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What Is a Rent Roll? [2023 Guide]

August 31, 2023
Discover what a rent roll is and why it matters. Learn how to create, use, and find rent roll data for smarter property management and investment decisions.

A rent roll is a financial document that outlines the gross income generated from tenants in an investment property, usually an apartment building. Unlike a typical ledger, a rent roll doesn't account for outgoing expenses like mortgages, insurance, or taxes—it strictly focuses on income from rents.

For property managers, real estate investors, and landlords, an accurate and comprehensive rent roll is crucial when considering property valuations, securing financing, or making any buy or sell decisions. In this guide, we'll walk you through the key components to include in a rent roll and even provide you with a template to get you started.

Rent Roll Guide for Landlords and Property Managers

Why Are Rent Rolls Important?

what is a rent roll

Rent rolls give a landlord or property manager a quick, bite-sized overview of their tenants, rents, and rental income for each unit. They can also help landlords see tenant turnover and renewal patterns and how their rent grows year over year.

Rent rolls are especially useful in real estate transactions and are often required by investors and banks. Having a rent roll is also part of doing due diligence when purchasing a property, as it gives investors who are buying it more peace of mind.

How Do Rent Rolls Work?

how do rent rolls work

A rent roll is not just a list; it's an organized breakdown of rent amounts by each individual rental unit, whether it's an apartment, condo, townhouse, or single-family home. This specificity allows landlords and property managers to easily track which units are occupied, which are vacant, and how much income each is generating. Essentially, rent rolls consolidate various lease agreements into one comprehensive document, serving as a snapshot of the rental income at any given point in time.

"The brilliance of a rent roll lies in its simplicity and efficiency. Instead of sifting through a mountain of individual lease agreements to assess your property’s financial health, a well-organized rent roll lets you see all this vital information at a glance. This makes it an invaluable tool for landlords looking to understand their rental income, as well as for potential investors or financial institutions requiring income verifications. By summarizing all rent data into one accessible document, you save time and eliminate the hassle that comes with juggling multiple records.

6 Reasons Landlords Use Rent Rolls

why use a rent roll

If you think your own recording system is working without a rent roll, here are some reasons why landlords use them and how they could streamline your rental business.

1. Track Rental Payments

A rent roll serves as a real-time dashboard for tracking rental payments. Not only can landlords easily identify which rents are due, but they can also quickly spot overdue payments. This immediate overview simplifies the otherwise time-consuming process of managing multiple leases, aiding in more efficient financial planning and follow-ups.

2. Brainstorm Ways to Increase Unit Profitability

A well-maintained rent roll provides actionable insights into the performance of individual units. When you spot underperforming or vacant units, it triggers the opportunity to brainstorm marketing strategies. From adjusting rent prices to targeted advertising, a detailed rent roll sets the stage for informed decision-making to maximize unit profitability.

3. Make Decisions About Renovating Units

Rent roll data is invaluable when contemplating unit renovations. Landlords can weigh the costs of renovations against the potential increase in rental income, ensuring that any upgrades made are financially justified and likely to provide a good return on investment.

4. Understand Each Unit’s Current Market Value

By laying out the rent received for each unit, a rent roll serves as a benchmarking tool to understand how each unit fares in the current market. If a unit is consistently filled and generating good income, it's likely priced correctly. Conversely, if a unit frequently turns over or remains vacant, it could be a signal to reevaluate its market value.

5. Track Late Fees

Beyond tracking rental income, rent rolls can also highlight patterns in late payments, cueing landlords to issue late fees where applicable. By systematically capturing this information, landlords can potentially increase their property’s annual income and enforce more disciplined payment behavior among tenants.

6. Consider Buying Other Units and Properties

A rent roll does more than just track current income; it offers a snapshot of a property’s profitability and growth potential. This makes it a critical tool for landlords and investors considering the purchase of additional units or properties. By evaluating existing income streams and vacancies, you can more accurately assess whether now is the opportune time to expand your portfolio.

Information to Include in a Rent Roll

Crafting a rent roll doesn't have to be a daunting task. Here's a breakdown of what to include.

  • Owners name(s).
  • Property Manager.
  • Rental address.
    • Unit number.
    • Street.
    • City.
    • State.
    • Zip code.
  • Unit type.
  • Number of beds and baths.
  • Square footage.
  • Lease start date.
  • Lease end date.
  • Rent increase history.

A rent roll should include all the relevant information that helps track and manage your properties. For example, if you’re focused on expanding your amenities, you can add a column to note which properties earn the most rent and the amenities offered.

Free Rent Roll Template

woman working on laptop

By keeping your rent roll data on hand at all times, you can determine which properties are steadily creating income and which ones aren’t meeting expectations. A rent roll can also help you determine if you're generating enough rent to justify a remodel during a turnover period.

If you don’t know how to create a rent roll, you can use a simple Google Sheets document to get started. Or you can use our ready-to-use monthly rent roll template to simply plug in the information for your property.

Want to see for yourself? Here's a free rent roll template to help.

Where to Find Rent Roll Data

If you're considering investing in a property, examining its rent roll is essential for understanding the income it generates. However, the information within a rent roll usually originates from multiple sources, each providing a unique piece of the financial puzzle. Here are some primary sources where rent roll data can be found:

  • County Tax Assessor: Offers insights into property specifications like square footage, property type, zoning, and usage.
  • Appraisal Report: Provides a professional valuation of the property.
  • MLS Listing Information: May include details such as asking price and income history.
  • Lease Agreement and Tenant File: Contains specific rent amounts, lease terms, and security deposit details.
  • Profit and Loss (P&L) Statements: Summarizes monthly and annual gross income, any additional rent collected, and late fees for each unit.

Again, to get a complete and accurate picture, you'll likely need to gather information from all these sources. For instance, while a lease agreement will give you details about individual rents and security deposits, the county tax assessor's data can provide additional context about the property itself.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know what a rent roll is, you can get a clear snapshot of your rental income with our apartment rent roll template to get started. You’ll be happy you did, too — if you ever decide to sell your property, a rent roll is usually required for investors and lenders looking for more context about the property's income. On the flip side, you should also request a rent roll for any properties you're interested in buying.

Got other burning questions about renting your property and rental income? We've got answers. Head to Apartment List to learn more. Don’t forget to list your property to gain access to countless renters looking for their next dream apartment.

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Tristian Brown
Tristian Brown is a Senior Content Marketing Associate at Apartment List, where he manages high-quality content that helps modern renters find the perfect home. He brings an immense wealth of knowledge to the team, having earned a Bachelor of Arts in Marketing and European Management from the University of San Diego and EM Strasbourg Business School. Read More
Susan Finch
Susan is an accomplished freelance writer whose passion for rental real estate, travel, and digital marketing has been the driving force behind her nearly 15-year career. Throughout her professional journey, Susan has become a seasoned veteran in creating compelling and informative content focused on the tenant/landlord relationship. Read More
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