Property Management Tips, Tricks & FAQs for Landlords
Managing the Property
How long will it take to get my property ready to rent?
While every property is different, if you work with professionals to help get the job done you should plan on at least:
- 3 days for relatively minor updates (minor damage, holes in walls, etc.)
- 5 days for medium updates (carpet, paint, appliances)
- 2 weeks for larger updates (linoleum, plumbing, electrical
Should I do all of the property maintenance myself?
Consider outsourcing the maintenance and inspections to eliminate the hassle associated with maintaining your rental unit. There are qualified and bonded professional who can periodically inspect your property and coordinate all maintenance activities. They are able to provide quick and high-quality maintenance and their costs are lower than what you could obtain on your own.
Who pays for rental property maintenance costs?
Unless the tenant is responsible for damage or is negligent about property maintenance, then owners bear the financial responsibility of paying for repairs, this includes repairs falling under normal “wear and tear.”
What rental property maintenance liabilities do I need to consider?
Ideally, you should provide a way for your tenants to call in their maintenance requests 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The tenant is your customer and you should try to remedy their problem in a short amount of time. If the problem is an emergency and time sensitive, you must be able to handle the repair per State Property Code. If the problem will put the tenant in danger from a health and safety standpoint, you must make the repair immediately to mitigate your risk and liability. If the repair is due to tenant negligence, you can make the repair and charge it back to the tenant.
Keep in mind that your specialists must be licensed on all heating, air conditioning, plumbing, and electrical work (city code enforcement will shut you down if you cut corners or use unlicensed technicians).
What out-of-pocket landlord expenses do I need to consider?
Collecting rent once the property is occupied is only part of your financial concerns. As a landlord, much of your time and costs occur upfront. You will need to inspect, prepare, advertise, and show your property. You will have expenses for performing background and credit checks on your potential tenants, and additional costs to prepare and execute all of the required Fair Housing and other legal documents.
How do you screen rental applicants and find a good tenant?
You should perform a credit analysis as well as screen for criminal history, which includes sex offenders. You should also verify their employment status, pay rate, and their rental history to make sure they have not been previously evicted and to verify that they pay on time.
For safety’s sake, always have someone else with you when you are showing the home and maintain an exit path, i.e., allow them to enter a single door room first.
Should I ask for a higher rent? I can always come down later, right?
That may seem like a good idea, but here is something to think about, tenants, unlike homebuyers, do not usually make offers on properties. If a prospective tenant looks at your property and believes it to be overpriced, they will usually move on to the next property, leaving your property vacant. So, lots of qualified tenants can be lost in hope for higher rent.
Another factor to consider is that most of the inquiries occur during the first two weeks of advertising, after which they drop off sharply. It is therefore in your best interest to come out with your best price first, versus risking a potentially extended vacancy period for only a few dollars more. Moreover, many qualified tenants searching online put in rent limits, which can make it so your property is not even displayed to a potential renter.
How should I advertise my rental property?
Some of the best ways to advertise properties for rent are also the least expensive, the Internet. Free advertising is available from your area Craigslist and other free-to-use sites sponsored by local TV, radio, and other media outlets. On the downside, you do open yourself to SPAM-mail, false leads, and busy-work. Other advertising includes regional newspapers but they can be expensive, over $200 for five lines of copy for a week in some markets.
Another good way is to contact the housing office at the military bases and or posts in the surrounding area. If you do this, you are subject to their requirements such as Fair Housing etc. However, they can often provide you with renters who make a guaranteed income and whose supervisors can be notified if they do not pay.
A “For Rent” sign is always a good investment especially if there is significant drive-by traffic. “For Rent” postings at your local colleges, public bulletin boards, and other places may help.
How long will it take to rent my property?
For most properties that are market-ready and priced at market rates, the average days-on-market is approximately 26 days. For homes that are not in market-ready condition and/or or priced at above-market conditions, then it can take considerably longer to rent. Your vacancy period will also be affected by both the vacancy rate within the area and the time of year as there are specific months in which properties lease faster.
Should I lease my house to a tenant month-to-month?
This is dependent on your needs to rent your home quickly to make your mortgage and if this is the only offer you have received from a qualified tenant.
What if a tenant only pays a partial amount of the rent?
