This article was posted on Thursday, Oct 01, 2015
Dear Resident, We Are Not a Bank

One property manager was sharing with me that she has several past due residents, who were about to be evicted, were asking for more time to pay. They promised that a check (tax refund, payroll check, etc.) will be coming in the next week or so. The manager wanted advice on how to respond. I suggested that she memorize the following words, and be ready to state them in a very business like, “wish-I-could-help-you” manner:

“I wish that we could assist you in your situation. However, we are not a bank. We can not loan you the money you need until a future date, which is what you are asking us to do. We do not have the money to loan. In fact, because of unpaid rent payments, the management will have problems paying our own bills. So our only option, if someone is not paying, is to move them out so we can get another resident in as quickly as possible who will pay. I would encourage you to try and borrow money from someone to help you not lose your home and pay them back when you get the money you are expecting. Let me know immediately if you find someone to help you save your home.” 

Tenant Screening Tip Using Pennies

So I know we’ve all run into the scenario of finding loose change when tenants move out of our units. What I find interesting is it seems that the amount of money I find is in direct correlation with the amount of damage that the tenant caused. The more money I find, the more damages there are. So now it’s a habit to scan the unit right after move out to see how much I might be spending on repairs. I always make it a point to pick up any loose change and put it in my piggy bank to use for vacation money.

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On my last move out, I picked up all loose change on the inside of the house but on the sidewalk outside there were two pennies laying on the ground in very plain view. I thought I would try an experiment and leave them there to see if the neighbor next door (the house is a duplex) would pick up the pennies. Now this tenant is always struggling with paying rent on time and the house is not kept all that clean. After two weeks, the pennies were still there. Not surprised.

I started showing the unit a couple months ago and thought I would leave the pennies there to see if any prospective tenants would see the pennies and pick them up or leave them. As I was waiting for the first prospective tenant to show, I was watching her as she walked up the sidewalk. She spotted those pennies right away and excitedly told her friend that she found two pennies and picked them up and put them in her pocket. Needless to say I rented to her. I was just in her place a week ago and everything is spotlessly clean and organized. How interesting! 

Are You Disclosing to Residents If There Are Shared Utilities?

Oftentimes, I run into landlords who think it’s really no big deal if a very small part of the utilities that a resident is paying for is actually for something that benefits more than just the one resident (i.e. electric bill that covers a utility room, shared porch light or even an additional small apartment).
Generally speaking, landlords with shared utilities are required to disclose the existence of this arrangement to all prospective tenants before they begin their tenancy. This duty to disclose is triggered when there are no gas and/or electric meters separately provided for each rental and when the one meter records for billing purposes electricity usage for an external unit. When this disclosure duty is violated, remedies may vary from state to state, but often the landlord may be required to take one of three actions:

  • The landlord can place the utility bill in his own name and be responsible for payment.
  • The landlord can arrange for each rental unit to have its own meter.
  • The landlord can create a new agreement that specified how utilities will be divided. 

One landlord shared that in his area there are shared meter laws and that the landlord needs to show compensation for any utilities paid by the tenant outside their rental unit.
Another landlord in Pennsylvania shared that a resident can not pay for any utility that is shared no matter what the contract says from what he has been told it is called act 54. “Several times I have had tenants rack up large electric bills intentionally and then when they get a shut off notice from the electric company call the electric company and tell them that the front porch light is shared by them as well as another tenant so technically I had to pay the entire past due balance and wire in a second front porch light to the other tenants electric meter. That’s how technical it got.”
These are all good reminders why it is vital that we as landlords know your state laws.

Top Ten Landlording Tips

1.      Once you buy, the most important step is tenant selection so SCREEN well. [Use AOA’s low-cost, thorough screening services!] 

2.      Make your properties mechanically sound before renting.

3.      Inspect units every six months.

4.      You get what you allow. If you allow your tenants to pay late without consequences, they will take full advantage. 

5.      Document everything.

6.      Don’t take landlording advice from people who are not (happy, wealthy) landlords.

7.      Know the landlord-tenant laws for your state. [AOA sells California’s Landlord Law Book at a discount to members!  Buy one today!]\

 8.      Plan ahead. Cover all the “what ifs” you possibly can BEFORE they happen.

9.      Keep some reserves on hand.

10.  Join your local landlord association – [AOA] – (or renew your membership).

The above tips are shared by regular contributors to the popular Q&A forum, by real estate authors and by Jeffrey Taylor, [email protected]. To receive a free sample of Mr. Landlord newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit their informative Q&A Forum at, where you can ask landlording questions and seek the advice of other rental owners 24 hours a day.