As a new year rolls around, it may be time to adapt your leasing policies to the most profit-friendly rental property management strategies.
Here’s a look at what is likely to be trending in 2014:
1. Smoke-Free Housing
If you haven’t already banned smoking in your rental properties, 2014 is the year to do so.
The advantages are numerous:
Attract the broadest pool of qualified applicants;
Eliminate the risk of being sued for second-hand smoke illnesses;
Cut down the number of tenant complaints;
Lower the risk of fire;
Take advantage of free advertising on smoke-free housing websites;
Enjoy quicker and cheaper turnovers because properties do not require as much restoration.
A smoking ban takes time to implement, so stay ahead of the trend by adopting a smoke-free policy for all incoming tenants in 2014.
The smoking ban must be included in the new lease agreement. Existing leases can only be amended if the tenant agrees. Otherwise, you will need to wait for the new lease to change terms. Mention the policy in your rental ads, and include smoking preference in your list of prequalifying interview questions.
2. Ready for Pets?
While it is not required that landlords accept pets, the majority of tenants will ask for one. Others will bring one in after the lease is signed, forcing you to decide whether to try to evict an otherwise good tenant.
Some local governments are going pet-friendly, limiting landlords’ rights to enforce strict no-pets policies.
If you are ready to consider pets, then:
Look at ways to damage-proof flooring;
Familiarize yourself with your local rules concerning pet deposits — know what limits maybe in place;
When screening tenants with pets, focus on the owner’s ability to be responsible, and lesson the size and breed of the pet; and,
Reserve the right to evict a tenant who won’t abide by the pet rules.
3. Screening Younger Tenants
According to the CMHC, landlords likely will see more young workers in the rental market. This can lead to tenant screening challenges if the applicant does not have extensive credit or an easily-verified rental history.
Stick to your tenant screening policies by running a tenant background check on each applicant under consideration. Even if you suspect a person will have no credit, it is still important to run a credit check to verify that the applicant is telling the truth. After all, an easy way to hide bad credit is to claim you have none, hoping the landlord won’t check.
You don’t have to reject a qualified candidate on the basis of little or no credit history. Instead, use due diligence to confirm the person’s employment references and income. Ask for documentation to back up the rental application.
Watch out for cash-only renters who have no credit or banking references. Make sure the source of income is a lawful one.
4. Electronic Rent Payments
Electronic banking and bill payment is more popular than ever. Many tenants prefer the online method or automatic withdrawal over sending rent checks in the mail. Bucking this trend can lead to late, lost or stolen checks.
Electronic payment methods, including automatic withdrawal, electronic checks and credit card payments may be all it takes to keep cash flow running smoothly.
5. It’s Happening Online
There is nothing wrong with a rental sign and a cell phone when it comes to filling vacancies. But if you find that you need to advertise, consider the fact that most apartment searchers are using the Internet to choose their next rental home.
While a few of these listing services remain free of charge for landlords, for tenants, they are all free. The service a tenant chooses is the one that offers the best tenant incentives, like cash-back when they rent.
Also, free services may not be attracting the right number of qualified tenants. Be willing to look at several different services and see which is best for your location and property. Paying for an ad is cost-effective if you are quickly finding qualified applicants.
Along with online rental ads, landlords now are finding themselves subject to tenant reviews. Managing your online presence is likely to continue to be an issue in 2014, given the strong preferences tenants show towards websites that allow such reviews.
Local governments, like the City of Vancouver, have set up “bad landlord” registries to report code infractions. Private bedbug databases alert prospective tenants of any suspected infestations.
Take the time to search the Internet for entries regarding you, your business or the address of the property. Attempt to quell disputes with tenants, and if that fails, respond to the review or rating showing a positive way that such an issue would be resolved.
6. Bedbugs Aren’t Going Away
Unfortunately, this epidemic continues to plague landlords and tenants alike, particularly in metro areas.
Encourage tenants to report infestations as soon as suspected to avoid an all-out seige of your property by these surprisingly resilient pests.
When faced with an infestation, consider the non-toxic heat methods available from professional pest control companies.
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 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.