A Landlord’s Guide To Military Tenants

Members of the armed forces can make great tenants, but you should first understand that military servicemen and women have special federal rent protections. These protections can have an impact on the eviction process and security deposits, and they may present you with other legal challenges. Here is information about the laws that benefit military service members and what you need to know about them.

Servicemembers Civil Relief Act
Perhaps the most important law you should be familiar with is the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Although the law provides a variety of protections for active duty service members and deployed armed forces members, one of the most important elements for you to understand is a provision regarding leases. This provision allows any service member to immediately terminate a lease with you if they are deployed or sent to a new military base.
This provision only applies if the service member’s transfer or deployment lasts longer than 90 days. In such circumstances, you may not keep a military member’s security deposit, and you will have no recourse to bring legal action against the military member for breaking the lease agreement. Remember that the SCRA also applies to service members’ family and dependents.

Evicting a Military Service Member
The SCRA also provides additional protections for military members in relation to evictions. Under these provisions, you may not evict a military member from your rental property if your tenant’s military service has had an impact on his or her rent payments.
You may still evict military members, but it may be much more difficult if they can prove their military service has interfered with their ability to pay you on time. Courts may also put a hold on your eviction, which can last up to three months, regardless of what state you live in.

Important Exceptions
There are important considerations that every landlord should be aware of in relation to SCRA provisions. For example, service members paying over $3,220 per month on their rental property as of 2014 are not covered by the SCRA. This amount may change depending on the year, as it is designed to reflect cost of living and inflationary changes. Furthermore, this federal law does not cover military reservists and National Guard members on “drilling status.”
In situations in which a National Guard member is deployed to a national emergency, such as hurricane or earthquake relief, it has historically been the case that the member will be covered under the SCRA as well.

Requesting Deployment Orders
It is your right to request a copy of any deployment or transfer orders to verify that your tenant is actually being deployed. It is recommended that you do this to ensure your tenant is rightfully covered under the SCRA. Your tenant is required to provide you a copy of their orders upon leaving your property, so make sure everything is being performed according to protocol.

Pursuing a Waiver
You may also request that your military tenant waives his or her rights under the SCRA law, but be aware that many states have laws similar to the SCRA, and some state laws are even more beneficial for military service members. Just because a member waived his or her rights under the SCRA doesn’t mean that state law won’t also apply. Some states also forbid landlords from waiving military tenant rights related to the specific state law provisions, so research the military service member laws in your own state to be on the safe side.

Ultimately, there are many good reasons to have a military tenant on your property, but you should be aware how the SCRA can impact your landlord-tenant relationship. This will help you better prepare for any complication that may arise while renting to a military member and their family

Why it Pays to Rent to Veterans

Finding quality tenants for a rental property can be challenging for a landlord. Even with the protocols of background checks and employment/income verification, renting to just anyone can often be a roll of the dice. There is one segment of society, however, that is instilled with specific qualities that can be very attractive to owners of rental property. Military personnel are endowed with discipline, accountability, and allotted housing income, giving them a distinct appeal over civilian renters.

Personal Habits Make Personable Tenants
Members of the military undergo rigorous training that addresses matters of hygiene, cleanliness, and operational tidiness. Sloppiness of any sort is not tolerated in the military and chances are very good that this trait carries over to a soldier’s home life. If military personnel who observe these habits are renting your property, it is safe to expect that the premises will be kept clean, free of trash and debris, and up to date on simple maintenance such as drywall repairs, yard work, and painting touch-ups.

Banking on Accountability
Military personnel are trained to be personally accountable for their commitments and behavior. Personnel are required to stay current on bills lest they face potential disciplinary action or demerits in hard-earned rank. In the off chance that a tenant is late on rent, a simple call to their commanding officer (CO) is a guaranteed way to solve the problem.

Predetermined Pay for Living Expenses
Personnel are able to arrange automatic deposits from their paycheck into a landlord’s bank account every time the corresponding monthly payday comes around. This money comes from a portion of a soldier’s pay known as Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH), which is provided to those who elect to live off base as an additional dividend of their salary. Living off base is usually encouraged by this perk, and can make the rent collecting process as easy as a one-time digital transaction.

A Small Way to Say Thank You
The majority of the populace will never experience the military or fully understand the sacrifice that being enlisted requires of one person’s life. Many people sincerely want to reach out to someone in the U.S. Armed Forces and express gratitude. Giving military personnel rental preference over your property is a small way of saying ‘thank you’ for their choice to serve their country.

