HOW TO COMPLY WITH THE FEDERAL FAIR HOUSING ACT (FHA)

As a landlord or property manager, it is essential to understand the different laws pertaining to rental housing that are in place to protect tenants. Fair Housing is a component under the federal law which refers to the right everyone has to rent a place regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status or disability. Besides the federal law, each state and local governments have their own versions of Fair Housing laws that landlords would have to take note of.
Here is an explanation of some components of the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA).

Protected Classes

Under the Fair Housing Act, landlords are prohibited from discriminating against a person who falls under one or more of the protected classes. Discrimination in this case refers to treating them differently. To avoid being viewed as discriminatory, landlords should treat all potential tenants who are interested in their property the same way and answer their queries in a standardized manner.
A landlord should also watch the questions or suggestions they provide to potential tenants as it might come across as discriminatory, such as asking questions regarding their marital status. The best practice would be to let the potential tenant ask the questions and the landlord will just have to answer them factually.
(There may be other protected classes under additional state or local laws, such as LGBT status, income, age and sexual orientation.)
There are some special rules for different protected classes. When it concerns families, landlords are prohibited from rejecting interested tenants just because they have children. Even directing them to other properties that are more suitable for children is not allowed and considered discriminatory.
When it concerns disabled tenants, a landlord must comply with the following special rules:

Reasonable Accommodation refers to requests that a disabled tenant can make for an exception to the rules and policies of the rental. This includes allowing a live-in caregiver or a service animal, which is not considered a pet. The extra costs (often little to no cost) of these exceptions have to be borne by the landlord and cannot be charged to tenant.

Reasonable Modifications refers to changes being made to the property so as to give the tenant access to all the amenities, such as grab bars in the bathroom or ramps at the entryway. The cost of these can either be borne by the landlord or the tenant, depending on the arrangement.
Tenants with disabilities might make requests under these two categories, but the landlord should always wait for the tenant to make these request instead of suggesting it as it may be perceived as discriminatory. To refuse the tenant’s request, the landlord would have to issue a letter explaining the reasons behind the refusal, which has to be substantiated with facts.
It would be best for a landlord to document all interactions with potential tenants which could be served as evidence when accused of being discriminatory.

Advertising

When advertising their rental properties, landlords must ensure that there are no discriminatory statements in their advertisements. They should not word their advertisement in ways that would seem as though they are looking for or excluding a specific group of tenants such as young couples. The focus of the advertisement should be on the property and not the prospective tenant.
Landlords are also not allowed to falsely state that their property is not available just to deter “unwanted” tenants.

Steering Renters

Steering is the act of trying to defer or recommend a potential tenant to a property based on the protected classes. For instance, recommending a property in the Asian community just because the potential tenant is Asian or not showing them a property near a school just because they do not have children.

Landlords should always provide all potential tenants with all their available listings and focus on facts instead of assumptions when recommending properties.

Renter Applications and Screening

When reviewing potential tenants, landlords should establish and document a set of criteria that they require them to meet to be considered for tenancy. Landlords can request for tenants to provide information regarding source of income, credit score and criminal record, which will then be used as the criteria to evaluate the suitability of that tenant.

By establishing a standard set of criteria, the landlord will be able to clearly filter through tenants who do not meet their requirements and reject them based on a valid reason. Landlords should always document all applications and screening documents that can be used as evidence in the future if accused of being discriminatory.

Apartment Policies and Rule

Landlords are allowed to set policies and rules for their properties, but they would have to ensure that these policies and rules are applied to all tenants and not only a certain group of tenants. They are also allowed to set a maximum occupancy for their property by stating the number of “people” they allow and never “children” as that would mean they are limiting the number of children allowed (infants under the age of 1 are not considered as occupants). Landlords should familiarize themselves with their state’s laws on maximum occupancy when setting a maximum occupancy for their property.

Documentation

Landlords should always document all interactions with potential tenants and keep all rental applications and credit reports (check with state how long these documents should be kept). These could possibly be used as evidence when accused of being discriminatory. When accused, the landlord should not retaliate but instead immediately contact a legal professional.

