Tenant Screening

Landlords, Tenants and the Coronavirus

Landlords, Tenants and the Coronavirus

What can Landlords and Property Managers do during the Coronavirus to help tenants

Most of us are currently living in unprecedented times. The Coronavirus pandemic has taken the world by storm and is affecting us in many ways. The state and federal government are taking steps to prevent the virus from spreading exponentially. It has been declared a national emergency. This pandemic is already affecting tenants. Many of them aren’t able to work and are already experiencing financial distress. There are a few things landlords and property managers can do to help tenants at this time.

Be Flexible With Rent Payments

It would be morally wrong and possibly even dangerous to evict tenants who can’t pay rent during this pandemic. We don’t want any more displaced people in the world.  The virus will definitely spread faster if people are misplaced. If they are able to live with family members or friends, they will not be able to practice social distancing and isolation. Churches and many alternate housing residences aren’t even open. Landlords and property managers should be flexible with their tenants at this time. Some landlords are taking it upon themselves to offer leniency to their tenants. A couple states, California and New York, have already mandated flexibility and have passed laws that state landlords and property managers cannot file for eviction because of non-payment of rent right now. In addition, many courthouses are closed anyhow.

Don’t Schedule Preventative Maintenance Work Unless Absolutely Necessary

Many landlords and property managers schedule preventative maintenance for their rental properties in the spring. Landscaping cleanup and lawn services are one example. Some landlords and property managers have the furnaces and air conditioners in the properties cleaned and checked. We are supposed to be practicing social distancing and isolation. Landlords should not be scheduling this work to be done right now.

Honor Tenant’s Requests For No Showings

If your property or the property you manage is for rent right now, and there are tenants living in the property, you should be accommodating if the tenants request that there be no showings during the coronavirus pandemic. In fact, if the property is occupied, you should voluntarily put the properties on a temporarily no showing status. Again, we are all supposed to be practicing social distancing and isolation. Tenants shouldn’t be required to have other agents and prospective tenants looking at the property they are living in at this time.

Help Tenants Seek Financial Assistance

Landlords and property managers should offer their tenants avenues in which to seek financial help so they can continue to pay rent or partial rent. They can provide them with information on applying for unemployment and other government aid, grants and the like. Utility companies have programs available to those who can’t pay their bills. Churches may have financial assistance available. Landlords and property managers can point their tenants in the direction of food banks and schools that are providing meals.

It’s understandable that property owners have to pay property taxes, mortgage payments and homeowner’s association dues. It’s just a matter of time that there will be financial assistance extended to property owners, as well. These are uncertain times for sure. It’s time to pull together and help each other. People need to be flexible, creative and lenient in instances where there is great financial stress. We will get through this.

TransUnion Has Changed Their Credit Freeze Policy

TransUnion is one of the top three credit reporting agencies. They have recently announced that they will no longer support selective lifts of frozen credit files. 

A credit file is usually frozen when someone is worried about identity theft. Freezing the file made it so the reporting agency couldn’t sell your information to creditors, and so creditors wouldn’t open new accounts in your name. 

Consumers used to be able to obtain an access code they could give to a creditor. When the creditor put in the access code, they could see a frozen credit file. This allowed the consumer to have more control over who would access their information to start a new account.

TransUnion is no longer supporting these codes. As of September 2018, if consumers want creditors to be able to see their information, they must request a global lift to the security freeze on their credit file. The consumer can set a specific length of time that the lift is in place, so they can limit the timing for how long the freeze is lifted. However, while it is lifted, any creditor will be able to see the unfrozen credit file.

Four Problem Signs of a Potential Tenant

Four Problem Signs of a Potential Tenant

Finding a new tenant for a residential property you rent and manage is not always a simple task, especially if you want to ensure your property is taken care of throughout the duration of any new lease agreement that is signed. Knowing what to look for before selecting a tenant for one of your rentals is essential to help prevent problematic issues from arising in the future.

Non-Verifiable Income

Whenever you are searching for a new tenant to rent your home or apartment unit to, it is imperative to verify the income they claim to make before providing them with a leasing agreement. If an individual is unable to provide proof of their income with a bank statement, 2 paychecks, it is difficult to determine whether or not they are capable of remaining financially responsible when their rent is due to you each month. A tenant credit report can be ordered on the prospective tenant not to verify income, but instead verify they make timely payments on debt and to check their monthly debt range to see if they will be financially able to pay their rent.

