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6 perks that keep renters for longer

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Ever owned a rental property that felt more like a revolving door than an apartment? If so, you know the headache that comes with high turnover. It costs time, effort, and money when someone moves out. Plus, the money lost while an apartment is vacant in between tenants can add even more financial strain. Good landlords know good tenants are worth keeping. If you want to stand out from the rental competition, here are six perks to keep your renters right where they are.

Financial Perks

Everyone loves a great deal, and renters are no different. While many landlords offer “first month free” discounts, you can use similar incentives to keep the renters you have. Offer a half month free for resigning their lease or take the same amount and divide it by 12 to reduce their monthly payments upon renewing a lease.

In an area where tenant turnover high, some landlords opt for refunding a couple of hundred dollars of a deposit or reducing a pet fee if they’ve been good tenants. As many as 80% of renters prefer a monetary discount when it comes to perks that make a rental more appealing.

Pet Amenities

One in three renters owns a pet, so offering perks for Fido is key to keeping them in their homes longer. Community dog parks provide a place for pups to run and they’re a great place for owners to socialize and get to know their neighbors. If you’re renting a home, consider adding a fence to the property to make it more pet-friendly.

Renters also love having a dog-washing station on-site, so they don’t have to drag their muddy pooch through the apartment to the bathtub (a bonus for you, too). Another way to keep your rental community in good shape, while offering perks, is to provide doggy waste disposal bags and stations in numerous areas on the property. Some landlords even offer free dog treats in the office.

Parking

Few things are as frustrating as circling the lot or block looking for a parking space in front of where you live. If you can offer a place to park, especially in a city, it’s a perk many renters covet. In an apartment complex, provide at least one space per unit, two if possible. Even better, offer covered spaces. Many tenants will pay a little more to protect their vehicle. If your building is in a large city and you don’t have access to a lot, partner with a nearby garage and work out a deal for your renters.

If you lease out single-family homes, “street parking only” is less than ideal. A garage, or at least a carport, will keep tenants happy. When neither option is available, a private driveway can also do the trick.

Updated Technology

Technology is front and center in our lives. Most tenants, especially younger ones, are looking for smart homes. Once they find them, they’re more likely to stay put.

If you’re new to smart homes, start with the basics. For example, misplacing your keys is a thing of the past with smart locks.  It has the added benefit of reducing lockouts (and those late-night calls when your tenant has lost their key.) When a tenant moves out, you can change the code, instead of the locks. Remote-controlled thermostats, like Nest, are another good idea and will save renters on heating and cooling bills in the long run.

Today’s renter is also looking for an eco-friendly home. Energy-saving appliances and solar lighting are big draws. Another easy thing you can do is provide an online portal where rent can be paid, and lease information is available. Offer car-charging stations in parts of the country where hybrids and electric cars are popular.

Fitness Areas

Indoor and outdoor fitness areas are high on the list of incentives for getting renters to renew their lease. Your on-site gym should have weights, mats, and aerobic equipment, like bikes, treadmills, and elliptical machines. If a center on the property isn’t possible, partner with a nearby gym for a lower membership fee for tenants. Also, consider bringing in an instructor and holding classes like yoga, pilates, or boot camps.

Outdoor Space

Renters love a good outdoor area, especially with green space. Private spaces, with small, fenced-in backyards and a lawn, are perfect for pet owners. (Most don’t even mind the yard work!) The next best thing is a balcony, where tenants can display potted plants and flowers.

If it’s impossible to add outdoor space to each unit, create a communal area. Put grills around a grassy area and maybe a fire pit. A sand volleyball court is a unique touch. Add a small playground for renters with children. In large cities, add amenities to a rooftop deck if you have one. Basically, you just want to look at your rental property and see if there’s anywhere you can create a comfortable outdoor area.

Renter (like everyone else) love things that make their lives easier and better. Adding some of these perks to your property will keep renters calling it home for a long time.


7 Habits of Highly Effective Landlords

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Being a landlord isn’t simple, plain and simple! If it was, then everyone would be doing it. As a landlord, you have to deal with tenant complaints, rent collection issues, and what can seem like endless, high property maintenance costs.

That said, being a landlord doesn’t have to be a drag. In fact, being a landlord can become a highly successful source of income if you manage your properties efficiently and effectively.

But, how exactly do you do that? By learning from those who have succeeded in this tough industry. In most areas of business, successful people have certain habits that have helped them with their productivity.

People only notice the ultimate success story, but what made them who they are? If you ask them, it turns out it’s usually because they have daily habits and mindset for success.

Are they superhuman multi-tasking machines who don’t sleep? Most certainly not. Are they talking, walking charm-bombs? Probably.

Either way, succeeding in the landlord business isn’t by mere luck. You have to have certain rituals and follow them to the letter. Here are 7 habits you should try to follow to make your rental-induced headaches disappear.

Highly effective landlords have an iron-clad lease agreement.

Pen on Top of White Printer Paper

This is a huge one. It’s no wonder it’s the first one on our list.

Congratulations! You have successfully advertised your rental property and landed what you may call a good tenant. So, what next? Well, the next step is to present your new tenant with an iron-clad lease agreement.

Now, a lease agreement is meant to protect you. However, for it to serve you as intended it has to be properly written. For starters, you want to make sure that your lease covers basic things like:

  • Names of all tenants. You want to include all the names of all adult tenants living in your rental property. This helps make each tenant legally responsible for the terms of the lease.
  • The terms of the tenancy. Every new tenancy must come to an end. As such, you need to specify clearly how long a tenancy will run. Tenancies are usually month to month or fixed.
  • Limits on occupancy. You want to determine who lives in your property. Ideally, these are people whom you’ve screened and approved to live there.
  • Rent. Rent is often the number one source of issues when it comes to the rental business. To avoid this, make sure your lease specifies details about the rent. For example, the exact amount of rent, when rent is due, acceptable payment methods, and the amount of grace period.

