Monday, October 30, 2006

Carnival of Real Estate at Real Central VA

Real Central VA is hosting the 16th edition of the Carvival of Real Estate. Also, check out The Real Estate Tomato's Halloween Carnival which will be posted, appropriately, tomorrow.

Landlord Shmandlord will be hosting next week's Carnival. If you would like to participate, please submit your best post by Sunday November 5th.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Section 8

Do-it-yourself landlord has a great post here about Section 8. I have been dealing with Section 8 for over two years, and have no real complaints. Here are a few things that I learned:

  • The inspector always lists at least a few things that need to be done. Usually these things are extremely minor, but need to be done in order for the rent payments to continue. While I haven't done so myself, I'd imagine that if you get on the inspector's bad side, they can make your life very difficult.

  • When I've requested a rent increase from Section 8, I've accompanied the request with comps from the local circulation. The rents of these comps are always a little higher than what I'm asking. To date they have not denied any of my requests.

  • The rents are near the top the fair-market value range.

  • Rent is always in your mail box, on time.

  • Section 8 tenants have an extra incentive to take care of your place and pay their rent on time: if they don't, they lose out of the free money. This is powerful = )

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

I've got a new tenant!

Finally, my apartment is rented. The lease is signed, and the security deposit and first month's rent were paid. I performed a background and credit check, and also verified that he has had a stable job for several years. There was a surge of interested the past week, so I had a few applicants.

I want to reiterate: make sure that you call a perspective tenant about an hour before you're supposed to show the apartment. I've found that usually when I forget to do this, they forget to show.

There was only one noshow this time around, who when I called 15 minutes after she was supposed to arrive, she responded: "Oh, I was not able to borrow a car. Can you show it to me this weekend?" She surprisingly was actually looking for an answer.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

How to screen a tenant

When a potential tenant calls, there are several things I do to avoid wasting time. When they first call, they expect the landlord to lead the conversation. I usually start by describing the important details about the property. Make sure you include:

  • Location

  • Number of bedrooms

  • Monthly price, and what's included. Water, sewer, heat/oil?

  • Required amount when they sign the lease. Security deposit? First/last month's rent?

  • Parking situation: Is there a garage? Offstreet parking?

  • Date it will be available

  • Are pets allowed?

  • Requirements: credit check, background check, verifiable job?

The point of the description is to make sure the tenant knows what you're offering. Very often something in the list will turn them away and this is the end.

Next, they usually either have some additional questions about the property, which you should answer, or they'll ask to see the place. Before setting up a time to show it, there are a few questions you should ask:

  1. Who will be moving in?Make sure that the apartment is an appropriate size for the number of potential tenants.

  2. Do you have any pets? What type?Maybe you allow pets, but you don't allow elephants.

  3. When are you looking to move in? What type of lease are you looking for?This is good because often people are not planning to move for longer than you're willing to wait? Also, the other day this question saved me because a guy wanted to see the place, but it turned out that he was only looking for a three month lease, which I was not interested in.

  4. Do you have good credit? Do you have a job? What do you do?These things are important. Are you going to verify that they really have the job?

Now if they made it this far, it's time to show the property. If you make the appointment a few days out, it is good to call them the morning of to make sure they are still interested (and that they remember).

At the showing, if they are interested and I like them, I usually have them fill out an application and give an application fee. Optionally, you can offer to apply the application fee to the first month's rent if they're accepted. The fee pays for the credit and background checks (which are now a mandatory part of the process). Also, the application fee commits them until you sign the actual lease.

Guest Blogger: Pete's Findings

Pete emailed a follow-up to what he found at the apartment:

Supposedly, the tenant moved out on Friday. No forwarding address. I stopped over on Saturday to see how they left it. I saw their car tracks on the lawn from the patio door, so that was a good sign! I went inside and everything was gone except a mattress, a lot of shoes, and a lot of junk. Oh yeah, and their abandoned car with the flat tire! I should have had that towed weeks ago, but I was just hoping they would take it with so I didn't have to worry about it. I figured I would give them one more day just in case they wanted their shoes. I got the report today from my cleaner... written on a closet shelf was "F*** you Pete!" I think that counts as official notice they moved out. There wasn't much real damage though. Just that kind note etched into the wood and some tooth picks broken off in my maintenance closet lock. Any idea how to take off a door knob from the outside? Oh the joys of being a landlord.

