I'm about to become a first time landlord, what should I do?

Asked by Trulia Fort Lauderdale, Fort Lauderdale, FL Mon Dec 3, 2012

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Robert Peppe…, Agent, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Mon Dec 3, 2012
I have been a landlord for both multifamily and single family homes for over 20 years….I totally agree with what has been said by Jane and expanded on by Patricia, background checks are simply mandatory, no exceptions, and the follow-up is critical to finding out what previous landlords have to say, that they are indeed employed…current pay stubs are good to see, look for red flags, no rental history, living at home when they are 40 years old, criminal history or eviction history. Remember, for an eviction to show up on public records says that the previous landlord had to go the distance to have the tenant removed. I let my tenants know that EVERYONE gets a background check so that my tenants THEIR neighbors have been screened.

As for prospective tenants, don’t RUSH….I have found that the worst decisions that I have made is when I rush to fill a vacancy….the cash flow overrides logic and reason and I end up taking someone that has to move right away and it’s the end of the month, or someone with a hard luck story, partial security, maybe an eviction history etc and they almost ALWAYS turn out to be a problem tenant. BE PATIENT…once you have a good tenant, they will stay for a number of years. I have had one tenant for 17 years and my average tenant has been with me for 5 or 6 years. Less turnover is more profit, less headaches, and overall builds a strong professional Landlord Tenant relationship.

As for the property, I agree with James in concept. The property needs to have adequate liability insurance and nowadays, if you are east of 95, citizens is only giving you 100k liability so think about an umbrella to bring that number up…the costs are reasonable. MAKE SURE that if something isn’t working in your apartment or home, or is marginal FIX it prior to renting it…if you don’t, then you will surely get that late night phone call. Further, as an example if you notice that there is a large broken piece of concrete that you have to step over each time when accessing the property, then you should simply fix it or else you might be held liable for someone slipping and falling. Wherever you see things that could be issues, take care of them asap…

BE responsive to problems brought to your attention by your tenant, be clear if you are going to fix it or not and why, and if you are, do it quickly and thank them for bringing it to your attention and apologize for the inconvenience….

Enforce your lease …ie if a tenant is late with rent, let them know what the late charges are …….there are exceptions, but in general I tell tenants, their “job” is to pay rent on time, keep the apartment clean, and don’t disturb their neighbors, my “job” is to fix things when they break and give them a nice place to live.

And use a Florida approved lease…James mentions using a Realtor, that will help you get going in the right direction with respect to avoiding discrimination, ensuring lead based pamphlets etc are given to the tenants, as well as doing the background checks for you.

ALL that sounds a bit much, and sorry for such a long email, but once you get the hang of it, and you get a good tenant, being a landlord can be and should be a good fun and of course profitable business for you. You should do fine!!
1 vote
Ron Thomas, Agent, Fresno, CA
Mon Dec 3, 2012
Read the Book; "Being a Landlord, for Dummies"
2 votes
Maria Cipoll…, Agent, Coral Springs, FL
Fri Dec 21, 2012
Always enforce your prospective tenant to get the renter's insurance to protect their personal things and may be excesive damage to the property. Also, call all the persons on the rental application to verify references, dates and recomendations.
In the event that prospective tenant have pets, include a non refundable pet deposit. Believe me, you will use it. and finally, take a lot of pictures of the property right before the walk thru. This will be great to have handy in case that issues arrives when the lease is over.

Best of Luck,

Maria Cipollone

Century 21 Tenace

1 vote
Stephen McRo…, Mortgage Broker Or Lender, Tampa, FL
Mon Dec 3, 2012
I am EXTREMELY experienced as a Landlord and can tell you things to do and watch out for with potential renters. Here are a few of many…

#1 Credit check!
Often, the nicer and easier going the people seem to be upfront, the worse their credit and rent history may be.

#2 Background check
You need to make sure you are not renting to a child molester, thief or outright criminal!

#3 Clean renters!
When they come to see the property, take a walk and look in their car. If it's trashed, it's likley they'll do the same to your property.

Note: be open to those who have had a BK and have made effort to re-establish as well as certain ones who have had Short Sales, as these can be some of the best renters for multiple reasons.

Call me and I’ll give you a quick 5 minute class on being a Landlord.

