Safety Measures For Your Rental Home

Home should feel like a safe place. As is the case with all rental homes, landlords are required to meet a certain level of safety standards and maintain things like smoke detectors and working locks. While these are helpful, it is also a good idea to take your safety and security into your own hands in order to make sure that you have done everything you can to keep your family safe and sound. Putting a few extra measures in place can help you sleep better at night and just might be the difference between safety and danger.

Smoke Alarms and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

While your rental is required by law to come equipped with a working smoke alarm, you should make it part of your monthly safety routine to make sure it is viable. If you haven’t conveniently burned something on the stove and accidentally set it off, you can test it by pressing the ‘test’ button on the bottom or side of the unit. It will let you know when it needs new batteries by beeping intermittently. Ironically, this usually happens late at night while you are trying to sleep.

Carbon monoxide is clear, odorless and potentially deadly. It is usually emitted as a malfunction of a furnace or heater and it has accounted for some terrible tragedies in houses that are unequipped with sensors. If your rental home doesn’t already come with one, it is worth the money to purchase a carbon monoxide detector for every level of your home. Mine once went off and I was immediately alerted to vacate the house with my young children until the fire department could come and check it out. It turned out to be a false alert, which is rare, but I was assured that even in such cases, it was still functional in the event of an actual leak.

New Locks

Given the high turnover in rental homes, landlords are supposed to change the locks each time, especially since they can never be sure how many copies of the key are out there. You are within your rights to request proof of new locks on the unit before you move in for safety. It’s a simple and safe way to ensure that only those that are supposed to have keys will be able to access your home.

Windows and Doors

Most of us make the rounds of the doors and windows to make sure they are locked before turning in for the night, but there are ways that you can make your rental home even more secure. Thick, wooden dowels placed in the tracks of a window, or a sliding glass door boost safety and can keep an intruder from popping the lock or lifting the window/door out of the tracks. If the area you live in feels particularly unsafe, request permission from your landlord to install a bolt lock on the door, or a peephole, so you can see who is knocking before you open up.

Fire Escape Ladder

Apartment and rental buildings that are more than one story are supposed to have reasonable fire escape options. However, sometimes these aren’t ideally located, in disrepair or inaccessible for every room. If the worst happens and you are trapped on an upper floor, you may need to create your own means of escape in a hurry. Foldable ladders that hook onto the edge of a window and reach the ground are an inexpensive and easily stored option that could offer you peace of mind. You can’t ever be too careful when it comes to the safety of your family.

Security System

If you want further protection, you can also have a security system installed. There are many options that are designed for rentals and will not damage the walls, windows or doors. Make sure you get permission from your landlord before you sign a contract, though.

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Top 10 Tips for Staging a Home for Photos

By Justin Riordan, Spade and Archer Design Agency Ah, yes the beloved Top 10 list. If only life were that simple and any skill you ever wanted to learn could be perfected with just 10 easy to learn, neatly packaged tips. I can see it now… “The top 10 tips for removing your own brain […]

Must-Know Tips for Absentee Landlords

If there’s one constant through the history of rental real estate, it’s that being an absentee landlord is exceptionally tough. There are so many things that need to be taken care of, from marketing units to screening and interviewing applicants to selecting competitive rental prices.

Rental property owners also need to worry about undeniably unenjoyable tasks like monitoring their properties, collecting rents, performing maintenance and upkeep, and navigating local court procedures in the event a renter breaks the lease or fails to pay. A landlord’s work just never ends.

If you’re an absentee landlord and don’t have someone to monitor your rental properties on a regular basis, things can easily go haywire.

Veteran landlords agree: When it comes to being a do-it-yourself, absentee landlord, don’t do it without help. Here are some reasons why this is the case.

You Could Miss Important Warning Signs

Absentee landlords often miss signs of developing trouble on their properties. These warning signs can include junk cars parked on the front yard, evidence of drug or other criminal activity, a tree with a dangerous overhanging limb, or serious problems with soil erosion. These are all examples of things that can significantly affect the value and long-term rentability of your units. If you’re an absentee landlord, you’re clearly vulnerable to missing out on this vital information.

