Eviction is a Necessary Task in Property Management

 

 

 

Many counties in the United States do not report evictions to credit bureaus and it takes specific searches to discover these records.  This kind of search can be done by a landlord or property manager in the local counties but is time consuming and not always reliable.  The reality is that often a resident will apply for a new rental home while he/she is being evicted from the current residence and there will be no record at all.

We spoke with Equifax recently and found that they have just purchased a small company which is now collecting this eviction data across the country.  In several years there will be a new data base with this information which will be available for credit reports but we still have to deal with what we have today, which is precious little with regard to eviction history.

That being said, we still have our rules and regulations to abide by and therefore will have to enforce them for the benefit of all.  So there will be the occasional eviction.

The article below is a good summary from Expert Law which will help you if you find that you are needing to proceed with an eviction.

Read More Here

 

How the Eviction Process Works

March 9, 2016

Source: This article was published with permission from LegalTemplates

Eviction notices can be daunting for all involved- both for Landlords and Tenants. While most issues are encouraged to be cured via problem-solving and clear communication, occasionally an eviction notice will be served.

Both sides should know that they could ultimately end up in front of a judge. Eviction processes are highly regulated since the law protects both sides and the court makes the final decision. Instead of allowing people to take the law into their own hands, the eviction process ensures both the Tenant and Landlord are given fair treatment.

Luckily, this process is quick when compared to other legal cases, as it is considered a “summary” court procedure. This means timelines for arguments are shortened to speed up the resolution or court decision. Instead of waiting months to hear the case, the Landlord and Tenant can appear before a local court soon after the Landlord files a complaint.

To help visualize the eviction process, Legal Templates created an info-graphic to detail how this works and what to expect:

Customer Service is an Important Part of Property Management

happy tenantsIf you work for a property management company you know the importance of maintaining good relationships with your owners and tenants.  And if you are self directing your own property management you probably know that tenants and landlords often clash.  But it does not have to be that way. You must stay on top of your management tasks, and let your tenants know that each one of them is important to you.

Our company has provided software for property management to over 20,000 subscribers since 2005.  We are recognized as one of the best property management software companies and, by the way, we have just rebuilt the software to be even easier to use thus making the communication with tenants even better.  The legacy software won a webby and the New Release has already won a Best In Business for software award. With all of this experience, there are some things that we know will help you get good tenants, keep your tenants happy and retain them longer.

Expect the Best from your Tenants

You are entering into a business contract with each tenant. You expect them to pay rent and care for your property in return for their access and right to occupy to a quality property in which to live or work if it is a commercial property.  Remember that it is a business relationship, not a friendship.  From the beginning treat the tenant with respect.  Once the lease is signed the tenant has agreed to pay rent on time.  Be sure that he/she does just that.  We recommend use of automated rent payments made through a tenant portal which contains all of the pertinent information that they need plus a way to make their rent payment in less than a minute. If they are late, do not offer to waive late fees. In the automated system, late fees are added automatically on the designated day.  Waiving late fees only encourages more late payments.  If you have a chronic late payer, make arrangements so that rent is due after they have received their wages or can reliably make the payment.  If that means you extend the grace days a few more days then that is a better way to resolve the issue than to waive late fees. You might also have them pay two times per month instead of once.Don’t worry, if they are using automated rent payments, the accounting is done for you when that payment is made. And remember that any changes to the original agreement need to be memorialized in writing and signed by both parties.

You Make the Rules

It is the responsibility of the landlord or property manager in conjunction with the owner to make the rules for tenants residing in the property.  Include those rules when they sign the lease.  We recommend a separate document stating policies and rules as well as vacating procedures.  The tenant signs that document and it becomes part of the lease.  Tenants need to know the rules before they move in, not when they have violated one.  Tenants need to know that they are responsible for  being cordial to neighbors and abide by the rules of the property.  It is always best to meet the tenant in a professional environment like an office.  Our SPS software offers esign for leases and notices so that an office is not required to look professional.  One other thing that is very important is good communication.  The SPS software has tenant portals through which the tenant can easily notify you of any issues or report maintenance items.

