Keeping Your Property Secure While You're Away

Charlotte Properties
Now that the weather is warming up, many of us are thinking and planning our vacations. Going to the beach, visiting family, or even just taking a couple of days away is something that we all look forward to after the winter each year. Hopefully you are in a position to take a nice, well deserved trip and are currently making plans or looking forward to something that has already been decided upon. Unfortunately, there is another thing that many of us need to think about over the summer. Thieves.
Late spring and summer is the time that most burglaries occur. This is because criminals know that you are looking forward to leaving and may even be watching your home to see when you are gone. It often happens that burglars will even break into an area while you are at work, as rarely they will choose a location at random. While not every break in is preventable, there are some things that you can do to help combat any criminal activity that may occur at your home.
One of the best things that you can do is let your neighbors know that you are leaving for a couple of days. This way they can keep an eye on your home while you are away and report any unusual activity to either you or the police. If someone notices that there is movement in your house and they know you are away, then they know the chances are that it isn't you. This means that they may be able to thwart a burglary and it may actually protect your belongings. Even if all they do is bring in your mail, it can help to keep a target off of your home from the prying eyes of criminals.
Over the next couple of weeks, we will be explaining a few ways that you can protect your property from people that have negative ideas. These articles will help you get ideas about how you can keep your possessions and home safe, even during this time of the year. It may also be a good idea to pass these along to your tenants, as you want to keep them and your rental properties safe as well.

More Ways to Attract Good Tenants

Charlotte Properties
Previously, we gave you a couple of tips on how to attract good residents for your rental property. Not every tip works for every landlord or location, however, and so we want to give you a couple more pointers on how to get the exact type of resident you are looking for into your apartment. Hopefully at least one of these will find you the perfect tenant.
Be Professional Yet Excited. When you are showing off your apartment to a prospective tenant, you need to remember that you are selling something. You wouldn't work at a department store or a used car lot and be completely uninterested whether or not someone buys something. The same applies with your rental property. You are trying to sell your space above all others that this person has seen or will see. While we don't suggest jumping around like you've just won the lottery, you should at least appear to be excited about renting out the apartment. People will specifically look at whether or not you seem happy when you walk into the area and will base much of their feeling about the apartment upon your reactions to it. Be sure to keep their interest up with your energy.
Upkeep and Maintenance. I recently went searching for a new apartment and can tell you that this certainly needs to be mentioned. Keeping your building looking good and being structurally sound is something that should be common sense but sadly is not always. For example, one apartment I looked at was on the fourth floor of a building and had a hole in the floor of the bedroom. Things like this are not acceptable to most tenants, especially if you are trying to charge the same amount as other apartments. Having good curb appeal can go a long way as well, so make sure to keep the grass cut and maybe plant some flowers. You should certainly make sure that there are no holes or exposed wiring in your apartment.
These are two very simple ways to get someone interested in your rental property. While they may seem basic, you would be amazed at how many times we hear experiences that speak to the opposite of these ideals. Always exercise common sense when looking for a new tenant.

Should You Allow Smoking?

Charlotte Properties
Smoking can be a very touchy subject to some people. This is especially true when it comes to the right to smoke in their own homes. While some states have introduced laws which restrict the places people can smoke based upon the presence of children, there are no such laws that I am aware of which restrict the ability to smoke within your own home. What happens when it isn't your home, though? This is where the case of smoking tenants versus landlords can come into play, and it often isn't pretty.
While many smokers are considerate about their usage, there are unfortunately some that do not understand why others want nothing to do with it. While I won't go into some of the frankly horrible interactions I have had with these types of smokers, I will say that when it comes to having them in a rental property or apartment building it really can be a messy situation.
At the root of the situation, the decision is yours. It is your property and if you state that you do not want your resident smoking in it, then that's that. However, sometimes people will smoke anyway. What do you do in this situation? Well, one thing that we always suggest is to have a clause in the lease similar to a hotel room that is non-smoking. State that if someone is found smoking or there is probable cause to believe that smoking has gone on in the apartment, a fine will be charged to the resident(s). This is something that will hopefully discourage anyone from going behind your back and filling the area with smoke.
While allowing smoking in your building may allow a wider range of people to rent from you, you will need to think long term. Smoke can seep into wood and walls and can cause a smell to reappear years down the line, especially when the temperature warms up quickly. I periodically have to open all of my cabinets and air them out because the last resident in my apartment smoked heavily and the smell was trapped. There is more to allowing smoking than just what is happening in the moment. While it is your choice, make sure that you have thought of the outcome of each decision before settling on whether you allow smoking or not.