You could also miss important neighborhood trends that may portend a decline in value, such as the introduction of undesirable businesses (e.g., a strip club) or an increase in criminal activity in nearby properties, even if that activity doesn’t directly include your own tenants.

You Can’t Spot Check for Potential Maintenance Issues

One great way to catch maintenance problems before they arise is to knock on the door and speak with your tenants. Ask them if there is anything that should get repaired immediately. Often they’ll point you to leaky pipes, minor roof leaks or other small issues that could get bigger if neglected. This becomes difficult, if not impossible, when landlords live far away from their rental properties.

(Of course, there are laws that govern landlords’ access to their occupied rental properties. You can’t just show up and insist on being let in. Most states require that you give one or two days’ notice before going inside a unit, unless there’s an emergency that needs to be taken care of. )

Don’t be an absentee landlord without getting help from locals – get quotes from local property management companies today >>

The Local Government Could Turn Against You

If you own rental properties in one city but live in another, you pay property taxes but don’t get to vote for local politicians or initiatives. Unfavorable ordinances, zoning laws, taxes and landlord tenant laws that can substantially affect the profitability of your investment can therefore be passed without you being able to do anything about it.

If there are many absentee landlords in the area, local residents could become fed up with some issues and take measures against landlords like you.

For example, the city of Middletown, New York, recently passed a law requiring rental property owners to hire professional property managers or provide master keys to on-site tenants. One involves some expense, the other involves risk. Either way, local landlords are not allowed to operate independently.

Another good example is rent control. Politicians in markets with exceptionally high demand for housing can impose rent control laws or other restrictions on charging the market rate for rental units. If you aren’t a resident in the areas your rentals are located in, you don’t get a vote.

Vacant Rental Properties Are Particularly Vulnerable

Renters are the most important set of eyes and ears when it comes to monitoring both the condition of rental properties and the neighborhood as a whole. But when rental units are vacant, you don’t even have that … at precisely the time when your units are most vulnerable.

Unoccupied housing frequently attract vagrants and squatters, and in some cases have been used as meth labs – requiring decontamination that costs many thousands of dollars.

Special vacant property insurance can offer some protection if the home is unoccupied for more than 60 days. Standard landlord insurance policies won’t cover some types of damage if the units have been left vacant for too long.

Disability Accommodation Requirements for HOAs and COAs

First, a story:

Tennessee HOA Cracks down on Disabled Minister

Wheelchair disability accommodations for HOAs and COAsIn the affluent Nashville suburb of Brentwood, Tennessee, the homeowners association of The Woodlands at Copperstone community came down on a family because it built a wooden wheelchair ramp outside of their home.

The person The Woodlands is suing is a much-beloved local minister, Michael Broadnax, who suffered a debilitating stroke, and his wife, Charlotte. While Michael was in intensive care and then a nursing facility recovering, the nursing and rehab staff recommended that Charlotte have a wheelchair ramp installed outside the home.

The ramp was there for several months without a problem. Then the homeowner association’s attorney sent her a letter that contained the following message: “The association demands that within 14 days of the date of this letter, you remove the wheelchair ramp and restore the exterior of your home.”

The letter further stated that if she did not remove the ramp herself, the association would “come onto your property, remove the ramp and charge you with the work.” Were the association were forced to sue her, the letter stated it would obtain a court order forcing her to pay its legal fees.

After local media got hold of the case, the HOA backpedaled, hand-delivering a letter of apology from the attorney, who claimed the letter should not have been sent, as it was not approved by the entirety of the HOA’s board of directors.

If the HOA had not backed off, it may have come up against the Fair Housing Act’s provisions against discrimination, potentially embroiling it in a lengthy and expensive legal battle.

What Is Reasonable Accommodation?

An accommodation is “reasonable” if it doesn’t impose an “undue burden” on the homeowner or condo association or threaten to fundamentally change the nature of the housing. Beyond that, there’s no set rule, and judges have wide latitude to determine what’s reasonable on a case-by-case basis.

However, in no case does the Federal Housing Act or its amendments require HOAs to accommodate anyone who poses a significant safety or damage risk if there are no reasonable measures that can be put in place to mitigate this risk.

