Archives for category: Tenant Screening

Boston’s North End Has a Noise Problem

Even if you are landlord in the most responsible, timid, and low-key neighborhood in the country, chances are you’ve had to deal with at least one set of noisy tenants. Whether it’s parties, loud exercise equipment, or even particularly raucous, ahem, intimate relations, where there are a lot of people living in close proximity, someone is bound to get to loud.

In Boston, a city councilor has taken to legislation to try to curb the decibels in one of that city’s most densely populated areas, known as the North End. Councilmember Salvatore LaMattina has proposed a city ordinance that would make landlords responsible for the loud behavior of their tenants. It seems that recent years have brought an influx of young professionals and recent college graduates to the North End who decided to bring their frat house habits with them. This has caused much dismay in this historic neighborhood where people complain of frequently being woken up 2 or 3 times per week due to noise on the street and in neighboring buildings.

According to boston.com:

LaMattina’s nuisance control ordinance, filed in late July, would levy fines as follows: for the first offense, the resident, the organizer, and any attendees of a loud party responsible for creating a public nuisance would face a $100 fine. On a second or subsequent offense within one year of the first, a $300 fine would be levied against all the above, plus the owner of the property.

This means that landlords, no matter where they themselves live or who their tenants are, will be held financially responsible for noise complaints filed against their tenants, even if it is a party and the noise is being cause by non-tenants.

As a landlord, you may have had to deal with noise complaints before, between your own tenants. But an ordinance like this is rare. After all, most landlords and property owners who rent out apartments do not live on the premises with their tenants. This makes it impossible to really know about noise issues until they become a problem.

Of course, there are a few ways to address these issues before they explode into problems and you find yourself paying fines. First, it is important to screen tenants before they sign a lease. This means more than just a credit check. Talking to past landlords can be one of the best ways to find out if a tenant is destined to be noisy since most people don’t pick up partying habits overnight. Additionally, having a property manager on site at your building can nip noise issues in the bud before they become real problems. Yes, this may mean losing out on a bit of rental income but if it saves you and your property even one night of contact with the police, it may be well worth the expense.

In the end, it is unlikely that most municipalities will enact the same kind of ordinance that is being proposed in Boston, but taking preventative measures to avoid noisy and disrespectful tenants will never be a waste of time.

The constant fluctuations of the housing market can mean many things in terms of property investment, rental rates and the life of a landlord. We know, for instance, that there is a higher percentage of renters in the United States than there has been in quite sometime. But what we haven’t addressed is that there are also more landlords. Whether you have found yourself in a property investment deal that didn’t go quite as planned or you’ve moved to another house while your old property has sat on the market for far too long, you yourself may have already become a landlord due to lack of options. The life of a landlord can be financially rewarding, but it can also be complex and draining with many rules, laws and advice to wade through. In this post, we want to distill a few of the more important tips that will lead to a better life for both you and your tenants.
1. Have a Knowledgeable Attorney On Speed Dial

And we don’t mean your friend from high school who now works in criminal law or your neighbor who used to be a paralegal. You should find an attorney who specializes and it intimately familiar with landlord/tenant law and the evictions process. No one wants to think about evictions when you don’t even have a tenant yet, but the fact is that at some point you will have to deal with the process. If you develop a good relationship with an attorney sooner rather than later, it can save you a lot of headache and maybe a few bucks in the future. A good attorney can also help you by reviewing your lease agreement to make sure there aren’t any glaring errors or problems.

2. Consider Professional Property Management

It may seem like an expensive prospect, but the fact is that unless you live next door and can dedicate a significant amount of your time to dealing with your tenants, you will be much better off having the property managed professionally. A trusted manager can fix problems as they arise, collect rents and develop a professional relationship with your tenants so that you can go on living your life without the constant threat of a phone call with and emergency plumbing situation.

3. Set Expectations Right Away

It’s evident from this blog post and the ensuing comments that most landlords agree it’s important to set your expectations up front and not back down, even if it makes you uncomfortable at first. As a landlord, it is important to remember that while you may respect and even like your tenants, you are not friends with them. Insist that they pay their rent in full, on time, from the very beginning. This makes it less likely that they will offer up excuses in the future. You’ve become a landlord to recoup an investment, one way or another, and you won’t be able to do that unless you actually get rent.

4. Find a Good Apartment Application

Having an application system in place before you even put out a yard sign for your vacancy will make your rental process go more smoothly. Of course, we may be a little biased, be we find that an online rental application is much simpler to use than a paper form. You can collect all the information you need – including references, driver’s license number, credit check approval and a new tenant’s contact information – and keep it safely in one place online for future reference. Even if you don’t choose to go online with the process, make sure you have an application ready as soon as tenants start calling.