Get Repairs Done Quickly

Things happen to rental properties during normal wear and tear, and repairs need to be done to keep the property in good shape.  Occasionally there is also tenant caused damage, like a child flushing toys down the toilet or someone hitting the garage door with their car.  Both types of damage should be repaired by the landlord or property manager, not the tenant.  The most important thing that a landlord can do is get the repair done as soon as humanly possible.  The tenant can be billed for tenant caused damage or the security deposit can be used if they do not pay. We recommend billing first so that the security deposit remains in place for the future.  Always follow up after the repair with the tenant to be sure that the repair was done to the satisfaction of the tenant.  We recommend that you inspect the repair or at the very least have the contractor take pictures before and after the repair and send them to you.  Your tenant will know that you care about their comfort and you will retain them longer.  Maybe even more important is that you will be sure that your property is kept in top condition.

You Must Do Inspections

Inspections are part of the price of doing business.  Inspections done regularly will insure that there is no major damage being done to your valuable rental property.  With new tenants, you may want to do an inspection or visit the property in one month to see how the tenant is faring.  At the same time you can look around to see how they are caring for the property. If all is well you may schedule the next inspection visit for 3 months.  If things look dicey, give notice to clean it up and come back in a week to inspect again. This may seem like over kill but we have seen some tragic situations experienced by our subscribers when they do not use the inspection software available to them. One subscriber found three families living in a two bedroom house.  Only 4 people were on the lease.  Another found a herd of cats, none of whom were authorized by a pet agreement. In fact the pet agreement clearly said that no pets were allowed.  If these situations had not been discovered, you can only imagine the damage that would have been done to the property.  Inspections are an ounce of prevention against pounds of cure.

Develop Good Relationships

Always be cordial to your tenants.  They are supporting your business and even if you may not like them personally, you need to be pleasant.  Remember that your tenants are not your friends.  They have a business relationship with you.  That does not mean that you can’t send Holiday cards or throw parties for the multifamily community once in awhile.  But in the process of running your rental business, be firm and fair, attentive and respectful.

Smart Property Systems gives our subscribers the tools to be able to develop good relationships with tenants, members of associations, and owners of residential and commercial properties.  That is accomplished with automation of most repetitive tasks and by allowing all stakeholders in the business to easily communicate through the portals.  If you are not using software or are unhappy with your current software check out https://smartpropertysystems.com.

Submitted by: Timmi Ryerson
December 18 2015

SPS square logo

Do Your Tenants Need to Know How to Budget?

I listened to a web cast today on how to fill vacancies with residents who will pay rent.  I was surprised to hear that the incidence of failure to pay rent is going up.  The fact, according to this presenter, is that rents are rising and incomes are staying the same.  That means that more of a family’s budget has to be put toward the rent. There are several safeguards that can be used by the property manager when renting to someone with little or poor credit history. But the one least used, that comes to mind for me, is giving the tenant a bit of good old fashioned education about how to budget.

Young people, especially students, are sometimes on their own for the first time. Budgeting may be taught in business classes but I have not heard of it being taught in school as a general rule.  Another category of high risk families is single mothers with no child support.  However, poor rent payers are not just limited to these groups.  They come from all income levels and backgrounds.  But everyone needs a place to live.  Everyone needs shelter and to be able to feel safe and secure in their home. Furthermore, it is against the law to discriminate when considering an applicant unless that applicant obviously does not earn enough money to pay the rent.  So there are going to be times when you will rent to a high risk tenant.  Of course you always use tenant screening, and check pay stubs, and speak with employers, and past landlords before deciding to rent.  Those are tried and trusted ways to get good tenants.  But we have all had to get after our tenants at one time or the other for failure to pay on time.

budgetingThe next suggestion I have is that these high risk  tenants should get the budget your money talk.  “The rent” is the most important payment a resident makes each month.  Oh they may argue that they need a car more than a place to live, but with that mentality, they could end up living in their car.  Ideally rent makes up 25% of the monthly budget.  But recently it has creeped up to an average of 33% of the monthly budget.  That leaves car payments, insurance, utilities, food and clothing and finally entertainment to be budgeted (planned). Hopefully they are not into using credit cards when they run out of their own money or the situation could escalate from good to bad very fast.  If at risk tenants turn this sequence around, you will see many failures to pay rent. Unfortunately we see the reverse sequence all too frequently. (i.e. entertainment, clothing, food, utilities, car payments,insurance, rent)  At least if you have the talk, you will put them on alert.  Hopefully they will realize that budgets are a great way to keep everyone happy and give them the feeling of control over their lives.

