How Landlords Should Conduct Background Checks

For owners of rental property, one of the most overlooked tasked is conducting a proper background check of prospective tenants. Most landlords do not go far enough when it comes to doing a complete check, which means that a tenant with potential issues may get through. While no amount of background checking will prevent troubling tenants from renting your property, you can certainly cut the odds considerably by conducting a proper check.

What follows are the steps you need to take when conducting a proper background check. Remember to do this will all of your tenant to establish a healthy routine.

Initial Information

Most prospective tenants will call first in answer to any rental advertisement, so provide them with the information they need and then ask them for the following;

  • Name
  • Date of Birth
  • Contact Information
  • Date of Renting
  • Landlord References

The landlord references are very important as you can ascertain their previous behavior. This is why previous renters should be given priority over first time renters. Also ask the standard questions about smoking, pets, why they want to move into your property and then inform them about the security deposit, rent and any other fees.

If you feel comfortable with the answers that you received during the initial check, then line up the prospective tenant for an interview.

Face-to-Face Interview

Look at their appearance for anything out of the ordinary, such as being unkempt or disheveled. The same applies to the vehicle that they drive as well. Also, their behavior should be noted as well, if they are respectful and courteous. If they look good, then have them fill out an application.

Background Check

Start with their personal references, although they will probably check out as few people give out poor references. The next step is contacting the landlords that they have listed on their application as well. Be sure that you find out if they paid their rent on time and if they left the apartment in good shape. Note any behavior that the former landlords provide as well.

Next, contact their current or previous employers on the list. While for the most part they’ll only give you basic information, you can find out how long they have worked there or if they left what was the reason. Finally, use your online background services to check for criminal record and credit history.

What to Look For in Your Background Check

Few tenants have a perfect background, but the first thing you are looking for is consistency. Is what the prospective tenant told you check out in your research? If not, then you have some issues which, depending on their severity will eliminate them from consideration. If the answer is yes, then you will have to go with your instincts as to what you have seen when talking to them.

As with most cases, you will arguably have more “clean and honest” prospective tenants that not, so that is the problem to have. So when it comes down to that, it will be your judgment call that decides what action you should take.

Electronic Rent Collection: Direct Deposit

The prevalence of online rent payment services should continue to explode in the coming years, due to a number of factors affecting the market.  Continued economic uncertainty means that young adults and families regard renting as a safer option when compared to purchasing a home.  In addition, the ongoing transition to digital commerce means that his generation views online rent payment services as the obvious alternative. Landlords also gain benefits from instituting online rent payment services for their tenants.

Once thought to be a logistic nightmare, online rent payment services have firmly entered the mainstream.  While many industry watchers believe the transition was inevitable, a number of factors have played a role in quickening the pace of this change.  A prime cause in the move to online rent payment services has to do with the country’s changing demographics, as survey after survey shows increased interest in renting as a preferred way of life.

For example, online rent payment services are tailor made to suit members of the Millennial Generation, who are now firmly ensconced in their renting years.  Whether they are entering college, seeking to enter the workforce for the first time, or settling into marriage, this group of Americans lives a mobile life – both geographically and digitally. They expect to rent for years, perhaps decades, to come, and they expect to be able to handle their entire social, business, and bill-paying tasks from their mobile devices.

In fact, a survey by the National Apartment Association found that online rent payment services topped a list factors that influence this generation’s decision regarding whether or not to rent a particular unit. One a five-point scale, with 1 representing no impact and 5 signaling a significant impact, the availability of online rent payment services scored a 4.44.  The one caveat was that renters wanted this transaction to go through without a convenience fee.

Given this ongoing trend, increasing numbers of landlords and property management companies are adding online rent payment services to their business procedures. One easy method is simply to implement an automatic withdrawal method. From the point of view of the landlords this system offers a number of benefits over the traditional method of collecting rent via a check sent in the mail.