Steve McRory
Pro Option Mortgage/ Florida
Ph: 888 662 4404

Prior Service U.S. Marine Corps
1 vote
James Furlong, Agent, Brookline, MA
Mon Dec 3, 2012
Work with professionals - do not try to do it by yourself right now. Use a real estate agent to source your tenants, making sure to do due diligence regarding credit history, work history etc. Establish your requirements for a tenant early and do not allow yourself to make an "exception". Work with a lawyer to make sure you carry the right insurance (especially general liability). Make sure your property meets all applicable building codes. Get the property inspected if your local authorities require rental units to be inspected. Follow the rules, it will be easier in the long run. Good Luck.
1 vote
John Bourassa, Home Buyer, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Mon Dec 3, 2012
Pray that you have the best tenant in the world.
1 vote
Meir Aloni, Agent, Plantation, FL
Sat Dec 22, 2012
I own rental properties since 1987; 1st thing to learn: it will take more than 5 minutes to attempt and become a (succesfull) landlord...

I started by combing the Board Lease and an attorny lease; my present lease is a living document and envolving lease, since day one...

I'd sugest you hire a pro (at least for the first year) and learn as you go...

If your property is such that you can collect a 3 months upfront, call it 1st month and 2 months worth as Security (that will give you more leverage at the Lease' end and they might behave better because of it); I do not have a grace period; rent is due on the 1st, and a 3 days notice will be posted on the 2nd (they can always stop the process, for a price, but meanehile you start the clock running...)
Before they sign the lease, I spent 45 mins explaing it, line by line so EVERYTHING is clear to them.

Meir Aloni & Team

CRS (Certified Residential Specialist)

CDPE (Certified Distressed Property Expert)

RECS (Real Estate Cyberspace Society)

Successfully selling Broward County since 1986!

Direct phone# 954-338-5220 http://www.WeSellBroward.com

All Star Realty Inc.
0 votes
Stephen McRo…, Mortgage Broker Or Lender, Tampa, FL
Tue Dec 18, 2012

Yes, DO NOT RUSH to fill a vacancy!

Run the credit to ensure they are not Credit Criminals and then run the Background check to make sure they are not actual Criminals.

Beware of the ones who act extra nice and are in a rush to get in, major Red Flag! And don't rely on the Landlord reference from where they are moving out as they may say anything to ensure they can get rid of them, unloading them on you!

Be nice to tenants, but DO NOT become friends as they will take advantage of you and then here comes the late and partial rent payments.

The first time they're over 5 days late, hire an eviction company to put the notice on the door, This does two things, #1 they will likely pay right away and will likely prevent this from being a habit as they will know you mean business, #2 you're initiating the 30 day countdown to evict them if needed.

Stick with good credit renters, this way if needed you have recourse thru Small Claims Court

Also, many have had prior BKs and are trying to re-establish their credit. These can be some of the best tenants as they can't go BK again and they know they can't mess up any late payment or judgment on their credit past the BK can be devastating, especially if they plan to purchase a home again in the next 3 to 5 yrs.

But you need to be a good landlord too! If their AC goes out, don't delay, get somebody out there right away! If they are good tenants and pay on time, you need to treat them the same way you'd want to be treated if you were renting from them.

Then there is the issue of pets. This can be a plus, but you have to handle it a certain way. Call me and I'll give you more pointers

0 votes
Juan Noriega, Agent, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Tue Dec 18, 2012
Determine how hands on you would like to be. Will you be doing a lot of the maintenance yourself? Have someone local reliable that you could help. Make sure to follow the local laws regarding security deposits. Focus on finding GOOD quality tenants in the long run this will determine your success and overall satisfaction with your investment.
0 votes
Jane Lindsey, Agent, Bunker Hill Village, TX
Mon Dec 3, 2012
I have been renting for almost 20 years. I have found, without fail, that the prospect's credit score will dictate what kind of a tenant they will be. So, depending on your level of tolerance, and how well your property can withstand abuse, you should use the score as the determining factor. Good luck. It's a fun business!
0 votes
Patricia Sal…, Agent, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Mon Dec 3, 2012
Hello, I have owned Investments Properties that I rent for about 10 years now. The most important information that I can give to you is KNOW WHO YOU ARE RENTING TO. Have the tenant fill out an application, don't accept any excuses. Talk to their employer & past employers. Talk to their previous landlords. Talk to the people who have known them the last 5 years. And always do a background check on them in the state that your property is located and in the state where they have lived before. Ask for references and call them, speak to them directly.

Ask for 1st rent and security deposit equal to a month rent.

Good Luck
0 votes
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