A landlord looking to improve, commented and asked the following question on tenant screening: “I can’t believe it’s been almost 20 years that I’ve been renting out apartments. I wonder if my tenant search process could be improved. Here’s how I do it. First, I post ads online; Zillow, Craigslist, etc., with pictures and my phone number.
When prospects call, I do a brief 3-minute phone screening checking their income, family size, reason for moving out, etc. Then I schedule the date for them to view the apartments. They show up to see the apartment, fill out the application, and show proof of income/ID. I take a few days to check everything. If it looks good, I schedule the date to sign the lease with them.
I receive most prospects from Zillow, Hotpad, and Trulia. Many prospects ask for an online application through Zillow. It sounds odd to me that someone would want to apply for the place before seeing it. I think I could be wasting my time screening them using an online application, to find out later that they don’t like the apartment when they see it in person.
To me, it makes more sense for them to see the place before applying. However, what if I’m wrong? Maybe, accepting online applications would encourage them to actually show up to see the place and increase the rate of showing up (half of prospects are a no show). I don’t have to spend time on their applications until they physically show up and confirm that they want to move forward with their applications. What do you guys think? How do you deal with the tenant search process? Please share your thoughts/experience. Thanks.”
One Landlord Responded:
“I used to do it like you and experienced a lot of frustration and wasted time. Now, I put in the ads that they should inquire by sending an email. And every photo has the email watermarked on them. That email address has only one purpose – to send an automated response that says, ‘Thank you for your interest …’ and a link to a pre-screening questionnaire. You can ask the basic questions there that you ask on the phone – and get the same information without all the extra stuff and without being constantly on the phone. And … the pre-screening questionnaire is the same for everybody. No accidentally asking one person one thing and another person something else – no discrimination.
If they respond to those questions with bad answers, they get an automated reply that they do not meet minimum qualification requirement (I have no clue how to set that up – a computer genius did it for me – but it is REALLY nice!). Without this, you would have to copy and paste a pre-written reply to them.
Only if they respond with good answers, do I get the pre-qualifying info to my main email, and that is the first time I have actual contact with them. I will email (copy & paste) a link with a short, friendly message (such as: ‘Thank you for your interest…’) and a link to schedule a viewing on my website, where I put specific times/days options that work for me.
I will also attempt to call them when I send the viewing schedule link. That way, I can get a feel for who they are and ask if they have any questions at this time, I let them know I’m a real, friendly person — not a scam. I learn a little about their situation, listen for background sounds, etc.
Once the viewing is complete (in person or by video call if they are far away), if they are interested in applying, I send them a link to the application. It requires them to upload pay stubs, ID, a current utility bill, bank statements, etc. After ALL of those things are received and I have received the application fee, (via Google Pay or Zelle), only then do I begin to process the application.
I also use the credit check service on MrLandlord.com – (Tenant/Credit Checks.com) because they still let me see the whole report – rather than a score generated by someone else.” by DJ, VA.
Another Landlord Gave a Follow-Up Comment:
“I am predicting the next 10 years of business to be 10-fold more profitable than the first 20 years!!! Why? There is a HUGE difference in working IN a business than working ON a Business. You are electing to work on a business which requires process improvement. These improvements equate to more profit and more quality of life. Most people in the property management field never reach where you are at.” Ray, PA.
FINDING UNSKILLED LABOR
A landlord asked the following question pertinent for these times:
“I would like to know how YOU go about hiring unskilled labor in today’s climate of a national labor shortage. I want to give an example of a landlord situation that requires unskilled labor and curious how you would handle this.
Let’s assume here you have obtained a Writ of Possession after the eviction judge ruled in your favor. Now it is time for you and the sheriff (or constable) to meet at the house for the ‘set out’. The constable tells you that you have only 45 minutes to remove all of your tenant’s furniture, kitchen appliances, and other misc. junk out to the street curb. You have 24 hours here to locate unskilled labor to do this ‘set-out’ the following day. In the above situation, where do you find unskilled labor on short notice to do the above job in just 45 minutes? Please don’t tell me this is a job that you, your spouse, and teenage children all do together.”