Highly effective landlords respect the privacy of the tenants.

Tenants have a right to the quiet enjoyment of their homes. Essentially, this means that you cannot barge in on your tenants as you like.

Several states require that landlords give their tenants adequate notice before they can enter the rental unit. The reason for the entry and the timing must also be within reason. To learn more about the laws in your state, check out these guides.

Highly effective landlords conduct tenant background checks.

Renting to the wrong tenant can, and often does, result in lost income and time, and damage to your property. Ever heard of those horror landlord stories? I bet you have!

A key to success in the rental business: never allow new tenants in without screening them first. This is the only way you can help minimize renting to the wrong type of tenant.

Now, screening tenants involve a number of steps. First and foremost, you must verify that they are making enough money to afford your rent. Generally, ensure they are making no less than two- and a half times the rent amount.

That is, if the rent is $1,000, then make sure they are making at least $2,500 every month.

Next, you also want to look at your tenant’s rental history. Here, you’ll want to call on the some of the tenant’s previous landlords to learn a thing or two about them.

Another thing you wouldn’t want to forget to check is the tenant’s credit history. Here, you want to check whether the tenant is financially responsible or not.

Highly effective landlords document everything.

From the rental application form to records of every single email or phone call, keeping records is key to running a successful rental business.

This information can prove extremely beneficial especially when things take a legal perspective.

Highly successful landlords hedge their bets with pets.

Free stock photo of animal lover, blurred background, dog, girl

According to a survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, about 85 million families in the U.S. own a pet.

By allowing pets, you dramatically broaden your tenant pool. In turn, this minimizes the chances of your rental property being vacant. That said, not every property is suitable or appropriate for pets.

So, if your rental property isn’t, then considering a “no pets” policy may be in your best interest.

Successful landlords that allow pets usually have a solid pet policy. Generally, this guides the number, size and type of pet a tenant can keep. Moreover, some even charge an extra deposit to tenants with pets. This helps cater for any damages the pet may cause during the term of the lease.

Highly effective landlords know the laws.

The rental property business is regulated by a smorgasbord of laws. These laws vary by state. They cover things like rent, security deposits, landlord-tenant responsibilities, rights of tenants, and evictions.

You can get a copy of these laws online from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website for your state.

By following these 7 habits of highly effective landlords, you can help ensure your rental business becomes a success. Remember: Consistency is key!

Staying safe as a landlord: How to protect yourself

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staying-safe-as-a-landlord

Escaping a dangerous encounter isn’t something most people think about when they start investing in rental properties, but the truth is that sometimes tenants who are in a desperate situation can react irrationally and you may need to be prepared.

Once you reach a point where you have to evict someone, chances are your relationship isn’t great. Here’s how to protect yourself preemptively and what to do if you’re ever faced with a situation that threatens to turn ugly.

Screen everyone living in your rental

The best way to avoid evicting a bad or dangerous tenant is to get to know them before they ever move in. Once you receive an application, it’s crucial to dig deeper by completing a comprehensive background check. The best background checks for landlords will include standard criminal history data, as well as credit history to check for red flags like bankruptcy and prior eviction records. Make sure to do a screening for every adult that is planning on living in your rental.

Additionally, your application should include a space for references and contact info. Many landlords will require that at least one reference is a previous landlord, which isn’t a bad idea. Once you get this info, use it! Make calls to all the references to get a complete picture of the person who is moving into your property.

Create lease clauses that deal with long-term guests

Even if you’ve taken precautions to screen your tenants, problems often arise when someone starts unofficially living in your rental. To cut the number of unwanted long-term guests hanging around, add a clause in your contract that states visitors who stay more than a certain number of days need to be on the lease.

For example, Nolo recommends that you allow guests to stay up to 10 consecutive days within a six-month period and any additional days that they stay would require your permission. For help determining if someone may be secretly living with your tenants, look at things like mail, water bills, and the parking situation.

If you need to evict, don’t do it face to face

The first step to peacefully resolving a situation should be sending a written notice that a tenant is in violation of the lease and giving them a certain amount of time to remedy the situation before you evict.

If you’ve given your tenants a chance to correct their behavior and nothing has changed, or in the case of a broken a lease or non-payment, you need to immediately start the eviction process. One mistake a lot of landlords make is trying to reason with a tenant or extend too much sympathy towards their situation.

You’re a human, not a robot, so it’s totally understandable to feel bad for people who are stuck in bad financial circumstances. Just keep in mind that you’re essentially running a business and sometimes you have to make tough decisions.

In Utah, you have multiple options for giving a tenant a notice that they need to vacate, including delivering it in person, mailing it, and posting it on the premises. If you do decide to mail it, it’s always smart to use a P.O. Box for correspondence.

Leave the move-out process to law enforcement

Once you’ve begun the eviction process, in most states, you can now turn it over to law enforcement to handle the actual move out or removal if a tenant is refusing to vacate.

In Utah, law enforcement (usually a sheriff) is allowed to enter the premises in order to remove the tenant and can remove the tenant’s remaining personal property and store it. Tenants will then be given 15 days to retrieve their belongings after they settle their debt- but at no point should the landlord be involved.

In some states, though, you are required to be there in-person. If that’s the case, it’s important to make sure that you still have someone with you when you’re at the rental. You should also plan on recording the process with your phone- it will help keep everyone accountable in a tense situation.

