Writing a Past Rent Due Notice

Most tenants are pretty reliable when it comes to paying the rent on time.

There are a few tenants who might push the deadlines from time to time, but they get the money there.

Then there are a few tenants who pay their rent in bits and pieces as the money comes in.

You might get $100 here, $50 there, and a bag of quarters because they’re using their laundry money in an emergency.

In situations like this, bookkeeping can become a nightmare.

That may be the goal of the tenant who pays periodically instead of in one lump sum.

By making the landlord keep track of how much rent has actually been paid, they are taking advantage of those who don’t keep accurate books.

In the short-term, it means that a tenant can save money on their rent. In the long-term, however, a lease is a contract that covers an entire year. If you discover that you haven’t been paid the right amount of past rent, then here’s what you can do.

A Past Rent Due Notice Is a Collection Letter With a Twist

The first feelings that come to mind with the discovery of past rent that is due is invariably frustration.

Once those feelings begin to subside, you’re ready to take action.

Even if you discover rent is 8 months past due, you can collect on it.

The first step is to write a notice to the tenant to inform them that the rent is missing.

It can be short and simple, but needs to be formatted as a business letter because it counts as an official notice of breech.

Your letter can be as simple as this. In a review of your account, it was discovered that in May 2014, rental payments for the rental property located at 123 Main Street were incomplete. Instead of $1,000, a total amount of $725 was received. Please remit the past due amount of $275 immediately by [Set Date].

Landlord/Tenant laws are different in every jurisdiction, so what you can or cannot do with this notice will depend on those laws.

Some allow for landlords to charge reasonable interest on the past due amount.

Others allow for eviction procedures to be started with the delivery of a notice like this.

The bottom line is this: landlords don’t have to just eat the costs of missing rent.

Is An Eviction Really Necessary?

Although missing some past rent can be financially problematic, it doesn’t automatically mean that a landlord should immediately start an eviction process.

Many tenants will simply cough up the money because they know that it is owed.

Sometimes mental mistakes happen while paying the bills and a long-time tenant might write the wrong amount on the check.

If you’ve had a tenant that has been stable and consistent, then the notice above should be sufficient to secure the missing money.

Any time past rent that is due is found to be missing, the entire history of payments for that tenant should be closely examined.

Sending a past rent due notice is relatively simple.

Make sure to have documented proof of delivery in some form, quickly follow-up on this notice if payment is not received, and more often than not you’ll get the rent you need.

Organization in Your Life as a Property Manager

When it comes to property management, organization can help keep you moving steadily and smoothly forward.

Whether you’re in the middle of tax season or simply keeping up with files on tenants, it’s best to have a steady protocol that you follow throughout the process.

Start with your screening process.

Once you’ve placed your add for your rental you’ll start to receive calls and emails that show interest in the property. While there is certain information that you cannot choose your next tenant based on, there are plenty of details you can look into that will help you choose.

Have each applicant fill out the same application for you so that you are not asking different groups of people different questions.

Once you receive these applications you can begin your pre-screening process to weed out the applicants that will obviously not fit with your property.

Is your rental non-smoking? You can deny any applicant that says that they smoke on their application.

After you run a tenant screening report on them, did you find that their credit score is below what you’re willing to accept?

Make sure to have a list of requirements already written down so that no one can claim discrimination.

Saving Time

If you own multiple properties and/or have another job on top of being a landlord/property manager, you’ll probably find yourself hoping to save time where you can.

Driving all over town to meet with a new tenant to sign paperwork can be troublesome, especially when you find that either you or the new tenant have forgotten a piece of the paperwork and you’ll have to meet again.

You may wish to invest in a service that provides access to electronic signatures so that you can simply email the lease or any other paperwork to the tenant and they may email it back.

This saves time and money in gas and printing costs.

Saving Space

You’ll want to keep detailed files on each tenant that passes through your property.

While they’re there, you’ll be building the file.

Hopefully they’ll come in, live peacefully, and leave without any need to use it in any sort of legal action against them, but should you need to file an eviction you’ll want to be ready.

Choosing to store files securely online is becoming increasingly more popular the obvious reasons in that it saves space and it makes those files easier to search.