Training

The Fair Housing Act is important for all landlords and their employees. It is essential that everyone is trained and understands all the laws and practices to ensure that their rental business is compliant.

Information from: https://www.zillow.com/rental-manager/resources/articles/fair-housing-guide/?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=emm_zrm_fairhousing_041816_text

Preventative Property Maintenance Tips For Landlords

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Wear and tear is a fact of life for every landlord. It is important to uncover any issues before it’s too late as it can save you time, money and most importantly headaches down the road.

A preventative maintenance plan, with regularly scheduled inspections should be part of every residential landlord’s or rental property owner’s policies and procedures. Thorough preventative maintenance programs can have significant economic benefits, namely:

  • Lower utility bills
  • Prevention of expensive emergency repairs
  • Extension of the life of HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning), plumbing and electrical systems
  • Lower taxes as maintenance and repair costs often can be used as tax deductions
  • Lower tenant turnover as a well maintained property keeps tenants from moving

Here are some tips to improve your preventative property maintenance procedures:

  •  Always keep in stock frequently used supplies like paint, plaster, floor polish, door knobs, latches, hinges, blinds, linoleum tiles, etc.
  •  Develop good relationships with your contractor which will help you out in the long run because most vendors will go out of their way to help out their best customers.
  •  Insist on a walk-through of every vacated home yourself. Take time to get an overview of your property to assess what needs to be done.
  •  Make a checklist of all wear and tear items during your own personal walk-through. A wear and tear checklist will include inspections of air conditioning units, water heaters, any electrical outlets, toilets, roof and the walls.

We also suggest to add the following to your checklist:

  •  Check all door knobs and locks to ensure they are working and are not loose.
  •  Open/close closet doors and check if they are on-track.
  •  Look for any cracks or water stains on the ceiling and walls.
  •  Check carpeting for dirt, spots and other signs of wear.
  •  Check carpet seams to ensure they are not coming up at the edges.
  •  Make sure wood, tile, and vinyl doors are not scuffed, scratched, thinning, or loose.
  •  Check counter-tops for cracks, damage or scratches.
  •  Check floors for cracks and other damage.
  •  Check windows for any sticking or rotting sills.
  •  Make sure all wallpaper is securely applied.
  •  Ensure that blinds and shades are in good condition and working order.
  •  Make sure all windows, latches, and screens are in good condition.
  •  Check faucet handles and other hardware.
  •  Check toilets for leaks or running water.
  •  Check for faded, chipped or cracked paint.
  •  Check if smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are in proper working condition and replace batteries regularly.

With yearly inspections and preventative maintenance, you can keep your rental property in great shape. You can also make costly items like the roof or the furnace last much longer, hence saving a lot of money. It is always good to encourage the tenants to let you know whenever a small issue occurs and needs to be repaired immediately. Thus, you can always stay ahead in the game.

Tips for landlords on dealing with pets

Pets are a gateway to handling responsibility, a parenting precursor of sorts. There is a long tradition of parents asking their children to raise pets in order to cultivate the habit of assuming responsibility. Many people see pets as their companions so it is only natural for tenants to expect pet friendly environments from their landlords. Like everything in renting, accepting pets comes with its fair share of risks and irks.
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Why should you rent to a pet owner?
If you are the sort of landlord who is not fond of pets, your preference for keeping your property pet free should not deter you from accepting that perfect tenant who is fond of cats. Just make sure he/she uses a litter box for that cat. A pro-pet attitude widens your tenant pool. Statistically,
trust able pet owners end up being very responsible long term tenants.

The importance of being thorough
Well begun is half done and you can definitely improve your odds of landing responsible pet owners as tenants by following these tips during your tenant screening process:

• Take into consideration every type of pet a tenant can possibly keep; be decisive on how many in numbers they can keep, their size, threat indicators like sharp nails, teeth, etc. and exclude those which you believe are a strict no-no. Being confused about saying yes or no to a pet during tenant screening only amplifies issues later.

• Check with the potential tenants whether they own pets before you sign the lease and if they do, whether they have the necessary licenses and documents needed to keep them. Please note that several pets such as primates are not recognized as service animals by the Americans with Disabilities Act that was passed in 2010.

