Rental Listing Scams! Read Before You Search

As you begin researching new apartments or homes, please educate yourself on listing scams and online fraud. We urge you to be vigilant in researching the legitimacy of any potential listings and perform all appropriate due diligence.
How Do Rental Listing Scams Work?
Found a deal that’s too good to turn down? Have the owners moved to another state and can’t show you the property? Is someone asking you to send them money via Western Union or Moneygram? These are possible signs of rental listing scams used to defraud users into wiring money or giving up personal information.

Scammers use a variety of tools and methods to post fraudulent listings on many internet listing sites. One method includes manually listing available properties by copying existing listings and posting them with new prices. They also take existing for-sale properties and post it as a rental listing. In addition, they use listing management tools and syndicate the fraud across many different sites.

Once you’ve contacted a scammer, they usually ask for a few things — information, urgency, money through Western Union or Moneygram. Stop there. (If there is an opportunity to flag the listing – particularly if you are requested to wire money – do so immediately).

RELATED: Download Our Copy of  Truth in Renting

How To Spot and Avoid Rental Scams
Below is a list of best practices on spotting and avoiding scams. Renter beware. Be vigilant in protecting your private information and review these tips:

1. The easiest sign of a rental scam is when someone asks you to wire money via Western Union or Moneygram. Scammers usually ask for a deposit or first month’s rent before you even see the property. Don’t send money for whatever reason.

2. The owner is out of the country on a mission, job opportunity, or military service. Always meet the landlord or agent in-person and at the property. If they can’t meet you there or show you the property, then it’s possibly a scam. Good idea is to always have a friend or family member with you.

3. The listing is significantly less than nearby similar properties. Beware. If it seems too good to be true, then chances are that it’s a scam.

4. Emails from scammers are often littered with grammatical mistakes and typos. If the email is difficult to read, lengthy, or includes a sad story, then it’s possibly a scam.

5. Research the email address and phone number of the landlord or owner on Google. You might find that someone else has already posted a report on this individual.

6. Don’t fill out an application until you’ve seen the property. Some apartment communities will offer legitimate applications via a property’s website, but don’t submit an application with personal information until you’ve verified the property exists.

7. Never, under any circumstances, send money to anyone without securing a lease and confirming the property manager has legal right to rent the property.

RELATED: Download Our Copy of  Truth in Renting

Even if you are going through a reputable broker; there is a chance they have been lied to by the person who hired them.  In addition, it is sad to say, some Agents are less than thorough.  When you are presented with a lease you have a 3 day Attorney Review period.  During these 3 days the rental cannot go to anybody else.  Take advantage of these 3 days to research the name on the lease, ask your Agent to confirm that the name on the lease matches the name on the property tax record.  If not, ask why.  If it is a privately owned rental in a complex with a board or management company; call them.  Ask if there have ever been any issues with the owner.  And if you have access to an Attorney, their expertise is an added plus.  Due all possible due diligence.

RELATED: Download Our Copy of  Truth in Renting

What To Do If You Fall Victim A Rental Scam or Online Fraud
If you believe you were a victim of fraud, please contact your local authorities, the FTC, and the IC3.

If you feel you are the victim of a fraudulent lease having gone through a reputable broker; contact the Real Estate Commission immediately.

7 Rental Rules Worth Breaking (Yes, It’s OK To Paint)

jersey-shore-rentalsFrom swapping out hardware to doing an actual renovation, there are lots of ways to transform your rental.

You scroll through a design blog hyping some miraculous, budget-friendly kitchen renovation, and that’s when it hits you: homeownership envy. While mortgage holders get to decorate with impunity, those of us still in possession of a lease can feel unfairly limited in our design choices.

But while it may seem counter intuitive to put a lot of effort into that apartment for rent in New Jersey, it’s still your home — and there are lots of benefits to loving where you live. So why not do a little work to make it a haven instead of a temporary crash pad?

Contrary to popular lore, there are lots of ways to upgrade your apartment without forfeiting your deposit.

Yes, it really is OK to paint. Not only OK but also highly recommended — there is no quicker way to personalize a space than to customize your colors. Ideally, you should check in with your landlord first, who will usually sign off as long as your chosen shades aren’t too wacky; sometimes they’ll even pay for the supplies, considering a fresh coat of paint could be a point in their favor.

But many a guerrilla renter has been known to paint without permission, with the plan of returning to the original shade right before they move out. If you’re feeling hesitant about changing up your apartment’s colors, at least consider touching up the trim, which more likely than not is dull and yellowed.

