Rental Ads: From Sloppy to Savvy

by Chris on February 13, 2017

Did you know that rental ads can multitask? The same ad that alerts tenants to a vacancy also can attract the most qualified renters, and at the same time set the stage for a more successful tenancy. All it takes is a little savvy.

Consider the example of a recent ad for a unit near the University of Colorado Boulder, where a prime off-campus location can generate $4 a square foot. Very little info about the unit is provided, apart from “Available Now”, but the pictures — taken while trash from the previous tenant still was scattered across the carpet and bags lined the hallway — say it all. Clearly this landlord is confident about filling the vacancy, but what sort of tenant is going to respond to that ad? It’s probably no coincidence that this place is available in the middle of second semester. Perhaps this landlord simply has given up on finding good tenants.

In Denver, the rental market still sizzles, although an influx of new inventory is creating some competition. There, a more savvy landlord advertises a property with a 400-word narrative and professional quality photos that showcase a unit in prime condition. And, the landlord includes the all-important language, “Background and credit checks will be performed, previous landlord and employment history will be required.”

Clearly, this ad will attract qualified applicants. In fact, it would receive a blue ribbon if not for one mistake: the landlord requires deposits that are “half-refundable.” What does that even mean?

Another ad, from the Seattle area, displays the same photo three times, along with other photos tilted sideways, a signal to all that this landlord doesn’t know what they’re doing. Bad tenants may wonder if this landlord won’t run tenant background checks, either.

Fortunately, it’s easy to up your game when it comes to rental ads. Here are a few pointers that can take you from so-so to savvy:

1. Pay attention to the photos. One option is to call in a pro, but if that is not cost-effective, follow these pro tips:

Take photos during the day, and open up the shades. Good lighting equals good photos.
Wide angle, horizontal or landscape settings often are the best for inside rental units.
Point downwards slightly and aim about 7-10 feet out toward the path ahead — that looks natural.
Center the shots over the focal points in each room. Don’t shoot random spaces.
If you really want to go all-out, stage the space first with simple decor, preferably something colorful.

2. Don’t oversell the property. That can lead to disappointment. It’s far too easy for disgruntled tenants to ruin a landlord’s reputation by posting negative comments or reviews. Bad reviews spawn more bad tenants. Teasing a prospective into thinking an average property is a palace will set the stage for negative interactions later on. It’s better for everyone to have their feet on the ground. You know you are on the right track when you hear, “Oh, this is actually really cute,” or, “We can make that work,” rather than, “This doesn’t even look like the same apartment.” That’s not something you want plastered all over the Internet.

3. List your terms so that tenants can self-screen. Include the rent, size, location, length of lease, parking, pets or no, smoking or no, marijuana or no, along with the warning, “Tenant Background Check Required.” While it’s fine to list all fees, be mindful of the need to be crystal clear — a fee is never refundable, a deposit is never nonrefundable, and neither is “half-refundable” — and also avoid a long litany of separate charges. It may be better to increase the rent than to nickel and dime the tenants. The overall cost is the same, but the psychology is different.

4. Avoid superfluous language designed to get into the heads of your prospective applicants — no “perfect for roommates”, “seeking professionals”, or listing the bars nearby that are popular with twenty-somethings. Stick with proximity to grocery stores or public transportation.

Make your ads work for you, and you will reap the rewards, including better tenants and smoother tenancies year after year.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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6 Pet Policies That Don’t Work

by Chris on February 13, 2017

There’s a common problem with many landlord pet policies: they tend to be developed in a vacuum. Most of the time, prospective tenants already have acquired their pets, so landlords who don’t sync their pet policies to the applicant pool tend to limit their options for qualified renters.

Here are a few common pet policies that can lead to income loss:

1. Refusing all pets, including companion animals. No-pets policies have one important drawback: landlords still must accept companion animals prescribed for tenants with disabilities.

Should a landlord reject an applicant who requests a companion animal because of a no-pets policy, the landlord may be prosecuted for discrimination and pay significant fines.

The same is true if an existing tenant becomes disabled and requires the animal. Even in the event of a no-pets restriction, landlords must adopt a policy for dealing with companion animals.

2. Applying pet policies to companion animals. Requiring applicants who have companion animals to pay a pet deposit, higher deposit, pet rent, or to live in units designated for pets is illegal. So is restricting where the animal can be present within the rental complex. However, health and safety standards regarding the care of all animals, such as a requirement that animals be vaccinated or on a leash if that is the law, are generally acceptable.

3. Breed restrictions. Unless local law restricts a particular breed, most commonly pit bulls, breed restrictions are meaningless when it comes to reducing liabilities for dog bites or other injuries. Insurance companies report that other breeds, including Chihuahuas, German Shepherds, Dobermans and Rottweilers are just as likely to attack. A more effective screening policy is to ask the tenant about the animal’s history. See our previous post, How to Screen Tenants With Pets, for more ideas.

