The Pros and Cons: One-Month Free vs Lowering the Rent

lower rent vs free month

When it comes to attracting new tenants, there are many different things you can advertise to bring attention to your property. Of course, online ads are essential, and you need to have a rental property where people will actually want to live. But what do you do when you need to get potential renters over the hump, so they sign on the dotted line? Free money usually does the trick!

There’s been a constant debate between offering one month’s rent free versus reducing the rent on a monthly basis for the tenant throughout the term of the lease. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each approach. For simple math, we’ll assume you’re renting your space for $1,300 a month on a twelve-month lease.

Pros of Offering One-Month’s Rent Free:

  • Easy Marketing. It’s easy to attract people to your place when they don’t have to pay for the first month’s rent. This tactic works particularly well if you need to fill vacancies quickly, especially if you have multiple apartments that need to be rented. Switching apartments can be quite costly, and many people could use the option of a first month free to make for a better transition while they wait to get their deposits back from their prior apartment. A one-month concession can make this process much easier for prospective tenants.
  • Increased Renewal Rates. When the lease is up, your tenants’ renewal increases will be based on the monthly amount they paid for rent. The one-month concession doesn’t factor into the equation, so you can still charge an increased renewal price that’s appropriate in relation to the monthly rent. Using our example rental payments, you could calculate an annual increase on the $1,300 monthly rent, even though the renter didn’t pay one of those months.
  • Availability of More Income Each Month. If you’ve ever worried you might have to spike rent just to cover the bills, you’ll probably understand why the one-month free option appeals to some landlords. One-month-free concessions tend to keep occupancy high. Properties that don’t have vacancies typically have more leeway in terms of cash flow.

Cons of Offering One-Month’s Rent Free:

  • Renters’ Inability to Pay. If you have renters who are stretched to meet your monthly rent after the one-month free concession has ended, you may find yourself in the face of an eviction process. This situation also lends itself to costly court battles and the potential of damaged property. As a landlord, you have enough things to deal with; if you can put out fires before they even begin, that’s always a good, proactive approach. It’s important to thoroughly screen renters to ensure they have the funds to pay rent when the contractual charges settle in.
  • Potential of Attracting Underqualified Candidates. If you’re attracting renters who are solely interested in your property because you’re offering a free month’s rent, that could be a red flag for future problems. Of course, that’s certainly not always the case, but it’s definitely a possibility to be aware of.
  • A Month of Missing Income. This is the most obvious con. When you offer a month of free rent, you’re immediately leaving that income off the books for an entire thirty-day cycle. If you’re in a pinch for cash right now, that free month might be the make or break moment for your bank account.

Lowering Monthly Rent

Now let’s use the same $1,300-per month example. If you shave off $100 per month for the length of the lease, your tenants will pay $1,200 a month. Some property owners believe it makes more sense to lower the rent versus offering a single month free. At Bay Management Group, we agree. By lowering the monthly rent, you’ll expand your pool of potential tenants because most renters tend to search within a specified price range. You’re effectively moving into a different pricing category for potential tenants; thus, you’ll get more candidates inquiring about the property.

Pros of Lowering Monthly Rent

  • Attracting a Higher Pool of Potential Tenants. The higher your monthly rent is, the smaller the pool of potential renters will be. By lowering your monthly rent, you’ll increase visibility to your property. This is an important marketing tool that’ll take care of most of the work itself, simply by making you more searchable by a greater number of people.
  • Filling Vacancies Quickly. The longer your property stands vacant, the more money you’re losing. Each day takes a hit on your wallet, and the more expensive your property is to rent, the longer it’s likely to exist without potential tenants. Sure, you could get lucky if you have a pricey place on the market because there are always people looking for rental properties. But it’s much easier to cast a wide net when your monthly rent is lower. By filling vacancies quickly, you ensure a steadier revenue stream.

Cons of Lowering Monthly Rent

  • Decreased Revenue Each Month. Obviously, the lower you make your monthly rent, the less income you’ll have each month. It’s important to do the math and make sure you’re presenting realistic numbers that still ensure you’re covering all of your bases, so you don’t find yourself in crisis mode a few months down the road.
  • Difficulty Increasing Rent with Renewals. When your tenants’ leases are up, you’ll have a hard time bringing your property back to market rates if you decrease the monthly rent too much. A stark increase will likely lead to turnover, which can be costly in and of itself. That will require repairs and renovations, advertising costs, screening potential new renters, and dealing with new lease agreements.

Incentives really are a personal preference. Whether you choose to offer a free month’s rent, or you decide to lower the rent across the entire term of the lease, there are pros and cons to each option. At Bay Management Group, we have had far greater success by lowering the rent. We feel that if an owner gives us the option to either (a) offer one-month free at $1,300 or (b) lower the rent by $100 per month, we would choose to lower the rent by $100 all day long. In our experience, the property will lease much faster with the lower rent and attract higher-quality tenants.

Are you feeling stuck, trying to decide if you should reduce rent or offer one-month free rent? Don’t deal with this decision alone! Bay Management Group is Baltimore’s go-to property management company landlords look to when they need help with these types of obstacles. Reach out to our team to learn how we can help you with this situation and much, much more!

Strategies for Being a Professional and Good Landlord

professional landlord baltimore, md

Being a landlord in Baltimore isn’t easy if you don’t have professional guidance. There are a lot of rules and laws to follow, and even if you’re a seasoned landlord, you can easily do something wrong if you don’t know about certain regulations or about laws that may have changed somewhere along the way. This is one reason it’s important to team up with a professional property management company when you own rental property. Most of the larger management companies in Baltimore only follow this set of processes and procedures when managing apartment buildings and single-family homes. But at Bay Management Group, we make sure to not only follow the rules and regulations, but go above and beyond to always make improvements at our clients’ properties.

Consistency is Key

If anyone has ever told you, “if I do that for you, I’d have to do that for everyone,” you’ll relate to this element. Consistency is key anytime you’re in the position of authority—that includes being a landlord. If you do something for one tenant, you have to do it that way for all tenants.

The following are some common pitfalls landlords encounter when they’re faced with the possibility of being inconsistent with the rules:

Waiving Late Fees

It can be tempting to waive a late fee because someone is facing financial hardship, but if you do so without giving other tenants the opportunities to waive their late fees, you could get into trouble with discrimination. Of course, if you let everybody waive late fees, you’re setting a bad example in a completely different way (and losing money while you’re at it).

Disregarding Background, Employment, and Credit Checks

If it’s within your policy to thoroughly screen every tenant, you need to make sure you run checks on everyone—even if one of your applicants is a friend. You’re setting yourself up for legal issues if someone feels you showed favoritism and you don’t have the background information to show why you made the decision to choose one applicant over another.

Waiving the Security Deposit

We get it; coming up with first and last months’ rent plus a security deposit can be a daunting task for many applicants. Someone may pull at your heartstrings and try to win you over with a story that seems fit for a security deposit waiver, but you can’t do it. You need to protect your investment property from any future damage that may occur. That security deposit may be the thing that keeps you in the black if the renter damages your space.

Allowing one tenant—or a small handful of renters—to bend the rules shows favoritism, which is never good for business. As a Baltimore landlord, the best thing you can do for your investment is to be consistent.

Bending Your Pet Policy

If your pet policy says no one can have pets, that means no one can have pets (properly registered service pets excluded, of course). If you only allow cats, none of your renters should have a dog. If you only allow one dog, you’re asking for trouble if one of your other tenants knows you let someone have two.

