New Landlord looking for tips and advice.

11 Replies

Hello Everyone. I am a new landlord about to get my first rental ready for a tenant. I am looking to the Pro's here for any advice/tips/things to look for as I go about this. Specifically as far as clauses/ rules to make sure are in the lease and any tips on screening tenants.

The home has been a rental property since 2010 with the previous tenant staying 5 years. Before that, it was owned by my grandparents. I purchased the house from their estate. It is a single family home on a large fenced lot with an outbuilding. I'm generally in the No Pet side, but the yard lends itself to outside dogs (fenced in plus fenced kennel). Does anyone have luck with "outside" dogs actually staying outside?  Everything is in good shape so my current plan is interior paint, refinish hardwood floors and clean up the yard. Of course, make any needed repairs.

@Chris Gilliland ,

Welcome to being a landlord!   With your lease, make sure you have an early termination clause, pest control, pet fees,  and the # and limitations, also I would recommend requiring renters insurance.     If your state allows it, I love offering rents at a discount if paid by the first, but check your laws first to make sure you can!   

Screening makes or breaks it, so be patient, careful and do all the due diligence needed with checking people's references and employers.    Screening IMO is the absolute most important step--- think about it like dating, and you are getting ready to marry someone!

IMO with pets, it depends on the floors, do you have carpet?  A nice $$ pet fee and pet rent is good, and also they've done studies that show tenants stay longer with pets.. but I will say, it 100% depends on the owner.   Good owners, you won't have any damage, but bad owners.. well if you ignore a dogs emotional or physical needs, your property will suffer, so just make sure you're aware of it.   I wouldn't do an outside dog only, I just can't do that, it gets too hot and cold, and I always feel bad for outside only dogs.. I'd say either accept them or don't.

That's a pretty open ended question so I'll make two general points. If you have more specific questions ask those and you'll probably get better feedback.

  • General advice: develop very rigorous criteria and stick to them 100%. You'll find lots of posts on here if you search "screening criteria"
  • As far as a lease: Either hire a RE lawyer to draw one up for you, or try to use a template from your state's Real Estate Commission. Both will likely give you flexibility to add any addenda you want, while maintaining a baseline of protection and legality. Anything else is a dangerous game.

Go to the books section and buy some book on rentals.

Ask family, friends or pros on here for a copy of their leases.

Read, write (copy and paste), review, revise and continue to update your lease.

There are so many resources on here. Set aside some time each day to educate yourself. 

Good Luck!

Medium property managing

Thanks Steven. I realize its open ended. At this point I guess there is so much I don't know, that I don't even know what to ask.

I have a lease template that covers my states legal requirements. Would it be better to add in clauses to the lease or would an addendum signed by the tenant hold the same weight. Clauses such as "No unapproved pets" "Utilities must be kept current" etc. I know I should ask these questions to my RE attorney, but I haven't made time yet.

@Linda D.

You offer a discount if paid by the 1st rather than a late penalty if not? Or early before the 1st (discount) Due on 1st (standard rate), late X days after the first (penalty)? I will review my state rules again, I don't remember seeing a mention about discounting rent. They do limit security deposit to 1 month rent though.

Their is no carpet in the house. It is either vinyl, hardwood or tile.

@Chris Gilliland ,

Check with your local attorney to make sure it's within your bounds, and also make sure it makes sense for your property!    It's been amazing, and we don't mind the lower rent in exchange for knowing we get it early!     Definitely check to make sure it's okay for a contract in your state! 

If the house has hardwood,  I'd just be nervous the dog would pee on it, and have it seep into the cracks... but it's hard because again-- it depends on the owner!    If I were you, I'd allow a pet, but upon screening, check vet records  to make sure the owner is responsible!

If you are going to allow pets, or even if not given the plethora of Emotional Support Animals, you need an Animal Agreement.  Learn about what you can legally require with ESAs. 

Your Animal agreement should cover licensing, vaccinations, a photo of the pet, flea control, instructions on waste disposal and an inspection schedule.  It should talk about how damages are billed and paid by the tenant.  Mandate proof of liability insurance by the tenant in case the animal bites someone.  Mandate meeting the animal and that the animal must not be aggressive.

For general LL how-tos I recommend the book "Landlording" by Leigh Robinson.  Not only does it have tons of forms, it promotes the proper LL mindset. 

Step 1 is ALWAYS downloading your state and local LL/tenant laws, putting them in a three ring binder and reading and knowing them.

Step 2 is taking Fair Housing Training, either on-line or in person, so you do not violate the law and get sued.  Literally, the wrong words in an innocent phone call can violate the law.

Step 3 is spending a day observing in eviction court.  Pay special attention to the judge, who wins and who loses.  If there is one attorney who has the majority of cases,  get his business card.  This will be your local flat fee eviction attorney and your go-to guy in case you need an eviction.

Step 4 is setting up your rental criteria and a  process for screening and evaluating tenants.  99% of potential tenant problems will be prevented by proper screening.

Step 5 is taking prompt action when managing your properties and you notice minor lease violations, late rent, etc.  Squash these problems early or they will only snowball into $1000s of dollars of lost rent and/or damages.

Good luck and rent on!

My advice is to sit down and write out a full list of criteria to screen your tenants. You need specific numbers for credit score, income, etc. Other things to have in your screening criteria are things like no evictions in x amount of years, details about criminal background, etc. Make sure you always follow this set of guidelines, that way you never find yourself looking at applicants and trying to decide between them.

You are supposed to accept the first applicant that meets all of your qualifications! 

I recommend pre-screening before you show your home. You can do this through an email survey or over the phone. Ask questions about income, credit score, etc. If they immediately prove they do not meet your qualifications, this saves you time and money. 

ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS do a full criminal, background and credit check. NEVER use "their copy". You should run one yourself from a reputable company.  Call previous landlords and call their place of employment! All of these things are vital parts of the screening report. 

Lastly, use your best judgement. It is better to wait for a good tenant than rush to rent your home out to a bad one. You'll spend much more money in the long run through damages and the eviction process.

Please reach out if you have any questions about screening. Good luck! 

Thank you for the feedback everyone. I have purchased both of the books recommended above and will be going through them as soon as they are delivered. I'm searching and reading on here for more info on screening criteria and making notes on selection criteria.

Thank you @Elizabeth Connelly . I found that article yesterday, lots of good info in it. I'm still going back through it making notes.

Join the Largest Real Estate Investing Community

Basic membership is free, forever.

By signing up, you indicate that you agree to the BiggerPockets Terms & Conditions.