Category Archives: Uncategorized

Holding an Open House Saves Time & Money!

In my dreams I fill my vacant units with the best tenants on earth who pay their rent on time, keep the apartment clean, and never move out.  But unfortunately my dreams aren’t reality.

When I’m looking to fill a vacancy I prefer to show the unit like I would an open house.  I’ll pick a day, say Saturday, and set aside a period of time for propsective tenants to view the unit.  For example:  Open House, Saturday, 2-4pm!

I’ll tell as many prospective tenants to come on that same day and time too.  This helps create a sense of urgency and competition amongst the fellow renters visiting the property.  Plus it saves me time from having to meet prospective renters at different times and different days.

By creating a buzz, prospective renters feel the unit is special, limited, and could be rented in a blink of an eye.  This is their chance to grab it before anyone else does.  You never want to eat at an empty restaurant, do you?  Well you don’t want to live at an apartment that no one else is interested in either.

The prospective tenants that are interested will fill out an application right there and then.  Depending on which property I am at, I can also run their credit report on the spot (I check eviction, criminal and some other stuff too).  For screening providers I’ve used and others, click here.

Should you have to write a letter to get your security deposit back?

There’s a very important piece of legislation coming before the Chicago city council, one that would do a lot for ordinary people waylaid by the foreclosure crisis. But there’s a problem with that bill, or at least a version of it floating around the council chambers. One that could hurt vulnerable tenants around the city. The main bill is basically this: If you rent an apartment and your building went into foreclosure and is now owned by a bank, that bank still has to give you back the security deposit you paid when you signed your lease. That’s the part of the bill everyone agrees upon. But there’s another version with an amendment tacked on that would do something entirely different. That version is sponsored by the Chicagoland Apartment Association, a group that represents landlords, that would require tenants to write their landlord a letter, giving them 14 days to return their security deposit, or they risk not getting it back at all. This letter flies in the face of the Landlord Tenant Ordinance, which gives a landlord 45 days to return that deposit or face legal action. Tenants from around the city gathered today before the meeting to support the main bill, but oppose this 14 day notice amendment. Why? Well, they say the people who would be affected by this are the people who are already vulnerable to unscrupulous landlords. People with little knowledge of the law, those who don’t speak English and those who don’t have the money for legal representation. Alderman Helen Shiller doesn’t like this amendment. She said the amendment would give landlords a financial incentive not to give the deposit back. “It’s in my economic interest not to do so,” said Shiller. “I would just wait until that tenant contacted me to return their money – most of them they won’t know they have the right, they won’t do it or they might be intimidated.” Schiller proposed an amendment of her own – one that makes tenants write a 14 day notice before taking legal action because the landlord didn’t calculate the interest on their security deposit correctly. So, for example, when my landlord sent me a check for $12 last year, if I determined that she owed me $15, I should give her 14 days notice before I sue her over $3. That sounds pretty reasonable, right? I mean, lets cut down on the extraneous lawsuits. On the other hand, just as there are a lot of unscrupulous landlords out there, there are just as many unscrupulous tenants – people that are lawsuit trigger happy and just like to sue for the fun of it or to see how much money they can shake loose from honest business owners. Those people often mess it up for the rest of us, raising our rents and costs because they were looking out for themselves. One man giving testimony (I didn’t catch his name) relayed story just like this. His parents and sister bought a building, and the tenants, who lived their only two days while they owned it, alleged that they didn’t get the properly formatted letter, letting them know they would be getting their deposit back. Not that they didn’t get a deposit – they just didn’t get a letter in the proper format. They sued for around $3500, plus legal fees. This poor elderly couple and their daughter paid that out of pocket. Judith Roettig, president of the Chicagoland Apartment Association, says that the ordinance they favor – the one with the 14 day period for everything – says it doesn’t go against the laws already on the books – the Residential Landlord Tenant Ordinance. Tenants right now can sue for twice their security deposit, plus legal fees, if they don’t get their security deposit and interest within 45 days of moving out. “This amendment does not absolutely does not change the owners obligation to comply with all aspects of the RLTO,” said Roettig. “It simply provides a way for the landlord and the tenant to work out out before going to court.” But volunteers who work with tenants at the Metropolitian Tenant Organization hotline say that tenants already have a hard enough time getting their security deposit back. Charlotte Starkes, who volunteers on the hotline, says she talked to one man who paid a $3,800 security deposit – several months rent – and only got $900 back with no notice as to why or what damages he was paying for. Other tenants are told their security deposit is being used to paint or clean the apartment for the next tenant. “It’s done city wide. This problem doesn’t have a color, a neighborhood, an age or a class. It’s going on everywhere,” says Starkes. At the moment, there’s a battle going on in the city council chambers. Fifty plus people are waiting to testify on this legislation, before the building committee even votes on it. So, since we’ve got some time on our hands, what do you think? UPDATE (2:46 p.m.) : As of about one o’clock, Loreen Targos from Metropolitan Tenants Organization told me that after a couple hours of testimony from both sides, the Buildings committee ended up passing the main bill – without either amendment – unanimously. So now it moves to the full council for a vote. The two amendments will be taken up by a subcommittee chaired by Alderman Shiller. Apparently, at the end, Alderman Bernie Stone asked, “Is anyone opposed to ending this useless meeting?” No one was. The democratic process at work…