Attracting Military Personnel to Your Property
Owning rental property within 60 miles of a military base is an essential factor. Determine which bases in your area are within this proximity, then place a call to the base’s Housing Office. Request that your property be placed on a private list of available properties that will not be shared with the public. Given that most members of the military move every two to three years, there will be a constant influx of potential renters being directed towards your listing. Once an applicant has expressed interest in renting, you can contact the base and ask to see their Leave and Earning Statement (LES) to assure that your rental price is a manageable allotment within their budget. Lastly, there are numerous websites designed help military personnel find homes, such as militaryhomes.com and AHRN.com.

What Property Owners Need to Know about the ADA

People with disabilities often struggle with everyday activities that most of us take for granted. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) was created in 1990 to help make life easier for disabled people.

The ADA applies to rental properties as well, and landlords should be aware of pertinent ADA guidelines. Some of the laws vary depending on when the property was built. Homes, apartment and condos for rent that were built before the ADA took effect (January 26, 1990) have slightly different requirements than those constructed after this date. All landlords should be aware of the ins and outs of the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to stay compliant.

Reasonable Requests for Modifications
At this time, every rental property, regardless of when it was built, allows for disabled tenants to make reasonable requests for accommodations and modifications to the residence related to their disability. Disabled renters may also ask landlords to make changes to the property policies or rules in ways that help to make life easier for them pertaining to their disabilities. An example of such an accommodation might be giving them priority for the most easy-access units, such as those located on the first floor.
Rental property sidewalks, doors, entryways, and hallways must be accessible to disabled persons. Both interior and exterior common areas must also be compliant. However, requests for special elevators, ramps, and financially expensive and difficult to achieve modifications by disabled tenants is not mandatory under the ADA. For example, a tenant’s request for a personal elevator would be considered unreasonable; however, designating a few “disabled only” parking spaces in the parking lot is both fair and financially viable for most landlords.

Properties Built Before the ADA Took Effect
Properties that were already in existence before January 26, 1990, abide by different rules than properties built after this date. The focus is on the public areas of multi-unit properties. These properties are required to remove any obstacles to access by disabled tenants wherever possible and readily feasible; that is, not requiring too much expense or undue difficulty for the landlord.

Properties Built After the ADA Took Effect
Rental properties that were built after ADA regulations went into effect in 1990 must ensure access for disabled persons to designated common areas such as on-site laundry facilities, the rental office, public restrooms, and lounge areas that are meant for residents and their visitors. However, the interiors of rental units are not subject to these requirements.

Financial Responsibility
When it comes to major personal interior modifications of units made by a disabled renter, the cost of these changes and updates must be taken care of by the tenant. They may also have to bear the costs of restoring the unit back to its original state if and when they decide to move out; however, this can be negotiated with the landlord, who may want to keep the modifications to the unit in some cases.

That said, ADA rules state that landlords must pay for the “reasonable accommodations and modifications” made after a request by the tenant. Anything beyond reasonable is the responsibility of the tenant. Again, while a handrail installed in the bathroom and non-slip paint on a porch are reasonable requests of landlords, a brand new elevator or stair lift in the unit would be the tenant’s financial responsibility.

How to Best Approach Maintenance Issues in Your Rental

How to Best Approach Maintenance Issues in Your Rental

 