You can also discuss this with your Jersey Shore Rental Agent before signing the lease.  Request an agreement be made with the landlord that you will paint neutral colors and even present the color palette to them for review.  If they approve, this can go into the lease.  Now you have it in writing.  Chances are the landlord is relieved and secretly grateful; they don’t have to paint after their last tenant left and you’ve enhanced their property for the future.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Rental Move-In Condition Checklist

(Removable) wallpaper
No, we don’t suggest permanently papering your kitchen in a custom print that will later take hours to steam and scrape off. But temporary wallpaper has come a long way in the last few years; even CB2 has recently begun offering self-adhesive paper in modern patterns.

Installation takes only a couple of hours; just play it safe and order an extra sheet or two lest you misalign on those first couple of tries. Those leery of their ability to properly DIY can start with an accent wall or opt for a temporary decorative decal. Another, more outré idea: Wallpaper your ceiling.

Light fixtures
Many, many rentals come with those unfortunate flush-mount fixtures. It’s probably impractical to change them all out, but an upgrade in high-traffic rooms is worth the money and effort.

Online pop-up sales are a great way to shop for funky fixtures on the cheap; you can also scour antiques stores and flea markets for chandeliers to strip and repaint. Consider both aesthetics and actual light quality when shopping, and don’t forget to factor in electrician costs to your budget if installation requires rewiring (if there’s a junction box already in place, you might be able to pull it off yourself).

Kitchen hardware
You might be stuck with those honey oak cabinets, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with their original hardware. Swap out those superboring polished nickel pulls for something funkier and even mismatched (antiques stores frequently have drawers full of old knobs). Just stash the original hardware somewhere safe — and easy to remember — so you can replace it all right before your lease ends.

Window treatments
Let us guess: hideous plastic vertical blinds with overly long lift cords, right? Change those out immediately for cordless blinds or Roman shades, which look far cleaner and don’t break. If you decide to hang curtains as well, spring for opaque rather than translucent curtains, which tend to look cheap, and install the curtain rod several inches above the window frame for a more dramatic effect.

Hate that 1980s plastic showerhead with the built-in radio? You’re not stuck with it. Upgrading to a high-end fixture — a rainfall showerhead, say, with a filter for hard water — can add instant luxury to an otherwise humdrum bathroom. If you need it, seek out a YouTube video tutorial to walk you through the actual switcheroo. You can make the swap on your own with the help of pliers and a little plumber’s tape.

An actual renovation
It sounds absolutely bonkers, but there are renters out there who have invested in full-blown kitchen and bathroom redos. And it’s not a scenario for those lucky enough to occupy a rent-controlled space.

Here’s the way these negotiations often go down. A renter will offer to spend the time and money to significantly improve the landlord’s property; in turn, the landlord agrees to negotiate a longer lease with reduced rent. It’s the very definition of a win-win: The renters get the apartment of their dreams, and the landlord gets a property upgrade and the peace of mind that comes from not having to find new tenants every year.

Extra win: When that long-term lease eventually ends, the landlord will likely be able to fetch more rent for the improved space.  First-time landlords might be especially open to the idea if they’re struggling to find the money to properly renovate their new property.

RELATED: So You Think You Can Be A Landlord?

Again, if you know you may want to renovate before moving in; consider discussing this with your Rental Agent in advance to get the landlord’s permission so it can go in the lease.  They’ll be no questions at the end of your lease term as to your security deposit when you’ve left the rental better than you found it, albeit different.

RELATED: 7 Things to Know Before You Rent

Your Turn

What apartment decorating and rental rules have you broken? Sound off on our Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for our monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for articles like this delivered straight to your inbox!

So You Think You Can Be a Landlord? 7 Things to Consider…

for-RentFirst-time homebuyers are a declining group. Historically, 40 percent of homebuyers have been first-time buyers, calculated yearly from July to June. But that percentage continues to shrink, even if the true homeownership rate among millennials climbed ever so slightly last year.

If you’re already a homeowner, your wheels might be spinning right about now — if people aren’t buying starter homes, then the rental market has to be booming, right? It is in many areas, particularly where unemployment is low, the population is high, and homes aren’t overpriced.

You might think you’re ready to become a landlord, but learning how to be one by trial and error is not necessarily the best way.

Here are seven tips to consider before you take the plunge:

1. Ideally, you want to live near your rental property
That way, you can check on it periodically (after giving your tenants proper notice), take care of repairs yourself, and show the property when it’s time to re-rent it.

2. Know landlord-tenant law
Most states have specific landlord-tenant provisions that cover issues such as security deposits, what sort of access to your rental property you can expect to have, and how much notice you need to give your tenants when you want them to leave. There also are federal laws you need to know, such as habitability and anti-discrimination laws.

