In any business, one step ahead is always better than one step behind. Property management is certainly no different. No matter if it's in knowing your tenant's history, making sure all the bills are paid on time, or protecting your property, there are steps you can take to make sure you're ahead of the curve as often as you can be. There will always be surprises, but limiting them will help your business run smoother and more efficiently.
Know who is living in your rental. When an applicant shows interest in renting a house or apartment from you, you will likely have them fill out an application. They'll provide information to you such as their name, current address, email, how many people would be living in the property, and a few other necessities. Likely, they'll also either sign a consent form to allow you to run a tenant screening on them or you will use a service that contacts them directly for consent. Either way, you should run a full tenant screening on each person that is interested in living in your rental property. Check out their credit, criminal, and eviction history. Contact prior landlords to see what kind of renter they were before and reach out to their current employer to confirm that the income they've stated to you is correct. Life would be a great deal easier if people were more honest, but if you want to protect your investment, you'll need to make sure to follow up on what you're being told.
Provide written policies to new tenants when they sign the lease. Once you've found that new tenant for your property you'll sit down with them to sign the lease. Of course you'll go over any part they wish to discuss, but it's a good practice to provide them with a separate sheet of paper that will detail out some of the more important policies that you have for your properties. Let the tenant know how much rent is, when it is due, and what the consequences are for it being late. If you have policies on smoking, pets, or noise, let them know these up front. Also provide them with your office hours and a number to call for any after-hour emergencies. Good communication helps to provide a smoother transition for a new tenant into your rental, and that will start with you.
Make paying rent easy. Don't make your tenants jump through hoops to pay you. The easier it is to get their rent to you, the more likely they are to pay on time. If you own an apartment complex, think about installing a drop box so that your tenants may drop checks and money orders in after the close of business. Online rent payments is also a good option to make paying rent easy. Both will help save time and money for both you and the tenant.
Walkthroughs help to catch maintenance issues early. While you can't simply drop in on your tenant whenever you feel like it, setting up yearly or bi-yearly walkthroughs to go through the property and take note of any repairs that need to be done is a good practice. Timing the walkthroughs correctly may help you catch a problem while it's still small and keep it from becoming both large and expensive. Regular upkeep and maintenance is good for both your property and your tenants. You may also wish to check into accepting work orders online to make it easier for the tenant to contact you about maintenance issues so that they don't escalate without warning. There will always be problems when you own and manage a property, but staying ahead of the ones that you can will help you in the long run. Make sure your property is properly insured and that you screen every tenant that comes through. Talk to other landlords in your area and see what tips they have as well. Just when you think you've seen it all, you'll find something new, so take advantage of other landlords' experiences so that you don't have to make the same mistakes that they've already made.
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