Rental Property Checklist

Many cities have friendly neighborhoods with great properties. However, it’s important to know what to look for in a rental listing, so you can make a smart assessment about each rental listing you’re interested in.

Use this rental property viewing checklist to stay organized and prepared when viewing properties.

  1. What is the cost of rent?
    Clarify the asking price to guarantee you don’t overpay. If the landlord states a higher rent price than listed, highlight the inconsistency to be sure you get the lower advertised price.
  2. Is there an application process or screening criteria?
    Ask the landlord to explain their application and screening processes, and ask about application fees. A thorough screening process shows the landlord is careful about finding good renters.
  3. What payment methods are accepted for rent?
    Landlords can choose which forms of payment they will accept. However, some landlords make it easy for tenants and allow tenants to pay rent online . The option of online payment allows for automation, security, and convenience for both tenant and landlord.
  4. What is the procedure for submitting a maintenance request? Who makes the repairs?
    You want to be sure the landlord appropriately manages the property and responds quickly to repair requests. Clarify the maintenance procedure and confirm there is a plan in place for repairs. When viewing a property, inspect the current condition because it will offer clues to the upkeep routines of the landlord.
  5. Are furnishings and appliances included?
    It is common for renters to provide their own appliances and furnishings. However, this is not always the case. If the unit is furnished, be sure to ask exactly what is included in the contract so there are no surprises when you move in.
  6. Is there any water damage or mold related issues to disclose?
    Asking this question and having proper documentation of the answer can save you down the line if problems should occur.  Landlords are bound by law to provide a home with a healthy environment for their tenants.  No home should have ongoing water damage issues and/or mold growth at any time during your lease.
  7. Does it fit the budget?
    Be realistic about expenses. Confirm the property fits your budget so you are able to pay bills on time, build savings and still have money for entertainment and travel.

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Properly Vetting Tenants

Most investors are all too familiar with the horror stories of what can go wrong when you have the misfortune to land a problem tenant. But the best way to avoid such nightmares – and thus maximize the returns on your investment – is to try and select a good tenant in the first place. Whether or not you decide to leave the tenant selection process in the hands of a property manager, it is sensible to have a solid set of vetting criteria in place.

When it comes to vetting potential tenants, landlords should:

  1. Require them to fill out a detailed application form.
  2. Get both professional and personal references and thoroughly verify them.
  3. Request at least three months bank statements.
  4. Use a credit referencing service.
  5. Get extra information – eg: a utility bill in the tenant’s name.
  6. Ask them to show evidence of assets.
  7. Speak to their current real estate agency and, if possible, some previous landlords to establish their rental history.
  8. Call their current employer and, if possible, a past employer to establish their employment record.
  9. Ask for a copy of their passport and/or driver’s license.
  10. Secure a guarantor – eg: a parent.
  11. Check tenancy databases to see if they have been listed as a bad tenant.
  12. Always meet them in person to assess them and get a feel of who they are.

Essentially, you should be looking for a tenant who is in stable employment and has a regular income; has a solid rental history; and who is reliable, diligent, responsible and house-proud. Finally, it is also a good idea not to rush into a decision too quickly… An extra week or two of rent might pale in significance compared to a bad tenant decision made in a hurry.

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Inspect Even When Renting

For many people, renting a house or apartment isn’t because they can’t afford to purchase one, but rather the comfort in knowing they can leave when their lease is up and repairs are not their responsibility.  With that being said, many never consider inspecting the apartment prior to signing a lease.  But insuring the apartment’s utilities function properly and everything is in working order can save you the hassle of going back and forth with your landlord.  And you should also check if the apartment has been affected by water damage and mold.  Mold inspections are quite affordable, ranging from $300 to $400 for air sampling and will be key for telling you whether or not the dwelling is safe.  Many calls are fielded by us each week with tenants suspecting or knowing they have mold issues and having no success with their landlord for the proper repairs.  By performing a mold inspection prior to the lease, this whole mess can be avoided.  You can also ask the landlord to supply you with one or maybe even work out a deal to pay half each.  If a landlord is confident their apartment is safe, then they should have no problem having the dwelling checked.  It’s easier to spend the upfront costs for proper inspections prior to moving into a new rental, rather than dealing with what could turn out to an issue lasting months and even ending up in court.

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Mold Laws in Brief

Toxic Mold contamination has become a growing problem in homes and offices across the United States. Mold can cause an abundant amount of health problems to people who are exposed to it, and in severe cases, exposure to mold spores can even be fatal. Due to this mounting concern, many different laws have been passed to protect the rights of people in cases of mold contamination.

