Monday, October 28, 2013

Tenants: A True Story

Answering calls about an available rental posted on Craigslist can be a source of amusement.  My latest adventure can offer tips to tenants and renters about what not to do.

I had a tenant leave (okay, I got a court order and he had to), so I had a place available.  First step is to place an ad on the internet and put a For Rent sign up in front of the house.  The sign drives more traffic than you would think, because people really do drive though neighborhoods seeing what is available for rent.  It also makes it easier for them to find your house if they see it on the internet and drive over to check it out.

Don't forget to put a phone number on your sign.  

By the way, if you use, you will get you pretty good internet exposyure.  Postlets sends your ad automatically to Craigslist, Trulia, Zillow, and other major sites.

At least in Michigan, I think newspaper ads are a waste of money.  

So the calls started to come.  Firstly, if you EVER want to respond to a Craigslist ad, don't make your first question about something that is in the headline of the ad, like "How much is the rent?" "As the ad says, $700/month."

Second, don't make your next question something in the body of the ad, like how many bedrooms. "Like the ad says, three."

Really, people will call, mention where they saw the ad, and then ask the questions that are already answered.

Get the picture of what I had to deal with?  That is only the start of the story.

People touring the property led to more stories.  One actually asked if I would move a wall.  Uh, no.  I also knew we were wasting my time (and the husband's) when the wife either did not get out of the car or did not bother to go upstairs to look at the bedrooms.

She might be friendly, but she is not going to rent from you.
As a landlord, you should not discriminate based on certain things.  There are certain protected classes (sex, race, familial status, etc.)  and not only should you not discriminate on that, but it is also against the law and you can get in trouble.  Advertising your rental as a home good for a family is a violation.  Since jobs are not a protected class, you can say that it is good for nurses if it is near a hospital.  You can eliminate prospects who don't meet an income standard you set (in advance and in writing somewhere), you can eliminate them if they don't have a job (and I now refuse to consider anybody who claims a high income but that it is under the table; if they are going to cheat Uncle Sam they won't pay.  You can refuse to consider below a certain age, but not because they are too old.  You can refuse to rent to topless dancers (although the one I had apply had more income on her W-2 than any other applicant, she is not a tenant for other reasons).   Learn the law in your state or you can get in trouble.  As in lawsuit trouble.

As a prospective tenant, you already know to be on your best behavior touring a property.  If you set a certain time, be on time.  Be polite.  Respect the property.  Realize that if you complain about the color in a bedroom you may be talking to the woman who picked the color out, originally (true story).  The landlord cares about if you will take care of the property and pay your rent on time.  If you complain about your current or last landlord, you are waving red flags that will hurt your odds, unless you are obviously a victim.  

Both sides should be honest.  There will always be another potential tenant and there will always be another property available.  It doesn't pay to lie or secretive at the beginning of a potential business relationship.  If you have a possible tenant that already applied, be upfront.  If you are looking at four houses today and six tomorrow, be honest.  If your husband doesn't agree with moving from the current rental, don't say that it is your decision (another true story, obviously).  On the other hand, if you give your word, follow through on the deal, both ways.

We'll discuss more on this next week.  To be continued.