I have been in property management for many years managing my own investment properties, before I bought a software company that provides software for property management. In both capacities I have heard all kinds of excuses and reasons for late rent payments.  You all have heard them.
“I mailed the check. Didn’t you get it? It must be lost in the mail”.
“I gave the rent to my husband. Didn’t he give it to you ?”
One of the best was “I had to take my kids on vacation and don’t have enough left
to pay rent.
“I dropped an envelope with cash in the door slot of the office.  It is not my fault if someone stole it.”
And another doozie “I already paid the rent last month.”

Then there is the issue of paying on time.  When you don’t get paid on time, your own budget and finances suffer.  It costs the property manager money every time a rent is late.  Of course we have found that through use of online automated rent payments, the excuses go away.  There is no more excuse for late rent because it takes the guess work out of where the rent is and all of the arguments listed above, except the vacation situation, are no longer valid.  But that is a topic for another blog.

I think it is a great idea for the property manager to talk with any young tenant, first time tenant or person with poor credit about “the importance of paying rent on time, every time it is due” before handing over the keys.  Sometimes they need to hear that rent should be the first bill they pay before they spend money on anything else.

The other question to ask your new tenant is on what day they get paid.  A solution to late rent payments may be as simple as setting the date rent is due to a couple of days after the person gets paid, or at least make the grace period long enough to accommodate that tenant. In some cases, it may be a good idea to add language to a lease document stating that the conversation about how to budget for the rent payment was done.  It may also be a good idea to offer a booklet about budgeting with a sample budget to demonstrate how easy it actually is.  I realize that this kind of approach will not solve all of the problems with poor rent payers but it may bring your percentage of on time rent payments up a few percentage points.

Timmi Ryerson
Smart Property Systems
help@smartpropertysystems.com

Press Release:Smart Property Systems Announces New Collaboration with TransUnion SmartMove®

Smart Property Systems Announces New Collaboration with TransUnion SmartMove®
PRWeb Follow
August 28, 2015 7:12am Comments: Smart Property Systems, a leading cloud application software for property management, is pleased to announce a vendor agreement with TransUnion.

Sun Valley, Idaho (PRWEB) August 28, 2015

 

for rent tenant screening




 

Smart Property Systems announced today a new integration with TransUnion SmartMove®, to offer tenant screening solutions. Using TransUnion SmartMove, Smart Property Systems users can order a credit report, which is formatted for tenant screening purposes, and a criminal report, drawing from millions of national and state records. These tenant screening reports include a recommendation based on the Smart Property Systems subscribers’ rental criteria.

Smart Property Systems subscribers are able to order reports from their subscription dashboard menu to screen tenants on easy to use order requests. Reports are returned into a system that collects and stores the reports for viewing as needed.

“Ordering a Tenant Screening report is one of the most important tasks a landlord or manager does when choosing a new tenant for their valuable rental property,” said Timmi Ryerson, CEO of Smart Property Systems. “We are happy to have this direct relationship with TransUnion, which provides good quality, reliable reports with recommendations based on property criteria entered by the subscriber. Landlords and managers need to receive these reports quickly to facilitate rapid turnovers. The motivating goal of staff at Smart Property Systems is to reduce turnover time and help the subscriber increase profitability.”

Smart Property Systems subscribers can get complete reports from TransUnion SmartMove by clicking on the order button in the subscriber account and filling out the information from the tenant application. Prospective tenants are contacted via email to authorize the report. Once the prospective tenant authorizes the report, property managers and landlords can review their TransUnion SmartMove report within minutes.

“TransUnion SmartMove offers a tenant screening solution that is efficient and easy for both prospective tenants and for landlords,” said Jason Norton, vice president of TransUnion SmartMove. “Now, Smart Property System subscribers will benefit from greater insights into the credit and criminal history of their prospective tenants.”

As soon as the tenant complies and authorizes the report, it is sent back to the report file at Smart Property Systems. For a demonstration of this functionality, contact Smart Property Systems or visit smartpropertysystems.com.

smartpropertystystems.com
855 796 7771
help@smartpropertysystems.com

About Smart Property Systems
Smart Property Systems has offered best in class software for property management since 2004. Over 20,000 subscribers have been served since the Company opened for business. In May 2015 the new build of the code was released and all active subscribers from the legacy software were moved to the new platform which is built on the latest Ruby on Rails with HTML 5 technology. This software offers stability and security to the users, and automates the repetitive tasks required when managing properties and leases, whether residential or commercial. Customer reaction to this new software has been very positive. Smart Property Systems software supports the complete rental cycle with features that make property management easier.

