A Few Landlording Questions

11 Replies

Hello,

As a relatively new landlord, I have a few questions I am facing, and wondering what is the best way to handle each of these situations. Can some of the more experienced guys/gals give me some advice?

1) Roommates: How you do you view tenants requesting a roommate? Initially, I was hesitant about allowing roommate tenants, however after I thought about it--it is really the same as two separate tenants. After some thought, I think accepting roommates would be fine as long as I screen each of them separately and make sure each of them meet the requirements (income, etc.) on their own. If each of them have enough income, clean record, etc. and they seem like good honest people (not young punks who want to party and trash the place), I guess there should be no reason not to rent to them. Opinions?

2) Co-Signers: If I process an application for a potential tenant and everything looks good, except either A) they do not have enough income to quality, of B) their credit score is too low, I could allow a co-signer. What do you guys feel about having a co-signer? If their income is not high enough, should this be an auto-decline? What about credit score, should I allow someone with a low credit score if everything else checks out ok? What do you all feel is an acceptable minimum score anyways, 600? I would require a co-signer to complete an application just like a tenant too.

3) Boyfriend/Girlfriend: What do you allow in this situation? Do you treat these lovebirds as "roommates" and subject to "roommate" income requirements (as I mention above), etc.? Let's say the girlfriend doesn't work, or makes minimal income--do you allow them to move in as long as their total "household" income meets the minimum standards, or do you require them to both earn enough income on their own to quality?

4) Smoking: In my lease, I have a "no-smoking" policy. My lease goes so far as to say "no smoking anywhere on the premises" and that this is a smoke-free facility. I don't want to damage my property and have other tenants get injured/killed because of a house fire. It is simply not worth it to me. However, I have thought this may be too strict, and that maybe I should still "consider" a potential tenant--even if they smoke, as long as they understand the smoking policy and "promise" to only smoke outside. I am concerned though that if they smoke--they will eventually smoke indoors, especially in the 5 degree winters. I don't trust tenants not to smoke indoor, even if they "promise" they will. Thoughts?

5) Pets: In my lease I will allow pets, however with restrictions. I guess each landlord will have to determine their acceptable pet policy, but do you experienced landlords have any additional advice to my restrictions below? Should I be more restrictive (like cats) or maybe less strict on certain items?

  • 2 pet maximum
  • 40 pound maximum
  • Restrictions on breed for dogs
  • Cats and dogs both allowed
  • Non-refundable pet fee and additional pet rent (per pet) apply
  • Pet must be at least 1 year old and housebroken
  • Pet registration papers must be provided

Thanks in advance for your help/ideas!

Craig

Bump

Hi @Craig S.

Here are my responses, based on Jersey City, B-, C+ neighborhood.  Treat it as a data point:

1) A roommate is just another applicant.

2) Co-signer - personally I do not allow it, unless the co-signer lives there (which will then be a tenant).

3) I do not distinguish roommate / boyfriend or girlfriend.  A tenant is a tenant.

4) No smoking policy is strictly enforced.  As a tip: you might find families with little kids who are non-smoking.

5) Pets - different people have different preferences.  I do not accept cats (b/c strong smell).

Best of luck in investing.

Hey @Craig S. - welcome to LLing!  Lots of good questions.  I'll give you a quick ONE TIME rundown of my views on these things.   First thing, is to document your general qualification requirements.  Here in WA we have to give them to every applicant.  Having them in writing will help avoid problems in general though.  2nd thing - I am not a lawyer or an acct.  Consult qualified advice before you act!

Overall, roommates can be a pain.  They have disagreements and ask who gets the deposit. Be sure you have a 'joint and several liability' clause in your lease. Same with BF/GFs.  They're the same but with more drama.  Qualify each individually.  When the baby daddy leaves and mom doesn't work....

I've had a few with co-signers and they've been good. If they're close to qualifying, I'll have a release of the co-signer after 6 months.  Motivates the tenant a little more IMO. 

NO SMOKERS.  Not every smoker has been a turd, but every turd I have ever had has been a smoker.  Usually with missing teeth.  No way. No more.  I've remediated 5 places with smoke damage and it's a nightmare.

