When you're trying to fill a vacancy, you need to do a lot more than simply run a credit check. One problem tenant can eat up hours of your time (and cost you a lot of money in some cases), so it pays to put in some extra effort during the application process to weed out as many problems as possible. The clearer you are about your expectations, the less likely you are to run into problems after the lease is signed.
Start With the Application
Before you start narrowing down your list, let applicants know about your scoring process that you will impliment on the tenant screening and how everything works. If they know you expect excellent credit, solid references, and a strong income, under-qualified applicants may not choose to pay the fee. The more information you provide about the application process, the less likely you are to waste time sorting through poor risks.
Be Clear About Lease Terms
Instead of risking the loss of a perfect tenant due to a specific lease issue, offer prospects a copy of a sample lease when they first express interest. This allows them to ask any questions about terms and possible negotiations. If they have a pet, you might be willing to be flexible. If they need a specific time frame but otherwise have a strong application, you might want to be flexible about the duration of the lease. If you offer them a sample document, you can clear up many potential problems from the start.
Discuss Payment Options and Fees
Tenants who want to pay their rent in cash may not be the best option. You'll want to clearly state the available payment methods ahead of time, so prospects know what your expectations are. If you only accept payments at the office during specific hours, tenants need to know. If you have an online system for payments or accept automatic payments, tenants can set it and forget it. By clearly stating payment options and terms, you may avoid late payments and arguments about late fees. You'll also want to be open about bounced-check fees and any other costs associated with payment mishaps.
Lay Out Renewal Terms
Many leases contain an automatic rental increase from year to year. Others switch to a month-to-month commitment at the end of the original term. Let your tenant know how your lease terms work and what to expect from a renewal. By giving tenants an overview of the expected increases, you increase your odds of landing a long-term tenant.
Assign Maintenance Responsibilities
As a landlord, many maintenance tasks fall to you. Plumbing, electrical and other home systems are usually the responsibility of the landlord, but outdoor spaces may be negotiable in some states. For example, you might have the tenant assume responsibility for clearing snow or keeping the grass cut. If you do, make sure to draw the tenant's attention to that lease clause and any consequences for failure to comply.
Be Clear and Concise for a Better Tenant Relationship
The more information applicants have about how you handle your rentals, the less likely you are to have problems with a tenant. If they know that you respond best to phone calls during the day and prefer text messages for evening emergencies, you may face fewer midnight interruptions. Build a relationship with your tenants and they might stick around, without hassle, for a lot longer than the first year.
Keeping good tenants and weeding out problem tenants during the tenant screening process usually starts with communication. The more clearly you describe the process and your expectations, the less likely you are to deal with problems in the future. Tenants who know about lease terms, understand renewal options and have emergency contact information in hand spend less time fighting with you and more time enjoying their stay.
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