Ron Leshnower, real estate attorney and author of Fair Housing Helper for Apartment Professionals, says that “many landlords gloss over housing discrimination laws because they assume that as long as they’re not racist or sexist, they needn’t worry about fair housing violations.”

But fair housing liability traps can arise in many ways, so it’s important that you fully understand the law and ensure that you aren’t breaking it.

FREE DOWNLOAD: New Jersey Landlord-Tenant Law

3. Make sure you can enforce the rent being paid on time
This seems like a no-brainer, but if you get too friendly with your tenants, you might just let them slide a couple of weeks here and a partial payment there. Before you know it, your tenants are six months behind.

But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat tenants with respect. Creating rapport shows respect and makes the job of collecting rents and dealing with repair requests that much easier.

4. Screen potential tenants
It’s worth the time to do a background and credit check on all potential tenants. Use an online tenant-screening service for this. Credit score alone is not always a reason to accept or deny an applicant, but it is a useful screening tool. You should also conduct an interview and check their references.

Your Patrick Parker Realty Listing Agent takes care of all of this for you. We run all prospects through tenant-screening after completion of an application. Don’t underestimate the importance of using a Listing Agent when renting.

5. Customize the lease
If you don’t hire an attorney or a property manager, you can use a standard lease form from Nolo, for example, but you should tweak it to fit your situation. For example, if you allow pets, specify how many, what kind, and any rules that apply.

Again, this is where having a Listing Agent will come in handy. They have the lease custom to your state’s laws and applications and will walk both you and your new tenant through any customization should it be needed.

6. Inspect the property regularly
Always do a move-in and move-out inspection. This should go without saying. Take pictures to establish a base line and complete a Rental Property Condition Checklist and suggest your tenant do the same and submit it to you so you’re on the same page from the get-go.

FREE DOWNLOAD: Checklist of Rental Property Condition

Consider having language regarding inspections clearly written in your lease documents. Maybe you want to conduct an inspection at six months. If you find problems, consider issuing a compliance notice and re-inspecting in 30 days. Eventually you’ll find whether or not this will be necessary in the future.

7. Understand this is not a get-rich-quick scheme
Being a landlord is not just sitting around collecting a big wad of cash each month. You’ll need to spend some money to ready the property for tenants, buy landlord insurance, register as a landlord in your town, acquire a C.O. and pay property taxes. If you’re taking out a mortgage, be prepared to fork over at least a 20 percent down payment.

Think of being a landlord as part of your overall investment strategy and realistically aim for getting around a 5 percent return on your investment.


Are you a Landlord with tips to share? What lessons have you learned? What lessons have you learned the hard way?  Sound off in Comments, on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.

New Jersey Landlords Need to be Careful with their Accounting Methods

gavelGuest post by Michael D. Mirne

Most American businesses keep track of their charges and receivables using a “first in, first out” method. The central principle of this method, referred to as “FIFO,” is to apply customers’ payments toward their earliest balances first, and then toward their later balances. New Jersey landlords had also accepted the FIFO method of accounting until relatively recently, when the State Supreme Court ordered that eviction complaints follow a specific format, in which tenants’ unpaid charges are specifically set forth in detail.

Using the FIFO method, for example, if a tenant failed to pay rent January and February, the next payments that the tenant did remit would be applied to January and February. That application would certainly create a gap in later months in which the payments were made. In the event that the eviction complaint followed the same methodology, it might appear that the tenant owed rents from March and April (or whatever the most recent months were), when the two missed payments were really from January and February. This method is unfortunately confusing for tenants who may show up to Court with receipts to prove that they paid certain rents, only to find that the receipts that they produced do not refer to the missing payments in question.

Given new requirements of eviction complaints, I often wondered how a Court would rule when faced with a situation where the tenant could demonstrate that he or she had no idea which rents were owed, and therefore, could not prepare an adequate defense for trial. Fortunately, I received my answer a few weeks ago, when I was waiting for one of our matters to be reached for trial. From the gallery, in the rear of the Courtroom, I watched as another attorney struggled to demonstrate to the Judge that the unpaid rents set forth in the Complaint, did not refer to the actual months in which the payments were missed, but rather, they referred to the most recent months. The attorney continued her explanation to the Judge with a futile statement about standard accounting processes.

The Judge responded that he was familiar with standard accounting practices, but remarked that they were not adequate to enable the tenant a fair opportunity to prepare his defense. The Judge, accordingly, dismissed that matter, with an instruction to the attorney that she could refile the matter, if she redrafted the complaint in a way that showed the tenant the specific months in which the payments were missed.

