Being a landlord is a tough. And hardly something for the faint of heart. Landlords get to take all the most hated things of home-ownership and amplify them. Add to that the FHA laws and regulations, the overhead cost, the time constraints and you’ve got a recipe for one big headache.
I get it. ARPOLA gets it. Your fellow landlords get it. And that is why you’re here— to learn from others what not to do— to make this job easier (and heck maybe even manageable… if you’re really lucky enjoyable).
We spend a huge (HUGE) amount of time on the phone with members. In fact, I’d venture to guess 70% of my job is answering questions. From newbies to industry veterans, everyone has something they need help with.
Here are some of my most favorite questions:
Q1. I didn’t run a background check on my tenant
They moved in 6 months ago. I recently ran a check through you guys and discovered they have a criminal record. What should I do?
A1. You always run a background check. It is a non-negotiable and worth the $18-$28. Include the cost in your application fee and move on. Run a background check… ALWAYS!
Alright, now that the scolding is outta the way, check your lease application and lease. Call your attorney. Explain the situation. If the tenant listed past criminal judgments on the application and you ignored them you might not be able to get out of the lease. If they didn’t list any judgments and signed your disclaimer they lied. And depending on the language in the lease and/or lease application you might be able to invalidate the agreement.
Q2. I accepted partial late rent and now I want to start the eviction process. What should I do?
A2. Never accept partial rent. Don’t do it! It’s a hassle and makes court even more difficult. Not to mention you set a standard with the tenant. If they send you a partial check, send it back. Set your online rent payment gateway to only accept full balance payments. Tell your property manger (if you have one) to never, ever accept partial rent. When the rent is late apply the fees immediately. Notify the tenant of the fees. And start the eviction process as outlined in your state laws.
Lecture finished. If you’ve accepted a partial payment many states won’t allow you to start the eviction proceedings. Consult your state’s Landlord Tenant Act and your attorney. If you start the eviction process after taking the partial rent payment, be prepared to have the case dropped. Wait until next month and try again, if they are indeed late.
Q3: My last tenant destroyed my property and won’t pay for damages
I’m keeping the security deposit to pay for the damage and they want to take me to court. Because I didn’t take pictures before they moved in, they say I have no proof.
A3: You need to get really familiar with your camera. Document, document, document! Take photos. Take video. Make them acknowledge the state of the property on the lease when they move in. Give the tenant copies of the move-in walk thru and pictures. Your camera does more than just take pictures for your Facebook page!
Nagging aside, they are right. You have no proof. Call your lawyer. If it is major damage like holes in the wall, missing doors, broken windows your lawyer might be able to talk them out of going to court. It’ll seem unreasonable that anybody would rent a place in such dire conditions. And if the tenant sees they won’t win, they might opt to avoid the cost of a hearing. On the other hand, if it is minor damage you might have to suck it up. And keep only the portion of the deposit you’ve allocated for standard clean up and repairs.
Your attorney is key
While there are multiple lessons here—there is one thing I want you to make note of—in every answer I suggested you contact your attorney. This is probably the biggest mistake most landlords make; they don’t have an attorney they are familiar with. They have no legal representation. There is no one on their team who can answer these questions beyond a reasonable doubt.
I can never stress enough to members the delicate legal issues at stake when choosing to be a landlord.
Think of it this way… when you buy a car, you have a mechanic. Get sick, you have a doctor. When you have kids, you have a babysitter. When you get a pet, you have a vet.
Are you seeing the theme? It takes a village.
When you have a rental property, you have a lawyer.