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Which is better a lease or a rental agreement?

lease or a rental agreement

Lease or Rental Agreement?

Lease and rental agreements differ primarily in terms of time commitment. In a lease, a tenant is obligated to fixed obligations for a longer time period. Rental agreements are more flexible and operate on shorter time scales. Some tenants prefer that flexibility, as do landlords that look forward to increasing rent revenues relatively quickly. The flip side to more lucrative rental agreements is that competitors and market conditions can’t guarantee that a landlord will find suitable tenants every time a rental agreement expires. An overzealous landlord may end up pricing his properties out of the market, thereby being forced to deal with property costs without compensating rent revenues.

Leases
Leases are typically a longer-term version of rental agreements. Leases oblige a tenant for 12 months of fixed-amount payments and associated rights and responsibilities. From a landlord’s perspective, leases are better when the housing/rental market is harsh and it is beneficial to secure a tenant for a longer stretch at a time. Unless specified in the lease agreement, leases lock in payments for the 12 months, meaning landlords can’t raise rents or other costs for the duration of the lease. This eases pressure off tenants who may be wary of rapidly-increasing costs.

Since leases open up landlord property to one tenant for a longer time period, tenant screening is more important with leases. A quality tenant can translate into reliable, long-term income for the landlord. Conversely, poorly executed tenant screening can result in the landlord incurring costs and perhaps legal troubles far in excess of rental revenues.

Rental Agreements
Rental agreements are typically monthly contracts. When renewing rental agreements, terms such as rent amount may be changed. Landlords can lean towards offering rental agreements as opposed to lease agreements when market conditions allow increased rents without substantially alienating tenants. Tenant screening with regard to rental agreements does not have quite the urgency as it does with lease agreements. This is because unpleasant tenants are less likely to stay long-term.

Whichever option you choose remember to always put your agreement in writing.  As time passes you and your tenant will always have a document to reference in regards to rules, subletting, term of the lease and payment amounts.  As a landlord you will also need to check your local laws referencing Fair Housing, terminating an agreement, rent control, and security deposits.

 

Don’t Buy a Cheap Credit Score

Don't Buy Cheap Credit Scores

Don’t Buy Cheap Credit Scores

As a landlord or property manager, you may be focused on keeping your expenses as low as possible, and you may understandably jump at the chance to save money on tenant screening services. A key aspect of tenant screening involves pulling a credit report so that you can review the FICO score and so that you can see the potential tenant’s actual expenses. By doing so, you are checking on the creditworthiness of the potential tenant as well as his or her ability to pay the rent and all other monthly obligations. However, when you buy a cheap score, you may actually not be looking at the FICO number at all.

Not All Credit Reports Are the Same
The unfortunate reality is that not all credit reports that landlords can purchase are the same. Some credit reporting companies are attempting to sell you the “educational score” rather than the actual FICO score. The educational score is derived off of different data than the FICO number is derirved from, and it is the FICO number that lenders and others will use when making a credit decision. With this in mind, you can see that you need to be looking at a FICO number rather than an educational number.

What Is a FICO Score?
FICO is an acronym for the Fair Isaac Corporation, the creators of the FICO score. There are three main credit bureaus, and these are Transunion, Equifax and Experian. Keep in mind that credit card companies, mortgage companies and others are not required to report information to all three bureaus, and some may only report information about a consumer to one or two bureaus. This partly explains why each of the three bureaus may have different scores for the same individual. In fact, the three bureaus rarely have the same information or the same score for an individual. If you are only getting one of the educational scores, you are not getting the full picture of the individual’s creditworthiness. Remember that a FICO number will always say FICO next to it while others may only indicate a credit score rating or a rating from one of the three bureaus.

Tenant screening is an important part of your job as a landlord or property manager, but you need accurate, up-to-date and comprehensive information in order to make the most informed decision possible about your potential tenants. Take time to verify that the credit reporting agency you are using to purchase your reports from will provide you with the actual FICO number and not an educational score.

 

What To Do if You Believe Your Tenants Are Subleasing

What To Do if You Believe Your Tenants Are Subleasing

What To Do if You Believe Your Tenants Are Subleasing

Find out whether your fears are merited. The easiest way to do this is simply to ask your tenants or someone who works in the building, like a doorman or maintenance worker. You can check websites like Airbnb by searching for apartments like your tenants’. Do not input price or date parameters. Look at the map of apartments to see if the apartment in question is listed.