• State your pet policies clearly and in detail in your lease and tenant agreement. Make sure to include cautionary pet damage deposits as a part of the lease to be proactive about any potential damage from pets to your building or housing units.

• References are always useful. Make sure you get references from a previous landlord and/or a veterinarian about the pet’s health. This will provide a lot of information about the tenant’s tendencies about pet care.

After renting out to a pet owner
Once you have made the decision to rent to pet owners, things can easily get out of hand if you don’t act swiftly when pet related problems start.

• Make sure that pet owners always clean up after their pets especially in the common areas. Posting signs and providing free disposal bags will be helpful.

• Respond to complaints about barking and other loud pet noises immediately. Talk to the pet owner and ensure that they are trying to resolve the issues right away. Always, keep written warnings documented in case of repeat problems which will help in the eviction process if things don’t improve.

• Make it a priority to house your tenants who are pet-allergic as far away as possible from tenants with pets.

• Always inform potential tenants about the presence of pets in your housing units. They may be allergic to pets and will need this information to make their decision.

There is no middle ground when it comes to pets. As a landlord one can’t claim he/she is neutral about pets. Everyone has a preference– they either love pets or hate them. Irrespective of their choices, making informed decisions, being proactive, and staying on top of things certainly eases the pressure on landlords when it comes to accepting pets.

We hope you enjoyed our blog on pets. Stay tuned for more exciting articles from Houserie.com

8 Steps To Finding The Perfect Tenant

The hardest part of being a landlord or a property manager is by far how to find the perfect tenant. The perfect tenant is a person

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• who will take care of your property as if it is their own
• who will be a good neighbor to other people living in the same community
• who will have a steady job and will pay their rent on time
• who will commit to renting your property for a longer period of time
• who take care of minor maintenance issues themselves and notify you if something is broken in your property
• who will ask you for permission if he/she wants to make changes to the property
• who will give you plenty of notice when planning on moving out
• who will not engage in criminal behavior
• who is honest

And so on……..impossible to find? ……… maybe…….maybe not!

Choosing a tenant to fill your vacant property shouldn’t be a rushed process! A bad tenant can cost you a lot of time and money, so it is better to take your time finding the right tenant. Every prospective tenant should be screened in a systematic way so in the end you can make a decision based on a set of information that is the same for every applicant. This will also be helpful when trying to stay compliant with all the federal, state and local fair housing laws.

So here are 8 steps to follow to find that perfect tenant;

Step 1: Set standards that every applicant must meet to be “qualified”
Creating a set of standards that applicants must meet to qualify is extremely important. This set of standards can be different for each rental unit dependent on the quality and location of the rental. Standards could include things like verifiable income 3 times the amount of the rent, a credit score of 650 or above, never been evicted, maximum number of people who can live in the property, a pet policy and so on. As a landlord you get to determine what those criteria will be as long as they stay within the bounds of all fair housing laws. Then once you have your set of standards you will have to apply them consistently.

Step 2: Talk to applicants on the phone
When potential tenants contact you to tell you they are interested, make sure you talk to them on the phone before inviting them to visit the property. This is where the actual rental screening process starts. With a short phone interview you can quickly weed out tenants that are not serious and/or not qualified.

Put some effort in asking the right questions based on the standards you have set. Questions like what kind of pets do you have and how many people will be moving into my property are some of the questions to ask. Other questions could be; When are you looking to move? How long do you want to rent for? How long have you lived at your current address? Why are you moving? and so on. Make sure to mention the rent amount and the deposit amount and ask them if they can afford those amounts. Make sure to take notes and listen for inconsistencies in answers and applicants who are trying to avoid answering certain questions.

After filling out the pre-qualification form for all potential tenants that are still interested in the property, review the information and invite the most serious prospects to a scheduled tour of the rental.

Step 3: Show the rental property
realtormeetIt is hard to believe but sometimes applicants want to rent your place without even having visited the property! Please do not agree to this. You do want to meet applicants in person no matter how perfect they sound. Usually you get a lot better idea of what type of person someone is by meeting them. Here are some things to look for during the showing:

• Are they on time?
• Do you like them?
• Do they fit the profile?
• Do they seem to be very interested?
• Re-ask them some of the questions you asked them during the phone interview and see if their answers match?
• Do they look clean, put together?
• What is your gut feeling?