Lanlord & Tenants

The landlord has a responsibility to ensure proper living conditions for his tenants, including having premises free from any kind of mold contamination. If you are a tenant, and have discovered any mold in your rented premises, then it is the duty of the landlord to get the mold removed and pay for any such removal. Landlords, who fail to make their property free from mold contamination can be sued by their tenants. Under the law, it is not the duty of the landlord to provide or pay for mold contamination testing. The burden of providing such proof lies with the tenant. But if there is, in fact, any mold contamination the landlord may have been neglecting his responsibilities and the tenant can recover any expenses relating to gathering of the proof, in addition to damages for any injuries the tenant may have suffered.

Home Buyers & Sellers

As a home buyer, you have the right to know if the home you intend to buy has any problems with mold contamination. If mold contamination was present, but has been taken care of, then the seller need not disclose this fact. But, if there is any present mold contamination in the house, the seller is required to make this fact known to any prospective home buyer.

Employers & Employees

It is the duty of employers to see that the workplace is fit for employees to work in, including ensuring proper indoor air quality. If the air quality at the workplace has been compromised due to any mold contamination then employees are entitled to recover damages for any illnesses suffered by them.

Mold Damages

Mold has been linked to the following injuries and damages: medical expenses incurred on illnesses due to mold contamination; pain, anguish, and suffering; damages for lost wages; loss of earning capacity; and damages due to loss of companionship, comfort, and financial losses in case of death due to illness caused by mold contamination. Similarly, one may be able to recover damages for destruction of property due to mold contamination and, in extreme cases of neglect, even punitive damages.

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Advice For Tenants

Without getting into anything technical, there’s just two pieces of advice I would like to share with tenants in dispute over the potential of mold in their rental.  Many tenants when suspecting mold and feeling as if their landlord is not addressing the matter quickly decide to stop paying rent.  There’s many issues with this approach, but let’s focus on two.  First and foremost, you can not stop paying rent because you speculate there is a mold issue.  Mold is suspect until tested and lab results are needed for proper documentation if a case is ever sent to court, so you have absolute concrete proof there is mold and it’s potentially causing illness or disrupting your way of life.  Next, if you do decide to stop paying rent because of this issue, or any other which is effecting your quality of living, don’t just stop paying rent and use your funds towards something else.  You need to set up a bank account and begin to escrow the rent payments while sending copies of this account and those payments to your landlord so he/she can see that you’re not trying to get out of paying your rent, but just trying to resolve the issues and intend on releasing on the funds once the problem is resolved.  Too many times, I encounter tenants thinking they have mold and ceasing to pay rent, but make no attempt to prove that there is mold, or to show that they’re allocating the money.  Instead they just stop paying rent, and think that a phone call to me will be enough proof that they had every right to still live on the premises while not paying for anything and never intending on paying back rent.  And when they get the home tested and it doesn’t show any mold, they have to stand their ground that maybe my test isn’t accurate because they know there is mold and they were getting sick.  So the two points to remember is this:

  • Mold is suspect until tested and third party documentation is needed to prove that there is growth which is potentially harmful and a hazard in the dwelling.
  • Escrow accounts are needed with full disclosure and email communication if rent payments are halted until an issue is resolved.

Rent Escrow

Some States impose an obligation on landlords to repair and eliminate conditions which constitute, or if not promptly corrected will constitute, a fire hazard or a serious and substantial threat to the life, health, or safety of occupants. Under this law, if a landlord fails to repair serious or dangerous defects in a rental unit, you have the right to pay your rent into an escrow account established at the local district court. But the law is very specific about the conditions under which rent may be placed in escrow. You must give the landlord proper notice and adequate time to make the repairs before you have the right to place rent in escrow. Rent escrow provides tenants with a procedure for ensuring the repair of serious and dangerous defects in their dwellings, whether the defect is within a single unit or in an area used jointly by all tenants. The defects covered by this law are those which constitute “a substantial and serious threat of danger to the life, health, and safety” of a tenant. Rent escrow is not provided for defects that just make the apartment or home less attractive or comfortable, such as small cracks in the floors, walls or ceiling. Also excluded are non-dangerous violations of a local housing code and dangerous conditions in the community at large.

The serious or dangerous conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • lack of heat, light, electricity or water, unless you are responsible for the utilities and the utilities were shut off because you didn’t pay the bill;
  • lack of adequate sewage disposal; rodent infestation in two or more units;
  • lead paint hazards that the landlord has failed to reduce;
  • the existence of any structural defect that presents a serious threat to your physical safety;
  • the existence of any condition that presents a serious fire or health hazard.

It is the public policy of the state that sanctions be imposed on landlords who permit dangerous conditions to exist in their leased property, and that an effective mechanism be established to prevent and repair these conditions. This law applies to all residential dwelling units except farm tenancies. It applies equally to publicly and privately owned units and to single and multiple unit dwellings.

Please check with your local municipalities about the laws for you area.