact that both the upstairs and downstairs tenants moved out in the dead of winter this past year. I was able to fill both vacancies quickly; I was concerned about this because fewer people move in winter in places where it gets very cold during the winter months… Interestingly, both my upstairs and downstairs units had been filled with couples (one married, one not), and both ended up moving out because the relationship wasn’t working out. I had thought that couples were a more stable demographic for renting to, but perhaps this isn’t always the case…

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8 thoughts on “tenants in a non owner-occupied duplex

  1. Glad to have you back! Every month or so, I’ve typed in this blog address in hopes of finding a new post. Hope to see new posts going forward 🙂

    I’d be interested to hear how tax filings changed for you given the fact that you’re not living in the house anymore. Also, did you have to change anything with your mortgage lender, given that the home is no longer owner-occupied? I’m living in a duplex at the moment, and wonder about how it will work when I move out (I plan to keep the property).

    Congrats on a successful transition!


  2. Hi Greg,

    Glad to have you on the site!

    Since I moved out, taxes have changed, but actually become simpler because I’m not deducting mortgage interest for the duplex on my personal taxes now, and ALL of the expenses having to do with the duplex are now deductible (vs. 1/2 or some other split arrangement).

    The mortgage remains the same, but insurance did need to be updated when I moved out, and I needed to get another rental license for the unit that I was living in.

  3. Hey I’m glad to see your blog is back! After it hadn’t been updated in awhile, I stopped checking as often. Now maybe I’ll check a little more often. I own and live in a duplex and your site has provided me with some helpful advice.

  4. This does sound good. My wife and I are considering buying a duplex for our first home. this blog seems to have alots of great insight into this decision.

  5. Yay! So glad you’ve left an update. Your blog has been such a help to me as I bought a home with a small attached rental unit a year and half ago. Hoping you’ll continue with the blog. I remember you mentioned wanting to invest in more income properties and dabbling in passive streams of income. How’s that coming along (if you don’t mnind my asking)?

  6. hi greg, ive been thinking about demolishing my home to make space for a duplex or 3 townhouses. This way I could have another steady form of income generation.
    Your tips helped me make my decision.

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