“The best defense is a good offense.” That old adage has been used for many purposes and spanned many generations. Why is that? Simply put, it’s solid advice for any endeavor. Often, that offensive protection comes in the form of a legal contract or document. If you’ve ever heard someone say ‘get it in writing,’ then you’ll know what I mean.
That statement of fact is something I’ve seen proven in the property management and real estate industry time and time again. Especially when it comes to landlord/tenant relationships. Even the very best renters can encounter difficult problems with their rented property that can cause an argument, or worse, legal action. This doesn’t just hold true for writing the lease itself, but the entire process of renting out your home — before it is rented, when the renters arrive, and after the renters leave.
Before the Renter Arrives
Your home is an investment, certainly, but it also has sentimental value. We’ve found that because a home is such a big part of a person’s life, our property owners and investors are even more keen on protecting them from bad renters. At Simply Residential, we make sure to run full rental histories, criminal background checks and credit checks on all prospective tenants. This process helps us avoid the renters who are most likely to cause damage, steal, or violate their lease.
Once a tenant is placed, it’s time to draft and sign the lease agreement. It’s imperative that your lease is well written to fully protect both the owner and the tenant. Minnesota state laws tend to favor the tenant and put the burden of proof on the landlord, so that calls for an extra layer of protection for people like our clients. Luckily, if you work with a good property management company when renting out your home, they will have the experience to write an air-tight lease, and deal with any issues that may arise while that lease is active.
In your lease, it’s important to make sure you’re not violating any fair housing laws. Most of them are pretty straightforward, but a landlord needs to know the laws to which they’re made to adhere. Some of them may not feel like common sense, and knowledge is key to keeping yourself out of trouble. That way, even if you use a property management company that will handle any lease violations for you, you’re not in the dark about what can and cannot be done. If you’re working with a property management company, they’ll likely have a template to work from. If you’re on your own, you may want to consult a lawyer while writing your terms.
When they sign the lease, you can set a move-in date. Before that date, it’s important to collect the security deposit and first month’s rent from the tenant. Before they move in, make sure to do a thorough walk-through of the property with the tenant, take pictures, and document any existing damage. Don’t forget to note the condition of the carpet, woodwork, and any major appliances that will remain in the unit. It’s helpful to have a checklist of items, so that nothing gets missed by either party and walk-throughs remain consistent pre- and post-move out.
Arrival and Occupation
While there is a renter living in your property, you’re still responsible for maintenance. For example, if your water heater decides to kick the bucket, or you have some leaky pipes in the basement, you need to pay to have those fixed. At Simply Residential, we have a maintenance coordinator to handle all of the paperwork and logistics so that your property is well maintained at the best possible price. If you’re working with a property management company, they’ll be the ones who oversee these kinds of issues. If you’re on your own, this may be your least favorite part of the experience. Emergencies happen, and they have to be dealt with as they come, even if it’s 2:00am.
Property management companies also handle rent collection and late payment notifications. Many of our clients prefer it this way, because this is the area of the business that seems to get the most emotional. Nobody wants to fight over money, and nobody wants to wind up saying something they can’t take back. If you are handling rent collection on your own, always be sure to document each time contact is made as thoroughly as you can.
After the Renter Leaves
Eventually, even the best tenants must move on. Before your tenant moves out, complete another thorough walk through of the property and assess any damages. Small things like normal wear and tear of carpet in high traffic areas, small pin holes in the wall, etc. are to be expected. Be sure to note any damage that you would consider excessive, like holes in the walls or missing windows. Working with a property management company on this will help you determine how much of the tenant’s security deposit you should give back, and what portion will be needed for repairs. There are many legal issues surrounding this simple process, so if you aren’t working with a property management company, you may want to consult with a lawyer before you make any decisions.
Other times, you may need to evict a tenant. There are a variety of reasons why this could happen, but more often than not, it will be failure to pay rent. If this is the case, there will likely be a long, time consuming process ahead of you. At Simply Residential, we handle this entire process for our clients, from notification through litigation if necessary. If you’re on your own, again, this would be a good time to consult a lawyer.
Being a landlord isn’t easy. There are many facets and possibilities that need to be assessed and regulated throughout the entire process. That’s why working with Simply Residential Property Management is the right option for our clients and many other property owners. But, if you’re self-managing, make sure you’ve done your research and are protected from the potential dangers associated with bad renters.
If you want to learn more about how Simply Residential keeps property management simple, call us today: 952-893-9900!