Will Swag Bring You Better Tenants?

Competition for college-student tenants is so fierce in some communities that landlords and property managers have perfected the practice of offering “lease swag,” or perquisites for students who sign rental leases.

From offers of a free month's rent, to gifts like flat-screen TVs, to free shuttle rides to campus, swag is limited only by a landlord's creativity. A landlord in one small Pennsylvania town that hosts a state university offers Beats wireless headphones – worth $500 – to all students who sign a lease agreement 18 months in advance of moving in.

How Many Applicants Will Your Rental Get & How Do you Choose the Most Qualified?

The perfect tenant rarely just appears on your doorstep the day you're ready to start leasing your rental property. Typically, it takes some work to find the right person, or people. But, there are established steps that can smooth the process and remove some of the mystery involved in sussing out a good applicant.

Applicants will find your rental through word of mouth, an open house, or an ad or online listing. Have a process ready for gathering their contact information. Dated sign-in sheets requesting a name, email address and phone number are perfect for an open house. It's also a good idea to start a file, and then make an entry with a date, name, email address and number each time a potential tenant calls.

Should I Call My Tenant’s Previous Landlords?

Applicants for your rental property completed their forms, agreed to a background checked and showed you recent pay stubs to verify their income. You've met with them and have a good feeling in your gut. It's decision time, right?

Well, not quite.

You have a few more questions to ask before you should sign a lease with these applicants. But the answers are only a phone call away. Obtain your applicant's permission, and then reach out to current and former landlords and interview them.

These people have, or had, a relationship with your applicant. Ask if the tenant pays or paid rent on time. Ask if they took care of the unit during their time there. Ask whether neighbors ever complained about the tenant.

Landlord Recalls ‘Newbie’ Days & Shares His Top Tips

Kevin Williams* picked up the phone and heard his rattled tenant say that there were flies in his apartment. Kevin said he'd be there soon. He swung by the hardware store for some bug spray and met his tenant at the unit.

Kevin could have rolled his eyes and told his tenant to calm down. He could have told the tenant to buy some insect repellant and send a receipt with his next rent check. But he didn't. Instead, Kevin did what he's done since he bought his first investment property in Illinois nearly 30 years ago.

Technology Resources for Landlords Offer Security, Savings and Convenience

Technology has cut overhead and shifted record-keeping from piles of paper to management software, lease form automation and cloud-based storage. Understanding and making the most of these new tools will allow you to delegate some of the many tasks on your landlord to-do list.

Email is the new social security number

One hugely convenient technology improvement is the ability to scrutinize tenant applicants entirely online. Landlords no longer have to hand out paper forms and then ask for sensitive applicant information, such as social security numbers, in order to delve into a potential tenant's background; and they don't have to collect an application fee to cover the cost of a background check.

Instead, the landlord can submit an applicant's name and address to a screening service, indicate that the applicant will pay the fee, and leave the identity verification to the experts.

Is It Okay to Let His Girlfriend Move In?

A landlord posted this question in our Forum recently and since it's one that comes up fairly often, we're turning it into a little quiz to see how well you know your way around property management.

The landlord's lease with his tenant – we'll call him Mr. Nice Tenant – is up for renewal. Mr. Tenant has been in the unit for a year, never causes problems, pays his rent one full year in advance, and wants to know if it's okay to have his girlfriend move in with him. If you were the landlord, what would you say to Mr. Tenant?

A. Absolutely. It's my way of thanking you for being a great tenant.

B. No, I don't want to mess up a good arrangement.

C. Yes, but I'll have to raise the rent and your girlfriend will need to sign the new lease.

Should I Invest in the Rental Business?

You've heard it before: Property is wealth. But is it? You're thinking of becoming an investor in rental properties but wondering if it's right for you. Why not check out the research that savvy investors have already done and find out once and for all if it makes fiscal sense to get into rentals?

You can tap traditional sources for information. Books such as Dolf de Roos' New York Times bestseller, “Real Estate Riches: How to Become Rich Using Your Banker's Money,” are a great place to start. But don't discount online sources like real estate advisers and property management bloggers who share their success and failures through entertaining columns.

Skipping a Background Check on Your Tenant? You Can’t Afford It!

How many times have you filled in application forms without a thought to all the probing questions you're answering? You hand over all your credit information at the bank, your doctor gets all your health data, and don't get us started on the details you divulge when you adopt a rescue pet.

So, why is that some landlords cringe at the thought of asking rental candidates for information that will help determine whether they might be good tenants?

Screening a tenant applicant has never been easier, and it may cost less than you expect! The cost to run a background check is about 3 percent of one average monthly rent payment, whereas the price tag for skipping that check can be in the thousands of dollars.

Reinvention: Turn Your Sleepy Commercial Space into a Hot Commodity

If you’ve been trying in vain to lease out your commercial property the past few years, you may have wondered if your invitation to the rental party somehow got lost in the mail. After all, the residential rental market has been gaining like gangbusters. The commercial leasing market? Not so much.

The good news is that commercial landlords are finally being let in on festivities. Bolstered by a slowly strengthening economy, occupancy rates for commercial properties are on the rise. But before you pop a cork, dust off your thinking cap, because the commercial leasing market is still a renter's market and landlords need a creative approach to maximized profits.

Increasing Momentum

Some of the factors that have produced more renters and boosted residential demand – higher employee turnover, underemployment, inconsistent growth in hiring – are the same ones that have stunted growth in the commercial rental market. As the U.S. economic recovery continues and businesses grow,

More Landlords Charged with Discrimination Against Families: Avoid Being Next

Earlier this month, HUD announced another discrimination case against a landlord. Think it could never happen to you? Don't be so sure. The landlord was merely trying to place a new renter with young children somewhere other than directly above an older tenant who doesn't like noise.

While most folks agree that children – especially their own – are darling, not everyone wants to live next to them.

Keeping those in the latter camp happy in multi-unit properties typically means confronting complaints about little ones who may be noisy and whose families may seem to add chaos to an otherwise quiet atmosphere.

Then there's the issue of liability in case a youngster is hurt on a rental property. After all, kids are prone to using stairways, railings, fences and curbs as convenient playgrounds.

And what about the risk of parents suing because their toddlers managed to find and gulp down old paint chips? Lead paint lawsuits are common in older buildings, and encasing lead paint is harder than it sounds.