Know the laws of your state and city. Subleasing and subleasing via Airbnb are treated differently under the law. Most states and municipalities have laws protecting tenants who choose to sublet. Some have carve-outs for short-term rentals like those through Airbnb. However, most of these carve-outs are related to duration and frequency of sublets. If you don’t know the details of your tenants’ activities it’s nearly impossible to determine if their actions would be protected. Knowing the laws of your area is crucial, because taking action in contravention of those laws could create serious legal problems later on.

Re-read your lease. If the lease agreement says tenants can sublet as they please, there is nothing you can do, unless short-term subletting is illegal in your area. In most areas, it is not illegal. Though a lease that is more restrictive than the law is unenforceable, a lease that is more lenient than the law will control.

Consider your remedies. Tenant eviction is an option, but should always be a last resort. It’s messy, expensive, and usually not allowed. Tenant eviction that is groundless or unmerited will lead to serious financial and legal ramifications. Generally, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Tenant screening can weed out financially unstable candidates who are more likely to sublet. Tenant screening can also alert you to any legal actions previously taken against your prospective tenants, some of which could be for illegal subletting.

Despite your fears about tenants having short-term subletters, it’s also important to remember that subleasing means rent for you. It’s better to have tenants sublease occasionally and pay their rent than default on their rent and disappear with your money.

An Overview of the Fair Housing Laws

Fair Housing Laws

Fair Housing Laws

An important part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, the Fair Housing Act was set worth to protect any person intending to buy or rent a home, apartment or other living space from discrimination on the part of the person selling or renting said space. This means that when a landlord or property seller is conducting a tenant screening, it is not legal for that person to discriminate against the potential tenant or buyer on the basis of their race, the color of their skin, the religion they practice, the country from which they originate, their age, handicaps, disabilities, gender or the status of their family. In the case of family status, this means that a renter or buyer who is a pregnant woman or who has children who have not yet reached age 18 may not be discriminated against. For the purpose of this act and other civil rights acts, these groups are referred to as protected categories.

In practice, the Fair Housing Act means a number of things for someone renting or selling a property. Nowhere in their advertisement or in any statement may they indicate that they have any level of discrimination against any type of protected category in regards to their function as a landlord or seller. They are not legally allowed to lie and say that no rentals are available if they are, in fact, available. Their tenant screening process must not include any discrimination against protected categories, and they may not legally refuse to rent to anyone based on any protected status. In addition, they may not require tenants to pay larger security deposits or face any terms or conditions that are not faced equally by all other renters to whom that individual acts as a landlord. Finally, they may not evict a person or family or terminate their lease due to their inclusion within a protected category.

The Fair Housing Act was created in response to discriminatory housing practices that many people faced in the United States prior to 1968, with individuals largely being discriminated against on the basis of race and religion. Today, the act continues to ensure that people in America have equal civil rights when it comes to buying or renting a living space.

Airbnb: How to prevent your tenants from subleasing

Airbnb

How to prevent your tenants from subleasing

When you rent out your property to a tenant, you expect that he or she will treat it with care. While you expect some level of wear and tear to occur, those costs are generally accounted for in the rent that you charge. What you don’t expect is for your tenants to sublease your property through services such as Airbnb. What can you do to prevent this from happening?

Explain Your Rental Policies Thoroughly

The last thing that you want is for a tenant to claim that he or she didn’t know or wasn’t aware that subleasing was wrong or illegal. You also don’t want your tenant to claim that there was nothing in the lease forbidding the practice. Therefore, you will want to walk whoever is renting your property through the lease agreement to ensure that he or she knows what is expected. This will make it clear that subletting the property without permission could lead to eviction.

Screen Your Applicants Thoroughly

Before you rent your property, you should conduct a tenant screening process that will weed out those who may have a checkered history when it comes to paying their rent. Tenant checks will also verify how many people are supposed to be living in the home or apartment. While you can’t tell your tenants not to have anyone over, you may be within your rights to start the eviction process if there are crowds of people not on the lease or otherwise authorized to occupy the rental.

