Adding a Pet to a Lease

Pets are a part of life for many Americans.

In fact, The Humane Society of the United States reports that more than 164 million Americans own pets.

When you’re seeking tenants, you don’t want to rule out this large subset of the population by banning pets from your unit. At the same time, you don’t want a dog or cat to damage your rental.

The key, then, is offering a pet-friendly unit with an ironclad lease that protects your rental from potential damage.

Several methods allow you to protect your investment and attract pet owners at the same time.

Pet Security Deposit
You probably already collect a security deposit from your tenant to help fund any potential repairs.

If your tenant has a dog or cat, consider adding a pet security deposit to the lease as well.

This deposit might not be as high as a full month’s rent, but you might charge several hundred dollars so that your tenant can have a furry friend.

You can make this deposit refundable (pending a thorough inspection of the unit when the tenant vacates) or nonrefundable.

This security deposit can go toward any cleaning expenses or structural repairs, such as erasing scratches on the door or walls.

Pet Rent
Consider the pet another tenant and charge pet rent.

Specify precisely how much rent you intend to charge per month for the pet.

This pet rent is typically established in lieu of a pet deposit.

Tenants might prefer a modest monthly pet rent fee rather than paying a lump sum security deposit upon move-in.

Thus, in a competitive rental market, pet rent can be an appealing option and may help you attract tenants.

Consider setting the rent based on the pet’s size.

For example, a larger and potentially more destructive dog might carry a higher monthly rent than a small cat.

Protective Measures
Add language to your lease that specifies the condition in which the tenant must leave the unit.

For example, you might request that tenants with pets have the carpets professionally cleaned before vacating the property.

On the other hand, you may prefer to have the carpets cleaned yourself, in which case you will want to note that the cost of carpet cleaning will be deducted from the security or pet deposit.

Also, the lease should list specific pet-related damages like chewed windowsills, scratched doors, or holes in the walls and explain that the tenant is responsible for the cost of such repairs.

Penalties for Unreported Pets
In your lease, you should also make the effort to deter tenants from not reporting their pets and paying the specified deposits and rents.

Consider adding language to your lease that stipulates that the tenant will be assessed an unreported pet fee or have to pay for past months of pet rent should you find an animal living in the unit.

This clause will encourage tenants to be upfront with you, which will allow you to collect the necessary fees to protect your unit from potential damage.

Welcoming pet owners into your rental unit broadens your options for tenants.

Creating a lease that specifically addresses the problems that pets may cause allows you to confidently hand over the keys to a pet owner, knowing that your investment is well protected in case of pet damage.

Guarantors, Escrow, and Rent Insurance: Options When Renters Don’t Earn Enough Income

One of the key ways to ensure that your tenants will pay the rent is to check that they have sufficient income before signing a lease with them.

Typically, landlords require tenants to have an annual income that’s between 40 to 50 times the monthly rent.

If someone seems like a good tenant but doesn’t meet your income requirements, don’t automatically turn them away.

You have some options that can give you the assurance you need to rent to these tenants despite the lack of income.

New graduates starting their first jobs and renting their first apartments are a typical example of when the rent would be too large a portion of their income by the usual standards.

In some cases, a grad’s parents may be willing to cosign the lease and become a guarantor, taking on the responsibility of making the rent payment if the lessee fails to do so.

Many landlords only accept guarantors if they are local.

It’s also important to verify that the guarantor has enough income to meet this commitment.

In most cases, this means checking that their income is as much as 80 to 100 times the monthly rent, allowing for their own housing expenses as well as the apartment they’re guaranteeing the rent for.

If the guarantor has no rent or mortgage payments of their own, the income they need can be less.

If you allow a guarantor, be sure the agreement specifies the circumstances when the guarantor needs to make payments and which fees, in addition to rent, they would be responsible for.

It’s possible that the prospective tenant or guarantor has a low income but has a large amount of savings.

You shouldn’t rely on that alone, as the money could be spent on other things.

You can ask the tenant to use those savings to pay the full year’s rent upfront.

In some cases, the tenant may not want to hand over a check for the full year but may be able to fund an escrow account, from which monthly payments would be drawn.

Many banks provide services to manage escrow accounts.

Ideally the renter should establish the escrow account with the bank you use in order to simplify management of the funds.

The renter will need to provide the bank with details specifying how funds can be taken from the account.

Rent Insurance
Rent insurance should not be confused with renter’s insurance, which protects the renter’s property.

Rent insurance is insurance the renter purchases to protect their landlord; if the renter doesn’t pay the rent, the company will make the payments.

