When You See Things Tenants Don’t Want You to See

Posted by Teresa on October 30, 2012 under Landlord Tips, Lease and Rental Agreements, Legal | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, tenant credit check, background check
Landlords and property managers have the right to enter their properties, with proper notice to their tenants. Whether it’s for routine maintenance work, pest treatments or safety inspections, it’s not only necessary to occasionally enter a tenant’s unit, but it’s a good idea to do so. You need to know what’s going on in your properties.

During these routine inspections, landlords and property managers sometimes see things that tenants don’t intend for you to see, such as:

  • Ashtrays, cigarette butts and lighters.
  • Pet supplies, like food dishes and litter boxes.
  • Drug paraphernalia like pipes, lighters and syringes.
  • Illegal drugs, such as marijuana or cocaine.
  • Evidence of drug manufacturing.
  • Signs of a business being run out of the unit.

What can (and should) you do when this happens? Can you evict the tenant? If the occupant is otherwise a good tenant, should you ignore it? First, it’s always important to be familiar with your state’s laws regarding grounds for eviction. But if any of the activity you have witnessed violates the terms of your lease, you probably do have grounds for eviction.

If you’d rather not go that route, then it’s possible to wait until lease renewal time comes around, and inform the tenant that the lease will not be renewed. Of course, you’ll need to provide proper notice, according to the terms of the lease.

Reasons to Consider Eviction or Non-Renewal of a Lease

  • Liability: Landlords can be liable for criminal activity that occurs on their properties—even if they are not aware of it. Landlords can be liable for injuries that occur as a result of illegal activity. Landlords can be liable for injuries caused by a tenant’s pet—even if they are not aware of the pet. Laws vary from state to state, but why take chances?
  • Health: Smoking in units where it is not allowed can affect other residents, including children. Second-hand smoke carries chemicals and carcinogens through vents, doorways and windows. In addition, cigarettes are the cause of accidental fires.
  • Safety: Each year, almost 1,000 smokers and non-smokers are killed in fires caused by cigarettes and other smoking materials.
  • Fairness: If most tenants follow your rules, such as not running a business out of the rental unit, it’s not fair to make exceptions for someone who ignores the lease. Charges of discrimination could follow.

Strict and equitable enforcement of rental agreements should be every landlord and property manager’s practice. If tenants are conducting illegal or criminal activities or are breaking the terms of their leases, your best move is to get them out and replace them with tenants who will follow the rules and abide by the lease.

And if you need to, amend your lease agreement to include a paragraph prohibiting drugs and other illegal activities on your property.

Start your tenant relationship off right by knowing who you’re leasing to. Protect your rental property and assets with tenant background checks. Proper tenant screening will ensure you are leasing to the best possible tenants.

Disclosing Crime That Occurs on Your Rental Property

Posted by Teresa on October 25, 2012 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, tenant background checkCrime happens—even in the nicest apartment complexes and neighborhoods. Despite landlords’ and property managers’ efforts to deter criminal activity, tenants can still become victims of random or targeted crimes.

So, what should you do if a crime does occur on or near your property? Is it your obligation to disclose the information to tenants?

Recently, a tenant was robbed at gunpoint at a normally quiet Seattle apartment complex. The property manager did not alert other tenants to the robbery. When word got around, many tenants were concerned about the lack of communication. “It’s not right,” said one tenant. “I need to know if there’s an increased risk, so I can be more aware and warn my daughter to be more careful, as well.”

It’s not illegal for landlords to withhold information about crimes on or near their properties. But many, like a landlord friend who owns several four-plexes, choose to inform tenants. Mike shared his experience: “Unfortunately, one of my tenants was mugged. The guy took her purse, but thankfully didn’t hurt her,” he said. “I personally informed each of my tenants about the incident, and asked them to be alert and call the police if they saw anyone suspicious in the area.”

Mike says it’s always better to have more communication with tenants than less; he also feels responsible for his tenants’ safety, to the best of his ability. “I think my tenants would rather hear from me about incidents like this, rather then from rumors or reading it in the news.”

