Tips for Owners

1. Screen tenants:

Don’t rent to anyone before checking credit history, references, and background. Poor tenant selection too often results in problems — a tenant who pays the rent late or not at all, trashes your place, or lets undesirable friends move in. Use a written rental application to properly screen your tenants.

2. Get it in writing:

Be sure to use a written lease or month-to-month rental agreement to document the important facts of your relationship with your tenants – including when and how you handle tenant complaints, repair problems, notices you must give to enter a tenant’s unit.

3. Handle security deposits properly:

Establish a fair system of setting, collecting, holding, and returning security deposits. Inspect and document the condition of the rental unit before the tenant moves in, to avoid disputes over security deposits when the tenant moves out. Refund the deposit within 14 days after the tenant move out inspection.

4. Make repairs:

Stay on top of maintenance and repair needs and make repairs when requested. If the property is not kept in good repair, you’ll alienate good tenants, and tenants may gain the right to withhold rent, repair the problem and deduct the cost from the rent, sue for injuries caused by defective conditions, and/or move out without needing to give notice.

5. Provide secure premises:

Don’t let your tenants and property be easy marks for a criminal. Assess your property’s security and take reasonable steps to protect it. Often the best measures, such as proper lights and trimmed landscaping, are not that expensive.

6. Provide notice before entering:

Learn about your tenants’ rights to privacy. Notify your tenants whenever you plan to enter their  unit, and provide as much notice as possible, at least 48 hours.

7. Disclose environmental hazards:

If there’s a hazard such as lead or mold on the property, tell your tenants. Landlords are increasingly being held liable for tenant health problems resulting from exposure to environmental toxins in the rental premises.

8. Obtain insurance:

Purchase enough liability and other property insurance. A well designed insurance program can protect you from lawsuits by tenants for injuries or discrimination and from losses to your rental property caused by everything from fire and storms to burglary and vandalism.

9. Resolve disputes:

Try to resolve disputes with your tenants without lawyers and lawsuits. If you have a conflict with a tenant over rent, repairs, your access to the rental unit, noise, or some other issue that doesn’t immediately warrant an eviction, meet with the tenant to see if the problem can be resolved informally. If that doesn’t work, consider mediation by a neutral third party, often available at little or no cost from a publicly funded program.

If your dispute involves money, and all attempts to reach agreement fail, try small claims court, where you can represent yourself. Small claims court is good for collecting unpaid rent or seeking money for property damage after a tenant moves out and the security deposit is exhausted.

Additional Tips

  • If you do not have an agreement signed by the Tenants saying the Smoke Detector is in working order & that they agree to maintain it, your insurance company may not pay a claim or you may be sued if there is a fire.
  • All Tenants over 18 have to be served individually or a separate notice posted to each Tenant over 18 for an eviction process to be able to hold up in court.
  • You might not have control over what your Tenant does AFTER they move in but you need to have them sign an agreement at move in that the Hot Water Tank is set at 120 degrees. If you don’t & someone gets scalded you could be sued.
  • A Drugs & Gang Addendum is helpful in evicting for these types of behavior.
  • Does your lease have a clause disallowing Pools, Trampolines & some breeds of Dogs? Your insurance company can raise your rates or even cancel your insurance if they discover these items on the property.
  • Make sure you provide your Tenants with the Lead Base Paint & Mold Booklets that are required by law to be given to the Tenant.
  • Be sure to have a Written List of Rental Qualifications &  always follow them  so you do not get sued for discrimination
  • Be sure to do a thorough Tenant Screening including Criminal and adhering to the requirements of The Patriot Act.