Once you have attracted renters to your property, your job as a landlord is not finished. You have a responsibility to maintain residential rental property according to local codes, and to repair any problems that occur.
Most state laws have at least an implied warranty of habitability. That implied warranty means:
- the property must be habitable when you rent it
- you must keep it in that condition during the term of the lease
Habitability is usually defined in your local building code, often as the minimum standard for safe, decent, and sanitary housing suitable for the purposes of a residence. Further, it is your responsibility to meet all local building codes in rental property.
Many landlords will require the Move In Checklist as a part of the process, just like signing the lease. But as a tenant, you should be glad because it protects you as well.
Taking the time to complete such a checklist carefully will eliminate misunderstandings when you move out.
- Carefully noting any damage to the property will mean that you won’t be held responsible for it when you leave.
- It’s also important to note any personal property (furniture, window coverings, and appliances) included in the property, so that you aren’t liable for the disappearance of something that was never there!
- Be sure that the list is signed by both you and the landlord, and get a copy with all signatures for your file.
Waiting for tenant notification that something needs fixed can end up costing you money. Tenants are likely going to care more about how things look, like wanting new paint.
You should instead perform an annual inspection and take care of anything you find at that time. Since you must change batteries in smoke alarms (and perhaps fire extinguishers) annually, it’s simple to do your own inspection at that time.
Check for (and repair) things such as leaking windows and pipes. This will prevent more costly repairs like dry rot and mold.
You’ll also have the bonus that tenants will know you are involved with the property, and they are more likely to take greater care with how the treat your property, and whether they can get away with moving in a roommate or a pet.
Effective tenant screening
is another important tool for landlords. Visit E-Renter USA
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It’s not only acceptable to charge a rental application fee to those who want to rent your property, there are several reasons why it’s a good idea:
- Probably the most obvious reason is that is pays for your time and expense to screen applicants.
- It will also reduce the number of unqualified applicants you get. Most will not bother to apply if they know you are going to check credit and they are unlikely to qualify.
- In addition, it will let all tenants know that you are serious about the business of managing your rental (even if you have only one).
Guidelines for Rental Application Fees
Even though you are entitled and should charge the fee, there are some guidelines for doing so.
- It should be a reasonable fee to cover costs (in many states it is against the law to be profiting from these fees).
- You must inform the applicants what kind of check you will do and inform them of their rights regarding the information you gather.
- If you use a tenant screening service, you must inform them of the name of that company.
You should also become familiar with the Fair Credit Reporting Act and other laws affecting credit reporting (a good tenant screening service can provide assistance with that information). The application fees themselves may only be charged if you actually have (or will have in a short period of time) a unit available to rent, and if you actually do screen the tenant.
When you are making decisions about which tenant to accept into your property, you will of course want to phone landlords for references. Be sure to get references from previous landlords; don’t stop with only the current landlord.
If this tenant has been a problem, the current landlord may give them a glowing recommendation just to move them out of their building and into yours! Be sure to check previous landlords whenever possible. You may get a very different story about what kind of tenant they are.
If you use a tenant background search or check tenant credit reports as part of your tenant screening process (and you should!), you also need to supply those tenants who do not qualify to rent your property with a letter declining their rental application.
That rental declination letter needs to:
- let them know that you obtained information from a Consumer Reporting Agency (and list the name, address, and telephone of that agency)
- advise them that they have a right to request a copy of their consumer report, free of charge, from that agency within 60 days of the date of the letter
- notify them they have the right to dispute the accuracy or completeness of any item on their report
If you are considering buying your first rental property, you are probably expecting to be able to cover your payments for the property and perhaps have enough left over to provide some income.
Be sure you have considered all your expenses before you make your final decision. Each property may require a different mortgage payment, as well as have a different rental rate you can get. However, that isn’t the only consideration.
Additional Costs to Consider
It’s also important to know the rest of the expenses that will be involved with each property you are considering:
- In addition to mortgage payments, you’ll have taxes and insurance which can be quite different for each property.
- There’s also routine maintenance, which for some properties might include landscaping, or be more costly because of the age or condition of the property.
- Another consideration is the likely length of time a property would remain vacant between renters, which depends on location, type of property, and other factors.
- Of course, you should also budget for unexpected emergencies for all properties.
Fair Housing Laws
In addition to these financial considerations, be sure you become familiar with laws regarding Fair Housing, and with the best practices for attracting and keeping good tenants, and what to do if you should have to evict.
Once you have all the facts, you can make an informed decision. An experienced tenant screening company can also assist you with compliance with all credit reporting laws when you screen your tenants.
If a problem does arise, don’t jump too quickly to calling your attorney. Many tenant disputes can be resolved quickly and informally.
Talk directly with your tenant, be sure you both understand the problem, and then propose a solution. Be sure to document your discussions for yourself. It can also be a great idea to formalize your discussion with a simple email or letter, just to be sure you are on the same page.
Be willing to compromise a little; it can be far cheaper than hiring an attorney!
If you are a landlord, it’s a good idea to add another form to your package of documents for new tenants, even though this one is not required. Using a Check In Sheet for each unit, with each new tenant, can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.
The Check In Sheet benefits both landlord and tenant, because it’s an opportunity for you to walk through the property together, make a written note of all existing damage, and list any personal property that’s included. This will eliminate any question in the future as to when damage occurred, or whether a piece of furniture is missing. Just be sure to include everyone’s signature on the sheet.
Choosing tenants is about more than getting your rent paid. If you think the applicant seems like a nice person, checking employment by calling employers yourself might seem like all you need to do.
By taking a little more care, however, your overall experience with being a landlord can be easier, and more profitable. Great tenants will pay the rent, but they will also:
- stay longer (so you have less lost rent between renters)
- pay more promptly
- take better care of your property (which is your investment!).
You can make owning rental property easier and more profitable with tenant screening:
- carefully review each application
- do a tenant background search and check tenant credit report
- check references
- call previous landlords (more than just the current one)
- take time to talk with the tenant, and be clear about expectations on both sides.
You can hire a property management company to do many of these things, but if you do you will still need to make sure you clearly communicate to them what your own expectations are for the kind of tenants they place in your property. You want great tenants, not just good tenants, no matter who manages the process.
Increase your tenant screening abilities by hiring a company that specializes in those services. Visit E-Renter USA
for tenant screening
and background check services.