Chances are, your tenants are going to hear about crimes in their neighborhoods. Police will generally share this information with property owners and managers, and the victim will often tell friends and family. Disclosing this information when you have it builds trust and encourages open communication between you and your tenants. After all, why should tenants tell you about criminal activity if you don’t tell them? There is really no downside to full disclosure!

Some Pros and Cons About Hiring a Property Management Company

Posted by Teresa on October 23, 2012 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, tenant background checkPerhaps you’re a new rental property owner, and you’re not sure how to go about managing your property. Or maybe you’re a successful landlord who is thinking about turning over the day-to-day management of your properties to a professional company. Perhaps you’ll even take it easy and enjoy some free time again.

Whichever the case may be, hiring a property management company has its upsides—like no more tenant phone calls in the middle of the night. It also has its downsides. For example, no company will care for your property like you do.

Before you decide whether or not to hire a management company, here are some additional pros and cons to consider.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Property Management Company
Property management companies are professionals and are experienced. Here are considerations that make it worth hiring one:

  • You’ll spend less time working on (and worrying about) your rental properties.
  • You’ll save travel time going to and from your properties.
  • You will have the peace of mind that comes with not dealing directly with tenants for rent collection, complaints and other issues.
  • Someone else will handle maintenance and repairs.
  • They will determine the best rent, based on the market and what your property offers.
  • A quality PM company will find the most qualified tenants.
  • They have connections with lawn, snow removal and maintenance and other service companies, and can often procure services at better rates.

On the other hand, property management companies cost money, so before you hire one, take the following into consideration:

  • You won’t have the advantages of hands-on, do-it-yourself management, such as seeing for yourself how things are going at your properties.
  • You may not need all of the services provided by property management companies. For example, if your property doesn’t require a great deal of upkeep, you could be overpaying.
  • A property management company may not feel as compelled as you would to keep your vacancies low.
  • You will have to manage the property management company. This could take substantial time and effort.
  • Do you have the extra cash every month to pay 8–10% of your income to a PM company?

For some landlords, hiring a property management company is an unnecessary expense. For others, the additional free time and decrease in stress makes it worth every penny.

What do you think? Do you prefer to manage your own properties or was hiring a professional company the best decision for you?

Property Managers: Easy Ideas for Newsletters

Posted by Teresa on October 19, 2012 under Marketing for Landlords | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, background check, tenant credit checkYears ago, apartment residents were accustomed to receiving printed newsletters in their mailboxes or on their doorsteps. Since print is going the way of the rotary phone, many property managers now use e-newsletters to communicate with tenants. But some who started a newsletter with all good intentions have let it slide, and now find it’s been months—or years—since the last issue.

Newsletters don’t have to be difficult or terribly time-consuming. And not using them to communicate with residents is a missed opportunity. You might think residents don’t care about what’s happening around your community, the truth is that most would greatly appreciate it.

Here are some easy tips for interesting newsletters you’ll enjoy putting together and your tenants will enjoy reading:

  • Add a “news” section. In it you can announce new staff, upgrades, additions to your fitness center, DVD or book library.
  • Seasonal items are easy to include. Since Halloween is coming, then Thanksgiving and the winter holidays, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to write about parties, decorating ideas and safety tips. Add a calendar of events from your town or city.
  • Include contests. Promote your Facebook page by encouraging residents to “like” your page. Offer a prize drawing each month for movie or play tickets, or gift certificates to local businesses.
  • Promote early rent payment. Conduct a monthly drawing that includes only residents who pay their rent early. Offer a $100 prize and see how quickly you see rent payments come in early!
  • Reminder tenants about policies. Include a short piece each month that features one policy. You might want to explain the reason for the policy and review guidelines.
  • Partner with local schools and community groups to include their events in your newsletter. Include volunteer opportunities, too.
  • Add interesting facts and figures. For example, list the number of dogs and cats in the community, local crime stats or the number of trees on the property.
  • Have a monthly poll. Ask questions like, “What is your favorite thing about living here?” or “What is one thing we can do better?” Ask fun questions such as favorite pie, best cupcake in town or “most interesting thing you saw on your way to work today.”

