Speed vs. Quality: Interviews and Screening Tenants
Most landlords dream of filling a vacancy almost immediately. But, when trying to put someone into their empty properties as quickly as possible, they often ignore proper screening processes.
If you don’t go through the proper screening and interview process, the tenant may end up violating the terms of the lease, which will result in you having to eventually evict the tenant.
No landlord enjoys evicting tenants. The eviction process itself can take months, and you likely won’t collect any rent during that period. Thus, be sure you don’t discount the long-term benefits of taking your time to put a quality tenant in your rental property.
Traditional Marketing Not Working for Your Rental? Think Outside-the-Box
- Word of mouth. Try to encourage your other current tenants to spread word that you have vacancies. You can even offer referral bonuses if they do, such as half-off the next month’s rent.
- “For Rent” signs. It might seem silly, but putting up signs in front of your rental will capture the attention of local traffic. Even if the person who sees it doesn’t want to rent from you, they may know someone who does.
- Online listings. Websites such as Zillow and Craigslist allow you to post your rental property listings for free. You can also take advantage of free online classifieds and other listing sites for Baltimore County.
- Real estate offices. Many larger real estate offices handle rental properties, but be aware that they’ll often charge you a fee that varies depending on your location.
- A Baltimore County property management team. A local property management company such as Bay Management Group can take over the duties of marketing your vacancies, as well as many other unwanted landlord tasks.
Consider Opening Your Rental to Section 8 Housing
The term “Section 8” refers to renters who qualify for the government’s Housing Choice Voucher Program.
People who qualify have a very low income and receive help to afford their rent. The government pays anywhere from 33 to 75 percent of their rent.
While it is illegal to discriminate against tenants for reasons outlined in the Fair Housing Act, it is important that all income property owners fully understand the program and how it may work for their rental.
- Guaranteed rent. The percentage of the tenant’s rent covered by the government will arrive on time every month via direct deposit.
- Low-priced marketing. Many websites offer property listings for a low fee. They’re frequently visited by Section 8 tenants, so it’s an effective way of placing renters in your properties quickly and inexpensively.
- Potentially higher rental rates. In general, the rent you can ask from a Section 8 tenant often exceeds what you get for low-income housing.
- Shorter vacancy periods. Many cities have lists with a great number of Section 8 participants seeking housing. If you file a vacancy on a property that has already been inspected and approved for Section 8 housing, you’ll very quickly fill the spot.
- Long-term tenants. Many Section 8 tenants stay in the same rental properties for a long time. They typically sign one-year lease agreements wherever they go, but oftentimes stay for much longer. They’re allowed to move, but they’re required to notify the Housing Authority, provide you with proper notice, and find a new home before they’re able to do so.
- No damage compensation. If a Section 8 tenant damages your property, you won’t receive any damage repair money from the government. The tenant’s voucher may be revoked as a result of damages caused to your property, but you won’t see any compensation for your losses.
- Additional occupants. Section 8 tenants are more likely to allow long-term guests such as family members and significant others to live with them. These extra occupants cause extra wear and tear on your property and aren’t legally allowed to live there under Section 8 rules.
- Strict property guidelines. Section 8 will not pay you any rent until they’ve inspected your property and approved it. Fortunately, their guidelines are fairly straightforward – but strongly enforced. If you fail your inspection, you have 30 days to make whatever necessary repairs before they’ll perform another inspection.
- Section 8 is often understaffed. As a result, minor clerical errors are commonplace. You may have trouble contacting Section 8 offices and filing claims.
Filling a vacant rental property in a rush can be stressful and it may be tempting to cut a few corners to move the process along quickly. However, it is essential that every rental property manager or owner adhere to a routine screening process with each potential tenant.
Always do your due diligence before approving a tenant’s application and think about the long-term relationship you will have with these tenants.
If the thought of this is overwhelming and you would like to enlist the help of a professional to aid in this process, contact Bay Management today to help you with all aspects of managing your rental properties.