Reference Check Problems

If you are unable to speak with references that were provided to you by potential tenants, it is not always a great idea to continue considering the individuals a prospective resident. Reference checks help you to determine the type of character a prospective tenant has, which is why it is so important that you are able to speak with multiple friends and family members who are willing to vouch for anyone who is interested in becoming a potential tenant of yours.

When you are not able to reach a reference of a prospective tenant, ask the individual if they have alternative contact information available to provide. If an individual does not have alternative contact information, this may be a red flag and a surefire sign to avoid allowing him or her to move into your home or apartment unit.

Criminal History

Running a background check and checking the criminal history of any and all applicants who are interested in living in a rental that you own is a must to truly determine whether or not an individual is a potential problem tenant. If an applicant has a history of run-ins with the law or has a criminal past, it is highly advisable to find another prospective tenant, especially if the applicant themselves was not upfront about their past while submitting their information to run a background check. Include a section for potential applicants to inform you of their criminal past in your original application if you want to learn more about prospective residents before running a tenant credit report or tenant screening.

Repeated History of Evictions

If you are able to determine that a prospective tenant has a history of evictions, it is important to inquire to learn more if you are still considering allowing the individual to move into one of your properties. When an individual has a repeated history of evictions, it is best to steer clear to avoid the potential risk of losing out on rent money, causing you to invest more of your own finances in order to maintain your properties over time.

Taking the time to conduct a thorough tenant screening and tenant credit check on your potential future tenants is a way to ensure there are no issues when it comes to receiving your rent money on time throughout the duration of any leasing contract that is in place. When you know what to look for while eliminating potentially problematic tenants, avoid headaches, repair fees, and other eviction-related charges and instead, opt for a tenant that is trustworthy and reliable.

2018 Top Websites to Find Good Rental Property Contractors

Find Contractors and Handymen for your Rental Property 

Contractors for landlords are perfect for large remodels, such as a kitchen or bathroom, but a handyman for rental property keeps the home running smoothly by tending to wear-and-tear repairs. Several online resources help make this process easier by collecting contact information and reviews from other property owners and landlords.

Angie’s List

Angie’s List is one such service, and they do not allow anonymous reviews. All the reviews on their site are certified. The reviews are grades, A through F, so they are quick and easy to understand.

There are three membership levels. The Green Membership is free and includes the worker’s information and ratings. The Silver Membership cost $24.99 a year. Silver has more benefits, such as special discounts and a fair price guarantee, which allows you to receive a refund for the amount exceeding Angie’s List Fair Price (terms and conditions apply).

Angie’s List Gold Membership costs $99.00 annually. Along with all the benefits of the Green and Silver plans, Gold offers a service quality guarantee. This guarantees some workmanship up to $100,000 (terms and conditions apply). The Gold plan offers more perks too, like an emergency service phone line, which could come in handy with rental homes.

All members have access to coupons, which are located at the bottom of each contractors profile page. Some business do not have any, while others offer 5% or 10% off.


Thumbtack is a completely free service where you can search for a handyman for rental property and licensed contractors.

They use the traditional star rating system to review the workers, one through five, with five being the best, paired with verified client comments.

Thumbtack also offers a product they have coined The Guarantee, which protect up to $1 million against certain property damage caused by the Thumbtack professional under certain conditions. Work that is not finished and incorrect installations are not covered.


HomeAdvisor is free of charge. The site offers over 500 real estate related services, from foundation repair to roofing.

Property owners rate the service providers with the five-star system. Along with the star ratings, there is a description of the project completed with client testimonies. Additionally, the service provider comments on the project to give an overall view of what may have happened; good, bad, or neutral.


Contractors for landlords can be found on Yelp for free. Yelp is a directory of restaurants, events, and home services. Any discounts offered to consumers will come from the service provider, not Yelp, and there are no guarantees.

The review system is very popular and heavily used on Yelp. Yelp uses a computer to screen all reviews. The system looks at how often the reviewer writes a review. Are they active reviewer, or do they review once every ten months? The program is looking for opinions, good or bad, opinions deemed reliable, and that will be helpful to other people.

Yelp highlights these reviews, but all reviews can be seen at a link at the bottom of the businesses profile page. This process is entirely automated; no humans screen the screener. Yelp displays the traditional five-star ratings and post client comments.