Your pet policy is important. Bending the rules on this can cause trouble down the road.

Putting off Repairs

Maybe you have a tenant who has a bad attitude. Those people are never fun to work with, but as their landlord, it’s your responsibility to ensure he or she has proper living conditions. If the toilet isn’t working, or the lock on the front door has jammed, you don’t have the luxury of avoiding that unpleasant person simply because they have a rotten demeanor. You have to push through the nastiness and deliver exceptional customer service that keeps your tenant safe and as happy as possible.

Repairs can be especially difficult if they happen in the middle of the night or if you’re located too far from the property to get there at a reasonable time. Even if you’re not putting your tenants’ needs off on purpose, it can look that way if you’re not able to respond to critical matters in a timely manner. To avoid 3 a.m. mishaps that you can’t get to, it’s best to have a professional property management team on your side. Bay Management Group offers 24/7 on-call professionals who can take care of any challenge, no matter the time or urgency of the situation.

Putting off essential repairs for one tenant, while simultaneously taking care of others’ needs, is a surefire way to find yourself in a sticky situation that may end in a trip to the courtroom.

Forgiving a Month’s Rent

Maybe your bank account is doing well, and you’ve got a tenant who simply can’t swing this month’s rent. It’s a heartbreaking story, but this people-oriented business is still that—a business. Forgiving someone’s rent will certainly show favoritism and set you up for lengthy battles with other tenants when they discover someone got to skate payment-free on an entire month’s rent.

Ignoring Tenants’ Complaints

There will always be that one person in the crowd who has to complain about everything, even when there’s nothing to complain about. When that person is your tenant, your job as a landlord can be even more tedious, but you have to treat each complaint as a valid problem until you know otherwise.

Some people just want to be heard, even if they don’t have much to say. By acknowledging each of your tenants’ complaints, and treating them with respect and professionalism, your renters will respect you in return.

Maintaining and Repairing Your Property

Good property management companies know it’s critically important to reinvest in your property to keep it running at its best. Maintenance might include minor things that get inspected regularly, or it could mean fixing unexpected problems that occur without warning. Ensuring your space is attractive to new tenants when the current ones leave is important, so it doesn’t go vacant for an extended period of time.

Keep Up with Maintenance

You never want to neglect maintenance issues (small or large) because, as time goes on, your property will become unappealing to qualified renters. This will force you to either lower your rents or have someone in the property who is unqualified. Alternatively, you can fix up the property after it’s gone into disrepair so you can attract better tenants. But the amount of money you’ll need to spend after things have become rundown will be far more excessive than it would have been, had you taken the steps to incrementally make repairs and upkeep as needed. By setting budgets for repairs, maintenance, and capital expenditures each year it can be helpful in making sure your property is getting the attention it needs.

Stay Up-to-Date with Law Changes

Keeping up with the constant law changes and making sure you’re treating each tenant equally can be difficult at times. Showing favoritism is easier than you might think, and you can do it without even realize it’s happening. That’s why more and more individual investors are turning to professional property management companies in Baltimore to help manage their rental properties.

Invest in Property Management

At Bay Management Group, our team understands the importance of routine maintenance, and we’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for those mishaps that weren’t on the schedule. Whether it’s fixing a running toilet, making a drywall patch, installing new smoke detectors, changing HVAC filters, or dealing with any of the other miscellaneous task’s that properties require, we’ve got you covered. Bay Management Group provides property management Baltimore landlords trust. Get your free Property Management Analysis from BMG today!

The Best Areas to Purchase and Manage Property in Baltimore

Best Area in Baltimore

Before you invest in any rental property, it’s important to research potential communities so you not only find a property that’s great, but you also find an area that’ll be attractive to future renters. Baltimore is a city that’s rich in diversity, which means each of its communities can vary greatly from one neighborhood to the next.

If you’re on the hunt for a great investment space in Baltimore, Middle River, Essex, and Dundalk are among the best areas to purchase and manage rental properties. The tenants in these areas seem to stay in their rentals for a much longer period of time than other places around town, such as Federal Hill, Canton, or Fells Point. This is important because high turnover costs in the investment property business can quickly eat into your profits. Areas with high tenant turnover mean you’ll likely be facing the task of finding new renters every year or two. Conversely, people tend to stay in Middle River, Essex, and Dundalk rental properties for an average of five to seven years, meaning you won’t have to keep investing in advertisements, background checks, and all the other expenses that come with obtaining a new tenant every time the calendar rolls over.

It’s also important to examine the average rental prices in your potential investment areas. You’ll want to make sure you’re able to purchase a rental property at a price that makes sense without putting yourself out of business when renters see the price tag you’ve attached to the place. This is a balancing act that can take a little finesse and experience, but due diligence will definitely pay off.

How Turnover Costs Impact Investment Property ROI

If you have to turn your property over every year or two, it’s going to cost you a lot more than if you only have to search for new tenants every five to seven years. If you’ve never thought about how much work actually goes into preparing a rental for a new tenant, you might be surprised to see how long the checklist really is. Of course, each task on the to-do list is going to involve time and money.

Each time you need to rent your property you’ll need to:

  • Thoroughly clean it
  • Replace the carpets
  • Paint the interior and possibly the exterior
  • Repair damages to the walls, window coverings, appliances, and anything else that’s not in ideal condition
  • Change the locks
  • Advertise the unit
  • Run background and employment checks

Of course, this is all just standard maintenance. If you had to evict the prior tenant from your Baltimore rental property, you’re also looking at the costs associated with lengthy court processes and the cost to repair the additional damage that more than likely occurred within the property.

All of these items cost money, which, in turn, leads to less profit. It’s ideal to have tenants stay in your property as long as possible so you can forego turnover costs that eat away at your bottom line. It makes your property manager’s job easy, and it saves you a lot of money in the long run.

How the Cost of Your Property Impacts Rental ROI

The cost of your ideal property isn’t the only thing to consider. Of course, it’s an imperative piece of the puzzle, but the price alone is just one of many factors that’ll determine the ultimate value of your investment. You can purchase a rental property in Dundalk, for example, for $100,000 and rent it out for $1,100 to $1,200 a month. Essex and Middle River offer similar pricing opportunities. You should easily be able to achieve a rental price that’s well over 1% of the cost of the house.

If you were to opt for Federal Hill or Canton, however, the average purchase price is significantly higher, but the rental prices don’t correlate. For instance, if you purchase a property in Federal Hill or Canton for $200,000, you won’t be able to rent it out for $2,400. Instead, you’re most likely looking at rental rates between $1,600 and $1,700—well under the ideal 1% goal.

The cap rate is much higher in areas like Middle River, Dundalk, or Essex. Remember, it’s not just about how much the property costs and how great the neighborhood is; it’s about appealing to potential renters in areas where they’ll see the most value for their money, too.

How Communities’ Personalities Impact Investment ROI

Interestingly enough, communities have personalities. We’re not necessarily talking about areas that are kid-friendly versus those that are ultra-urban. Rather, we’re talking about the types of people who tend to gravitate towards certain areas, which ultimately determine the landscape for landlords.

As an example, if you purchase a rental property in Essex, you’ll likely find that people there are less demanding than many other areas around the city. Dundalk and Middle River also tend to be occupied by pretty low-key people who are easy to manage (as far as their rental properties are concerned). Low-maintenance renters are an investor’s dream; the less you have to send your maintenance tech to the property, the more money you’re keeping in your own pocket.

