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Earlier this year we exposed how one landlord felt that real estate OWNS you and how it is hard to take a vacation from rental property. In today’s article, a frequent contributor to shares his experience on how he fills vacancies while AWAY from his rentals. Thanks Sid(MO)!
I’ve been occupied with my yearly duty with the National Guard the past week — not a real vacation — and wanted to share a few cool things of how I’m still able to be a landlord. While out of town, I have accomplished the following:

1) Rented a vacant unit to good tenants (solid 700s credit scores, income 5x monthly rent, good references and clean background). Entire process done without my physical presence.
2) Handled a tenant move-out. Handyman did the move out walk thru, documented the condition, retrieved the old keys, changes the deadbolts, put my lock box on the front door, and did some touch ups. 24 hours later it is rent-ready!
3) Posted the vacancy from #2 and been pre-screening applicants. Lock box showing in progress.
4) Approved applicants for another vacancy due to come available soon. All done via phone and Internet.

There are way too many nit-picky details as to how to accomplish all this, but here are a few primary strategies:
–> attorney friend handles lease signing along with lead based paint disclosures; they also get copies of driver’s licenses and verify identity of all lease signers.
–> deposit account at my bank is where tenants take the money for rent, deposit, pet fees, etc. “Hi, I’m Joe Smith and this money is an application fee for ABC Rentals.” I see the money hit my account and verify who paid what and when the next day when the scanned deposit ticket shows up online.
–> handyman does the walk thru and take pictures, writes stuff down. Tenant signs their name agreeing with the condition. I don’t need to sign…it’s THEIR agreement after all. If they try to BS my handyman we just don’t do the deal.
–> rental ads all done online (Postlets, Craigslist, my website)
–> applications done via a “fillable” PDF form. Download and open doc on computer or smart phone, type in answers, save it and email to me along with scanned/photo of driver’s license and pay stubs. They also print and sign (or handwrite out and sign) an authorization to verify all application information. All they need is a phone that takes pictures or a nearby Fed-Ex/Kinkos to do scanning/emailing. Still tweaking the fillable PDF applicaton since Android phones don’t seem to like it. Android users can just download and print a copy of the PDF then scan it or take a pic and mail it back to me. App fees dropped off at my bank.
–> utility switch overs confirmed via email
–> lawn care paid via online bill pay, as is the carpet cleaners

There’s more devil in the details of course, but just wanted to share how my two-weeks hiatus has not caused my rental business to screech to a halt. One more week of duty to go, one more vacancy to fill!

A landlord was concerned about his responsibilities regarding the comments and list of issues that may be written by new residents on the move-in inspection report.

A seasoned landlord and regular contributor to shared how he personally handles Move-In Inspections and stays in control during the process.

“I don’t know laws of other states, (and be sure to check YOUR state laws), but as for me, this is why I am the one who writes stuff on the move-in inspection. I used to allow tenants to write on it and some would get crazy picky. One stain in the corner of the carpet would be noted as “carpet in terrible condition and filthy.”
Um…no….. Ever notice how some car rental companies do it? THEY survey the car and note down the damages. Do what the big boys do! Copy good business practices.

So now I walk thru WITH the tenants immediately prior to lease signing. This is my FINAL STEP in the screening process. I tell them I will write down whatever they like, but to keep in mind this property has been lived in before and we are renting it “as is, where is” along with all it’s charm and slight imperfections. I will write down whatever they notice from the scratch on the trim to the small ding in a closet door, but if they get to be ridiculous and argumentative saying everything is “filthy” and “destroyed” when in fact I just had my cleaners and maintenance guys go thru, I will quickly close the move-in documents folder, hand them back the 1st month’s rent money order, tell them I cannot make them live in such a terribly disappointing home, and wish them good luck with their search.

Yes, I will do this while their truck full of stuff is sitting in my drive way. They will not be moving in. Sorry, act reasonable or go make arrangements elsewhere.

