When you rent an apartment, condo, or other residential space to a tenant, you are entering into a mutually beneficial business relationship. In exchange for providing tenants with a well-maintained place to live, they agree to pay you rent, every month, along with a few other basic commitments. In theory, that arrangement should go smoothly when both parties live up to their end of the bargain. Unfortunately, problems crop up when tenants do not take their part of the agreement seriously.
The good news is that most problems can be avoided or drastically reduced by being selective about who you accept as a tenant. Having set procedures in place not only protects you from unnecessary financial losses, but it also helps you maintain your sanity!
Problem Prevention for Landlords
By having prospective tenants fill out a detailed application, provide you with current references, and give you permission to check their credit rating and/or background, you’re taking proactive steps to avoid the hassles of having to deal with a problem tenant. While there are no guarantees that this process works 100% of the time, it will make your life easier, less stressful, and more problem free!
One common mistake many landlords make is to impulsively rent an apartment to a new tenant without taking the time to check out their credit worthiness, references, or employment status. Consistency in screening new tenants is vital, because once you let your guard down, you are opening the door to trouble!
In addition to the dilemma of tenants who pay their rent late or not at all, plenty of other potential problems can rear their head if you get lax with your screening procedures. Tenants who turn out to be disrespectful, unruly, or destructive can not only cause financial losses and aggravation for you, but they can also result in neighbor complaints, the loss of good tenants, and the high cost of eviction.
Speaking of legalities, it’s helpful to become familiar with state laws that apply to rental agreements, deposits, your access to rental properties you own, the meaning of “reasonable notice,” the process of evicting bad tenants, and things landlords are prohibited from doing to force a tenant to leave. On its website, the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services offers an informative overview of these topics.
Although it is useful to understand the basics of landlord/tenant law, a rental property owner should have an established relationship with an experienced, trusted real estate attorney for advice and representation. (The tips in this blog post are not offered as legal advice.)
There are effective ways to prevent typical problems that occur with renters, although not all landlords have the time, the patience, or knowledge to handle the complexities of property management. Depending on how many rental units you own and your comfort level with screening tenants, you may want to consider turning over this responsibility to a property management firm.
Basics of Tenant Screening
Making sure you have dependable and responsible people in your rental units typically involves the following steps.
- Having prospective tenants fill out a detailed application form
- Contacting their employer to verify employment to make sure the applicant is gainfully employed
- Asking the applicant to provide a copy of a recent pay to make sure they can afford to pay rent in a timely way
- Reaching out to their previous landlord or property manager to find out the duration of their tenancy, whether they generally paid their rent on time, and if the tenant left the premises in good condition
- It would also be helpful to inquire about whether the tenant caused problems for others in the building or neighborhood, such as excessive noise or late-night parties. You could also ask the landlord if they returned the tenant’s security deposit and whether they would consider renting to them again.
- Researching the applicant’s credit history (with their permission) by ordering a credit report from one of the major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion
- Conducting a criminal background check of applicants is another way to identify high risk tenants and avoid problems down the road.
Communication Helps Ensure a Hassle-Free Relationship
In addition to having a conversation with new tenants about the benefits and responsibilities they need to be aware of, you can also ask for their email address to send them important announcements about policies, problem resolution procedures, maintenance work that might affect them, emergencies, COVID reminders, and rent payment notices. From a public relations standpoint, you might also consider sending them a welcome packet, holiday greetings, and happy birthday wishes. Offering incentives for paying rent on time or in advance is another option.
Depending on the number of tenants you have and the properties you own, a lot of your communication can be handled via a professional website, Facebook page, or other social media platform. The ability to accept online rent payments can also be set up — effectively eliminating the excuse, “The check’s in the mail!”
To encourage tenants to be cooperative and respectful, it is helpful to set a positive example by making sure repairs, building maintenance, and property upkeep are handled quickly and professionally. When you take pride in your property, buildings, and the level of service you provide, tenants will be more likely to follow suit.
If you have any questions about how to screen prospective tenants, follow up with references, check an applicant’s credit worthiness, verify employment, and maintain good tenant relations, do not hesitate to contact us at PMI Miami Dade. There is no need to feel overwhelmed and stressed by the demands of keeping up with property maintenance, rent collection, finding reliable tenants, doing background checks, ordering credit scores, and resolving tenant problems. Our team of experienced professionals are available to handle those responsibilities and much more! We can provide you with up-to-date advice, property management, and support services to help keep your rental business running smoothly and make sure virtually all your bases are covered!