  • DIY vs Calling a Pro – Many landlords chose to get into the business because they can handle many maintenance problems themselves. There will be some issues, though, that will require a professional that has been trained in that field.
  • Find Your Approach – Maintenance problems will happen, so it’s best to have a general idea what those major issues are most likely going to be and to have a game plan for if/when they happen.
  • Easy Solutions – There will be certain maintenance concerns that have very easy solutions that will not require a contractor to come out. If you can handle it easily on your own, why spend the money to call someone?
  • First Impressions and Exterior Maintenance – The first thing that a potential tenant will see when they drop by to look at the rental is the exterior. Make sure that what they see is neat, tidy, and well maintained or they may simply move onto the next rental and bypass yours entirely.
  • LeaksA small leak can be irritating, but a big leak can cause major problems in your rental. Water damage can be costly in more than just what it takes to repair the damage. If your tenant cannot live in the rental during the time the repairs are taking place, you may be out rent payments as well.
  • Mold
    • Avoiding Lawsuits – Mold can cause a variety of health problems, and if your tenants believe that you have not lived up to your duties as a landlord, you could be on the wrong end of a lawsuit.
    • How to Get Rid of Mold – If mold does manage to get into your rental unit you will want to know how to get rid of it.
  • Squirrels in the Wall – Squirrels may be cute from a distance, but you don’t want them taking up residence in your rental’s attic or in the walls.
  • Trustworthy Contractors – Finding a good contractor can make or break a repair job. You’ll want to find someone that is trustworthy and can get the job done.
  • Onsite/24-Hour Maintenance – If you have multiple units, you may consider hiring someone who can provide 24 hour maintenance and live onsite.
  • Avoiding Negligence Lawsuits – When you accept a tenant into your property you will (hopefully) sign a lease with them. This is a legally binding agreement between you both. If you fail to keep the residence in a habitable condition, your tenant may have a case for a negligence lawsuit.

 

How to Avoid These Top 8 Investment Pitfalls

We have gathered our top 8 articles for you to give you a head start when you tackle your next investment property. Make sure to avoid these pitfalls:

  1. Not Choosing a Safe Rent to Mortgage Ratio – When you purchase a real estate investment there are many decisions that you will need to make, but making sure that you have a solid rent to mortgage ratio is imperative to turning a profit.
  2. Not Understanding Your Investment – As with any investment, there’s a certain amount of research that you’ll need to do before jumping in. If you don’t understand your investment inside and out, how do you expect to make top dollar?
  3. Not Weighing Your Financing Options – There are pros and cons to choosing to buy a property outright with cash as well as choosing to take a loan out to purchase the property. You will want to find what works best for you and your business, but weigh your options carefully.
  4. Not Knowing What Questions to Ask – They say no question is a stupid question, but if you’re new to investing you may not know what questions that you should ask your lender. We’ve gathered the top five questions that you should always ask to make sure that you have the information that you need before applying for a mortgage for your investment.
  5. Not Anticipating What Could Cost You Money – It’s impossible to prepare for everything, but you can protect yourself and your investment against quite a bit. Learning from other’s mistakes and being able to pinpoint the things that may cost you money in your investment is a good place to start.
  6. Not Looking Ahead – As you compare mortgages you will want to keep an eye on interest rates to make sure that you understand what the market is doing and, in the end, make the best investment choices that you can for your business.
  7. Not Using Every Advantage at Your Disposal – You may think that your best option is to cut out the middle-man and go straight to speak to lenders directly when applying for a loan, but there will be times when using a mortgage broker will help you save time and may give you access to options you wouldn’t have had otherwise.
  8. Not Having Everything Put Together –  When you go to apply for a loan you should have all your paperwork already put together. If you don’t, you could be scrambling last second. Check out this article to see what you should have ready before you apply.

How to Get the Most From Your Property Upgrade

Choosing to upgrade your rental property is an investment. If you’re going to sink money into that investment, you want it to turn a profit to make it worth it.

Make sure that your upgrades will bring in a higher profit:

  • Hidden Value of RenovationsIf you are considering upgrading your rental property, you will want to take a step back and consider which renovations will work best for your property.
  • Cost-Effective UpgradesThere are many ways that you can upgrade your rental property, but choosing the most cost-effective upgrades will help you bring in a higher rent at a lower cost to you as the landlord.
  • Eco-Friendly UpgradesIf it’s time to upgrade your rental, you may think about choosing eco-friendly updates. These can bring around savings that you might not have thought about, including tax breaks.
    • Energy-Saving Upgrades Upgrading your rental to be eco-friendly doesn’t mean that you have to break the bank to do it. There are several small upgrades that you can choose that will help you and your tenants save money.
    • Green RoofsInstalling a new roof on your rental is no small decision, but if it’s time to get a new roof, why not consider choosing a green roof to save yourself some money down the line?