Almost any Baltimore property management company will agree you’ll see a higher ROI in Dundalk, Essex, or Middle River. These are highly desirable areas for great tenants who want to stay in their rental properties as long as possible without asking too much of their landlords. What more could you ask for?

Learning How to Ask the Right Questions

Investing in property throughout Baltimore can be tough. Even if you were born in the city and know the neighborhoods inside and out, the game changes when you’re ready to be a landlord. There are nuances involved with investment property you’ve surely never thought about before. It’s important to ask property management companies in Baltimore which areas they would buy property in if they were using their own money. Let the answer be your guiding key as you decide on the right property. Bay Management Group believes Dundalk, Middle River, and Essex will give you the highest ROI on rental properties across the greater Baltimore region.

Bay Management Group is Baltimore’s go-to resource for property owners who want to make the most of their investment. Whether you already have your heart set on a rental property in Middle River, or you’re just not sure where to look right now, our experts will be happy to offer our guidance. Reach out to our team to learn how we can help you achieve positive ROI with our dedicated team of property managers and outstanding customer service!

Upgrades to Your Rental Property That Will Help Increase Rent

Rental Property Upgrades

Making your rental property attractive to tenants can be tricky. Not all potential buyers look for the same features and characteristics when viewing a potential home. For example, some may like hardwood floors while others may like tile. And some buyers may want an open concept while others like walls to designate where each room starts. But there are some factors that every buyer will in fact look for when searching for the right place to rent. To start, you need to present a clean, pristine rental that’s attractive and functional, so any potential tenant can easily visualize themselves in the space. The more beautiful your space, the more likely renters will stay for an extended period of time, which can lower your turnover costs and save you money in the long run.

When it comes time to upgrade your rental property in Baltimore, there are tons of options; some of them should be standard each time you’re ready to bring new renters in, while others are added amenities you may not have otherwise considered before we offered these tips and tricks. Installing new carpet, painting the walls, ensuring the shutters are in working order, landscaping the outside, and staining the deck are all part of normal turnover maintenance. However, there are a few rental property upgrades beyond these that will help increase the amount of money you’re able to get for your investment.

Here’s a look at the best upgrades for rental properties:

Making Life Easier for Your Renters: Adding a Washer and Dryer

If your rental property doesn’t have a washer and dryer, consider installing them. Don’t gaff at the initial expense. Sure, it can cost you $3,000 or $4,000 to purchase the equipment and run the appropriate lines so it’s installed right and functioning properly, but you’ll be able to charge another $65 to $75 a month simply because you offer your tenants the ability to do their laundry in the comfort of their own home. That means your return on investment will be about 20%.

Try and find an ROI even close to 20% in today’s market – go ahead, we challenge you! Newly constructed apartment buildings are being designed with washers and dryers built right into each unit. To stay competitive, you have to think about the things other landlords are offering tenants who might otherwise consider renting your property. For a lot of Millennials, not having a washer and dryer is a deal-breaker when they’re looking for places to rent.

Remember, you don’t have to have a huge space to install a washer and dryer. Having a hidden space like a closet with a stackable unit can do amazing things for your monthly income – and there are plenty of compact washer and dryer units out there for you to pick from. Also try to find ways to add a bit of storage nearby so your future tenants can see how easily accessible their laundry detergent, bleach, and other clean-clothes essentials will be when they move into your space.

From our analysis of the Baltimore rental market, we advise upgrading your rental property to include a washer and dryer.

Adding Space Below the Surface

Finishing the basement is something a lot of property owners and investors put on their to-do list, but it often doesn’t get done due to the time and money involved. Again, it’s not just about looking at the initial cost because that certainly can be steep. What you need to understand is how much more rent you can charge once the project is complete, which, in the end, will give your money back to you many times over.

Let’s say you’re able to finish your basement for $10,000. You then charge an extra $125 per month to the lucky tenants who now get to occupy this grand space. That means you’re getting a 15% return on your investment. You won’t be able to find this kind of return elsewhere.

Prospective renters often see finished basements as a third or fourth bedroom. They add tremendous value. As an added bonus, besides being able to charge higher rent while you’re using this as an investment property, you’ll be able to sell it for significantly more money when you’re ready to put it on the market.

At Bay Management Group, we’ve seen this situation play out over and over again. It’s much easier to rent out investment properties that have finished basements than those that don’t.

Making Life Easier for Your Renters: Adding a Dishwasher

While it’s true that dishwashers and garbage disposals were at one point luxuries to renters, those days have changed. People expect to see these items in the places they’re considering nowadays, and if the property doesn’t have them, they’ll likely move on.

Adding a dishwasher and garbage disposal are always at the top of the list when it comes to upgrading a rental property to maximize the amount a landlord can charge. You might be surprised to find that it’s actually quite simple to install a garbage disposal, and the process doesn’t cost a ton of money. It can also be somewhat inexpensive to add a dishwasher if you do a little research ahead of time. You might need to take out an extra kitchen cabinet to make the dishwasher fit, but the addition can make a world of difference to a family that enjoys taking advantage of homemade meals.

The Great Takeaway

At Bay Management Group, we’ve seen it all. From our experience, these three improvements will drastically help increase the rental price of your property. We believe most property management companies in Baltimore would also agree. With tenants demanding more and more out of their landlords, these few simple items can help keep your property in high demand without draining your wallet dry.

There’s never a wrong time to upgrade a vacant space. If you’re just now shopping around for an investment property, take these tips into consideration. Picture what each potential space will look like when you make these upgrades and factor in the cost while your Realtor takes you on property visits. Make sure you shop around so you find a place that makes sense for your budget, time constraints, and other investment conditions.

If you already own investment properties, make a list of the upgrades you’d like to do when your renters move out. If you’re already making money on an occupied property, this is a great time to shop around and talk to contractors, so you can determine how much your changes will cost you when your property becomes vacant. You never want to rush into any sort of renovation, no matter how small it may be, so take advantage of the time given to you by doing your research before you’re ready to go to build.

It’s also smart to network with other area landlords or ask your property management company if you can see some of the units they’re currently advertising. Getting a firsthand look at how other landlords have upgraded their spaces can spark ideas that you might not have previously thought of. Be sure to take pictures when something strikes your interest and take time to browse online for great deals you might miss if you wait too long.

Are you trying to find the right tenants to fill your rental property’s space and feel like you’ve hit a crossroads? Bay Management Group knows how to attract top renters all over Baltimore. Thanks to our team of 24/7 on-call property managers and a team of advertising experts that know how to drive attention to great rental properties, your search for assistance is over! Get your free Property Management Analysis today!

Everything a Renter Must Know

Baltimore Renter Checklist

It’s exciting to find a new apartment! You’ve searched high and low to find a spot that fits your personality and lifestyle needs. You’ve got the cash, envisioned the places where you’re going to put furniture in your new space, and you’re ready to sign on the dotted line. But wait! Before you sign your life away on your next lease, there are a few things you should know, especially if you’re a first-time renter.

When you’re a first-time apartment renter, it’s easy to get lost in the excitement, but don’t forget that there’s a lot of responsibility that comes alongside the signing of a lease agreement. It’s essential that you read everything in your lease, even if it seems dry and boring. Everything in that document is critically important, and there are a few details you’ll want to make sure you pay specific attention to.

To help you out, we decided to create a first-time renter checklist.

