Iowa Tenant Screening

What’s so great about Iowa tenant screening? If you want a successful real estate business, getting the right tenants is a key part of easing stress, preserving properties and collecting rent on time and in full. In Iowa, tenant screening is the key to identifying the best applicants out there.

Iowa tenant screening laws are one-of-a-kind and landlords need to know the details. Whether you live in or near Des Moines, Davenport, Cedar Rapids or Iowa City, you can make the laws work for you.

Here are just a few of the important topics:

  • Iowa’s unique tenant screening laws
  • A look at the screening process
  • Free resource links
  • Selecting a tenant screening service

Iowa Tenant Screening Laws

The search for good tenants begins with understanding Iowa tenant screening laws. You can start educating yourself by knowing these important things:

  • Landlords in Iowa can charge whatever they want for an application fee
  • The state limits the maximum security deposit to 2 months rent
  • In Iowa, all application fees are not refundable even if the application gets denied for any reason
  • Like most states, application fees are paid when the paperwork is given to the landlord.

Learn more about Iowa landlord/tenant laws right here.

This Screening Mistake is Way Too Common

As interested parties start filling out applications, many landlords sit back and relax. But there is one screening mistake that is way too common–forgetting to get a signature of consent from the applicant. In other words, you won’t be able to run a background check without a signed consent form.

Does your current rental application have a signature line? That is all you need from them to run that important background check. No signature line? It’s time to amend your forms to include one as soon as possible.

Here’s an excerpt from the RentPrep application form:



Notice that the top arrow indicates the information about the non-refundable application  fee.

See how the bottom arrow points out the signature line for applicants to give consent to a background check.

Resources for Tenant Screening in Iowa

RentPrep has gathered a helpful list of links for you to use in your real estate business. There’s no better way to find top tenants than to use the information here.

*Looking for a technique to sort through initial applications? Adopt a no blank space policy.  If an application arrives with a blank space for an answer, it often means the applicant doesn’t want anyone investigating that part of their past. Using a no blank space approach to applications helps divide the complete ones from the incomplete ones.

Iowa Tenant Screening Process

Do you have a screening criteria list? If not, it’s time to make one. List all the factors you want in the ideal tenant, then keep it beside you as you sort through applications. If you get a good list established, selecting applications for consideration will be easier than ever.

Your screening criteria list should include your preferences for things like:

  • Eviction history
  • Pet restrictions
  • Smoking
  • Minimum credit score
  • Income to rent ratio
  • Arrest record or criminal history

Once your list is done, make sure none of the criteria are discriminatory. Landlords can’t discriminate against protected classes. Learn more about housing discrimination at the website.

As you read each application, apply the screening criteria list and sort them into rejections and approvals. Stay consistent and never make exceptions.  You’ll avoid a discrimination lawsuit when you evenly apply your written list to every application.

Remember, the Iowa tenant screening process includes:

  • No limits on application fees
  • Fees are collected when the application is turned in to you
  • Iowa rental application fees are not refundable
  • Never discriminate against protected classes when sorting applications

Never trust your gut when going through applications, because you need to be fair and consistent during the tenant screening process. In no time, you’ll have a few applications that stand out above the rest. Iowa screening criteria information can be found here.

Find Your Perfect Renter

Finding the right tenant can be a headache if you don’t know what you’re doing.

That is why we’ve created a tenant screening guide for you to find the perfect renter.

Check out our free tenant screening guide and learn how to find the perfect renter.

Finding a Quality Screening Service

Finding a screening service is the last step in sorting all the remaining applications. When you choose a tenant screening service, pick one that provides in-depth background checks for landlords.

A top quality screening service should look at an applicant’s background:

  • Evictions
  • Bankruptcies
  • Judgments/liens
  • Previous addresses

There’s no substitute for a detailed screening. Therefore, it will tell you whether or not the applicant will be a high risk tenant or not. You should never rent to a person without having the information from a full background screening to influence your decision.

At RentPrep, we’ve worked with over 21,000 landlords over the past 10 years. Check out our tenant screening packages to see the services we offer.

Our FCRA certified screeners will put your mind at ease by providing the best tenant screening report available.

The post Iowa Tenant Screening appeared first on RentPrep.

13 Tips for Tenant Screening: How to Weed Out Bad Tenant Applicants

Between legal fees, lost rent, property turnover costs, and other expenses involved in an eviction, you’re looking at spending $3500 or more, on average, to evict a tenant. The key to avoiding these expenses is to have the proper measures in place to find excellent tenants from the start. These tips can help you optimize your tenant screening process to find your ideal tenants every time.

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Understand the Legalities

Before you start screening, you should know the Federal, State, and local laws that govern your screening process. Some States will overrule Federal Exemptions such as the “Mrs. Murphy” Exemption.