First, under normal circumstances, when no payment problems are occurring, the automatic withdrawal method of online rent payment services requires no effort on the part of the landlord to collect rent.  In addition, the system is easy to set up with the majority of banks and other financial institutions.

At the same time, using automatic withdrawal for online rent payment services is not perfect. Monthly fees can eat into profit margins or turn prospective renters away.  It also requires monitoring to ensure that the rent was actually transferred to the account.

Credit cards also provide a method of instituting online rent payment services.  To take advantage of this option, landlords usually need to have a merchant account that accepts major credit cards.  This is usually easy to set up, but some landlords may not want to set up a merchant account.  In lieu of a merchant account, PayPal can be used to create a system of online rent payment services.  In some cases, landlords can build the online rent payment services into their main website, which is also provides terrific convenience for everyone involved.

Accepting credit cards as part of a property’s online rent payment services does carry some risk. Allowing a tenant to pay by credit card by unwittingly result in the tenant over-extending themselves to the point where they no longer have the means to pay rent.  At that point, the situation can deteriorate into an eviction battle. Transactions fees also represent a necessary part of this type of service, something both tenants and landlords will have to come to terms with sooner rather than later.

These concerns are minor, however, when compared to the overall convenience and efficiency of online rent payment services. The technology surrounding them will steadily improve in the years to come, to the point where sending a check to pay for rent will most likely go the way of the eight-track tape and rotary phone.

10 Tips for Improving Your Property Value

Selling your home is certainly one of the bigger events in your life. This is because so much is valued in properties that any marked improvement can add thousands of dollars to the price. But unfortunately, not all improvements for your home results in adding value.

This is because some improvements work against a potential buyer when it comes to paying property taxes or worse, buyers may not be impressed with the type of improvements that are made so they balk at the price.

What follows are 10 solid tips for properly improving the value of your home. Each of these tips range from the inexpensive to those that may cost upwards of $1,000 or more, but the all have the desired effect.

1.) Paint Your Home

This is one of the simplest, yet oddly enough the most overlooked way to add real value to your home. To put a fresh coat of paint on both the inside and outside done professionally can greatly improve the appearance of your home.

2.) Tankless Water Heater

A tankless water heater is not only more energy efficient, but it is less prone to breaking down than the traditional water tank.

3.) Spruce up the Entrance

Creating the best first impression possible starts with the front door. By improving the look of the entrance to your home, including the welcome mat and other additions, you can add great value.

4.) Simple Landscaping

A neatly trimmed lawn is certainly an advantage, but you can add a little more value as well by adding a few plants or bushes and especially by planting a tree. Remember to not go overboard, just find an area of the lawn that needs improvement and add a little something to make it work.

5.) Brighten up your Home

Get rid of any and all dark places in your home with new lighting, even if you need to add new electrical fixtures. This will help make your home look newer and certainly brighter.

6.) Update the Bathroom

Replacing anything that looks old or outdated, resurfacing the tub and even replacing the tiles can make a powerful impression for potential new buyers. Even replacing the lighting will help tremendously to make your bathroom look new.

7.) Go Green

The more energy-saving products you have in your home, the better. LED lights make a positive impression when showing off your home for sale. A ceiling fan also saves money on electric bills as well, just be sure it is a new and not and old, wobbly one.

8.) New Carpet & Flooring

If your carpet is old and worn or if your flooring is in poor shape, making changes can add considerable value to your home. You will want to weigh all the cost associated first before proceeding so you can fully benefit.

9.) Hire a Consultant

For a fee that is usually less than $100, you can have a real estate agent or other professional do an evaluation of your home and find all the areas needed for improvement. This simply service can highlight places you might not have thought of when improving your property.

10.) Clean out the garage

If you have an attached garage, clear everything out. I mean everything. The garage should be completely free of any boxes, weed whackers, spare tires, bikes and any other distractions. Also, don’t forget to clean the floor of the garage with a cement cleaner to remove any oil drippings or tire marks. This will give potential buyers the opportunity to envision their shiny cars in your garage.