1. Understanding How Much You’ll Have to Pay

At first glance, most apartments seem to tell you exactly how much you’ll need to pay if you live there. You’ve budgeted XYZ dollars, and the apartment only costs XY dollars, so you’re saving Z. Yay, right?

Not so fast.

Have you asked about utilities? How much will your electric bill be? Do you have to pay extra if you have pets?

The list price of many apartments is only face value. You have to do a little investigating to see what you’ll really be paying.

  • Call the electric company. Ask what the average monthly electric bill has been for your address in the past three years. This will give you a good idea of the extra amount of money you’ll need to pay above and beyond your monthly rent to stay warm and cozy or cool and comfortable, depending on the season. You might find a spot that includes utilities in the price of your rent, but if that’s the case, it’s still best to know upfront so you’re not caught by surprise later on.
  • Ask about upfront costs. Rent is just the beginning. When you’re first signing onto a place, you’ll be faced with more expenses than your monthly payment. It’s best to have a couple months’ rent saved up to cover the upfront costs of renting, which may include first and last months’ rent, security deposits, application fees, and other miscellaneous costs. It’s important to understand the total cost of your application before signing day so you’re not caught off guard with unexpected expenditures.
  • Find out about other expenses. You’ll probably want internet access, so you should factor that cost into the price of your new rental. What about renter’s insurance? You’ll need that, too. As you figure out your budget, don’t forget that you have normal expenses like food, car insurance, and gas, which aren’t going to go away. You need to make sure your budget accommodates the stuff you’re already used to—like eating.

2. Looking Over the Lease

It’s imperative that you understand everything that’s in your lease. Don’t feel rushed or like you need to know what everything in your paperwork means when it’s set in front of you. Ask your landlord questions anytime you’re unsure about what something means. It’s their job to explain things to you if you’re not certain about the agreement. Be sure to ask your landlord to point out any charges you’ll be incurring above your normal rent. Your lease should clearly spell out additional expenses, such as:

  • Pet fees
  • Trash fees
  • Water bill fees
  • Amenity fees

By talking with your landlord about your lease from the beginning, you’ll have a better understanding of the fees (and potential fines) you’ll be facing after you move in. This is also a great opportunity to open discussions, so you fully understand what’s expected of you when your lease is finished, particularly if you won’t be renewing when the term is complete.

3. Getting Acquainted with the Lease-Break Fee

Stuff happens in life, and, sometimes, we find ourselves needing to move on from our current situations. Perhaps you find yourself with a roommate who’s not a good fit for your personality. Maybe you get a job across the country that requires relocation. Even if you don’t anticipate leaving your new apartment before the lease is up, it’s important to understand how much you’ll have to shell out in the event you do need to break your lease early.

Here are a few things to ask your landlord before you commit to your rental clause:

  • How much notice will I have to give you before the lease automatically renews? This is important because, even if you’re staying in the same city, you might choose to find a different apartment when your lease is up, for any number of reasons. If you don’t give notice within the timeframe specified on your lease, you could be subject to expensive penalties when your lease rolls over if you choose to go elsewhere. You might even have to pay a whole year’s rent if you intend to move out after the end of your initial term.
  • What happens if I get a job somewhere else? Some landlords will allow you to sub-lease your apartment, which means someone else takes over the term of your lease. Others will not. Some landlords may even allow you to break your lease if you can prove you’re doing so because of occupational requirements. This is an important distinction to understand upfront because you could wind up in an expensive situation if you choose to sublet your apartment outside of the boundaries of your lease agreement.

Even if you don’t plan to leave, know what your options are. A lot can change in a year or two, and you want to be armed with all available options, should something alter your current plans.

4. Finding New Reasons for Photos

Selfies in your new apartment are probably second nature in this day and age, but there’s a better reason to put that shutter to work. Make sure you take tons of pictures of any damage or distress to the property as soon as you move in. Your landlord will likely charge you for those damages if he or she doesn’t know they existed when you got there. Put that camera on your phone to use and document anything you might be charged for when you move out. Send those photos to your landlord as soon as you can and keep them in a time-stamped folder for your safe-keeping, in case you ever need them.

Here are a few examples of things you should look for:

  • Stains on the carpet
  • Marks or scratches on the floor
  • Marks on the wall
  • Damaged blinds

Many landlords will have you fill out a move-in report where you can outline these types of damages on official letterhead, but it’s important to be prepared if a checklist isn’t provided to you.

5. Knowing What the Lease Actually Means

First-time renters sometimes have buyers’ regret (or renters’ regret, as the case may be) because they didn’t truly understand the rules of the decisions they’ve made. You don’t want to sign up for something, only to find out too late it’s not what you bargained for. It’s absolutely imperative to read the entire lease and understand exactly what each section is telling you before you sign it. Otherwise, you could cost yourself thousands of dollars throughout the duration of your lease.

6. Finding Furniture That Fits

There are a few things many first-time renters don’t realize they need to put on their apartment-hunting checklists until they find out the hard way. Of course, you’ll need furniture, but how will you get it? Will the furniture you currently own fit into your space? Don’t just think about the area where it will ultimately reside (although, that’s certainly an important factor). You also need to take entryways, elevators, stairwells, and hallways into consideration. If you’re sofa’s too big for the move, your entire aesthetic could go bust very quickly.

It’s important to take measurements before moving day to ensure your furniture actually fits inside your apartment.

7. Asking About Move-In and Move-Out Policies

A lot of first-time renters don’t realize there are usually rules around move-in and move-out. You might only be permitted to move on certain days of the month or week, and the times are usually restricted to specific hours during the day. Make sure you know this information in advance, so you can properly plan when the moving truck should be there. Otherwise, you could incur penalties if you move outside of a permitted window, or you may find yourself sitting around for extended periods of time as you wait for the approved time period to roll around.

The same goes for move-outs. Make sure you’re all set up and ready to go when your move-out day arrives. Being unprepared in an apartment full of boxes is no fun, especially if you find yourself in a rushed situation.

8. Knowing About the Parking Situation

If you rely on public transportation to get around, you can skip this one, but if you drive a vehicle, it’s important to find out about the parking situation before you find yourself endlessly circling the block for a spot. A lot of people who have relied on their parents’ driveways find a rude awakening when they realize that luxury doesn’t exist everywhere. Will you have an assigned spot? If so, will you have to pay for it? If street parking is the only option, how difficult will it be to find a spot on a regular basis?

It’s also important to know what the street parking rules are so you avoid expensive parking and street sweeping tickets.

If you’re ready to sign your first least—whether you’ll be a first-time home renter or signing on the line for your first apartment—it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you make a commitment. Bay Management Group has everything you need to be sure you’re safe and secure as a first-time renter. If you have first-time renter questions, we’re here to help. If you’re looking for a place to rent, we’ve got you covered. Simply head to our website, browse our available rental properties, peruse our helpful FAQs, or contact us today.

What Are Tenants Looking for In a Rental Property in Baltimore

Couple in house

When looking for a rental property in Baltimore, prospective tenants have many decisions to make. Along with what the interior of the unit looks like and which amenities are available, people also want the exterior of the building to look nice, for common areas to be well-kept and welcoming, and many have a preference whether the property is professionally managed or not. In other words, landlords must go beyond hardwood flooring for a rental property and other rental property trends, and instead must give new tenants a look into the whole package.

What Do Tenants Want in their Units?