Managing HOAs and COAs is hard work. Get help from a professional – request quotes from professional association managers today >>

What Construction Elements Must Associations Provide?

For buildings first built and ready for occupancy prior to March 13, 1991, there are no specific requirements. Here are the requirements for newer buildings:

  • Doors must be usable, with a width of 32 inches or more. Thresholds should be low or nonexistent.
  • Light switches, outlets, thermostats and other environmental controls may be no higher than 48 inches and no lower than 15 inches from the floor.
  • Common and public areas must be generally wheelchair accessible and useable.
  • The entrance and sidewalks to the entrance must be accessible, unless this is not practical because of specific site or terrain characteristics.
  • Bathrooms must be constructed with reinforced walls that will support the installation of grab bars.
  • Kitchens and bathrooms must be wheelchair accessible.

Who Is Held Liable by the FHA?

The Fair Housing Act applies to homeowners associations like the one in Brentwood, but it exempts landlords with just one or two residential units who do not use a real estate agent to rent or lease the house.

However, no landlord may use discriminatory language that implies a preference for able-bodied residents in any advertising.

What Residents Are Not Protected by the FHA?

People with temporary disabilities, such as a broken foot, don’t fall under the Fair Housing Act. Nor do those using illegal drugs or posing a direct threat to others. Someone with a history of mental illness may qualify for protection. But someone with a history of violence would not, if they posed a threat to others.

Can Associations Ask About Disabilities?

Generally not. But if they need accommodation of some sort, they have to request it.

You also can’t deny a resident because their sole source of income is disability insurance or Social Security. You can set an income requirement, but the source of the income is not the board’s business.

Private Restrictive Covenants

If someone uses a wheelchair and requires a modified van, and it doesn’t fit in the garage everyone uses, or the individual needs to park closer to the residence, it’s easy enough to grant that accommodation.

Other accommodations include granting permission to park on the street after dark or maintaining a reserved spot for the tenant. If the accommodation is reasonable and costs the association no money, refusing the request would probably be a violation of the Fair Housing Amendments Act.

Service Animals

Homeowner and condo associations must allow both service animals and “emotional support” animals. The protection for these animals is broader under the Fair Housing Amendments Act than it is for public accommodation businesses and workplaces under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If you have a no-pet policy, or require a pet deposit, you must waive this policy to accommodate a service or support animal.

RentPrep Roundup of the Best Holiday Articles

Over the years, RentPrep has offered its landlord and tenant readers a number of holiday-related articles meant to educate, inform and even inspire. As the next holiday season approaches, we thought it would be helpful to have an information roundup and provide readers with links to our best holiday articles, all in one convenient place. We wish you, your families and your tenants a very happy holiday season.

Here are the best of RentPrep winter holiday articles:

5 Thanksgiving Safety Tips For Your Renters

From fried turkeys to safe parking, here are some valuable safety tips for your renters and their guests during the Thanksgiving weekend.

4 Thanksgiving Tips on Holiday Entertaining in Your Small Apartment

Thanksgiving is nearly here and there are plenty of things that renters can do to maximize the holiday cheer with friends and family, despite hosting in a smaller living space.

Holiday Safety Tips for Landlords and Property Managers

Keep the holidays merry and bright with these safety tips specifically for landlords and property managers.

7 Holiday Light Safety Tips for Rental Properties

Holiday lights make everything more beautiful, but there are some safety precautions that landlords should keep in mind as they set up and enforce the rules concerning lighting at the rental property.

Property Maintenance Tips: Winter Holiday Prep and Cleanup

The holiday season is a time for fun, friends and family, but for a property manager, it can mean some extra preparation and work both before and after the winter holidays. Read on for some tips and tricks on navigating the winter holidays while minimizing your stress.

How Living Christmas Trees Can Boost Property Value

Landlords and property managers are always looking for ways to improve the property value of a rental, but did you know that a living Christmas tree could be an easy and inspiring thing to do? Learn more about living Christmas trees and how they can benefit you.

5 Christmas Tree Safety Tips to Share With Tenants

Besides being the symbol of the holiday, decorated Christmas trees can be the cause of some of the biggest headaches and safety problems during the season. Here are some safety tips that both landlords and tenants need to know.

