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Tenant Eviction: Don’t Do-It-Yourself

Close up of a rental agreement contractHaving trouble with a problem tenant? Or are you wondering what you would do in the event of a tenant who wasn’t following through on a contract? Before you consider forcing a tenant to leave because of late rent payments or untidiness, get in touch with a rental property manager. Having assistance with the eviction process can save you legal strife, because there are a lot of rules that you may not know.

Grounds for eviction and the process are different in every state. In no state are you allowed to forcibly remove a tenant’s belongings from the property and toss them into the street or the driveway, no matter how frustrated you are with the people. Nor can you lock tenants out, turn off utilities, or do anything else to make them leave. Even if you handle the problem in a rational manner, getting tenants out involves a good amount of legal headache, and doing it alone makes the chance of mistakes rise. (more…)

Get Help with Tenant Screening

Drawing of a house with post notes inside it with question marks on them.As a property owner, protecting and receiving a return on your investment is one of your top priorities. You want to make sure you’ll get rental payments on time, that tenants will take care of the property, and that you avoid potential conflicts. The best way to do this is to screen all tenants before signing any contracts and accepting renters for any period of time. You may think it easy to do on your own, but it’s easier to check everything if you work through a property management company. (more…)

Writing a Clear Rental Contract

Hand signing a rental contract.Before you put out an ad for the apartment or home you want to rent, make sure that you have a rental agreement ready for people who show interest. A rental contract is a must-have for anyone wanting to lease property. It offers protection for the rental unit and for you as the owner, and also protects tenants. This contract is a legally binding document, so take care to include everything that you want to the renters to know so that you cannot be held liable if something goes wrong.

The most important information should appear right at the beginning: the move in and out dates, dates when payments are due and when they are late, the fees for late payments, the security deposit amount and what it can be used for, what furniture or appliances are in the apartment or home on the day the renters move in, and information about utilities. Renters need to know what they are expected to pay for and what services are included. For example, if you don’t provide Internet to the property, this will need to be in the contract so that your renters are aware and can make their own arrangements. (more…)

Going (and Saving) Green

Think green slogan.You may think that “going green” requires an extensive, expensive overhaul of your property. There are some quick, relatively inexpensive fixes that you can do yourself to save money. As a property owner, it’s a good idea to update even if you’re not the one paying most of the utility bills—your property will be extremely appealing to potential renters, and in the event that the home stands empty for a period of time, it won’t cost you a lot of money to keep it inhabitable while you wait for new tenants.

One easy, inexpensive fix is to install low-flow shower heads and faucets in the bathrooms and kitchen. At a cost of about $15, you can decrease water bills by $45-100 a year. Another way to save is to lower the water level in toilet tanks. Having these features makes the property appealing because of the savings renters will experiences. (more…)

Tips for Clean Carpets in the Winter

Clean Carpets in the WinterWintertime brings cold weather and its sometimes unpleasant side effects of ice and snow. When it stays outside, it’s only problematic when trying to get from one place to another. Really, though, there is no way around the fact that snow, ice, and dirt will travel from the sidewalk into the house on people’s shoes, which makes keeping carpets clean and undamaged difficult.

As a rental owner, you’ll want the carpets in your property to stay nice so that you can continue letting out the place when current tenants leave. Keeping tabs on the rental can be a little hard to do, because you don’t live there. (more…)

Winter Checklist for Property Owners

Winter ChecklistIn the winter, a number of things can happen that damage properties. Property owners need to be aware of what can occur, and what their responsibilities are to their tenants. Keeping the property safe and livable are important for both owner and renter, and there are a few things that can be done to get through the cold weather with as few problems as possible.

Damage happens, and repairs are needed. In the winter, though, things can get a bit scarier (and pricier) to handle. Prevent problems by doing a thorough inspection before the cold weather sets in. Check the pipes for any blocks, leaks, or drain problems, and make sure tenants know how best to keep pipes from freezing when temperatures drop (more…)

Maintenance Mistakes and How to Cover Them

Maintenance MistakesYour last renter has just moved out, and it’s time to get the place deep cleaned so you can start showing it to prospective tenants. Because it’s a big job, you hire a cleaning company to come in and scrub the place from top to bottom. After the job is done, you inspect their work and find large, mottled discolorations on the living room carpet: the maintenance crew used a chemical that bleached out the color. You call and demand that they pay for the mistake, but they deny responsibility. Over the course of the call, you discover that the company is not insured, and you now have two options: pay for the damage yourself, or take the company to court. Neither option is ideal; both are expensive. How could this have been avoided? (more…)

Securing Your Deposit

Securing Your DepositOn moving day, hauling heavy boxes and furniture may bring your mind to the rental deposit waiting at the end of the metaphorical moving tunnel. But you may also wonder if you took enough care to ensure you get that money back. Most problems with rental deposits come from misunderstandings, or lack of documentation on the part of the renter. From early on in your rental experience, it’s a good idea to start making a paper trail that can be referred to in the event of a miscommunication or an actual legal problem. (more…)

Finding a Good Renter

Finding a Good RenterWanting to rent your property but worried about finding a good tenant? Creating a detailed applicant screening process is simple, as long as you are willing to put in the time it takes to find a really great renter.

One of the most important things to do when looking for a renter is have an applicant screening process. This is not to suggest that you create a discriminatory criteria for your renters. Keep in mind there are laws like the Fair Housing Act which make considerations for renting to someone on the basis of race, gender, family status, religion, or age illegal.1 You can, however, look at things like credit history and other information.

Part of your screening process should include a background check. You want to find someone who will make payments on time and take care of your property as though it were his or her own, and not leave you with a financial and legal mess. Charging a fee for these background checks is another way to weed out unlikely candidates; people may not want to pay a fee if they know something negative will turn up.

Along with background checks, try getting in touch with applicants’ previous landlords and their current employers. They can act as character and financial references. A person may look great on paper, but references can tell you how he or she actually behaves.

Another good way to find a serious renter is to be upfront about renter’s insurance and lease agreement requirements. These policies are a good way of finding serious, responsible renters. Additionally, telling renters that proof of renter’s insurance is required and going over the lease agreement before making any final decisions keeps both you and any rental candidates out of future legal predicaments.

Finally, it’s a good idea to look into a property management company for help. For a small fee or percentage, these companies can streamline the application process and save you time. For example, property managers have easier access to verifying identity, find out about rental and employment histories, and get a complete background check.2 They can do everything you should check for, but in less time and for less cost to you. While property management companies do require a fee for their services, the odds of losing financially in the future because of a bad renter are lessened.

Finding a good renter is essential for maximizing your investment in the long-run. You want to make sure you find someone who will keep up with payments, will adhere to the lease agreement, and take care of your property. Don’t settle because you want a payment right now. Take the time to find a responsible tenant and avoid costly setbacks, which could seriously damage your property and your financial standing. Be smart, and you’ll see the rewards for your cautious renter selection.

1 USAA Members. “10 Ways to Find a Good Renter for Your Home.” United Services Automobile Association. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.
2 “Property Management FAQ’s.” Rhino Property Management. Web. 28 Sept. 2013.