These 10 suggestions can help you significantly improve the value of your home. A little investment before you put your home up on the market can result in gaining hundreds, if not several thousands of dollars on the price.

Of Rents, Late Fees & Errant Tenants

As a property manager or landlord, you deal with countless renters every month. Collecting rents, issuing late fees, moving in new tenants and sometimes even instituting eviction proceedings. Hopefully the latter doesn’t occur too often, but as any experienced property manager knows collecting rents and leveling late fees is a common, extremely time-consuming occurrence. And as is true in any business, time is money. By spending your time keeping track of the rent payments and late fees of numerous units and even numerous properties, you’re losing money every day and wasting time not focusing on more profitable ventures. Establishing an online rent payment system for your tenants may help you save your valuable time and cut down on stressful situations.

The Internet changes almost daily and with it so does the way it affects our lives. As computers, tablets and smart phones become more accessible to more people, the world becomes more Internet savvy. More and more people are comfortable buying products online, making travel reservations and even paying bills such as utilities and insurance policies online. So it makes sense that a great many people would also be comfortable and perhaps even prefer paying their rent online.

Online rent payment systems benefit both the landlord and the tenants. For tenants, they enjoy the ease and convenience of being able to pay their rent from any desktop computer, laptop, tablet or mobile device 24/7. What’s more, if they preschedule their rent payment to be deducted from the bank account every month, they may never have to think about their rent payment again. For the property manager or landlord, the benefit is more timely rent payments and immediate access to those funds. Additionally, since any online rent collection system must be administrated by a financial institution, property owners and managers enjoy additional accounting services from the selected bank by being able to check their balance at any time and find out who sent what funds.

If you choose to create an online rent payment services be aware that you should create a user-friendly and easy-to-navigate website where your tenants can make their online payments. If your tenants have difficulty figuring out how to use your website, your effort to collect rent online is destined to fail. Also, be sure to use a top-flight web developer to ensure that your site is secure from hackers.

Another important point is who will absorb the bank transaction fee. If the tenant is to pay it, renting from your may be off-putting. If the landlord foots the bill, the fees eat into his profits.

The issue of whether to accept credit cards for rent payments is yet another issue to consider. When you accept a credit card you can expect an immediate credit to your account, however not without a fee. The financial institution that administrates your online payment account will charge a percentage of ever payment as a fee for their services.

The Pitfalls of Property Management: How To Do It Better

Being a landlord or a property manager is no easy task especially if you have many units to manage spread out over many locations. While there’s no preventing the occasional flood or misbehaving appliance, proper maintenance can go a long way to saving you lots on repairs. Another way to save money, time and stress is to consider allowing your tenants to pay their rent online. Collecting rent online is easy and convenient for your tenant and allows you to devote more of your time to the upkeep of your current units and the rental of your empty ones.

As a property manager you know that managing your time effectively is as important as managing your properties. In fact, excessive time spent on simple tasks is one way to ensure that your other responsibilities will suffer. Creating an online rent payment system is an idea that’s gathering steam among property managers to eliminate the chunk of time typically spent collecting rents and issuing and keeping track of late fees.

No one knows better than you how difficult and time-consuming collecting rents from multiple units can be. Tenants forget to write the check, forget to mail it and sometimes are late paying which means you need to leverage late fees. And, of course, not all rents are due on the first; many people’s tenancy in the same property begins on different days of the month making keeping track of which unit’s rent is due when that much more difficult.

The online rent scenario is frankly well-suited to anyone who is comfortable using the Internet for online shopping, travel reservations and bill paying. This is especially true for the Millennial Generation. This group includes everyone from college students to young marrieds. Not only did this group grow up using technology but they’re young enough to expect to be paying rent for good time into the future. In fact, recent studies indicate that the option of paying one’s rent online may well be the deciding factor for this group whether to choose one apartment over another.