In light of the Court’s decision in that matter, we have also began to examine our own matters to make sure that that the statement of unpaid charges properly coincides with the months in which the tenant failed to make those rent payments. In cases where the ledger has multiple entries of missed payments, it is also advisable to include a copy of the ledger in the eviction complaint.

Patrick Parker Realty rental experts can help you list your property, find you a qualified tenant and guide you through the process.  Contact us at 732.455.5252 to get started!

The Top 7 Laws Every Landlord Needs to Study

jersey-shore-rentalsSuccessfully managing a rental is about much more than finding the perfect tenant for the perfect unit. It’s more important to understand the legalities associated with running a rental business. Landlords should be up-to-date on all laws regarding tenant rights and the proper legal proceedings of managing a property. Here are a few of the laws every landlord should know about.

1. State Regulations
Every state has its own regulations regarding housing. These laws govern tenant-landlord interactions, tenant rights, how to terminate leases, how to carry out evictions, and even the size of the security deposit. To learn about the specific laws associated with your state, visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

2. Legal Binding Contracts
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important to cover. When a tenant and landlord sign a lease agreement, it becomes a legal, binding contract, which can only be broken under certain parameters, as stated in the contract or by federal or state law. Both the tenant and the landlord are legally responsible for any constraints issued in the document.

3. Tenant Privacy and Access Rights
A master key does not grant landlords access whenever they want. Laws may differ from state to state, but in general, landlords are only allowed unannounced access to an apartment in the case of an emergency. They’re also allowed access without the tenant’s permission in order to show the property to a prospective tenant and make repairs, but generally, they are required to inform the tenant at least 24 hours in advance. Otherwise, they must be invited or give proper warning before entering.

FREE DOWNLOAD: rental-condition-checklist
Use this document to grade the condition of your rental property prior to tenant move-in.

4. The Fair Housing Act (FHA)
Under federal law, the Fair Housing Act (FHA) protects against discrimination on basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, familial status, or handicap. Discrimination is defined as treating one tenant differently than another and varies from setting higher rent to denying a lease for personal reasons. The FHA also prohibits discriminatory or selective advertising.

5. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)
Landlords are also responsible for securely treating tenant credit information. The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) regulates landlord access to tenant credit report histories. The act was designed to protect tenant privacy, and failure to respect the law usually leads to lawsuits and civil penalties.

6. Landlord Liabilities
Almost every state mandates that tenants have the right to live in a dwelling that meets county building and health standards. If the landlord rents out a property that is not fit for habitation by these standards, they are liable for the consequences, unless the current tenant caused the damage. Essentially, this law penalizes any landlord who doesn’t do his or her job.

RELATED: 3 Important Practices Landlords Should Use During the Move-in Inspection

7. Terminating Contracts and Evictions
Since terminating a contract or evicting a tenant breaks the binding contract, there are proper regulations based on the state you live in. If the tenant or landlord is not holding up their end of the contract, it may call for an early termination, resulting in a mutual parting of ways or an eviction. Likewise, there are instances where the tenant will have a legally backed reason for breaking a contract, and the landlord must honor that request.

When this occurs, consult your state regulations for the proper way to handle it. In general, breaking a contract involves giving 30 days’ notice and the proper paperwork.

RELATED: How To Legally Evict A Tenant

It’s also important to note that the landlord is not allowed to change locks, turn off utilities, or use other means of force to evict a tenant. Nor is the landlord allowed to perform an eviction in retaliation to the tenant’s past actions.

The legalities of being a landlord take a considerable amount of research and understanding before you feel comfortable that you’re not breaking the law. Be sure to get a handle on the specifics of your market to stay legal and profitable!

RELATED: Move-In and Move-Out Checklists to Help Every Landlord

Your Turn

What laws would you add to this list? Are you a landlord who have overcome some of these legal hurdles? Are you a renter who wants to sound off about renter’s rights? Tell us in Comments, on Facebook or on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for helpful articles, tips and guides for every kind of homeowner, seller or buyer.

10 Questions to Ask When Apartment Hunting

for-rent-jersey-shore-rentalsLike entering a new relationship, finding the right apartment requires being a little level-headed. You wouldn’t just run off and elope with the first attractive person you see, right?  No– you’d want to spend some time making sure your values, interests, and goals are a good fit.

The same is true for apartment hunting: There are a few important things you should know before signing a lease agreement, even if you already love the way the place looks. The great news is that we’ve put together a list of 10 questions to ask while visiting apartments to make sure you find the right place for you.