There were several responses by fellow landlords regarding finding unskilled labor. I’ll share a couple of the responses below:
“I use day labor workers from the mission but you have to realize there is a risk when you do. In almost all states, you are required to carry Workers’ Comp insurance. For all practical purposes, these folks are employees. They meet the definition which includes directing their work, establishing the hours, and providing the tools. If they get hurt, the ambulance chasers will take them on for a cut of what they get which will be a sizeable settlement that isn’t bound by the limits of the state’s Workers’ Comp rules. Your commercial policy will have a liability exclusion for employees hurt on the job, so they will be no help.
So, you can either go through a temp agency that pays the Workers’ Comp insurance, an HR place that will take care of the payroll and Workers Comp requirements for employees, attempt to establish them as an independent contractor (my approach), or just not worry about them getting hurt and risk the peril.”
A Second Approach
“I have had great success with posting gigs on Craigslist, of all places. I post the job to be done, with pictures. I ask them to respond with how much they’ll charge, their qualifications, and their phone number. I post it at most, two days before I need the job done. There are a surprising number of people with legitimate skills who are willing to do a side hustle on their day off.”
Editor’s Note: If you only have one or two rentals, I like the idea of hiring workers from a local temp or man-power agency so that the workers fall under the agency’s Worker’s Compensation. For those with a few or more rentals, I would encourage landlords to consider hiring at least one part-time employee (even if only a few hours a week) for maintenance that would include repair tasks that are subject to potential injury. Even if you’re not required by your state to have Worker’s Compensation coverage, it may still be a good idea to get Workers’ Compensation insurance because of the work that may be needed at rentals. Just like property management errors and omission coverage, (specifically for self-managed properties), a Workers’ Comp policy helps protect you and your business.
If a company doesn’t have Workers’ Compensation insurance and a worker is injured on the job, most states will allow the employee to sue their employer by filing a personal injury claim. Not only is this a complex and expensive process, but the employer could be found liable for their injuries and forced to pay a costly settlement. In this scenario, the worker can sue for full compensation, pain and suffering, lost wages, etc. This would open the employer up to far greater losses than if they had just carried a Worker’s Comp insurance policy with workers’ compensation insurance. You don’t have to worry about that. In most states, it’s the “sole legal remedy” for injured workers. Worker’s Compensation coverage will pay for medical costs, rehabilitation, and lost wages for injured workers – and in most cases, the employer will also be covered (up to the policy limits) if the employee tries to sue for damages.
Solutions to a Common Rental Repair – Door Dents
Door dents are a common issue in rental properties, often found after residents move out. Below are several solutions suggested by different landlords for handling door dents to interior, wood, hollow-core doors and even metal exterior doors.
- Solution #1 – If it’s small, fill it with joint compound, sand it smooth, and paint it.
- Solution #2 – If larger than a quarter, use minimally expanding foam to fill, let cure, cut flush with serrated knife, then joint compound to complete.
- Solution #3 – With a wood door, cut out the damaged part, plaster and paint it to match. It looks decent.
- Solution #4 – We have successfully hung $5 light weight mirrors on doors to buy time.
- Solution #5 – For metal exterior doors, you can use Bondo instead of drywall joint compound. Bondo is what’s used in the automotive industry to fix car dents, basically just a plastic filler. Once you let it cure, sand it smooth and paint the door to completely hide the dent.
Solution #6 – We have door replaced completely when damaged and bill the resident’s security deposit. It started to be more frequent, more time-consuming and costly. Now, I charge for materials and labor. Typically, a pre-disclosed charge of $300 per door for interior, hollow-wood doors and more for metal exterior doors. By replacing them, you maintain the higher value of the property.
The tips in this column are shared by regular contributors to the popular MrLandlord.com Q&A forum, by real estate authors and by Jeffrey Taylor, [email protected]. To receive a free sample of the Mr. Landlord newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit their informative Q&A Forum at LandlordingAdvice.com, where you can ask landlording questions and seek advice of other landlords 24 hours a day.