Advertise Your Listings

It’s a numbers game. The more leads you receive the better your odds of finding a great renter. Post to Zillow and Craigslist along with Facebook Marketplace and local groups. Each platform willy vary in effectiveness by market.

Outline Clear Criteria in Your Listing

Weed out applicants before they have a chance to apply. Make your criteria clear for things like pets, smoking, and income standards, in your listing.

Make Each Tenant Fill Out an Application

Any adult living in, or paying rent for, your property should fill out a separate application. The wife might check out fine on a background check but the husband may have just been evicted.

Pre-Screen Your Applicants with a Phone Call

Showing a property takes time. Pre-screen applicants by scheduling a quick phone call to determine who meets your basic requirements before moving them on to the showing phase.

Verify Income

As a rule of thumb your tenant’s monthly income, should be three times your rent price. This can be adjusted based on the rental. Call employers and/or ask for bank statements to verify their income.

Ask if a Cosigner is Available

Does a tenant seem to be a perfect match, but their income isn’t high enough? Ask if a cosigner is available – and make sure the cosigner’s monthly income is at least 3x the rent.

Run a Credit Report

56% of landlords agree that, if an applicant’s credit is bad, they won’t accept them as a tenant, no matter how much they like them. Creditworthiness can show how an applicant handles money. Just be sure your applicant has given signed consent before you run a credit report.

Run Background Checks

As of July 2017 the majority of judgments and liens have been removed from credit reports. It’s a good idea to get a thorough background check to fill in the gaps left by a credit report. It’s a good idea to make sure that eviction records are included.

Pay Attention During Showings

Do applicants respect your property during showings? Are they late to the showing? Is their car filled with trash? Paying attention to seemingly small behaviors can help you narrow your list.

Check References Thoroughly

Call the previous landlord – you’ll likely get some excellent insight into your new potential tenant’s habits.

Take Your Time Sorting Through the Applicants

Take time studying the applicants who remain. Continue weeding down the pile until you feel 100% confident in your choice.

Act Like a Businessperson

It’s tough being a landlord; you want to be human and go with your gut, but you also need to treat your property like a business. Let your tenant screening criteria, instead of your heart, decide when choosing applicants.



The post 13 Tips for Tenant Screening: How to Weed Out Bad Tenant Applicants appeared first on RentPrep.

Hot Home Trend: Bring on the Velvet

By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine We’re seeing a revival of the 1960s love for velvet in home décor. Velvet has been making its way into more fashion and now it’s expected to make a bigger splash in home décor in 2018. This heavier fabric can add some luster to a space through upholstery, drapery, […]

Here’s What Seniors Want in an Apartment–and How to Win Their Business

We posted an article last week that looked at how and why rental demand is increasing among Americans ages 55 and above. This is a trend that is expected to continue as Baby Boomers age.

So, the question becomes: How will you capture a share of the 55+ renter market?

It’s important for landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations to understand what older renters are looking for in an apartment. One of the challenges is that the demographic of 55+ renters is incredibly diverse. There’s no single renter profile for this age group. The needs of a 65-year-old resident are much different than someone who’s 55 or 75 years old.

Research indicates that there are a few things that older residents have in common, at least in terms of what they want out of their living spaces. Read on for more information, including property upgrades that will make your building more attractive to renters as they get older.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#1: Accessibility

Older Americans are looking for homes that will be easy to navigate as they age. Homes with long driveways or multi-level entrances can be difficult for older adults to traverse.

To increase the appeal of your property for 55+ renters:

  • Offer parking as close to the entrance as possible.
  • Be sure that walkways are as level as possible–the path itself, as well as any bricks or pavers.
  • Try to keep outdoor patios level with adjacent indoor rooms. Raised decks or grand front porches may look nice, but they’re not particularly functional for older adults.
  • Install an ADA-compliant ramp if space allows. This will attract a larger share of renters looking for a home where they can age in place. You get the added benefit of appealing to disabled residents of all ages.
  • Consider widening doorways. This is particularly beneficial for residents whose mobility may be constrained by a wheelchair or walker. At least 36″ is needed for wheelchair access, though 42″ is preferable.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#2: Inclusive Rents

The 55+ renter demographic is also looking for rents that include all utilities: heat and hot water, gas and electricity, cable and internet, even parking and laundry. Today’s 55+ renters have owned their own homes before. They’re tired of the maintenance and upkeep that’s required, which is often a driver of downsizing to an apartment community. Older Americans are looking for homes where the yard work, snow removal, and other strenuous chores are included in the rent.

In addition, it’s often the case that after one spouse passes away, the other struggles to manage their budget or stay on top of the bills. As such, older renters have a preference for homes that include all of these services in the standard monthly rent. It’s one less thing for them to worry about as they age.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#3: First-Floor Living Spaces

An estimated 40% of new homes being built have a first-floor master suite, representing a 15% increase over the past decade. “That’s the number one request these days from Baby Boomers,” says Bruce Nemovitz, a Certified Seniors Real Estate Specialist based in Milwaukee.

