Conduct an In-Home Visit

It’s recommended that landlords conduct an in-home visit of rental applicants as part of their screening process. One landlord was intrigued by this idea and asked the following questions:

“I have been thinking about implementing in-home visits. How do you go about doing this? Is there anything written about it in your application? How much notice do you give them (to clean up)? What are you looking for in an in-home visit? Do you just go in the front door or do you ask to see the kitchen and bathroom? I am looking for how you include this in your normal screening process. I have been hesitant because it just seems odd for me to say before I can approve an application I need to inspect your current home. Maybe I should just get over it?”
Here is the response by one landlord to these questions: Most important – don’t be timid. Who has the most to lose here? YOU! I copy Mike Butler’s teaching on this – it’s like a crystal ball to see what YOUR home will look like in three months. A drive by MIGHT be enough to deny, but most likely you need to step inside and see for yourself.

  • When they move out are YOU willing to clean up their mess?
  • If they made a sandwich on the kitchen counter would you eat it?
  • We take a photo of the animals. Cats: check the litter box. I pay a helper to go do this within 24 hours. She calls and makes an appointment. Dirty people do not clean even when they know you are coming. Clean people say, “My house is a mess. I get off work at 4:00. Could you come at 5:00 so I have a chance to pick up the house?” That’s a great answer! You found someone who CARES about their housekeeping!

Your tone of voice and confidence makes a big difference – for example: “Hi Mrs. Smith, your application to rent with ABC Property Management is partially approved. The next step is for me to stop by with a paper for you to sign and check your current home. I need to take a photo of your cat Fluffy. Would 6 o’clock be convenient?” I’m not concerned with clutter, toys, or laundry. I’m looking for stink, garbage, damage, and vicious animals.

Just do it. It’s not rocket science. Hire a Realtor if you want. But it’s up to YOU to protect your investment.

Stop Expecting Stuff Simply Because You Have a Legal Right!

“The renter refuses to let me or manager show the property.” I see landlords expressing this frustration often on the MrLandlord Q&A Forum. And yes, you may have the legal right to show the home to a prospective resident if you give the current renter proper notice. But so what! If the resident refuses to give you permission, it would not be to your advantage to try and enforce your legal right for many reasons. To really be able to enforce your legal right would take far longer than it would be practically helpful to you. And even if your resident did show it after being forced, do not expect the place to look inviting to the prospect and any words or attitude communicated by your current resident to the prospect would probably do far more negative than good.

So what is a landlord supposed to do? Simply resign to the fact that you have a non-cooperative resident and wait until they move out before you can do anything? That sure is not the answer, because that means you will probably lose at least a month’s worth of rent before getting another renter. Several reasons can contribute to the delay.

If you don’t get inside the home to see it before they move out, obviously you won’t be able to make any needed repairs before move-out, which means additional delay in getting the property ready and available for showing. I am a firm believer in making needed repairs while the resident is still living in the home and charging him for needed repairs BEFORE he moves. Ideally, a check on the property should be done two to three months PRIOR to the resident’s anniversary date.

As far as the resident being cooperative and allowing you to show a property, most often that can be accomplished by simply letting the resident know that he will be rewarded with $50 or $100 on top of an expedited return of their deposit if you can get the property rented by their last day of occupancy. You will be amazed at what this monetary “carrot” can do in terms of generating cooperation from your current renter. They will be much more likely to allow you to show the place, and have the place in good condition to view. The renter may even be ready to say something good about the property and the neighborhood, especially if you ask them specifically for cooperation in those three areas as you talk about the monetary reward.

One of the main points I want to express to landlords is to stop expecting renters to do as you wish so that YOU can benefit, even if what you expect is within your legal right. Instead, look for ways that the resident can also benefit. If offering a small monetary reward will gain their cooperation, you still come out much further ahead. Rewarding the resident with $100 but getting a new resident without losing any days of occupancy is financially much better for them and you, rather than losing an entire month of rent because you had to wait until the resident moved out before you could prepare or show the rental. I’d rather give a little and have both parties be a winner than stand by my legal rights and both parties end up losing.

