My wife and I have been in the property management business for almost 40 years. Throughout our careers we have heard and seen almost everything a tenant could throw at you. Some of the tenants tricks can be costly or cause problems if not caught in time, so I thought I would share some of my experience in catching these issues.
Tenants looking for rentals that have qualifying issues, will usually try to talk directly to owners of rental property rather than go through a rental management company. They look for owners advertising their own properties because they know owners will not be as thorough with the screening process as a professional manager. Credit checks, eviction records, and criminal checks are not as available to individual owners as they are to professional management companies. Beware of pushy applicants wanting to pay cash and move in immediately before there is time to check references or credit.
The application process is another area too be cautious. Of course it is easy for a tenant to falsify information, so the application must have a statement that voids the lease if the information given is later found to be false. Ask for 5 years of previous rental history and look for voids or inaccurate and unavailable references. Applicants will leave unqualified roommates, pets or family members off of the application with the intent of moving them in after the lease is signed. Of course this is a violation of the lease, however, when checking references make sure to ask about pets and who lived with the applicant in the previous rental.
During the tenants occupancy damages caused by the tenant are often hidden. Periodic inspections of the property are necessary and should be done discretely. Tenants have rights of possession when leasing and it is unlawful under normal conditions for an owner to visit the property without the tenant’s permission. When you call and let the tenant know that you are coming to check on the rental, they can temporarily remove an unauthorized pet or roommate, conceal certain damages, and clean up before your arrival. Driving by from time to time and having maintenance technicians inspect for you when performing repairs can often catch a tenant off guard too reveal damages or pets. When driving past your rental, look for extra vehicles, broken blinds and the condition of the lawn. Unauthorized cars can mean extra people living in the unit. Broken blinds are often caused by pets and if a tenant is not taking care of the outside they most likely aren’t maintaining the inside.
When a tenant moves at the end of the lease make sure the power and water are left on until the final inspection has been completed. Tenants will turn off the utilities to hide damages. Make sure too test disposals, dishwashers, plumbing and sprinkler systems. Dark rooms can make it hard to see damaged walls and flooring. If there has been a pet, it is a good idea to hold the distribution of the deposit for at least 10 days to allow time for hatching fleas and disguised odors to show up.
An experienced property manager will qualify a prospective applicant and prevent dishonest tenants from taking possession of your rental. Their experience with maintenance, Landlord/Tenant Statues and financial issues are also valuable to the protection of your rental investment.