Good Will Toward Tenants: Holiday Gifts

‘Tis the season to give, but what is and is not appropriate for landlords and tenants when it comes to giving holiday gifts to each other? You won’t want to miss these guidelines if you are looking for ideas.

Should Landlords Give Tenant Gifts at the Holidays?

The debate over whether or not landlords should give tenants a holiday gift rages on throughout the landlord community, so here are some pros and cons on the topic. No matter what your opinion is, these will give you some ideas to consider.

How To Handle Late Rent Around the Holiday Season

More than any other time of year, landlords are likely to encounter late rent right before or right after the holidays. Here are some fine ideas on how to handle the late rent situation to everyone’s advantage.

3 Holiday Headlines That Will Inspire Any Landlord

It’s easy to focus on all the problems in a landlord/tenant relationship, so here are some true stories about great landlords that will warm the heart of even the most guarded landlord.

Can Landlords Ever Take a Vacation? Yes!

Looking to get away from it all during the holidays, but you are convinced that your landlord duties prevent it? Check out these tips to help landlords take a true vacation without letting their rental properties suffer.

The post RentPrep Roundup of the Best Holiday Articles appeared first on RentPrep.

Tips For Tenants on Shoveling Snow In a Rental Home

In many parts of the country, temperatures are finally dropping and everyone awaits the day they wake up to ice and snow on the ground. While the arrival of snow can signal a season of cozy sweaters, snow sports and holidays, if you are responsible for the snow removal at your rental home, it can also mean extra work.

While shoveling the snow from your walkways and driveway can seem fairly straightforward, there are actually tips you can follow to make the job a little easier. I spent several years living in apartments where the snow seemed to magically disappear from the sidewalks, so it was a wake-up call when I moved to a rental home where I was in charge of the job.

If you follow my example and ignore the leavings of the first few snowfalls, you too might ultimately end up with the walkway and steps of your rental home covered in solid ice, creating a hazard for anyone approaching your rental home door. Following a few basic steps every time it snows will keep you safer and more efficient in the long run.

Safety First

Snow can be heavy, especially when it is wet and slushy and lifting a full shovel can be an easy way to injure your back or shoulder joints. Stretch your muscles before beginning and lift with your knees, not your back. When the snow is particularly deep or heavy, work through it in layers from the top down rather than trying to sling a full load.

Don’t Walk on the Snow

It doesn’t take long before you figure out that snow that has been walked over repeatedly, or stamped down is harder to shovel than an untouched layer. Keep your shovel handy during the winter so you can begin shoveling from your rental home’s main point of entry or exit and work your way out.

Prepare Your Shovel

Snow that packs well may be great for snowballs, but it can also stick to the surface of your shovel. Preparing your shovel by coating it with wax or oil can make the job much quicker. Keep it simple and cheap by using basic kitchen oil spray before each use.

Beware of Ice

Ice on steps and walkways can be dangerous. Even newly cleared pavement is at the risk for layers of ice as the sun thaws the snow during the day and then refreezes it at night into a thin, slippery layer. Salt is an ideal way to melt the ice and provide safer walking for you and visitors to your home. It can be purchased in large bags at most retail stores and all you need is a single layer for it to work its magic. Because regular use of salt can stain or eventually break down concrete and pavement, some people like to use gravel that will break up the ice and provide more traction for walking.

The post Tips For Tenants on Shoveling Snow In a Rental Home appeared first on RentPrep.

Stage the Bathroom: 7 Simple Ideas

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine Since 2000, the standard home for-sale was about 1,800 square feet – which mostly stayed steady for several years. But lately, the standard new home has swelled to 2,200 square feet, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Where is all of that extra space going? Bathrooms. Builders […]

Filling an Empty Seat

QUESTION. If a board member resigns one full year before the end of her term, is her empty seat automatically open for election or does the board appoint her replacement?

RESPONSE: I know Clint Eastwood had trouble filling an empty chair three years ago but it’s fairly routine for boards of directors. The mechanism depends on two things: (i) how the vacancy was created and (ii) the language in your governing documents.

Recall. Vacancies caused by the membership’s removal of a director (a recall) cannot be filled by the board. It must be filled by the membership at a special election (Corp. Code §7224(a)). That should be done on the same ballot as the recall.

