If you’ve recently thought about becoming a landlord, or if you’ve been in the game for a while and want to improve your pool of renters, there’s a couple crucial things you’ll want to know. Rental properties are a big investment! You need to protect your investment and make sure you’re able to keep your business in the best shape possible. Here are a few tips to help ensure you attract the right kind of renters—and keep damage to a minimum.
Screen your tenants
If you don’t do this already… start! Screening your tenants is one of the best ways to get an idea of who you’ll be renting to before you hand over the keys. Even just having some basic information about who will be renting from you can save you a lot of wasted time and money later on. For example, credit and/or rental history, employment records and even criminal history (if any) are important bits of information you’ll want to be aware of before even considering someone as an eligible candidate. There are plenty of tenant screeners to help you make better decisions about possible renters. Often these services can be found online and are able to assess credit and criminal history in minutes!
Be firm, but kind
Even the best of people might try to bend the rules—it’s just human nature. This is why it’s incredibly important to be firm but kind when interacting with your tenants. Make it your mantra, especially when it comes to collecting those rent checks. This is something you should establish early on, no excuses! All of your signed rental agreements should outline not only when rent is due, but also the acceptable forms of payment as well as any consequences for payments that are late. Then (and this is important!), you need to enforce your terms.
Most everyone wants to be liked, but it’s more important in this type of situation that you don’t get taken advantage of. There’s a folk saying that says, “Do not be so sweet that people eat you up, and do not be so bitter that people spit you out.” Moral of the story: it’s good to find middle ground to protect your revenue. Keeping your tenants in check early on will help ensure consistently good behavior across the board because they’ll know you mean business.
Go with your gut
Even if you’ve dotted all the i’s and crossed all your t’s—meaning, you’ve done your background and credit checks, you have all the your paperwork in order, and you’ve done your walk-throughs—and something still doesn’t feel right, take a pause. It’s okay to take some time to reflect; our gut intuition is often pretty accurate. This is also why it’s crucial you make time to meet your prospective tenants in person. Someone who looks great on paper may display some warning signs in the flesh.
Scheduling time to meet applicants also gives you an opportunity to ask more detailed questions (and gauge their reactions). These could include questions like, “What made you want to move?” and “How many people will be living with you?” or “Do you have pets?”. Keep in mind you cannot ask questions surrounding disability, religion, nationality, or the number of children an applicant may have. You may be wondering, why can I ask about occupants, but not children? While you must adhere to occupancy regulations for your region or area, asking specifically about children could be interpreted as discrimination against familial status. If you opted not to rent to that applicant for other reasons, such as bad credit or lack of employment references, there is a potential they could sue for discrimination.
Know where to advertise
While Craigslist (and really, let’s be real, the internet in general) has revolutionized the way we browse and shop, sometimes it’s a good idea to get a little bit old school. Instead of posting online, consider putting a “For Rent” sign on the property itself, especially if your rental property is in a nice area. You’re likely to attract the attention of neighbors and community members who’ve lived in the area for a while and who have friends or family members that are looking to rent. Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, and sometimes all you need to do to get the ball rolling is look to your neighbors to do the heavy lifting.
Equipped with these useful tips, you can lease with more confidence and peace of mind over your investment.