Do Random Checks of the Property

While you can’t just walk in on your tenants, you can ask to stop by and check the property with 24 hours notice. If your apartment or home is being leased to another person without permission, this could catch your tenant off guard. Either this person will admit to subleasing your property or you will be able to gather direct evidence of subleasing when you conduct your visit.

Check for Listings on Airbnb

An easy way to find out if your property is being subleased is to look for listings on Airbnb and other sites. If you see that your property is being rented out without your permission, you can contact the tenant and put a stop to the activity. While this may not prevent your tenants from trying to sublease, it gives you a chance to stop such activity quickly.

Before renting your property, make sure to do tenant checks and a thorough tenant screening process. Credit checks, reference checks and asking for proof of employment will often help you find tenants who will treat your property well as opposed to those who will try to make money off of you.

 

Who fixes what? Landlord and Tenant Responsibilities

Who fixes what? Landlord Responsibilities

Who fixes what? Landlord or Tenant

One of the advantages of renting an apartment or house rather than owning your own property is that your landlord takes care of much of the maintenance. However, there are some things that tenants generally are responsible for, so it’s a good idea to read your lease and be clear on what the landlord responsibilities are and what your renter responsibilities are.

General maintenance and minor repairs
Tenants are responsible for keeping the rental unit in good shape and for using fixtures and appliances as they are intended. Tenants also are expected to take care of minor maintenance and repair items on their own, such as plunging clogged toilets or changing burned out light bulbs. However, issues that are beyond a tenant’s control, such as an appliance wearing out from normal use, are a landlord’s responsibility. A landlord typically would be liable for making small repairs, such as fixing a dripping faucet or a running toilet, but in many states, no law compels a landlord to make any repairs that do not endanger a renter’s health or safety

Major repairs
For any vital item in the rental that needs fixed or replaced, it is the landlord’s responsibility to do so in a timely manner. This includes appliances, lighting and electrical outlets that don’t work, plumbing issues and issues of safety, such as broken windows or door locks that don’t work. While it is the landlord’s responsibility to make sure the item is fixed, if the tenant is responsible for the damage, then the tenant can and likely will be billed for the repairs. A landlord can delegate repairs to a tenant, requiring the tenant to pay if it is among renter responsibilities or deducting the amount from rent if it is among landlord responsibilities.

Time Frame
If you have a serious issue that needs attention, the landlord generally needs to make the repair within 24 hours. For such repairs, you should notify the landlord directly either in person or by phone and in writing. For minor repairs, you should notify the landlord in writing and give a reasonable time for the repair to be made, at least a week. If the landlord does not make the repair, check to see if your city has a “repair and deduct” law that allows you to make the repair yourself and deduct it from your rent. Make sure to document everything in writing. If your landlord does not make timely repairs, report the issue to the local health department or city code department.

 

How to Screen a Potential Landlord

How to Screen a Potential Landlord

How to Screen a Potential Landlord

Landlords always screen potential tenants. They often require things such as references, pay stubs and a social security number for running background checks. With that said, why can’t you check your landlord?

Landlord screening can and should be performed on all potential landlords because a bad landlord makes for a terrible living situation. Peace of mind is worth a little research. There are many ways you can check your landlord before signing that lease.

Background Check
Public records checks become your new best friend when landlord screening. Whether your landlord is an individual or corporation, you can research things such as the bankruptcy, criminal records, liens on their properties, lawsuits or past foreclosures. Any of these create potential red flags against a potential landlord.

Check with the Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau is a nonprofit organization that allows consumers to submit complaints about businesses. The Better Business Bureau also assigns A – F ratings for businesses. You can check your landlord on the Better Business Bureau for any complaints as well as their rating.

Talk to Current Tenants
After checking out an apartment or house to rent, check with other tenants in the building or potential neighbors. These individuals provide a wealth of knowledge on the potential landlord. Ask questions about how long it takes to get things fixed or how often rent increases. If the landlord’s tenants seem disgruntled, this indicates serious red flags for renting from this individual or company.

Check for Damage
When you tour your potential new home, keep a vigilante eye for problems. Look for things outside of normal wear and tear such as evidence of pests, mold or rotting around the doors and windows. Remember, any signs of disrepair should be a red flag.