As Baby Boomers age, getting up and down the stairs becomes more of a challenge and a hazard. First-floor bedrooms and bathrooms allow people to age in place.

If you’re planning to renovate your rental’s bathroom, make sure that your upgrades are valuable for renters of all ages:

  • Install grab bars in the shower and next to the toilet.
  • Consider adding a comfort-height toilet, which is easier to get on and off of for older adults.
  • A walk-in shower with bench seating is ideal.
  • Otherwise, be sure that the tub has a swing door to allow for easy entry and exit.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#4: Room for Guests

Someone who has hosted their friends and relatives at their home over the years may be apprehensive about downsizing. They worry that if they sell their longtime family home, they won’t have room for people to stay. Typically, older Americans are looking for properties that have at least a second (if not a third) bedroom that can be used as an office or for visiting friends and family.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#5: High-End Finishes

Many Baby Boomers are accustomed to high-end finishes in their homes, and they’re looking for the same level of quality when they downsize to an apartment. It’s important that kitchens and bathrooms have a high-quality look and feel. Consider asking the older residents you know what they would like to see in their home–is it better to spend your money on marble countertops and solid-wood cabinets, or would they rather trade pricy materials for new appliances?

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#6: Better Lighting

Lighting becomes even more important as people age. Proper lighting isn’t just a preference–it’s a safety measure. Motion-sensor lights are ideal for driveways, entryways, hallways, and other common areas. These lights brighten up an area without an older adult having to fumble through the dark looking for a switch. Inside, add multiple light switches to reduce the number and length of trips needed to turn a light on or off.

If you’re considering renovating your rental property, you may also want to consider investing in larger windows. Bigger windows will increase the amount of natural light that the home gets, which also increases the unit’s appeal to prospective residents of all ages.

What Do Senior Renters Want in an Apartment?

#7: Space to Gather

Older adults are living longer into retirement; and increasingly, they place a high emphasis on remaining social. To lure 55+ renters to your property, consider creating spaces for them to gather together with family, friends, or other residents.

Within the unit, open floor plans with combined kitchen/living areas can be great for entertaining, as are well-kept outdoor spaces. If you manage or own a larger community, consider upgrading lobbies, clubhouses, pools, and picnic areas. Host events that encourage residents to mix and mingle.

Landlords, property managers, and homeowners associations are increasingly vying for their share of the 55+ resident market demographic. That’s why it’s so important to understand the preferences of older Americans. A range of property upgrades–some of which are simple and inexpensive–can be made to increase the appeal of your property among 55+ renters.

If you’re looking for other ways to attract older renters to your property, consider hiring a property manager. An experienced property manager will know how to best position your property to entice renters of all ages. When you’re ready to get started, All Property Management will be here to help.

The post Here’s What Seniors Want in an Apartment–and How to Win Their Business appeared first on APM.

Landlord Responsibilities: A Complete Guide (2018 Edition)

Being a landlord requires wearing many different hats. Each hat comes with a unique set of responsibilities that landlords should be aware of.

In this guide we will assess all the landlord responsibilities you should be aware of before investing in self-managed rental properties.

By understanding your basic obligations it will allow you to avoid unnecessary issues with tenants and the governing bodies.

A Table of contents for landlord responsibilities:

What Is A Landlord Responsible For?

Landlord responsibilities include an obligation to their tenant’s to keep a “warranty of habitability.” This is accomplished by making sure the rental is livable, safe and clean for your tenant. A landlord is also responsible for financials, taxes, utilities and property maintenance. From a compliance standpoint a landlord is also responsible to follow rules set out by the FHA, FCRA, federal laws, state laws, and local ordinances. 

Landlord’s Responsibilities to Their Tenants

A warranty of habitability is an inherent right afforded to tenants regardless of the lease. It is the right of every tenant to have  clean and safe rental.

This means the tenant should have functioning hot water and heat in the rental. A broken staircase or insect infested bedroom are also violations of the warranty of habitability.

This inherent right covers just the quality and livability of the rental. It’s a blanket statement.

A landlord is responsible for much more than this…

Keep Up with Safety Codes

Every rental will vary in what safety codes are required. Different states and cities may have different regulations.

Lead Paint

If you rental was built before 1978 you’re required to provide a lead paint disclosure form. Your new tenant should also receive a lead paint pamphlet explaining the risks of lead paint in buildings built before 1978.

Mold remediation

It is a violation if mold is found in an apartment, and your landlord is required by law to clean the mold and to also fix the condition that causes water to build up.

Occupancy Standards

Every rental will differ on occupancy standards. Here in New York State the occupancy standard is defined by maintenance code 404.

70 square feet for one occupant in a bedroom and 50 square feet for each additional occupancy for that room

Living rooms and dinning rooms can count towards rooms of occupancy.