About TransUnion SmartMove
TransUnion SmartMove is an easy, reliable online tenant screening solution designed to give independent landlords the results they want — and renters the security they need. Landlords receive a TransUnion credit report formatted exclusively for rental screening purposes, a criminal report drawing from hundreds of millions of national and statewide criminal records, a national eviction report, and a clear, reliable and customized leasing recommendation. Renters get the peace of mind that only TransUnion, and not their landlord, will have access to their sensitive personal information. SmartMove is powered by TransUnion.

About TransUnion
TRU 0.24%

Information is a powerful thing. At TransUnion, we realize that. We are dedicated to finding innovative ways information can be used to help individuals make better and smarter decisions. We help uncover unique stories, trends and insights behind each data point, using historical information as well as alternative data sources. This allows a variety of markets and businesses to better manage risk and consumers to better manage their credit, personal information and identity. Today, TransUnion has a global presence in more than 30 countries and a leading presence in several international markets across North America, Africa, Latin America and Asia. Through the power of information, TransUnion is working to build stronger economies and families and safer communities worldwide.

We call this Information for Good. http://www.transunion.com/business

For the original version on PRWeb visit: http://www.prweb.com/releases/SmartPropertySystems/Transunion/prweb12927213.htm

Read more: http://www.benzinga.com/pressreleases/15/08/p5798819/smart-property-systems-announces-new-collaboration-with-transunion-smar#ixzz3kPdeAw6Y

Are You Afraid of Change???

Have you ever thought about how change affects your life? How many of us embrace the idea of change? How many dread it?  I am  not talking about change that comes when you get dressed.  I am not even talking about a change of scenery.  Those kinds of change can be easy to take, unless the view is from behind bars and walls.  Changing a diet can be very hard.  Changing where you live can be stress inducing.  Changing a job may be difficult for some. Changing the way you do your job may be even harder to accept.

Matathesiophobia= The fear of change.change fear                                                                                   Have you ever started something brand new and realized that you don’t have a clue about what you are doing?  Have you ever gotten physically dizzy or distracted from the task because you are having a hard time?  It can be like that for new owners or managers of investment properties. Even seasoned managers can get into overwhelm at times when the work load piles up. Many are literally overwhelmed by the prospect of having to advertise for tenants, do tenant screening and write leases.  But before we fall over the cliff in overwhelm, there is a better way. Using a quality software which is designed to be easy to use,  where the work flows don’t let anyone make a mistake, is the real answer.  Now that kind of change does not seem so hard.  The subscriber/new landlord or manager can have a path to follow with success at the end of the road.  When using the Smart Property Systems software, the steps for each task are lined out and the tools are right there on the dashboard for the investor/manager to use.

You have never used software before?  Is that a hard change to overcome?  Not really. Change can be easy to deal with, when there is a change of mind and good attitude.  Relaxing into the new software environment can actually be exciting as the user discovers that everything is automated and all work is saved by the software.  Just think. This change results in having all documents and tools at your fingertips. Simple organization at last!

Smart Property Systems offers property management software and it is designed to make the business of property management much easier for anyone doing that job.  But hardly a day goes by that someone in the customer service department hears a complaint from a subscriber or maybe a free trial users saying that it is hard for them to change. After talking about it for a few minutes they realize that their real reason is fear of change. Once that fear is overcome, the whole prospect of having answers to all questions and problems that come up in property management which are at their fingertips, makes the new world of software becomes glittery and golden.

Smart Property systems has been doing business in the Property Management Software sector since 2004 and served over 20,000 subscribers.  This company knows property management and understands the problems that repetitive tasks cause for the staff. Repetition can cause boredom and bored people make mistakes.k8479153 The motivation and dream of the staff at Smart Property Systems is to provide automation for those repetitive tasks and make the business of renting well managed properties to deserving tenants easier and more profitable. Software does not make mistakes. That is change we can believe in.

