A guide to ‘accidental landlording’

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They're called "accidental landlords" or "reluctant landlords" -- and during this housing downturn, more of them seem to pop up every day. They're the homeowners who have tried -- and failed -- to sell their houses, so they've decided to find tenants who will move in and pay rent. That's only the first of many decisions they'll have to make, says Leigh Robinson, a landlord and writer with 30-plus years of experience with tenants, leases and maintenance. Robinson is currently updating the 11th edition of his book, "Landlording: A Handymanual for Scrupulous Landlords and Landladies Who Do It Themselves" (from Express Publishing), an encyclopedic look at considerations that range from screening tenants to setting the water-heater temperature so the renters don't scald themselves while showering. One thing that can be surprisingly hard for novices to grasp, he says, is that renting out a property is a business. It seems like an obvious concept -- u...