Landlord horror tales: 8 ways to avoid your own --
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 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
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.
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
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."
If you've had a frightful experience with a
tenant, share your nightmares by sending your story to: Landlordhorrors@bankrate.com.
Paul Bannister is a freelance
writer based in Oregon.