Remember, the purpose of a newsletter is to improve communication with residents. Include the basics, like contact information for all staff, emergency after-hours numbers, email addresses, and website and Facebook urls. Use your newsletters as an opportunity to tell residents what’s new, help them get to know your staff better and learn more about living there. Make it fun and interesting, and tenants will read it!

Upgrades That Tenants Love

Posted by Teresa on October 17, 2012 under Housing Trends, Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, tenant background checkWhat do tenants want? What is the competition offering? These are two questions that every landlord should be able to answer. As in any business, it’s imperative to know what your customers’ needs are, what they prefer, and why they’re buying from the competition. In the landlord business, providing tenants with the amenities and features that the want, can keep them from going to the competition.

If you want quality tenants who stick around and renew their leases, then consider the following upgrades, which most tenants love:

Washers and dryers: Stackable units are made for small spaces. For not a ton of money, you could add a washer and dryer to a utility closet. Or install full-size appliances on a back porch or basement of a single-family unit or duplex. Tenants love not having to go to the Laundromat.

Wood floors: Most landlords cringe at the thought of installing easily-scratched wood floors, but there are new materials that look just as good and are super tough. Laminate flooring is perfect for rentals, is very dependable and easy to maintain.

Fenced yards: Your pet-loving tenants will especially appreciate a fenced-in yard. So will those with kids they’d like to keep an eye on. And everyone likes the privacy factor.

Storage: Most tenants will never complain about too much storage. Whether it’s bigger closets, built-in bookcases, shelves in the kitchen and bathrooms or an outdoor shed, you can’t go wrong adding a little extra storage.

Updated fixtures: Old, outdated lighting fixtures can be depressing. It doesn’t take much time or money to install new ceiling light fixtures, as well as new lighting in the kitchen and bathroom. While you’re at it, put in a fluorescent under-cabinet kitchen light to brighten the room.

Patios: Most everyone loves to be outside when the weather permits. Even a small concrete pad or flagstone patio can pay for itself when prospective tenants see it.

It’s always a good idea to shop around and see what comparable rental units have to offer, as well as what they are renting for. If you’re having trouble attracting or keeping good tenants, consider upgrading your units to give them what they want!

Start your tenant relationship off right by knowing who you’re leasing to. Protect your rental property and assets with tenant background checks. Proper tenant screening will ensure you are leasing to the best possible tenants.

Need a Good Short-Term Tenant?

Posted by Teresa on October 12, 2012 under Landlord Tips, Lease and Rental Agreements | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, tenant background checkIf you own a property and aren’t interested in renting it out for the long term, there are plenty of potential shorter-term tenants that could be a good fit for your needs.

Consider the following:

  • Older people who are retiring and want to rent in an area for a few months before deciding where to live.
  • Professionals who fell victim to the housing bubble and lost their houses. Many of these people took a hit to their credit, and need to rent until they can get their finances back in order.
  • Career-changers who have moved to an area for a new job and wish to buy, but need short-term housing while they look for a house.
  • People who are downsizing or upsizing and have recently sold a house, but haven’t found a new one that works.
  • People in transition—whether it’s because of a divorce, illness, death of a spouse or something else. They may not be in a position to make a long-term commitment, but a three- or six-month lease works.
  • Adult children of elderly parents who need to live nearby to care for them on a temporary basis.

Certainly, most landlords prefer to have long-term tenants to keep wear and tear down and decrease the hassles of finding new tenants. But if you have a rental property that’s empty, that you may be selling, or that you might move into yourself, there are good tenants out there who need a short-term lease.

With the right kind of homework and some advertising, you can find short-term tenants. Take a look at Craigslist’s “housing wanted” section. And post your listing in the “sublets and temporary” section, with a prominent “short-term welcome” in the heading. Try posting flyers in nearby coffee shops, co-ops and grocery stores.

Be sure to conduct tenant screening on all applicants. Even though the lease is only for the short term, you still need to be sure that your tenant is who they say they are, have adequate credit and income to cover rent and no criminal activity in their backgrounds that could pose a threat.