But what about the change that comes in having to pay for software? There again, just how valuable is your time?  When you get your properties and tenants into your subscription account and automate the rent collection, can you imagine how much time you will save every month?  Why that could be a full time assistant salary saved. If you have no assistant, using SPS software will cut your time by two thirds. Remember, now all communications  with tenants and vendors go through the message centers in each account portal, instead of having phone calls all hours of the day and night.  Now notices are sent though the software via email and stored in all appropriate accounts. Some, like statements and late fee notices are automated, so there is really nothing you have to do. Rent week comes and goes and all statements are sent out, rents collected and accounting for those payments done by the software for you!  You can look at the rent roll and see who has and has not paid.  So now, what will you do with all that extra time on your hands?  Maybe play some golf or tennis or go fishing? How about spending more time with the family?

Yes Change can bring stress but fear of change is really the main issue.  Once that fear is overcome, then the change from manual management of properties to software driven management is a no brainer.  Check us out at Smart Property System <https://smartpropertysystems.com>

Author: Timmi Ryerson
CEO
Smart Property Systems

Engaging and Communicating with the Millennials: The Next Generation of Renters

cell phones

The next generation of renters is a tech savvy group who will use technology at its best to find their first or next perfect place to rent. That means that they will use tablets and cell phones to search for available listings, not print media and newspapers.  They will also want to be able to conduct the business of renting via their phones or computers. That means that rental housekeeping and tasks should be automated and able to be done over the internet.  Messaging and notifications including signing of leases and paying rents and deposits and other charges will be done via the internet as well.

 

First consider how the Millennial Generation will search for places to live.  They will use their cell phone or tablet, most likely.  Some will use a computer at work or home to search.  Rarely do your prospective tenants just walk up and rent a unit. So when a vacancy is advertised, it needs to have all of the relevant data present for the viewer’s information. The other most needed option is to have pictures and videos available for them to peruse at their convenience.  We suggest that our Smart Property Systems (SPS) subscribers give viewers enough pictorial evidence and data about each room that the prospective tenant can practically decide to rent by seeing the webflyer.

What is a webflyer? It is a template that our subscribers have to set up their internet advertising. That template allows the user to write a detailed description of the property, explain a bit about the neighborhood and amenities close by, the specifics about the rental unit, rent, date available, security deposit and more.

webflyer active.  SPS  recommends that you take a video of the property and post it to YouTube then connect that URL to the webflyer so that the prospective tenant can get a better idea of the flow of the property. Many of our subscribers have told us that the cost of a subscription is cheap compared to the cost of advertising the old fashioned way.  A subscription has all management tools needed to take professional care of your rental properties and includes the cost of advertising vacancies and for sale properties. It is a much better option than using print media and newspapers which do not  accept pictures and you are required to shorten descriptions to keep the cost down.

Of course offering a terrific property which is kept in top shape is your best bet at getting vacancies turned quickly. Being able to offer online rent collection and a way to pay a security deposit on line will be the future for fast turn-overs.  Smart Property Systems has a built in library which allows the user to attach esign to documents and send leases via email for signatures. This is also a huge time saver for those busy prospective tenants who want the convenience that technology offers.

Technology is a must in the present and future world of communicating with the Next Generation of renters.  Check out our Smart Property Systems software to see that it provides that technology which you need to meet the needs of your investment rental business future.

Timmi Ryerson
CEO
Smart Property Systems

What To Look for in a Tenant Screening Report

If you follow our blogs (Problem Rental Solutions and Real Estate Asset Links) you have read how important we believe tenant screening is. So this article will tell you what you need to know about reading the Tenant Screening Report. You cannot request a credit report directly from a Credit Bureau.  You must use a portal to request a screening that the tenant approves and fills out before that report before it is sent to you.  Tenant Screening is built into the Smart Property Systems platform for your convenience. You order the report which generates an email to the prospective tenant and they log in and fill out the data. Once you get that report back, it is important to be able to understand what you are seeing.

First check the tenant’s credit Score. Some reports give a FICO score and some give a Vantage score.  The Fico score is that score given by the credit bureau which provided the report.  A Vantage score is a combination of all three FICO scores from the three main credit bureaus that serve the US.  Scores range from 300 (poor) to 850 (best).  Generally any score above 650 shows reasonable risk and indicates that the tenant will make regular rent payments. Scores below that level will put you on notice that you need to get more security deposit and or first and last month’s rent.

The report should be checked for a history of bankruptcy.  The report will also show payment history for any credit accounts where regular payments are expected.  Check for payments to credit cards or revolving credit accounts with merchants. If they are showing green or on time that shows that the applciant pays their obligations regularly. That will give you an idea of how this prospective tenant views payment obligations such as rent.

