How far is too far

After you read this question, you’ll know that I’m new to the rental business. How far is too far to have a rental that I plan on being the property mananger. My town is very small (aprox. 7,500), but within 30 minutes, I can tap into other markets. My fear is that someone will call me in the middle of the night and I’ll have to spend half the night just in driving time. Any suggestions?

For me 30 minutes is acceptable.


I wouldn’t call a 30 minute trip “driving half the night”. I think having rentals 30 minutes away is certainly reasonable, although I wouldn’t want to be much farther than that.

I also would not worry about being called in the middle of the night. It is EXTREMELY rare that I get a call in the middle of the night from anyone. On the couple of occassions that I have gotten such a call, it was from someone looking for an apartment. When that happens, I simply tell them that I’m not renting to someone that is stupid enough that they call in the middle of the night. Then I hang up!

In fact, I don’t get that many calls from tenants with problems at any time. Even with dozens of rentals, I probably only average 3 or 4 calls per week and those are mostly for little things: someone tripped a circuit breaker, locked themselves out of the house, or has a dripping faucet.



Thank you for the great news. I’ve been thinking that I’m out of the game due to my location, but Game On.

Thanks again,


Hey Mike - that brings up a good question - if someone does something silly and say locks themselves out of a house…do you charge them for that ‘maintenance trip’? Or what if they do it more than once [hard to imagine, eh]?

PS- I’m looking within about a 1 hr radius and that gives me more than enough to look at. I want to stay closer than 1 hr and most of the major rental markets are closer than that. I can practically invest statewide (CT) without much trouble being that I live in a state where I can get to any point in under an hour and a half and the places that are over an hour are sparsely populated and hardly worth it.

Thirty, or even 45 minutes is fine.

I’ve managed rentals for 25 years, up to a dozen tenants, plus a few more I manage for my mother-in law. In this time:

  • Had a nut who moved in with a roommate calling at 3:00AM saying he can’t stand his roommate, and will be moving in the AM. They signed the lease on Monday, and this was Wednesday morning two days later. Lesson?? Never rent to two roommates, where one is cool as a cucumber, and the other with hands shaking chain smoking cigarettes. We noticed this problem at the lease signing, and asked “how well do you know one another”.

  • Yes, it happened once, but a tenant called at 1:00AM, and locked himself out. Wife said "we’ll be there early in the morning. By then, they jimmied the apartment door requiring a minor repair. Lesson learned?? Either catch up on my sleep, or get a door repaired. Another lesson. Advised tenants, especially a SFH to find a location on the property, or somewhere hidden in the car, for another set of keys, during lease sigining. Advised tenants at multi’s to find a neighbor to trust the extra keys to.

  • Another case, happened once, my mother in laws hot water tank broke on the Sunday morning of the three day Memorial day weekend while she’s on vacation,.and the first floor tenant woke up to 1/2" of water in his apartment, called at 5:00AM when he realized it on the way to the bathroom. We ran over, mopped up the first floor, but because there was no shutoff valve going into the hot water tank, we had to scramble, and hook a hose to drain the water waiting for the repair man. Lesson learned?? Had a plumber install a valve, and left mops behind so the tenant can be instructed to shut the watar off, and start the cleanup himself.

is this too much for 25 years??

In the last two years, only got two calls at 5:00AM which was two weeks ago when it rained 3 inches in one hour. and the basement tenant complained of water leaking in. Already spoke to a waterproofing guy to add a drain at the spot to drain into the sump pump system. Water comes in at this spot when the giutter overloads, and goes under the roof and down the walls, and a roofers been called to check it out.

A normal person would not call a landlord at 3:00AM.

But the most important thing is, everytime you get a complaint, figrue a way to prevent that 3:00AM call. Normally, if the tenants have the tools, and know what to do, they won’t bother you. You can start by pointing out valves that shut water off to the sinks and toilets, and check it out while demonstrating it to the tenants, at move in… This would prevent most of those 3:00AM calls about the toilet overflowing, and they don’t know what to do, and they don’t even own a mop.

It may come as a shock to you. If you rent to young single guys, or single girls, they normally DO NOT own screwdrivers or mops.

if someone does something silly and say locks themselves out of a you charge them for that 'maintenance trip'? Or what if they do it more than once [hard to imagine, eh]?

No, I don’t charge them anything unless it becomes a chronic problem. Everyone makes mistakes and I don’t mind helping someone out if they make a mistake. In addition, as Frank said, it is definitely cheaper than fixing a broken door or window. Even though the lease says that tenants are responsible for lockouts and plunging toilets, if I’m already in town, I’ll even plunge a toilet from time to time. I’ve only had that happen maybe 4 times in 4 years and I’ve maybe had 4 or 5 lockouts in 4 years.


Helping with one lockout per year to keep up the goodwill with the tenants that aren’t crackheads definitely sounds worth it.

I live in Houston. Everything is a 30 minute drive. I guess it depends on where you are what is acceptable.

To minimize the trips I make all my properties perfect before I lease them. I also have a home warranty for the big repair items. The lease has a clause that says “Tenant will pay Landlord or any contractor Landlord directs Tenant to pay, the first $XXX of repair costs to repair each condition in need of repair, and the landlord will pay the remainder”… if you make that number $100 (the home warranty has a $75 deductible) then you don’t have a lot of maintenance to do. Since I make the houses perfect before I turn it over then I don’t have any maintenance. New things don’t break; if they do they are under warranty.

45-60 mins away is OK. Most stuff can be handle on a 1-2 day reponse basis. Occasionally, you need a plumber right away, but I have had that probably 2-3 times in 7 years with hand-full units I have locally in SoCal.

 If a locksmith would charge $75 to open the door at 3:00AM, then the landlord can charge the same.  I would not stir up any animosity with the tenant, but when I itemize deductions from the cleaning and security deposit, I would definitely ask myself if I'm running a charity or a business.  They could just as easily call a locksmith as the landlord.  When the tenants leave the units in PRISTINE condition, I may go a little easier.
 If I could, I would own the units as close together and as close to me as possible.  There are two downsides to this:
      1. Different neighborhoods may appreciate or depreciate differently.  If one neighborhood is extreemely susceptible to crime or some other negative problem, maybe your other units won't be affected.  If you bought all of your properties on the same street, you are not diversified.  I do know people who have done this though, and if your older, and convenience is more important than price, it can work.
      2. You should be more driven to buy by the better deal, you can't always decide where you will find them.