Death & Resignation. Vacancies created by death or resignation of a director are filled by approval of a majority of the remaining directors, unless the governing documents expressly provide otherwise. (Corp. Code §7224(a), Robert’s Rules, 11th ed., p. 467.) Most bylaws follow the Corporations Code and give the board the authority to fill the seat.

Failure to Appoint. If the board fails or refuses to fill an empty position, the membership can call for a special election. (Corp. Code §7224(b).) The process is initiated by filing a petition with the board for a special meeting to fill the seat.

RECOMMENDATION: Check your articles of incorporation and bylaws to see if they address the subject. If they are silent, then follow the Corporations Code as described above.


: Concerning special assessments, our CC&Rs state we need a majority of the total voting power of the association to pass an assessment. Yet, Davis-Stirling clearly states that assessments pass with a majority of a quorum. Does the statute trump our CC&Rs?

RESPONSE: Whenever there is a conflict between the law and governing documents, the law controls unless it specifically defers to the governing documents. See “Hierarchy of Documents” and “Rules of Interpretation.” In this case, the Davis-Stirling Act controls. That means a majority of a quorum of the membership can pass a special assessment.


I am pleased to announce that on Monday we launched a new and improved version of the award-winning website.

Mobile Friendly. The new website will work on any device with a web browser–from desktops to tablets to smartphones. Because it’s designed to mold to the screen size of any portable device, the website is fully responsive, mobile- and tablet-friendly. As a result, the old mobile app I created (the first in our industry) has been deactivated. We may design a new one with other features at a later date and will let everyone know when that happens.

More Features. The new programming also gives us the ability to build more features into the website. Those are now under development and will be announced as they are completed.

ABCs of HOAs

I will join a panel of experts in a program hosted by HOA Organizers. The event is for board members and will cover new laws affecting associations.

In addition, we will cover insurance issues, collections and foreclosures, management procedures and responsibilities, and deferred maintenance/budgeting. There will be time for Q&A with each session.

This is a free event with a catered lunch and raffle prizes (including an iPad). The program will be held Saturday December 12, 2014 from 11:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the beautiful Olympic Collection, 11301 Olympic Blvd #204, Los Angeles 90064.

Please RSVP or fax (818) 286-9434 or phone (818) 778-3331 (Kristal).


Pepper Spray #1
. Nice people may feel reluctant to use pepper spray when they aren’t sure if they are actually in jeopardy. And, at the moment they need to use it, they may fumble it out of lack of experience and nerves. A good thing to have on hand in such a situation is a good, loud whistle, like a metal referee’s whistle. These are readily available on the internet and in sporting goods stores and everyone knows how to blow a whistle. No fear of hurting an innocent person with it, either. -Susan K.

Pepper Spray #2. Employees should use wasp/hornet spray. It is not expelled as a spray but as a strong stream, as far as 20 to 25 feet away, preventing a potential threat from getting close to them. With pepper spray, you run the risk of affecting others from the spray, especially in any breeze. The wasp/hornet spray shoots a very strong stream and is more highly effective than pepper spray. This requires no certification, no legal mumble jumble, no questionable passion restrictions, just an effective anti-threat weapon that is much more effective than pepper spray. -Don C.

RESPONSE: Good grief! Don’t take out a bad guy with a product designed to kill wasps. The lawsuit that followed would be very expensive. That’s like setting bear traps to catch burglars. The burglar would never enter your house again but you might be spending the rest of your life sharing a cell with him in prison. Only use products approved by the state for self-defense. If you want an alternative to pepper spray, Susan K’s whistle works.

Pepper Spray #3. Good newsletter as always. Just wanted to feedback on the pepper spray. I am a deputy with the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department and have spent a great amount of time in court as an expert witness with regard to DNA and ID systems, We also cover use of force a lot in our department. You are dead on about having a policy and best to have an actual “Use of Force” policy. A written policy and staff training gives the association solid footing in any legal action that may follow.  -Joseph L.

RESPONSE: I edited Joseph’s response due to space limitations. He pointed out a number of issues for associations to consider when using pepper spray. If boards want to arm their employees, they should work closely with a security consultant and legal counsel to fashion appropriate policies.