Personal injury claims and civil lawsuits are reported on some types of reports.  If the prospective tenant is local to your area, you can also check that history at your county courthouse. While you are at it, do verify employment and the amount of pay claimed on the application. If there is a previous landlord, call and check the tenant history.  Ask specific questions to be sure that you are not calling a friend of the prospective tenant and not the real landlord.  Previous landlords can be your best source of information when deciding to turn over your valuable property.

Eviction data is currently not very reliable. Even if the report says that no evictions have happened, it may not reflect the unknown data.  If the tenant was served with papers and moved before the eviction date, this information is not reported by the courts because the case was never heard.  Many jurisdictions do not report eviction data to the general public.  Credit and data bureaus are working hard to change this data void but it may take years to get a reliable eviction report.  You can check for evictions in the county in which you own property however in court records.

If you have ordered a report that gives you criminal history, be sure that it shows Felony, Sexual Predator and Homeland Security scans. If not, change your source of reporting. This information has become especially important in the past several years. I also recommend that the report inherently verifies Identity and Social Security number. (Yes, there have been reports of people using someone else’s social security number because they have bad credit.)

Your Application Fee should help you cover the cost of the tenant screening.  Typical Application Fees normally range from $30 to $70 and are payable when the application is submitted. In California there is a new law requiring you to show the tenant your charge for tenant screening.  (read this law).  This fee is to cover the cost of your time and screening and risk management for your properties.

If you decide not to rent to a person because of low credit scores or information you have received when doing your due diligence, you are required by law to provide that person with the name and address of the credit bureau or agency that reported  the negative information and or the reason for denial.  You must also inform this person that he has a right to obtain a copy of the credit report from that agency by contacting that agency within 60 days of being told that the application was rejected based on the individual’s credit report. (see article) Those forms are built into the library at Smart Property Systems and can be embedded with esign for your protection.

Tenant Screening well done can help you create a quality tenant mix for your properties.  You will have tenants who pay rent on time, care for the property and get along with neighbors. It is a necessary part of the tenanting process.

By: Timmi Ryerson, CEO
Smart Property Systems
smartpropertysystems.com

A Discussion About Rent Collection

rent due

Managing a property is task rich, many of which are repetitive. The more properties you manage, the more repetitive the tasks. Rent collection has historically posed the biggest point of pain for most owner/managers. Statistics show that over 80% of people who collect rents are still collecting rent in person, by drop box on the door, or by mail. Rent payments are received in many forms; checks, cashiers checks, money orders, and sometimes even cash. Often these payments are collected without unit or account numbers attached. So the rent collector has to look for the account, post the payment, sign or stamp the back of the document if it is a check, prepare a deposit slip and a receipt which is given to or sent to the tenant. And then there is the required trip to the bank to make the deposit.

Many landlords and property managers do not send their tenants monthly invoices. This actually can lead to a decrease in timely payments while making you look less professional. Tenants, like most other people, sometimes forget about bills without regular reminders, even if it is as important as rent.

The real problem with collecting rents by hand is that landlords and property managers are left at the mercy of their tenants. Renters who do not regularly pay rent on time have a vast array of excuses to offer as a mercy play to the landlord or manager. Some of the common ones are:

“I mailed it last week. Its not my fault if it got lost in the mail.”
Or, “Did you pick up your mail yet; it should be there.”
Another common one is “I gave it to my husband. Didn’t he deliver it?”
Or “I dropped it in the box already. Its not my fault if you lost it.”

One tenant responded when asked for a late rent payment, “I paid rent last month, why are you asking me again?”
Most times in my experience, if the rent was not left on the door on rent collection day, no one ever answered that door so there was no way to have a direct confrontation. I had to call and return again, this time with a 3 day pay or vacate notice in hand.
I am sure you have some real doozies of stories to relate yourself, if you are a property manager. Leave some of your better ones in the comment section below. We are sort of aficionado-collectors of good rent collection excuses.

These are just some of the reasons that automated rent collection is the future for property management. Here is one you may not have thought of.  Recently one of my tenants became very ill and was hospitalized.  She was single and had her own accounts to which no one else had access. She went from being comatose to a rehab facility, over a three month period of time. She was able to have nursing staff pay her rent for her by logging onto her account and making the payment. Happily she has returned to good health and was able to go back to her rental.  When you agree to automate your rent collection, you will leave behind all of the excuses, the travel, the uncertainty, the hand work and you put the automated system in between you and your tenants.

