Due Diligence in Screening Prospective Tenants
You should have the prospective tenants fill out a rental application and sign consents so you can request their credit report. Ensure the prospective tenants have stable employment and check their references by calling their current landlord. If the tenant does not have good credit, find out why. If the tenant has a reasonable explanation for not having good credit such as a divorce, get the tenant to have a cosigner who has good credit to sign the lease with them.
Have a Good Residential Lease
The lease is very important and should outline what each party can expect from the other party during the lease term. It should contain rules that the you expect the tenant to follow. The lease should explain what charges are paid by each party such as utilities, landscaping snow removal, etc.
The lease should address late charges and eviction procedures including how long you are required to store the tenant’s belongings that are left behind. The lease should include a clause regarding Act 215 so you can recover back rent through wage garnishment. It should also have the tenant waive the written notice to quit. The lease should require the tenant to pay landlord’s attorney fees if he is evicted. It should address the notice period each party must give to terminate the lease after the first year. The lease should require the tenant to provide pay stubs annually so you can verify their employment.
I recommend you take pictures of the property before you rent it. Then walk the tenant through the rental property so the tenant can see there is no property damage. Then when the tenants move out if there is damage you can take a picture of the damage and provide the tenant with before and after photos so you can explain why you are taking their security deposit. You should always give your tenants a receipt if they pay the rent or security deposit in cash indicating the date and amount received.
Limiting your Liability
You should deposit the rent in a separate bank account and should have the rental property owned by a Limited Liability Company (LLC). If you do not want to pay the 2% transfer tax to transfer the property in the LLC’s name you should have a $1,000,000 umbrella policy in addition to a $300,000 liability policy on the rental property itself. You should require your tenants to have content coverage insurance so their contents can be replaced if there is a fire or other damage. You should require the tenant to provide you with the insurance policy declarations page on an annual basis.
If you have any questions or need a good lease feel free to call Gregory J. Spadea of Spadea & Associates, LLC in Ridley Park at 610-521-0604.