As a landlord, you have no doubt by now heard some serious horror stories. At the heart of every issue is a problem tenant – something you’re hoping to avoid by creating a thorough and fair screening process. A question you should ask every tenant is “Do you have any pets?”
A question you should ask yourself is: Do you accept pets?
Accepting pets in your rental property can be advantageous in an increasingly pet-friendly market. Understandably, though, you might be hesitant to. Those afore-mentioned horror stories? Many of them include issues revolving around animals being kept in the property.
Whether or not you want or should accept pets in your property is completely a matter of choice and preference. As with everything else in property management, it’s a risk/reward situation.
Let’s briefly examine those:
Why You May Not Want to Allow Pets:
Risk of Physical Damage to Property
Liability of Pet-Related Injury
Cost of Cleaning / Pest Treatment
Disturbance to Neighbors
Why You May Want to Allow Pets:
Increases Applicant Pool
Reduces Pets Being Snuck Onto Property (for free)
Charge More in Rent
Longer Tenancy (due to unavailability of other pet-friendly residences)
In a time when pets are increasingly considered part of the family rather than property, you will face the question of “Do you accept pets?” more and more. Here are steps you can take to address the concerns of pets in your property, and how to consider handling pets in the application process.
What You Can Do:
1.Be Clear in the Listing & Lease
If pets are not allowed, ensure that this is stated clearly in the listing. If the property is listed on multiple platforms, make sure that every posting states that the property is NOT pet-friendly. This will be an automatic deal-breaker for anyone who has pets, and will save you and the prospective tenant both time and frustration over the application process.
The lease should also clearly state that pets are not allowed on the property at any time, and specific penalties should be noted. This will help support your claims in court, should it come down to collecting money for charges related to animals being present in the home.
And yes, even though you have made it clear that the property is NOT pet-friendly, still put the question on the application. This makes certain that the tenant clearly states in writing that they do NOT have a pet.
2.Know Your Target Demographic
Millennials will make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. Having been hit hard by recessions, millennials are unable and unwilling to take on more debt in the form of a mortgage, and so is a demographic of majority renters. Nearly three out of every four millennials have a pet – and they will look elsewhere if their pets aren’t welcome. That’s quite a big swath of future business!
Your target demographic may not lean millennial – for now. Make the best decision that fits the needs of your market and the tendencies that cater to those renters. They are your livelihood, and what the market demands will determine how profitable your business will be.
3.Establish a Restricted Breeds List
Bad dogs come from bad dog owners, but an unfortunate human tendency of bad ownership has resulted in some breeds being restricted in residential properties – even neighborhoods and counties! If you decide to have a pet-friendly property, you will want to check your insurance policy to find out what type of coverage you have. Make sure you know the amount of liability coverage your policy includes. Your insurance company may have limitations or exclusions to this coverage – such as a list of dog breeds they consider to be “dangerous breeds,” which will not be covered under the policy.
4.Charge Pet Rent
Pets can (and arguably, should) be considered occupants of a home. A nominal monthly fee can be charged as “pet rent”. This reflects the higher demand of pet-friendly rental properties without penalizing someone who doesn’t have a pet. In this way, you cater to both types of tenants without having to exclude pet owners altogether.
5.Charge a Pet Deposit
This one-time charge differs from pet rent in the same way that a security deposit is not monthly rent. This charge goes directly to covering the cost of inevitable cleaning and flea treatment of the property. Extra care (with extra associated costs) must go into deeply cleaning a pet-friendly residence at move-out, which responsible and reasonable pet owners will understand. While a pet-owner may be nose-blind to their animals, a sensitive nose or someone with allergies can detect even the faintest presence of odor or dander.
6. Establish a Pet Application
A pet application, like any other tenant application, can be used to screen & assess the liability of an individual pet according to age, breed and size and will guide the determination of pet rent costs. There are third-party companies that can provide this assessment (for their own separate application fee) which keeps the pet assessment a step removed from any internal bias.
7.Conduct Yearly Inspections
As property owner and manager, you must conduct annual inspections. With tenants who have pets, it is especially important that you be on the lookout for signs of undue wear and tear on your property as a result of the tenant’s neglect on their pet’s behalf. Destructive behavior can quickly devalue a home and increase the cost of repair exponentially. If you have a residence that is NOT pet-friendly, be aware of signs that your tenants have been keeping a pet a secret, or have acquired a pet without thinking to add them to the lease. For liability’s sake, you need to have paperwork that properly reflects all occupants of the home at all times. Your inspection is a great time to address any concerns regarding the care of your property and the suspected presence of any unauthorized animals.
8.Understand the Difference Between a Pet and a Service Animal
Not every animal is a pet. Fair Housing covers the use of certified companion and service animals and it’s important that you understand the difference. A no-pet policy does not apply to service animals, as they are considered to be tenants and not pets. The pet application must still be conducted to determine the animal’s credentials as being certified as a service animal – and not just claimed as one. An “unofficial” service animal is still considered a pet. A true service animal will have the veterinary paperwork to support any claims made.