Based on this information you should have a pretty good idea of what type of person you are dealing with. So if it feels right, and the potential tenant is still interested, hand them an application and ask them to fill it out right then and there.

Step 4: Have the applicant fill out a rental application and charge an application fee
Personal information such as name, current address, Date of Birth and SSN of all renters above the age of 18 should be part of the rental app. Other information to request is the current and last two landlords, current and last two employers, monthly income, and pets if any. In addition, a reasonable application fee should be charged. Just make sure you follow all the local laws with regard to the application fee. In addition, make sure the application includes an authorization to do a complete background screening on the tenant including a national criminal and eviction check and a credit history check. The filled out application and the collected fee will be a good indication if the potential tenant is serious about renting your property.

Step 5: Review the applications
When reviewing all the applications, make sure that you comply with both federal laws (Fair Housing Act and Fair Credit Reporting Act) as well as the local ordinances that apply to the location of your property. Some landlords use their gut instinct to select their tenant but when you are facing discriminating charges in court this will not be a good defense. Make sure to store all applications of all interested tenants for several years, use the same rental application and use the same criteria for all applicants. This way you can prove that you did not discriminate and you can also objectively and fairly analyze and compare all prospective tenants to select the best one.

Make sure to read all rental apps carefully and pay attention to all the things that might disqualify an applicant such as no income, no employment, large pets, no previous landlords listed, no employers listed and so on. Do not believe everything you see on an application. Compare the application with the background check you will run in Step 6 and you will get a good idea if the applicant has been honest on their application.

Step 6: Run a comprehensive background screening report including a credit history
criminal checkSo you have pre-qualified the applicant; you like the person, the applicant has filled out the application, paid the fee and passed with flying colors. Don’t stop your screening process here. As previously mentioned, not everyone is honest on their application and during the pre-screening process! Background screenings should include a SSN trace, previous addresses, National Criminal and Sex Offender Search, National Eviction Search and an in depth Credit History. Running a comprehensive background screening report on potential tenants is an absolute must and is pretty easy to do these days.

Houserie.com is an online tenant screening company that will provide you with a comprehensive report that has all the criminal, eviction and credit background information you would need to make an informed decision on a tenant. We offer pay-as-you-go pricing and packages ranging from $19.99 though $29.99. It is all online and you can have the tenant fill out their own information online or you can decide to fill out the tenant information yourself online. When ordered during business hours the report should be available within a few hours sometimes even faster. Check out the Houserie ultimate sample report for more information.

When reading the report please pay close attention to issues that may disqualify your applicant based on your set of criteria such as certain criminal offenses, evictions, poor payment history, low credit score, bankruptcies and many collections/charge offs. The credit score range will tell you if the potential tenant makes payments on time, owes a significant amount of money, the number of tradelines used and the length of their credit history. If applicants have a history of not paying credit payments on time, they might not pay their rent either!

Step 7: Check references
You are almost done finding the best tenant possible, but do not stop here. Checking employment and landlord references listed in the rental application is one of the most important steps in screening your applicant. This should include contacting the last couple of landlords, their current employer, and any personal references if available. This sounds time consuming but it is the best way for you to develop a better picture of what your tenant is really like.

References from previous landlords. If an applicant has listed previous landlords, please call them and ask them questions like “Did the tenant pay their rent on time? Did you encounter any problems with this tenant? How long did the tenant live in your property? Please be aware that sometimes tenants will give “fake” references, meaning they will list a friend as a previous landlord! Also when talking to their current landlord, be aware they might not be always truthful as they might be trying to “get rid” of a difficult tenant.

References from current employer. Hopefully your applicant has been employed for a longer period of time with their current employer. To verify income, please request the tenant to provide you with a copy of the most recent paystub. You should also call the employer to get more insights. Many companies have rules and regulations on what information they’re able to disclose about their employees, so asking questions that require a yes or no answer might get better results than open ended questions. At least try to verify the information given on the application.