Although it’s rare to be in a situation where things escalate to the point of physical confrontation, it does happen and it’s crucial to be prepared. For more information about the legal requirements to evict on a state by state basis and in-depth info about other landlord laws, check out our state law guides on Rentler.com.

5 ways to cut internet costs for rental properties

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Cutting internet costs for landlords

Internet is a basic utility for many renters, and more and more landlords are starting to offer it as part of a package in their rentals. Providing free internet access can make your place more attractive to tech-savvy renters, and the convenience of an all-inclusive rental agreement can make listings stand out.

There are lots of ways to reduce the cost of internet access and avoid overpaying for service, and many of these money-saving strategies work with your existing internet plan. Try out these five easy tips to help cut your internet costs and benefit your tenants without hurting your bottom line.

Tip #1: Review Your Internet Plan

Understanding your internet plan can help you avoid overpaying for more speed than you or your tenants actually need. Alternatively, slow internet can be a major liability for some rental properties since a frustrated renter might leave a negative review if they encounter connectivity issues.

Running a speed test on your internet service can help you determine how much speed you currently have. Once you’ve measured your internet speed, call around to other internet providers to see if you can switch for a better deal. A speed test can also help you diagnose problems with your connection—if you’re getting less speed than you’re paying for, call your service provider to troubleshoot the issue. 

Tip #2: Invest in Your Router

High-speed internet is a worthless investment if your router bottlenecks your tenant’s connection speed. Routers from several years ago might not be able to carry the current Wi-Fi standard (802.11ac), which means your tenants will experience significant lag on their devices. The free routers that come bundled from your service provider are often inadequate, especially if your rental property is on the larger side. 

If you own a multi-story rental property, consider investing in a multiband router. These routers focus your Wi-Fi signal into separate signals, which dramatically increases speeds for connected devices. A mesh network can also be used to provide a fast connection in a large home; mesh routers use extenders to widen the range of the main router throughout your home. 

Tip #3: Bundle Your TV and Internet

If you’re already providing internet access and cable TV for your rental property, you should check to see if you can bundle your services for a cheaper monthly bill. Call your service provider and ask about bundling more service options into your existing plan. Many companies happily offer steep discounts to existing customers. 

If you want to avoid paying for TV altogether, make it easier for tenants to use their own streaming accounts while at your property. Provide them with simple, step-by-step walkthroughs of how to link their accounts to the television, and remove any of their saved account information from your devices after they move out.

Tip #4: Increase Your Wi-Fi Network Security

Many unscrupulous individuals use unsecured Wi-Fi networks to fuel high-traffic enterprises like phishing scams or crypto-currency mining, which can throttle your tenant’s internet speeds and rack up fees on your bill. In the worst-case scenario, a hacker might even access your or your tenant’s sensitive data, which can have huge financial consequences.

To avoid internet bandwidth issues and prevent unnecessary costs, manage your network security through your router. In your router’s settings page, make sure your Wi-Fi network is protected by a long, secure password. Once the password is set, protect your network by enabling WEP, WPA, and/or WPA2 encryption. Finally, make sure your router’s firmware is up to date, and check it regularly to stay on top of any future updates. 

Tip #5: Change Your Wi-Fi Channel

If you’re in a heavily populated area, your Wi-Fi router might be competing with lots of other signals on the same channel. You can manually select a less crowded channel to increase your internet speed for free. 

First, run a network analyzer tool to determine how many other users are sharing your Wi-Fi’s channel. Next, select a channel with a stronger signal and fewer users to prevent interference with your network. A wider channel isn’t necessarily better—20MHz channels and 40MHz channels will provide the same internet speed, but a 20MHz channel may provide less interference. 

Best Practices for Landlords

When providing internet access for tenants, it’s a good idea to have an open conversation about what you’re willing to provide and what you aren’t. Talk to your tenants about the compromises you’re making on the internet speed at your rental property, and see if a less expensive (and slower) connection still meets their needs. 

In some instances, your tenants may be happy to underwrite part of the cost for faster internet, and a simple arrangement may work to everyone’s benefit. An open conversation lets you find a balance between cost and speed. With these tips, you’ll be able to reel in more tenants and keep your network running smoothly. 

4 ways people are using online rent payments

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The best reasons to pay rent online

Internet technology has changed the way that many people shop and pay their bills, so it makes sense that more landlords have started letting tenants pay their rent online. Online rent payments offer several positives for both tenants and landlords, here are a few ways people are benefitting.

Tenants can improve their credit histories and scores

When tenants pay by check or cash, the credit bureaus never learn about the transactions. That means that they never get the credit they deserve for making timely payments.

With digital rent payments, tenants get an opportunity to grow their credit histories and improve their credit scores. Housing is one of the most expensive necessities that people pay for, and by taking the process online tenants can improve their credit scores and eventually qualify for lower-interest credit cards and loans.

With Rentler, tenants can opt-in for free rent reporting and landlords get the bonus of being ble to use that feature to market open listings.

Online rent payments help people track their finances

You need to track your monthly expenses before you can make a budget that works for you. The option to access all payment activity online (including rent) makes it easier for people to track their finances and create budgets that help them save money.

Plus, tracking rent payments online can help create an electronic paper trail if there are ever any errors or questions about a specific payment.

People can pay their rent from anywhere with internet access

What happens when your tenant forgets to pay rent before going on vacation? A lot of times, you have to wait for that person to return. Then you have to collect payment that includes a late fee.

No one likes this situation. The renter has to pay a late fee, and the landlord has to endure a delay in cash flow.