By Megan Cottrell

Application to Rent – It’s all in the details

When renting to a tenant or renting to multiple tenants its extremely important to have them fill out a rental application.  Rental application form or application to rent form can sometimes be found at your local stationary store like Staples or Office Depot.  You can also obtain the form from a tenant screening company, find my list here.  Apartment Associations or some may call them landlord associations will also provide the necessary landlord forms.  There are local apartment associations and nationwide associations, you can find my lists for them here.

The Application to Rent is one of the most important pieces of information you can gather from a prospective tenant during the tenant screening process.  Any information they provide assists you with your decision to rent as well as helps you recover lost rent should they skip out (more on this later).

Here is some of the information you should be requesting from your prospective tenant or new renter when they apply for your apartment for rent or home for rent:

  • Tenant full name; include first name, middle name, last name, and any AKA’s
  • Tenant address history; ask for 7-10 years of addresses to assist you in their prior living history
  • Date of Birth; You cannot base your decision to rent on a tenant’s date of birth, however, many tenant screening reports will require this piece of information.  It will also help with the debt collection process should you need to search for them later.  Lastly the tenant’s date of birth also assists should a Jr. vs. Sr. issue ever arise.
  • Social Security Number; This is required to obtain a credit report or tenant screening background report.  The tenant’s social security number can also be used for skip tracing should they leave and owe money.  Many tenant screening companies will also provide Social Security Fraud reports, I recommend you obtain one on your prospective tenant.
  • Phone numbers.  Get their home phone, cell phone, work phone (see below), and any other phone number they will provide.  Why are so many tenant phone numbers needed?  There are 2 main reasons: (1) to let them know you want to rent to them and (2) to chase after them if the tenant leaves owing you money!
  • Work history for 7-10 years.  It’s important to know where your prospective new tenant’s income is coming from.  Do they have a job?  Where is the job?  What is the address of the job?  Their boss’s name?  The phone number to the boss?  The title of their job?  Their previous and current salary?  You want to know all of this information to help in determining if the tenant can afford your rent.  A tenant screening report or tenant background check will provide credit and criminal information as well as insight on their debt/credit,, but their current job should still be verified.  Employment information also will assist in the debt collection process should the tenant skip out owing you money!
  • Banking information is also important.  First you’ll need this information to verify the tenant has the money to pay your rent.  You want to know they can write you a check each month!  (and that it will clear!)  Plus, as I stated with other information above, this will help with the debt collection process.
  • Tenant’s Relatives and Non-Relatives.  This information is helpful for the tenant screening process and the debt collection process.  Relatives will help you confirm the type of person your new tenant is, they will also help you locate the tenant when they leave you owing rent.  Non-relatives are also important because friendships change over years.  Your tenant may list someone that, after moving out, they are no longer friends with.  That person may be more than willing to assist you in your debt collection needs.
  • Additional Occupants in the apartment.  Who else is going to reside in the unit?  What is their name?  What is their social security number and date of birth?  How are they related to your prospective tenant?  Depending on the age of the occupant you may want them to sign the rental lease too.  You should perform a tenant screening background check on every occupant over the age of 18 even if they aren’t signing a lease!
  • Pets.  Do they have any pets?  Do you even want to allow pets?  What kind of pets are they?  Age of pet?  Type of pet?  How big (weight) is the pet?  What’s the name of the pet?  You’d be surprised how often the pet “gets out” and how helpful it can be to know its name.  Or if that dog is parking all night because your tenant is gone and you can yell out to the dog.
  • What type of vehicles does the prospective tenant own or lease?  A tenant screening background check will not always show automobiles.  You should obtain the type of car, color, year, make and model.  Always know whose vehicles are parked on your property.  This includes autos for co-tenants/additional occupants.
  • Ask the hard questions!  Ask the tenant on your rental application form if they have ever been evicted from an apartment or home.  Sure many will lie and you’ll discover an eviction on their tenant screening eviction background check, but others may fear the question and not even apply — saving you time, money, and aggravation.
  • Important:  You must have a signed release from the tenant authorizing you to obtain and investigate information on them such as a tenant screening credit report, criminal background check, eviction records, etc.  The law requires this release, so don’t forget it!
  • Always have the tenant print their name and provide a signature and date.  If the application is more than 1 page, its not a bad idea to have them initial or sign the bottom of each page in the corner.

