Archives for posts with tag: rocket lease

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.

Property management company Korman Residential has recently been working to roll out their KindSpace initiative, which has the company converting apartment buildings into sustainable and eco-friendly projects. These apartments use locally sourced materials, energy efficient appliances and much of the décor and construction materials come from recycled products.

While they aren’t the first company to make inroads in the green construction and rental business, it gives us here at Rocket Lease an opportunity to weigh in on the matter.  Korman has converted hundreds of units across the country, in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Florida into KindSpace apartments.

If you’re a landlord, we’re sure you love the earth and everything, but what about the bottom line here: does having an “eco-friendly” apartment available allow you to charge a premium?  While we’re not privy to the exact rental rates at the Korman properties, judging by the inflated prices on everything from organic tomatoes to vegan hand soap and gluten free cupcakes, we can bet that the answer is a resounding yet.  This has to be particularly true considering the fact that we’re already entrenched in a landlord’s market.  It’s just a fact that people are willing to pay more for something that makes them feel like they are doing something good for the environment and for themselves.  Furthermore, since that demographic who is more willing to pay for organic or eco-friendly or whatever the buzzword of the day is tends to be more affluent, they will most likely be the most desireable tenants.  This is an interesting and innovative way for Korman and other property management companies to attract the best tenants.

The market is another interesting thing to consider, however.  Since everyone knows that it’s impossible for it to stay a landlord’s market forever, now is actually a great time to be making improvement to properties, such as adding Energy Star rated appliances or painting with non-toxic paint.  That way when the market does take a turn for the renter, that property will be ready with an advantage to present to picky renters while other landlords scramble to make improvements.

We also know that one easy (and free!) way to “green” up your rental process is to switch to an online rental application which saves you time and saves the earth a few trees.

As a landlord, what do you think of converting units to something a little more earth-friendly?  Are you willing to spend a little more on your overhead to potentially recover a lot more in rent?  Furthermore, do we think this fad will last?

Here on the Rocket Lease blog, we’ve already devoted a little bit of time talking about the overall economy and its effects on the rental market.  But new figures that were recently released by Reis show that the market for apartment rentals may be even more robust that originally thought.  In fact, MarketWatch is predicting that the apartment vacancy rate will fall to 4.6% nationwide by the end of next year.  Up to now, occupancy rates like these have been largely unheard of except in the most competitive markets.  Today, in the notoriously competitive rental market that is New York City, vacancies have fallen this year to a paltry 2.4%.

As with any market trend, there are a lot of factors that contribute to numbers like these.  But probably the most important factor in today’s rental market is the fact that the housing market and the individual finances of most US citizens have simply not recovered to the point where homeownership is once again an option.  In fact, according to an informal survey conducted by apartments.com, an astonishing 33% of people who are looking for rentals on that site are former homeowners.  Clearly, when people are unable to afford the purchase or upkeep of their own home, they will most often find themselves turning to the rental market.

But what do these low vacancy rates mean for property owners and landlords?  Obviously, this kind of rental market – one that works strongly in favor of the landlords – can be a boon to property owners.  Indeed, one of the worst scenarios for a landlord is to find themselves with many vacancies which represent a loss of potential income.  However, that doesn’t mean that in a landlord’s market is a time to rest on your laurels and let the rental applications take care of themselves.  In fact, as the rental market becomes more competitive, it will be more of a challenge and necessity to find the very best tenants among the applicants.  Using an online  rental application system, of course, can be helpful in keeping track of all the applicants that come in and can also insist in quickly sorting and denying applications from those who are not qualified.  This can save you a tremendous amount of time that will be precious when trying to rent an apartment in a competitive market.

Furthermore, during these booming times, it may be a good idea to consider making improvements to your property.  Since you will no doubt have low vacancy rates and therefore be comfortably collecting monthly rents, using this income to make your building more attractive can help to prepare you for the times when business is not quite so quick.  Sure, with a 4% vacancy rate you may not have to offer the best amenities or even the best prices in order to attract tenants.  However, there will come a time when vacancy rates go back up and if you have done your due diligence in upkeep and improvement during the good times, you will more easily be able to weather the bad.

There are so many difficult situations that a property manager has to deal with in the course of a single day that it would be overwhelming to try to list all of them here.  But perhaps one of the biggest challenges faced by a property manager is dealing with the property owner or landlord that owns your building.  Ideally, you have a good relationship with the property owner who is your boss and that lets you make suggestions to him or her about how the property is handled.  Still, we know that it can sometimes be difficult to convince a property owner to change their ways, which includes getting them to switch to an online rental application process.  Luckily, we here at Rocket Lease have some suggestions for how to deal with the questions and concerns that the property owner might have when you bring up the idea.

What He Says: Won’t it be hard for me to learn a new system? 

Particularly if a landlord has been in the business for a long time, he will probably be concerned about the effort it will take to learn any kind of new system.  If he is in the habit of reviewing paper applications when a vacancy comes up, he may be very hesitant to switch to an online system, lest he not be able to judge prospective tenants so easily.

What You Say: The Rocket Lease system is extremely easy to use.  The streamlined dashboard actually means it’s easier to review applications – with the added benefit that you can do it from anywhere without having drop by the property or have them faxed over.  You can even review applications from your smart phone.  (At this point, you can feel free to show them the simple and oh-so-easy walkthrough on our site, which you’ll find here.)

