Category Archives: Landlord Tips

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.

The post How much does a tenant screening report cost? appeared first on RentPrep.

5 Problems With Tenant Screening Services: A Revealing Princeton Study

There are hundreds of tenant screening services to choose from and it can be difficult to choose.

Addition by subtraction can be an easier method to find what you’re looking for.

We’ll identify 5 common issues that you should be aware of when vetting a tenant screening service.

But before we get started, you might be wondering…

… who is RentPrep?

We’re a tenant screening service with a team of FCRA Certified Screeners. We’ve been in business since 2007 and we have over 36,000 clients nationwide.

The big difference is that we’re in the trenches everyday. It’s rare to find a tenant screening service that isn’t an automated reseller.

For the first three years in business I personally handled customer service and was able to obtain valuable perspective from our clients.

They let us know what they liked…

… and what they didn’t care for when it comes to a tenant screening service.

When breaking down the 5 most common problems, it’s important to understand that if there is one universal truth it’s this; there are different strokes for different folks.

In other words, there is not one perfect solution and opinions vary greatly from one landlord to another.

Below is a list of the 5 problems we will address in this post.

5 Things You Should Know About Tenant Screening Services

Read before choosing your service:
1. Instant vs. Hand-Compiled Screening Services Know the difference between the two and understand what makes sense for you. Instant vs. Hand-Compiled Link
2. Compliance and the FCRA Know what data you can and can’t use in a report Compliance
3. Tenant Involvement Services differ with tenant involvement. Know your options. Tenant Involvement
4. Wrong Information Missing eviction data and wrong information are common issues. Screening Services
5. Tenant Screening Services Can Be Expensive Know what you’re paying for and how not to overspend. Screening Costs

#1 Princeton Study: The Ugly Truth About Tenant Screening Services

In the video I mention this Princeton Study that reveals our illogical nature to choose instant gratification over logical decision making.

Here’s the two questions posed in that study:

Biggest problem with tenant screening services

People overwhelmingly pick option “A” in scenario #1 and option “D” in scenario #2.

This seems illogical because if you wait one more day (in both scenarios) you’re rewarded with one more dollar.

The reason people aren’t willing to wait the extra day in scenario #1 is because instant gratification is involved in the decision making process.

Professor David Laibson, of Harvard University says this about these findings…

Our emotional brain wants to max out the credit card, order dessert and smoke a cigarette. Our logical brain knows we should save for retirement, go for a jog and quit smoking.

Here’s why this is a big problem when it comes to tenant screening companies

Most tenant screening services are built to maximize profits. This means satisfying the emotional brain that wants immediate gratification.

This business model works because people don’t have a frame of reference for what goes into a tenant screening report.

For example, if you were invited to a Thanksgiving dinner, and were presented these two option, which would you choose?

Turkey Dinner Question

Most people would be willing to wait for option B because they have a frame of reference when it comes to the quality of tv dinners vs. homemade dinners.

It’s different when it comes to selecting a tenant screening company…

… many services offer instant background checks because landlords don’t have a frame of reference for background checks. They will choose the instant service because it appeals strongly to the part of the brain that wants to max out the credit cards.

A Frame of Reference for Tenant Screening Services:

Instant background services are nothing more than software platforms that ping databases to copy/paste information into a report quicker than you can say “tv dinner!”

There are two major downsides to an instant background report

  1. Some databases don’t allow for instantaneous searches
  2. There are errors and false positive in every database

If you go with an instant solution, your report is created with less data.

Your report is a mirror image of what’s in the database it pulls from. If that database has errors they will show up on your report as well.

Basically, some telling data is omitted and other false data is included because there isn’t a set of eyes to double check the work.

If you’re okay with some cussing… this video from John Oliver is pretty accurate when it comes to credit reports and the errors that happen with them.

At the 6:15 mark of the video they discuss how a tenant applicant was wrongfully accused of being a terrorist.

This happens because databases (by nature) have errors. If no one spot checks the information, those errors go on the credit report and/or background check.

Hand-Compiled Reports Are Like Thanksgiving Dinner

We can’t speak for every service, but here at RentPrep we take about an hour during business hours to turn around a report.

Just like thanksgiving dinner you’re going to have to wait for better quality.

The reason is we’re manually accessing databases, hand-compiling reports, and fact checking the data for compliance.

The compliance aspect of a background report is extremely important. That’s why it is #2 on our list.

#2 Compliance And The FCRA

There are laws laid out in the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) to highlight the rights of a person who is having a background check run on them.

In the case of tenant screening, the FCRA protects the rights of the tenant applicant.

The FCRA link above has two main sections I’d like to highlight.

FCRA- Disputing inaccuracies:

The image above is stating that the tenant applicant has the right to dispute what they believe are inaccuracies on their report.

This is a compounding problem when it comes to companies that only provide instant background searches.

That’s because there is bound to be more inaccuracies reported on the original background report. This issues compounds when your applicant is going to have trouble finding someone to fix the inaccurate information.