The insurer basically becomes a guarantor.

This ensures you’ll be paid, but you will need to begin eviction proceedings first.

If you are willing to accept rent insurance, you need to sign up with the insurer.

Currently there is only one institutional rent guarantor: Insurent. Their service is limited to New York, New Jersey, Washington DC, Massachusetts, Illinois, Maryland and Virginia.

There is no fee for landlords to participate; your agreement is needed solely to accept the lease guaranty.

Waive the Requirement
If none of the above options work, you can consider waiving your income requirements.

In some circumstances, the character of the prospective tenant outweighs the concern about their rent.

You also need to consider how long it will take to find another tenant who can meet the income standard.

Depending on the rental market in your location, you may not want to wait to find another potential renter.

5 Novel Ways To Transform Into An Exceptional Landlord

Landlords are often portrayed negatively, with unnecessary demands and lack of empathy for their tenants.

While this may be true of some, it certainly doesn’t tell the whole story.

A little innovation and free thinking could propel you to the top of the landlord chain.

And where there’s a good landlord, good tenants are likely to follow.

Here are some novel ideas to help you transform into an exceptional landlord.

  • Customize the Lease – While a standard lease is readily available to cover basic elements such as security deposit, rent, and duration, you should only use it as a framework for preparing your own lease document that covers details related to your investment property. Yours may include any special rules with respect to furniture, sound limits, and pets. Set certain rules not just for the tenants, but also for yourself as the property owner, then follow them. Your lease should include details such as repair responsiveness and paying attention to tenant needs. By using as many details as possible, there will be no room for ambiguity − resulting in a much better tenant-landlord relationship.
  • Respect Privacy – Everybody wants to be treated with respect, especially when it comes to privacy. No tenant wants to a landlord who shows up at odd hours to inspect the property. As a landlord, you certainly have the right to conduct property inspections, but be sure to give your tenant advance notice and agree on a mutually beneficial time − not just one that is convenient for you. Remember, every business relationship needs mutual respect to function properly.
  • Open Communications – While you don’t want your tenant pestering you at all hours, you still need to offer an open communication line to address any problems quickly. Tenants feel more comfortable when they know that you’re easy to get in touch with. Give them your business number and include an email address. An email helps to reduce after-hour calls and records the written communication between you two. While some tenants can be annoying, most tenants won’t get in touch with you unless they have to. Make sure the tenant knows that you have heard the request and plan on addressing it − this will reduce any friction and distrust between you and the tenant.
  • Satisfy Your Side of the Contract – You expect your tenants to follow the rules, and you must, too. When you receive a call or email, listen to your tenant’s grievance and do your best to address it as quickly as possible. If a tenant brings up an issue with the building or burst pipe repair needs, make sure you tend to it as soon as you can. Remember that a good working relationship can only be sustained when both parties do their part.
  • Have Win-Win Negotiations – The aim of any negotiation is a win-win solution for both parties. The same applies when dealing with your tenants. For example, if a tenant finds the place too hot, offer to install an air conditioning system at a nominal rent increase. You could also offer to buy certain equipment, if the tenant is willing to pay for the installation. Negotiate a rental increase at the end of every lease term that benefits both you and the tenant, without being too heavy-handed in your expectations. These win-win tactics go a long way in building good relationships − making you a good landlord with good tenants.

While the business side of being a landlord is important, remember that small thoughtful gestures can also make a big impact.

A small gift on your tenant’s birthday or for the holidays will go a long way in developing a good relationship.

Happy tenants are likely to better care for your property and are a lot easier to deal with than disgruntled tenants.

Set the stage for a good landlord-tenant relationship at the beginning to assure tenants that their decision to move into your rental was the right one.

5 Mistakes Landlords Make With Incoming Tenants

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.

When Does a Landlord Have Permission to Enter Property

Landlords, whether the property owners themselves or an agent acting on behalf of the owners, have the ability to regularly enter a property to inspect it.

The landlord/tenant laws from state-to-state vary on the notifications that are required for this.

In Colorado, no notice is necessary to enter a rental property to inspect it or perform maintenance.

On the other hand, the state of Washington requires a 48 hour notice, preferably in writing, for any inspection with a specific time period listed on the notice.

Tenants are not required to let landlords into their home if it is not an emergency situation and the visit occurs outside of the times listed.

How Often Is a Regular Inspection Allowed?

Most landlord/tenant laws allow for a regular quarterly inspection of a rental property.

