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Landlord horror tales: 8 ways to avoid your own -- Page 2

Being a landlord is not a job for the faint-of-heart, say the experts, but there are several rules you can follow to protect yourself and your rental property from the "Tenants From Hell."

Rule one: Screen the applicants Rule five: Keep it up
Rule two: Get it in writing Rule six: Get help
Rule three: Insure yourself Rule seven: Don't say no to pets
Rule four: Protect your tenant Rule eight: Mediate disputes
Have you had a frightful experience with a tenant? Share your nightmares by sending your story to:

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Rule three: Insure yourself
Take out special rental insurance that covers liability and property insurance, because your homeowners policy usually will not cover you for renters.

You'll need protection against damage, such as that created by a Tennessee tenant when he heard a call from a divine source to light a fire in the living room. You'll also have coverage if your tenant somehow injures himself and claims it's your fault.

Rule four: Protect your tenant
You should offer reasonable safeguards against crime and other dangers, ensuring that your property is secure and safe. Most states have strict regulations about smoke detectors and their locations. "For six bucks, it's worth protecting your investment and your tenant's life," says Edwards. Also, you must reveal any hazards, including potential lead-poisoning sources, to applicants.

Rule five: Keep it up
Protect yourself against losing good tenants or attracting lawsuits by keeping your property maintained. Substandard conditions can lead to injury or illness. Remember, landlords are the most frequently sued of any business group. Letting your property decline can lead to tenants withholding rent, disputes over who is responsible for what and even result in the tenant legally moving out without notice. top of page

Rule six: Get help
If you aren't comfortable dealing with people, or are a long-distance landlord, get a professional property manager to handle emergencies and prevent problems by visiting the property regularly. What's more, tenants appreciate a manager who schedules appointments, asks about problems and follows up on repairs.

Rule seven: Don't say no to pets
At least, don't do so automatically. Pets are not always a negative factor, and by considering tenants with pets you'll increase your occupancy rate. One survey showed, ironically, that the dogs apartment managers favor -- those 20 pounds or less -- often are dogs with attitudes and are not inclined to please their owners.

Nine of the top 10 dogs for apartment living were bigger than 20 pounds. One author rated a golden retriever the top dog for apartment living, even though these dogs typically weight about 70 pounds. Retrievers and other similar breeds are bred to please and are easily trained to being "crated" while their owners are away.

Rule eight: Mediate disputes
Mediation has achieved astounding acceptance by both landlords and tenants as a way to resolve disputes, and you often don't even need an attorney, explains Edwards. "Many states have local housing courts, and you'll first see a housing specialist who will hear the facts before a judge does. Both sides air their grievances and in almost all cases, the mediator works it out before it gets to court. It's inexpensive, it's confidential and it works."top of page

If you've had a frightful experience with a tenant, share your nightmares by sending your story to:

Paul Bannister is a freelance writer based in Oregon.


-- Posted: Dec. 8, 2003
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See Also
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