Thanks again Pete. If you haven't already, check out his blog, Visualize Milwaukee

Friday, October 13, 2006

Guest Blogger: Follow-up on the Pete Situation

Here is Pete's second blog post about what happened today in court:

For all of you on the edge of your seats wondering what's going to happen, here is the next installment of Pete's dog issues. Today was our court date for the eviction. Against popular recommendation, I moved through the eviction process without a lawyer. And this is the first eviction I have ever done! So I was a bit tense wondering what technicality I probably messed up on. I had my 5 day notice, an affidavit of service of the court papers, and my eviction papers. I had a lease, rent roll, and other paperwork as backup too since I wasn't sure what to expect. Then, I sat in court and waited. My tenant didn't show up so when I was called up everything went quick and smooth. I was given my writ of restitution and was my way. Before I called in the sheriff and movers, I tried calling the tenant. And glory to my ears: "that number has been disconnected." I called another tenant and they confirmed the dog owners were sneaking their way out! So, as long as they didn't do any real damage, this story is basically over. They owe me a little rent, and some court fees, but I doubt I'll ever see any of that. I will see what the place looks like tomorrow, then I start my search for a new tenant.

Congrats Pete, amazing that you were able to get them out so quickly! Let us know if the place is damaged. Thanks again for the great posts! Also, if you haven't already done so you can check out Pete's blog, Visualize Milwaukee, here

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Guest Blogger: Pete's dog situation

Today we have a guest blogger, Pete from Visualize Milwaukee. He will actually be in court tomorrow for eviction proceedings relating to problems with his tenant's unwanted dog. I want to thank Pete for sharing this story, and I hope everything works out for him.

Rick’s dog issues were very similar to a problem I am having with a tenant now. The tenant is my on-site manager in a multi-unit building. They approached me in January about wanting a dog. I told them their lease forbids dogs without written permission and that I am not too keen on dogs. They persisted (“You know we keep a clean place”, “You already trust us, we’d be great dog owners”…), so I told them I would allow a dog under these circumstances:

  1. we sign a 1-year lease

  2. we sign a pet-amendment to the lease

  3. they provide an additional $200 pet-deposit

  4. a pet-rider at $50/month

  5. I could terminate the pet-rider at any time

They balked at that, so I figured I didn’t have to worry about it anymore! So, September rolls around and I get a call from another very upset tenant. After calming them down (why do I have to play therapist for my tenants?), they tell me that there was a dog running around in the hallway. The dog apparently chased/followed their young child and got its leg caught in the main entry door. The owners of this dog came out and started cussing at this tenant for hurting their dog, and that they are going to have to pay the vet bills for his broken leg! So, as the landlord, what do I do?

The dog owners a) didn’t tell me about the dog b) broke their lease c) were not controlling their dog and d) were threatening other tenants over it!

Well, it turns out the dog was a birthday gift (from my on-site manager), so what could they do about it? I’d understand right? They offered to pay $50 extra per month and a $100 deposit. I wanted to keep a generally good tenant who was helping me take care of the place. When I called them, the dog owner was still blaming the other tenant because the dog got out on accident!

After all that, I finally decided the only thing I could do was give them a 5-day Notice of Lease Violation. They had 5 days to get the dog out or move out. They called and said they’d move out before the end of the month (which was 2 weeks away). I figured that would be better than going through an eviction, right? Well, wrong. On the 1st they were still there with the dog, and had told another tenant they weren’t leaving. I filed for eviction last week. The tenant called and cussed me out on the phone. We’ll see what happens. The court date is tomorrow, Friday the 13th.

Part of me says, “Well, if I just allowed pets I wouldn’t be going through this mess.” But, in reality, I know this would be more of a problem if I did. I have had complaints from 3 tenants, I’ve had their dog chase a tenant, and I’ve had the dog owners threaten others rather than take responsibility for their own pet. So, in the end, I think I’ll keep the no-pet policy. What about that pet-rider though? I’ll have to rethink that too.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Update on the dog situation

I ended up coming up with a contract for the tenant with the new dog that will allow them to keep it, but their rent will increase and they'll have to leave an additional security deposit just for the dog.

She has been a good tenant and has been following the rules. Part of the additional agreement allows me to go through he apartment on a regular basis to make sure that there isn't additional damage.

Ain't nothing easy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Getting ready to begin the hunt

Obviously the renovations were not finished in time to rent the unit out by October 1st, but they will be done soon. When I know the final price tag I will find the old tenants and bring them to court. Of course, the first problem is finding where they are. I have their rental application, which has SS numbers, drivers licenses, and contact numbers. Also, a check just arrived for them from County Special Services. I obviously haven't opened it, but just received the OK from my lawyer to contact them to see if it was accidentally sent it to the wrong address, and if so, what was the correct address?

I've wanted to wait until I have all the renovation figures required before I go after them, because once I find them things are going to unfold rather quickly, and I want to be able to take them to court right away.