What He Says: Why would we change?  Our system works fine.

It’s true that people have been renting apartments using paper applications for decades and it hasn’t started any nuclear wars (that we know of).  But just because a system works “ok” doesn’t mean it’s the best system.  If that were true, I’d be typing this on an Apple IIe and faxing it to you, right?

Yes, switching to an online system will doubtless make your job easier and that’s why you want to do it.  But when you’re talking to your boss, don’t focus on that part, focus on how it will actually help them.

What You Say: Switching to an online rental application will save you money because it will save me time.  When I’m not wading through paper applications or fussing with the fax machine, I can be doing the other, more important tasks that come with my job, like checking facebook.  NO!  Don’t say that, like fixing things.

You Can Also Say:  It will find you better tenants because you can accept applications from people around the world and also set up a pre-screening application saving everyone time and energy.  Our current system works “ok” but this system works BETTER.

What He Says: Won’t a fancy online application cost me money?

This is an easy one, because it won’t.

What You Say: Rocket Lease is free for landlords.  They even do tenant screening with the screening fees going to the prospective tenants.

If by this point in the conversation you haven’t convinced your property owner to switch to online rental application, you could always try begging.

There are many good reasons that you have a tenant sign a lease before allowing them to move in to your rental property.  Surely you have invested a great deal of time and money into your property and you want to protect that investment.  Having a lease with your tenants means making sure you are protected financially in the case of damage to your property but it also means that you are protected if your tenant decides to move out early, leaving you with a vacancy before their lease is up.

Have a tenant break a lease can be frustrating.  You expended effort in finding the right tenant for your vacancy, possibly even turning people away before choosing who you would allow to move in and then that person or family moves out before the term of their lease is up, leaving you back at square one!  The situation can be made even more frustrating since you may actually feel a great deal of sympathy for the tenant who needs to move out.  He or she may have managed to purchase property of their own or may have found a job in another state or may find themselves getting married and moving in with their new spouse.  All of these are joyous occasions and you may feel happy for them even though you are the one facing the consequences of their choices.

But rest assured, as a landlord, you have rights when your tenants break their lease in this manner and you should absolutely exercise them without apology.  When a tenant signs a lease, usually for a year long term, he is entering into a legally binding contract that says he will pay an agreed upon rent in exchange for permission to occupy your property for that entire term.  Just because a tenant decides or is forced to move out before that term is up does not mean the lease simply vanishes and is unenforceable.  Instead, you have the right to insist that your tenant either continue to pay rent for the remainder of the lease, or continue to pay rent until which point he finds a suitable subletter to finish out the duration of the lease.

As a landlord, you may also choose to offer the option of a buyout, which means agreeing on a price for which you will release your tenant from his or her lease agreement.  Be sure to have the document in writing so that there is no confusion in the future.

Making these demands for payment does not make you mean or unreasonable.  These are your rights as a property owner.  If you do plan to demand payment from your tenants who are breaking their lease, be sure to have an attorney on hand in case there is any refusal or difficulties in obtaining your payments.

The messy situation that is a messy lease is a great reason to have  a clear and understandable lease signed by each and every tenant that lays out these terms without question.  Since you may need to consult the lease when your tenants tell you they are moving out, it is helpful to always have a copy at the ready.  There’s no easier way to do this then to use an online apartment lease, through a system like Rocket Lease.  Since the entire lease process is online, including an online signature feature, you won’t have to go searching through overstuffed files or risk a deadly papercut.  Just click into your Rocket Lease dashboard and find out exactly what your tenants agreed to with no questions.

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.

'Locks' photo (c) 2010, m thierry - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Although we live in a time where the internet has made many things exponentially more awesome, we also live in a time when the internet has made some things a little bit more scary, especially when it comes to you personal information and privacy.  It seems like every time you visit a new site, they want more and more details about you before you even get a chance to decide if you trust them!  At Rocket Lease, we understand how off-putting that is, which is why you should know that we take your personal security very seriously.

Since the rental application process requires a great deal of personal information, oftentimes even asking for your social security number, we know that you might find Rocket Lease a little bit scary itself, particularly if you have never availed yourself of our services before.  But we know how important keeping your personal information is to you, whether you are a landlord or a tenant so we want to assure you that you are safe with us. 

RocketLease uses sophisticated encryption technology to send your information through the internet.  This includes bank level security on our site as well as SSL secure connections throughout rocketlease.com.  When you use Rocket Lease either to provide your tenants with an easy and efficient way to apply for apartment online or whether you are submitting an application for your dream loft, your personal information will not be seen by anyone that you haven’t expressly granted permission to.  Not even the Rocket Lease team will have access to unencrypted application data throughout the entire process. 

What this level of security means for you is that the Rocket Lease online rental application is actually more secure than a paper application.  Think about it this way: it would be much easier for a hard copy of an application to fall into the wrong hands than it would be for someone to gain access to your data through our system.

Rocket Lease also utilizes an electronic signature, through the trusted and established third party Docusign software, which allows us to transmit legally binding signatures without the hassle and security risk of a printed copy.   You can find more information about the legality of online signatures on our FAQ page.

If you have further questions about the Rocket Lease, don’t hesitate to visit rocketlease.com and get in touch with one of our trained professionals.