Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

When we go about our daily lives, we want to assume that everyone is exactly who they say they are and they aren’t trying to trick or exploit us to get what they want. In reality, landlords and property managers are running a business and housing is in high demand. It’s inevitable that tenant applicants will try to use everything at their disposal to give the appearance of legitimacy or professionalism even where none exists. You have something desirable – a rental property – and they want it.

When It Seems Too Good to Be True

On a personal level, it’s always preferable to give people the benefit of the doubt. Most people are honest folks who want to make a living and get on with their day to day life, and those are the types of folks we love to whom we love to rent property. Unfortunately, there are always a handful of people out there who will go the underhanded route to try to pull a fast one. It’s the art of distraction, and some people are really good at it. With the right experience and advice, you can learn to spot these distractions and read them for what they are.

One such distraction is the tendency for people to try to appear more affluent than they are, perhaps in the hopes that you don’t delve too deeply into their financial history or credit. Most seasoned landlords know it’s a good idea to meet potential tenants in person before renting out a property, so when you meet your prospective tenant, consider the aura they’re giving off. Are they wearing clothing or driving a vehicle that doesn’t seem to match the area of the rental or flashing accessories at you in an attempt to draw your attention? Go with your gut on this one. If you feel something isn’t quite right, it’s worth a deeper look.

It’s not uncommon for applicants like these to try to convince you that you don’t need to look into their background, but it’s always recommended that you do so anyway. Even if you have a good feeling about a tenant from the start, it’s wise to use a screening service to make sure they are exactly who they say they are. Pay special attention to employment, financials, and credit. This is where you’ll discover whether a person truly is in a good financial position or whether they’re just attempting to appear that way. It’s entirely possible that people with limited budgets can still own nice things – in and of itself, it doesn’t mean much. However, in conjunction with a credit score and employment history, you may get a more well-rounded picture.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect program. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

Posted by & filed under Property Management.

Owning an apartment comes with its own list of responsibilities that as a landlord you are responsible for. But sometimes, it can be confusing what maintenance issues you are required to take care of and which ones are the responsibility of your tenant. To clear up any confusion you may be having, here are 7 maintenance issues the tenant is required to take of:

1. Overall Cleaning

The moment your tenant crosses the threshold into the apartment the tenant (and those who share the abode) are the sole people responsible for maintaining the cleanliness of the apartment. From the basics of a clean kitchen to the more difficult scuff marks on the foyer floor.

The landlord is required to keep the carpets in the hall clean, make sure that the upkeep of the main foyer of the building is pleasant to visitors and renters, and in some cases, ensure that the windows on the outside of the building are regularly cleaned.

2. Appliance Preservation

One of the tenant’s responsibilities is ensuring that all appliances within the unit are maintained by the occupant of the unit unless otherwise discussed at the beginning of the lease. This includes the kitchen appliances, laundry facilities, and possibly a heater or air conditioning unit.

The tenant maintenance responsibilities of these appliances include tasks like changing a filter on a microwave, keeping an oven clean, ensuring that the dishwasher is receiving all the proper fluids and is picked clean of excess food particles. Any physical repairs are to be discussed with the landlord.

3. Garbage Disposal

Although for a large building there is a standard garbage pick-up day, it is the responsibility of the tenant to regularly dispose of any garbage within his or her unit. This includes emptying recycling items into the correct bins, throwing out garbage bags down a chute, and even following proper compost procedures.

4. Snow Removal

Typically, when living in an apartment building, snow removal does not fall as one of the tenant’s responsibilities. Especially if that tenant lives on a floor higher than the first floor. However, if the tenant is living in a townhome, then snow removal of a shared walkway typically falls to the tenant that is closest to the shared walkways.

In some cases, this maintenance issue is handled by a housing cooperative in which case a monthly or yearly fee is paid for this job to be taken care of by a paid company. This can also be the case for lawn care, such as cutting the lawn, but again, this would be covered by a fee.

5. Landscaping

If you are renting a property with an outdoor area to a tenant, whether a balcony, terrace, or walk-out to some outdoor space, it then becomes the tenant’s right and responsibility to maintain this outdoor space.

These maintenance issues include cutting and watering the lawn, taking care of a garden, raking of leaves, or even the removal of objects such as a fallen tree branch. It is expected by the landlord and the surrounding tenants that the renter is responsible for keeping a clean and welcoming outside property.