You need to be careful not to discriminate against familial status if you have a large family applying for a smaller rental. Understand your local occupancy standards and you’ll know what the maximum tenancy is for your rental.

Smoke and Carbon Monoxide Detectors

Laws will dictate how many smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are required for each room and floor of your rental. It may vary depending on if appliances are in that room or what your state laws dictate. Research the laws specific to your rentals location.

Keep Common Areas Safe

It is the landlord’s responsibility to keep common areas such as laundry, hallways and garages free and clear of any hazards.

This would include replacing worn out light bulbs and providing proper handrails in stairwells.

Window Guards

A landlord must install window guards when asked to do so, in writing, by a tenant who has a child 10 years of age or younger either living in the apartment or regularly spending a lot of time there.

Snow Removal & Other Weather-Related Laws

Here in our city of Buffalo, NY we receive a good amount of snow fall. The landlord and occupant are equally required to make sure the sidewalk is free and clear of ice and snow. In the case of an injury both would share equal responsibility for any damages. It’s important to read all local and state laws.

Rental Responsibilities for Landlords

When you’re a landlord you are business owner. Your tenants are your clients and your rental is your asset. You’re responsible for taking care of your asset to ensure you’re protecting your investments. Proper upkeep, repairs, payments and accounting will keep a landlord on the straight and narrow.

Keep up Property Maintenance

Every town or city will have different laws on the standards of your property.

Lawn care, outdoor furniture and snow removal are all aspects that can be monitored by your town.

Don’t let loose trash accumulate on the property or go against town guidelines on parking.

Be sure to maintain your property.

Performing Repairs

We covered earlier that tenants have the rights to a warranty of habitability.

This means the landlord needs to keep up on repairs of the rental property.

Things such as peeling paint, clogged gutters, clogged drains, and faulty devices should be fixed.

It’s a good idea to keep up on repairs to protect your rental property.

A good example of this is a malfunctioning gutter that is allowing water to pool by the side of the house.

In many cases this can lead to a wet basement which in turn creates moisture. Moisture can then create hazardous mold in the rental property.

Keeping up on repairs can avoid costly issues down the road.

Pay Mortgage

This is an obvious responsibility of the landlord but worth mentioning.

Oxford Dictionary defines a mortgage as, “A legal agreement by which a bank, building society, etc. lends money at interest in exchange for taking title of the debtor’s property, with the condition that the conveyance of title becomes void upon the payment of the debt.”

If you miss one mortgage payment you’re likely to incur late fees laid on out in your mortgage agreement.

It’s unlikely a bank forecloses on your rental after one missed payment.

However, many mortgage lenders will report your payment to the credit bureaus after it has been 60 days past due.

This will effect your credit score in a negative manner.

According to your mortgage is technically in default if you’re more than 90 days late on your mortgage payments—even just one.

You’ll then receive a letter from your lender that you have defaulted on your loan. At this point you’ll have 90 days to submit payment or your property can be foreclosed on by the lender.

Long story short… set aside money and pay your mortgage on a regular schedule.

Maintain Your Insurance

Most lenders will require proof of insurance before providing you with a loan for a rental property.

In some cases you may have an escrow account setup with your lender which pays your insurance policy.

It’s a good idea to require renter’s insurance at your rental too.

A renter’s insurance policy can cost your renter $5 – $10 a month and will cover their possessions that are not covered by the landlord’s insurance policy..

Other Notable Insurances include water, fire and flood coverage.

Consider an Umbrella Policy:

There are two main ways to further protect your investment. You can do this with an umbrella policy or through setting up an L.L.C.

An umbrella policy will provide an additional layer of liability insurance to your property.

If your tenant has a serious accident that exceeds the coverage of your insurance an umbrella policy can come in handy.

Most policies typically cover between one and five million dollars in damages.

Pay Utilities

Your lease will determine who is responsible for what utilities between the landlord and tenant.

It’s not just the banks that can foreclose on your rental property.

The town or city can foreclose on a rental property for unpaid taxes and fees.

For instance, the City of Buffalo files a tax foreclosure list in January. The categories of taxes and fees owed are property taxes, sewer liens, “user fees” (imposed for garbage
service), and water bills. Once a property is on the list, and the list is filed and a judgment issued, the owner must pay a foreclosure fee.

In our hometown city it is standard practice for landlords to pay for garbage and water.

You wouldn’t want to leave a utility bill in the name of your renter when it could potentially lead to your rental being foreclosed on by the city.

Setup Landlord Utility Accounts

Most utility companies offer a landlord connection service. This has a few advantages…

… you’re able to easily tell if the tenant has turned on utilities for the rental and taken them out of your name.

During tenant turnovers you can immediately get into the rental with power and heat as opposed to waiting for a service hookup.

