By Tracey March
At the core, rental owners are in the rental business because they want rental income. If tenants don’t pay their rent, rental owners don’t get paid and they may have to initiate costly and time-consuming evictions.
Property management professionals know that the method used to collect and process monthly rent impacts whether tenants make on-time rent payments. A good rent collection and payment system should meet two requirements. First, it should make it easy for the property owner or manager to collect and track payments. Second, it should make it easy for your tenants to pay their rent. Many rental owners hire property managers because they don’t want to deal with rent collection. If you self-manage your rental home, here are three tips for making your payment system easy and efficient.
Collecting and tracking physical payments like rent checks or cash is a pain. Several web-based services, including APM parter Yapstone RentPayment.com, allow rental owners to collect rent payments online, over the phone, or via direct bank transfers, while keeping their checking account information private. Rent payments can be automated or paid around the clock for guaranteed on-time collection, and they can be paid using mobile phones. RentPayment.com even allows property managers and rental owners to input customized late fees and penalties so they are automatically tallied when appropriate, and to accept application fees and security deposits so leases can be closed without a wait.
2. Insist on receiving one payment for the full amount of rent.
When you have tenants who are roommates, have them choose one amongst them who will be responsible for collecting rent from the others and paying rent to you in one payment. This rent collection policy makes life easier for you because you only have to collect and track one rent payment. It also minimizes your involvement in your tenants’ personal financial situations. In addition, make sure that roommate tenants are jointly and severally liable for the rent, meaning that if one roommate doesn’t come up with his or her share, the others are responsible.
3. Review your rent collection policy with your tenants.
Have a formal, written rent collection policy. At move-in go over it with your tenants, have them sign it, and give them a copy. Consider offering incentives for on-time payment as well as penalties for late payments. Enforcing the policy consistently from the beginning of each tenancy sets a professional tone and lets tenants know your clear expectations about on-time rent payments.
Current landlords and property managers: do you have any rent collection tips?
By Tracey March
Landlords and property managers are using social media for many reasons, including resident retention. You might stay in touch and communicate with tenants using your Twitter and Facebook business accounts, posting useful information about upcoming maintenance and repairs, links to useful websites, and reminders.
But have you considered using a social media review as part of your tenant screening process? Social media can provide all sorts of useful information about potential tenants, and can be particularly useful for confirming information on their rental applications. However, you do need to use it appropriately. Here are some important points to remember:
- Potential tenants may accuse you of violating their privacy if they find out you did a little social media research. However, if their accounts are public, you are allowed to look at them. Just make sure that if you do a social media review for one tenant, you do it for all.
- Sometimes what you read on the Internet isn’t true–shocking, we know. Remember that some people have a “social media persona” (remember Manti Te’o's fake girlfriend?) which does not reflect accurately how they would be as tenants.
- You could be exposing yourself to fair housing complaints if your research reveals your potential tenants or their family and associates are members of a protected class and you don’t offer them the rental unit. However, if your reasons for selecting different tenants are fair, nondiscriminatory, and well-documented, and you applied your screening requirements uniformly, you should be protected. Some experts suggest hiring a third party for social media research to filter out the information you shouldn’t be considering. Remember that in your state there might be additional protected classes to consider.
- Once you learn something about a potential renter, you can’t unlearn or unsee it. You may disagree with a person’s political beliefs or life choices that have nothing to do with whether or not they will be a good renter, so think about whether you’ll be affected by that information.
Have you used social media to pre-screen potential tenants? Do you have any advice or words of warning?
As always, the information provided here is just that–it is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you have any particular questions or issues, please consult an attorney.
In the old days when you needed to find a good tenant you called the local newspaper and spoke to a sales rep who’d help you craft a catchy phrase or two for a listing in the classifieds. Hardly any renters are reading the paper nowadays, so we landlords are on our own.
Below are my thoughts on how you can become an effective Craiglist marketer. While I use Craiglist a lot because it works well for property management in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara, California, the tips I share below apply to other social media as well.
To compose an effective Craigslist ad you must put yourself in the shoes of a potential tenant. If they go to Craigslist in a mid-size city they will be faced with hundreds of new rental postings each day. If they live in a metropolitan area like Los Angeles, this can reach thousands. There is no way a prospective tenant will sift through that many listings to find your property. Therefore, there are two requirements for successfully writing a Craigslist ad. The first is easy, you have to renew the ad as often as Craigslist allows in order to stay on top of the pile. The second is to write an ad with a lot of search terms (aka keywords). Prospective tenants enter specific items they are looking for in the search box and if you are lucky they will make it through 30-40 ads. Being in the top 30-40 ads of a search results page will determine if you wrote a successful ad.
Below are keyword categories related to location that I would highly recommend including in your ad:
- A local college or school if one is nearby
- Nearby parks
- Beaches, lakes, recreation areas
And here are some keywords related to the condition of the rental and its amenities to include:
- Granite counters
- Hardwood floors
- New carpet
- New paint
- Patio, yard, balcony, fireplace
Also, you should always use the word “Pets” if you allow them in your rental. Simply checking the “pet friendly” box in Craigslist isn’t good enough. Also, list nearby transportation such as subways, buses and trains.
Here’s an example of a poorly written ad:
Nice 2 bedroom 2 bath property located close to everything. The property was upgraded and has many amenities. Owner pays water and trash. Ready now. Available for 2,000/mo.
Here’s an effective ad:
Large remodeled 2 bedroom 2 bath house located in West Beach. Close to downtown, shopping and restaurants. The unit features a fireplace, large yard with patio, new paint and hardwood floors. Small pets ok. Available now for $2,000/mo.
Notice the liberal use of search keywords which I underlined above. The difference between these two ads might initially seem minimal, but the results they produce are substantial. The second ad was written with 16 keywords that tenants search for.
This is one of the reasons I think most people who want to rent out their homes benefit by having a professional property manager. A few simple techniques learned over time can save a lot of money. Maybe in another post I’ll discuss how to screen out the good potential tenants from the bad ones in the dozens of replies good ads get on Craigslist. In the meantime, remember that each day a property sits vacant represents lost revenue. And the benefits of being free of the stress of owning a vacant rental home are priceless.
Justin Egerer owns Sandpiper Property Management, a full service property management company whose portfolio includes single-family homes, apartments, condos and commercial real estate in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles, California.