Thinking of Becoming a Landlord? Here Are Some Tips

Posted by Teresa on October 10, 2012 under Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, tenant credit checkIf you’re thinking of joining the millions of real estate investors who either make a living or add to their income by leasing property, we’ve got some basic tips for you, suggested by our clients, or based on our own experiences.

Think about your goals: Do you want to secure your retirement by creating wealth or income-producing investments? Are you in it for the short term, or the long haul? Do you want to buy property locally, or wherever the deals and returns are the most favorable? How much time and effort are you willing to put into this venture? Do you want to be a hands-on or hands-off landlord?

  • Have a long-term view. Buying and flipping houses for profit is generally a thing of the past. Today’s real estate investors have a long-term plan for growing their portfolios slowly over time. They save money to build up a cash reserve, in case of emergencies. And they plan for making bigger improvements, such as painting, roof replacement and structural repairs.
  • Keep it local. Sure, there are bargains to be had in Arizona, Nevada and Florida, just to name a few areas. But unless you already live in these states, it will be difficult to manage your rental property. Hiring a property manager is viable option, but it will cut into your profit. Besides, there is nothing like being able to drive past your property to check on it.
  • Do the research. Find out the history of the property you’re interested in. Become familiar with the zoning laws in the town and neighborhood. Find out if there are any plans for development, road construction, or commercial building in the area around it. You don’t want to buy a property on a quiet street, only to find out that it’s been zoned for a strip mall.
  • Find out what the local rental market needs. If you invest in three-bedroom, single family homes, but the demand is for one-bedroom condos, you’ll have a problem.
  • Keep emotions out of the equation. Don’t fall in love with a rental property. Keep it strictly business. Figure out your costs, including mortgage payments, taxes, interest, upkeep, licensing, etc. Determine the market rent for the unit/s. And then determine if the asking price is a good deal. Don’t pay more than your monthly costs, or you’ll be losing money. That’s not the idea behind investing in real estate!
  • Screen every tenant applicant. We can’t stress enough the importance of tenant screening. Too many landlords have regretted the decision to skip this important part of the process. Conducting a background and credit check on a prospective tenant is the best way to protect yourself. Make sure you know as much as possible about the person you are renting to.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only, and should not be relied upon as a substitute for obtaining financial advice applicable to your situation.

Website Reveals Ugly Truth of Problem Tenants

Posted by Teresa on October 1, 2012 under Landlord Tenant Lawsuits, Landlord Tips | icon: commentBe the First to Comment

tenant screening, tenant credit checkEvery experienced landlord has a horror story or two about terrible tenants. But a website based in Florida has visual proof: pictures of tenants and the destruction they leave behind.

The photos are posted on TerribleRenters.com, a site that aims to spare other landlords the trouble of renting to these folks. Each resident’s full name, along with a description of the problems he or she caused is posted, with photos of the property. Some postings include photos of the tenant.

Check out the site, and you’re going to see what countless landlords are forced to deal with when problem tenants move out:

  • Crayon marks on walls.
  • Burns on hardwood floors.
  • Bags of garbage.
  • Un-bagged garbage—piles of it.
  • Tenant possessions simply left behind.
  • Holes knocked through walls, leaving one room open to the next.
  • Filthy carpets and linoleum.
  • Rotten food left in refrigerators.
  • Ovens that have never been cleaned.
  • Drug paraphernalia.
  • Animal feces.
  • Stolen appliances and fixtures.
  • Spray painted messages on walls and ceilings.

The list goes on and on. It is truly astounding to see how some people live. It’s even more shocking that they think it’s acceptable to leave such messes behind.

The typical “terrible tenant” has been evicted for non-payment of rent, not for damaging the property—so landlords face a double-whammy: loss of rent, plus the expenses of cleaning up garbage and property, expensive repairs and replacing stolen items.

TerribleRenters.com is based in Florida and most of the submissions are Florida residents, but some are from other states. Landlords post anonymously. Some are looking for their tenants to serve them notice or to file charges. Others just want to warn landlords not to lease to these problem tenants.

The best way to avoid problem tenants is to conduct thorough tenant screening. And it doesn’t hurt to Google the names on the application. Who knows? Maybe your applicants are listed on a terrible tenants site somewhere!