5. Choose Tenants Wisely

If you’re desperate to start making income from your property, you may want to take the first person who shows an interest, but that is not the best idea. Screen your tenants, run a credit check on your tenants, interview your tenants, call your tenants’ landlords. Make sure they are trustworthy people who are not apt to destroy your property and run off in the middle of the night without paying rent.

Of course, being a landlord is not as simple as five easy tips, but keeping these in mind as you venture into the world of landlord-hood should make your new role a little easier.

Pets are a tricky and sometimes controversial subject. We all know that there are those people who could never live without a warm, furry animal to nuzzle. But there are also those people who are no fan of fur, warmth, nuzzles or any of the other things that come along with having a live animal in your home. For landlords and property owners, there are a whole host of other issues that come along with pets. You may love animals personally, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you want someone else’s pets causing damage to your rental units, making a racket that bothers your current tenants or otherwise doing the things that animals do.  So what options do you have for renting to tenants with pets?

Ban Pets Outright

Whether it’s due to previous bad experiences or negative expectations, many landlords do not allow pets, end of story. While it’s your right to do that (pet owners are not a protected class of citizens against who you may not discriminate) there are some drawbacks to this solution.

First, it eliminates a big swath of the renting population, meaning you could have a harder time filling vacancies. But furthermore, studies have actually shown that  landlords who allow pets make more money and tenants with pets stay in their rental units longer. Finally, landlords who allow pets are actually able to charge more than those who do not, as well as save money on advertising all because units are simply easier to rent when they allow pets. Basically, current property owners who are having trouble filling vacancies may want to consider changing their pet policies

Filter by Type, Size and Even Breed…

But allowing pets to rent units doesn’t have to mean that you let every renter’s menagerie move in without question. Instead, decide what type of pets would be suitable for your unit and for your building and outline these restrictions as soon as you post an ad for your vacancy. Maybe you’re renting small and quiet places that would be well suited to a cat or two, but wouldn’t really fit a Rottweiler, you can decide to allow cats and not dogs. But maybe you’re renting out a condo with a yard in a family neighborhood and a dog would fit right in, then consider allowing dogs. Many landlords also choose to institute weight limits for apartments so certainly dogs may be eligible while others are not.

…or Just Screen For Yourself

An even more effective strategy for filtering out pets is judging the pet for yourself rather than making strict requirement right off the bat. Meet your potential tenant first and then ask to meet their pet before making your final decision. Two dogs may look exactly the same but one is well-mannered and clearly trained while the other is rambunctious and out of control, but you won’t know which is which unless you meet them.

Be Specific in Your Lease

Make sure your pet policy is clear in your lease. Some tenants may move in without a pet and decide to get one while they are staying with you. If there is no clause in your lease, you may have no recourse for dealing with this new pet, so be sure to be clear.

Collect a Pet Deposit

Even if you love animals and your tenants have only the best behaved tenants, it is true that pets can cause damage. This is exactly why the vast majority of pet-friendly rental units require a pet deposit that is separate from the security deposit. How much you want to charge should depend on the overall cost of the apartment and the fixtures, carpet, etc. that may become damaged. This deposit will protect you in the event you need to do pet-related repairs and most pet owners are more than happy to pay it.

Overall, the issue at hand isn’t really whether or not you like animals, it’s a matter of responsibility and that’s the most important quality in any desirable tenant, whether they have a dog or a cockatoo or a cactus. When you screen your tenants and their pets appropriately, you can quickly being to reap the benefits of being pet-friendly.

Image courtesy of Curbed.com

When you spend as much time keeping tabs on the real estate industry and rental market as we do, you can’t help but notice some trends.  And one thing that seems to pop up each and every week is a story about a celebrity (or a former pairing of celebrities, in some instances) selling his or her home.  Not that it’s in this blogger’s budget, but it got us at Rocket Lease thinking: what would it be like to buy a house that used to have a high profile owner?  Would you do it?  Let’s take a second to think about the pros and cons of buying a celebrity home.

Pro

Readily Available Aerial Photos

Gene Hackman's (Former) Estate

If you’re lucky enough to buy a home that was featured in celebrity arrest, the likelihood of finding pictures of it online that were shot from a helicopter are extremely high.  These types of photos can come in handy when trying to arrange furniture or figure out the best escape routes should those cops ever come for you.

Con

Mistakenly Receiving Their Mail & Unsolicited Scripts

It’s always annoying to get someone else’s mail after you move in to a new home, but it’s even more annoying when that mail consists of autograph requests and scripts for the next great indie comedy that you will definitely love if you just read it!  You could consider the endless supply of scrap paper to be a pro, but you probably don’t.