When it comes to rental property upgrades, kitchens and bathrooms are where you’ll get the most bang for your buck. Nearly every tenant will appreciate a recently renovated space in these rooms, and many renters are looking for top-of-the-line finishes such as granite countertops and stainless-steel appliances. Smart appliances and features such as smartphone integration are also making their way to the top of tenants’ wish lists. The good news about these upgraded appliances is that you’ll be able to keep tabs on maintenance and troubleshooting issues which can make some management tasks a bit easier.

When considering upgrades for your rental unit, budgeting for washers and dryers in each unit will help keep your vacancies down. Nearly all new construction is including these appliances in each unit rather than a community laundry space or no laundry room at all. Busy lifestyles and tight schedules mean trips to the laundromat or shuffling heavy baskets down to the basement are becoming a thing of the past.

Finish off the rest of the space by considering the best paint color for a rental property such as neutral grays, tans, and creams. Stay away from bold colors that can interfere with a tenant’s personal taste or worse, a stark white that can turn any rental unit into a cold, institutionalized space. Pay attention to places where you can add creative storage solutions, too—especially if your rental space is on the quaint size. Renters appreciate having a place to put all of their belongings that keep them out of plain view, and kitschy creativity can win you big points when you unveil hidden gems and unexpected storage spaces.

Your Property’s Exterior

Safety, security, and a clean building in good repair are what today’s tenants are looking for. Single-family homes do not need to have extensive landscaping with a hefty maintenance bill, but the lawn should be in good shape and plants, bushes, and other greenery should be regularly trimmed and maintained. Siding should be clean and free from major damage and the entire exterior should be free from chipped paint and other eyesores.

Multi-family properties should be in the same condition as single-family homes, but a little extra attention should also be directed to common areas. Dirty, aged carpeting, dingy and poorly-lit hallways, and unwelcoming entryways are a quick turn-off. Instead, invest in these spaces so they are fresh and include security features such as cameras and bright lighting.

It’s important to maintain proper upkeep on your property not only to ensure it’s aesthetically pleasing to potential renters, but also to ensure the bones and structure of your space stay healthy. For example, it’s best to have your roof professionally inspected at least once a year, preferably twice. Doing so will ensure your tenants aren’t caught off guard with leaks, mold, and mildew that usually occur when roofs aren’t properly maintained. Catching this type of situation before it erupts into a problem can save you tons of money down the road, both in the cost of repairs, as well as replacing any damaged property your renters would suffer.

Neighborhood Considerations

When searching for a property to purchase as a rental, spend extra time looking into the neighborhood of the building, as it’s a critical element for most renters–especially those of the younger generations. Millennials, in particular, want friendly, walkable neighborhoods with plenty of amenities nearby. Destinations with casual and trendy dining, nightlife, and dog-friendly parks are a must for happy tenants, as well as plenty of shopping options, especially for staples such as groceries, pharmacies, and clothing. When possible, people would rather not get into their car and drive–especially city dwellers who don’t want to fight with parking and traffic. Up-and-coming neighborhoods can obviously bring with them outstanding returns on investment if you get in at the right time and know how to navigate. Bear in mind, however, that there’s a fine line—at least in the eyes of renters—between still-too-dangerous to inhabit and soon-will-be-trendy. You don’t want to dump all of your money in a neighborhood that won’t be awesome for two more decades, but you need to find a way to fit into the scene while changes are still occurring. If you do it right, you’ll attract a specific type of tenant who’s drawn to that exact type of lifestyle.

For buildings you already own, there’s not much you can do about the neighborhood, but consider who you’re marketing to when trying to fill vacancies. Suburban locations that demand at least one car per household may not be very attractive to younger individuals or working couples. Instead, those neighborhoods may be more appealing to families and people who are already accustomed to this lifestyle.

Beyond Appearances

The interior of your rental unit may be a primary concern for your prospective tenants, but it’s far from their only consideration. While you want to invest the time and budget on upgrades, repairs, security, and cleanliness inside your units and buildings, the exterior factors will also be important for a renter’s final decision. In fact, if the outside looks like it comes from the pages of a horror novel, nobody’s going to care what it looks like inside; many prospective tenants may opt out of even entering your apartment in the first place.

Make sure you’re doing as much as you can to improve the factors you can control such as lighting, security, paint, and repairs and that you’re marketing to the right audiences for elements you cannot control such as neighborhood amenities and walkability. The right marketing will bring perfect tenants to your front door. Poor marketing will just waste valuable time and resources on people who aren’t likely to be interested in the property you’re offering anyway.

Marketing to prospective tenants is as much an art as it is a science. If you’re not sure how to get the right renters’ attention, don’t spin your wheels on stuff that may not work. It’s best to invest in a professional property management firm that speaks the marketing lingo your future tenants are looking for.

Are you a landlord who’s trying to attract the right tenants to your rental property? Bay Management Group specializes in tenant screening to ensure the best and brightest rental candidates arrive at your door. Our full-service suite of property management services includes marketing our clients’ rental properties, identifying top potential tenants, and taking care of your renters’ needs with our team of 24/7 on-call property managers. Ready to see why we’re all the buzz in the Baltimore rental market? Start with your free Property Management Analysis today!

Part 2: How to Effectively Market Your Rental Property

marketing baltimore real estate property

Once your property is ready for advertising, you must decide where to market online. With so many sites, it’s difficult to know which ones are reputable and worth your time and money. Here are a few websites we recommend you should use to market your property to gain the most exposure:

1. Use Multiple Listing Service (MLS)

MLS is a collaborative effort between brokers that helps to make properties more widely available to potential buyers. If another broker has a client who’s interested in a listed property, this broker contacts the listing broker, and they both receive part of the sales commission. MLS is not only beneficial for brokers to increase their sale opportunities, but it’s highly beneficial for future landlords because it exposes their properties to a colossal pool of potential renters.

Renters or landlords must work with a real estate agent, broker, or property management company to access MLS. NAR (National Association of Realtors) statistics show 92 percent of buyers use an agent in the home-buying process, so the likelihood of your property gaining massive exposure is certain. Using an agent is a great choice for effectively marketing your property. Many agents specialize in working solely with landlords to rent properties and don’t handle home buying at all. Find a trusted rental agent or property management company who will invest in your property.

2. Market for Free

Beyond MLS, many free online marketplaces exist for gaining rental exposure. Zillow receives 160 million visitors per month. It is a popular site that offers free listing services to landlords with fewer than 50 units. Zillow is so powerful it bought two other well-known marketplaces – HotPads and Trulia – to form Zillow Group. Now, if you post on Zillow, your listing spans across all three networks, making Zillow Group essential to your marketing strategy. NAR research shows 99 percent of millennials use online search websites, and 89 percent of older consumers use them, too. Free services such as Zillow are an easy and valuable choice for marketing.

Craigslist is another option that receives massive online traffic because it ranks 14th in the country compared with all other U.S. sites. Listing is free, and you are guided step-by-step through the listing process. Craigslist has mandatory sections to fill out that provide renters with helpful information, and landlords can write as much description about the property as they want in the description box. Space is available for the address, or you can simply enter the zip code if you’d rather not make the address public. The post becomes live on Craigslist after you upload photos. For online amateurs, Craigslist is a simple, yet powerful platform to market rentals properties.

Consider the Implications of Online Marketing

Online marketplaces are easily accessible and provide good exposure, but it takes time and effort to manage your listings. After going through the process of preparing your property, you may not have the energy to complete the second half of the process of actually marketing your property. Along with the time investment, you must avoid several issues that thwart the ease of marketing online.