To use automated rent collection on Smart Property Systems, you will first need a merchant account. There is an application to fill out and some supporting documents to provide. It takes about 3 days for approval after all documents have been provided.

Once you are approved and your software is turned on for rent collection (that takes about 5 seconds) your tenants can choose to pay via ACH, from their checking account, Credit Card or by phone. It takes them only a minute for a tenant to make a payment and there is always a receipt or confirmation number provided in the automated sequence. (One more job you no longer have to do).

When you use automated rent collection you will not get any more excuses about where the rent is. It is either paid or not. There is no argument. Late fees are automatically attached to the tenant’s bill on the day rent is late and a late notice is sent for you. If the rent is three days late, a three day pay or vacate notice can be sent using custom notices section of the built in library. It has been the experience for subscribers who use automated payments that they are collecting their rents regularly with 97% on time payments. In some cases it takes a few months for the tenants to learn that if they do not pay on time or miss a payment that they have nowhere to turn with their arguments. The software does not lie. Once that is learned, your rents will flow in on time with no issues and you will be free to look for more business or go play golf. I used to tell my tenants that the most important payment they make every month is the rent payment. That truth is reinforced in spades with automated rent collection.

Remember that your tenants can pay automated rent collection payments via ACH from their checking account, Credit Card or by phone. Checks can also be sent to a lock box for processing, but they must be on time to avoid late fees; and the cost is a bit higher because of the handling fees. Many section 8 tenants do not have credit cards or checking accounts and this lock box system allows their rent to be automated as well. It takes a tenant only a minute to make a payment and as was mentioned earlier there is always a receipt or confirmation number provided. SPS also allows your tenant to set up automatic recurring payments for the term of the lease.

So now consider this. When you automate rent payments, your tenant will not need to have any interaction with you regarding rent payments. They can make rent payments whether or not they have a computer. All tasks required of the rent management process are automated. That means the accounting is done for you as well. As the rent is collected and sent for processing you are notified of the payment and the accounting is done for you in the software. It is added to the ledger, the rent roll, the statement (for next month’s credit information) the lease and the tenant portal accounting record. So after your golf game, you can go out to a fine meal and relax, knowing that your rents are coming in on time and all is well with the accounting for those rents..

Oh and did I mention that the processing takes 3 business days so be sure to set the day for rent being due 3 business days before you want it in your account. Yes it is deposited directly into your bank account of record. One last reason that you want to automate your rent collection….Allowing your tenants to pay online or with the phone makes your business look  professional. Your tenants will respect that.

Tenant Screening May Be Your Most Important Task

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Renting your properties can involve a variety of different tasks in order to make your investment pay off. It is most likely that none of those tasks is more important than simply taking the time to do screening of potential tenants.

Not performing such duties means that the landlord runs the risk of renting his valuable investment property to someone who will not pay the rent or care for the property. Tenant mix is a daunting task with so many people looking for good housing. Horror stories from landlords who found out they were renting their unit to either a terrorist or sex offender, or someone running a meth lab with additional criminal history, shine a blinding light on the need for tenant screening.

How it is Done

Tenant Screening is done through a credit bureau. The credit bureau aggregates credit and criminal history stored as events for every social security numbered person in the United States. A good tenant screening report will give you a fico credit score, credit history, a recommendation regarding renting to this prospect, felony criminal report by state, screen for sexual predator history, homeland security registry, verify identity and social security number.

Be sure to get an application from and do a tenant screening report for every person who will occupy your property over the age of 18. Also have them list any children who are expected to inhabit the unit. That way you will know who should be present during the lease period and who should not. Guests usually have a one or two week stay privilege. Enforce that term to prevent having more people living in a unit than the unit can support.

In the Past

15 years ago,  tenant screening was a hit-or-miss process, since the average landlord didn’t have access to credit and criminal histories, or obtaining it was prohibitively time-consuming and expensive. With the advent of the internet, many of those barriers fell, as companies like Smart Property Systems came online to offer built in tenant screening at a reasonable fee for you to access.  https://smartpropertysystems.com

More to this Job than Screening Reports

After getting the screening report, there other are ways to to get an idea of whether your candidate is qualified tenant material for your valuable property. The adage about “first impressions making a huge impact” can be your best ally. Pay attention to appearance. If the prospective tenant arrives looking unkempt or they pay little attention to grooming when you first meet them, the possibility of having someone who will not care for your property rises exponentially. If they casually use foul language or act rudely or appear arrogant during the initial meeting, it might a strong sign that they will have issues with neighbors, and you as a landlord, once they have moved in. I always made a point of walking a prospective tenant to their car to see what condition it was in. If is was full of junk and old food etc. it was never a good sign.