Step 8: Make a decision
rentedFinally you have reached the end of the tenant screening process. Now it is time to make a decision. After reviewing all the information in detail and comparing this information with the standards you set, you can now make your decision. Hopefully you have found that perfect tenant and you can have the applicant sign the lease and agree to all the rules and regulations. Congratulations on finding the perfect tenant!

Why Landlords And Property Managers Should Require Renters Insurance At Lease Signing

New landlords often are overwhelmed with the work that is involved in renting out a property. One of the most often overlooked issues is renter’s insurance. They make sure to buy landlord insurance to protect their property but they do not think about liability and damage to tenant’s belongings until they run into legal issues with tenants that are trying to sue them. This is when renters insurance comes into the picture! It covers the tenant’s belongings, covers against damage caused by tenants, and it usually also provides liability coverage for medical and legal costs if tenants/guests injure themselves on your property.
Many landlords and property managers have asked themselves if they can legally require tenants to buy renters insurance. The answer is YES! You just have to make sure that you include it as a stipulation in your rental contract for all your tenants and that you require proof of insurance for the lease term within several days of lease signing. You can even specify the minimum amount of coverage as long as it is reasonable.
renters insurance
Renters insurance provides benefits to both the tenant and the landlord. Here are some reasons why landlords and property managers should require renters insurance at lease signing:

1. It reduces financial liability
When tenants experience a loss due to a fire or maybe a burglary, landlord insurance does not cover the tenant’s belongings. Without renters insurance the tenant would have to pay to replace all their stuff and that might put a large financial burden on them which could result in them not being able to pay the rent on time. In addition, when a tenant moves out and leaves your property damaged, the security deposit may cover some of the expenses, but might not cover all of it. Renters insurance will cover the remainder of the expenses. Finally, the fewer claims landlords or property managers make on their own landlord insurance, the lower the premiums for this insurance will be!

2. It reduces legal and medical liability
Image you own a duplex that you are renting out to 2 families. A fire breaks out in one of the units due to tenant negligence but it spreads to the other unit and damages their personal property and injures one of the tenants in the other unit. Without renters insurance the tenants of the other unit would likely try to sue you, the landlord, for the medical bills and legal expenses. With both sets of tenants having renters insurance this would most likely not happen as their insurance would pay the bills.

3. It minimizes conflicts
Renters insurance gives both the tenant and the landlord peace of mind in case of a disaster. When a major loss occurs regardless of who is at fault, disputes about who is responsible for the costs and who should pay can be avoided by having insurance in place. Fewer arguments between landlord and tenant are beneficial to both parties and might keep the tenant from leaving their current rental and looking for a new place to live.

4. Quick insurance payouts reduce stress, uncertainty and cleanup time
Benefits under renters insurance are usually paid out immediately. Especially in case of flooding or fire when displaced tenants need money to cover temporary housing and associated expenses. This way the landlord or property owner can concentrate on damage repair and cleanup instead of on the loss the renter has incurred!

It is clear for many reasons that it is a good idea for landlords and property managers to require all their tenants to have renters insurance. It is the landlord’s responsibility to educate their prospective tenants about the benefits renters insurance will offer them. Many tenants might be apprehensive and believe that this insurance will be very costly and unnecessary but that is not true. Even for tenants the benefits clearly outweigh the costs. Besides the peace of mind it will bring them, renters insurance is very inexpensive and is easy to obtain. For about $200 a year a tenant can buy a policy that will cover up to $15,000 in property damage and up to $100,000 in liability coverage!

Screening Tenants: A Guide for Landlords

Tenant Background Screening

Finding a suitable and respectable tenant is one of the hardest jobs a landlord faces. Vigilance in searching for a potential tenant will lead to finding one who is trustworthy and reliable, and won’t end up trashing your unit or leaving and breaking the lease contract. There are too many landlords out there who never screen applicants before approving tenants, leading to many issues and headaches later. Thankfully, there are many ways for a landlord to screen tenants, and with new and emerging technology, landlords can now check backgrounds and run credit checks much quicker and easier than in the past. Remember, there is no excuse not to screen your potential tenants with so many quick and easy ways to do so.