With online rent payments, people can pay their rent wherever they are. In fact, you can set your Rentler account to send automatic reminders to tenants. When they get the message, they can use their smartphones to pay from anywhere that has internet access.

Tenants get more payment options

Transferring to an online payment system gives your tenants more payment options. Typically, tenants pay rent by check, money order, or cash. When you start taking payments online, they can use their bank accounts, credit cards, and debit cards to pay you.

If you have tenants who prefer paying with cash and checks, then you can still enter the amounts manually to track their payments.

Perhaps even more importantly, the internet makes it easier for roommates to split rent payments. If you have three people living in a house, each person can set up a separate account to pay rent.

Tenants like this arrangement because they don’t have to argue with each other about paying rent. Everything happens online, so each person takes responsibility for his or her own payments.

As a landlord, you’ll appreciate flexible payment options because it keeps your income steady and it lets you identify specific tenants that pay late. Instead of charging a late fee to everyone, you can target the problem person and encourage them to start paying on time.

Sign up today to streamline your rental business and start getting paid on time!

Understanding Virginia Rental Laws

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Each state has specific laws that govern landlord/tenant disputes. The vast majority of these laws are governed at the state level, while there are some anti-discrimination laws that are governed at the federal level and some local ordinances that are governed at the municipal level. Typically, local ordinances will apply to cities and larger townships. For information on those, you should check with municipal courts in your area.

> Anti-Discrimination Laws
Avoiding the Appearance of Discrimination
> State of Virginia Landlord/Tenant Statutes
> Virginia Laws Regarding Security Deposits
> Virginia Laws Regarding Rent and Fees
> Virginia Laws Regarding Voluntary Lease Termination
> Landlord’s Obligation to Maintain Dwelling Unit
Tenant’s Responsibilities to Maintain Dwelling Unit
Virginia Laws on Termination
Notices of Entry
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Domestic Violence Situations
> Landlord Retaliation
Helpful Links for Landlords and Tenants

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Federal Laws Governing Housing Discrimination

In 1968, Congress extended the Civil Rights Act to include housing discrimination. This is known as the Fair Housing Act and can be found in Title VI & Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act. In addition, housing discrimination laws are impacted by the Americans with Disabilities Act which extends certain protections to those with disabilities.

Federal law prohibits housing discrimination toward others on the basis of:

  • Race or color,
  • Religion or creed,
  • Sex or gender,
  • Nation of origin,
  • Familial status,
  • And disability.

This prohibits discriminatory language in rental advertisements, denying housing on the basis of a protected characteristic, and some other practices that are more subtle.

For instance, a landlord is prohibited from charging added rent or a security deposit based on the presence of children in the rental unit. In addition, a landlord may not deny a disabled individual a “reasonable” accommodation. This includes refusing to waive a no-pets policy based on the presence of a service animal. Service animals, by law, are not considered pets. “Emotional support” or “therapy animals,” on the other hand, do not constitute “service animals.” A landlord is allowed to ask for proof that the animal is a service animal and that the applicant requires one.

Virginia Housing Discrimination Laws

Virginia housing discrimination laws, in addition to containing all federal provisions for discrimination, also prohibit the refusal to rent on the basis of “elderliness,” which means anyone over the age of 55.

Exemptions to Virginia Housing Discrimination Laws

The State of Virginia provides some exemptions to housing discrimination laws. A landlord who owns three or fewer single-family homes is exempted from discrimination laws under the law (§ 36-96.2 (A)). In addition, discrimination laws do not apply to owner-occupied buildings that have four or fewer rental units in the building (§ 36-96.2 (B)). The law also allows “clubs” or “religious” buildings to prohibit rental based on group membership (§ 36-96.2 (C)).

Avoiding the Appearance of Discrimination

One method competent landlords use to avoid the appearance of discrimination is to accept the first qualified candidate. There are valid reasons for denying a rental application. These include poor credit history or prior felony convictions. A landlord can ask an applicant to submit to a background check or look into their credit report. Taking the first qualified applicant makes your decision-making process transparent and protects you from liability under both state and federal housing discrimination laws.

Virginia Laws Regarding Security Deposits

You can find all laws related to Virginia security deposits in § 55-248.15:1.

Landlords are prohibited from charging more than two months rent for a security deposit, but there are no statutes related to how or where the security deposit must be kept. Some landlords elect to hold the security deposit in an interest-bearing account but are under no obligation to return the security deposit with interest. If the landlord chooses to deduct repairs from the security deposit, they are obligated to keep an itemized record of deductions on hand for the next 2 years. The landlord has 45 days to return the security deposit after the tenant has moved out.

If a tenant is asked to put a holding deposit on a property that they intend to rent, but do not end up renting the landlord has either 20 or 10 days to return the deposit depending on who broke the deal. If the tenant broke the deal, the landlord has 20 days to return the deposit. If the landlord rejects the tenant’s application, then the landlord has 10 days to return the deposit.

Virginia Laws Regarding Rent and Fees

Virginia has some unique statutes regarding how prepaid rent is to be managed. If a tenant pays a landlord in advance, the landlord is obligated to hold the rent in an FDIC insured depository until the time at which that rent becomes due. So, if a tenant pays in advance for a year, the landlord is expected to the deposit the entire amount in an escrow account and withdraw from that account on monthly basis or whatever the period is for rent (§ 55-248.7:1).

There are, however, no statutes regarding late fees or notices of rental increase. Landlords are advised to include this information in the lease in order to enforce such terms under contract law.

If the tenant bounces a check to the landlord, the landlord is allowed to collect $50 plus any other damages related to the bounced check, including attorney’s fees.