1. Avoid Misleading Strategies

Many landlords are unaware of hidden strategies when they use online listing services such as Zillow. It is free to post your rental property, but Zillow has a few secret strategies you should understand. If you’re renting your property yourself (For Rent By Owner – FRBO), you run the risk of interested renters mistakenly contacting other real estate agents about your property because of Zillow’s page displays. In the sidebar of a page, you’ll normally see some agents listed where Zillow sells advertising space to agents. One agent is typically pre-selected, so an interested renter can easily mistake them for you – the owner – and fill out his or her information card. Zillow then sends the information to that agent as a lead. Zillow’s mobile app has a call button that goes directly to an agent and not to the owner of the property. These hidden strategies increase the difficulty of receiving any leads as a FRBO.

2. Avoid Safety Issues

Safety considerations come along with FRBO. Since Craigslist is free and open to the public, it attracts some people of questionable character. Safety precautions are vital when communicating with a potential renter on Craigslist. One way to protect yourself is to avoid posting the exact address of your property; post only the zip code. You can supply the address if someone contacts you requesting more details and you determine he or she is trustworthy. Not posting your phone number or email is another way to protect your privacy. Renters can contact you using Craigslist’s email link initially, so if you receive spam, you can ignore the email and have peace of mind knowing the spammer doesn’t have your personal email.

Zillow Group and similar websites often present the same safety issues. If you want to ensure potential renters contact you instead of a pre-selected real estate agent on Zillow, you must make your phone number extremely obvious at the top of the listing. This could result in spam calls that make you feel insecure. FRBO always involves doing your own showings as opposed to an agent handling this step. Communicating with an interested renter via email or phone offers a limited means of assessment. Meeting someone in person at a private location brings a whole other level of unease if you are not comfortable with the person. To protect yourself, invite a friend or family member to your property when you have showings.

3. Avoid Hidden Fees

Hidden fees for listing your property creep up and make the online marketing process much less enjoyable. Many companies make you pay a one-time flat fee to post across multiple platforms, such as Flat Fee Group. Other companies charge for any leads you receive. All these unexpected fees make online marketing an unpleasant experience for many landlords and sellers.

Invest in Bay Management Group

Investing in a property management company is the best way to avoid online complications. If you lack the time or energy necessary for successful online marketing, Bay Management Group (BMG) is a reputable choice that will handle all the work for you. Here are the benefits of using a property management company like BMG:

1. Streamline the Process

At BMG, we streamline the marketing process through Appfolio. This software has a platform that allows us to post your listing across almost 40 different sites. After we enter a description of your property and upload photos, one click of a button sends your listing to numerous sites to increase exposure and market your property to as many renters as possible.

2. Save Time

Life is time-consuming enough without having to worry about renting out a property. Preparing and marketing rental property could be another full-time job all in itself. Using BMG is an excellent choice for landlords who want to avoid the time-consuming process and begin renting their property as quickly as possible. We offer full leasing services as well as tenant screening for landlords.

3. Enjoy the Added Benefits

The work doesn’t stop once you rent your property. BMG assists you as a property owner by offering many additional services. Whether you need move-in and move-out reports to assess any damage to your property, collection of rent and management of the eviction process, BMG can advise you on the latest laws regarding rental properties to ease the process. We even send monthly financial statements and provide a 1099 at the end of each year and our maintenance crew is available 24 hours a day to address any concerns from you or your tenants. Beyond the initial marketing process, we handle all your needs as a property owner.

Select the Best Option for You

Marketing your rental property on your own is a definite possibility. Plenty of online resources and marketplaces, such as MLS, Zillow Group, and Craigslist exist, though MLS restricts access to brokers and real estate agents. Preparing your property consumes a chunk of time initially, but once your property is ready for the market, you won’t have to invest more time in preparations.

Do-it-yourself marketing requires a lot of time and energy. You also will have to schedule time to answer phone inquiries and conduct property showings to potential renters. Handling the entire process is overwhelming for most property owners. If you’re looking for a solution, BMG offers the marketing services you need to rent your property promptly with as few obstacles as possible. Save yourself time and lease your property as soon as possible with BMG.

Additional Resources:

Part 1: How to Effectively Market Your Rental Property

marketing your baltimore rental property

Back in the day, searching for a home was as simple as opening up the newspaper and looking at advertisements. But now, the impact of the digital age is infiltrating many areas of life, and real estate is no exception. 95 percent of homebuyers search websites as one method of shopping for a home, according to the 2017 Report: Real Estate in the Digital Age by National Association of Realtors (NAR). Additionally, 72 percent of homebuyers use their mobile devices as another tool in their home search. These intriguing statistics make a case for the importance of the internet when marketing a rental property. Online search sites have replaced newspaper ads, and virtual tours have replaced in-person showings. With online marketing you have the most exposure if you want to market your property effectively and rent it quickly.

Some people may not be comfortable with marketing to online platforms. Unfamiliarity with online property sites and the time involved in posting to each is enough to deter potential landlords from starting this process. But by employing the aid of a property management company, they can market your property to its fullest potential and provide additional assistance after you sign a lease – ultimately this is your best option.

Prepare Your Property for Marketing

Marketing a rental property online takes work and there is some required preparation involved. You will first want to ensure you do everything possible to create a warm and welcoming appearance to your property to attract renters. By following these essential steps before you market your home online, you will achieve greater marketing success:

1. Clean Up

This seems basic, but it’s amazing how many dirty and disorganized homes exist on the market. If you want to attract buyers, don’t repel them with filth and messy rooms. Start by discarding any trash, and then pick up and put away shoes, clothes, or other objects lying around. Put everything in its proper place in a neat and orderly fashion. Remember, interested renters want to look in closets, so don’t just shove your belongings in there; arrange them neatly. You want the closets to appear spacious, so renters see there is plenty of room for storage.

Deep clean your property after you have decluttered and removed any garbage or debris. Clean behind furniture you don’t normally move and all kitchen appliances, wipe off any obvious wall marks, remove any carpet stains, and replace any missing cabinet knobs. Make your home look the way you would want it to if you were moving in. Cleanliness is a basic step, but it’s vital to your property’s success.

2. Landscape

After you’ve cleaned the inside, move on to the outside. The front of your home is the first impression a potential renter has of your property and you can’t afford to make it a bad one. Reliable sources such NAR and HGTV tout the importance of curb appeal and show how making your home’s outer appearance great doesn’t have to be expensive. Simple tasks such as mowing your lawn and weeding your flowerbeds are good places to start.

After you’ve tidied up the landscape, consider if some newly planted flowers or bushes may accentuate your property. Do a thorough scan of the exterior of your home. Are there any obvious repairs to address? Would a fresh coat of paint give your home a needed face-lift? Would a different color make the front door pop? Power washing the exterior is another wonderful way to revitalize your home. Lastly, examine the roof. Missing shingles or other roof damage negatively affects your property’s value, so address any roof repairs before advertising your property.

3. Stage and Photograph

Once your property is clean and looking its best, it’s time to stage your home for photographing. Make your home look like the alluring living space you see on TV shows. Fluff up the sofa pillows, arrange the furniture with care, and add a vase of flowers to the kitchen table. Pay attention to even the smallest of details and remove random objects from the kitchen and living room surfaces and ensure all toilets seats are down.