Bring these questions with you while apartment hunting:

1. What Are the Lease Terms?
Ideally you should already be aware of when the lease begins and ends before you even look at a place. But if you aren’t, make sure you know when you’ll be able to move in and how many months the lease is for.

You should also know exactly how much the unit costs per month and what the manager’s late rent policy is– is there a grace period? Finally, ask if there are any other common lease terms you need to know about, like quiet hours or restrictions on painting.

RELATE: 7 Things You Should Know Before You Rent

2. Can You Go Over Any Move-In Fees?
Each property handles moves completely differently, so make sure you know what moving in will look like for you financially while visiting apartments.

For instance, do they require first and last months’ rent up front? Do they need a security deposit? How about any moving or elevator fees? If the move-in expenses are too costly, you may have to find a different apartment.

3. What’s Your Pet Policy?
Whether you own a pet or just think you might want to adopt one within the next year (or however long the lease term extends), you should absolutely ask about the pet policy. Most importantly, are pets allowed?

If not, it’s best to move on– trying to hide a dog or cat could be very costly for you down the road. If they do allow pets, what are the deposits and fees? Pet policies vary widely, but most properties will charge at least a non-refundable pet deposit (this covers deep cleaning after you move out and any damage your pet may cause), if not monthly pet rent.

4. How About Your Guest Policy?
Most leases will mention a guest policy, but some are stricter than others.

For instance, in some places, having a visitor for longer than two weeks is not technically allowed (which means allowing your friend to stay with you for a month this summer may not be an option).

5. Do You Require Renters Insurance?
Renters insurance is another thing to think about while apartment hunting. Renters insurance provides coverage for all of your property in the event of things like a fire, flood, and often even theft.

It may also cover injuries that happen within your apartment. This type of coverage tends to cost very little per month, so it’s a good idea to get it anyway. However, some apartments actually require renters insurance, so it’s important to ask while making visits.

6. What’s Included in the Rent? What Isn’t?
Rent is almost never the only expense you’ll have when living in an apartment, but many property managers roll some utilities and other amenities into the cost of rent. Often, things like water, gas, heat, and cooling are included in rent, for instance.

It’s best to know exactly what is and isn’t included in order to determine the total monthly cost of living there. If an apartment’s rent is cheap, but covers no utilities, cable, Internet, or anything else, it still may be a bit above your budget.

7. How Are Emergency Repairs Taken Care Of?
Even if everything in the apartment appears to be in good working order, make sure you check how emergency repairs are handled. You definitely don’t want to be stuck in an apartment with a broken heater in January for any longer than you have to.

Is maintenance available 24/7? How quickly do they typically respond? Also, ask about non-emergency repairs. Sometimes landlords and property managers will ask tenants to take care of those themselves and subtract the cost from the month’s rent.

8. How Secure Is the Property?
Ask the property manager to cover what security features the apartment has, including a doorman, a buzzer system, and anything else.

RELATED: Important Safety Tips When Apartment Hunting

You may also want to ask about the neighborhood– is it a relatively safe area? Make sure you walk around and scope out the area before you put down a deposit.

9. How Often Does Rent Go Up? By How Much?
Many apartments go up in rent upon a renewal of the lease. These types of charges aren’t always spelled out in the lease, so make sure you know going in how much you can expect to pay if you decide you want to live in the same apartment after your lease term is over.

If you’re looking for a long-term apartment, but the rent goes up by quite a bit each year, this may not be the apartment for you.

10. What Is the Parking Situation?
If you own a car, parking should be high on your priority list. In many neighborhoods– especially in larger cities– street parking can be hard to find and expensive, so finding an apartment with a parking garage or lot may be necessary.

However, a personal parking spot or pass is often an added charge, so ask about the cost as well.

RELATED: Search Rentals

Your Turn

What has you renting experience been like? Have you met with challenges? What might you do differently next time? Do you have tips for future renters? Sound off in Comments, on Facebook or Twitter and don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this one delivered straight to your inbox. And if you have any questions about getting started with renting, a Patrick Parker Realty Agent is here to help! Contact Us today!

7 Things You Should Know Before You Rent

things-to-know-before-signing-a-leaseThere are a number of situations that one may encounter when renting their dream home. Leasing agreement conflicts, neighbor disputes or maintenance dilemmas are all potential issues that renters may face. In the interest of helping you find the rental of your dreams, here are seven things you should know before you rent that apartment.