Virginia Laws Regarding Voluntary Lease Termination

If the term of a lease is more than 60 days, either party may terminate the lease on 60 days notice. However, landlords are allowed to ask for more than 60 days notice if it is specified and agreed to in the lease (§ 55-248.46). There are special provisions for military personnel.

Landlord’s Obligations to Maintain Dwelling Unit

Virginia establishes that the landlord has certain duties to the tenant. These are generally referred to as the implied warranty of habitability. They can be found in § 55-225.3.

The landlord is bound by Virginia law to all of the following:

  • Ensuring that the rental unit complies with all building codes;
  • Making any repairs necessary to keep the premises habitable;
  • Keeping common areas clean, safe, and sanitary;
  • Maintaining in working order: plumbing, heat, water, electricity and other structural elements that keep those inside safe;
  • Ensuring that there are locks on doors and windows;
  • Controlling and removing the presence of any mold;
  • Ensuring that garbage receptacles are provided to the tenants;
  • Ensuring that smoke detectors are present and in working order.

Tenant’s Responsibilities to Maintain Dwelling Unit

Virginia establishes that tenants too have specific duties to the rental unit. They can be found in § 55-225.4.

These include:

  • Complying with any obligations of the lease to ensure the premises are sanitary;
  • Keeping the premises free of insects and other pests;
  • Keeping plumbing fixtures clean and working;
  • Ensuring that all utilities such as electricity, heat, and other services are paid for if not included in the cost of rent;
  • Repairing any deliberate destruction to the premises by themselves or their guests;
  • Keeping any smoke alarms in working order and not removing the batteries to render them inoperative;
  • Alerting the landlord to any problems with the rental unit promptly.

In addition, tenants are not authorized to paint or otherwise make major changes to the premises without the prior consent of the landlord. Tenants are responsible for the conduct of any individuals they invite onto the premises. Lastly, a tenant may be responsible for the cost of extermination if there is an unreasonable delay in reporting an infestation.

If the rental unit does not provide essential functions, the tenant can withhold rent from the landlord until the problem is fixed. However, there is a procedure for doing so. This is outlined in § 55-248.27. The tenant should assert (in writing) that there is a material noncompliance with the implied warranty of habitability. They should specify what the material noncompliance is and give the landlord a reasonable amount of time in order to fix the problem. If the tenant elects to withhold rent, they must deposit the withheld rent into an escrow account. They can not simply spend that money.

Virginia Laws on Termination for Non-Payment of Rent, Lease Violation, and Eviction

If a tenant is delinquent in rent, the landlord may issue a five-day notice to remedy or quit. In other words, the tenant has five days to repay the arrearage or break the lease. If the tenant does not repay the rent within five days, the landlord may initiate eviction proceedings (§ 55-225).

If the tenant violates some provision of the lease, the landlord can issue a 21-day notice to remedy or a 30-day notice to quit. In other words, the tenant has 21 days to remedy the violation or the least will be broken after 30 days and the landlord may initiate an eviction against them.

In certain circumstances, such as illegal conduct on the premises, the breach may not be remedied by the tenant. In that case, the tenant has 30 days to vacate.

Under no circumstances, however, may landlords use “self-help” remedies to evict a tenant (§ 55-225.1). This includes utility shutoffs and lockouts. Landlords cannot include provisions in the lease that enable them to use self-help remedies. Such provisions are void and unenforceable under Virginia law.

Notices of Entry

Landlords are required to give tenants 24 hours of notice before entry (§ 55-248.18) in non-emergency situations. If the landlord is paying to have an exterminator come onto the premises to control a pest situation, the landlord must give the tenant 48 hours notice. If there is an emergency, the landlord may enter the unit without the consent of the tenant or notice.

Domestic Violence Situations

Victims of family abuse, sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence are allowed to make certain requests of the landlord. This includes the right to terminate the lease on 30 days notice. The landlord is allowed to ask for proof (§ 55-225.16).

Landlord Retaliation

Virginia landlords are prohibited from retaliating against a tenant who has filed a lawful complaint against them, sued them, or joined a tenant’s union (§ 55-248.39).

This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

Understanding Georgia Rental Laws

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Landlord/tenant relationships are prone to dispute. For that reason, each state outlines the means of resolving these disputes and the rights and obligations of both landlords and tenants. On top of this, there are federal laws that outline the civil rights of those who are searching for housing. These are known as anti-discrimination laws and they are legislated at the federal, state, and even city level.

In this article, we will discuss everything landlords and tenants need to be aware of when it comes to rent laws that pertain to the State of Georgia.

> Anti-Discrimination Laws
Exceptions to Fair Housing Laws in Georgia
> First Qualified Applicant
> Georgia State Laws Regarding Landlord-Tenant Relationships
> Georgia State Laws Regarding Security Deposits
> Georgia Statutes Regarding Rent
> Georgia Statutes Regarding Lease Agreements and Terms
Georgia Statutes Regarding Eviction
Landlord Access to the Apartment
Landlord Responsibilities to the Tenant
Landlord Disclosures
Helpful Links for Landlords and Tenants

Anti-Discrimination Laws

Federal Anti-Discrimination Laws

At the federal level, the Fair Housing Act also known as Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits refusing to rent to a tenant on the basis of their:

  • Race or color,
  • Religion or creed,
  • National origin,
  • Familial status,
  • Sex or gender,
  • Or disability.

In addition, it prohibits discriminatory language in rental applications, telling a prospective tenant that a rental unit is already rented when it is not, or providing different lease terms based on a protected characteristic.

