Drafting a comprehensive lease agreement is one of the most important things you can do when leasing your Baltimore County home.
As a landlord, it is your responsibility to set the standard high for tenants from the beginning when it comes to your investment property. Otherwise, you cannot expect your tenants to take you seriously.
Whether you like it or not, you cannot completely avoid problem tenants. However, after today’s discussion about leasing policies (the good, the bad, and the ugly), you will have a better understanding about how to ward of potential problems using your leasing policies as ammo.
So you have a vacant rental property. Maybe school is out and your usual Towson or Catonsville student-residents have gone home for the summer. Or maybe your Dundalk tenants recently outgrew your home. Whatever the case may be, your investment property is empty and you want the community to know it is available.
- Good – Using a property management team, such as Bay Management Group, will help you have a plan in place for when you need to advertise vacant rentals. Aggressively marketing your property through online ads, major search engines, and even via direct mail (even in small towns like Essex), you can rest assured your rental will be advertised as available through the use of professional, informative rental ads.
- Bad – If you decide to go it alone and advertise your property without the help of a professional, make sure you take care to craft decent looking ads. Poor use of photos, paired with a lack of specific details will attract lower quality tenants, if any at all.
- Ugly – Not advertising your rental property at all is just asking for a lengthy vacancy. The only thing worse would be an ad discouraging a protected class from applying to lease your property (which could get you in hot water with the Maryland Commission of Civil Rights).
The next stage for leasing your rental property would definitely be screening potential tenants. Just because you own a home in a well to-do place such as Owings Mills, known for its high livability score, does not mean you will not come across problem tenants.
- Good – Have a thorough screening process in place. Again, Bay Management Group has plenty of resources to help you with this process. Prior evictions, judgments, bankruptcies, criminal history, and credit worthiness are all things that should be included with every tenant screening you conduct.
- Bad – Failing to check a potential tenant’s references may lead to problems in the future. What if this tenant always paid their rent late? What is there was excessive damage after they moved out? What if they were noisy and bothersome to their neighbors? A quick chat with a previous landlord may be able to expose all of this and more.
- Ugly – Negotiating with a potential tenant before they have seen your property or have even been qualified is a waste of time. Drawing up a detailed lease agreement with built-in negotiations only to find out in the end the tenant did not like your property or isn’t even qualified, leaves you having to start the search for a new tenant all over again.
Rent Collection Procedures
One of the most important policies within your lease agreement is the policy you plan to enforce regarding rent collection. Making a profit is after all why you own a rental home, especially if you own in a region such as Pikesville, known for being a prosperous town.
- Good – Outlining the rent collection policy in your lease agreement with serious expectations is one way of helping to ensure your tenants pay their rent on time. With Bay Management Group’s help your tenants will have a clear understanding of when rent is due, how much is to be paid, and what the consequences are for not paying on time. Better yet, the provision will be legally compliant so you will not have to worry about any legal issues.
- Bad – One of the biggest mistakes a landlord can make is creating detailed rent collection policies and then not following through with them. Tenants will quickly learn what they can get away with. Allowing late payments, installment payments, or even allowing one month’s rent to go unpaid sets a nasty precedence. Make use of Late Rent Notices and follow through with the eviction process if necessary. Just make sure you tenant’s know you are in charge.
- Ugly – Including a late penalty of more than 5% of the total rental amount due each month, and not providing you tenant a receipt for payment if they pay in cash or request one, are just two of the policies not allowed in a rental agreement. Make sure you understand the laws if you do not have help drafting a lease.
Repair and Maintenance Policies
Maintenance requests are a staple for any rental property. They can make or break your turnover rate and create major headaches if proper policies are not in place from the start.
- Good – Employing Bay Management Group to handle maintenance issues of all types can guarantee tenant satisfaction. With a trusted maintenance crew made up of qualified contractors on hand 24/7, you will never have to worry about your tenants complaining about requests that were never fulfilled.
- Bad – Not including your tenants’ maintenance responsibilities in the lease agreement will make for conflict in the future. If you do not designate to your tenants what they must handle, it is likely you will end up making more repairs than you care to. In addition, if you do not provide your tenants with proper contact information for making maintenance requests, chances are you will receive many unwanted phone calls.
- Ugly – Refusing to make legally required repairs to your rental property, not registering your pre-1978 home with the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE) for lead paint purposes, and not following the housing codes that set minimum standards for livability are all against the law and will turn costly if a tenant files a complaint against you.
It would not be surprising if your Parkville tenants wanted to have a pet in your rental property. This family-oriented suburb with long-term tenants will want that final addition to the family. Fine-tuning your pet policy is a good idea so that you tenants know exactly what is expected of them when it comes to their furry friends.
- Good – A pet policy should be included in your lease agreement regardless of your stance on pets. This will make it clear both ways whether pets are allowed and the rules surrounding each possibility. If you allow pets, make sure you collect information about them such as breed, vaccinations, and prior behavior.
- Bad – Not charging a pet deposit, whether refundable or not, may set you up for costly repairs in the future. Charging your tenant to be extra responsible since they have introduced an animal into your home is the best way to protect yourself from later damages.
- Ugly – If you don’t allow pets in your home, that is your right. However, denying a companion animal for those tenants with disabilities is not your right and you can face serious charges for this type of housing discriminating.
Drafting a good lease agreement with solid policies outlining what is expected during tenancy is one of the best ways to ensure a good lease term for both you and your tenants.
With the help of Bay Management Group. you can avoid both the bad and the ugly leasing policies that tend to creep into lease agreements and wreak havoc. Having access to several advertisement outlets, a thorough screening process, legally compliant lease agreements, 24/7 maintenance availability, and so much more, this team of property management experts can handle anything that comes their way.