All of these companies have free mobile apps, which makes it convenient to get updates. Angie’s List, Thumbtack, and HomeAdvisor offer tips on how to select a profession, what questions to ask, how to get a quote, and pricing guidelines; Yelp does not. Prices subject to change.


Making Your Rental Summer-Ready

Make your rental property summer ready

Summer’s almost here, and that means it’s the peak of the rental season for homeowners and vacationers. Preparing your rental for the warm months ahead is a good idea for luring in prospective new tenants and making sure your property stays in optimal shape.

Tenant Screening
Before you begin preparing your property physically and restoring the inside and outside, you should think about how comprehensive your tenant screening process is. This process is the only chance you have to filter through tenant options and backgrounds to decide which tenants are the right choice for you.

Tenant screenings are important because the information it reveals can help you determine whether or not your new prospective tenant is trustworthy, able to pay their bills (and therefore, their rent), on time as well as previous addresses, rental references, and eviction information. It helps complete a clear picture of who they are overall as renters. It doesn’t tell the whole story, but it definitely tells a big part of it.

Inspect Your Air Conditioning Unit
Whether you have window units or a whole-house A/C duct system, it’s important to inspect them for proper operation before tenants start moving in. It helps your visitors stay happy and comfortable, even in the summer heat. For window units, check to be sure the exterior condenser has room to drain and breath by clearing any overgrown shrubs or plants that may be crowding the area. Also, replace and/or clean the filter for the unit. Make sure all interior ductwork is in proper order and that all vents are open and free of obstructions.

Check Battery-Operated Devices
Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors if they’re no longer working, and check your security system’s operation as well, if you have one. Some thermostats also run on batteries, so be sure those don’t need to be replaced either. Most thermostats will have a low battery indicator, so replace them if needed.

Dryer Vents
If you have a washer/dryer and offer laundry, be sure to clean out dryer vents outside the house. Many fires have started because of clogged dryer vents, so by taking this simple precaution, you can keep your tenants safe through the summer months.

Windows and Doors
Be sure doors and windows are sealed and optimized for A/C use. Open air gaps allows cold air to escape, increasing utility costs. By taking the extra time to seal gaps, you’ll keep your home energy-efficient.

Cleaning Service
If your summer rental hasn’t been opened or used for months, consider hiring a cleaning service to get it ready for new tenants. They can take care of things like mopping the floors, vacuuming carpets, dusting off ceiling fans, freshening up the furniture, and airing out the interior.

Sprucing up the yard can make a big difference with curb appeal and allows your summer tenants to enjoy your backyard in the nice weather. Do it yourself or hire landscapers to mow the lawn, clear brush and plant flowers if it’s feasible.


Tenant Screening Red Flags

Tenant Screening Red Flags

Owning investment real estate is a lucrative way to build wealth. Renting out to quality tenants means that you have another form of steady income. However, renting out to the wrong tenants can lead to frustrations and lost revenue. Learn about the tenant screening red flags to look out for as applicants inquire about your rental.

Poor Credit

Part of your tenant background screening process must be running a credit check. Look for candidates with a high credit score. These applicants typically show a history of paying their debtors on time. Poor payment history, Bankruptcies, liens, judgements and other collections will all be present on the credit report. Allow this tenant screening strategy to guide your decision.

Criminal Record

Verify if the applicants have a criminal history by purchasing a National Criminal Search with a vendor such as StarPoint Screening. As a landlord, you have a right to know if a person has a criminal background. Analyze the tenant background screening very carefully so that you don’t overlook any details. Serious charges, such as robbery or assault can appear as well as minor infractions, including traffic tickets. Multiple violations can mean that an applicant is prone to trouble regardless of the charges. Remember to always get the applicant’s signed authorization before running a criminal background check or credit report.

Employment History

Any rental application should ask for an employment history and contacting those current and previous HR departments to complete a reference check is always a good idea. You want to be able to verify your applicant’s hire date, term date, salary, and position. Asking for a W2 or the last two paystubs is also a reliable way to verify salary and employment.

Eviction History

Completing a nationwide eviction search of you tenant is an inexpensive way to find out if any previous landlords, property managers or apartment complexes have had any issues with your applicant and had to take them to court.  Eviction searches typically are under $10 and can save you thousands if you have to evict that tenant in the future.