1. Never sign a lease without first performing a thorough inspection.
If you’re planning on making this rental property your new home, you need to make sure that it lives up to your expectations before you move in. Move through the home or apartment slowly, checking every outlet, plumbing fixture, light socket, appliance, etc., to make sure that everything functions properly. Inspect the walls, ceilings and floors, and make note of any damage or possible leaks. Check all of the windows and doors to see if they open and close properly, and whether or not the locks function.

RELATED: Important Safety Tips When Apartment Hunting

Basically, this is your chance to identify any potential problems before they become your problems. The property owner may be willing to repair any/all of these issues for you; if not, then you can always look for a rental property elsewhere. This leads to the next point…

2. It’s easier to avoid a bad contract than it is to get out of one.
Once you sign the lease, you are obligated by law to fulfill your end of the contract. Don’t take this responsibility lightly. For example, many property owners require a minimum of 30 days prior notification if you intend to move out, and the fees associated with breaking a lease can be rather steep. And this is just the tip of the iceberg; other rules and regulations regarding conduct, parking, pets, etc., will also be included in the lease agreement, so read it thoroughly before you commit to anything. After all, if the contract seems like it could potentially be a problem, you should address the issue immediately with the manager and see if negotiation is possible. If not, then you’re better off finding something else.

3. Relationships count.
You’ve heard the old adage that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, right? Well, it’s certainly applicable when dealing with a rental situation. Whenever you communicate with the owner or property manager, be sure to cultivate that relationship in a polite and friendly manner. Don’t throw fits, make threats, or look for ways to wiggle your way out of your responsibilities as a resident. Doing so may get you what you want in the short run, but it will make all of your future interactions more difficult. The fact is that if you plan on living at a property for any length of time, you need to develop a relationship of trust and respect with the people associated with that property. Otherwise, you’re just creating trouble for yourself.

4. You have rights, but so does the owner or management company.
As a renter, you have certain rights that are protected by law. The Fair Housing Act is designed to protect renters from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, gender, religion, or because they have a disability or they have children. Additionally, individual states, cities and counties often have their own laws designed to make sure that you, the renter, are treated appropriately. But the flip side of the coin is that property owners or management companies have rights as well, usually covered in the lease, and if you violate those rights, you may find yourself facing some fairly hefty legal repercussions. Avoid this snake pit by reading up on your own rights as a renter, as well as the rights of your property owner, and make sure you actually do read the lease and all the attachments. A little bit of studying and effort now can keep you out of a great deal of trouble later on.

5. Renters insurance isn’t always required, but it’s always necessary.
Many property owners require that their residents get insurance, but there are still some that don’t. But regardless of whether or not insurance is a requirement, it’s still something in which you should invest. Why? Because even though the building itself is most likely insured under the property owner’s policy, other issues likely won’t be. This means that if you accidentally start a fire in the kitchen or make one of the thousands of other innocent mistakes that could damage the property, you’re the one who is going to be held financially responsible for any repairs. At the same time, should you experience a break-in and lose any of your possessions to theft, there’s no reason to expect the property owner to pay for your losses. Insurance is relatively inexpensive, and can offer you the security of knowing that if something unexpected should happen, you’ll be protected.

6. Mistakes here can hurt you later.
Let’s say that you end up violating your rental agreement in some unforgivable way, and you find yourself receiving an eviction notice. When this happens, you may find that the hassle of having to find a new place to live is only the tip of the iceberg, because evictions also have a negative impact on your overall credit score. Even if you end up fighting the action and winning, there’s a good chance that the eviction will stay on your record (at least for a while).

7. Helpful resources are available.
Between all of the laws and contracts, the entire rental process can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t worry, because you don’t have to go through it alone. Assistance is available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website, as well as other websites and organizations. So, when you’re finally ready to sign that contract and make that commitment, you’ll be able to do it with the confidence that comes from knowing you’ve made a well-informed decision

Your Turn

What has you renting experience been like?  Have you met with challenges?  What might you do different next time?  Do you have tips for future renters?  Sound off in Comments, on Facebook or Twitter and don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this one delivered straight to your inbox. And if you have any questions about getting started with renting, a Patrick Parker Realty Agent is here to help! Contact Us today!

What are some safety tips for apartment hunting?

Everyone wants to live in a safe and secure environment, and apartment tenants are no exception. In fact, living in close proximity with others can sometimes increase those concerns.