You may have the name, but shifting through draws of papers for your tenant may become tiresome.

If you have it files online you may simply click the search tool to find what you’re looking for quickly and easily.

As you continue on in your career you’ll learn your own tricks and pick up on those of other landlords and property managers.

Use these to your advantage to make sure you are not wasting your time needlessly.

How to Write a Lease Covering All Bases

When it comes to writing a lease, every state and locality has its own set of rules and regulations. Nonetheless, there are certain general guidelines which you should follow to protect your interests and meet your legal obligations when writing up a lease.

Length of Lease

You need to clearly define the length of the lease, and specify any provisions for its automatic renewal. Be sure to include language allowing you to alter the terms of the lease at key points (i.e. the yearly anniversary of the lease signing).

Names and Status

It’s important to make sure that each and every person who will be living in the property is explicitly included on the lease. Though it can be tempting to let one person “take charge” of the leasing arrangements, you still have legal liability for anybody living on your property, so you should make sure that they are all directly covered by the obligations of the lease.

Guests and Occupants

To avoid situations where new roommates or residents move into the apartment after the lease has been signed, it’s important to include a section that sets a limit for the length of time that “guests” are allowed to occupy the residence before they become legally obligated members of the lease and/or trigger penalties for breaching the agreement.

Rent and Payments

Rent should be spelled out explicitly, along with clear information about when it is due, when it will be considered overdue, and what penalties will apply if the payment is late. Even if you plan on being a more generous and flexible landlord, it’s still a good idea to keep the lease itself pretty iron-clad and strict.

Security and General Deposits

Make sure you include a description of any deposits that will be required, along with circumstances or activities that will allow you to penalize or hold that deposit if your tenants damage your property.

Utilities

Be sure to include language specifying who’s responsible for utility bills, whether it’s you or the tenant. In most states, required utilities will be limited to electricity and water, although some may also require you to make gas or propane available for heating.

Pets and Property

Rules for pets should be made clear, including the type and number of pets allowed, and what the consequences are if they chew, scratch or otherwise damage your property. Special rules for your tenant’s personal property should also be included. This could be any number of things, such as prohibiting of water beds, candles, open-coil heaters, backyard installations and anything else that needs to be covered.

Maintenance of Property

Although local sanitation laws will often cover this area, it’s still important to include specific language about your tenant’s responsibility for keeping the place looking neat and tidy. This includes taking out the trash, maintaining the lawn, and any other daily upkeep tasks. Don’t be tempted to assume grown adults know how to handle themselves, because you could very well be held responsible for any code or sanitation laws they break.

Insurance

In order to avoid potential lawsuits against you in the event of an accident, crime, or disaster, it’s a good idea to insert a clause requiring your tenants to obtain renter’s or leasing insurance to cover their personal property.

8 Things To Do When a Tenant Leaves Your Property Damaged

Discovering that a tenant has left your rental property damaged can be stressful. You invested time and money into buying and caring for your property and trusted that your tenants would look after it for the length of their stay.

While your first reaction upon discovering damage might be to lash out, this won’t help the situation. Here are 8 things you can do instead: 

Document the Damage

Before you do anything, make sure that you have carefully inspected the property and fully documented all damage. Take photographs and video footage, ensuring that you have date and time stamps where possible along with indicators of size (e.g. placing a tape measure or common object in the frame). Store these images and videos safely as they may be useful evidence should the matter proceed to mediation or court.

Expect and Accept Normal Wear and Tear

Landlords should accept minor damage to the property that is a result of normal wear and tear, such as small carpet stains, scratches on a floor, or loose fixtures. As you carry out your inspection of the property and document damage, it is important to differentiate from damage that is normal wear and tear and more significant damage.

Obtain Estimates

Once you have carried out a thorough inspection of the property and know the full extent of the repairs required, obtain professional cost estimates for all work required. It may also be helpful to obtain time estimates of when repairs can be carried out and how long they will take to complete. Keep all estimates, invoices, and receipts in a safe place. You will need these when it comes time to process the tenant’s security deposit and they will also be considered evidence should the matter proceed to court. 