How much can a bad tenant cost you?

How much can a bad tenant cost you?

If you’re renting out a property, thorough tenant screening is a must. A bad tenant is not only a hassle to deal with, but can also cost you thousands of dollars.

Take a look at the true cost of eviction to see why you should always conduct tenant background screening.

If you need to evict a tenant, it won’t happen overnight. Eviction is a lengthy legal process, and it typically takes about 2 to 3 months from when you file the paperwork to when the eviction actually occurs. How much do you charge for rent on the unit? Multiply that by 2 or 3 and that’s about how much money you’ll already be out, and keep in mind that the process of evicting a tenant could take even longer.

Going to court isn’t free, and you can anticipate it costing about $100 to $300. If you need an attorney, and you will if you want to make this process go as quickly and efficiently as possible, those legal fees could be anywhere from $200 to $750.

Once the tenant is gone, you need to get the unit ready to rent again. That will likely run you between $500 and $2,000. Of course, if you had a bad tenant, there’s no telling how much damage they might have done. There’s no shortage of landlord horror stories about tenants who damaged walls, ruined appliances or let their pets destroy a unit. And don’t think that putting a “no pets” clause in the lease will always protect you, as plenty of tenants have chosen to ignore those kinds of restrictions.

There’s no telling how long the unit will be on the market after you put it up for rent again, but you should expect to lose about 1 month of revenue. You can also expect getting it rented to cost you about half a month’s rent, as you may need to provide concessions to a new tenant or advertise the unit. Even if you don’t do either and simply advertise your unit in free classified ads, you’ll still be losing money on the time you spend showing the unit to prospective tenants.

So, how much are you spending for all of that? Let’s say that you have a unit renting for $1,000 per month, you’re able to keep your costs to the low end of these estimates throughout the process and you find a new tenant within a month. You’ll be looking at:

$2,000 in lost rent while evicting the bad tenant
$1,000 in lost rent while finding a new tenant
$500 in make ready costs
$500 spent on finding a new tenant
$200 in attorney legal fees
$100 in court costs

That all comes out to a grand total of $4,300, which will take you over 4 months just to make back. And that’s if you’re able to minimize your costs. It’s obvious that each bad tenant comes at a huge price.

What is the Cost of Tenant Screening?

You can have a thorough credit check completed for as little as $10.95. That screening will provide information on the prospective tenant’s financial history, including their credit score and any bankruptcies, their payment history and verification on their ID.

It doesn’t cost much to screen a prospective tenant, especially compared to the cost of a bad tenant. Go through the screening process with any tenant you’re considering to give yourself peace of mind and minimize your risk.


Top Tax Deductions for Landlords in 2017

Top 10 Tax Deductions for Landlords

Top 10 Tax Deductions for Landlords

Below you will find the top ten deductions for landlords that will decrease their tax liability. Before claiming any of these deductions, make sure to have receipts and files to back them up.

1. Interest

Interest can be one of the biggest tax deductions for a landlord. They can deduct interest from a mortgage loan or credit card interest from using the credit card for repairs on the property. Mortgage Interest (primary & secondary), HELOC Interest, Credit card interest on purchases or improvements on the property, and Mortgage Points to purchase or refinance the property all fall into this category.

2. Depreciation

You will not be able to do this in the year the property was bought but you can do it the following years when the property actually depreciates. The value of the structure and the value of the improvements can both be depreciated.

3. Repairs

Repair costs are deductible in the year that they are done. The repairs have to be needed and the cost must be within reason. Repairs can also include any effort to maintain the current condition of the property. The type of repairs that fall into this category would be painting, plumbing, AC and Heat repairs, fixture repairs, fixing floors or the roof, and fixing windows. You can also deduct the Labor Costs for conducting these repairs.

4. Local Travel

You can deduct the mileage you incur from your rental activities such as going to the property, collect rent, dealing with a renters problems, and even going to the hardware store.

5. Long Distance Travel

Traveling a long distance for you rental duties can also be deducted. You deduct such things as airline fares, car rentals, taxis, uber, gas, 50 % of meals, hotel bills and more. You have to document your trip carefully as the IRS will look closely at this deduction.