6. Smoke Detectors

If a smoke or carbon monoxide (CO) detector has become defective, needs a new battery, or needs to be replaced, then generally it is the responsibility of the landlord to replace the unit. It is, however, the tenant’s responsibility to maintain a safe environment where the alarm is not regularly going off.

7. Open Communication with the Landlord 

The tenant is responsible for understanding his or her lease so that no mistake is made in what he or she is responsible for. A tenant that does not inform the landlord of any issues within the unit outside of the regular tenant maintenance issues then becomes financially responsible for any unreported issues.

As a landlord, you can make sure to build a great relationship with your tenant so they can always come forward when facing problems that need immediate assistance. The more they feel comfortable in your property, the higher the likelihood of them renewing their lease; taking time off your shoulders to find new tenants for the property.

Author’s Bio:
Danielle thrives on researching and writing on all aspects of life. Further to writing for Zumper blog and personal finance, she is an advocate of self-improvement and living a life that is both financially responsible and knowledgeable. When she is not on her computer, she can be found spending time with her husband and two sons.

Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

Are Your Rental Applicants Being Honest with You?Here’s one more reason why tenant screening is such an important step in your rental application process: it helps catch potential lies before you get stuck in a contract with someone who fudged facts. As a general rule, it’s nice to give people the benefit of the doubt and hope that they’re being honest with you. In practice, it’s very sadly not the reality. Depending on where you’re renting property, you may end up with a majority of honest applicants, or you might not. Either way, it’s in your best interest as a landlord and a business owner to make sure they’re not trying to pull the wool over your eyes.

Learn What to Watch Out For

It’s vital to know who’s applying to rent your property, who’s calling to ask questions, and who’s coming to see it. It’s not uncommon for people who have a great deal of trouble securing housing to attempt to modify details on their applications in the hope of getting through the initial screening process. They may alter the spelling of their name, use a relative’s contact information, submit a false pay stub, or change a digit in their social security number. These small details can be difficult to catch if you don’t do a more detailed check into the applicant’s background. We’ve written about how to recognize fake pay stubs before, and similar tactics can be applied to other altered information. However, the very best way to recognize discrepancies in your applicant’s information is through a detailed tenant screening.

An excellent first step is moving your application process online, rather than accepting only hard copies. Through an application hub, you can run verification on information instantly, as well as ask questions that may trip up any applicants attempting to fool the system. For example, some of the questions an automated system can return are inquiries about which county a former residence was in, a telephone number for a past job, or verification of social security numbers. Having to jump through additional hoops and answer questions they may not have prepared for will likely filter out many false applications.

It’s possible that someone determined to get through the additional verification you’ve set up with do so, and that’s when additional screening will come in. Using the information available to you, you can run a full criminal background check, credit report, eviction history, and more. Regardless of how an individual has tried to skew the facts on their application, the screening reports don’t lie. You’ll be able to easily verify all of the information they’ve submitted is accurate. From there, you’ll be able to make a fully informed decision as to which applicant is the best fit for your property.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect program. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

Posted by & filed under Rentals.

Allowing Pets and Service Animals in Your RentalEvery now and again, we come across the question of whether or not it’s advisable to allow pets in your rental units. The reality of this question is that there’s no “right” answer – there are reasons to allow pets, and reasons not to allow them. It’s entirely up to the landlord or property manager as to whether or not allowing pets on the property is the right decision for a specific unit or home.

What are the pros?

Pets remain an integral part of the American family, with millions of renters choosing to own a cat, dog, or other small pet. For many, this animal is considered a member of their family and they won’t even consider an apartment or rental home without a pet allowance policy. Depending on the area you live in, you could be missing out on a wide variety of tenants by refusing to allow animals, giving more business to your competitors instead.

Many pet owners understand the meaning of responsibility because they have to properly care for another living being. That can make them a more well-rounded and mindful tenant.

What are the cons?

Allowing animals on your property means that you may have to deal with property damage or problems with other tenants. That’s just the reality of the situation. While many pet owners are responsible, some are not, and you may enter a rental at the end of a lease to find torn carpet, scratched walls, or soiled flooring. If you allow any and all breeds of dog and cat, you may find that a loud or dangerous animal slips through the cracks and can prove an annoyance to your other tenants at best or a danger to them at worst.