Toss Up

Celebrity Neighbors

Unless they’re the weird kind of celebrity that prefers to hole up in Wyoming when they’re not on set, most celebrities live in close proximity to their celebrity brethren.  This might be great if you like hobnobbing and namedropping, but it might be awful if you have to cope with TMZ photogs and Lindsey Lohan walks of shame.  Plus your neighborly disputes might end up somewhere a little more visible than the neighborhood ledger.

But What About the Money?

Most people do agree that the celebrity factor can help a house fetch a higher price.  While this isn’t necessarily a selling point when you’re looking to buy, it’s always something you could mention if you decide to rent the house out, like Meg Ryan did with her home, for something like $40,000 A MONTH.  We can only  imagine that those renters went through a credit check or two.

What do you think?  Would you buy or rent a house where a celebrity used to lay her head?

It's okay to be a little suspicious of new tenants.

If you’re a landlord, you know that in order to succeed at your job, you have to wear many different hats. Though renters may think of you as a modern day land barons who does nothing more than sit back and collect rent checks, you know that the truth is very far from that. In fact, there are usually a hundred different things on a landlord’s To Do List on any given day. Whether it’s dealing with contractors, making minor fixes yourself or even hiring and managing property managers, the job is certainly no cake walk. But even though the extra step of running background checks and credit screens on your potential tenants may seem like just another straw on your weakening camel’s back, the truth is that there is no doubt that screening your tenants will save you time, energy and potentially a whole lot of money in the long run. Here are five good reasons to never forget to screen your tenants:

1. Make Sure They’ll Pay Rent On Time & In Full
I don’t know anything about you (except for that you have great taste in blogs!) but I feel confident in saying that you didn’t become a landlord for your health. In all likelihood, you thought that owning rental property was a smart investment and hoped that in the end it would pay off. All of this is to say that your number one concern with new tenants, as a landlord, is that they pay their rent. Running a credit check on potential tenants, although not foolproof, is a good way to find out if an applicant for your vacancy has a history of not paying back money they owe. A credit check is the simplest screening tool and will tell you about accounts that have gone into collections, late payments and other debts. A tenant with a clean credit check is much more likely to pay the rent on time every month which will save you the hassle of having to threaten eviction or even go through with the eviction process.

2. Make Sure They’ll Keep Paying Rent
Even a tenant with a clean credit check is not a great bet if they don’t have a job or some proven way to continue paying their rent each month. Running a check of your tenant’s employment history and verifying their current employment is key to making sure you get your check each month. Many landlords require a recent pay stub as well as a phone call to the current employer to verify their tenant’s position and salary. This is another good way to protect your property investment financially and avoid chasing tenants for the rent. A gainfully employed tenant is much more likely to be a good and reliable tenant.

3. Make Sure They’re the Right Fit
Getting rent on time every month is certainly a main concern, but it’s not the only thing to consider when you’re looking for tenants. You also want to make sure that your new tenants will fit in with the personality of your building. A good way to find this out is to screen their rental history and talk to past landlords about the kind of tenant they were. For instance, if you have a generally quiet property, you may not want someone with a history of throwing loud parties. The reverse is also true: if your property is laid back and home to many noisy people that live in harmony, your tenant may not be happy if they are a quieter and more solitary person.

4. Keep Your Property Safe
Of course, your obligation when it comes to tenant screening is not just to your new tenants, but also to your existing tenants and even to yourself and your property. This is why it’s important to run a criminal background check on all potential tenants. You will want to know if this person has a history of any violent crimes or crimes against property that will put you or your tenants at risk. An unsatisfactory criminal background is a perfectly legitimate reason to refuse to rent to an applicant. You have the right to keep yourself and your tenants safe.

5. Limit Your Legal Liabilities
Finally, running a thorough background check may actually limit your legal liability should anything go awry with the new tenant. You should always consult an experienced legal professional for advice when it comes legal issues (this blog is not a legal professional!) but if, for instance, a new tenant commits a crime against a current tenant and you did not run a thorough background check that would have shown criminal tendencies, then you may be civilly if not criminally liable. Yet another reason to spend the little bit of time and energy that it takes to run background checks on your tenants before signing a lease.

Obviously there are a number of good reasons to screen your tenants before renting to them. The good news is that with an online rental application service like Rocket Lease, the screening process is even easier. We already have your tenants’ information and an whole system in place to run checks on them as soon as you give the go ahead. The best part is that the cost is included in the application fee charged to the applicant, so it costs you nothing. Sign up for Rocket Lease today and let our screening services save you time and money on your very next rental.