Most rents are due by the 5th of the month, if tenants pays only a part of the rent, they are in default and can be placed into evictions after 30 days (check your local laws and attorney).
What if my tenant files for bankruptcy?
The best thing to do initially is to check at the area Federal Courthouse for the records of the bankruptcy, then contact your attorney. Federal law supersedes state law, therefore do not attempt to file eviction proceedings against the tenant as they are granted certain protections by the federal government.
What if a tenant's rent check bounces?
State laws address the penalties for writing bad checks. There are generally two types of penalties for NSF checks: civil and criminal. Civil penalties address how much you can collect after receiving a bad check. In some states, this can be much more than the amount of the bad check, and may include double or triple the amount of the check plus attorney fees and damages.
Under criminal penalties, the tenant can be prosecuted and even arrested for writing a bad check. Bounced checks typically become criminal matters when there is an intent to defraud on the part of the person writing the check. The majority of bounced check cases do not involve criminal penalties, as most people cover a bad check as soon as possible. You do have the right to call their bank with the account number and dollar amount to make sure there are funds in the account.
First, contact your tenant by phone. Explain that your bank has refused the check and have charged your account the NSF fee (average is $27). From this point on you should only accept certified funds, a cashiers’’ check or a reputable money order for the monthly rent PLUS the NSF fee charged your account.
Am I responsible for mold at the rental property?
Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions. The CDC recommends:
- Keep the humidity level in the house between 40% and 60%.
- Use an air conditioner or a dehumidifier during humid months.
- Be sure the home has adequate ventilation, including exhaust fans in kitchen and bathrooms.
- Add mold inhibitors to paints before application.
- Clean bathrooms with mold killing products.
- Do not carpet bathrooms and basements.
- Remove or replace previously soaked carpets and upholstery.
If your tenant feels that you, the landlord, have not been responsive to concerns they have expressed regarding mold exposure, they can contact the local board of health or housing authority. Applicable codes, insurance, inspection, legal, and similar issues about mold generally fall under state and local (not federal) jurisdiction.
What determines if a rental property is uninhabitable?
Just because something in a rental unit does not work, or does not look like new, does not mean the unit is uninhabitable. It may be a mere inconvenience or a cosmetic problem the repair of which can wait. Typically (and you must verify your state’s laws on this), the landlord MUST make all repairs and do whatever is necessary to put and keep the premises in a fit and habitable condition. Such as:
- Keep all common areas of the premises in a clean and safe condition
- Maintain in good and safe working order and condition all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning, kitchen, and other facilities and appliances, including elevators, supplied or required to be supplied by the landlord
- Other normal and usual services expected in a home.
What are the landlord entry rights into a rented property
State law dictate specific rights, but generally the tenant may not unreasonably deny access, refuse entry, or withhold consent, to enter the residential rental unit to the owner, agent, or manager for the purpose of making repairs to the unit. No notice specified.
However, for the sake of retention of one’s tenants and the avoidance of strife during tenancy, the keys to exercise of the right to entry are as follows. 1. Enter as infrequently as possible. 2. Always give ample notice and, if possible, allow rescheduling of the entry at least once to accommodate the tenant. 3. Always enter with a clearly defined objective in mind, and notify the tenant of it unless there is a strong reason not to do so.
Should I allow pets in my rental? What are the liabilities?
This is a tough call to make; do you think you need to allow pets to find a suitable tenant? Is the property suitable for pets or fitted with the necessary modifications (e.g., exterior dog run) that allow pets and but suffer no damage to your property?
Should a dog bite a person on your rental property, most state laws says that the owner of any dog is liable for the damages suffered by any person who is bitten by the dog while in a public place or lawfully in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of such viciousness.
Can you explain how parental responsibility laws work with rental property?
Your tenant’s 17 year old son is learning to drive and just collided with the garage door. Is your tenant liable for the damage? In what amount? These questions are dealt with, at least in part, by your state’s parental responsibility laws. Review your state’s laws and then make a decision to write a check now or take your chances in small claims court. You may also need to consult a lawyer if the damages have run into real money.
Generally, the parent is responsible for any and all damages, intentionally or accidentally, causes by their child under 18 years up to a set amount determined by the state.