For instance, a landlord may not charge a tenant an added security deposit based on the presence of children. In addition, a landlord may not deny amenities to a tenant based on their race or color. Nor may a landlord segregate tenants on the basis of race or any other protected characteristic.

Lastly, the Americans with Disabilities Act (the ADA) stipulates that a landlord may not deny an individual with a disability “reasonable accommodations” to ensure that they can access the property. This includes waiving a no-pets policy to allow a service animal on the premises.

Service animals, by law, are not considered pets. They provide a specified medical service to their owner and denying a tenant’s application on the basis of a no-pets policy when they have a legitimate service animal is against the law. On the other hand, a landlord is entitled to ask for proof that the prospective tenant requires a service animal. Furthermore, “therapy animals” or “emotional support animals” are not considered service animals by law.

Georgia Anti-Discrimination Laws

While some states expand on the Fair Housing Act in different ways, Georgia does not. However, lawsuits can be brought against a landlord on the basis of housing discrimination at either the state or federal level.

If you, as a tenant, believe you have been discriminated against, you can file a complaint with HUD.

Exceptions to Fair Housing Laws in Georgia

Most, but not all, landlords are required to abide by the rules set forth in the federal and State of Georgia Fair Housing Acts. Those who do not may have complaints filed against them. This could lead to both civil and administrative penalties against the landlord. However, some landlords are exempt from fair housing rules. If a landlord meets any of the following conditions, a tenant may not pursue a cause of action against them. These include:

  • The owner owns three or fewer single-family homes;
  • The owner rents the property without the use of an agent or a sales broker;
  • Or the owner resides in a building which has four or fewer rental units.

If the owner advertises the rental property, the language of the advertisement must not be discriminatory.

The First Qualified Applicant

In order to avoid the appearance of discriminatory judgment, the owner should accept the first qualified applicant. There are legitimate reasons for denying a potential applicant. These can include poor credit history or a history of evictions.

Georgia State Laws Regarding Landlord-Tenant Relationships

Laws pertinent to landlord-tenant relationships can be found in:

Georgia State Laws Regarding Security Deposits

Georgia laws regarding security deposits can be found in OCGA § 44-7 30-37.

The State of Georgia does not place a limit on how much a landlord can charge for a security deposit. On the other hand, there are several restrictions in place regarding how the security deposit is kept and when it must be returned.

Under Georgia law, a landlord has 30 days after the tenant has moved out to return the security deposit. The security deposit can not be used to cover the costs of ordinary wear and tear. In addition, the landlord must give the tenant an itemized list of damages for any deductions he or she makes. The landlord must return the remainder of the deposit with the list of damages to the tenant. The deposit may be held for non-payment of rent or late fees as well (44-7-34).

The landlord does not have to place the deposit in an interest-bearing account but does have to open up a second account to hold the deposit in escrow. The landlord must also notify the tenant as to where the deposit is being held (44-7-31). Alternatively, the landlord may post a surety bond in the amount of the lesser of $50,000 or all the security deposits the landlord holds (44-7-32).

In addition, a landlord may charge pet fees, application fees, or other fees, but they can not be a part of the security deposit (44-7-30).

If the landlord fails to comply with this process or otherwise acts in bad faith, the landlord will forfeit any right to the security deposit. If the landlord is found to have operated in bad faith, the court will award the tenant three times the value of the security deposit plus the tenant’s attorney’s fees (44-7-36).

Georgia Statutes Regarding Rent

Georgia has no limits on the cost of rent and, in fact, prohibits local governments by statute from enacting policies that control the price of rent (44-7-19). In addition, there are no regulations as to when rent is due, grace periods for overdue rent, or late fees. Landlords are advised to specify these in the lease agreement.

Georgia Statutes Regarding Lease Agreements and Terms

Again, Georgia has few regulations regarding lease agreements or terms. Landlords are free to establish any terms they please, provided that they are within the bounds of the law and operate in good faith and tenants are free to accept or reject those terms. Landlords can charge application fees and may require tenants to submit to a criminal background check or a credit check.

There are some provisions in a lease agreement that are not enforceable under Georgia law. Those include:

  • The landlord may not put a provision in the lease that waives their own responsibility to provide the tenant with a habitable domicile;
  • The landlord may not put a provision in the lease that forces the tenant to pay their legal fees if they feel there has been a violation of the lease, however, the landlord may recover attorney’s if they win an action against the tenant;
  • The landlord may not waive their own responsibility to abide by local ordinances;
  • The landlord may not put provisions in the lease that allows them to waive compliance with the security deposit found in § 44-7 30-37;
  • The landlord may not put terms in the lease that enable themselves to evict a tenant without going through the legal court-established process.

This information can be found on page 6 of the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook.

Georgia Statutes Governing the Termination of Lease

If a tenant chooses to terminate a month-to-month lease, they must give the landlord 30 days notice. If the landlord chooses to terminate a month-to-month lease, they must give the tenant 60 days notice (47-7-7). This remains true for any “tenancy at will” (meaning a tenancy with no fixed end date).

Georgia Statutes Regarding Eviction

Georgia statutes regarding terminating a lease for either non-payment or a violation of the terms of the lease can be found in § 44-7-49 through § 44-7-59. In addition, you can find information on evictions in the Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook (p15-17).

If the landlord has terms in the lease for non-payment or how lease violations are handled, they must abide by those provisions absolutely so long as they do not violate the law. A landlord may terminate a lease immediately for non-payment. The specific procedure for doing so looks something like this:

  • Notify the tenant in writing that the lease is terminated for non-payment;
  • Specify the tenant’s names, the amount owed, and ensure that the notice is signed and dated;
  • If a landlord posts it on the tenant’s door, they should take a picture to prove that the tenant was served the notice as this is a valid defense to an eviction;
  • Demand that the rental unit be surrendered within a reasonable amount of time.