My apartment association provides rental applications for free.  You can also find landlord forms like the application to rent from some tenant screening companies.  Visit my listings to locate an apartment association by state or visit the American Apartment Owners Association, a nationwide landlord association providing larger discounts than local chapters, for the necessary landlord forms.

Home Prices: 1st Annual Increase in 3 Years

(AP Associated Press via msnbc.com)

MIAMI – Home prices in February posted their first annual increase in more than three years, though it’s too early to say the housing market is recovering.

Despite the 0.6 percent increase on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, 11 of the 20 cities in the Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index showed declines.

The last time prices rose on a year-over-year basis was December 2006. But economists polled by Thomson Reuters had predicted prices to rise 1.2 percent in February.

For the rest of this article please visit: http://tinyurl.com/help-for-landlords-6

Landlords Get Help with Managing Rentals

Many landlords love the income they get from their rentals but hate the business of managing their properties. Meanwhile, other people are interested in becoming a landlord but are concerned that it’s too much work. That’s where Rentometer (a free service to compare rent rates) and its advanced product, RentometerPro (an automated rental management system) are helping ease the work load for landlords.

“We’re essentially acting as an impartial third party for both people [landlord and tenant] to interact in a really convenient way that is up to date with the times,” says Allison Atsiknoudas, CEO of Rentometer.

Atsiknoudas says people who are interested in becoming landlords but also have some fear about the expense and cost of managing a property should note that there are simplified ways to manage your rental. “Now, there are options,” says Atsiknoudas. “It’s only been recently that there have been management solutions for people who own just a few units.” That’s good news for the approximately 90 percent of United States rental owners who each manage only a few rental properties.

“The tool Rentometer itself is a way to compare actual active rental rates for the market in a specific area. One of the things that we focus on is being able to present rent comparables in a very close proximity,” says Atsiknoudas. For tenants, it allows them to compare how their current rent rate compares in their local neighborhood. They enter an address on the website and a free report is instantly generated by Rentometer.com.

“If you’re an owner or a real estate professional and you wanted to find out what you might be charging these days for a vacancy, you enter the unit information and find out,” says Atsiknoudas.

“A majority of our clients are individuals or small partnerships and those folks really own a majority of the rental property in the United States. Most of the people who fall in that category are people who are in an industry other than real estate and they’re just managing some properties on the side—their own properties as long-term or mid-term investments for additional income,” says Atsiknoudas. The Rentometer tool and the rental management service that is provided by the company help landlords manage their properties easier and without all the loads of paperwork that often accompanies rentals. “The one thing that these people have in common is that typically they’re managing small portfolios. … between two and 35 units,” says Atsiknoudas.

She says that most of these properties owner are in situations where they don’t have large staffs (if any) to manage their rentals. So, they seek ways to simplify the process. “We have about 22 units in Northwestern Pennsylvania. The process of managing the rent and collecting the rent checks became pretty cumbersome,” says landlord Matt Angerer.

He uses Rentometer’s services to help manage his properties. “My tenants can now send their rent either directly to the processing facility that RentometerPro owns and operates in Rhode Island and, in turn, they will actually cash the checks and deposit them into my account, or my tenants can pay online via electronic fund transfer or they can pay with a credit card,” explains Angerer. Here are a few other services offered by the company.

