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Frequently Asked Questions


Normal Wear
and Tear

Click here for a Normal Wear and Tear Guide from rentlaw.com

Tenant Screening

Check out  How to Screen Tenants in 5 Easy Steps, by thelpa.com

Evictions

Eviction, (a.k.a unlawful detainer) is the process of legally removing a tenant from a rented premises.  This process varies by state so it is important that you research the requirements in your jurisdiction before proceeding.  It is always wise to contact a real estate attorney to assist you if you are unfamiliar with the due process of the law so you do not risk losing your case due to a technical error. 

The following links provide more information on the eviction process:

To check out the eviction summary from Lawyers.com, click here.

Click here For the DOs and DON'Ts of eviction process from rhol.com

Section 8 Housing

US Department of Housing and
Urban Development
Publications:

HUD's Public Housing Program

An explanation of the Section 8 Program:
Housing Choice Vouchers

Find Your Local Public Housing Agency (PHA)

Roommate Situations

Dealing with Roommates can be somewhat problematic if there is not a clear understanding of the issues and responsibilities involved in this arrangement.   As a landlord, it is essential that you clearly understand the nature of a co-tenancy situation and explain it to each tenant prior to signing a lease.  To further avoid co-tenant issues, it is an excellent idea to require that the co-tenants sign a Roommate Agreement (such as the one included in The Complete Landlord e-Guide) and deliver a copy to you. 

Another issue involves dealing with security deposits.  It is important to clarify a strict policy that the security deposit shall remain the collective property of all co-tenants regardless of how it was originally paid. 

This means that when the tenancy ends, you have the right to make any refund check payable to all co-tenants (i.e. "John Doe, Jane Doe and Bob Smith"). This way, if there are any disputes over security deposit deductions for repairs, cleaning, etc., it will be the responsibility of the co-tenants to work out themselves and you can stay out of it.

This also means that if one roommate wants to move out, and another wants to move in, you as the Landlord (after approving any such changes and creating an addendum to the lease) should not be bothered with having to refund a portion of the deposit to the old roommate and collecting the same from the new one.  Again, make it the tenants' responsibility to work out the details.  Otherwise, you are better off terminating the lease entirely, completing a formal move-out inspection, deducting for repairs or damages and refunding the deposit balance, etc. so you can start all over with a new lease for the new tenancy.  This way you eliminate the chances of damage and other financial disputes down the road.

As mentioned above, using a good Roommate Agreement will clarify these and other similar issues that often cause problems in multiple tenancy situations.  It's an excellent policy to require roommates to review and sign one amongst themselves prior to signing the lease.

Check out the sample roommate agreements and legal tips at www.roommatesetc.com. Click on the "Catalog" link.

The following links from nolo.com also explain typical roommate issues:

Renting a Place With Others
A summary of the legal rules affecting roommates.

When a Roommate Leaves
What to do if a roommate moves out before a lease ends.

Adding a Roommate to the Lease or Rental Agreement
Get your landlord's approval before a new person moves in.

Charging for Damages

Learn about assessing move-out charges from The Landlord's Protection Agency's Settlement Charges Guide

 Small Claims Court

Success In Small Claims Court

Defending A Small Claims Case

Small Claims Court In Your State

Collecting A Small Claims Judgment

Small Claims Terms

Landlord and Tenant Rights and DutiesClick here to learn about the obligations  of landlords and tenants with regard to keeping up the premises, making repairs, entry and inspection and  guest and neighbor issues.
Security DepositsLearn about avoiding security deposits disputes and how to make deductions from security deposits,
and about Security Deposit Insurance from RHOL.com
DiscriminationSee the Housing Discrimination and Accommodation page at Lawyers.com
Hiring a Property Manager

Sometimes the wisest decision you can make as a property investor is to hire a professional management company.  If you are not prepared to take on the responsibilities of being a landlord and/or are an absentee owner, finding a good property manager will be money well spent.

The best way to find someone is to get a personal referral from another investor but if you are starting your search from scratch, the following are some general guidelines to consider:

 1)  Choose a company with an office that is physically close to your property and/or that has a lot of other rentals in your area.  This way, they will be more likely to drive by it from time to time which is important in verifying that your property is being maintained well.  Also, they will be readily familiar with the appeal of your property and neighborhood as far as assessing the rent price, lease up time and quality of tenant you are likely to attract.

 2)  Find someone that is accessible by phone during normal working hours.  I prefer to work with smaller companies but some don't have full time phone help.  In this case they should at least have a cell phone or other means of reaching them quickly and easily.  If you have to leave a message, you can tell much about how organized and capable a manager is by how prompt they are about returning your call.  Also, find out about how after hours emergencies are dealt with as well which will be important for your tenants and the maintenance of your property.

 3)  Ask about their screening policies as well as their tenant policies and procedures, especially with regard to delinquent and/or problem tenants.  How do they deal with evictions and at what stage will you be contacted in the event that there is a major problem with the tenant or the property?  Ask to review their lease agreement to see how thorough it is and inquire about their typical new tenant procedures.  Do they take time to review the lease in detail with each tenant, going over pertinent lease terms?  Do they use addendums for pets and roommates to clarify potential issues?  How do they deal with maintenance and repair issues?  Do they have an affordable means of taking care of these issues (such as a knowledgeable maintenance staff member) or do they just contact an outside contractor?  How will they ensure you that they will always find the best and most affordable options?

 4)  Inquire about how and where properties are advertised for rent.  Generally, you want to make sure your ads will get maximum exposure based on the type of tenant you are trying to attract.  For example, if you were renting a unit in the middle of a college district and wanted to attract students, a good manager would want to advertise in the college paper, on campus bulletin boards, etc.  Conversely,  if you were trying to attract a professional, you might want to avoid these avenues and focus on professional advertising media and/or corporate relocation departments.  A good manager will assess the benefits of your particular property and will advertise accordingly.  They will also be resourceful about the best means of promoting your unit while being conscious about minimizing your advertising costs.  Newspaper ads can be exorbitant so be sure to check on whether a manager has discount pricing (they usually do) and will put together an ad campaign that runs on optimal days.  For example, running a newspaper ad on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday (the days with the most readership) will maximize the bang for your buck rather than running your ad 7 days a week.

 5)   Be prepared to contact and "interview" more than one management company.  Always ask for the owner or senior management and meet with them in person so you can more thoroughly evaluate how they present themselves.  You want someone who is personable and professional, and someone that you like and feel like you can trust.  I would put a lot of weight on my gut feeling about someone after meeting with them.  Review their management contract and discuss your personal goals and expectations. A good manager will be somewhat flexible in negotiating the management agreement in order to meet your needs.

 6) Inquire about their management fees which should be anywhere from 7% to 10% of monthly gross rents collected.  Some companies charge set up and maintenance fees in addition to your monthly management fees.  Find out who gets the tenant late and bounced check fees and ask how your monies will be held and accounted for.  Compare what you find out to what you know about other companies in the area to assess what is reasonable and usual.

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