The landlord has the option of either accepting payment for the delinquent amount of rent owed or refusing payment and proceeding with the eviction. If the landlord accepts payment, the tenant has a legal defense to the eviction and the eviction proceedings will be dismissed. The landlord must, therefore, refuse any rent tendered by the tenant.

After the landlord has served the tenant with notice, they will file a dispossessory notice with the county court in which the property is rented. This is technically an affidavit, so it must be done under oath. Once this notice is filed, the landlord may no longer accept rent from the tenant.

The dispossessory notice is then delivered (in person) to the tenant by either the county sheriff or by some other means. It can also be tacked onto the door.

The tenant will need to respond to the notice and, if they can, offer a legal defense to why the eviction is illegal or invalid. Claims can include an unwillingness to make repairs, that the rental unit was not habitable or that the landlord, in some other way, failed in their responsibility to the tenant.

Afterward, the tenant’s response will be considered by the court. The court will render a decision on the tenant’s defense and determine whether or not it is legally valid. If this has not taken place within two weeks, the tenant will need to pay the court for past due rent and future rent as it is owed.

Landlords may not shut off utilities or lock tenants out of the rental unit; this is punishable by up to a $500 fine and the tenant may be able to collect damages.

There are specific guidelines for terminating the lease of an active service member. They can be found in § 44-7-22.

Landlord Access to the Apartment

Tenants are entitled to privacy and the quiet enjoyment of the rental unit. However, there are no statutes determining how much notice a landlord must give to the tenant before entry. It is recommended that the landlord give the tenant at least 24 hours notice.

Landlord Responsibilities to the Tenant

Rental units are rented under an implied warranty of habitability. This means that the landlord has certain responsibilities to the tenant. The unit must be kept in good repair with functioning heat, plumbing, electricity, and running water.

There is no statute on whether the tenant may withhold rent or repair the damage and deduct rent, but uninhabitable premises are a defense to eviction.

Landlord Disclosures

Landlords must disclose the presence of lead paint on the premises and whether or not the home is in foreclosure (Georgia Landlord Tenant Handbook p18-19). In addition, the landlord must inform the tenant if the property has a propensity toward flooding (§ 44-7-20).

This blog entry is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. Landlords and Tenants are encouraged to seek specific legal advice for any of the issues as found in this blog.

Manage your rental property using these 5 AI apps

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Five AI apps for landlords.

Artificial intelligence (AI) was once thought of as something only seen in science fiction films, but it’s very much present in our everyday lives and being used daily in the rental market.

AI technology and property management are a natural fit because there are numerous tasks involved in gathering rental applications, managing contracts, handling repair requests, and other important processes.

Below are five AI applications landlords should consider using to help them make the process of finding, servicing, and keeping a tenant much easier.

1. Rentler

Rentler is one of the few platforms that really caters to both tenants and landlords rather than one or the other, and that’s a big part of why it’s such a success. Both parties buying in to the same service eliminates the hassle of back-and-forth communication.

Rentler’s partnership with RentRange gives it access to substantial market data, analytics, and predictions, which translate into Rentability Reports. These reports help property managers understand how their properties stack up against local competition so they can price wisely. The platform also streamlines the rest of the process, too, making applications, screenings, payments, and maintenance incredibly easy to manage.

The platform also gives tenants special perks—like highly customizable listing searches and the ability to build credit with on-time rent payments.

2. Rentberry

Launched in 2016, Rentberry is now revolutionizing the rental market using artificial intelligence. This platform can handle multiple elements of tenant management, but its real strength is in the application and contracting process. Tenants can make custom rent offers as they apply for properties, and the system’s AI will analyze those applicants and offers to provide recommendations to property owners.

Tenants also like the app because it eliminates a lot of wasted time going back and forth between third parties to help them secure a desirable property at a fair price.

3. Zenplace

If you’re looking for a full-service property management option or you own multiple properties, Zenplace might be the solution for you. Zenplace uses AI and machine learning to proactively make management and maintenance recommendations for properties. It can also provide intuitive dashboards for owners to easily review property analytics.

Tenants will also appreciate the easily navigable platform. It gives centralized access to various tools, allowing them to schedule showings, report a repair, pay their rent, and keep in contact with the rental company all from the same place.

4. Vivint

Your tenants want to keep their homes safe and secure, and you want to run your properties efficiently. Enter the Vivint Smart Home smart security system, which can help your tenants secure your rental properties using everything from smart locks to smart detectors—all through a simple app. With the right equipment, it can also help reduce energy costs by monitoring temperature conditions and learning how your tenants use their cooling and heating system.

Utilizing the Vivint app, tenants can easily check in on whether they locked their doors or set the temperature high enough to keep the pipes from freezing if they go out of town. This type of security is a huge benefit to your renters—and to the safety and condition of your property.

5. Jack

Another app that will help landlords automate tenant engagement is Jack, an AI-powered workspace that provides real time messaging to renters. Tenants can use email or even smart home assistants to contact their management company with questions or issues.

Tenants like Jack because of its prompt notification system, which keeps everyone updated on work orders and repairs, and landlords like the ease of dispatching vendors to resolve issues faster than ever.

As the artificial intelligence industry continues to expand, landlords will rely more on these services to manage their properties. Utilizing these apps to manage your rentals will not only make selecting tenants easier but also help you use fewer resources and save money.

Looking for more ways to better serve your tenants? Be sure to check out Rentler’s landlord articles for more information.