Adrian Adams, Esq.
A Professional Law Corporation

“Much More Than Just a Law Firm!” We’re friendly lawyers–boards and managers can reach us at (800) 464-2817 or

How to Unlock New Revenue Streams from Your Rental Property

Landlords owe it to themselves to maximize the amount of rental income they earn from their rental properties. That’s just good business. And the best way to do that is to provide added value, convenience and services for which your tenants are actually willing to pay. Industry insiders call this “ancillary income,” and it could be an important boost to your rental profit margin!

Here are some proven revenue enhancers for landlords willing to make some investments in their properties – and some tips for getting started.

Washers and Dryers

Install washers and dryers in your rental units to increase your rental incomeIf there’s no washer and dryer in your rental units, you’re paying for that dearly by collecting lower rents.

If installing washers and dryers in your dwellings isn’t convenient, you have a couple of options:

  • Buy some coin-op machines and collect and repair them yourself. (You must depreciate the cost of these appliances over time.)
  • Lease the machines. (The entire lease payment is deductible.)
  • Split the revenue with a laundry vendor. In many cases, vendors own the machines and are granted space in the laundry facility and provided with hookups – the vendor does everything else.

The trend lately has been to create higher-quality laundry rooms – sometimes with Wi-Fi access – operated by vendors specializing in this field.

If you buy highly efficient machines, you’ll gain brownie points with environmentally sensitive renters – and likely increase your laundry revenue as a result.

Storage Space

If storage didn’t make money, you wouldn’t see so many self-storage businesses, would you?

As a residential landlord, you can provide something that no off-site storage company can compete with: convenience.

If you have the land available, you can build separate storage units or garages that provide both storage and covered parking.

Modern steel building construction has become very cost-effective, and may be just the ticket. You can depreciate these buildings over time, even as you collect the rent. So with low building costs, depreciation and solid demand, you could be cash-flow positive within a year.

Rental income maximization tip: ensure you’re setting competitive rents by working with a professional property manager >>

Rental Furniture

Many young renters don’t have much furniture, nor do they want to be stuck with too much. You can rent furniture to these residents, making life more convenient for them while pocketing some revenue for yourself in the process.

Having furniture on hand also allows you to pursue other opportunities, such as renting dorm-style housing to students at nearby schools or corporate housing to short-term but repeat customers.

Vending Machines

Yes, the soda machine is a proven performer in the rental real estate context. But things don’t have to stop there. If you have an attractive lobby area or suitable central location, you have vending opportunities now that were unheard of a decade ago. The products vending machines can now sell include:

  • Smartphone charger cables and headphones.
  • Coffee
  • Toilet paper
  • Soap
  • Tylenol/aspirin/feminine hygiene products

Vending machine manufacturers and marketers are now creating vending machines that act as mini convenience stores. They’re being installed on college campuses and office parks, but there’s no reason they can’t work in residential settings as well. It’s up to landlords to gauge demand and usage, but you should be able to make some money while providing a needed convenience for your residents.

Charge a Pet Fee

Charge a pet fee for your rental units to increase your rental incomePets cause wear and tear and smell up carpets. It’s usually a relatively easy matter for a landlord to tack on an extra rent charge of anywhere from $10 to $50 per month to accommodate a pet. Few tenants will decide to move out over a reasonable extra pet expense.

Once someone lives in an apartment with a cat for a couple years, that extra $50 per month will pay for carpet cleaning or new carpets if needed.


Your property could be home to a billboard that reaches thousands of motorists daily. Advertisers will pay for these eyeballs, and, if done correctly it won’t affect your tenant experience one bit.

Telecom and Media Deals

One emerging opportunity for enterprising landlords is cable, Internet and telecom bundling deals. Landlords are essentially becoming distributors for these media companies – and taking a cut of revenues on the back end.