Pets:  I've changed my language to 'animals'.  If I have an animal-friendly property, I jack up my deposit requirements for all to satisfy the can't charge extra animal deposits for therapy/ESA people.  If they don't have a pet, I can reduce the deposit requirement.  If I have a non-animal friendly property, I let all applicants know I have documentation from the city that housing any canine at all would be an unreasonable burden (some of mine are upstairs, down the hallway-type apts) to keep them from suddenly getting a doctor's note.  Not legal advice.  Adios and good luck!          

Hello Craig,

Welcome, great questions!

1. Roommates- Sure, why not.  They must all be screened and must meet the income requirement as a group.  I typically divide the deposit return equally, but recently learned a new technique- have it designated in the lease who the deposit will be returned to and let them divvy it up.

2.  Co-signors- I allow them (actually personal guarantors) for college students only.  If they aren't students and don't make 3x the rent they can't afford the apartment.

3. BF/GF- same as roommates, and I prefer it if they have lived together before.  So far in 2.5 years I have had one couple split up (they lived together before being my tenants and broke up about 18 months after moving in) and it wasn't an issue.  Rent continued to arrive on time and he got a subletter.

4.  Smoking- outside only, so far it hasn't been an issue, except my minor annoyance at seeing cigarette butts littered on the ground outside or the porch, which usually gets cleaned up in a few days.

5.  Animals- We allow cats in some units and service animal everywhere of course.  Your rules sound reasonable, you might also insist on professional carpet cleaning when they move out.  I have had a few tenants with dogs (all inherited) and so far I am not a fan- it makes the unit harder to show while occupied and there is more time involved in getting the unit ready for the next tenants.  I am shifting towards no cats as well...

Kelly

Thanks guys for the feedback/ideas. I haven't been a LL long enough to determine my true opinion on the pet policy, but I will start with what I have.

Regarding co-signers, I am probably not going to allow it for now, if the tenant can't qualify on their own, I would rather move on to the next.

What do you guys look for as a minimum credit score to be approved?

Does anyone else have any more ideas/feedback on my original post?

Hey guys, maybe someone has a suggestion.  I had a tenant that left in the middle of his lease with six months to go.  Moved out of state.  He Left the place a mess. Trash and cloths everywhere, carpet destroyed.  Deposit was obviously not enough to cover.  I Went down to city and county to find out what I needed to do to file a judgement on him.  They told me for starters I needed his forwarding address.  Without it, I'm a rock in a hard place.  I'm still getting his mail at the property so that tells me that he curenty did not put in a forwarding address.  Obviously I didn't have it.  If I have his name, SS No. date of birth.  Is there a way to get it so I can proceed with the judgment? 

Originally posted by @Trevor Rutherford :

Hey guys, maybe someone has a suggestion.  I had a tenant that left in the middle of his lease with six months to go.  Moved out of state.  He Left the place a mess. Trash and cloths everywhere, carpet destroyed.  Deposit was obviously not enough to cover.  I Went down to city and county to find out what I needed to do to file a judgement on him.  They told me for starters I needed his forwarding address.  Without it, I'm a rock in a hard place.  I'm still getting his mail at the property so that tells me that he curenty did not put in a forwarding address.  Obviously I didn't have it.  If I have his name, SS No. date of birth.  Is there a way to get it so I can proceed with the judgment? 

this would be better if you started your own thread, im sure the OP does not want you hi-jacking theirs. not trying to be a turd, its just common courtesy.

OP, I'm not going to run down everything but I usually require a 650 or better credit score for my B+ property.

As far as smoking goes, I am a smoker and I only smoke outside, but the same can not be said for everyone. Usually the better quality the property and renter the more likely they are to follow this rule but there are no guarantees.

Hi Craig,

On numbers 1 & 3, what you may be looking at here is "unauthorized occupants" and how to handle these, which may be part of the driver here.

A couple of views. 

On the roommate, I use all the same processes as I would for  a normal tenants, and if there is room in the unit (a 2BR with one person), I consider this and it had worked before. If the tenant is a good one and creditworthy, then having another one with a similar profile may increase your security (an extra income to pay the rent). 