Once you’ve staged your home, you’re ready to take photos. High-quality photos can help you receive the highest price for your rental property. 89 percent of buyers find photos extremely useful when shopping online, according to NAR. Consider hiring a professional photographer if you feel incapable of taking high-quality photos.

Lighting dramatically impacts the appeal of your property. Poorly lit, grainy pictures give potential renters the impression the house is dark and gloomy. You want to market your property as warm, welcoming and full of light. If you’re unsure of your ability to capture well-lit photos, invest in a professional photographer. If you are comfortable with your photography skills, consider the best angles to showcase each room and the best time of day to capitalize on natural lighting.

Next Steps…

Now that your property is picture perfect and ready for advertising, you need to decide the best places to market it. Want to do it yourself? Check out these online rental marketing property resources. Or, if you don’t have the time to put into listing your property, contact Bay Management Group today and we can discuss the marketing resources we can offer you.

Additional Resources:

The Real Cost of Having to Evict A Tenant in Baltimore

eviction notice

Maryland is known to be a very tenant-friendly state, with Baltimore being one of the most tenant-friendly cities. This is awesome news if you’re a renter. However, if you’re a landlord, you should read the phrase “tenant-friendly city” far differently than you would if you were scouting a place with which to sign a lease. Tenant friendliness throws a lot of precautions in the faces of property owners because, by default, renters have a lot of protections. Strong renter protections mean landlords have a lot of hoops and ladders to crawl through if they need to evict a tenant. Even if you follow every requirement to a tee—which can be incredibly difficult for individual property owners, given the complexities of the laws— you’re still probably looking at a minimum of three months to have a non-paying tenant evicted from your property.

So, why does the eviction process take so long in Baltimore? Let’s take a look!

Evicting a Tenant in Baltimore: The Process

If you’re like most landlords, your rent is probably due on the first of the month, but you likely give a few days’ grace period. Depending on the terms of your lease, you can file after your specified grace period has expired, or sooner if you don’t offer a grace period. In Maryland you have to wait 5 days before you are allowed to file on a tenant for failure to pay rent. This is why it’s imperative to have a properly written lease signed and on file; it’s for your protection.

Step 1: Filing the Failure-to-Pay Notice

Before you can evict a tenant in Baltimore, you have to notify him or her that they have failed to pay rent for a given month. It’s important to do this as soon as you’re lawfully able, as the process that follows will be long enough without any additional delays.

To file a failure-to-pay rent notice, you must submit a written complaint to the District Court with details such as the amount of rent due and the court costs you’re expecting the tenant to pay. The rent notice will give your renter a court date, so they can defend themselves, should they wish to do so. The court date is usually about two or three weeks out from the date of filing.

Why Working with BMG Baltimore Makes a Difference

Bay Management Group in Baltimore, MD files failure-to-pay notices on all tenants after the 8th of each month if a tenant hasn’t paid rent. We monitor payments scrupulously and act immediately. We appear in court on your behalf, so you don’t have to take time out of your busy day.

Step 2: Obtaining the Warrant of Restitution

If the judge sides in your favor, you get can what is known as a warrant of restitution, which allows you to set up a time with the sheriff to go-ahead and take back possession of the property.

Once you receive the Warrant of Restitution, you have to wait about ten business days for the paperwork to be processed and sent to the sheriff’s office. When that’s in order, you can schedule a day and time to evict your tenant. In Baltimore City, you can expect an eviction date to be scheduled about 30 days out from the time the paperwork is ready.

Why Working with BMG Baltimore Makes a Difference

This process sounds easy on paper, but it can be frustrating for people who already have other commitments and busy lives. It often takes several phone calls before the paperwork has been processed and is in working order for an eviction. As you can see, even if you know all the channels and avenues you need to take, eviction in Baltimore is still a laborious process. If you’re trying to do it on your own, you’re going to spend hours (if not days) at the courthouse getting all of the documents prepped and sitting in the courtroom.

Bay Management Group eliminates the frustration and puts time back on your clock by taking care of these tasks for you.

The True Cost of Evicting a Tenant in Baltimore

Even if you’re successfully able to evict your tenant, you’ll be out roughly three months’ rent in a best-case scenario. Mind you, best-case scenarios can be pretty uncommon, so you may be looking at more, particularly if you try to take the process on by yourself. The missed-rent calculations are obvious, but a lot of people forget about the damage non-paying tenants can—and usually do—inflict on properties when they know they’re going to be evicted.

Once you’ve regained ownership of your property, prepare yourself for the worst. You might have:

  • Holes throughout the drywall
  • Destroyed carpeting, cabinets, and mirrors
  • Broken locks, doors, and appliances
  • Heaps of trash throughout the property

The cost of eviction goes a lot further than the loss of rent. Once your tenant is gone, you’ll need to pay for all the fixes necessary to make your place livable again before the next tenant can move in. In some cases, repairs could cost you thousands and thousands of dollars. If you don’t already have a team of qualified professionals to help you clean up the mess, you’re looking at days or weeks of phone calls, and if you stumble upon a contractor that doesn’t live up to his or her expectations, you’ll have to hire someone else to deal with the shoddy job left by your first-choice vendor.

Rebuilding After an Eviction

Once the tenant is out of the property, you’ve regained possession of your space, and made the necessary fixes to get it back into a rentable condition, you’ll need to find new tenants. You don’t want to wind up in another eviction situation a few months down the road so you will want to be extra careful about the tenants you select.

It can easily take over a month to find a high-quality tenant to whom you want to rent your space. To rent your space again, you’ll need to:

  • Take new pictures
  • Post your property to plenty of different rental sites to ensure you get great exposure
  • Start hosting property showings so people can see your place
  • Evaluate potential candidates
  • Call references
  • Run background checks, credit checks, and employment screenings

This process is seldom easy, and it’s far from quick. If you don’t already have a process in place, this part of rebuilding can get very overwhelming quite quickly. When you work with a professional property management company, these details are taken care of for you. You’ll have a team of social media experts, real estate-gurus, and experts who will present your place to proper potential candidates. In return, you can rest assured that thorough background and credit checks are done, ensuring the person who’s chosen for your property checks the boxes and meets your standards, so you can realize the benefits of being a homeowner in Baltimore.

Why Hiring a Property Management Company Makes Sense for Baltimore Property Owners

A well-written lease is your best friend when you’re a landlord in any city. But with Baltimore’s tenant-friendly practices, you really need to cover your assets. It is critically important to make sure you find quality tenants from the beginning, so you don’t have to deal with the eviction process.

If you don’t have the right screening processes in place, the total cost of an eviction could exceed $10,000 in Baltimore. The eviction, repair, and re-rental processes are not only costly by themselves; they’re also time-consuming, and time costs money.

Bay Management Group facilitates a reduction in evictions because we find the right people right out of the gate. Our clients’ tenants are thoroughly screened and vetted. We know when to take action, and we know how to approach eviction situations. It’s not your job to deal with the details; it’s ours.

Bay Management Group is Baltimore’s solution for eviction prevention. Given our thorough pre-screening process and highly skilled property management experts, our people know how to put the right renters in your space in the first place. If we place a renter who gets evicted within the first six months, we’ll re-lease your property for free because we stand by our word. If you’re ready to realize peace and comfort with our six-month tenant warranty, reach out to our BMG Baltimore team today!

