2009 Real Estate Guide
A white house with large windows, a brown roof and trees surrounding it on top of house plans
real estate
So you want to be a landlord?

"In the old days, if you had a foreclosure, we wouldn't even talk to you. Today, it's a whole market segment we want to talk to," says Jeffrey I. Friedman, chairman and CEO of Associated Estates Realty Corp., a national rental property company based in Richmond Heights, Ohio. If an applicant lost a home to foreclosure but had a job and good credit otherwise, that applicant probably would get approved. Associated Estate Realty also has started including unemployment benefits in an applicant's income, which it never used to do.

Drew Sygit, a partner at Royal Rose Properties in Birmingham, Mich., say his company has "gotten really good at looking past the credit report. Income is more important now than credit. We see tenants who have been displaced because their landlord got foreclosed on and tenants who lost their homes to foreclosure. That makes up 60 percent of our applicants."

Evictions are taking longer. With the rise in unemployment and the prevalence in foreclosures on rental properties, eviction filings are up. That means it's taking longer for courts to process the necessary legal paperwork, and local law enforcement is backed up on carrying out the evictions. "They're taking far longer than they used to," says Page. "Some sheriff's departments are refusing to serve eviction notices. People need to take that into account."

Some landlords are willing to work with tenants who can document their financial difficulties and provide evidence that it will be a short-term situation. Others "support the concept of paying them to move out," Page says. It all comes down to deciding which option will cost them the least amount of money, given the expense of an eviction and the increased risk of damage to the unit by a frustrated tenant.

Rental units are getting pet-friendlier. Between the risk of flea infestations, damage from toileting accidents and noise, there's no question that pets are a hassle for landlords. It's no wonder that so many landlords used to adhere to a "no pets" policy. That's changed, in a big way. Few landlords are willing to turn away a pet lover with a good job, a good rental history and good credit. And most tenants are willing to pay extra for their four-legged family members.

Most landlords who accept pets charge a nonrefundable pet fee, and some also charge a small monthly "pet rent." "People are much more willing to pay that today," Friedman says.

Post says his property managers "do little things to make the property attractive to pet owners," such as setting aside areas for walking dogs and providing scoopers and bags for owners to clean up after their dogs. "We're pretty loose as it pertains to pets," he says. "We're pet lovers ourselves."

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