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We've rented our old place. So we've got obligations now under landlord and tenants act 1936 and residential tenancies act 1995 to keep proper records.

A new thing for us.

Getting by with a spreadsheet and using Word for receipts right now.

Thought of using Gnucash and just downloaded, installed and took a look. Seems to me if we used it for the job it'd have to go under 'other income' and from there I'm not sure how it would work out.

Is this a good thing to do or entirely wrong or what?

Any advice?

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  • It seems that you're trying to meet some legal obligation, but you didn't tell us what law that is and in what country...
    – littleadv
    Mar 4, 2022 at 19:23
  • south australia. landlord and tenants act 1936, residential tenancies act 1995. But really much simpler: debt goes up every week by same amount, payments need receipting (a politeness, legally direct dep. payments don't need) and apportioning 'rent', 'water', 'other'. Payments come in at odd times. Any kind of super simple 'onekeypush' way of doing it?
    – abrogard
    Mar 5, 2022 at 19:12

2 Answers 2

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In the past with a single property I was able to easily track the expenses with a spreadsheet.

I am in the United States.

Tracking the basic expenses wasn't hard. Things like repairs, rental income, mortgage interest, condo fees are pretty clear cut. A few things like homeowners insurance are a little harder because the period of coverage could be split over two tax years, and have to be allocated proportionally. These are easy to track in a spreadsheet.

For me the hard part was the putting the rental property into service. What repairs counted? How do you determine the value, and how do you split it between the land and the structure? The split determined the depreciation each year. The same issues had to be considered when I sold the property. While these items can be tracked in a finance software package, a spreadsheet was used to do the calculations.

I have never used Gnucash. From what I have read it is a double entry system. If you don't already understand double entry that will mean that you will be learning two things: what to track, and how to enter it correctly into the double entry system.

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  • So you're really suggesting I'm on the wrong track and a spreadsheet would do. Fair enough. I use a spreadsheet now but I don't bother with expenses and such. I should. I will. I guess the main thing is I'm hassled about making up a new receipt every week at a different time, whenever the money finally comes in, and apportioning extra pays to 'other' or 'water' and was just looking for something that makes it all easier.
    – abrogard
    Mar 5, 2022 at 19:07
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I've used both spreadsheets and GnuCash (still do) and can tell you that GnuCash is a suitable system for recording all of your income/expenses/asset/liability information associated with your rental property (and the rest of your personal finances). GnuCash has a good range of configurable reports, so you'll be able to get useful information out of the system when you need it, too.

If you're not already familiar with double-entry accounting systems then you will benefit from doing some homework. GnuCash provides a useful User Manual which includes a primer on double-entry accounting; there are also a number of tutorials available on YouTube and other sources.

GnuCash is configurable to your specific needs. There's no need to record rental income under the generic "other income" account when you can easily create an account called "Rental Income (17 Smith Street)" or whatever name suits you. Ditto for your expense accounts - so you can create different expense accounts for the insurance payments for your home and the insurance payments for the rental property, reflecting their different taxation status.

Having said that, a spreadsheet will still be useful for calculating some of the numbers that should be recorded in GnuCash. And you'll have to make decisions (or seek advice from your accountant) about various things - what is tax deductible and what isn't; should a purchased item be "expensed" in one year or "depreciated" over a number of years; and so on. GnuCash won't make those decisions for you, but it will help you record the information once you've decided what you're going to record.

GnuCash has pros and cons compared to other personal finance packages, but it does provide excellent value for the investment that you put into it!

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