What can you do to maximize the benefits of allowing pets while minimizing the negatives? You’re in control of the pet policy, so construct it in a way that works in your favor. Limit the number, type, and size of the animals you’ll allow in your property, paying special attention to your local laws as far as whether there are breed limitations in your area. For example, some local regulations will not allow pit bulls or exotic pets. You’ll likely also want to include a pet deposit to discourage irresponsible pet owners and cover your bases against property damage, and require animals be licensed and up to date on vaccinations with proof from a veterinarian in the application.

What about service animals?

Service animals can complicate matters if you have a blanket “no pet” policy. We’ve written about what constitutes a service dog before, and as you can read there, service dogs are not pets – they are working companion animals. It’s also important to know that both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act require most rental properties to allow service dogs, with some exceptions.

Emotional support animals are different from service dogs and are also typically required by the Fair Housing Act (but not the ADA). An emotional support animal does not have to be as highly trained as a service dog because they’re kept for emotional support rather than assisting a person with a disability. These animals do not have to be a specific breed of dog – they may be small dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, rodents, or even pigs. It’s highly recommended that you check with your legal counsel as to your local rules, laws, and regulations as far as service and support animals.

If you’re looking into screening services for all potential tenants, try our RentalConnect program, which offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search. Reach out to us for more details!

Posted by & filed under Uncategorized.

Rental Applicants Are Your Business PartnersAs a new landlord, you’re likely learning all the ropes you’ll need to begin a successful rental business. If there’s any straightforward advice we can give to people who are just starting out, it’s exactly that: make sure you’re running your business as a business. When you’re in a people-centric job like renting out property to tenants, it can be very easy to try to be a friend and let people slide on certain things or overlook others. In order to best protect yourself and your property so that you can continue this work for many years to come, you have to alter your mindset.

The Right Way to Review Tentants

The fact of the matter is that anyone can be a nice person, or at least give the impression that they’re a nice person. When someone has something to hide, they’ll very often try to skirt around it by putting on a friendly front and making you feel at ease. This isn’t to say that some people aren’t genuinely friendly and nice people – they certainly are! It’s just a word of warning that you can’t rely on a person’s word alone when you’re making decisions that could adversely affect your business and your bottom line.

It’s best to approach your rental applicants as if they’re potential business partners, rather than potential friends. Even very nice people can make terrible business partners, so keep that in mind as you interview them and review their application. You may like them as an individual, but will they make a good partner? Can you rely on them to pull their weight to help your business succeed? Everyone has a sob story they can pull out to draw on your empathy. The most important thing is to make the decision that’s best for you and your business.

Better Decision Making

There’s nothing wrong with being a kind landlord who wants to do right by your tenants. People really do fall on hard times occasionally. Your willingness to give them a chance could be well worth it. All we’re suggesting here is that you don’t let your kindness get in the way of making sound business decisions. Don’t place your trust in someone just because they’re very friendly and have a great personality. Trust your gut, but also trust the information you see on paper. That great person could have a criminal history or an eviction record. It’s vital that you know these things before making a decision.

This is where tenant screening comes in handy. A screening service, which is paid by the tenant as part of their application fee, will give you all the information you need to make the best decision for your business. It will tell you all the things that a smile and an interview can’t.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect program. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

Rental Applicant Red Flag: Oversharing and Setting the StageHave you ever had a rental applicant who overshared with you right off the bat? Maybe they wanted to tell you a story about how unreasonable their last landlord was or about that time they got caught up in something that definitely wasn’t their fault. You might hear about a “crazy” ex-partner or a misunderstanding with another tenant or a shady property manager who stole from them and then kicked them out. There are any number of tales you could hear from your potential tenants and quite a few of them should raise a great big red flag.

When your rental applicant insist on sharing stories that seem to indicate trouble in their past, they’re most likely doing so to set the stage. What that means is that they know that you’re running a screening and will spot something you might not like, so they’re trying to get ahead of the situation and give you their side of the story first so that you don’t set them aside immediately. This is a totally understandable reaction – someone seeking housing is going to do whatever they can to better their odds, and it’s human nature to try to make ourselves look good. Often, this is exactly what the applicant is trying to do – make themselves look better in your eyes before you see their screening report.

This is where your landlord instincts need to come in to play.