Creating rental forms. Rentometer and EZLandlordForms.com provide a way for landlords to use a forms builder to create their own documents for their rental properties. Landlords can find forms such as lease agreements, lease renewals, rental applications and even eviction notices on Rentometer.com.

(Note by Help for Landlords!  The AAOA for any level of membership, provides a 15% discount to EZLandlordforms.com!)

Simplifying rent processing. “We do everything from the monthly invoicing of tenants, (both electronic and snail mail), to the acceptance of rents,” she says. Atsiknoudas emphasizes that the company accepts all forms of payments from credit cards to paper checks.

Automated late reminders. The payments are automatically posted to the landlords accounting ledger and to the tenants account. “Part of our automated system is that if you have late payments, [it] automatically sends out friendly reminders to people to pay their rent,” says Atsiknoudas.

Pricing starts at $7.99 per month for up to five units and increases for additional units with $50 a month buying unlimited access. “We’d like to be able to simplify management on every level,” says Atsiknoudas.

I found this article on Yahoo.  It was by Phoebe Chongchua and dated Fri, Apr 9, 2010
http://realestate.yahoo.com/info/news/landlords-get-help-with-managing-rentals

Youtube Tips and Help for Landlords

This isn’t the worlds best YouTube video, but sometimes its helpful to hear someone provide some simple tips and not just read it.  In this video the speaker is discussing how to properly screen a tenant.  This is a topic that I write about frequently.  The better your tenant screening service is, the better chance your tenant will pay their rent.

As I’ve stated many times before, I used to use ClearScreening. Then I moved to TenantAlert.com and now I’m with the American Apartment Owners Association because they provide me with more services than TenantAlert and their prices were cheaper.

I’ve tried to embed the YouTube video but for some reason its not working with WordPress.  Here is the link: http://tinyurl.com/help-for-landlords-5

Statistics Prove Dogs More Desirable Than Cats

Dogs Considered ‘Family Members’, Cats Losing Out in Recession?

by Matt DiChiara

It has long been debated amongst pet owners which species best accompanies man in his domestic dwelling. It has been an intense and unrelenting debate most likely due to the fact that– as in academic politics–the contention is so vicious precisely because the stakes are so low.

We would now like to submit the results of a recent survey; during the recent recession, searches for cat friendly apartments dropped much more than did searches for dog friendly apartments, therefore indicating that when the going gets tough, the cats get going.

We recently conducted a study of our internal search data, which we run each quarter. The report shows for which amenities and property features renters are searching. Click here for the MyNewPlace search results page with amenity search filters highlighted below by the red circle as well as the major category filters of number of beds, number of bathrooms, property type (rental home, condo, apartment) and the filter to which this post is dedicated, pet friendly apartments.

So, if a renter searching for Atlanta apartments (pictured above) above wanted to filter their results to search for a pet friendly apartment with high speed internet, a dishwasher and a playground, the search results page and map would show only apartments that fit that criteria. Our amenity report can determine the number of these types of instances each quarter and then track how search trends are changing over time.

One especially interesting period that we wanted to track changes over was the time since the beginning of the recession, which technically began in December 2007. While we did see many changes in search trends from that time until our latest recorded data (Q2 2009), one of the most interesting changes was how the number of pet searches changed.

Taking both a national median value as well as examining trends in 35 of the nation’s top metros, it appears incontrovertible that while searches for cat friendly apartments dropped across the board, searches for dog friendly apartments remained relatively stable.

The conclusions that can be drawn from this are pretty obvious. When faced with financial hardship and economic uncertainty, cats don’t quite make it inside the wagon circle. Apparently dogs are considered more “family members” than are cats. A harsh reality, perhaps, but these numbers are difficult to dispute.

In somewhat related news, I am moving to a 3 bedroom apartment to save on rent, anyone want to adopt this cat?

Matt DiChiara is with MyNewPlace.com is a dynamic online marketplace for apartment rentals, featuring a free-to-use apartment finder to search its database of over six million listings.

See Matt DiChiara’s feature, Bad Economy Turns Renters Into Roommates.

American Apartment Owners Association offers discounts on products and services for landlords related to your real estate investment including REAL ESTATE FORMS, tenant debt collection, tenant background checks, insurance and financing. Find out more at joinaaoa.