It pays to keep these things in mind when you are looking, so make sure you consider the following safety tips for apartment hunting:

  • A Secure Mail System
    Many apartments have lock-and-key mailboxes so that the only people who have access are the mail carrier and the tenant. Check to make sure any potential rental has this feature or something equally secure.
  • Safety Devices
    Check for fire extinguishers in hallways and good locks on doors and windows. Ask about fire alarms, smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Exterior Safety
    Is there a gate? Is the parking area lighted? Are there motion detector lights outside? Does the landlord keep bushes and trees trimmed so that there is good visibility near exits and entrances?
  • Entrance Security
    What is the system for letting people in? Buzzer? Intercom? Key only?
  • Multi-Floor Dwelling
    Do the stairways feel safe? If there are elevators, are they maintained regularly?

Take a good look at the inside and outside of the building and make sure you are comfortable with the level of security and safety before you make your choice. It is an important feature.

Your Turn

What has your experience been when apartment hunting? Sound off in Comments, on Facebook or Twitter and don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for articles, tips and guides like this one delivered straight to your inbox. And if you have any questions about getting started with renting, a Patrick Parker Realty Agent is here to help! Contact Us today!

Move-In and Move-Out Checklists That Make a Landlord’s Life Easier

rental-checklist“Procedures.” “Process.” “System.”

Ugh. The words have a jarring sound. Who wakes up in the morning, leaping out of bed, excited about policy and procedures?

But after shuffling dozens of tenants through move-in and move-out, we’ve come to recognize the value of having procedures and checklists. They streamline everything. They make the process faster and more efficient. They prevent you from smacking your forehead and saying, “Darn it, I forgot to do a walk-thru inspection!”

So we’d like to share some tips for tenant move-in and move-out. Feel free to copy this and use it for yourself, or sound off in the comments, on Facebook or on Twitter if you have something to add.

Process for Tenant Move-In

When They Sign The Lease:

1. Print two copies of the following documents:

– The lease
– The EPA’s Lead Warning Statement (if the house was built prior to 1978)

Also print one copy (per tenant) of the EPA’s pamphlet, “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home.”

2. Sit down with the tenant. Review the lease together. Explain anything that they don’t understand.

RELATED: Top 7 Laws Every Landlord Should Learn

3. Have the tenant initial each page of the lease, and sign the last page. Repeat this in duplicate, so you each can keep a copy.

4. Give the tenant the EPA pamphlet.

5. Have the tenant sign two copies of the Lead Warning Statement. Have each party keep a copy.

6. Give the tenant a checklist for move-in procedures, which include:

– Getting renter’s insurance
– Putting the electricity and gas in their names.
– Forwarding their mail

7. Schedule a time to conduct move-in walk-thru. Inform the tenant that they will not be allowed to gain access to the unit until after they complete a walk-thru with the landlord / property manager.

RELATED: 3 Important Practices Landlords Should Use During the Move-in

On Move-In Day:

1. Print two copies of the move-in walk-thru form.

FREE DOWNLOAD: rental-condition-checklist
Use this document as a template to grade the condition of all items in your rental unit.

2. Conduct walk-thru with tenant. Take photographs. Note the number of keys that you’ve given the tenant. Notate and sign forms in duplicate, so that you each retain a copy.

3. Email photographs to tenant, to further document the condition of the unit at the time of move-in.

Consider a “repair cost list.” This details how much certain things will cost upon move-out (in terms of the deduction from their security deposit). Leaving a burned-out lightbulb, for example, might cost $5.

RELATED: Learn More About Repair Cost Lists

The idea here is to get tenants thinking at the very beginning to treat your property with respect.

Process for Tenant Move-Out

One to Two Weeks Prior to Move-Out:

1. Schedule a preliminary walk-through of the unit. Alert the tenant, in writing, to the issues that need to be resolved in order for the tenant to receive their deposit back in full. (For example: Tenant must repaint walls back to their original color.)

Note: Be clear that this is not a comprehensive list, nor is it a guarantee of a full deposit return. It is merely a preliminary list of some, but not necessarily all, of the issues that need to be resolved.

2. Send tenant a “cleaning checklist” that outlines the expectations of how clean the unit must be.

3. Remind tenant that all their possessions must be removed by 12:00 noon on the day of move-out (or whatever time is specified on the lease). Schedule a time for the final walk-through of the unit, preferably at 12:00 noon or 1 p.m. on move-out day.

4. Arrange for a cleaning crew and a handyman to come to the unit on the afternoon of move-out day (or to at least be available and on-call).

On Move-Out Day:

1. Come to move-out walk-through with two copies (to be signed in duplicate) of three forms:

– The move-out inspection checklist
– The final move-out form. This form states that the tenant’s lease is over, all obligations are finished, and they will not be holding over (period-to-period).
– A form in which they indicate an address for all future mail to get sent.

Also bring a camera.