Landlord Legal Responsibilities

Every landlord should be familiar with the Fair Housing Act (FHA) and the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). These acts seek to regulate the tenant selection process to ensure accuracy and fairness. In the sections below we will cover these in further detail.

The FHA (Fair Housing Act)

Tenant screening is a process for landlords to find a suitable tenant for their rental.

This can be problematic when landlords use discriminatory practices to screen tenants.

On April 11, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1968.

Title VIII of the Act is also known as the Fair Housing Act (of 1968).

The Act prohibited discrimination concerning the sale, rental, and financing of housing based on race, religion, national origin, sex, (and as amended) handicap and family status. This all according to

The U.S. Government included landlords in this Act because of their ability to shape the diversity of a neighborhood.

It’s imperative that landlords understand not to discriminate in their decision making of who to choose as a renter.

This is commonly seen in advertising listings where a landlord shows preference towards a certain type of renter.

  • “Single renters preferred”
  • “Looking for female renters”

It is a landlords responsibility to make sure their screening practices are free of discrimination and abide by the FHA.

If found guilty of violating the FHA, a first time offense can come with fines up to $19,787.

Keep in Compliance with FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act)

At first glance the The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) may not seem directly related to landlords.

The FRCA was enacted to promote the accuracy, fairness, and privacy of consumer information contained in the files of consumer reporting agencies. 

In addition, the FCRA regulates the collection, dissemination, and use of consumer information, including consumer credit information.

However, when you collect sensitive information on your tenant applicants you’re responsible for properly handling that data.

This means keeping rental applications in a secure environment.

Make sure you have written consent (usually included on most rental applications) to run a background check on a tenant applicant.

An investigative report is not only limited to running a background check. If you call the tenant’s employer or previous landlord you’ll want signed consent to do so.

Never share details of the report with anyone else.

Issue Adverse Action to Denied Applicants

You are also required to issue adverse action to a denied applicant.

This is a generic form that lets the applicant know they were denied and to reach out to the consumer reporting agency for a free copy of their background report.

Landlord Legal Responsibility to Neighbors

A landlord can be held liable for a tenant that interferes with a neighbor’s comfortable enjoyment. This can be due to noise issues, drug dealing and criminal activity.

In some cities the landlord can be held accountable and fined for infractions.

It might be a good idea to look up the quiet hours of the town or city your rental is located.

You’ll want to address this in your lease in case you do have issues, you’ll have means to resolve the issue with your tenant.

It’s also good to know the neighbors. Some landlords will go as far to offer up their contact information.

This way a neighbor can warn you of any issues and also come to you before filing a complain to the city.

Landlord’s Right to Enter

Your tenant is entitled to privacy in their home.

As such, many states dictate the laws around a landlord’s right to enter.

Landlords can only enter rented premises in the following scenarios:

  • To make needed repairs or assess the need for repairs (applicable to some states)
  • In cases of emergency
  • To show the property to prospective new renters or owners

In most States the landlord must notify the tenant before entering the property.

Here in New York State, there is no statute but it is recommended you notified the tenant 24 hours before you plan to enter the rental.

In some States it is clearly laid out as a 24 or 48 hour notice that is required.

Landlord’s Responsibilities with Security Deposits

Imagine you’re a landlord in Kentucky and your tenant has destroyed your rental before leaving.

You take the tenant to court for damages beyond the security deposit only to find you didn’t handle things properly.

In Kentucky a landlord is required to keep security deposits in a separate account that does not co-mingle with any other funds. They also must notify the tenant where these funds are being kept.

If the landlord fails to do so they will forfeit any security deposit funds.

There are a total of 23 States that have specific rules on how to handle security deposit funds.

Make sure you know what your State’s policy is on security deposits. If you don’t follow these rules you may have to forfeit the funds regardless of tenant damages.

Upfront Fees

Landlord’s tend to hedge their liabilities by charging fees upfront to tenants such as:

  • First month’s rent
  • Last month’s rent
  • Security deposit
  • Application fees

These fees are regulated by each state.

For instance, in Massachusetts it is illegal to charge any fees upfront for an application fee.

Security deposit limits are set by the State as well. Typically the maximum deposit is one to two times the rent.

Landlord’s Responsibility for Not Renewing a Lease

Again, this will vary by State as some have a policy on this and others do not.

Typically it is a good practice to notify a tenant 60 days before the end of the lease if you plan to not renew.

This will give your tenant ample time to find a new rental while also keeping you within the laws issued by some States.

Pet Deposits and Emotional Support Animals

This is a rising issue amongst landlords and tenants.

It’s important as a landlord to distinguish the difference between a pet and a support animal.

An emotional support animal could be a hamster, dog, cat or many other animals. This animal serves to provide emotional support for it’s owners.

If you have a “No Pet Policy” with your rental this does not apply to ESAs and Service Animals.