Processing the Tenant’s Security Deposit 

The laws surrounding refunding a tenant’s security deposit vary from state to state so it is important that you do your research locally before processing any refunds or deducting costs of repairs from the security deposit.

Asking the Tenant to Pay for Repairs

If the damage caused to the property is extensive, the costs of the repairs might exceed the amount of the security deposit. Before taking further action (e.g. starting legal proceedings), contact the tenant in an attempt to resolve things amicably. Provide images of the damage along with the quotes and/or invoices you have obtained and request payment. If there was such a clause in the tenant’s lease, be sure to highlight this to the tenant. (And, if not, be sure to add this to future leases.) Keep interactions polite, professional, and to the point. Remember to keep a record of all communications between yourself and the tenant. 

Taking Legal Action 

If the cost of the repairs is significantly more than the security deposit and the tenant does not agree to pay for those repairs, you may decide to take legal action to recover the additional costs. For this, you will need to hire an attorney. The process will likely demand significant time and money so if the cost is small, you may decide to shoulder the loss and not pursue the legal route. 

Repair the Damage as Soon as Possible

As long as the property is damaged, you will be unable to search for new tenants and, therefore, will lose income. Carry out repairs as soon as possible so that you can put the property back on the market, welcome new tenants and continue to generate income from the property.

Reducing the Risk of Damage in the Future

While you cannot predict the behavior of your tenants, having a robust tenant screening process in place is a great first step in reducing the risk of property damage. Carrying out regular inspections of the property while rented can also help you identify any minor damage before it escalates into a substantial issue. If that damage is caused by normal wear and tear, it is the landlord’s responsibility to fix it. If the damage is outside of what is considered to be normal wear and tear, you may want to discuss repairs with your tenant and, if you have concerns, explore your options with regards to evicting the tenant before serious damage occurs.

Can Landlords Dispose of Abandoned Property?

If your tenant moves out and leaves items behind, state and local laws govern what you can do with the abandoned property.

So, before you sell your prior tenant’s television, it’s important to learn about your legal obligations.

 

Lost vs. Abandoned Property

Before making any plans, make sure that your tenant has abandoned — not lost — a piece of property.

If you find a ring in a medicine cabinet, for example, it’s possible that the item was misplaced and not abandoned.

In this case, you have an obligation to attempt to contact the previous tenants so the ring can be returned.

If the tenants cannot be found, but it is likely that the item was lost, the landlord may have to relinquish the item to the local police or sheriff.

However, if it’s likely that the property was abandoned, the owner will be able to keep, sell, or dispose of any items according to state law.

Notification Requirements

Most states require that you notify the tenant that he or she has abandoned items on your property.

Unless state statutes specify otherwise, a certified letter is often the best way to complete this step.

The letter should list the items that were abandoned, as well as tell the former tenant how to claim them and the time period in which he has to do so.

Waiting Periods and Storage Requirements

States with notification requirements will also specify how long you must wait before disposing of any items.

These time periods can vary widely.

Delaware state statutes require a seven-day waiting period to allow tenants to claim abandoned property after an eviction, while Vermont requires that a landlord wait 60 days.

Most states will also allow you to charge a reasonable storage fee that the tenant must pay before his or her items are returned.

Some states will also allow you to charge a removal fee.

If you intend to charge these fees, you should specify the amount in the notification letter you send.

Abandoned Property Disposal

Even after the waiting period has passed, state laws will specify what you can do with abandoned property.

Some states will allow you to sell, destroy, or keep any items.

Other states require that landlords hold a public sale for any items that exceed a certain monetary value.

Some states — including California, Florida, Connecticut, and Wisconsin — specify that any profits from abandoned property sales must be remitted to the state or town government.

State law may also allow the tenant to claim any proceeds from the sale of his or her property, as long as the claim is made within a certain time frame.

Other states require a public sale, but will allow you to keep the proceeds after a waiting period.

If your prior tenant still owes you money, the state statute may allow you to deduct the amount owed from the proceeds of any property sales.

Hawaii, Kansas, and Maine all allow landlords to deduct back rent from an abandoned property auction’s profits.

Researching State and Local Laws

Before removing any possessions from a rental, you must research your state and local laws thoroughly.