At issue here is that most jurisdictions allow tenants to have reasonable peace and solitude to enjoy the rental as it is their home.

Constant inspections, regular sales tours, and other disruptions which interrupt the lives of the tenant can actually be considered a breach of contract on the landlord.

Can Landlords Enter For Basic Repairs?

In most jurisdictions, a notice is required for a landlord to enter a premises to make basic repairs.

If the repairs are external in nature, this notice may not be required.

Some states allow landlords to enter in order to determine whether any repairs are necessary to the rental property.

How About an Extended Absence?

If a tenant has notified their landlord that they will be away from their property for 7 days or more, then some jurisdictions allow the landlord to enter the property without notice to guarantee the safety of the property and the tenant’s personal possessions.

What About Emergencies?

If there is a fire, a serious water leak, or other health and safety emergency suspected or known to be on a rental property, landlords are often allowed to enter without notice to inspect damage and make preparation for needed repairs.

This courtesy is often extended to repair personnel as well.

Without advance notice, most landlords are not allowed to enter a rental property.

Only emergency situations trump any notification laws that are in place unless the tenant’s permission to enter has been obtained.

A failure to provide notification may result in a tenant’s ability to begin litigation for potential damages.

What Are Landlord Harassment Laws?

There are certain actions a landlord can take against a tenant in order to enforce a lease.

There are other actions that are legally considered to be landlord harassment.

In general terms, a tenant is allowed to enjoy the home that they are renting without too much interference.

Tenants are also afforded certain rights even if they are out of compliance with their lease, including an intentional refusal to pay.

Here are some of the common ways that landlord harassment laws can be used as a tenant defense during litigation.

1. Verbal Or Physical Threats Are Made.

“If you do not pay your rent, I’m going to kick you and your family out on the street.”

Although that may be true to some extend, that’s actually considered a threat in most jurisdictions and could be considered landlord harassment.

Landlords are not allowed to make any threats whatsoever against a tenant.

Doing so may give tenants the right to file for a restraining order.

2. Entering a Property Without Permission.

Landlords or their agents are not allowed to enter a rental property without giving some form of advanced notice is most jurisdictions.

If there isn’t an emergency, that notice may need to be 48-72 hours in advance.

A sales showing may only require 24 hours notice.

Emergency entry for necessary or repairs that were agreed upon are allowed.

Even entries that occur when tenants are not at home are still considered harassment.

3. Shutting Off The Utilities.

Landlords are not allowed to block tenant access to public utilities.

This includes power, water, heating, telephone service, or elevator access.

Some states allow tenants to sue landlords for taking this action.

This does not apply for nonpayment of utility services already used.

It does apply when done as a means to evict or harass a tenant.

4. Changing The Locks.

As long as a tenant has a legal right to be on a rental property, they must be given access to that structure.

Plugging locks, replacing the locks, or securing doors so they cannot be opened is considered a form of landlord harassment.

If this happens, tenants in almost every jurisdiction have the right to break back into the property, even if damages occur, and to potentially sue.

5. Improper Eviction Notices.

If the landlord/tenant law allows for a 5 day notice on nonpayment of rent and a landlord only gives a 3 day notice, then this may be considered landlord harassment as well.

6. Retaliation.

Tenants are allowed to pursue their rights.

That includes hot water, legal summons for potential harassment issues, and other actions that may even include withholding rent in some jurisdictions.

Landlords are not allowed to retaliate against tenants who are pursuing their legal rights in any way.

Retaliation may include terminating a lease, refusing to renew a lease, or increasing the rent.

7. Interference With a Tenant’s Lifestyle.

Although this form of landlord harassment is more rare than the others, it can also be the most costly.

This typically happens when a tenant is self-employed in some way or has small children or pets.

Frequent notices of inspection or sales tours that interrupt someone during regular business hours from completing their job may qualify as harassment.

Visits that occur frequently during a stated nap time for small children may also qualify.

Creating noise disturbances through a tenant’s pets intentionally may also be considered harassment. Interference that is agreed upon is automatically disqualified.

Interference that has a written notice and requests to alter circumstances that are ignored could create the foundation of potentially expensive litigation.

If a tenant earns $200 per day and they can provide 7 days of interference, that’s $1,400 + fees potentially coming out of a landlord’s pocket.

8. Making False Statements.

Some tenants don’t leave a leasing arrangement on friendly terms.

They might have left some furniture behind, not been able to afford a carpet cleaning service, or other move-out issues.

