10 Things a Landlord Should Know Before Renting

This list comes from years of experience from good (and sometimes bad) landlords.

Start Rent on The First of The Month

When a person first rents with you , charge a complete month and prorate the second month. The exception would be if it’s a few days from the end of the month; in which case add it onto the coming month.

Example: a new tenant signs contract on March 10th for $1000. They will owe $1000 to start with then on April 1st they will only owe 20 days for April. On May1st they will owe the whole $1000 for May.

Another Example: if They start on March 28th, add those 3 days to the April rent ON march 28th…don’t put it off…collect the day they start.

rental agreement

Notice the Condition of a Person’s Car

All right, this is going to sound a little crazy. But you can tell how a person lives by looking at their car. I don’t mean you only rent to someone with an expensive nice car – I mean, look at the condition of their car.

Is it full of litter and greasy and grimy? If it is – I can almost guarantee you that your rental will be greasy and grimy. Yes, I know, there are exceptions. If a contruction worker drives up in a construction truck they probably don’t care as much about it as a regular car since it’s usually used for moving heavy dirty stuff anyway.

If you want to take it a step farther – and be even more accurate, look at where they are living now. Yes, that is the more accurate test. Whatever it looks like now, is what yours is going to look like in a month.

If you wouldn’t rent to a person with a house/apartment in that condition then don’t rent to them. It’s as simple as that.

It doesn’t have to be luxurious – but is it clean?

Why You Should Think First Before you Talk

Some really unintentional things have been said and interpreted the wrong way. I’ll give you an example. A lawyer I met told a group about an investor who was showing a property to a woman. In the midst of their conversation he saw three children sitting out in the car – and as a matter of conversation he just happened to ask, “are those your children?” He was just being friendly.

Later, he rejected the lady’s application for rent because of bad credit. She sued him claiming he discriminated against her because she has children.

I don’t know the final out come. Oh yes I do…the lawyers became rich.

Some really unintentional things can be interpreted in strange ways. And guess what

– your insurance may or may not cover you if you get sued. 

Some obvious things to watch out for – never mention religion, children, and race. Oh yeah…and age.

Just a final note: in my area I can ask how many minor children because we have rules which limit how many children versus adults can be stuffed into the bedrooms. Your area may not allow this kind of questioning at all – you need to find out.

Why You Should Never Give your New Tenant a Discount For Cleaning a Prior Mess

By allowing a tenant to clean a prior tenants mess you are sending mixed signals to the new tenant. While you may think you are not sending any messages – you may be in fact indicating that you do not respect the property and you do not have an issue with a tenant’s mess.

It sounds like it would be good business sense. You are busy, don’t want to take the time to clean up an apartment you know was trashed (we’ll talk later about why you shouldn’t be doing it yourself), so you make a deal with your next tenant. If they do the clean up – you’ll reduce their first month’s rent.

Please don’t do this – I have done it several times (I’m a slow learner). The tenants will invariably forget that you in fact compensated them for the mess. When they move out they will feel totally justified in not cleaning it properly – after all, it was a pigsty when they moved in. Why should you expect perfection when they move out?

If it is not clean and in perfect condition when they move in, how will they know what it must look like when they move out. Should it just be in broom swept condition? Should the stove and light fixtures be scrubbed? Who knows! They don’t.

The second reason for not letting your new tenants do the cleaning is because it reflects your attitude towards the apartment. They will think you are not caring for it – after all, the previous tenants left such a mess, you must rent to some pretty derelict people.

What kinds of people are attracted to “derelict apartments”? You guessed it – the derelicts.

What Should a landlord do If a Tenant Bounces a Check?

Be consistent, if your tenant bounces a check successful landlords know they should request payments by cashier check for a set number of months. A common number of months would be six. After six months of on-time payments, and no bounced checks, allow them to pay by check.

Better yet, work with your bank to allow them to make automated payments to your business account. Most tenants these days at least have a smart phone.

What Should be a Landlords Water Policy?

In regards to a water policy, you should strictly limit access to outside faucets by tenants. This can be done by either inactivating the faucets or installing faucet locks which can be purchased inexpensively from hardware stores or Amazon. This will prevent unauthorized or over use by tenants and non-tenants.

I bought an 8-plex once where the previous owner let them wash their cars, or whatever, with the outside faucets. This can rack up a hefty water bill.

Not only did they wash their cars but the kids played with their water toys and then they promptly forgot to turn it off.

I would come over and see the hose still running and who knows how many days it was running before I turned it off!

Here’s an idea. As a reward for cleanliness and paying on time, reward them with a car wash certificate to the nearest car wash – of course work out a deal with the owner.

Check Credit, Refererences, Rental history, and Criminal History

Your are not checking their references for actual “is this a good person”, obviously, they chose someone who likes them and not their last landlord they stiffed. You are checking their references so that you have contact to individuals that know your prospective new tenant for when and if you have to find them later when they skip out.

Just because you do a criminal reference doesn’t mean you will catch everything; but you should still do it. I once had a tenant, no record, but her boyfriend who moved in was a registered sex-offender. You need to get this type of thing known and dealt with immediately. (Just a reminder – any guest that stays longer than 14 days request they fill out an application).

As for rental history, I do call their prior landlord; but I still take it with a grain of salt. They may be anxious to get rid of Mr and Mrs Crappytenant. The prior prior landlord; that is the one you really want to talk to. They have already gotten rid of Mr and Mrs Crappy, they are more likely to tell you the truth.

Check Your Insurance Carefully and Make Sure What you Think is Covered is

What you think is covered may not be. When you get your insurance schedule some time to go over it with your agent. Have a list of your questions and then have them SHOW you in your insurance coverage where it’s covered.

What happens if a child gets lead paint poisoning – or mold poison – bet you didn’t know most don’t cover this. What happens if I leave something on accident and someone trips on it; am i covered? What about if an earthquake makes part of my rental unlivable? Am I covered for the repairs? The rental loss?

Have a Plan for Leaks

With the possible exception of fire – nothing is more damaging to a rental then a broken pipe. You can have a set day in which you train your tenants to have a notice for repair submitted, but a broken or running water isn’t one of them.

This may mean you need to call a 24-hr plumber and pay extra. Work out a deal with them and your tenants. Broken pipe they call you during working hours but Bob’s 24-hr plumbing after hours. Bob’s plumbing should know your restrictions. Broken pipe not a drip drip drip in the sink. As for plugged toilet perhaps you can have Bob fix it; but consider putting in the contract that the tenant will pay for plugging toilets. Charge them in the next months rent.

I try to avoid taking it from their deposit at the end; because I want that left in tact in case there’s other items that need to be covered.

Prevent Discrimination both actual and perceived

It goes without saying; you should not discriminate. But let’s talk about perceived discrimination.

If you, or your agent/staff, that reviews the applications has a set procedure IN WRITTING then there should not be an issue as long as they don’t deviate from this. If they do, then have notes as to why or update your rules accordingly.

Example: in winter months you have a hard time getting tenants so you let your credit score fudge a bit in your credit check. If you need to lower the standard for winter put so in your rules (this is just an illustration – I’m not saying to actually hire unacceptable tenants in the winter – it’s better to improve your advertising). Talk with your lawyer and have them review your guidelines to avoid any perceived discrimination.

To get the 101 tips, tricks and traps to landlording click on this button.

Recent Posts