4. Size restrictions. The size of the animal has no bearing on whether it causes disturbances or more noise. Small dogs may bark incessantly, while larger dogs may be quite. With cats, size has virtually nothing to do with temperament. Not only does this policy discourage qualified renters with larger, well-behaved pets, but it also is difficult to enforce. It is unlikely an eviction judge will be sympathetic to booting a tenant because the animal is slightly oversized, but not misbehaving.

5. One-pet limit. There are two inherent problems with the one-pet limit. First, a roommate or child may be entitled to a companion animal, and then the landlord must make an exception. That looks bad to other tenants who were denied a second pet. Another issue is that two pets often keep one another company, and that can reduce noise complaints. Like the other restrictions, the results depend upon the specific animals, and so it is better to screen them individually rather than apply a blanket prohibition that is difficult to enforce. Number restrictions based on local law are appropriate.

6. Pet deposits. In some areas, a pet deposit can be charged to the tenant in addition to the general security deposit. However, if most jurisdictions, the pet deposit must be carved out of the general security deposit, which is capped by law. It does not make sense for landlords who cannot charge an additional amount to earmark any portion of the general security deposit as a pet deposit. By doing so, the landlord limits access to these funds unless the landlord can prove the damage was caused exclusively by the pet. Otherwise, the landlord could apply the general deposit to either pet or human damage.

It certainly is understandable why some landlords fear that allowing pets will increase property damage, tenant complaints and liabilities.  However, that concern needs to be balanced against the growing number of qualified renters with pets, along with the fairly-recent requirement that landlords accept companion animals.

Some landlords are embracing the trend by carving out pet play areas, and even organizing pet events within the rental community. These landlords may see better tenant retention than those who restrict pets. “Pet-proofing” the units along with proper tenant screening can minimize the risks of allowing pets in rental properties.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

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City Penalizes Landlords Who Raise Rent

February 13, 2017

Portland, Oregon has passed a controversial new ordinance that requires landlords there to pay up to $4,500 to tenants who choose to move because the landlord is raising the rent. City Council passed the new measure unanimously. The law is seen as Plan B, after the same lawmakers failed to muster the votes for a […]

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A Perfect Storm: Best Cities for Single-Family Rentals in 2017

February 13, 2017

Atlanta will be the top performer in the single-family rental market in 2017, that according to a new report released this week by online real estate investment management firm HomeUnion. The 2017 National Single-Family Rental Research Report ranked 31 metros on several factors, including yields, demand and market conditions. Atlanta has the right mix of […]

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Quick Start Guide to Landlording

January 30, 2017

In a hurry to fill a vacancy? Successfully managing a rental property may not be as elusive as programming your newest gadgets, but in landlording — like electronics — trial and error is not the best way to learn. So, before you fill your next vacancy — or your first — review this quick start […]

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3 Reasons to Avoid Month-to-Month Tenancies

January 30, 2017

Typically, month-to-month tenancies are a default which occurs when a tenant chooses to stay on after the original lease term ends. There is nothing perilous about this process; the tenant is still bound by the terms of the original tenancy agreement. However, month-to-month tenancies present some disadvantages to landlords: 1. Vacancies may occur at a […]

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Public Outcry Prompts Ban on Short-Term Rentals

January 30, 2017

Continuing complaints from local residents this month prompted Richmond, B.C. City Council to ban such rentals, that after having vowed to regulate the practice only a week earlier. The action comes as major cities, including Vancouver and Toronto, are looking into ways to deal with the affects short-term sublets are having on rental housing markets. […]

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British Columbia Sets 2017 Interest Rate for Security Deposits

January 30, 2017

The interest rate to accrue on security and pet deposits in 2017 in British Columbia is set at 0%. Under the Residential Tenancies Act, landlords must account to tenants for interest at a rate that is set annually. That figure is equal to 4.5% under the prime lending rate as of January 1 of that […]

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Landlord Prosecuted Over Lease, Fees

January 16, 2017

The Attorney General of West Virginia announced that he has filed a lawsuit against the state’s largest residential landlord claiming the landlord’s lease provisions and fees violate the state’s consumer and credit protection statutes. The prosecutor alleges that a number of lease provisions are unconscionable. This landlord leases to many students and inexperienced renters. The […]

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Landlords, Leases, and Marijuana

January 16, 2017

The legalization of marijuana quickly is affecting more and more landlords, and many have questions. Should landlords ban recreational marijuana? Is it possible to ban medical marijuana? If so, how is it done? Unfortunately, many of these laws are new, and in flux. For example, Michigan passed a law just a week ago that explicitly […]

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