One of the main components of being a successful real estate investor is finding good, qualified renters for your properties. There are few things more frustrating and cash flow draining than a renter who is always late on paying their bills or worse, a renter who never makes their payments.
Here are six easy tips for you to follow to protect yourself against deadbeat renters.
1. Before you rent your property, come up with a “perfect renter” profile.
To do this, first list the main selling points of your house from a renter’s point of view. What does the perfect renter do for a living? Do they have children? What would be the renter’s interests? Once you have your avatar built, then you can actively start marketing your property to the perfect client.
For example, if the main selling point of your house its school district, then you might want to let the local PTA group of the grade school, middle school, and high school know that your house is on the rental market. You might also want to put up flyers of your house on the school’s community board.
2. Perform background checks.
This might seem like a very logical thing to do, but you would be surprised at how many landlords never ask the prospective tenant for a background check. The one I use is Tenant Background Search. This service provides me with an eviction report, FICA score, and nationwide criminal background report — and the best part is that it costs around $25 per report.
3. Have a real estate attorney provide you with all legal documents.
Don’t be cheap and buy your rental agreements off the internet at one of these do it yourself websites. Many of these agreements have loopholes that allow the renter too much wiggle room. As we’ve all been told a time or two, “Prepare for the worst, and hope for the best.”
To prepare for the worse, you should go into the agreement with the understanding that you might have to take legal action against the renter — so wouldn’t you feel more at ease knowing that your attorney provided the legal agreement?
4. Be upfront and honest with the renters before they rent.
Perhaps your rental property has joust windows. Now, these windows give the house a lot of character, and it does give the house a lot of appeal; however, these windows are not air tight, and the electricity bill can be quite expensive, especially in the summer months. Always be upfront with the renters, and consider even putting this type of information in the contractual agreement.
5. Include routine maintenance in the monthly rental amount.
There is nothing that will hurt the value of a house more than poor curb appeal.
To protect your investment, include the upkeep of the yard, spraying of weeds, trash removal service, etc. in the monthly amount. This way, you can pay to have someone other than the renter provide these services, and you can make sure they are done properly.
6. Make sure the renters provide their own insurance.
It is always a good idea to put in the agreement that the renters must provide their own renter’s insurance. This way, if something unfortunate happens, it does not back up on you. It’s also a good idea to have the rental property or properties set up in an LLC; this way, your personal assets are protected should something happen unexpectedly at your rental property. If your accountant tells you an LLC is not advantageous for you, then I would get a million or two million dollar umbrella policy for extra protection.
Being a landlord is really not that hard — just be careful and treat people fairly. Word of mouth is the best marketing, and people want to rent from good landlords.