You should, of course, always check your screening reports before making any decisions. Depending on the laws in your area, you can run:

Many cities allow criminal history to play a part in your decision, so consider the stories you heard from your applicant and apply them to what the report tells you. If someone claims they were “caught up” in something against their will but the criminal history report indicates that they were convicted for drug possession, that’s worth serious consideration. If they mentioned having issues with a previous landlord and there’s an eviction on their record, you might consider following up with previous landlords to get the full story.

As always, it’s admirable to want to give applicants the benefit of the doubt, and if your gut tells you that the person’s story rings true, it’s okay to listen. On rare occasions, things just don’t go someone’s way. If the rest of their background and records indicate that they’re perfectly fine to work with, then you should consider that. Ultimately, screening services are a tool to help you make the best and most informed decision. Use the information you have available to you and trust your instincts.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect program. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

Posted by & filed under Property Management, Rentals.

Managing Rental Property By Owner: The AdvantagesIf you own rental units, whether it’s one single family home or a portfolio of apartment complexes, one question you’ll inevitably face: to manage or to outsource. Is it worth the time and effort to manage your rental property? Or is hiring a property management company a better choice? There are distinct advantages to managing a rental property as an owner.

Overhead Savings

Most people get into rental properties to make money. When using rentals as an investment, minimizing expenses will maximize profit. For owners willing to put the time into self-managing, this can eliminate the expense of property management. Usually a private company will charge you 7-10% of the collected income from the property, in addition to any other fees, such as the first month’s rent for each new tenant. That’s a significant expense that you can save by managing the rental property yourself.

Learning Experience

You may not know everything about property management – yet. Managing your rentals is an excellent chance to get to know the ins and outs of management and your specific property. That way, if you do decide to hire a company down the line, you will have a better understanding of the building and the responsibilities of management. Even if you do end up hiring a property manager or team, you will gain valuable experience from doing the job first. This knowledge will make you more informed and better prepared to find the right person for the job.

Better Maintenance

You have a vested interest in your rentals and care the most about the property. You are the best person to make sure your rental property is kept in tip-top shape. While a property management company may only worry about maintenance when a tenant calls with an issue, you can keep your property in better condition with routine maintenance on appliances, cleaning gutters, check ins with tenants, and regular inspections. Keeping up on maintenance (instead of deferring to maximize profits in the short-term) will save you money in the long run and make it easier to turn the unit over when you need to rent it again, because there won’t be major issues to fix.

Total Control

As a owner-manager, you will have total control over your rental property. Relying on a property manager to carry out your concerns and plans is not always a sure thing. As we’ve said, you are the one with the biggest interest in the success of your rental unit. Not every property manager can be trusted to find the right contractors and vendors to work on the space, to be honest about vacancies and rents, and to handle your property in a manner you would want. Some owners fall victim to shady property management companies that steal money, don’t properly screen tenants, and other unsavory activities.

When it comes to rental properties, you are the person most vested in your success. Acting as your own property manager can save you from shady property management companies as well as money. If you’re prepared to take on the hassles of management, including emergency calls in the middle of the night, it can be a rewarding learning experience that gives you total control over your rental.

Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

Beware Tenants Who Will "Take Anything"As a landlord, it’s always nice to deal with friendly, flexible tenants. During the interview process while you’re reviewing applications, it can be something of a relief to have a family come in and tell you they’re happy to do whatever you need them to do because they’ll accept anything. However, it’s important to be wary of a potential tenant that will accept literally anything you have to offer. Why? We’ll explain.

Know The Warning Signs

Before we get into it, we’ll establish that some tenants are simply very amicable and willing to do whatever it takes to make their landlord happy. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, and such tenants can end up being an excellent fit for your property. That said, when you’re in the process of interviewing someone and they reveal that they will “take anything,” it should raise your suspicions a bit. Someone who’s desperate to get a roof over their head, even if the roof isn’t in especially good repair, must have a reason. That reason is rarely a good indicator.

For example, if you’re interviewing a large family with multiple children who are okay accepting a house with too few bedrooms to meet their needs, inquire about that. They may admit that they actually do need more space, but they’re in a bind and need whatever they can get. Alternately, maybe you’re speaking with an individual who’s willing to accept an apartment that’s dirty or in disrepair if they must. When you hear statements like these, you need to take a closer look at their previous residences, eviction history, and background check. More likely than not, something will jump out at you, like a pervious eviction or missed rental payments.

