Tenant troublesNo matter if you’re a landlord or a renter, the housing market can be difficult to navigate. A landlord needs to take proper steps to ensure they find the right tenant and are protected should a situation arise. A renter should ask the appropriate questions to locate and secure the space that’s right for them. In this month’s blog, we provide both renters and landlords with tips on how to approach renting a home or apartment and avoid tenant troubles.

For Landlords

Whether you have an apartment to rent, or an entire home, here are six important tips to successfully leasing:

  1. Find a good tenant: Ask potential tenants to fill out an application containing their basic information including previous landlords and references, and check them. You’ll also need their Social Security number and signed authorization to conduct a background check.
  2. Determine how much rent to charge: Gauge the rental price in your market by reviewing newspapers, online resources or neighborhood rental signs. Be realistic.
  3. Draft a lease: A written lease is necessary so that each party understands their rights and obligations. A lease should spell out the following:
    • Lease term
    • Security deposit
    • Rent due date and late penalties
    • Repairs and who’s responsible
    • Maintenance responsibilities such as lawn care and snow removal
    • Rules of behavior
    • Pet policies
    • Homeowner association rules and dues
    • Eviction terms
  4. Protect your property with insurance: Protecting your property with the correct insurance policy is extremely important. You’ll need a different policy when renting a property to a tenant versus using it as your primary residence. Your typical insurance will cover the structure, damages and your belongings in the house, but as a landlord you’ll need rental home insurance, also known as fire insurance. This will cover your home, legal costs, medical expenses and loss of rental income, if repairs are needed.
  5. Hire a management company: A management company will charge fees for two services: finding a tenant, including advertising and background checks, and managing the property. Monthly management includes collecting rent, charging late fees, handling repairs and dealing with early vacancies or evictions.
  6. Prepare for evictions: If your tenant doesn’t leave willingly, you can’t just move their personal property and kick them out. You’ll need an attorney.

For Renters

Asking the right questions when meeting your potential landlord will provide you with relevant information and set the framework for further interactions with management. Here’s what you should ask as a renter:

  1. Questions about rent and money:
    • How much is rent?
    • How much is the deposit?
    • What day is rent due?
    • Do you have a grace period?
    • What’s your policy for late rent?
  2. Questions about the lease:
    • What are the terms of the lease?
    • What happens after the lease ends?
    • How do you manage lease renewals?
    • What is the policy on subleasing?
    • When are the move-in/move-out dates?
  3. Questions about the application process:
    • Is there an application to fill out?
    • What kind of documents do I need to provide with my application?
    • What is the application fee? Is it refundable?
    • Do you plan on running a background check?
    • Is there a waiting list for the property?
  4. Questions about maintenance:
    • Who do I contact about emergency maintenance issues? Is there a 24-hour number I can contact?
    • How do I submit maintenance requests?
    • Are there any issues with bugs or rodents?
    • Who is responsible for removing snow and ice in the winter?
    • Who handles the landscaping of the property?
  5. Questions about utilities:
    • What utility services are included with the property?
    • Is the property heated with gas or electricity?
    • Do you have an estimate for what normal utility bills tend to be at this property?
  6. Miscellaneous questions:
    • What is the policy for parking?
    • Do you have restrictions on guests visiting the property?
    • What is the pet policy?
    • Is there storage space available?
    • What happens if I get locked out of my apartment?

These may seem like a lot of questions to ask your future landlord, but they address situations that are bound to arise during your tenancy. Being prepared ahead of time for how your landlord handles common tasks will save you time in the future and help when making important housing decisions, like signing a lease. Don’t forget, your landlord isn’t responsible for your belongings, so we encourage you to buy renters insurance to make sure you’re covered.

Whether you’re the landlord or the tenant, having as much information as possible up front is the best plan for a successful tenancy. We can help make sure that you have a plan in place and are protected. Before you sign that lease, call us to review your options.

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