DIY upgrades:

  • Resurfacing Kitchen Cabinets: The kitchen is often one of the rooms that your tenants will spend quite a bit of time in. It is also one of the rooms that can look outdated if you do not keep it updated with the times. Instead of spending a lot of money pulling out the old cabinets and installing new ones, you may consider resurfacing them for that updated look.
  • Reglazing a Bathtub: A bathtub that looks old or dingy won’t be a good selling point when you are trying to convince potential applicants that your rental is right for them. Instead of purchasing and installing a new bathtub, consider reglazing it to add life to it.
  • Regrouting Shower Tile: The conditions that shower grout are consistently subjected to may leave it vulnerable to mold, mildew, and decay. If you know how to regrout the shower tile it can add a whole new life to that tile.
  • Patching Nail Holes: When a tenant moves into the rental, they will likely hang photos and paintings on the wall to make the place feel like their own. The holes left behind from the nails in the wall are often considered normal wear and tear, meaning you can’t take it out of the deposit, so knowing how to patch those holes quickly and easily will help save money.
  • Sealing a Drafty Door: If a tenant complains that their electricity bill has spiked recently, you might want to take a look at the doors that lead outside. If the door is drafty it can let the bought air out, making the AC or heater run longer than it normally would to keep up.

How to Make Sure You’re Covered on Rental Fees

During the busy rental season you may find that you’re being pulled in multiple directions. If you want to stay on top of things, you will need to have your process and policies set before you jump in the middle of it. This includes how you will handle a variety of fees. Before things get too crazy, take a few minutes to consider the following about rental fees and deposits:

  • Application Fees – Application fees are legal in many states and will help to ease the burden of the tenant screening process from the landlord. Local laws will dictate if they are allowed and if there are any restrictions, but this article gives you an overview of what you should expect with application fees and what they may be used for.
  • Non-Refundable Fees – There are certain fees that you may charge as a landlord that you will not be required to return when the tenant moves out.
  • Pet Fees – Many renters will have a pet that they wish to bring with them. It’s possible to accept tenants with pets and keep your property safe as well. Make sure to know what you should be charging for pet fees.
    • Pet Deposits vs Pet Rent – A popular trend is to charge a tenant a separate rent for the pet as well. Make sure you know the differences between a pet deposit and pet rent so that you may explain that to them.
  • Late Rent Fees – Setting late fees will help encourage your tenant to pay on time. If there is no penalty for paying after the due date, there is no guarantee you’ll get you rent payment on time so that you, in turn, may pay bills associated with the rental.
  • Fees Vs Deposits – You will want to make sure that your wording is correct when you approach the subject of monies owed in your lease. Fees and deposits will differ and should not be used interchangeably. Make sure that you specify what is potentially refundable and what is not.
  • Security Deposits – Security deposits are an important part of keeping your rental investment safe. If a tenant damages the property, a security deposit will be what helps keep you from taking on the full burden of cost that it may take to repair it before a new tenant may move in.
    • What Can You Deduct? – Knowing what you can and cannot deduct from a security deposit is imperative to staying on the right side of the law when it comes to returning it.
    • Is it Normal Wear and Tear? – When it comes time to return the security deposit, you will need to know the difference between normal wear and tear and actual damage done. If you don’t, you may deduct something from the deposit that you shouldn’t.

What is the Best Way to Market Your Rental?

When it comes to marketing your rental there will not be a one-size-fits-all approach. Different markets will look for different highlighted amenities, and your techniques and marketing strategies will need to be adjusted for that. Take a look below at a few articles and tips that LandlordStation has gathered to help you through that process.

 

  • Make Your Rental More Valuable – If you’re still in the research phase of looking for a rental property to buy, you’ll want to make sure that you keep its marketability in mind. Little things can make a big difference.
  • Compete Against Corporate Landlords – When your competition has the ability to hire a team of marketers and professional stagers to present their properties to potential applicants, it can feel a bit overwhelming. As a private landlord, there are certain things you can offer that your corporate counterparts might not be able to.
  • Marketing Without Social Media – Each market will be a little different, and you will want to carefully gauge the audience that you’re attempting to reach as potential tenants for your property. Make sure that you are aware of all of your options and don’t limit yourself.
  • Marketing With Social Media – Just as you shouldn’t overlook traditional marketing, you certainly shouldn’t overlook using social media to your advantage. If you do it properly, it can help you bring in new applicants.
  • Get Creative – When it comes to marketing your rental, you’ll want to make sure that you don’t fall into a rut that could eventually cost you renters. Get creative with your marketing plan and reach as many people as you can.
  • Make it Stand Out – There is something that drew you to the rental property when you bought it. When it comes time to market it to potential renters, you will want to make sure that they see what you see in the property.
  • Online Tools – Many potential tenants will look for their next rental online. One of the best ways to stand out against your competition is to provide them with a detailed view of the rental property. Online tools help you set up virtual tours, online floor plans, etc etc… Take advantage of every marketing tool so that you can to find your best tenant.
  • Determining the Fair Market Value – One of the many things that potential applicants will look for in your rental is how much you are charging for rent and how that matches up to other rentals in the area. Make sure that you understand how to determine the fair market value of your property and price it accordingly.
  • Streamline – Learning to streamline your process will help to free up some of your time as a landlord and property manager. Handling the process online can be a very helpful step in streamlining your rental process.
  • Minimizing Turnover Rates – Finding the best way to market your rental will help you find the best tenant. Once you do find that fantastic tenant, you’ll want to make sure that you keep them as long as they’re willing to stay.