Why It Pays To Be Picky

While it might be slightly more frustrating in the interim, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for rental applicants that are a bit pickier. If they have questions about the property or ask you if you’ll make changes or repairs prior to their move in, it indicates that they’re not desperate. They can afford to be picky, which means they’re less likely to have something in their history that’s forcing them to find new housing right away. As always, listen to your gut, but it’s worth noting that reading between the lines can tell you a lot about what sort of tenant you’ll have.

To reiterate, being amicable doesn’t necessarily indicate desperation or a problem in tenant history. That’s why it’s always vital to make sure you’re doing a full screening on every applicant. If anyone raises your suspicions, you can verify your gut feeling through a background check, credit check, or eviction history report.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

What to Watch for During a Tenant InterviewIn our previous post, we talked about paying attention to the questions your tenants ask and whether they raise any red flags for you. In this post, we’re discussing a similar topic, but this time you’re the one asking the questions. Landlords often interview potential tenants as part of their screening process, which is good business practice. Seeing something on paper isn’t the same as hearing it from a person’s mouth, and there are things that can be revealed during an in-person or even phone interview that you just won’t get from an application alone.

More of What to Watch Out For

To start, you should have a ready list of questions to ask your applicants that will give you the details you need to make a good choice for your property. Some of these questions may include:

  • Where are you currently living and how long have you been there?
  • When do you need to move?
  • Do you have a history of renting and do you have references?
  • Will you be bringing in a pet and do you understand our pet policy?
  • Who is your current employer?
  • What is your estimated monthly income?
  • Is there anything I should be aware of before running your background check?

There are tons of other questions you can ask as well, but these will give you a good baseline. Asking the questions is only one piece of the puzzle, however. The other piece is not only listening to the answers but reading between the lines of the responses.

What does that mean, exactly? When we’re speaking with someone face to face, it’s easier to detect discomfort and potential embellishments. Filling out a form makes it easy to fudge facts a little, but most people aren’t good enough fibbers to make those little lies believable in person. Pay attention to how they answer the question. Are they stumbling over their words often or refusing to answer the question directly? Are they being too vague? Pay attention to body language as well. Looking away while answering a question or nervous fidgeting are warning signs, as is stalling or changing the subject.

It’s entirely possible that some people simply don’t interview well and are acting nervous because they’re just nervous. That’s why the interview is only one part of the tenant screening process. Keep notes so you can refer back to whichever answers stuck out to you and cross-reference them with the screening and credit reports.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.

Posted by & filed under Tenant Screening.

Tenant Questions That Raise Red FlagsConducting applicant interviews is standard practice for many landlords and property managers. During the interview, you have the opportunity to get a feel for a prospective tenant and learn more about them. This helps you make a more informed decision about who will be the best fit for your property. During this process, you’ll probably ask the tenant if they have any questions of their own for you. It’s a great opportunity for communication and setting expectations early so that you’re both on the same page. It’s the start of a relationship that may continue for years.

Most rental applicants will ask standard questions to get a better feel for you as a landlord or so that they have the information they need. However, occasionally a tenant will ask a question that may raise a red flag. It’s good to know going in which questions you should pay attention to in case they reveal more than the applicant means to let on.

Know What to Watch Out For

One of the biggest red flags during the Q&A session of the interview are questions about your screening process. It’s entirely possible that these questions are innocent, so take this advice with a grain of salt and go with your gut, but often people who press on how you run screenings and which screenings you do are revealing something they’d rather keep hidden.

Some of these questions can include:

  • Do you screen out of state?
  • How high a FICO score do you require?
  • Do you look at eviction records?
  • Do you look at federal records?

These and similar questions can indicate that there’s something that will be revealed in the screening that may affect your decision. Once again, it’s possible that these inquiries are just the applicant’s way of getting an idea of how you do things, but it’s worth looking into. No matter what, you should wait for the screening process to complete and see what it reveals before making your decision. If the applicant inquires about a screening that you don’t do, you may want to place an order for that screening, just in case. Ultimately, tenant screening services are about protecting yourself and your property. It never hurts to do your due diligence.

For help in selecting the right tenants for your properties, we recommend our RentalConnect. RentalConnect offers property owners and landlords a great alternative to the expense of full tenant screening. This service requires no on-site visit, sign-up, or membership fees, making it extra convenient. The $34.95 service fee is paid by the applicant. Available 24/7, RentalConnect is fast, easy, secure, and delivers reports needed to make an informed decision, including a credit report, a national criminal search, and a national eviction search.