  1. Create a paper application process (if you don’t already have one). Make sure to include all pertinent information that you will need from the tenant, including: full name, date of birth, Social Security Number, their current address, background information, employment data, rental history (this is important so you can contact previous landlords to see how the tenants have done in the past), income and also personal references. If you don’t have an application form, you can create your own simple version, or you can get a free one from the local real estate association. Once the tenant has filled out the application, here are a few things to look for:
  • Income. You need to make sure that the potential tenant’s income will be sufficient to cover the amount of rent they would be paying. Keep in mind they have other bills to pay as well.
  • Current (and previous) employers. Check out how long they have been with their current employer. Have they had multiple jobs? Do they have long gaps in between jobs?
  • Lifestyle clues. Take a look to see if the potential tenant has any pets, or other information that might be pertinent to whether or not they would make a good tenant.
  • Financial data. In order to do a thorough background check, you will need to ask the tenant for their financial information on the application. A full financial picture of the potential tenant is key to finding a reliable tenant.
  • Any personal references. Be sure to check up on any personal references that the tenant gives on the application. References should include the references’ names, phone numbers and how long they’ve known the tenant. Don’t just look it over, make sure to call at least one or two to verify they know the tenant and perhaps ask a few questions, such as how long they’ve known the tenant, their relationship with them and how they know them (Church? Work? Family?).
  1. Do an online search for the potential tenant. Searching online (using Google or Bing, or another popular search engine) will tell you a lot about a person; make sure to see if the tenant has any social media profiles, a website, or a blog. Decide by looking at everything online whether the tenant would be right for your property. If they don’t happen to have anything online to look at, then just skip this step.
  2. Run a comprehensive background check on the tenant. A comprehensive background check will reveal the tenant’s history and give a detailed report on any evictions, criminal activity and charges, and public records as well. You can order a background check through several different companies. Online reports are also available. If you’re watching your budget (most companies charge a fee for this service), you can do your own background check by contacting the local courts or police department, however this might be a very time consuming process.  As a side note, some states don’t allow landlords to reject a potential tenant based solely on if they have a criminal history (you will have to check with your state to see if this is enforced in your state).
  3. Run a credit check. There are three major companies that you can run a credit check through: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. A credit check will let you see a tenant’s credit history for the last 7-10 years, and will give you an idea of the tenant’s credit activity (such as if they’ve ever declared bankruptcy, have any late payments, charged-off credit cards, etc.). To simplify this background screening process and to get comprehensive information on the tenant, you can use a service like Houserie.com to get not only a credit check, but also a comprehensive national criminal and an eviction check for a low fee.
  4. Reach out to previous landlords. Once the tenant has “passed” the first four steps, now it’s time to contact the tenant’s past landlords. Questions to ask include: Did the tenant always pay their rent on time? Did they ever damage the property? Did they get along with their neighbors? Was the property clean and undamaged when they left? All of these questions will give you a clearer picture of the tenant and how they will behave if you allow them to rent your property.
  5. Contact the employer. Once you have talked to the tenant’s past landlords, have a short phone conversation with the tenant’s current employer. A few important questions to ask might include the reliability of the tenant, verify that they do indeed work there, the tenant’s salary (some employers or Human Resource workers won’t give out this information; in this case, make sure to get two or three past pay stubs from the tenant) and if termination is in process.
  6. Set up a face-to-face interview with the potential tenant. Once you have completed all of the above steps, the final step would be to set up an interview with the tenant. Here are a few important questions to ask the prospective tenant:
  • Do you have any pets? How many do you have, and are they housebroken? (If you don’t allow pets, make sure the tenant knows this upfront.)
  • Do you smoke? If so, do you smoke outside or indoors?
  • Do you have people who stay the night frequently (family and friends)?
  • Do you have any children? If so, how many and what are their ages? Remember you cannot reject a tenant based on familial status, i.e. whether they have children and if so, how many children they have.

