After acting as a property manager for a certain amount of time, bringing in new tenants becomes second nature to most. You put the property on the market, meet with several potential candidates, do the appropriate screening, and select the big winner. There are several aspects of preparation, though, that are sometimes overlooked. Putting more focus on these steps can make your life far easier.
Offering an Early Notification Discount
Rarely do landlords think of this, but how much easier would your life be if you got more advanced notice of a tenant's intention to vacate the property? Sure, a month of preparation is manageable, but having more time to market the property, screen potential tenants, and perform repairs around the unit is always beneficial.
With this in mind, offer tenants a discount on their last month's rent if they notify you of their departure more than a month in advance. This will give you an abundance of time to prepare for the next tenant, and more time makes it less likely that mistakes will be made.
Actually Call References
This is a step that you know about, and you're aware that you should do it with every potential tenant. For some reason, though, you probably don't. Many landlords simply do a background check and move on with their lives. And why shouldn't you? After all, there is online property management software that can handle tenant screening for you, so why not take a break?
While such software is an invaluable tool, it's not going to call an applicant's references. Just remember: A lack of a criminal record doesn't mean a lack of criminal activity, and a lack of bad credit doesn't necessarily mean a person pays bills on time. Perform an exhaustive background check, but make sure to take the extra step of calling the provided references.
Change the Locks
Unfortunately, this is a step that is commonly overlooked by many property managers. You might feel as if getting the keys back from trustworthy tenants is enough, but in the time they lived in the unit, how many people had access to their keys? It only takes a few minutes to make a copy of a key; do you want to entrust the safety of your new tenants to every person with whom your previous tenants associated?
In reality, not changing the locks every time tenants move out exposes you to potential liability. Even if your state's laws don't expressly state it, you could be in deep trouble if you don't change the locks and something bad happens as a result. If someone gets into your property with an old, unauthorized key, you may be liable for not replacing the locks. Avoid this headache altogether.
Take Pictures and Videos of Everything
Performing an inspection before a new tenant moves in is rarely, if ever, overlooked. What is often skipped, though, is taking photographs and videos of the property. Yes, you can give a rental checklist to the tenants, which they'll sign before moving in. No, this doesn't mean that they won't later claim that something was already an issue and they just overlooked it.
This, too, falls under the "headaches to avoid" category. In all likelihood, you'll be in the clear by having a properly filled-out inspection sheet, but why risk going through the hassle of court if all it takes is an additional 10 minutes with a camera?
Provide a "Rental Manual"
Those who rent out vacation properties often leave a manual, which may be just a three-ring binder containing relevant information, for those staying at their property. Landlords should do the same. In fact, many of the things provided in vacation property information binders should also be provided in your manual. This includes extended warranties, owner's manuals for appliances, instructions for using provided amenities, and even a copy of the lease agreement. This can make life easier for both you and your tenants.
How you prepare for a new tenant sets the stage for your entire relationship with that tenant. If you don't go through the right motions, either you or the tenant could become disheartened with how things turn out. Fortunately, adding these steps to your typical new tenant preparation checklist can ensure that everyone goes home happy.
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