Every landlord has some tasks that they have to perform on a regular basis when renting our residential property:
- Preparing the property for tenancy
- Creating property condition reports
- Determining the best rental price
- Marketing vacant property
- Collecting rental applications
- Screening tenants
- Preparing forms and legal documents
- Getting documents signed
- Collecting payment (rent and security deposit)
- Following up / communicating / dealing with tenant complaints
- Dealing with maintenance issues at the property
- Moving a tenant out and starting over.
Here are some great online software tools that can help with the rental process:
Preparing property for tenancy / creating condition reports
Happy Co (formerly Happy Inspector) offers a suite of tools to help landlords with the property inspection and condition report process. You can easily create a digital condition report with a tablet or smart phone. You can even customize it, add photos and sign it digitally. This is not only a time-saver, but a really good form of proof should there be damage or cleaning required when the tenant moves out (you can embed photos right into your condition report). These condition reports are your best-friend in court (though hopefully you won't need them:-).
There are a handful of websites that allow you to get extra exposure for your website:
You can use a free software like Turbo Tenant to easily send your vacancy listing automatically out to dozens of the top online rental marketing websites.
Determining the Best Rental Price
There are a handful of ways to price your rental property some better and some not-so-good.
- Take the current (former) price and bump it up a little bit
- The problem with this is rents do not necessarily always adjust upwards in an even manner. Depending on your location rents may have skyrocketed up over 20% in a year or they may have gone down 10%. The market determines the rent price - and the market is not always "up a little bit."
- Set it high and adjust it down until it rents
- There can be a few problems with this method: 1. You may lose a lot of rent having the property sit vacant while you try to get the highest rent amount, so much so that you would have been better-off with a lower, more accurate starting price. 2. Your pricing could be perceived as illegal discrimination - if you tell one person one price, then another a different price (because you just lowered it).
The better method of determining rent price
Look at comparable properties and set a realistic rent price
There are a handful of ways to figure our rent comps. Look at listing websites like Craigslist, ApartmentList or Padmapper and start searching for similar rental units in your area. But perhaps the best and easiest method is entering your address and rent amount into a rental comp website like Rentometer - they will tell you if your rent is reasonable (or high or low) by comparing it to other properties in your area.
Collecting Online Rental Applications
Tenants are always on-the-go. And millennials hate filling out long forms by hand and having to mail or fax (what is a fax?) them back to the landlord - this is time consuming to both the tenant and the landlord (that has to wait for an application in mail). Online rental applications will definitely make both your life easier and the tenant's life easier - plus you will fill your vacancy faster.
Collecting rental applications online is the way to go!
You can email or text the link (or have it with your online property listing) for your online application to a prospective tenant - and they can easily apply online 24/7.
The best way to avoid an eviction is with a thorough screening process. As a landlord you should be reviewing a copy of a tenant's credit and criminal background as well as contacting employer and landlord references.
There are online services like Turbo Tenant that make is easy to collect and review a tenant's credit and criminal background history. There is not even a a charge to the landlord for this service (the tenant pays an application fee).
Preparing Forms and Legal Documents
We recommend that you always use a written lease agreement (avoid having only a verbal contract). Depending upon your state and age of the property you may also need to provide a handful of other documents like: lead-based paint disclosures, property condition reports (see above), Megan's law disclosures, mold disclosures and more.
joeTenant.com provides some of these forms. Most landlord associations also have forms available to their members or you can use an easy online form builder (like this one from Law Depot) to create your own rental agreement.