Property Managers have a history of dealing with a wide spectrum of pets and pet owners, their neighbors, and the fences in between. The legalities surrounding pets as family members and service animals are shifting, and at Frontline Property Management, Inc. we are determined to keep in step with the times and remain informed.
Contact us today to learn more about how Frontline Property Management can help you manage your property with ease and find your next tenants – four-legged or not!
Let us know if you need help with your rental!
5 Steps to Screen Your Applicants
The most important aspect of owning a rental property is finding a tenant who will pay the rent in full and on time, and who will treat your property well while living there. It can be a daunting task – which is why screening is crucial!
Here are five tips to get you through the screening process and on to your ideal tenant!
1. Create a Standardized Application
You will need to know more about your tenant than you will be able to pick up in a pre-screening. Some landlords pre-screen by an informal interview process at the time of showing the rental property. This type of pre-screening not only lacks a paper trail (which is important,should a rejected tenant make the accusation of discrimination) but also, with the shift to online and independent viewings, this is a step that logistically can no longer be relied upon. You will need to implement a tight, standardized, application.
What do we mean by “Standardized”?
Every potential tenant has aright to the same application process regardless of social background. As a landlord, and therefore the operator of a business, your decisions should be purely financial and must be unbiased against all other influences. In order to guarantee that your process is fair, every applicant must receive the same application and be submitted to the same credit and background checks – creating a standard procedure. This makes it easier for you, as well! Using a checklist of qualifications takes your “gut feeling” out of the equation and will propel you towards a reliable tenant.
What Should the Application Include?
Identities of every potential occupant
Contact information for previous landlords
Current and previous employers
Current income level
Number and size of pets and number of occupants
Do not proceed to the next step in the screening process if the application is incomplete. While the applicant may have simply forgotten some information, an intentional omission may indicate that the tenant is trying to hide something. Once the application is completed, move on to the next step.
2. Contact Previous Landlords
The applicant will have provided previous addresses and the contact information for previous landlords. Contact them! A landlord will have insight into what kind of tenant your applicant is. You may ask:
Is the landlord aware that their tenant is moving?
Did the tenant pay their rent in full before moving?
Was there a history of late payments?
Was the tenant disruptive to other tenants?
In what condition did they leave their unit?
Would they rent to this tenant again?
3. Run a Credit Check
A credit check will show you details about the tenant’s previous credit history, going back 7 to 10 years. While you may decide that you would like to focus on the credit score itself, late credit card payments doesn’t always mean a bad tenant. What may concern you is serious delinquency such as bankruptcy.
4. Run a Criminal Background Check
By acquiring the prospective tenant’s Social Security Number as part of the application process, you will now use that information to pull a detailed history of the applicant’s past. Many companies offer investigative services (for a fee) and will provide you with an eviction history, criminal history, credit history, and various public records.
A recent eviction may indicate the inability or unwillingness for the applicant to pay rent. A conviction for a violent crime makes the applicant a potential threat to you or your other tenants. A conviction for serious theft may indicate a danger to your or your other tenants’ property.
5. Verify Employment
You will need to verify that the applicant is employed by the person / business they claim on the application. Not all employers will reveal salaries, but they can verify that your applicant is a current employee. Check stubs may also be used to verify employment and that rental income qualification is met,but be aware of do-it-yourself pay stub scams.
Once your entire process is complete...
you will have narrowed down your field of applicants! Again, to maintain a consistent and fair process, whichever qualifying applicant meets the approval criteria first, regardless of any social background indicators, is your next tenant!
At the end of the day, you are providing shelter in exchange for payment. By ensuring that you screen for potential issues in that process, you will save yourself possibly thousands of dollars in unpaid rent, the hassle of having to find another tenant, and can move on to creating and building a relationship with your tenant with trust and consistency on both sides.
If this sounds too complicated or time-consuming to you, then look into hiring a Property Management Company! Frontline Property Management, Inc has used a reliable, fair and consistent application process for years. Our team of Tenant Coordinators work every day to provide the greatest quality control and customer care to every applicant, and not only guide prospective tenants through the application process but also create the leases for those who are approved!
Application Process: The Criminal Background Check
Why Run a Criminal Background Check At All?
In searching for the tenant who will occupy your rental property, you have a right to know whether or not that tenant will be a danger to you, your tenants, or your property. While there is no way to be certain of the future, your prospective tenant’s past may provide some insight into their habits. A criminal history does not define a person; however, it is important to take your financial risk into consideration.
How Do I Run a Criminal History Report?
You will not need to gather this information yourself! There are plenty of companies that bundle criminal background checks with credit reports and eviction histories. These paid services make this task as simple as it is necessary. Some state laws allow the landlord to charge a prospective tenant for the cost of ordering a credit or background check. In any case, make sure the application plainly states that a background check, criminal history report, or credit check will be ordered if appropriate and that the prospective tenant is granting authorization for a check into his or her financial, employment, and personal history.