Most state websites have the applicable statutes published online.

If you don’t follow your state’s laws, your tenant could sue you for damages.

When researching laws, be sure to follow the correct guidelines.

Statutes may distinguish between property abandoned during an eviction versus property that was left after a tenant voluntarily moved out.

Residential and commercial rental property may also be governed by different laws.

Some cities have local laws that supersede state law.

To avoid any problems, landlords should document their actions carefully and keep any pertinent records.

This documentation should include a copy of the notification letter and receipts for any costs associated with selling and/or storing the abandoned property.

5 Tips on How to Handle Needy Tenants

Almost every landlord will be faced with a tenant who needs a lot of extra hand-holding at some point.

You’ll know them when you see them: this attention-starved tenant always needs help with their dead light bulbs, faulty ceiling fans, clogged drain pipes, squeaky doors, and leaking faucets. It seems as though every day brings a new complaint.

Here are a few tips to keep those needy tenants at bay, so you have a little more time for R&R at the end of the day.

1. Prioritize

Prioritize requests into emergency and non-emergency categories.

If a tenant comes to you with a non-emergency request, like needing a light bulb changed, this should be placed near the bottom of your to-do list, where all your non-emergency requests should be placed.

Your time is valuable, and you need to have the capacity to handle the real emergencies when they arise, like a heater breaking down or an apartment flooding.

If necessary, explain to the tenant that you have urgent priority items to complete and that you’ll attend to the light bulb as quickly as you can.

2. Create a Formal Process for Requests

Allowing tenants to call at all hours for any type of request is the quickest way to get a headache.

Instead, throw the ball back in their court.

Create an online request system, which requires tenants to fill out a comprehensive, in-depth form outlining the issue at hand every time they have a request.

If a tenant calls you, refer them to this form and say that everything must be in writing, and you will only work on requests put in through the online system.
Making them do some legwork should help eliminate the less necessary requests and keep you organized at the same time.

You can specify on the form that all non-emergency maintenance requests will be looked at within 30 days.

3. Show them the Costs

Needy tenants often come up with repair requests that they themselves have caused, so don’t be afraid to charge them for your time when doing maintenance repairs.

Before any new tenant moves in, do a walk-through together, so they have the opportunity to point out all the items that need fixing.

Once those are completed, new issues are assumed to be caused by the current tenants and will be billed accordingly.

Be sure to provide them with an estimate for the work, because they may not be so eager to have you fix their loose doorknob when they face the costs.

4. Deny Unnecessary Repairs

You are not legally required to repair everything that is requested of you.

For example, if a tenant comes to you because the garage door opener is slow, you aren’t required to get them a faster garage door opener.

Use your veto power and don’t be afraid to say “no.” Be clear about what items you are and are not responsible for. You are a landlord, not a doormat.

5. Give Them an Easy Out

If all else fails and your tenant is costing you more than they’re worth, give them an easy exit!

Have an honest chat and say something to the effect of, “You don’t seem very happy here. I am happy to agree to an early termination of your lease, and you’re free to find a place that is better suited to your needs.”

At the end of the day, sometimes it’s better in the long-run to simply find a new tenant rather than spend 80% of your time trying to please an impossible tenant!

How to Fix a Flat Roof Leak

Any roof can leak, but the flat roof provides a rather intense challenge. If you want to know how to fix a flat roof leak, then the first step is to find where the leak is occurring from an exterior standpoint. Just because the water dripping through the ceiling doesn’t mean that directly above that leak is where the water is coming in from the roof. Here’s what you’ll want to look for on the outside.

Where Are the Low Spots?

Flat roofs tend to be built with a number of layers of tar and felt. Although the roof is flat, it isn’t perfectly flat. As the building settles, there will be low spots that begin to develop. It is in these low spots where the greatest potential of leaking happens. Usually this is pretty easy to see once you get eyes on the problem. Remove any water that may still be present and allow the surface dry.

Do You Have Any Cracks?

Once the roof has dried, will want to make sure you brush away any debris that may be in potential leak area. As you are doing this, you will want to look or any cracks that might be in the felt of the roof. Will also be looking for places where the tar may have not sealed the roof properly. This usually is in the form of a blister within the tar.