A service animal is typically a dog that has been properly trained. An ESA typically hasn’t been professionally trained.

Some renters have found it easy to get a letter from a health professional online to give their pet an ESA designation.

When the animal has this designation it’s illegal to charge a pet deposit and you must make accommodations for this animal.

If you deny someone based on a support animal you are opening yourself up to liability as this discriminating towards a disability.

Landlord Responsibilities After a Fire

It’s one of the worst things that can happen to property you own—a fire destroys some or all of the structure. Going through the aftermath of a fire can be devastating, but landlords need to prepare for any event to happen. Being well informed and educated on what to do after a fire at a rental property can ease the burdens that you will face as you try to get your rental property restored and back on the market.

Let’s review what landlords need to do immediately after the fire, the day after the fire and in the days following the fire.

Immediately After the Fire

  • Ask a fire officer for a contact number and name for future communications.
  • Contact your insurance agent immediately to report the fire and to start the process of filing a claim.
  • Get a list of recommended fire damage restoration companies from your insurance company and start calling them to set up an appointment for the next day or two.
  • Communicate with your tenant about their safety and well-being, and make note of any sort of details or confessions from the tenant about how the fire got started or what they noticed in the minutes before the fire.
  • Make sure your tenants have contacted their own insurance company to line up temporary housing. If they don’t have renter’s insurance, the American Red Cross provides for emergency needs like essential items and temporary housing.
  • Ask the fire officer when you and the tenant can walk through the property with them to assess damage and for the tenant to collect any personal belongings. Never enter the property until you get an all clear from the fire department.

Days After the Fire

  • Take pictures of all damage to every structure.
  • Prepare a written inventory of the destroyed or damaged property that should include anything structural, like the home itself or any structures on the property like a pool house or shed.
  • Prepare a detailed list, with models and types, of any appliances that were damaged, like a refrigerator or dishwasher.
  • Add structural details to the list that covers each room, like cabinets and counter tops.
  • Collect photos, video and any other information related to the structure before the fire.
  • Get a copy of the fire report from the fire department, which details the probable cause of the fire.
  • Never remove debris or start to fix up the damage to the property before meeting with the fire damage restoration company.
  • Secure the property as is reasonable, such as locking doors and windows, or covering openings with plastic sheeting.

Common Questions After a Fire at a Rental Property

Once the initial shock of the fire has passed, many tenants and landlords enter into uncharted territory as to who is responsible for paying the repair and restoration bills from fire damages.

Here are some of the more common questions:

  • If the fire was the tenant’s fault, do they have to pay for fixing all of it?
  • Where do landlords find a reputable fire damage restoration company?
  • Who pays the landlord’s insurance deductible?
  • What about if the fire was due to landlord negligence?
  • Does the landlord have to pay the tenant to replace the cost of lost possessions?
  • Can landlords do fire damages repair themselves?
  • Do landlords have to pay for tenants to live elsewhere?
  • What about the lease agreement now?

All these questions and more will definitely factor into the way that landlords and tenants move forward after such a devastating event.

Who Pays For Fire Damages?

Landlords are ultimately responsible for the cost of fixing fire damages to the property itself as it relates to the structure and home systems like electrical and plumbing.

However, the responsibility for repairs and restoration doesn’t always mean landlords are necessarily personally financially responsible.

The landlord’s homeowner’s policy should cover most or all of the repairs.

The landlord’s insurance is not responsible for, nor will they, pay to repair or replace a tenant’s lost property.

The tenant’s own renter’s insurance is in place to cover the loss of possessions like furniture, clothes and belongings.

If the tenant doesn’t have renter’s insurance, they must unfortunately suffer the consequences of partial or total loss.

If the tenant can prove in court that the landlord was somehow responsible through negligence, they may be able to recoup the cost of lost possessions and additional expenses in arranging for another place to live.

If the fire is the fault of the tenant or the tenant’s guests, then they must be responsible for the cost of repairing the damages.

However, even if the fire is clearly the fault of the tenant, the landlord still needs to make arrangements via their homeowner’s policy.

The landlord’s insurance company will generally seek out the tenant’s insurance company for compensation if there is a liability portion of the policy.

The insurance company can work with the other company to get compensated up to the liability limit for fire damages.

Another scenario is that the insurance company seeks out the tenant directly for compensation if they don’t carry renter’s insurance.

Often, wise landlords have included language in the lease agreement that in the event of a fire caused by the tenant, the tenant is responsible for at least paying the deductible for the landlord’s insurance.

From there it will go on a case by case basis for recouping the cost of fire damages from there.

Two Renters Lost To A Fire Creates Change

Listen into our podcast episode 123 where we discuss how two renters lost their lives due to a fire.

We publish new podcast episodes every Thursday on our “RentPrep For Landlords” podcast.

You can subscribe using any of the links below.