When you turn over control of this valuable document, it creates problems. Their interpretation may not match mine, and in my business my interpretation needs to win 100% of the time. I’m reasonable, and I expect them to be as well.”
In some areas of the country, as much as 70% (or more) of renters have pets! Many landlords have adapted and now accept pets and charge more rent and registration fees that has greatly increased their cash flow. One landlord even shared that he LOVES pets and is now giving extra points at screening for those WITH animals. Another landlord shared their policies below regarding pets. Thanks WMH, NC.
1) Our ads read “Pet Friendly to Friendly Pets, subject to approval.”
2) Prospective pet must be spayed or neutered, NO exceptions ever.
3) No puppies – must be old enough to be house trained.
4) Must already HAVE animal, this isn’t their opportunity to get one.
5) NO aggressive animals – I don’t care what breed, (as long as my insurance company does not prohibit them) but if they growl or lip curl or require their owners to keep a tight hand on them when we meet them – no. I want big galumpy labs and such – not guard dogs. If we can’t walk to a dog and play with it, it’s not a candidate.
6) Name and phone number of vet required. People without vets aren’t taking care of their animals.



The following tip is shared by a regular contributor to Thanks Roy(AL)!

I have rental houses scattered all over town. In every neighborhood that I buy a house in, I make it a point to get to know the neighbors (mainly homeowner types) that live next door or across the street to my rental property. When I am done rehabbing a house and got it rented, I will give my card to any of the neighbors who I have established some type of bond with. I tell them to call me if my new tenants start doing something unusual that you think I need to know about. Some landlords would call this a “spy network”, however, I just refer to these underground people affectionately as my “moles”.

Just yesterday, I got a call from a mole telling me my tenants across the street had a U-Haul trailer in their driveway last Saturday and it appeared they are moving out. My reaction was, “Great news, now I don’t have to evict those deadbeats that stiffed me this month.”

Do you have any kind of spy network set up?  I do reward my moles, but not with money though.

While opinions differ among landlords on whether to use a Realtor to help fill a vacancy (most of respondents on our website shy away from doing so), one landlord/Realtor gave the following advice on

Nobody screens better than you (rental owner), but I am a Realtor, and I only use MLS for advertising my rentals.  I’m happy to pay the commission.  However, I screen all the applicants myself.

I think using a Realtor has many advantages.  The biggest advantage is that when an agent takes on a lease client, they do some form of screening to avoid wasting their time. Also most undesirable don’t use agents so it automatically screens them out.The agents show the house so I don’t have to worry about it.

Use an agent, but do your own screening. Be up front with that expectation when hiring.

The following tip is shared by a regular contributor to  Thanks NE(PA)!

Well, it worked 1st time I tried it. Got a judgement two months ago on a guy that skipped town. Started sending a monthly bill for the judgment amount of $792.00, due Immediately. I sent two so far.
Today, GRANDMA calls! Explains dear grandson lost his job and she wants to start paying the past due bill! I asked what she has in mind, she said she could do $25 per month. I said I don’t know if that will work but Ill ask my boss and get back to her.
I do the math. $25 into $792 is 31 months. That’s too long.
In the past, I have spread out filing fees with tenants over 3,4,5 months. So I decided to try it here. I called Dear Old Granny back and told her that “they” have done payment plans in the past and will send her out some paperwork and SHE CAN CHOOSE the best method for her.
My paperwork consists of the following:
An explanation of whats owed and why the judge said its owed. Followed by 4 choices on how to pay.
#1 – one time payment for a 20% discount of $633.60
#2 – 6 monthly payments for a discount of 10% for monthly payments of $118.80
#3 – 12 monthly payments for face value of amount owed in monthly amount of $66.00
#4 – 18 months with an additional convenience charge of 10% for a fee of $48.40
Hey, the tax people do it!!!
HINT # 1 When I have done this in the past, #4 is typically chosen
HINT # 2 “The Greedy Become The Needy.” I’ll gladly knock 20% off to get it in one month. Well see if Granny starts paying.

The following tip shared by contributor to Thanks Travis(OK)!

4 Steps I do everyday to pre-screen callers:
1. They call my google voice and leave a message.
2. Using their phone number I search Facebook looking for their account and full name
3. I look for pictures of pit bulls (or other big red-flags)
4. If no pit bulls, I search their name on county court records.