How to rent your property without making new landlord mistakes

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How to rent your property without making new landlord mistakes

Some people think that being a landlord is easy. The truth is that there’s a lot to learn before you can start actually making money renting your property. Your primary goals should be to protect your investment, comply with all the laws that govern rentals, and make some money along the way. Here are a few mistakes to avoid if you’re trying to reach your goals.

Renting property as a hobby

Some new landlords don’t treat renting a property like a business. They look at is as a casual sideline hobby that can work using a “set it and forget it” approach. If you want to make money, treat being a landlord like the business it is. Set up separate bank accounts for the business, be consistent in doing the required accounting, and consider hiring a tax professional to ensure you’re paying taxes correctly.

Underestimating the expenses associated with renting

Before purchasing your rental property, you’ll need to calculate projected revenue and expenses to determine if the property will produce a profit.

It’s easy to underestimate how much it will cost to complete repairs and properly maintain the property. Don’t skimp on these estimates. Things will break, and if you don’t maintain the property well you’ll have a more difficult time finding tenants…which can cause the value of your investment to drop.

The second thing you need to account for is vacancies. Every time a tenant moves, there will probably be things you need to do to prepare the rental for the next tenant. Depending on the situation, that may mean painting, replacing carpeting, and more. The property will need to be vacant during that time. Non-refundable deposits can help offset these costs, but you should still make sure you set aside saving in case additional costs come up.

In addition, even if the property is ready for the next tenant, it will still take time to find the right one. You can reduce the vacancy time between tenants by doing things like posting a listing looking for a new tenant before the existing one has left. However, you do need to factor in some percentage of vacancy for planning purposes.

Inadequate insurance is almost a whole category by itself, but it relates to the expenses you need to think about. You’ll need adequate property insurance and probably more than you’d expect in liability insurance. Don’t skimp on either of those two things that will protect you in the long run.

Making mistakes choosing a tenant

As a landlord, you’re always going to be anxious to get your property rented as quickly as possible. But making mistakes when you choose a tenant could end up costing you money.

1. Inadequate Screening

Don’t be fooled by a friendly face. Treat every potential tenant the same. Use rental applications and complete background and credit checks.

2. No formal agreement

A handshake agreement isn’t safe in today’s world. You want to avoid any misunderstandings that could come back to haunt you. Finalize a formal rental agreement to protect yourself and the tenant.

3. Asking illegal questions

There are things you can’t ask a potential tenant, either in writing or in conversation. If you ask questions about race, religion, marital status and more, you’re violating The Fair Housing Act of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, and leaving yourself open to be sued.

Violating housing codes or landlord/tenant law

Landlords are required to meet health and safety standards mandated by local authorities. Your tenant can sue you if you’re in violation. Although some laws are straightforward, educate yourself about habitable living conditions and what you are legally responsible for maintaining.

In addition, you could be asking for legal problems if you don’t familiarize yourself with the landlord/tenant laws in your state. State regulations will determine how you should collect and hold security deposits, the reasons that would justify you entering your tenant’s home, and how to proceed if you need to evict a tenant.

4 free tools for making maintenance requests easier

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Free maintenance request tools for landlords

One of the biggest pain points for landlords and property managers is maintenance. If you’ve ever experienced an unexpected rental emergency you know the feeling: a late night phone call, a panicked tenant, and images of money flying out of your bank account.

Even small, routine maintenance tasks can become a strain on your time and finances if you’re trying to juggle tenant communication and contracted maintenance workers. That’s why we put together a list of free tools that will make it easier to manage all the maintenance tasks that come with owning a rental property.

Property inspection app

Doing a full inspection of your property is an important step when buying a rental property, but you should also be doing a complete inspection between each tenant. For this, we like to use Tap Inspect. It’s a free app with a professional inspection template that covers every inch of your property and allows you to upload photos for documentation.

Although it was created for professionals, it’s super easy to use for anyone to use. You can choose whether the property you’re inspecting is a single or multi-family home and it has markup tools for circling problem areas or leaving comments. Not only will it help you organize the things you need to do now, but it also ensures that all your regular maintenance is getting done- which means fewer surprises in the future.

Maintenance tracking tool

Rentler is a comprehensive tool for landlords that makes it easy to pay rent online, screen tenants, and accept applications, but they also have a free maintenance request tool for DIY landlords. You can receive requests online, time-stamp and save all requests, set a priority level, share the status with your tenants, and upload any related photos or documents.

Saving all your requests in one place can also help when it comes time for tenants to move out. You can reference past issues and make sure everything is addressed in your tenant’s move-out checklist.

Handyman booking app

Handy is a service that lets you hire out maintenance tasks to qualified professionals on a case-by-case basis. Once you download the free app (or create an account on their website), you can submit your maintenance issue and Handy will link you up with one of their experienced professionals.

Whether you want to deep clean your rental between tenants or renovate a kitchen, it typically ends up being much cheaper to hire them through Handy and you get to select when you need them to come by- which makes it perfect for those times you need to work around a tenant’s schedule.

Maintenance request templates

If you’re not ready to use digital maintenance tracking, you should at least have a work order template you can use to record maintenance requests and completed services. We recommend finding one with an itemized description of the problem, hours spent working on it, and the cost.

It’s also helpful to have a template for tenants to fill out when they have a maintenance request. Something like this will help you get all the details in one place and makes it easy to refer back to when it comes time to give back a deposit. You can print them out and keep a stack in your office (if you have one) or include them in a move-in info packet.

How do you track maintenance requests? Is there anything we missed? (P.S. If you’re looking for more free property management tools, we made a list right here!)