Build Communities

If you can build a community, encouraging your tenants to connect with each other, it will make it tougher for your good tenants to leave. This boosts renewal rates and referrals while holding down vacancy rates and re-leasing expenses. How can you do this? Here are some ideas:

  • Wine and cheese events
  • Concerts or movie nights in the common areas
  • Food truck events
  • Pizza nights
  • Barbecues
  • Raffles and contests

7 Eviction Tips for New Landlords

Perhaps the top worry of new landlords and property managers is what they will encounter during the eviction process. Nearly every landlord will have to go through the eviction process with bad tenants at least once, but the fear of making a mistake and the seriousness of the situation can cause you lots of stress, especially if you aren’t completely familiar with the process.

Eviction is the action of legally expelling a tenant from a property, and it is most commonly done because of nonpayment of rent, although failure to comply with the lease agreement is also grounds for eviction. In a perfect world, your tenants would pay rent on time, every time, and always follow the lease agreement rules. However, there will be bad tenants from time to time that force you to evict.

Here are 7 eviction tips for new landlords that will hopefully take some of the stress out of a long and exacting process to get the property back into your hands.

1. Always send an official written notice.

The first step in the eviction process always is to let the tenant know in writing that they are in violation of the lease agreement and what they’ve done wrong. Whether nonpayment of rent or breaking the rules, the official notice starts the process and gives them a set time to rectify the situation. State laws vary on how many days you have to allow them from the time of delivery, but most states use 3 to 7 days.

2. Don’t delay in the notification.

One of the biggest problems that new landlords face during the eviction process is starting the whole thing in the first place. Often, they give extensions and exceptions to the tenant because they simply don’t want to launch the eviction. Remember that the more you wait, the more rent you are losing and the more your tenant is taking advantage of you. It’s up to you about making arrangements in certain circumstances, but evictions can take anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks, depending on location. That’s a long time to go without rent, so don’t delay in sending that initial notice to get the clock ticking.

3. File the eviction at the courthouse.

If the deadline has passed and you haven’t been able to collect rent or otherwise feel the tenant will comply, go ahead and file the eviction with the clerk. You’ll have to pay a fee, and the clerk will schedule a hearing. The courthouse is also responsible for notifying the tenant about the hearing, so you don’t have to do anything on that end.

4. Think carefully about accepting rent after filing.

Sometimes, tenants are able to pull some or all of the money together and may offer to pay you after you have already filed with the court. While it is up to you whether or not to accept that money, you need to know what accepting a full or partial payment means. Collecting partial payment from the tenant actually forfeits your right to continue with the eviction. In other words, if the tenant doesn’t come up with the rest of the money, you will have to start the eviction process anew. You do not have to accept any money after the eviction is filed at court. If you want to keep the eviction process going, you can reject the payment and continue the process.

5. Never engage in a “self-help” eviction.

No matter what, landlords cannot oust a tenant on their own. Taking the eviction process into your own hands is known as a “self-help” eviction and such actions are actually criminal in many cases. That means you cannot change locks, move their belongings, threaten them, shut off their utilities, break their things, call the police to kick them out, or anything else to get them to leave. Only by going through the state’s eviction process will the law be on your side and support you in getting the tenants out. It may take longer and be more frustrating, but it’s the right way to evict a tenant.

6. Get an attorney or pay attention to details.

Many landlords use a landlord-tenant attorney for evictions, but it isn’t required. If you don’t, it’s important to pay attention to all the steps as well as the requirements for eviction as set up by your state. Eviction is a detailed process and cases have been thrown out of court because the landlord neglected to do something properly. For example, if a landlord fails to give the 7-day period after delivering a notice, and files with the court on the 6th day, the case could be tossed. Read up on the law in your state before you face an eviction and then double check all the steps again as you go through the process to make sure you are on the right track.

7. Wait for the sheriff to escort tenants off the property.

If the judge rules in your favor, the court will set a deadline for when the tenant has to vacate the property. If the tenant leaves before that time, make sure you confirm that the unit is abandoned and then you can take possession. If the tenant doesn’t leave on time, the local sheriff’s department will be the ones to physically remove the tenant from the unit. Never try to escort a tenant out of the rental property yourself—wait for the sheriff.

There’s nothing fun about evictions, but being unaware of the process and making rookie mistakes can make it even more miserable. Landlords and property managers who are educated about the eviction process in their city and state will be able to calm their fears and worries because they will have confidence that they are doing it right and know what is coming up around the corner.

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