Cash for Keys

Charlotte Properties
Cash for keys is a concept which is hotly debated around landlord and property investment circles, however we wanted to educate you on this idea. The whole point of cash for keys is to avoid the process of an eviction. This is because the process is expensive and time consuming. Not only are you losing money by having to pay an attorney to evict your tenant, but you are not able to move anyone else into the apartment until they have left which means you are likely losing out on money hand over fist. This is how it works.
The first thing you would do in a cash for keys situation is explain to your tenant what is happening. Explain that you want them to move out and if they do not, you will evict them. Let them know how an eviction can harm them in the future and explain that it will likely be expensive for both of you. This is why you will pay them a certain amount to move out now. This amount can be whatever you decide, however it is often suggested that somewhere around $400 or $500 will do the trick.
Next, explain that you want the apartment cleaned and any repairs done or paid for by the time they are ready to leave. Let them know what date you want them gone by. Make sure that you give them enough time to get everything out, but not too much so that they could do more damage. Always give them a notice, as this would be the first step in an eviction as well. Keep a copy for yourself. Once they have moved their things out and cleaned, go in to inspect the property with them to make sure it is in the condition you asked. Take pictures of how it looks. Now all you need to do is have them sign paperwork that states that they are officially moved out and you can hand over whatever amount of money you agreed to pay them.
While this may seem odd to pay someone to leave your own property, it is often much cheaper than going through the full eviction process and helps your tenant out as well. Let us know what you think about this concept and if you have ever used it.

When A Tenant Should Be Able To Break A Lease

Charlotte Properties
As a landlord, you are obviously going to be interested mostly in long term, reliable tenants. This is completely understandable, as a high tenant turnover rate will generally end up costing you more money than it gets you. Having vacancies is the worst non-tragic thing that can happen to a landlord in regards to their investment property and so you will want to avoid this as much as possible. Sometimes, however, you will get a tenant who asks to be able to break their lease. This would mean they would leave before the previously agreed upon time. While some reasons are flimsy at best, there are a few times that you should at least consider allowing a tenant to get out of the contract early.
One of the most common reasons a lease is broken is because of a change in employment. Many times a tenant will lose their job and it hardly matters if it was their fault or not. Other times they are transferred and cannot say no to the relocation for a multitude of reasons. While this is an unfortunate situation for both of you, the tenant obviously cannot continue to make payments if they are unemployed and they should not have to pay rent on two different locations if they are only living in one. This is especially true of those in the military, as they can be relocated at a moment's notice.
Extreme circumstances are another time that you should consider allowing your tenant to break their lease. If there was a death in the family, many people will want to move to either get away from the memories or get closer to those they still have left. Sometimes people need to move in with ageing parents to help take care of them. Disabilities are another circumstance that may be unforeseen and need accommodations that you cannot provide. Sometimes horrible things happen in our lives and your tenants are no different in that regard.
While some landlords are adamantly against breaking leases, there are certain situations in which it is understandable why a tenant would want to get out of the contract early. Always remember that your tenant is human just like you are and sometimes these things unfortunately need to happen.