Now that you have completed all of these steps for screening your potential tenant, go over the lease contract with the tenant in detail. Then when both parties agree have the tenant sign the lease and move in! This whole process might seem like a lot of work but in the end finding the right tenant will save you time, money and a lot of stress.

Creating a Solid Lease Agreement: Three Top Tips for Landlords

Lease Agreements

One of the most important and essential steps for a new landlord is crafting a solid, yet easy to understand lease contract. This will help avoid issues and potential tenant evictions. For many landlords just starting out, this particular step can seem like the most difficult. Although it might seem like a daunting task, it can be easy to create a good lease agreement. We have outlined three important tips to help create a solid lease agreement, which will help you avoid a tenant eviction.

  1. Know the laws and regulations that apply in your state. In order to build an airtight lease contract, a new landlord will most definitely need to know their own state’s rules and laws regarding the landlord-tenant relationship.
  2. Clearly define the most important elements on your contract. This includes, but is not limited to: which party is responsible for paying utilities (water, septic, etc.); the appliances that are included or not included in the property; the contract duration; your particular details about fees and deposits; and fees/penalties for early termination of the lease agreement.
  3. Have a lawyer go over the finished product. It’s so important to have a lawyer or professional go over the finished lease agreement—simply because they can catch errors, point out additional items to add, reference new state laws that have gone into effect, include rules that may have been forgotten, mention important elements (such as a pet clause or early termination details), and even update current eviction practices.

How Landlords Can Save Money

saving money

Completing regular property maintenance can save both time and money in the long run for landlords. From small repairs to fixing leaks, and more major maintenance like repairs on cracks in the foundation and even room renovations, all of these can enable a landlord to save a lot of money in the long run. Here are some ways for landlords to save money by doing these simple repairs and renovations:

  • Regular property checks for leaks and/or water damage. Make sure to check for leaks and damage after a big rain or snowstorm. Look at windows, showers, toilets, under sinks, and also the roof, walls, and ceilings. By checking regularly, you can avoid pricey repairs in the future since you’ll be repairing small leaks before they become a huge mess to fix.
  • Monthly exterminations. Most everyone hates seeing bugs in their home, so be sure to exterminate your units and property at least once monthly. Keeping up with killing bugs regularly will prevent a larger pest problem than if you just let it go, allowing a larger bug population to take up residence at your property.
  • Change and test all of your property’s smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. This not only saves money, but it can also potentially save lives. Always test the detectors to make sure they’re working properly, and install new ones if they don’t work. This saves money for the landlord by ensuring that a fire is detected before major damage occurs. This also ensures that your renters’ lives are not put in danger.
  • Clean or replace air filters. A simple $5 filter for a furnace or air conditioner can potentially save a landlord hundreds of dollars in repairs. Replacing a filter can prevent cleaning or repairing the furnace coils caused by the build-up of dust and other debris.

Easy, Effective Ways to Respect Your Tenant’s Privacy

Tenant's privacy

Landlords need to be respectful of their tenant’s privacy regardless of any state laws that give them permission to enter the unit. Respecting your tenant’s privacy not only keeps the relationship on good terms, but it may also earn the tenant’s trust, thereby giving you a long-term tenant for your property. Here are four easy and effective ways to respect their privacy, while still keeping up-to-date on the condition of your rental space.

  1. Call first if there are repairs or maintenance to be done to the property. A landlord cannot just show up to a property and expect to do repairs without giving the tenant notice beforehand. You need to call and set up a time to do the repairs or maintenance based on the tenant’s availability.
  2. It’s up to the landlord or property manager to set up privacy boundaries. Although many states have certain laws and rules in place to protect a tenant’s privacy, some do not have any regulations set up for this and the landlords must arrange privacy clauses under the lease contract. Make sure you notate any these provisions in the rental agreement before the tenant moves into the property.
  3. Have set business hours. Having business hours that are the same time every day will help tenants know when to reach you in case of repairs or emergencies. It will also set boundaries for respecting their privacy in case you need to reach them or make a visit to the property.
  4. Knock more than once and then wait. Many states require a landlord to knock at least once and then wait a period of time for the tenant to respond. Unless there is an emergency, landlords cannot just knock once and then go right inside without the permission of the tenant.