With summer rental season in full swing, landlords are gearing up to find new tenants. A lot is riding on the rental ad. Not only do landlords need to attract good tenants, they need to avoid mistakes that increase liabilities and cause property management headaches down the road.
Consider these dos and don’ts as you plan to fill your next vacancy:
Don’t Overhype the Property
Want to generate a heightened sense of excitement and enthusiasm over your rental property? Are you sure?
When advertising a vacancy, avoid making a property sound better than it is. Be realistic or you might overinflate renters’ expectations. That’s a recipe for persistent complaints and bad reviews from an applicant who is disappointed.
The property doesn’t need to be “the most amazing”, have “super high-end finishes” or “scream luxury” to attract good renters, especially if those things are an exaggeration.
It’s okay to tell it like it is, and even to be upfront about shortcomings. Tenants prefer honesty and can tolerate minor issues. “It’s not that bad” is preferable to “This is not what I expected.”
If the property is overpromised, the tenant is forced to come down out of the clouds. On the other hand, if your ad is spot on, the property will be everything the tenant is looking for.
Never use photos or content that is misleading. A recent ad features photos of a popular pedestrian mall under the heading “Walkable”, but the mall is 10 miles away in a different city. One ad touts luxury finishes that belong to a different property. Another shows a view from a window that is not visible from that unit.
If the ad is misleading, tenants go into the relationship not trusting their landlord, and that’s going to play out during the course of the tenancy. In extreme cases, this misinformation can constitute grounds to break the lease or even sue the landlord for damages.
Don’t Play Both Sides
Don’t waste space in the ad attempting to profile the perfect tenant. Obviously, choosing a preferred demographic of tenants — a “young” couple, a “small” family — often is illegal. It also is a challenge to target a preferred tenant pool without excluding another. One landlord recently tried to cover the bases by describing the property as “perfect for a professional, a family, roommates, or retirees.” Unfortunately, that excludes many qualified applicants who may be discouraged from applying.
But there’s a more insidious concern with profiling tenants: it provides scammers the perfect cover. Landlords who reveal their fantasy tenant in their ads give bad renters a script to follow. Want a professional? You’ll get a scammer in a suit. Want someone who works at the software giant down the street? You’ll get that, too, along with a fraudulent reference. Consider how easy it is to fake a reference right now. “My boss is working from home because of COVID. Here’s his personal (and unverifiable) cell phone number.”
Focus on attracting tenants to the property. If it helps to visualize, imagine a tenant mailing or dropping off a rent check on time every month, then going back to their tidy unit and living in peace and harmony with the neighbors. What that person looks like is of no consequence.
Do Spruce It Up
One of the most positive steps a landlord can take when filling a vacancy is to make sure the property looks good in the ad photos and in person. A tenant reports that she recently toured an expensive property only to end up with dog poop on her shoes after stepping off the patio. Another applicant describes seeing a mouse skitter out from under a bag of trash left on the front porch of a vacant rental unit. Inside, he was treated to bugs in the bathtub and a broken shelf. It doesn’t matter how much a property costs. People expect better.
Do wait to take pictures or run the ad until the property is ready to show, or you risk attracting the wrong tenants. Ask yourself, “Do I want a tenant who wants to live like this?”
Do Command Respect
The ad is the first impression most applicants have of the landlord, and from that the tenant will infer what the tenancy will be like. Consider what sort of impression you want to create.
Tenants balk at ads with strange requirements like “prefer tenant who will shovel the neighbor’s sidewalk”, “must weed the yard once per week”, or “landlord reserves the right to store items at the property” because it looks unprofessional.
The best tenants like someone who is professional and decisive. Someone who knows what they’re doing. Do be straightforward: “Available July 1. No-smoking property. Tenant Background Check Required.
Do commit to managing the rental property like a business, and you will attract and retain the best tenants.
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).
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Disclaimer: The information provided in this post is 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.