6. Home Office

While meeting certain requirements, you home office and/or workspace used for your rental activities can be deducted. You can also depreciate certain equipment used in you rental business space including ink, paper, pens, rental software, legal documents, phone and internet, and the square footage of the home office. Be careful as that IRS says that one of the most commonly audited deductions is a home office.

7. Employees and Independent Contractors

Whether an employee or an independent contractor, you can claim their wages as a tax deduction as long as it is related to your rental business expenses.

8. Casualty and Theft Losses

If you property is damaged or destroyed by a flood or fire per se, you can deduct part but not all of the loss. This is dependent on whether you had insurance or not.

9. Insurance

The premiums that you pay for almost any type of insurance related to you rental business can be deducted. You may also deduct your employees health and workers compensation insurance.

10. Legal and Professional Services

You can deduct legal and professional service fees. These fees are known as operating expenses and can be deducted as long as they are related to your rental business. These fees can include tax preparation and software, property management services or software, court filing fees and accounting advice.

Rental Property Forecast for 2017


Rental Property Forecast for 2017

Millennials Will Drive Rental Supply and Demand

Rental Property Forecast For 2017

Real estate analysts are still measuring the “Trump Effect” and the millennial effect on US housing and rentals. Most experts feel the housing market is “under-supplied” and that mortgage rates will remain favorable despite interest rate hikes from the Federal Reserve. And, with soft supply, the rental market is expected to remain strong, especially in busy metropolitan areas.

With Trump’s emphasis on growing the economy and implementing a more favorable tax structure, American millennials will have more money to spend. Zillow estimates that rents in metro areas will continue to climb another 1.7 percent in 2017, on par with 2016 growth. (http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2016/11/22/10-Real-Estate-Trends-Watch-2017).

At the same time, Zillow projects home values will increase by 3.6 percent in 2017 and 2.97 percent in 2018. However, more take home pay may not translate to more ready, willing and able buyers. Analysts foresee many millennials packing their bags and moving away from their parents homes in 2017. This is expected to create more demand for rentals in 2017.

The Impact of Short Term Rentals

Short term rental demand through Airbnb is strong. However, a majority of analysts feel the impact of short term rental property on the overall housing market is negligible. However, the convenience of whole home or one room rentals is expected to have an impact on the hotel industry.

Presently, Zillow reports the cost of rental property in major metro areas like LA or NY can cost about 40 percent of the tenant’s income (http://www.zillow.com/research/short-term-home-rentals-zhpe-13927/). President Elect Trump may not have a solution for the rising cost of rental properties in large metro markets but a new income tax policy will be welcomed by big city tenants.

Millennials Will Drive Rental Supply and Demand

Millennials are expected to significantly impact demand fro housing and rental units. More millennials will apply for mortgages in 2017 than did in 2016. But, more millennials will also start living independently and increase demand for rental property.

As the President Elect promised more jobs and seems prepared to invest in the country’s lagging infrastructure, new jobs means more income for millennials. However, Zillow also predicts that many millennials will be willing to travel further to get to work. Look for growth in the suburban housing and rental market in 2017.

According to Forbes, the housing market only added 1.1 million units in 2016. However, 900,000 of those units were from previously vacant housing. Expect to see significant housing and rental unit construction in 2017.

New rental occupancy rates will still be affected by population growth, which accounts for 50 percent of demand. Adult children moving from their parent’s basements and high divorce rates will also contribute to the number of singles looking for rental units in 2017. These groups are more interested in housing for one or two years than in long term, more permanent housing investment (http://www.forbes.com/sites/billconerly/2015/12/10/housing-forecast-2016-2017-two-years-of-growth/#7505c0b37add).

Higher Rental Demand

Rental market prices will increase slowly. But, The Fiscal Times reports that 40 percent of Americans prefer to rent rather than buy. This demand will drive construction companies to invest in and build new apartment complexes in 2017 (http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2016/11/22/10-Real-Estate-Trends-Watch-2017).
Again, President elect Trump’s new immigration policy may have a negative impact on the building industry. If labor costs rise, rents will also increase.

Zillow also predicts that more Americans will drive to work. This is a reversal of the housing trend of the past decade. With 80 million millennials considering their housing choices, they will not only drive rentals in 2017, but they will be driving or using public transport to get to work. The bottom line is that as our millennials get on their financial feet, housing and rental marketplaces will see increased demand which means prices and values will rise in 2017!