Did You Find a Tar Blister?

If you found a blister, then take a sharp knife and slice it open right down the middle. You need to go to the full depth of the bubble. Remove the edges of the blister and then mop up any water that may be contained within the bubble. You may need to let the edges of the blister dry after this and some blisters may be so large that you need to propped the edges up.

Is It Too Cold or Too Wet to Dry the Roof?

In some climates, it can be virtually impossible to let the roof dry on its own. You can supply artificial heating methods to encourage the process. Propane torches or portable heaters will work, but make sure you take all appropriate safety measures so that you and your building stay safe.

Seal up the Roof Once you Have Eliminated the Issue.

Whether you have found a crack or a blister, once it has dried, it is important to seal it up. Use roof cement along the bottom edges of any loose felt first and firmly pressed down so that the roof becomes flat once again. Using galvanized nails, affix any loose layers so that you have a firm repair. Then cover the nails and the repair site with another layer of roof cement to prevent future leaks from occurring. A flat roof is sometimes a necessity. The good news is that you don’t have to live with a leaking roof, even if it is flat. Use the steps to repair your situation and you will know how to fix a flat roof leak.

Buying Rental Property Tips

One of the most consistent investments that can be made today is a rental property. Real estate can be somewhat volatile, but rentals are in need during the good times and the bad times. When managed appropriately, you can have a consistent level of income. To get started, you’ll need to get a great property that will be attractive to potential tenants. Find that and you’ll be able to secure that investment using these 6 buying tips.

1. Purchase directly from the owner whenever possible.

Buying a rental property for profit means finding the best deal possible. Go through your community and find the distressed homes that are in your area. Make contact with the owners and see if they’d be willing to do a short sale with you so that you can maximize your investing power.

2. Raising capital is sometimes better than a mortgage.

Rental properties are a business investment, even if you’re the only employee of your business. Sometimes you can get better terms by raising capital for your business investment instead of taking on debt. You’ll have to sacrifice a portion of your income in return, but you’ll be debt-free.

3. Watch out for dead neighborhoods.

Just because a rental property is an amazing deal doesn’t mean that it’s actually a good investment. If there are several distressed homes in the same area, then there’s a good chance that there won’t be much rental activity there. Everyone has moved away. If no one is there, you won’t get many tenant applications.

4. Look for areas where there is strong job growth.

Lots of jobs mean lots of potential tenants. You may need to look outside of your local community in order to find a great property, but it’s worth the effort. Many investors can charge higher amounts of rent in strong job growth markets and profit more in the long run.

5. Give yourself a rental profit.

If you do decide to take out a mortgage, make sure to calculate a certain percentage of profit from the rent that you charge. You’ll need enough to cover your mortgage and any property taxes or HOA fees that are due, of course, but a 5% upcharge for profits will help you make a little – even if you’re planning on using the rental one day to retire.

6. Don’t settle for the first property you see.

There are numerous investment opportunities that can be found today. There are numerous properties that are on the market still today, so if one investment doesn’t feel quite right, then it isn’t. Keep looking and you’ll be able to find the perfect property.

Best Ways to Get Tenants to Pay Rent Online

Landlords are constantly looking for more efficient ways to handle the collection of rent from tenants. While collecting rent in the traditional way via personal check is a comfortable way to handle monthly rent payments, a lot of complications can arise. Checks get lost in the mail or misplaced in the office, or tenants get forgetful and neglect to write that check on the first of the month, forcing you to expend time and energy to track them down.

 

Online bill payment can take care of a lot of the above problems and benefit both landlords and tenants. But despite how so many tenants pay the majority of their bills online nowadays — credit cards, utilities and auto payments — quite a few are hesitant about using the Internet to pay their largest bill. So how does a landlord go about getting their tenants to pay their rent online?