Instituting an online rent payment system offers benefits to both the property manager and the tenant. For the tenant, there’s the ease and convenience of being able to pay your rent from any computer or mobile device 24/7. And if you preschedule your rent payments to be automatically transferred from your bank account every month you never have to think about your rent payment again. For the property manager, there’s the ease of having fewer rents to collect and keep track of. What’s more, since the payments are transferred from the tenant’s bank account to the landlord’s, the landlord has immediate access to these funds to pay bills, reinvest in his properties or take as profits.

Of course, not every system is perfect and any online rent collection system needs to be  carefully monitored and upgraded consistently to ensure that funds reach their intended destinations and that security of the system is never breached.

If They Can Buy a Pair of Shoes Online They Can Pay Their Rent Online, Too.

There’s no doubt that the Internet has profoundly changed the way we live our lives. From shopping, booking travel plans and even banking, the average person has embraced the ease and convenience of this technology at the speed of their desktop computers, laptops, tablets and smart phones. With that said, there’s no reason why renters won’t find paying their rent online to be a natural progression of this phenomena.

The prevalence of online shopping and online bill paying is destined to grow exponentially as more technology becomes available to the masses and as the world becomes more digitally savvy. Add to that a recent trend toward renting vs. owning and the appeal of online rent payment is sure to increase.

Online rent payments are particularly appealing to the Millennial Generation. A range of young people from college students to newly marrieds largely comprise this group. They’re not only computer savvy having been raised on technology, they’re young enough to be renting for many years to come. Additionally, they expect to be able to handle all their bill paying responsibilities online and often find having to write a check to be an imposition.

Given these new studies, landlords and property managers are seriously looking into instituting online rent payment services. The feeling is that the benefit of online rent payment may be so great that it may cause the selection of one unit as opposed to another.

The benefits of online rent payment are numerous for both parties. Tenants enjoy the ease and convenience of knowing they can pay their rent from any computer or mobile device 24/7. What’s more, if they choose to elect to schedule automatic payments from their bank accounts, they need never think about the task of paying rent again. For landlords, not only do they no longer need to contact individual tenants for their rent, online payments are credited to their accounts instantly improving cash flow to make repairs, upgrades and otherwise invest. What’s more, since online rent payment will have to be administrated by a financial institution, landlords and property managers enjoy accounting expertise from the selected bank.

One important thing to keep in mind is that there is an issue of transaction fees. Will the tenant absorb the cost or will the landlord or property management foot the bill? This issue will need to be resolved before any online rent collection process can be put in place.

Another issue to consider is whether to accept credit cards. The card’s issuing bank charges fees and while the rent funds are almost immediately available in the landlord’s account, the fees imposed by the bank eat into profits.

Finally, before you institute an online rent payment service you will need to provide a website for your tenants to access in order to pay their rent. Make sure the site you build is user-friendly, easy-to-navigate and secure against hackers.

How to Get Your Tenants to Make Your Job Easier

Whether you’ve got one unit or 100 units, being a landlord or a property manager is no easy job. You’re constantly dealing with repairs, upgrades, complaints, counter-complaints and perhaps the worst part, collecting rent on time. And all from numerous tenants at various properties. Keeping who has what problem straight at which location is enough to make the average person’s head spin. One area that can be greatly improved is rent collection thanks to online rent payments.

No one has to tell you that the world has gone digital. As ecommerce expands, collecting rent electronically is fast becoming a new trend. Every day, millions and millions of people pay bills, make purchases, buy movie tickets and more online. And with prescheduled payments deducted automatically from tenants accounts, landlords enjoy the immediate transfer of funds to their accounts while tenants enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that their rent is definitely paid on time.

