One of the best ways for landlords to avoid tenant problems down the road is to communicate clearly and have a plan in mind. Granted, that may be easier said than done, but there are strategies you can follow to help ensure that you and your tenants are on the same page — especially when it comes to security deposits, maintenance requests, pet policies, and rent collection.
Ideally, apartments and other rental units should start out clean, well maintained, and fully functional before prospective tenants are given a tour. Making sure everything from light switches to closet doors and refrigerators are working properly can help ensure tenant satisfaction and reduce the number of repair requests you encounter.
Prior to the tenant moving in, it’s a good practice to do a walkthrough with them to review the condition of the apartment, make sure everything works (and looks) to their satisfaction, and address any questions they might have. Having a detailed and signed checklist in hand to document the move-in condition of the rental unit will give you a basis for evaluating future damage when they’re ready to move out. That documentation will hopefully enable you to avoid disputes if you find it necessary to deduct the cost of cleaning and repairs from the tenant’s security deposit.
Preparing for Occupancy
Since safety and comfort are among the primary things you’ll want to assure tenants of before they move in, here are a few priorities to consider:
- Check to make sure smoke detectors are working and strategically placed in recommended areas of apartments, duplexes, and other rental units. According to the National Landlord Association, “Landlords are legally required to install smoke detectors in almost every state and carbon monoxide detectors are mandatory for residential properties in 26 states.” The state of Florida is among those that have statutes governing the use of carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors, so it is a good thing to be aware of. In addition to providing tenants with a relatively inexpensive and potentially life-saving safety feature, these devices can also help protect your property from the devastation of a fire and potentially lower your insurance premiums. Talk to your insurance agent to review your coverage, make sure it’s adequate, and discuss possible opportunities for discounts.
- Confer with a trusted attorney who is well versed in the laws and regulations affecting landlords — preferably one with whom you have an established relationship. The Florida Bar offers an online brochure that provides a helpful overview of many of the legal aspects of being a landlord. After reading this information about your rights and obligations, you may find yourself with a new list of questions and concerns that you want to discuss with your attorney. Having your lawyer review the rental agreement you use is another way to avoid tenant misunderstandings and make sure your expectations are clearly stated. (If this is your first rental property, you may have to have your attorney draft a comprehensive rental agreement from scratch.) Depending on whether you plan on adopting pet-friendly policies, you may also want to revise or add a rider to your lease to cover additional fees, pet security deposits, acceptable breeds, species, and dog sizes, and potential pet issues that would need to be resolved.
- Prior to tenants moving in, it may be necessary to schedule repairs, appliance replacements, and handle other maintenance issues. While adding a fresh coat of paint before new tenants move in is beneficial to both marketing the apartment and tenant relations, your main focus will probably be on making the apartment habitable, safe, and fully functional. As the Florida Bar says on its website, “The landlord is required to rent a dwelling that is fit to be lived in. It must have working plumbing, hot water and heating, be structurally sound and have reasonable security, including working and locking doors and windows, and it must be free of pests. The landlord also must comply with local health, building and safety codes. If the landlord has to make repairs to make the dwelling fit to live in, the landlord must pay.”
- Changing locks not only provides new tenants with enhanced personal security, but it is also a selling point when showing the apartment to prospective tenants. Outdoor security lighting is another selling point that can help attract and retain good tenants.
First Impressions Matter
Tenants will be a lot more likely to pay rent on time, take care of the apartment, and be cooperative, good neighbors if they feel you’re providing them with a clean, comfortable, and safe apartment that will meet their needs now and in the future. A simple but effective tenant relations idea would be to prepare a welcome letter or flyer that provides contact information, problem resolution tips, and useful resources. That gesture shows that you’re interested in their wellbeing and that you are available to help when the need arises. Having a property management firm handle maintenance requests is one approach to making your life easier. Creating a Facebook page, blog, or other type of Internet presence can also be a good way to market your rental properties, post positive reviews, and provide tenants with useful updates.
Property Management Services Available
Many owners of investment property do not have the time, knowledge, or patience to deal with tenant emergencies, rent collection, tenant screening, complaint resolution, scheduling repairs, marketing rental units, making sure landscaping is up to date, and staying in compliance with housing codes and government regulations. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or concerned about any of these responsibilities and tasks, give us a call at PMI Miami Dade.
Our professional property management services run the gamut from property maintenance and financial reporting to rent collection and property inspections. In addition, we can keep an eye on your property when you’re away, provide you with marketing services to attract desirable tenants, and work with you to ensure your property is legally compliant. We will also be happy to provide you with a free rental analysis to determine if you’re getting the optimal “return on investment” from your income property.