Benefits of online rental payment

As mentioned above, receiving of rent online cuts out the middleman from the tenant-to-landlord-to-bank transaction process. Instead of physically receiving a check, filing it for later deposit, going to the tenant’s profile and marking that they’ve paid, filling out bank account numbers and signing checks for deposit, filling out deposit slips and going to the bank to physically deposit the money; you can accept a payment with one click and transfer that money into a bank account with another. Landlords also can have tenants set up automatic payments linking their bank accounts to the tenants’. So instead of waiting for them to drop off or mail the rent, it can be automatically withdrawn from the tenant’s bank account into the landlord’s.

 

As for tenants, online banking saves time and money. Instead of filling out a check and dropping it off or mailing it, just fill out a few things online and authorize payment — a process that takes seconds, and saves money on stamps. If a landlord accepts credit card payments, tenants can earn major rewards from credit cards by paying rent online.

 

Tips to encourage online rental payment

There are a few things you can do as a landlord to prompt tenants to use an online bill-pay service for rent.

 

First, you can make sure that the transaction is free. This is the most important thing. It doesn’t matter how little an online fee might be; people will not pay it. The key to promoting online bill pay is to highlight its hassle-free nature. Fees are seen as hassle no matter how low they are, so leave them out entirely.

 

Allow the use of credit cards. You might be concerned that a tenant paying by credit card is living beyond their means, but as mentioned above, many people pay bills with credit cards to get rewards points. Trust that your income and credit evaluation was sound and let tenants pay rent online with credit — they’ll do it if they think they can get a free vacation from it.

 

Offer rewards for online bill pay. Whether it’s money off a month’s rent or a gift card, rewards and prizes will always get tenants eager to participate.  Tenants will develop online payment habits this way, and once they get into the habit, they won’t go back.

 

Finally, sell the benefits of bill pay. Send out fliers or emails to tenants describing why online bill pay is good for them and give them a step-by-step checklist that covers how to do it. Do the research for them and answer questions up front. The less confusion about the process, the more likely they’ll start it up.

Conclusion

Paying rent online is a mutually beneficial process for both tenant and landlord once both parties get past the initial awkward unfamiliarity stage. If you take the above steps now to get tenants comfortable with online transactions, an efficient and rewarding rent-payment process is sure to follow.

How To Price Rental Property

The amount that you’re charging for rent will either attract tenants to your listings or it will repel them.

If you set the rental price too low, then you won’t get the right value for your property.

Prospective tenants might even be suspicious.

Set the rental price too high and you won’t get any takers!

That’s why knowing how to price rental property in your specific market will help you have a successful and profitable experience.

What Is the Most Common Method of Rental Pricing?

Many rental property owners will price their rentals based on the sales comparison approach.

This approach will place a relative value on the property based on a common and easy to understand metric.

Square footage is most often used, but the number of bedrooms and bathrooms is sometimes used as a metric as well.

If other landlords are charging $1 per square foot in rent, then it’s easy to figure out what your 1,500 square foot single family home will get in rent.

It is important to remember, however, that this approach is just a base line number.

Homes that are run down or are in poor neighborhoods won’t usually command the average price.

Homes in higher priced neighborhoods bring other perks that can raise price rentals.

Capital Asset Pricing Is Also Effective

With capital asset pricing, you’re valuing the risks versus the rewards of your own finances instead of looking at what the market can sustain.

It’s based on the return on your investment that you need to meet certain budgetary landmarks.

If you want a 5% return on your investment, then you add 5% to the expected monthly costs you’re paying for a rental property, including taxes and maintenance, and that’s how much you charge.

A similar approach is called the Income Approach.

Instead of looking at the overall return that can be achieved, however, the rental property owner is looking at income benchmarks that can be achieved.

The one downfall of both of these methods, however, is if you have high costs that are associated with property ownership.

If your costs are higher than other property owners, then your rent will be higher and you’ll get fewer tenants.

The Cost Approach Might Be the Most Effective

In the cost approach, the valuation of the rental property is based on what it is actually worth.

The land values are combined with the property improvements and then the best use scenario is then considered to set the price of rent.

If your property is in the country away from everyone else and there’s a lot of land to use for farming, then there may be more value than a 1 bedroom apartment under this scenario and so more rent can be charged.

As long as you keep rental prices within a competitive range, you’ll be able to fill your properties with good tenants that will pay their rent on time.

This will give you the income that you need and help you maximize your profitability.