- Real Estate
7 Ways to Rent an Apartment After a Past Tenant Has Burned You
How to Learn from a Bad Tenant Experience
Maxine is a single, retired homeowner with a two-family house. She lives in one apartment, and has kept her other vacant for the past six years. She never intends to rent it out again.
She says she used to rent out her vacant apartment, but always had trouble with the tenant. On one occasion, a close friend of Maxine asked if she would rent her vacancy to her relative. The family was moving to the Boston area, and needed a place to stay when they arrived. She agreed to rent her unit at $600 a month for a large six-room apartment. The average rent at that time for a two-bedroom apartment in that Boston neighborhood was over $1000 per month. The family arrived from Philadelphia the very next day, cash in hand, furniture in a truck, and ready to move in.
Maxine says it was the worst decision that she ever made. She didn’t even charge a security deposit. After paying the first month’s rent, they never paid the rent on time. Once they moved in, they always asked her to make damage repairs caused by their children. When she asked for the rent Maxine says, “They always looked at me like I was crazy for wanting my money.” Where was the close friend? She was completely sorry about the situation, and embarrassed that things had turned sour.
If bad tenants have burned you so many times you decide to lock up your vacant apartment and never rent it out again, there are remedies. Primarily, there must be some policies or firm procedure to use to have a successful renting to a new tenant. Second, take your time processing the applicant’s information. A third remedy is to pay a property management company to find and process your rental applicants. Other recommendations include:
- Write Down All Your Mistakes. If a tenant has burned you, you feel negative and have feelings of fear and anger. Be a professional, and write down all the mistakes you made the last time so you can avoid making them again. This will help take the emotion out of the process.
- Stick to a Formal Screening Process. A homeowner with tenants should not rent their vacancies off the cuff, by intuition, because they believe the person is a Christian, nor on a friendship or family basis. Use a rental application applicable to the state where the apartment is located. Verify all of the information.
- Don’t Give in to Excuses, Intimidation, or “Emergency” Situations. Maxine took in her tenant on the recommendation of a close friend. It was an “emergency” situation. The tenant arrived from Philadelphia with no proven source of income, complete with the moving truck. Who does that, move to another city without income or a housing arrangement in advance? Maxine should have insisted that the expected tenant complete a rental application and her screening process completed before giving her a key. The tenant could have stayed with her relative until then.
- Carefully Screen Friends and Family. Renting to a family member or friend can be complicated. In the book, “How to Pick the Best Tenant”, it addresses the fact that family and friends may be too close to a landlord. When you rent to one or the other, you establish a second relationship. Family and friends should be required to complete your rental application and screening requirements. If they don't want to do it, then apologize for not being able to rent to them.
- Verify All of the Applicant’s Information. You can pay to have this done, or pay later by renting to a problem tenant. You aren’t saving money by only doing a credit check and getting three current pay stubs to qualify a tenant. Use a credit and landlord reporting service to verify the credentials of your rental applicants. You want information on sources of income, credit, landlord reports, and criminal record of every potential occupant 16 years of age and over. Don’t be cheap if you have to pay to verify information on each rental applicant. Payments made to verify rental applicant's credentials are a tax deductible business expense.
- Meet the Entire Family. Confirm All Identification. The nice mother and father may not be a potential problem tenant. However, their children may become the bane of your existence. Insist on meeting with all of the people who will occupy your apartment. If they can’t get junior to show up, he may be a future problem.
- Charge Rent Appropriate to the Surrounding Market. Homeowner Maxine said she rented her 6-room apartment for $600. She did it as a favor to the tenant and her friend, even though the unit was worth $1,000 in the neighborhood. She wanted to allow the tenant to be able to get settled into the city and find a job. Yet, even after finding a job, the tenant was always late with the rent. It turned a case of taking the landlord’s kindness for weakness, then taking advantage of it.
A landlord is not doing a rental applicant a favor by lowering the rent. It sends the wrong message, that you can afford to rent the unit out cheap. Then, when you ask for your rent, the tenant’s attitude will be that you don’t really need the money. The negative nature of a bad tenant must not be nurtured. Regardless of who it is, a homeowner should always charge the rent according to the current rental market in the neighborhood.
Have You Ever Been Burned by a Tenant?
This is a short list of ways to reduce the probability of a bad rental of your vacant apartment to a stranger, friend, or relative. If keeping your apartment empty is not an option for you, research the rules, regulations, and laws of rental property ownership. Get the information and education necessary to manage your real estate in a responsible manner.