If you can’t ahold of someone on the phone… neither can your recently denied tenant applicant.

That means they’re going to be barking up your tree.

Pro Tip: Research your available tenant screening services and see if they have a phone number readily available. Try calling it and see what happens. This will be a good indicator of what their customer support is like.

Other things to be aware of when it comes to the FCRA and screening tenant applicants:

tenant screening company

You can see this highlighted bullet point (above) on page two of the FCRA summary.

This is important because the large majority of tenant screening services do not use FCRA Certified Screeners to run your background report.

When it comes to tenant screening, the “negative information” many times refers to evictions.

By law, you can’t use an eviction from eight years ago as a reason to why you deny a tenant applicant.

This is why we hire and train FCRA Certified Screeners to only include reportable data in a tenant background report.

Many landlords want to know everything possible about their applicant but we advise these landlords to stay compliant with the FCRA and here is why…

Tenant Screening Services and FCRA

The second to last bullet point states that a consumer reporting agency (tenant screening services)… or a furnisher of information (a landlord) can be sued in state or federal court for violating the FCRA.

Compliance within the FCRA with your screening is very important for the screening service AND the landlord.

Pro Tip: If you’re searching for “tenant screening services” on Google, try amending your search to something like “FCRA tenant screening services” – Make sure the services that you check out use FCRA Certified Screeners


#3 Tenant Involvement Varies By Service

This topic is an excellent example of, “different strokes for different folks” that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

That’s because some landlords don’t mind the tenant being involved in the screening process while others avoid it completely.

What does “tenant involvement” mean?

Some services (such as SmartMove by Transunion) require that the landlord provide the tenant applicant’s email address.

At that point, the applicant is sent an email with a link to be taken through a process to provide their personal information, verify their identity, and pay for the report.

Here’s a screenshot of what the three step process looks like on the tenant applicant’s end:

tenant screening services with tenant involvment

This is an added hurdle that is not part of the tenant screening process with a “zero tenant involvement” service.

At RentPrep we have four different screening packages and three are zero tenant involvement (Basic, Pro, and Platinum) and the fourth does require tenant involvement (SmartMove).

We’ve found from our data that about 70% of requested SmartMove reports are actually completed.

This means 30% of applicants don’t take the necessary steps to complete the background report.

There are many reasons such as spam folders, applicant laziness, or perhaps they don’t have easy access to a computer with internet.

Some landlords don’t like slowing the process down by involving the tenant. They’ll charge an application fee and then run the reports themselves without tenant involvement.

Other landlords see the 30% as a sign. They don’t mind the tenant being involved because if they can’t complete the background check they might not be a good tenant anyways.

It’s really up to your preference. That is part of the reason we added the SmartMove product to our available packages.

#4 Eviction Data Issues


Eviction data is the most telling data in any tenant background check.

The reason being is that the first eviction is the scariest for the tenant.

The second eviction is kind of like walking through a haunted house for the second time.

It’s way less scary going through a second eviction because the fear of the unknown has been removed.

Just look at this data from Transunion on previously evicted tenants.

Tenant Eviction screening Source – MySmartMove

The chances of a previously evicted renter to go through another eviction are almost three times higher than that of a renter who hasn’t been evicted before.

There’s a few problems I see with some tenant screening services when it comes to eviction data.

Let’s call them a red flag…

eviction data first red flag

The first red flag is an easy one to spot. Some tenant screening services don’t include eviction data in their basic packages.

We believe the most important data should be included in the most basic level of the report. Any tenant screening company not including eviction data on any of the reports does not have the best interest of the landlord in mind.

eviction 2nd red flag

I don’t want to name names so I’m just sharing a narrow screenshot I found on a tenant screening services pricing page.

tenant screening services not including eviction data copy

This particular service offers four packages. The first shows a red x and doesn’t include eviction data in the lowest package (first red flag). The two middle tier packages do a statewide search and the forth offers a nationwide search.

There a lot of tenant screening services out there and you will see some offer an upsell for nationwide searches. This is our second red flag for two simple reasons:

   #1 – People are more transient than ever

It’s not uncommon to get an applicant who has lived outside of your state. You want to make sure you’re seeing if they have a criminal or eviction records in another state.

   #2 – The cost isn’t substantial

A tenant screening company has costs associated with accessing the different databases they use to compile your reports. The cost between a statewide eviction search and a national eviction search is pennies more.

However, some screening services use that as an opportunity to make more money. If you see tenant screening packages being split up by statewide and nationwide searches I’d question the integrity of that service unless the difference between packages is only an added dollar.

Many times I see they’ll charge $10 more to add nationwide searches which is a markup of 50-100x depending on the search.

eviction data 3rd red flag

The first two red flags (in my opinion) deal with the integrity of the service.

If you don’t see eviction history or you see it being split up by statewide/nationwide you’re most likely dealing with a service that is either trying to maximize upsell profits or doesn’t even understand how important eviction data is.