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Restoring Your Property to a Habitable State

Landlords must provide a rental property that is deemed to be in a habitable condition according to the codes and laws of the state and municipality where the property is located.

The fire restoration experts can provide documentation for you when the property is ready to be occupied again.

It’s important for you to protect your investment and get the house fire restoration process started as soon as possible to take care of fire damages.

Smoke, water and fire damage can cause a structure to weaken over a short time, and even things like mold and mildew can start growing within a day or so after a fire.

You should never attempt to restore a fire-damaged rental property yourself because it requires a certain level of expertise and equipment to ensure that everything is put back into a safe state and meets the minimum safety codes.

It also ensures that there are no hidden issues that may cause problems down the road. A professional fire restoration crew is the only way to go.

In summary, it’s a good idea to review all the things landlords need to do in the aftermath of a fire well before anything actually happens.

In the moments after a fire in the rental property, you can go from panic and stress to pushing forward with a professional and businesslike manner during all the crazy ups and downs that are yet to come.

Hotel Expenses

Landlords are responsible for ensuring that a rental property is habitable. A habitable unit is structurally sound and has adequate water, heating and electricity.

Sometimes, circumstances arise that make the rental unit uninhabitable for a time. Usually this is due to serious repairs, natural disasters or other significant problems. During these times, tenants often stay at a hotel until the work is done.

When this happens, what is a landlord’s responsibility for hotel bills?

When Would Tenants Acquire Hotel Bills?

In the event of a fire, leaky pipe or other unplanned emergency that makes a place uninhabitable, tenants have to move out for a while. Most stay in a hotel until the damaged unit is repaired.

Some tenants want their landlord to reimburse them for the cost of the hotel. They often mistakenly assume that the landlord’s insurance policy will cover their relocation costs. Or they assume that because the unit is not habitable they automatically get put up into a hotel of their choice and the landlord foots the bill. These assumptions often lead to conflict.

The truth is that landlord’s homeowner insurance will not cover costs associated with tenant relocation. Nor will it cover a tenant’s damaged belongings. However, most renter’s insurance policies will cover both for the tenant. That’s why many landlords insist that their tenants carry an active renter’s insurance policy.

In most states, tenants can break a lease agreement without penalty if the rental property becomes uninhabitable due to no fault of the tenant. If the tenant is at fault, other laws come into play.

Unfortunately, this situation is not often outlined in a lease agreement. Landlords and tenants often don’t discuss hotel bills and relocation until something big happens.

When is it a Landlord’s Responsibility for Hotel Bills?

Landlords are usually not bound to cover the hotel bill for a displaced tenant when the events are out of their control.

They can reinforce this in several ways. The most common way is to include a clause in the lease agreement.

The clause should state what happens in the event the unit is uninhabitable due to unplanned circumstances.

If the unit is uninhabitable for just a few days, landlords should prorate the rent for the number of days it could not be occupied.

The tenants would be responsible for their own lodgings in the meantime.

If the problem arose out of something the landlord did or didn’t do, then the tenants could petition for hotel reimbursement directly or through small claims court.

When the unit is uninhabitable for an indeterminate amount of time, many states require that the landlord release the tenants from the lease agreement and prorate any rent already paid.

Plus, the tenants must receive their deposit back. There is generally no landlord’s responsibility for hotel bills.

Sometimes landlords schedule things like fumigation or a fast remodel that require the tenants to vacate for a short period of time.

In these instances, landlords often cover reasonable hotel costs for good tenants for a few days.

They may feel it is worth it to them to keep the tenants and accommodate them. In other cases, they prorate the rent only for days that the unit was inhabitable. This is completely up to the landlord, however.

Landlord’s Responsibility for Hotel Bills

Here at RentPrep, we feel that landlords across the country should include a clause in the lease agreement that requires tenants to carry renter’s insurance. It’s the easiest way to deal with relocation in case of emergencies in addition to liability and reimbursement for any damaged or destroyed property.

Landlords should also include a clause about what happens if the unit is not habitable.

It’s a good idea to put reasonable time limits on repairs, fumigation and remodels.

For example, the lease could say that if the property becomes uninhabitable for more than 5 days, then both parties bear no more commitment to the agreement without penalty.

It’s important for landlords to be fair about prorating rent.

After all, if a tenant can’t live in a unit they have paid rent on, they should be compensated.

However, that compensation should usually not extend to paying for hotels, especially when an affordable renter’s insurance policy will do so.

What Are Other Landlords Saying About the Responsibility for Hotel Bills?

Every landlord needs to comply with local and state laws regarding uninhabitable properties. There’s always peace of mind in consulting with a landlord/tenant attorney as well.

Here’s a screenshot of landlords discussing this question in our private Facebook group for Landlords.

landlord's responsibility for hotel bills

Landlord Responsibilities By State

Every state has laws unique to landlords and renters. In the section below we will list out what you should be looking out for.