Check Local Internet Forums
Check local forums for people complaining about your potential landlord. Many times these forums are a great source for learning about the rental market in your area. A bad landlord gains a bad reputation, and someone will eventually complain about them.

Do not rush into signing a lease before doing due diligence on your potential landlord. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to finding a nice home with a great landlord.

7 Tips on How to Rent Your House

7 Tips on How to Rent Your House

7 Tips on How to Rent Your House

After weighing the pros and cons of selling your home or renting it out, you may have decided that renting is the most profitable solution in your situation. If that’s the case, these tips can offer some great suggestions for getting started and what you should consider before renting.

Preparing the Property

Home Inspection

Inspect the home for repair and safety issues. Check for plumbing leaks, the condition of the roof, clogged gutters and driveway safety concerns.

Cleaning

Clean the home from top to bottom. Mop floors, shampoo carpeting, clean windows and window treatments.

Repairs

Make needed repairs throughout the home and replace faulty appliances. Repaint the interior, so the home looks well cared for and is ready for renters.

Management Decisions

You’ll need to decide whether you have the time and energy to manage your rental yourself or whether you prefer to hire property management services.

Property management companies are usually responsible for screening tenants, collecting rent, making repairs and dealing with evictions. Services of this type may run anywhere from 4 percent to 12 percent of monthly rental charges.

Professional Resources

Keep a list of names and numbers for contractors, plumbers and handymen in the event of problems or emergencies.

Legal Considerations

• Contact the city and state departments to learn about the requirements for rentals in your city. Some cities may require rental property inspections and licensing.

• Always draw up a written lease to protect your rights as well as tenants.

• Learn how evictions are handled according to your state’s termination statutes.

• Notify your mortgage company that you’re renting your home. Some banks may have specific landlord requirements that must be met.

• Let your insurance agency know that the home is now a rental, and make the necessary coverage changes to landlord insurance.

• Become familiar with landlord-tenant laws in your state, especially when drafting a lease.

Tenant Verification Screening

Screening tenants may be a lengthy process, but the benefits of finding qualified renters out way troublesome renters, skipped rent payments and broken leases.

The Lease

Make sure potential renters view a copy of the lease with the terms for monthly payments, deposits and the length of the contract before applying. This can save time and eliminate potential renters who wouldn’t qualify or can’t afford the rent.

Rental Application

Have potential renters fill out a copy of your rental application with their full name, Social Security number, current address, date of birth, income, employment history, rental history and a few personal references.

Credit Check on the Tenant Applicant

After verifying the information on the rental application checks out okay, you should run a credit check on the tenant. Contact one or more of the main credit bureaus to request a copy of the applicant’s credit history. Review the history to determine if the applicant pays their bills on time or has a poor credit history.

Background Check

As part of the tenant verification screening process, if you have doubts about the applicant, you might want to consider paying for a criminal background check on a prospective tenant.

Determining Rental Charges

Use the Internet and classifieds to compare what other similar rental properties in the area are charging. Make sure you take into account your monthly mortgage amount, taxes, insurance and property maintenance costs to get a realistic amount.

Advertising for Tenants

Advertise the rental in the local newspaper, and place rental signs in the yard. Utilize Internet classifieds to advertise and make sure you highlight the best features of the home, rent and location.

Before renting your home, tend to all the legal considerations, and take the time to screen potential renters carefully.

 

Should You Rent or Buy a Home

rent or buy

Should you Rent a Home or Buy a Home

At some point, events in your life may dictate that you move into a larger space. Whether you need more room for a growing family or because you want a proper office to run your business from, moving into a home may best meet your needs. If you do move into a home, is it better to buy or rent that property?

Reasons to Rent a Home

Renting a home is a lot like leasing a car. You make monthly payments for the right to use the space much like you would if you own it. Once the lease period ends, you are free to seek out other housing options or renew the lease if your landlord allows it. Renting is ideal for those who may only be in the area for a year or two on business or who plan on buying a home of their own in the short-term.

By renting a home, you don’t have to worry about any of the maintenance. If the toilet leaks or the water heater goes out, the landlord is responsible for fixing that issue. The landlord may also be responsible for paying someone to mow your lawn or remove snow from the driveway. For those who are not handy or have a disability of any kind, having someone else take care of the maintenance may be the best reason to rent as opposed to buying.

