Recently, I wrote a tip on the subject of how to effectively handle resident repair requests. My tip was shared with 11 other members of the Forbes Real Estate Council. Three of the tips are highlighted below:

1. Choose Your Trade Workers Ahead of Time

It’s better to plan ahead and have your trade workers lined up. If you are more interested in saving your time and not your money, find a general contractor who can take care of all your issues. The best way to find reliable trade workers or general contractors is by asking people you know for referrals. – Chris Ryan, Beyond Properties Group (eXp Realty)

2. Establish Emergency Availability for Yourself and Your Vendors

Establish emergency availability and ensure your vendors can provide the same. Pre-negotiate pricing and Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with strong vendors so you’re not haggling while your vendor is on-site and your resident is expecting a resolution. When capturing requests, use tools and processes that collect enough information and photos to help diagnose and then resolve issues in a single visit, when possible. – Jay Goldklang, Great Jones

 3. Offer a Maintenance Guarantee

In rare situations, repairs can’t be done as fast as residents want. If so, residents may get upset and call city inspectors. Why not offer a maintenance “guarantee”? If a repair is not made within 72 hours, the resident gets free rent on a prorated basis after the 72 hours until repaired. You eliminate resident frustrations and have more time to handle those rare times when a timely repair could not be done. – Jeffrey Taylor, Mr. Landlord Inc.

Get Your Money for Damages From Former Residents

An idea was shared on our Q&A Forum by a successful landlord and rehabber (NE, PA). In fact, it is a tip that he has used on multiple occasions successfully.

The landlord reminded other rental owners that we need to BILL residents who cause damage and leave owing you money. However, what he does is different than the way most landlords go after the money. Instead of simply sending an invoice for the total money owed, he gives them payment options to satisfy the bill. I’ve shared his post below:

“I had another resident move out last month. He and his roommate had a falling out and the roommate moved out a month or two prior. They left with a little over $1,000 in damages. I sent a payment plan to both of them and all of their emergency contacts. 

The plan was 20% off for one payment immediately, 

10% off for two payments, or 

Full price for three payments.

I just received a check with both of their signatures on the payment plan with payment number one of three selected for $361. I’ll take it. I would say this is one difference between deadbeats and well-screened residents.” 

Three Questions You Should NEVER Ask An Applicant

According to an article appearing in the publication of the Wisconsin Apartment Association, there are three questions (and fair housing tips) that you should NEVER ask an applicant.

1. What kind of accent is that or where are you from?

2. Do you have a disability?

3. Did you know there is a temple right over on Main Street?

All three of these questions can constitute violations of Fair Housing. Inquiring about the accent references information about their ancestry and national origin, both of which are protected classes. Also, you cannot ask someone if they have a disability. Ever. End of discussion on that one.

And while you think you may be informing someone of a local worship facility or a neat piece of architecture, this can appear as though you are targeting a specific religion (in this case Judaism) and discouraging believers of other faiths from applying.

“Fall Roommate Special! For only $50/month,  Add a Roommate and Share the Expenses!”

Our lease specifies we charge $100/month retroactive to the start of the lease if they move someone in who isn’t approved, and we also have the option to terminate the lease. But we all know people like to move friends/family in and think the landlord won’t care. It’s semi-inevitable, and as the season turns colder, my guess is some folks that are looking to save $$ are going to start considering shacking up/bunking up/whatever they call it.

So what if I know that a few of my tenants are ALREADY doing this? I could offer them a relatively “cheap” alternative to make it official vs. dropping the hammer on them and possibly end up with an eviction. Possibly a win-win?

The new roomie will have an application as usual and, if approved, will sign on as “jointly and severally liable” yadda, yadda on the lease. I’m not going to add anyone who I wouldn’t normally approve just for a meager $50. The added person must be collectible, have good references, etc.  

Cost to me?  $0

Benefits to me:

1)  More rent.

2)  Split cost of rent = more likely that the tenants will pay

3)  If it all goes badly, one more person to collect from

4)  Give the tenant who has an unofficial roommate to get back into compliance for a “discount” ($50 vs. $100)

My take: Normally, I actually prefer when there is only one person in a rental instead of roommates. I think roommate scenarios could possibly open the door for the potential negative repercussions or drama erupting. However, if an otherwise good resident has already “snuck” in an additional roommate that you are going to have to address anyway, then offering the limited time offer, may appear as though you are proposing a win-win situation as oppose to coming off as the bad guy. Now, if the resident does not take you up on the offer and the illegal roommate remains, then it’s time to enforce your lease.

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, 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 advice of other rental owners 24 hours a day.