Security Deposit Maximum: Ranges from 1 – 2.5 months rent. In California you can charge the additional half month’s rent if it is a furnished rental
Security Deposit Interest: Some States require you to keep security deposit funds in an interest bearing account and give the interest to the renter
Separate Security Deposit Account: Does your State determine if the funds can mingle with personal assets or not?
Pet Deposits and Additional Fees: As mentioned earlier some States (MA) do not allow any fees which would include pet deposits
Deadline for Returning Security Deposit: In some instances there is no statue but on the whole this varies from 14 – 45 days
Rent Increase Notice: Check with your State’s laws before increasing rent
Late Fees: Some States allow a grace period for rent where other’s do not address this
Returned Check Fees: If your tenant bounces a check, make sure you read up on your State’s laws before charging them a feee
Move-Out Inspection Notification: Understand the timelines of when you need to perform a move-out inspection
Eviction Notice for Nonpayment: This can vary from 3 to 30 days depending on the State
Eviction Notice for Lease Violation: If you tenant violates the lease you can serve a remedy or quit notice. Typically the timeframe is mandated by your State.
Required Notice before Entry: This typically ranges from no notice required to 72 hours
Emergency Entry Allowed without Notice: Understand your rights as a landlord in an emergency situation
Small Claims Court Limits: If a tenant damages your rental there is a cap on small claims court.

Further Reading

In Conclusion…

There is a lot of responsibility in being a landlord but it can be a fruitful pursuit if you know what you’re doing.

The first thing to know is that a good tenant makes for a great landlord and it all starts with quality tenant screening.

Stay up on your properties and cover yourself with the proper insurances. You’ll have a happy renter and less issues in the long run.

Related Questions

Are landlords responsible for pest control?

The landlord is responsible for providing a clean and pest free property to the renter. If the renter is responsible for a pest infestation they can be held liable instead of the landlord. The vide below goes into this topic with far more detail.

Is it the landlord’s responsibility to clean the gutters?

This should be addressed in the lease. If there is no section addressing the cleaning of gutters it will vary from State to State. In most cases a single family home is more likely to be the responsibility of the renter where a multifamily would fall on the landlord’s responsibility.

Commercial Landlord Responsibilities

Commercial landlords will have an added set of responsibilities compared to private residential landlords. Make sure the property abides by commercial building codes and adheres to commercial insurance laws. It’s also a good idea to increase your liability insurance as there are more moving parts with a commercial rental property.

The post Landlord Responsibilities: A Complete Guide (2018 Edition) appeared first on RentPrep.

How much does a tenant screening report cost?

In this article I’ll be giving real numbers for what a tenant screening should cost. Just read through half of our client survey responses and you’ll find that the cost of tenant screening is important to landlords. Unfortunately, you’ll also hear tales of the hours of research done trying to find the best tenant screening prices and match up which reports best fit landlords needs. Thankfully we’ve been taking notes and we compiled the best quick reference guide to choosing your tenants background check.

How much is a tenant screening report?

The short answer for how much does a tenant screening cost is $15-$40, depending on the searches. Never pay less than $15 because it’s most likely a novelty site like and not FCRA compliant. This means that as a landlord, you can’t use it.

If you are paying more than $40 for a tenant background check then you better be getting every search possible, along with the screening company making phone calls on your behalf.

First you need to decide if you want criminal and eviction data.

Most screening companies base their different tenant screening packages on these reports, and you need to decide whether or not this information is important to you.

Next, choose what type of financial data you want on your applicants.

Your choices usually include: a full credit report, a decision model (pass or fail reports based on credit scores), or public records such as bankruptcies judgments and liens. Below is a helpful summary of the different choices I’ve just listed:

Full Credit Reports

Only available in 1 of 2 potential situations.

1) You’re operating out of a commercial space (not a home-based office) and you have passed a full credentialing with site inspection.

2) You’re using our SmartMove product. The catch with this is that they rely on the applicant responding to an email and entering their personal info. For this reason the completion rate is less than 50%.

Decision Model

These reports are typically branded as “credit checks” or “credit model”. They are algorithms that use credit info, such as scores, to create a pass/fail based on your limits and criteria. It is important to know that you will NOT see the raw credit details with these reports. Ever. Read the fine print as many screening companies dance around this fact.

Public Records

This includes bankruptcies, judgments and liens. It’s available to everyone without any crazy hoops or credentialing, just written consent as always. They don’t show a score, but are often great indicators if you are dealing with someone that has a troublesome financial past.

Credit/financial data, Criminal data, and Eviction data

These are by far the most important report choices that will affect pricing for tenant background checks. Any other reports like OFAC, Person Search, SSN Verification, etc. are usually standards because they are cheap.

After you decide what information you want, look for the tenant screening company to bundle or package up the different reports. In most cases, this will help to stretch your dollar and give you lower prices.

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