Besides a mortgage, a monthly rent payment is probably the single largest expense any individual or family is responsible for. And it’s important to both landlords and tenants. Online rent payments eliminates the possibility of forgetting to write the check or even forgetting to mail it. Of course, you then have to worry about having a stamp and on top of that, the payment can still get lost in the mail. A harrowing experience for both parties involved. Paying rent online takes the hassle and the worry out of paying rent for both sides. It offers tenants the benefit of paying their rent in just a few keystrokes from any computer or mobile device, and it offers landlords better cash-flow and easier bookkeeping.

Naturally, some people will resist paying online. This is often the case with many senior citizens. If some of your tenants do not wish to pay rent online you must be prepared to accept the traditional mode of payment; the check. This means that whatever accounting software program you choose to manage your rent payments must be adaptable to both forms of payment. Of course, you’ll want to back-up records of your rent payments–be they checks, cash or online–in case of a computer malfunction. While online rent payments can clearly make collecting and accounting for rent payments much easier and a faster, a software glitch can wreak havoc with your books without proper backup.

When instituting an online rent payment arrangement, the issue of transaction fees must first be settled before any program is put in place. Will the tenant pay the transaction fee or will that responsibility fall to the landlord or property manager? Many financial institutions offer extremely affordable programs that wave the typical fees if the rents are deposited in an account with that institution. Important Note: If you chose to deal with a bank or other financial institution please be aware that holidays and weekends will interrupt the processing of deposits.

As a final note, you will need to create a corporate website where you’re tenants can go for information and to pay their rent online. Be sure to hire a top notch web developer who can create an intuitive, stable, secure site free of opportunities for hackers.

Rent Collection: The Good, The Bad & The Easy

With the housing market depressed, more and more people are waiting to see an improvement before they make a 30-year commitment. That’s good news for landlords and property managers everywhere. What’s now easier for landlords and tenants alike is rent collection thanks to the advent of online rent payment.

Whether you’ve got one unit or several hundred, you know exactly how difficult it is to coordinate and collect rent payments. Not everyone moves in on the first, so not everyone’s rent is due on the same date. Timely collection is another issue. Tenants forget to pay their rent, run out of checks, and have unforeseen expenses. One way to make rent payment and collection easier for both parties is to offer online rent payment via debit or credit cards. Let’s face it, the whole world is one line. Be it on their desktop computers, their laptops, their tablets or their smart phones. Why not make paying one’s rent as easy as paying one’s utilities, ordering a book from Amazon.com, or winning a bid on eBay, task millions of people already do countless times every day.

One of the best things about allowing your tenants to pay their rent online is that they’re already very familiar with the process so there’s very little education or ramp up time involved. And for the landlords, the benefit is more timely payment and almost immediate transfer of funds to your accounts, and who couldn’t use better cash flow these days? What’s more, it’s quick and easy for both parties and it can be done from any location with an Internet connection or WiFi.

In the past, it was the landlord’s or property manager’s duty to knock on doors trying to collect rent. Tenants were often upset by this intrusion into their privacies and many were unaware of their grace period if any. This was not only exhausting for the landlord, but often created a hostile relationship between the two parties which lead to an even greater degradation of the landlord/tenant rapport. Allowing your tenants to pay their rent online eliminates these awkward and often tense situations.

Tenants can even schedule their rent payment to be automatically transferred to your account. The main advantage of this is that those monies have already been accounted for having been deducted from renter’s budgets. This means that these funds are available in your account almost instantly for you to pay bills, pay for repairs and otherwise invest. The beauty of this process is that while your tenant may have cash flow issues, with automatic transfer you never will.

Online rent payment has other benefits as well. Given that all transactions go through your financial institution, your bank essentially handles your bookkeeping for you. This makes it easy to see exactly how much you have currently have in your account at any given time and by whom payment was sent. Additionally, you can check your available balance and incoming payments 24/7; a tremendous aid when you’re dealing with several properties.

Paying Rent Online: What’s in It for You?