Tips For Keeping Your Rental Property Nice

Charlotte Properties
When you have a rental property, it is very different from owning your own home. When you live in your own home you can make upgrades whenever you want, clean as much as you feel is necessary, and keep everything looking the way you want it to. A rental property, however, is generally at the mercy of your tenant. Not everyone has the same idea of what "clean" is or how important it is to keep things looking a certain way. This is when it is important to come up with some ideas of how to keep your apartment looking nice from tenant to tenant.
Flooring is arguably the most important thing about a rental space. It is always used, always touched in one way or another, and will always get dirty. For this reason, many landlords prefer to put down hardwood flooring to carpet. Carpet can, and does, stain even with accidental spills or forgetting to wipe the mud off of your boots as you come running in from a storm. If you must use carpet, we suggest a darker color to not show so much dirt. We also suggest finding another option for the kitchen, bathroom, entry area, or laundry room if your rental property has one. Tile or laminate flooring is a favorite of many and is relatively easy to keep clean with minimal effort.
Making sure things are installed correctly is something that is incredibly important. If you are looking to add curtain rods or shelving, then we always suggest finding a stud in the wall to anchor it if possible. If you find that your previous tenant had hung something and tore part of the drywall out, be sure to replace it correctly and not with filler and paint. The next tenant may want to hang something in the same place only to have it fail and cause more damage to your walls. This is something that your new tenant should not be punished for, but it is something that needs to be fixed.
Unless you have a horrible tenant, the upkeep between residents should be minimal each time you have someone new move in. A fresh coat of paint or maybe some new blinds should really be the extent of your repairs. Always be sure to keep things nice and bright for your new residents.

How to Avoid Extra Tenants in an Apartment

Talley Properties
Picture this: you have gone through the complete tenant screening process and have found the perfect fit for your apartment. Let's say it's a single woman in her late twenties who has a cat but is quiet, respectful, and has a wonderful steady job. You agree on and sign a lease for a year, but in four months she meets the person she things may just be "the one". She asks this special someone to spend the night every now and then which is fine, but then this person gets a drawer of stuff to leave at the apartment. Then that drawer becomes a full dresser and before you know it the apartment you signed for one person suddenly has two living in it. What are you to do? Is there anything you could have done to avoid this situation in the first place? Let's see what your options are.
One of the first things you should know is that it is illegal in many states to ask someone if they are in a relationship during the interview process. If this is the case (or even if it isn't and you simply don't want to know the details), you can always ask if there will likely be someone staying in the apartment with them for a certain amount of time. Explain that anyone who stays more than three or four nights a week (or month) is considered a tenant by your lease and must be screened as well. This can help prevent you from finding out that there have been two people living in the place when you were under the impression that there would only be one.
This is something that should be backed up by your lease. Include a clause that states that anyone found to be living in the apartment for a certain amount of days per month is also considered a tenant and will also have to pay rent. You may even want to explain that this may be terms for termination of the lease. At the end of the day, it is up to you how you feel like handling this situation but you want to be able to have all of your bases covered. You certainly don't want to be caught off guard with a squatter of any kind.

Amenities and Residents

Charlotte Properties
In a previous article, we mentioned to you that sometimes the reason you can't seem to get residents may be due to what amenities you do or don't have. We also promised that we would talk about some of these amenities that people really look for in a new apartment. Do remember, like we said before, be careful about some amenities and trying to implement them depending on where you live.
The main amenity that people look when they are moving to a new apartment is laundry services. It is always best case scenario if you can have a washer and a dryer in the building. This is especially true if the laundry is free, however some complexes do prefer to use coin operated laundry. Again, check around to see what other rental properties in the area are doing. Lugging laundry around, especially when it's wet, can be not only annoying, but dangerous depending on the age and physical situation of your residents. Even if you don't have the ability to put a washer and dryer in the building, if you own a complex it would be beneficial for you to have one somewhere that is accessible to all. If it is a community laundry room, just do be sure to include enough washers and dryers to service the amount of people who reside in the building.
A dishwasher is quickly becoming an amenity that many renters are deeming a necessity. While it may not be a big deal if you are only renting to one or two people per apartment, larger families can certainly benefit from one of these appliances. If you are renting a full house, certainly look into the possibility of adding a dishwasher to the kitchen, even if it is only a portable one. Although it may seem silly, people are requesting more and more to have a dishwasher. After all, who are we to argue when we want to rent our place out?
These are only a couple of the amenities that are important in regards to being able to rent out your apartment. There are many, many more and if you're wondering what they are, don't worry! We will be back soon with a few more that you may want to think about if you are trying to get a resident.

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