A landlord who then tells others that the tenants are the worst renters they’ve ever known, publish false statements about their conduct, or attempt to use information to affect personal employment may also be guilty of harassment.

Using stern language is one thing.

Threatening to harm someone is completely different.

Landlords who withhold maintenance, purposely target tenants, or conduct themselves in the ways above may be performing landlord harassment.

Avoid these behaviors to limit liabilities and a rental agreement will have more profit potential.

What Is the Eviction Process in Delaware?

In Delaware, the eviction process is formally known as taking summary possession. Landlords have an advantage in this state as the process proceeds much more quickly than in most other states in the US. It all begins with the initial eviction notice which can be served for the following reasons.

1. Nonpayment of rent.

2. A violation of the leasing agreement.

3. If there is a holdover from a previous lease and no extension in place.

Serving the notice can be done through certified mail, personal service, or posting the notice on the unit door and mailing a second copy to the tenant.

It Is a 5 Day/7 Day Notice for Nonpayment

Most landlords will be able to give a 5 day notice for nonpayment of rent and must include the rental property information and all included adults on the lease. It must be 7 days if the rental property is a manufactured home. A 7 day notice is also required for a lease violation that doesn’t involve rental payments. Tenants must receive a specific reason why they are in violation and what they must do to correct the situation. If the situation remains uncorrected after the 7 days, then further proceedings may apply. For those in manufactured homes, this must be a 10 day notice. The counting of days on these notices are actually business days in Delaware, so no weekend days or holidays are counted.

Criminal Violations Require No Notice

For tenants that have committed at least a Class B misdemeanor or any felony offense on the rental property in question, then landlords are allowed to post an immediate eviction notice. This includes drug use and domestic violence, as well as intentional property damage. A 60 day notice is required for an eviction when a tenant enters into a holding over period and every day is counted instead of only business days. Evictions that are won by the landlord will allow for a Writ of Possession to be requested. This gives the tenant 10 days to leave the property. If not, the Sheriff will serve a 24 hour notice to vacate and then enforce it forcibly if necessary. Tenant belongings that remain must be stored 7 days at the tenant’s expense. The Delaware eviction process is simple and straightforward. As long as each step is followed properly, then landlords can quickly remove problematic or non-paying tenants.

Managing expectations for outgoing tenants

Few people enjoy moving. Whether it involves a rental or a home you own, moving can be an expensive hassle.

The same is true for your leased properties.

The turnover process can be a fraught time, with conflict, confusion and surprise expenses.

It doesn’t have to be, though.

With a bit of planning and lots of communication, you will be able to have a smooth turnover process with your outgoing tenants.

Communicate Early and Often
As with many aspects of the landlord-tenant relationship, communication is key.

As part your workflow as a landlord, you should regularly be in touch with your tenants.

This will help you stay on top of issues with the property and identify any problems with the tenants should they arise.

Discussing the tenant will be staying past the end of the lease should be a part of these conversations as the lease comes to a close.

Remind Tenants About the Terms of the Lease
What that communication looks like will depend on the terms of the lease.

Your lease should contain a clause establishing terms for providing notice.

Whether it’s 30, 60, or 90 days, you should remind the tenant about those terms.

Many tenants will have forgotten, or not have read them in the first place.

You should also remind your tenant about what the options are as the lease comes to an end.

Does the lease automatically shift to month-to-month? Does it have to be renewed for a full year? Will you be increasing the monthly rent?

These are all things that should be clear to all parties involved in the rental agreement, and should be made clear well in advance of any deadlines.

Establish and Confirm Move Out Logistics
If your tenant will be moving out, firmly establish a move out date.

Establishing this expectation early will make sure you have time to turnover the apartment before the next tenant arrives to take over.

Your current tenant might not start his or her next lease until the 1st of the next month, so if your lease ends on the last day of the previous one, you will want to make sure he or she is aware of that and plans the move accordingly.

Set Clear Expectations for Conditions
It is also important that all your tenants are aware of your expectations for what the property will look like when they leave.

The lease is your friend here. Remind the tenant of what was already agreed upon in terms of the condition of the property, and explain what that means for you.

Set the tenant up for success by explaining in detail what you will be looking for in your inspection.

Your tenant wants the security deposit back and will do whatever is necessary to get it.

If the tenant puts in the work to have the rental in good shape, it will save you cleaning time or money for a cleaning crew.

Be Prompt with the Security Deposit
As part of building your reputation as a landlord, it is critical to be fair and prompt with the security deposit.

If there are issues, be objective and transparent in how you calculate the docking of the deposit.

