By Kathy Kennebrook (The Marketing Magic Lady)
You’ve all heard the tenant horror stories from people who have had tenants in properties, but being a landlord doesn’t have to be difficult as long as you learn some strategies for handling your tenants. My husband used to say that handling tenants was like having a group of children that you have to train and discipline. But it doesn’t have to be that difficult.
You do have to make some specific rules for your tenants and stick to them. Every time you change the rules you give your tenants the upper hand. You must also have an iron clad lease that specifically addresses the issues that you may have with tenants including getting your rent paid on time.
This is one area in which I am steadfast with the rules. I don’t care what the tenant’s situation is, their responsibility is to pay me on time and in full or they are stealing services from you without paying for them. My tenants are responsible for having the rent in our post office box or direct deposited through zelle or paypal on or before the date it is due or they are served with a three-day notice the next morning as required by law where I live in order to begin the eviction process. There are no exceptions. We even have tenants who send their checks to me priority mail to make sure they get to me on time. Most of our tenants have been with us a long time and many pay early.
You must also take the time to pre-qualify your tenants’ right from the beginning so you can avoid some problems right from the start. Don’t just accept a tenant into your rental property because they have the money to move in. Don’t let greed be your guide. Have your tenants fill out a specific rental application. Then you run must a tenant check with a reputable company. Don’t try to do this yourself just by looking at public record. You will miss credit issues and anything that may have occurred out of state. You need to find out the information you need to know about your tenants’ right from the start before renting them your unit.
For example, if the tenant check shows the applicant was just evicted from another premises, this certainly isn’t going to be a tenant you want in your property. Or if your tenant has had recent felony convictions, this isn’t a tenant you want in your rental unit. If your applicant has multiple animals, this is also not someone you want in your rental unit. I will mention however, that I will allow a tenant with a small dog or cat to rent my units. I find that usually a tenant who has a pet that they have had for some time will make a good tenant who will stay longer in your unit.
I also have a separate pet lease which addresses specific rules regarding pets in my units. The pet lease requires that the dog or cat is an indoor pet and I have an additional non-refundable amount of security deposit for the pet lease and additional pet rent of 25.00 per month. I find that this works out very well. If the tenant gets a pet that is not on the lease, this is grounds for immediate eviction, and we do have someone who checks our units about every 60 days for us to make sure all is well with our rental units.
I also check out where they were living before by going by the address and checking it out and I talk to their previous landlord. I want to see how they have been treating the place where they were living before. If it looks like a pig pen or if they have multiple animals, this is not someone I want in my unit. If they don’t give me this information on the rental application, I won’t even consider them to rent my unit.
I know some of this is just common sense but it bears discussion. If a tenant makes it through my rigorous screening process, I also have them pay first month’s rent, last month’s rent and the security deposit either by cash, cashiers check or by money order. I do not accept personal checks for the move-in amounts.
During the following months I do not accept personal checks from them for the rent, we only accept money orders or direct deposit. The first time a check bounces for insufficient funds or any other reason, they must make it good immediately or I will immediately begin the eviction process. This is all covered in the lease they have signed. I also make sure that the person I have putting tenants in units for me thoroughly covers all the items in the lease with them before they sign it.
If a tenant does get their rent to us late, they are responsible for additional rental fees of one percent per day. These fees are in our lease as additional rental fees as opposed to late fees since some courts won’t allow you to get a judgment for late fees. Within the body of our lease we also require our tenants to have renters insurance and I want to see proof of the policy before they move in. This way I can’t be held liable for any injuries or the loss of their possessions due to an accident, fire, hurricane or any other natural disaster.
Additionally, once my tenants sign a lease with me, I will not give them keys until I see proof of utilities in their name for the unit. In certain counties like ours, the landlord can’t turn off utilities in their own name. The only way the name changes on the utilities is with a new lease and then utilities get put in the tenant’s name. This rule may be different where you live, but a lot of the time if the tenant doesn’t pay their utilities it falls back to the landlord. This is just one way for you to protect yourself.
These are just a few of the basic techniques that will make you a happy and successful landlord. Monthly cash flow is a wonderful thing if your properties are managed correctly.
For more information on becoming a successful landlord and finding all the deals you need for your real estate investing business, check out my website at www.marketingmagiclady.com. While you are there be sure and sign up for my Free Monthly Newsletter!!