2. Walk-thru unit with tenant. Photograph any and all damage or uncleanliness.

3. Have tenant sign all three forms.

4. Email tenant any photos of damage.

5. After tenant leaves, instruct cleaning crew and handyman as necessary.

Within 30 Days of Move-Out:

Mail tenant their security deposit at the address specified, less any portion of damages that are removed from their deposit. Include a letter outlining the damages, and send copies of contractor estimates covering the cost of damage repair.

Your Turn

Do any other landlords have suggestions for tenant move-in or move-out checklists? Is there anything else that you’d add to the list? Tell us in Comments, on Facebook or on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for helpful articles, tips and guides for every kind of homeowner, seller or buyer.

3 Important Practices Landlords Should Use During the Move-in

practices_during_move_inFor landlords who hold and rent income-producing property and manage them themselves, having a system for moving a new tenant into the property is critical to the success of that property. One of the most common disputes that arises between a tenant and a landlord has to do with how expectations were set before the tenant ever moved into the property.

Most landlords meet their prospective tenant at the property during the initial showing, as well as when the lease is signed and security deposit collected. However, to say that most landlords don’t take the time to truly set the tone and expectation regarding the condition of the property and the potential disbursements from the security deposit at the end of the lease.

Interestingly, if you Google something along the lines of “Disputing Security Deposit,” almost every page that comes up is from the perspective of a tenant. Most conflicts between a tenant and a landlord arise because the tenant feels the landlord unjustly withheld a portion (or all) of the security deposit when the tenant moved out of the property. While there are plenty of unscrupulous landlords who likely do take advantage of tenants, many landlords are justified in keeping the security deposit – but they simply didn’t set the expectation and appropriately document condition and costs up front.

RELATED: Move-In and Move-Out Checklists That Make a Landlord’s Life Easier

In our business, we lease 10+ new properties every month. We’ve learned over the years that it’s best to have a system in place to make sure we don’t have the same disputes with our tenants at the end of the lease term. Here are 3 important practices we’ve put in place to help ensure we’ve documented carefully and educated our tenants well.

3 Important Practices Landlords Should Use During the Move-in Inspection:

1. Walk the Entire Property With the Tenant Carefully
While some property managers and landlords tend to whiz through this step, I think it’s one of the most important components to leasing a property. It’s important that you and your tenant are on the same page regarding the condition of the property upon move-in. Be as thorough as possible and document the condition of everything that could potentially experience wear and tear during the course of the lease.

It’s important to notate items such as lawn condition, fence condition, exterior items (gutters, roof, siding, sidewalks, mailbox, soffit and fascia), screens, front door, wall paint colors, light fixtures (model and color), mirrors, vanities, flooring type and condition, plumbing fixtures, smoke detectors, garage door openers, appliances (make and model), water heater (age and condition), HVAC (age and condition), etc. You get the gist. The idea is that you document everything. Make sure you do this with your tenant so that your tenant understands how well you documented the condition of the property before they moved in.

2. Take Pictures
While this is somewhat self-explanatory, taking pictures as you walk the property with the tenant serves two purposes. For one, you are documenting the condition of everything in and around the house so that when the tenant moves out, you can make an easy comparison to condition of the property before move-in. If for some reason your tenant decides to dispute any of the deductions from their security deposit, you have pictures (proof) that document the condition of a particular item before it was used by the tenant.

Secondly, taking pictures in front of the tenant also reiterates the fact that you are carefully documenting the condition of the property. In many cases, this will cause the tenant to be more careful with the property and less likely to dispute a potential charge later because they know you are paying careful attention to all items in and around the property.

3. Include a Replacement Cost Worksheet With the Lease
This is something we’ve implemented recently that I believe will help alleviate almost all disputes arising from security deposit deductions. Our lease agreement now includes a list of items that typically get fixed or replaced after move-out, along with the associated cost for these items. Our tenants know from the outset that if we have to replace a hole in the wall, it will cost them $55 dollars. Or if we have to replace a towel bar, $22 dollars will be deducted from their security deposit. Our list contains over 70 common items that we can deduct from a security deposit along with a price tag so that nobody is surprised at the end of the lease term at how we arrive at the total deduction.

Getting sued by a tenant over a security deposit dispute is a major hassle for any investor. Save yourself the time and headaches by putting a good system in place up front for moving tenants into your property.

RELATED: 7 Laws Every Landlord Should Know

Your Turn

What about you? Do you have a particular practice for moving tenants into properties that has worked for you? Tell us in Comments, on Facebook or on Twitter. And don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for helpful articles, tips and guides for every kind of homeowner, seller or buyer.

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