Suck it Up and Move Forward!
When a resident moves out without notice and leaves owing money for damages or trash, instead of feeling down in the dumps, take the following “tough love” advice paraphrased from a fellow landlord:

  • Now suck-it-up. Inspect. Fix it up. Send detailed billing as required by law. Re-rent. Move forward and no whining!!
  • Don’t hate. Learn from your mistakes and learn how to collect the judgment on all who do this, and you will be rewarded.

As landlords, we need stop trying to console ourselves when renters do not perform as expected and simply realize that landlording is a “Suck It Up and Move Forward Business” – yes, it’s a business – often, with people who don’t pay their bills on time.

Rental Rules All Boil Down to This!

Tell Tale Signs That You Might Be a Landlord

  • You have taken your spouse out on a date and ended up at Home Depot.
  • You go for a Sunday drive (or even a vacation) and you look at houses that have potential.
  • You’ve walked into your friend’s house and you see their light fixture/flooring/door or whatever. You know where they bought it and about how much they paid for it.
  • You have your own corner table at the local fast food restaurant or UPS store. It’s your “office” for filling out applications and leases.
  • You can’t walk past the clearance stickers in Lowes or Home Depot without thinking, “Will I need one of these? Where can I use it?”
  • You go to a landlord convention or a friend’s house and fix the dripping flapper in the bathroom.
  • While driving, you spot a toilet or even a tank lid at the curb and slow down.
  • You get excited when you enter a house for sale and it is dirty and stinky. Less competition plus lower purchase price equals more equity.
  • They know you well enough at the landfill to give you a break on prices when you come with a truck load of junk from cleaning out a rental home.
  • When you meet new people you mentally screen them.
  • When you are driving, you set the rental price on every house you pass.
  • When your child is with you and you knock on a stranger’s door, they say loudly “Maintenance!”
  • You have a three or four car garage and still don’t have a place to park your car inside.
  • You know how to tell the difference between fleas from bed bugs. 

Let Renter Suggest Amount of Rent Increase
According to at least one landlord who visits and regularly contributes on the MrLandlord web site, the best idea he has ever gotten from our Q&A Forum was letting the renter suggest how much the next rent raise should be. Yes, you read that correctly. To let the renter suggest how much to raise the rent. A landlord reading this idea may start to question it, as one recently did on the forum. What if the amount the renter suggests is not a large amount, say only $15 when you were wishing they would say at least $25 or more?
To really appreciate this idea, you must understand the original reason I started sharing it years ago. I would run into landlords all the time who said they would not raise the rents on a good resident, because they didn’t want to lose them over a few bucks. I would also run into landlords who said they only raised rents at turnover, because again they were fearful that they would lose residents. It got to the point where the majority of landlords I talked to were NOT raising their rents at all with good residents. I dare say there are still many on this website who do the same and do not raise their rents out of fear.

Bottom line: Landlords are losing out on greater cash flow because they are afraid. With that being the case, I started suggesting to landlords, instead of “telling” your residents that there was going to be an increase, send a variation of a sample letter (some of which are shared by a couple of landlords on our forum) and “ask” the residents to suggest a fair rent increase amount.
The bigger purpose of this strategy was to help landlords, who up until now, were getting NO increase each year to start getting an increase based on what the resident suggested. So, even if a renter responded back and said $15 (when landlord was hoping for $25), the landlord who accepts the $15 increase is still ahead at this point. Because before now, that same landlord (who was afraid to raise rents at turnover or with good residents) never raised rent at all out of fear. And the best part of the strategy was if the resident was the one who actually suggested the amount, then you don’t have to be afraid that they will move.

The above tips are shared by regular contributors to the popular MrLandlord.com Q&A forum, by real estate authors and by Jeffrey Taylor, Founder@Mrlandlord.com. To receive a free sample of 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 the advice of other rental owners 24 hours a day.