Regardless, send them the amount of the deposit they are owed within a reasonable and agreed upon amount of time.

Both of these practices will go a long way in establishing your professional reputation.

Following these tips will set you and your tenants up for success in the turnover process.

How To Ask a Tenant to Move Out

Some tenants are just problematic.

Others are great people, but there comes a time when change becomes necessary, and even the best tenants need to be asked to move out.

This can be a tricky process, especially if the rental arrangement has been a multi-year relationship.

The easiest way to start this process is to meet the tenant in a neutral location.

Offer to buy them some coffee or maybe even lunch.

Discuss your situation and why you need to have them move out of the property.

With enough notice, most tenants will move – though they won’t be happy about the need to move.

My Tenants Are Nice, But They’re Stubborn

If there is still a leasing agreement in place, landlords often need a legitimate reason to ask tenants to move.

If there isn’t one, then the lease stays in place until it expires.

Some tenants are stubborn and want to stay until the end of their lease.

Providing them with an incentive, such as a portion of their moving costs or agreeing to return the entire security deposit unless there is extensive damage, can help to prompt a move.

My Tenants Have Small Children

Kids or pets, for that matter, can make moving on short notice problematic.

There may be daycare concerns, a lack of available housing, and other issues which make finding an affordable rental next to impossible to achieve for certain families.

If you know in advance that your tenants need to move and they have kids, pets, or both, then reach out to other landlords about other rentals.

Being able to provide a housing alternative when asking tenants to leave can help relieve the anxiousness that many families have about moving.

Sometimes the Legal Process Must be Followed

Tenants may decide that they don’t want to move.

They might even decide to stop paying their rent.

You can keep asking them to move out, but ultimately it takes a court order to make that happen.

Make sure you are familiar with the entire eviction process to ensure no errors are made that can cause a tenant to have a prolonged amount of free rent.

Waiting just prolongs this process.

It is better to ask now and work with your tenants to get them moved out than to go through the costly eviction process.

How to Convince Renters That Your Home Is the Best

When the rental market is small, you’ll have little trouble finding a suitable tenant for your home.

However, when the market is flooded, you’ll need to do a little advertising to convince prospective tenants that your rental is the best option for them.

When you’re developing an advertising strategy, make sure you include these key points.

1. Create a website with great images.
This is the digital age, and nearly everyone uses the internet to make big decisions.

If you don’t have a website, you’re missing out on one of the cheapest, easiest forms of advertising.

It doesn’t cost much to set up a site, and you can hire a web designer to do all the work for you.

The most important thing to include on your site is a gallery of clear, professional-quality photos of your rental.

If you include your contact information with photos, you can even set up viewings of the rental with prospective tenants via email correspondence or a contact form on your site.

2. List the amenities and best-selling features of your home.
You should also note all the wonderful extras your home has to offer.

This list should include absolutely everything that may set your rental apart from others; don’t skip anything just because it doesn’t seem important to you.

People have unique tastes, so what seems unimportant to one person may be the perfect amenity for someone else.

You should include a list of rooms, as well as a floor plan.

You might also include the bathroom setup (shower, tub, combo shower and tub, etc.), as well as whether the kitchen has gas or electric appliances.

Renters love to know these little details.

3. Accept pets.
Many renters are looking for a home that accepts their furry critters with open arms.

If you don’t mind pets (with a deposit, of course), then state that clearly in all your advertising.

Not only is this a great way to entice potential renters, but it’s also a great way to make a little extra cash.

By accepting pets, you can usually charge a pet fee or increase the price of your rental with few to no issues.

4. Include a list of nearby attractions, restaurants, and entertainment.
Some renters may not be familiar with the area, especially if they’re moving to your city from another state.

You can help ease any worries they have about your location by listing nearby attractions, restaurants, and entertainment options.

You might also include the closest schools for renters who have children.

5. Be open to requests.
If your applicant has special requests, be receptive as long as they’re reasonable.

For example, many renters long to decorate the home according to their tastes.

You might agree to a new paint color as long as they stick to neutral colors or repaint with your preferred color before they move out.

If they want small changes, such as new carpeting in a bedroom, you should consider changing it out if it’s dingy or outdated.

If one prospective tenant has this concern, it’s likely that others will as well.

The cost of new carpet may be negligible compared to the carrying costs of another month without a renter.

There are many ways to entice renters, but the most important thing is to be personable and friendly. No one wants to rent from a grumpy landlord.

If you advertise your home accurately and stay open to specific requests, you’ll likely have a renter in no time.