Who Should I Run a Background Check On?
Everyone. Every applicant (18 years of age or older) must be submitted to the exact same screening process. Regardless of if you “have a feeling” about a person, if you require a background check of one applicant, then every applicant must also be held to the same standard. This will keep you in compliance with theFair Housing Act.
What Do I Look for in the Report?
A key red flag to be on the lookout for is prior evictions. An eviction within the last five to seven years could be an indicator of a tenant’s inability to pay rent. Multiple evictions raise an even bigger red flag – you will not want to risk being another landlord in a string of unpaid landlords. If the eviction is two or more years in the past, a frank conversation with your applicant (and their previous landlord) may help you better understand the circumstances under which they were evicted.
Applicants with felony or misdemeanor criminal convictions, those serving deferred adjudication (either felony or misdemeanor) or who have pending cases for:
Injury to persons, or
Damage to property
– or attempted felony or misdemeanor offenses related to the above – will be screened out of your applicant pool. Some landlords take part in “second chance” renting, in which case the above results are not an immediate disqualification and you may take the circumstances, frequency and date of the conviction into consideration. However, you are obligated to provide the safest and most secure environment possible for any other tenants you rent to, as well as the neighbors of your properties.
Be the most informed landlord you can be by obtaining and interpreting a criminal background check!
You will not know what you do not ask for. Securing a tenant with a reasonably clear criminal and eviction history increases your odds that you will have steady rent payments and few (if any) issues from neighbors or other tenants!
A Property Management company with a Tenant Coordination Department – such as Frontline Property Management, Inc. – has years of experience running these reports. Our standards are the same for all applicants and our methods take the pressure off you to decide what is and isn’t acceptable from an applicant. Working with Frontline means that you will not be ensnared by a direct plea from an applicant who has a lengthy history of criminal behavior or is a high risk for eviction. We have implemented a very accessibleonline application with clearly stated qualifying criteria. Our suite of services include lease-writing once your application pool has been screened and your next tenant selected. Our streamlined process and the diligent work of our Property Managers and Tenant Coordinators works every day to serve your needs!
Find out more about how Frontline Property Management, Inc. can save you time and effort in every step of the process!
4 Tips to Advertise Your Rental Property
1) 1. Spruce Up the Property
As we’ve mentioned, a home can sell itself from the sidewalk. Make that precious first impression count by investing not only in the habitability of the home, but also in its presentation. A trimmed lawn, clean windows and fresh paint can make all the difference to a potential renter!
2) Register with Third-Party Real Estate Advertising Sites
Advertising in any business is traditionally a mix of both legwork and market research. In acquiring a tenant for your rental property, it can be more of both! Your “product” isn’t simply an item; it’s a home, a lifestyle, a cornerstone of your future tenant’s life. You will need to know the nuts and bolts of the market statistics for the neighborhood of your rental property in order to set a fair market price. On top of that, you need to know where to go to find your customers! While visibility is important and you will still get leads from prospects who have driven by the rental and have seen your contact information there (see tip #1!), every market advertising is shifting online. Your online presence must be as consistent and as reputable as you are in person. There are many websites, and new ones every year, that will compete to advertise your listing. By partnering with a trusted and well-known third-party advertiser, you gain the edge of being where prospects are looking without having to attend events, put up billboards, or take out ads in the paper. (Which are all viable options, but are becoming rapidly outdated.)
3) Take Great Photos
The downside to online listings can be that the photos don’t show the house in its best light. And why not? You control the photo-taking! Open the blinds! Let the light shine in! A property doesn’t have to be staged to be welcoming, but your photos should definitely highlight the rental’s best features. If you don’t have a steady hand, can’t work the angles, or just can’t capture a quality photo with your cell phone – look into hiring a property photographer. A professional has the skills and the equipment to bring to film exactly what you see in reality – which makes for great advertising! You are trying to get a prospect off of the couch and into the property. Sub-par pictures aren’t going to do that!
4) Follow Fair Housing Regulations
When writing up your own ad spots, you may think that the language you’re using is innocuous. There are, however, guidelines set by Fair Housing that will help you advertise your rental in an inclusive, legal manner. Remember – you’re not writing the advertisement for you. You’re writing to any potential tenant. By saying, for example, “Perfect for a young couple with children”, you invite an idea of discrimination against older, childless, single adults.
Advertising your rental property differs from the advertisement of other “products” in that you set no expectation of who your customer will be. There is no “key demographic”. The only expectations set are on your property itself.
If all of this sounds like a lot of time-consuming work, it’s because it is! There’s a reason advertisers bolster entire industries – and it can bolster yours, too.
A property management company like Frontline Property Management, Inc. has years of experience in advertising for new tenants. Our Property Managers are well-versed in online advertising, have connections with third-party advertisers, and (importantly!) are able to quickly identify and shut down scams in their tracks. Cut down your vacancy time by partnering with a Frontline Property Manager today!