No one needs to tell you that the world has gone Internet crazy. Purchasing online, reserving movie and theatre tickets online, paying utility bills online and more. So it should come as no surprise that the idea of paying rent online is gaining traction in many places.

You’re a landlord. And you’ve invested substantial amounts of money and energy into running and maintaining your properties. Much of that energy manifests itself in the form of collecting rent payments. While it’s a simple task in theory, unfortunately many tenants make it far more difficult than it needs to be. Will it be a check a (a good check?), a money order, cash? Will they have the rent at all. These are just a few of the pitfalls landlords face on a monthly basis.

Online rent payment services may be the solution to this difficult situation. An online payment service will notify your tenants of this new option available to them. They’ll also help you pitch the service with free meetings explaining all the details and benefits. Once your tenants (hopefully all of them) agree to pay their rent online the service will provide you with a secure account to which the payments can be made. These services pride themselves on their transparency so you can check your account at any time from any computer. You can see what payments have been received and which have not. You can also transfer funds to your business account for your own use.

Paying rent online has many benefits to both the landlord and the tenants. Online rent services provide confirmation to tenants and landlords that payment has been received so there’s no need for clumsy and easily lost written receipts. What’s more, they can provide an annual accounting of rent payments to both parties, an easier accounting than searching through your checkbook or your bank statement.

Online rent payment services are immediate. The same as paying any utility or insurance payment. The funds are deducted from the tenants account immediately and credited to the landlords account. For the landlord, the funds are instantly available for use. A few clicks and the rent payments are in his business or personal account to do with what he pleases.

For the tenant, there’s no worrying about will your check clear, getting a money order or cash, and making the payment on time. A little time at their computer and your done. No fuss and no worries. Again, online rent payment services make accounting for your annual expenses easy by delivering an accounting of your payments if you so desire.

All in all, the world is doing more and more online. There’s no reason not to think that using online rent paying services will be next. You’ll save time, you’ll save energy, and you’ll save hassle. And isn’t that what it’s all about?

Collecting Rent Online: Is it the future?

Online shopping, travel reservations, movie tickets and even online bills. Could paying rent online be next? If the past has taught us anything it’s that people throughout the world love the Internet and frankly, can’t imagine living without it. So it only stands to reason that soon landlords will join the fray and begin collecting rent online.

Online rent collection portends to be a huge boon to landlords in so many different areas. Online payments are electronically processed and arrive in your account almost instantly. In addition, once the funds arrive they are instantly accessible. There’s no more waiting for checks, money orders or cash and best of all, you eliminate many bookkeeping and accounting functions which your bank now provides.

The first step in collecting rent online is to establish and account to receive your rent payments. A business account is your best bet as there’s no chance of your personal information being revealed. Once you have the mechanism to receive funds in place it’s time to make your tenants aware of this option. Flyers or letters are probably your best best. You’ll want to extoll the benefits of paying rent online to your tenants. Benefits such as the ease, the lack of hassle, no loner having to remember when the rent is due, and the relief of writing one less check and then accounting for it. Rent payments can be automatically programmed to be transferred to the landlord’s account on any date the tenant sets. Tenants who opt for this option literally don’t have to do a thing. It’s all taken care of electronically online.

You should also provide your tenants a form which they complete signifying their willingness to participate in online rent payment. You will then collect these forms and turn them over to your bank so they can prepare for rent payments form these tenants.

Of course, you may encounter some “old school” tenants who prefer to write a check which they receive back once cancelled. Your goal as a landlord is to do your best to convince these late adopters that they should, in fact, join the majority and switch to online rent payment. Ask these hold-outs whether they shop online, order theatre tickets online or even pay their utilities and other bills online. If so, then paying rent is no different, Their bank statement will show the deduction and the landlord’s will show the credit. All without writing a single check, buying a money order or walking around with a large amount a cash.Once you, the landlord, has received yeses from all your tenants, collecting rent online will put you in the category of some of the most progressive businesspeople around, And that, certainly, is  a good thing.