10 Tips to Make Sure You Get Paid on Time

Rent is a vital part of your business. If the tenant is late with it or does not pay, then it can put you in a real bind when it comes to paying the mortgage on the property or paying for repairs that are needed. You should be aware of a few details when it comes to setting, collecting, and raising rent:

  • Consider the Rent to Mortgage Ratio – When you first purchase your rental property you will need to have an idea how much you are planning to charge for rent. This will help you set your expectations.
  • Understand Rent Control –  While not every area will have rent controlled neighborhoods or buildings, if you live in a city that does, you’ll want to have a full understanding of what those laws cover and how they affect you as the landlord.
  • Earning a Higher Rent Rate – As a landlord and property manager you will always be looking for ways to make your rental more profitable. Something as simple as better landscaping can help to bring in higher quality tenants as well as allow you to ask a higher rent price for the property.
  • Online Rent – Choosing to accept rent online can help make it easier for your tenant to pay you. They can set up automatic withdrawals to make sure that you are paid in a timely manner every month.
  • When to Raise Rent – You may have a policy in place that says if you will raise the rent with each new lease or you may make that decision as the need comes in. Choosing when to raise the rent, how much, and if you should at all may affect your relationship with your tenant, so make sure that you consider your options.
    • Tenant’s Rights in a Rent Increase – A tenant has certain rights when it comes to a rent increase, and those rights may depend on where the rental is located and what local laws govern the area.
    • Negotiating a Rent Increase –  If you alert your tenant of a rent increase with their new lease, they may attempt to negotiate a lower rent from you. You will need to know some of those negotiation tactics to make sure that you are ready and so that you can make an informed decision.
    • Section 8 Rent Increase – When you accept Section 8 tenants into your rental, there may be a few things you’ll need to consider when it’s time to raise the rent at the start of a new lease.
  • Rent Responsibility if a Tenant Passes Away – There may be a time when a tenant passes away before the end of their lease. If this happens, you will want to approach the situation with care.
  • Signs a Tenant Will Skip Out on Rent – No landlord wants their tenant to skip out on their rent, but there are a few warning signs that you can watch for to prepare.

Top 5 Ways to Make the Most Out of a Landlord’s Time

Streamlining Your Rental Business Online

We live in a fast paced world, and time lost will mean money lost. If you don’t keep up with potential tenant’s expectations, they may choose a different rental over yours. One way to make sure that you are on top of things is to take advantage of online options. LandlordStation has gathered five great ways that you can take your property management online and help to speed up your process, saving yourself time and money.

  1. Search for your rental and market it online. You can search for your next real estate investment online to help save time and find the best deal. Then you can turn around and use those same great tools to market your rental when it’s ready.
  2. Screen your tenants online. Online applications, tenant screening, and research can all be handled from your computer. This allows you to handle things on your schedule, and when you have multiple applicants sending in their qualifications, you’ll want to make sure your process is as streamlined as possible.
  3. Send, sign, and store documents online. It can be difficult to match schedules between your tenants and your own, but choosing to use online tools for sending documents and electronic signatures will allow you both to handle your business at hand without having the find time that you can physically meet.
  4. Collect rent online. Waiting for a check in the mail can be tedious, but when you choose to accept rent online it may allow your tenant to set up automatic withdrawals so that you don’t have to guess if you’re receiving your payment on time each month.
  5. Handle accounting online. Apps are a landlord and property manager’s best friend. Accounting applications on your computer and tablet can allow you to access your financial information and keep things together so that when tax season comes around that you’re ready.