On the boyfriend/girlfriend, you learn early you can't really counter the power of love, so I try this approach... If I see a significant other there alot, I ask if they are living there (my prompt: "do they have another permanent address). I try not to pry but if they are always there and the car often there, I have to ask. The I let them know all residents need to get on the lease (via same application and screening process). I find they either decline and I see the significant other less (sometimes even vanishing altogether) or sometimes they follow through. 

On word of caution, tenants have little acumen in choosing roommates and will line up "great ones" that you find are woefully inadequate (I have even seen them being evicted or recently evicted)... So screen closely...

On both situations, I would rather have the upfront info on the person (roommate or partner) than have a stranger living there. 

Your pets policy looks like it is one that works for you (which is key).

Smoking in a designated area may work if you have one away from windows and doors. Clear boundaries could help (like ok on the porch but not inside). You are right, you do not want them hiding inside smoking. Maybe at the onboarding, also use solid check sheets and have a some info on how much work and costs are involved with smoke remediation....

Let me know if you need more ideas or want any book recommendations.

Originally posted by @Craig S. :

Hello,

As a relatively new landlord, I have a few questions I am facing, and wondering what is the best way to handle each of these situations. Can some of the more experienced guys/gals give me some advice?

1) Roommates: How you do you view tenants requesting a roommate? Initially, I was hesitant about allowing roommate tenants, however after I thought about it--it is really the same as two separate tenants. After some thought, I think accepting roommates would be fine as long as I screen each of them separately and make sure each of them meet the requirements (income, etc.) on their own. If each of them have enough income, clean record, etc. and they seem like good honest people (not young punks who want to party and trash the place), I guess there should be no reason not to rent to them. Opinions?

2) Co-Signers: If I process an application for a potential tenant and everything looks good, except either A) they do not have enough income to quality, of B) their credit score is too low, I could allow a co-signer. What do you guys feel about having a co-signer? If their income is not high enough, should this be an auto-decline? What about credit score, should I allow someone with a low credit score if everything else checks out ok? What do you all feel is an acceptable minimum score anyways, 600? I would require a co-signer to complete an application just like a tenant too.

3) Boyfriend/Girlfriend: What do you allow in this situation? Do you treat these lovebirds as "roommates" and subject to "roommate" income requirements (as I mention above), etc.? Let's say the girlfriend doesn't work, or makes minimal income--do you allow them to move in as long as their total "household" income meets the minimum standards, or do you require them to both earn enough income on their own to quality?

4) Smoking: In my lease, I have a "no-smoking" policy. My lease goes so far as to say "no smoking anywhere on the premises" and that this is a smoke-free facility. I don't want to damage my property and have other tenants get injured/killed because of a house fire. It is simply not worth it to me. However, I have thought this may be too strict, and that maybe I should still "consider" a potential tenant--even if they smoke, as long as they understand the smoking policy and "promise" to only smoke outside. I am concerned though that if they smoke--they will eventually smoke indoors, especially in the 5 degree winters. I don't trust tenants not to smoke indoor, even if they "promise" they will. Thoughts?

5) Pets: In my lease I will allow pets, however with restrictions. I guess each landlord will have to determine their acceptable pet policy, but do you experienced landlords have any additional advice to my restrictions below? Should I be more restrictive (like cats) or maybe less strict on certain items?

  • 2 pet maximum
  • 40 pound maximum
  • Restrictions on breed for dogs
  • Cats and dogs both allowed
  • Non-refundable pet fee and additional pet rent (per pet) apply
  • Pet must be at least 1 year old and housebroken
  • Pet registration papers must be provided

Thanks in advance for your help/ideas!

Craig

 Craig, as a new landlord these are my suggestions. This way you don't get yourself into any tricky situations.

1.) How many bedrooms is the apartment? Are you thinking of individually renting the rooms out?

2.) Cosigners are fine. Depending on how much demand is in the area you could request a local cosigner/guarantor. 

3.) Could be a difficult situation. Who would you put on the lease? One or both of them?

4.) Depends on the area.

5.) If you have rugs - they will be destroyed. Have seen tenants with kittens and puppies and the rugs and under the rugs were ruined. 

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