Asking the potential renter to list previous places they have lived as well as current and previous employers, all with contact numbers is highly recommended. Then call those references. Ask them to identify the address and specific information that only they could know to be sure that you have the person you intended to reach. When a tenant knows his past is sketchy he may give you false references, friends of his who will espouse his virtues. This kind of investigation, even though it takes a few minutes, can offer a more objective window into the candidate’s character. You may find out that the person fell behind on his rent and was forced to leave a previous residence. One rule of thumb in tenant screening is that any previous evictions which are discovered in your due diligence search, will result in potential elimination of that prospective tenant as a candidate. If you are willing to take a risk, however, balance your chances of success by getting first and last month’s rent plus a good deposit. If the candidate does not have the funds enough to move in, then go to the next candidate.

As you do your due diligence, you might find out that a prospect has misrepresented their monthly income, hoping that you wouldn’t find out that they’ll have problems paying the full rent. Also, you can find out if their job is considered a steady one. If it’s one of the seasonal variety, you might run into problems during their slack periods. You will also be able to determine if they have a tendency to jump from job to job. Job jumpers may be more likely to be lease jumpers as well. Lease jumpers is a whole different topic which we will cover in a different blog article.

Being able to run a credit check on a candidate can give you clarity about their payment history for other than rent payment types. Credit history should be a main qualifier when you are deciding which candidate to accept.

Do You Allow Smoking?

Also, the issue of smoking can be addressed with a candidate, since more costs are usually incurred by the landlord during and after a tenant who is a smoker or allows smokers into the property, vacates the unit. It is very hard to get the smoke smell out of carpets and draperies, as well as off the walls. Make your smoking rules very clear and have terminology in your lease agreement regarding penalties for smoking by tenants and their guests inside the unit. If you have a no smoking environment be upfront about it when the person applies. It is hard not to allow a smoker housing as it is considered discriminatory. Make your rules plainly known before signing the lease to protect yourself against increased costs at turnover.

What About Pets?

Do you allow pets? This is one of the biggest issues for landlords and property managers today.

Pet owners should register their pets with you at the time of application for rent. You get to decide what breeds and species you will and will not allow. Pet owners are not always the best pet trainers. Some of the pitfalls of allowing pets are barking dogs, garbage dogs, pet owners not cleaning up when walking the dog, dogs who damage the property, dogs who attack non family members. There are cats who spray the walls in your unit, tear up the carpet with claws, damage the window coverings and howl at night. I will not cover birds, snakes, reptiles or aquariums in this blog. But know that each has associated hazards.

The current mainstream thought among landlords and property managers is that allowing pets is more than a pain for management. However, most are pet friendly due to pressure from renters and candidates to rent. Whereas you cannot screen for good pet ownership, you can provide strict guidelines for the privilege of keeping a pet. Be sure that they are clear, and then enforce them. Getting  a hefty pet fee (which is non refundable) and pet deposit (which is refundable) is another way to help control the situation created by pets in a unit. Remember that it will be you with the pooper scooper when your tenants deny responsibility for negligence.

The Decision

The screening process is usually understood by prospective tenants to be a guide by which they will be judged suitable or not for a particular property. It is important to remain business-like in your decision making process. You may even have a “reasons for rejection” list created to give to the prospective tenant before you screen their application details. By using the same process with each candidate, you can clearly show how you were able to come to your conclusion if you decide to reject the candidate(s). Remember that it is illegal to discriminate based on race or creed. It is also recommended that you never give the screening reports to your candidate. They are meant for you in confidence.  Most tenant screening reports are returned to you within minutes of the tenant’s submitting the online screening request.  You can usually have your decision made with in hours of accepting an application.  Make your decision and stick to it.

Tenant screening is a necessary part of risk management in the rental process. However, it serves as an invaluable litmus test for a landlord. In the long run, tenant screening will save you time and money and reduce your stress levels, as you build a quality tenant base for your valuable investment properties. Good tenants beget more good tenants through word of mouth.

Tenant Screening is a great ally for every real estate investor and property manager.