Most property managers feel a huge weight lifted off of their shoulders when they begin to get calls from people interested in renting out a property. The likelihood that an empty property will soon start generating money is enough to put a smile on anyone's face. Unfortunately, there are several mistakes that property managers make when bringing in new tenants. These mistakes can potentially land you in hot water, so avoiding them is essential.

1. Not Making Disclosures to Tenants
Although laws may vary, each state has disclosure requirements related to incoming tenants. These are rules about information that a landlord must disclose before renting out a unit. For example, in horror movies, you have probably seen instances in which real estate agents disclosed recent deaths in a household; this is a real requirement in some states.
It's important to note, though, that there will likely be other things that must be disclosed. Laws about lead paint disclosure, for instance, are very common. Additionally, landlords may have to disclose the presence of mold or even sex offenders that they know of who live in the area. Knowing these state-specific laws is essential.

2. Mistakes in The Screening Process
There are a host of screening errors that can lead to less-than-satisfactory tenants moving in or even legal action being taken. The Federal Fair Housing Act, for instance, prohibits property managers from asking certain questions that may be viewed as discriminatory. Questions that seem to focus on familial status, religion, national origin, or other protected statuses could land you in court.
Landlords may also make mistakes when conducting screening related to background checks. If you're not careful, you could end up using an untrustworthy background check website that doesn't discover all relevant information. Fortunately, there is online property management software that can perform the appropriate background check with ease.

3. Not Correcting Potentially Dangerous Conditions
One potentially serious mistake is not correcting known hazardous conditions. While it may seem like a hassle to fill in the hole the last tenant's dog dug, fix the deadbolt while the lower lock still works, or provide sufficient outdoor lighting in a neighborhood with criminal activity, failing to fix any of these situations can land a property manager in court.
In most areas, landlords are required by law to create safe environments for their tenants. If they fail to do so, they could be held responsible for damages. In the end, it's simply safer to correct all hazardous conditions before handing the keys over to a new tenant.

4. Rental Application Errors
Another common error when bringing in new tenants is related to rental applications. Many landlords simply download the first application they come across on Google and continue using it forever. Unfortunately, these applications may be outdated, and in many cases, language contained in these "one-size-fits-all" applications may not even correlate with your state's laws.
Additionally, creating your own application harbors the same potential dangers. You run the risk of inputting language that simply cannot be upheld legally in your area. Fortunately, many of the aforementioned property management software suites provide state-specific rental applications.

5. Letting Your Mouth Write The Checks
In an effort to quickly rent out a property in an improving economy, it becomes second nature to speak highly of a property and even make promises that certain improvements will be made. Once these promises are made, though, it's essential that you follow through.
Even if these promises aren't in the lease, the incoming tenant can break the lease or take you to court for the value of the difference. Without the promise directly written in the lease, there's no guarantee that they'll win, but the time and money expended dealing with this issue is hardly worth it.

Being a property manager is an undoubtedly difficult job, but the aforementioned mistakes can turn a tedious task into a nearly impossible one. Fortunately, all of these mistakes are easily avoidable. With just a few proactive measures and the right tools at your side, your mistakes with incoming tenants can become a thing of the past.

POSTED May 27 2015 12:16 PM
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