Renting is also ideal if you don’t qualify for a mortgage or can’t get a loan to live in a preferred area. When you rent, you can send your kids to a better school district or live in a nicer property than you may be able to if you buy. It is important to keep in mind that you will have to go through a tenant screening process prior to renting to ensure that you will pay your rent and use the property in an appropriate manner.

Reasons to Buy a Home

When you buy a home, you are responsible for all the maintenance and upkeep. This means that you mow the lawn or shovel the driveway or pay someone to do it for you. You are also on the hook if the toilet fails or the roof needs to be replaced. However, there are many benefits to buying a house.

Each payment that you make helps you build equity in your property in two ways. First, the loan balance goes down every month when you pay your lender. Second, the home will appreciate in value over time, which means it will be worth more when you sell compared to what it was worth when you bought it. When you are ready to sell, this equity can be used to upgrade your current house or as a down payment for your next home.

As long as you do your due diligence during the tenant screening process, you could rent your home or a portion of your home to a tenant. Buying a duplex or turning your basement into a rental suite could allow you to offset some or all of your mortgage while living in the house full-time. Paying down your mortgage faster may allow you to buy more properties that can help generate a consistent revenue stream for yourself both now an in the future.

Whether you decide to rent or buy a home depends on your unique circumstances. If you aren’t ready to commit to a property or to a specific area, you should rent. If you are ready to put down roots and build wealth, buying is the way to go.

 

The Best Ways for Landlords to Use Their Tax Refund

The Best Ways for Landlords to Use Their Tax Refund

The Best Ways for Landlords to Use Their Tax Refund

Tax time can be a stressful time of year, but it can be nice if you receive a refund. For landlords it’s important not to let your refund go to waste. Landlords, especially, should take advantage of the lump sum to invest in certain things that will ensure their income properties continue to bring in value. By taking your refund and investing in your own rental properties, you can make your money work for you in the most profitable way possible. We’ve outlined a few specific areas you can use your refund that will improve your overall earning potential.

Repairs

Fixing something might be the most common problem a landlord could have to deal with, and having money on hand to make those repairs is nice. The best thing to do is make repairs before they cause damage and become more expensive. You’ll typically spend less money fixing something that is only partially broken or malfunctioning.

Renovations

If you have renters in a home that needs renovation, they will most certainly appreciate it when you give their rental home the upgrades and expansion it needs. This can be as simple as replacing a wall or major appliance, or it could include the addition of an entirely new room in the home. Renovations will directly increase the value of a home as well, meaning landlords can charge more per month when the house goes on the rental market again.

Upgrades

With the way modern technology advances, new equipment could be purchased nearly every year, although that’s quite unnecessary. However, upgrading the stove, dishwasher, refrigerator, AC unit, water heater, or any number of major household appliances will not only prevent the need for expensive maintenance on an old unit, but it will most likely save energy compared to the outdated tech in the older machine. Not only are upgrades economically smart, but they increase the appeal for potential tenants.

Adding New Technology

Perhaps you own rental properties that are older and can use a technology upgrade. Older homes may not have a programmable thermostat, energy efficient appliances, keyless entry, and other home automation systems. Adding new technology to your rental properties will make them safer, more valuable, and easier to rent.

Extra Loan Payments

If you happen to be lucky enough that your property doesn’t need any upgrades or repairs, you might consider making an additional payment on the mortgage. Landlords who make early payments cut down on interest.

Emergency Preparedness

Even with the most comprehensive insurance imaginable, you’ll probably end up having an emergency situation at some point. Perhaps you’ll come across an issue that isn’t covered by insurance, or you’ll go longer than you’d like without a tenant in certain properties. Having a small emergency fund can help landlords drastically protect their finances during the drought periods, and a tax refund is an excellent base fund for such emergencies.

Landscaping

Taking care of the landscaping is paramount to keeping curb appeal high. If you use some of your tax refund to revamp the exterior of your rental properties, you’ll most likely see a sharp increase in interest from potential tenants.

If you are smart enough to reinvest your tax refund in your own property, it really doesn’t matter where you focus the money.