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Landlord Tips for Managing a Rental Property

Nov 14, 2019 11:12:00 AM

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Some people have the necessary business acumen and personality to be landlords, but many find themselves unexpectedly in the role. Experienced landlords often find that a balanced blend of property management from the old school combined with modern digital options, such as an online rental application and tenant screening services, best protect their greatest investment. Whether you're an old pro or a new landlord, follow these tips for managing a rental property to make the process a positive one for yourself and your tenants.

1. Landlord Insurance

The first priority for a property manager is to lease the property. However, before you rent to anyone, get landlord insurance to protect your property and yourself. Landlord insurance covers all sorts of incidents, from damages due to a flood, fire or fallen tree to your tenant tripping over a protruding root and breaking a leg. Get the best coverage you can afford because if you need it, you'll be glad you have it. Personal injury lawsuits can be challenging, and it can be very expensive to hire an attorney. A good insurance company will settle valid claims quickly, investigate suspicious allegations thoroughly and sometimes provide a lawyer to represent their concerns in court.

2. Repair, Replace and Renew

Before you show your home to prospective renters, make necessary repairs, replace defunct appliances and ensure the place looks its best. If needed, perform the following tasks:

  • Paint the interior and exterior
  • Clean and adjust the gutters and downspouts so they're level, plumb and work well
  • Trim bushes, edge the lawn, weed flower beds and other landscaping
  • Sweep, mop, vacuum and steam clean the floors
  • Replace blown light bulbs

3. Document the Condition

Once the home looks great, take photos showing its curb appeal and clean, bright interior. A walk-through video is also valuable for increasing renters' interest as well as documenting the condition of the house before it's rented. This video could serve as evidence should a situation arise involving damage beyond normal wear and tear.

4. Spread the Word

When your property is ready to rent, it's time to advertise. Posting on sites like Facebook and Craigslist is typically free, but many landlords use paid advertising methods, such as rental sites and local newspapers, to find potential applicants. Be sure to detail the home's amenities and best features and include lots of pictures. Be specific with details on rental amount, deposit requirements and other critical lease terms to weed out unqualified prospects. Set aside time throughout the week and during weekends to show the property to anyone interested.

5. Trust but Verify

When showing the home, ask potential tenants plenty of background questions to get a sense of their marital status, profession and where they've lived previously. Confirm their identity by checking their driver's license. Go over the lease and explain the monthly rent, security deposit, damage deposit and when rent is due. Then, if they understand and agree, have your prospects complete applications to lease your property. You have two options at this point: Provide paper applications and perform background checks yourself or have a tenant screening service with an online application handle the sticky process of combing through the applicants' histories.

The obvious benefits of using such a service for online leasing applications can be measured in time and money. It can take quite a while to check every applicant and run various background checks. A complete background check should include the following:

  • Credit score
  • Work history
  • Criminal record
  • Address history
  • Eviction history

It makes sense to enlist the help of a background service to gather and process the data for every applicant. By analyzing a large amount of available information, an algorithm can boil it all down to a score representing the likelihood that the applicant will successfully complete the terms of the lease.

6. Deposit the Security Deposit

After you've chosen on a new tenant, meet them to go over the lease once more and to collect initial deposits. A security deposit and a damage deposit are not the same. Security deposits cover rent, and damage deposits are meant to fix damage after your tenant leaves. A standard deposit is first and last month's rent, plus one month's rent for damage. Pet damage fees are add-ons that shouldn't be included in the original damage deposit. Put the deposit money into a separate bank account from the monthly rent checks. Don't comingle the money, it's best to keep it available for when your tenant moves elsewhere.

7. Handle Problems Quickly

Treat your tenants the way you'd like to be treated as a renter. Respond to any service calls promptly, and if you need to hire a professional to fix a problem, use one who is recommended by other local pros. Avoid DIY fixes unless you know what you're doing or you may end up spending twice as much to have your repair fixed.

Make yourself aware of the rules landlords must follow before entering a lease agreement. Any entry, except in the case of an emergency, must be announced 24 hours ahead of time so that tenants have sufficient notice of your visit.

Good landlords deserve good renters. It can be challenging to find qualified, low-risk applicants in a timely manner. Using a tenant screening service can make the process much easier for you.

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