Why Rental Services are a Must-Have in Baltimore

Maryland is known to be a fairly tenant-friendly state, and the City of Baltimore tends to lead the pack in terms of regulations that are built in favor of renters. This means, as a landlord, you have to be very clear about your requirements as a property manager, or you could find yourself footing a costly bill in the event you misunderstand, unwittingly omit, or outright ignore the obligations set forth by the city, county, and state. Before you hand the keys over to your next tenant, you need to thoroughly understand lead paint laws and rental inspection requirements, which can be incredibly time-consuming in this particular area of the country. Of course, you also need to have a well-written lease, inclusive of all the appropriate addendums. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, remember this is why successful landlords entrust their investments to professional rental management services in Baltimore.

Lead Paint Laws in Baltimore

Like most cities, particularly those with older homes, Baltimore has lead paint laws. If your property was built before 1978, the state requires you to provide the MDE Lead Paint Pamphlet, the HUD Lead-Based Paint Disclosure, and the EPA Lead-Based Paint Pamphlet to your renters when you give them their lease. In order to be able to legally rent your property in Baltimore, you must meet the standards required by Maryland’s lead paint laws. There are three classifications of lead paint laws in Baltimore: lead-free, limited lead-free, and risk-reduction certifications. If your property qualifies for the former two classifications, you’ll be exempt from the Reduction of Lead Risk in Housing Act. In order to obtain these classifications, your property must be inspected by an accredited MDE inspector who has lead-paint tested the interior and exterior of your property to determine the amount of lead present.

Lead-Free Inspection Certificates

A lead-free inspection certificate confirms that all interior and exterior surfaces of your property have been verified to be free of the presence of lead-based paint in accordance with the MDE’s established criteria. To obtain this status, you’ll need to pay a one-time lead-processing fee of $10 per property, per unit.

Limited Lead-Free Inspection Certificates

Limited lead-free certificates indicate the interior surfaces of your property passed the inspector’s lead-free testing, but the exterior painted surfaces contain some level of lead paint.

The exterior paint of your property must be intact to obtain this certificate, which has a two-year expiration. After two years, you must recertify that your property’s exterior is free of chipping or flaking. Should your two-year limited lead-free certificate expire, you’ll need to obtain a new inspection certificate and pay the MDE an additional $10 per property per unit processing fee.

Risk-Reduction Certification

  • Full-Reduction Inspection. This type of inspection is typically performed in vacant units. Inspectors will verify that any chipping, peeling, or flaking of paint has been removed from the walls and the air is free of lead-contaminated dust. The cleaner and more well maintained your unit, the more likely you are to pass the dust test.

The costs of not adhering to Maryland’s lead paint laws can be substantial. Tynae and Tajah Jefferson, who lived in a home riddled with lead-based paint when they were children were awarded a $5 million dollar settlement after their then-landlord admitted he knew of lead problems but did not disclose them at the time he rented his property to their family. In 2014, a 17-year-old boy was awarded a $2 million judgment as a result of suffering permanent brain damage at the hands of his negligent property owner.

If you need assistance with lead inspections for your rental property, consult the State of Maryland’s Department of the Environment for a full list of state-accredited lead paint inspection contractors, or contact a professional Baltimore rental property management company. Only those persons accredited by the state are qualified to inspect your property for the contents of lead.

Rental Licenses

As of August 1, 2018, new rental laws went into effect in the City of Baltimore; landlords and property managers have until January 1, 2019 to become compliant with the new terms. In order to obtain your license by the first of January in the coming year, you’ll need to have your inspections completed between 8/1/2018 and 12/31/2018. Failure to do so can result in hefty fines and penalties.

The new law requires landlords to obtain a certified inspection from a Baltimore City-licensed inspector in order to obtain the required rental license each property owner must possess in order to rent his or her space to a tenant. Inspectors will undertake a four-page inspection checklist to ensure your property is fit to be rented to tenants.

Baltimore County also requires certain licensing, which is necessary if your property contains one to six rental units. Should you rent your property without proper licensing, you’ll be subject to the “denial, suspension, revocation or non-renewal of the license or civil penalties of $25 per day for each day a violation occurs and $200 per day for each day a correction notice is not complied with, and there will be a $1,000 fine for not complying with the Rental Registration Law,” according to the Baltimore County Government’s website.

What Inspectors are Looking For

The City’s goal is the safety of its residents. This is why the governing bodies put so much emphasis on regulations and licensed inspectors. When your rental property is visited by an inspector, he or she will be looking for:

  • Properly placed smoke detectors and carbon monoxide alarms
  • Electrical systems that have no apparent issues of hazard
  • Functional plumbing with no apparent defects
  • Operational windows
  • Proper ventilation for all combustible appliances (furnace, heater, dryer, hot water heater)
  • Safe secondary means of escape, particularly in sleeping areas

Before you hire an inspector, be sure he or she is licensed by the State of Maryland. This will likely save you a lot of frustration in the long run. Registration fees range from $40 to $50, depending on whether you live in the property you own, as well as how many tenants you have living in your property. Should you choose to rent your property without the proper licensing, you’ll be subject to costly penalties that can quickly translate into exorbitant costs.

If you’re concerned about the day-to-day dealings regarding Maryland’s landlord-tenant laws, consider hiring a rental property management company based in Baltimore to take care of these tasks for you.

Baltimore Landlord Documentation

Being a landlord is just as much about having the proper documentation as it is owning the property. Before you rent out your place, you’ll need to have a number of documents properly prepared and ready to hand to your future tenant. The following list is a brief summary of some of the most important documents you’ll need:

The Lease

First and foremost, you need to have a properly composed lease that puts all landlord-tenant obligations and expectations on the table in black and white. It’s highly inadvisable to go with an online lease template because rental laws vary greatly between states, counties, and cities. Make sure you’ve covered your assets by employing a legal professional who understands rental laws, specifically as they relate to Baltimore.

Lease Addendums

Related to the point above, Baltimore requires certain addendums you’ll need to present to your future renter, such as the following:

  • Mold Addendum
  • Asbestos Addendum
  • Lead Addendum
  • Pest Control & Bedbug Addendum
  • Baltimore Flood Addendum
  • Radon Disclosure
  • EPA Radon Guide for Tenants
  • Military Addendum

The Leasing Process

Photos are your best friend. Time-stamped images of the before and after conditions of your property will help you substantiate any claims that may need to be made in court. Walk through the property with your tenant and take photos throughout the process. Recreate this journey when your tenant moves out, so you have proper before and after images. Provide your renters with move-in and move-out checklists, so your expectations are kept on a level playing field. This documentation is imperative because it will protect you if a tenant later accuses you of renting an unfit space. It can also help you achieve recourse if your property is left in a mess.

Why A Baltimore Property Management Firm is Right for You

Dealing with lead paint laws, rental inspection requirements, time-consuming eviction processes, and proper documentation is a full-time job. There’s a lot more that goes into property management than most first-time investors realize, and they can quickly find themselves underwater when things start going south. This is exactly why professional property management companies exist. Using their industry expertise and full-time staff of dedicated property pros, property management companies eliminate the stresses of being a landlord from their clients. Once you see how much work goes into managing a rental property in Baltimore, an eight to 10 percent fee pays for itself by giving you peace of mind.

If you don’t know every detail about every necessary addendum, or if you’re not prepared to spend countless hours tied up in the court system, we have a solution! Bring your property management needs to Bay Management Group and let us deal with the rest.

Bay Management Group is Baltimore’s premier property management company, helping property owners and landlords understand the laws while fostering proper landlord-tenant relationships. If you’re ready to embark on a better way of managing your property, you’re ready to reach out to Bay Management Group.