Either way… not a good look.

Our third red flag deals more with the capability of the service.

At the risk of sounding redundant, our third red flag goes back to instant vs. hand-compiled background reports.

As mentioned earlier, there are databases that don’t allow “instantaneous data extraction.” In other words, they won’t connect with instant background services and require a person to parse through the data.

Instant eviction databases will show you eviction judgments when a court sides with the landlord in an eviction case. They won’t show you eviction filings.

An eviction filing is different because some tenants will have 13 eviction filings and zero eviction judgments.

This happens many times when a tenant lives in a property that is managed by a professional property management firm.

What we’ve found is many property managers will have a policy in place to begin the eviction process when rent is __ days past due.

The tenant gets that notification and ends up paying the rent including any late fees. Technically, there is an eviction filing with the courts that has been dropped when that tenant pays up the late rent.

Here at RentPrep we find that data valuable because it gives you a clearer picture of your tenant applicant. If they have 13 eviction filings but no eviction judgments you might be looking at an applicant that always pays late on rent.

Instant background searches will not go into this level of detail because it requires a person to hand-compile that data.

Pro Tip: Other advantages of hand-compiled reports include issues with matching names. Sometimes instant services will have issues with common names such as “Stephen White” which is my name.

Other issues with instant services include user error. If you input a SSN wrong by one digit it could reset the entire process or even charge you for a blank report. Our screeners look for that and will call you to get the information correct before running your report.

#5 Tenant Screening Companies Cost Too Much Money

For the sake of not rewriting too much content, there is an entire article written on the cost of tenant screening.

However, I will briefly summarize why the cost varies so much from one tenant screening company to another.

Don’t Be the Landlord that Paid $900

How did this happen? tenant-screening-companies-cost-too-much

The tenant screening company didn’t offer the reports in a package format and therefore the landlord had the option to run a criminal and eviction report on every single state individually.

While this seems like thorough tenant screening, what happened was they were charged for every single state as opposed to just opting for the nationwide search and saved about $890.

For this reason RentPrep only offers national level searches and has a no-hidden-fee policy.

You get what you pay for and only pay when you order.

How Much Do Tenant Screening Reports Cost?

Some tenant screening companies that charge monthly minimums or annual fees are charging whether you need reports or not.

The majority of landlords don’t need to run background reports every week and a monthly or annual fee will be a waste of resources.

It’s usually 2 reports one month, zero the next month, 4 reports the following month, depending on how many rentals the landlord owns.

So be sure you’re not signing yourself up to something that locks you in, or charges for things you don’t need or aren’t even getting.

Look for pay as you go and no annual/monthly fees.

Aside from these common problems landlords have with tenant screening companies, the easiest way to find the best fit for you is to make a few calls.

See what kind of support the tenant screening company has and ask about their services and products.

We already wrote an article on how to choose the best tenant screening company, and it will give you a perfect guide if you’re looking to find the best fit for your particular needs.

How To Save Money On Tenant Screening

Remember, when it comes to tenant screening, one size does not fit all but we’d be happy if you gave RentPrep a try.

As an added incentive we have tucked a promo code inside the video at the beginning of this blog post.

You can receive 20% off our Basic, Pro, and Platinum reports by entering that promo code (it shows up around the 2:40 mark in the video).

Just sign up for your free account by clicking here.

Then use the promo code (on the last checkout page inside our client area) to save 20% on your entire first order.

If you’re confused on what service is best for you… I suggest reading our reviews post which breaks down 11 services and separates them into four different categories.

That tenant background check reviews post is helpful for understanding how to compare apples and oranges in the world of tenant screening.

Parting Thoughts…

It really comes down to what your preferences are.

As you can see from this post, we’re big believers in hand-compiling screening reports.

However, some landlords prefer to see a full credit report and have the tenant be able to pay for it directly.

That’s the reason we provide the SmartMove product as one of our four tenant screening packages.

If you still have questions there is a few things you can do.

Our packages page has a helpful tool where you can hover a mouse (or click on mobile) to see an explanation of what exactly the different aspects of a screening report are.

Tenant screening services for landlords

If it’s during business hours (we’re open 55+ hours a week) you can call to chat with one of our FCRA Certified Screeners at 1 (888) 877-8501

You can also Live Chat with one of our screeners by clicking this link here.

Lastly, I’d recommend checking out our private Facebook Group called RentPrep For Landlords. It’s an incredible tool for crowdsourcing questions to fellow landlords.

We’re here to help you through the entire process of finding that perfect renter.

Just ask if you have any questions at all.

The post 5 Problems With Tenant Screening Services: A Revealing Princeton Study appeared first on RentPrep.

How To Deal With Tenants You’re Not Crazy About

(This is a guest post from Kaya Wittenburg of Sky Five Properties)

In a perfect world, landlords would find clean, quiet, responsible tenants who paid their rent on time, handled their own maintenance issues and made their landlords cookies for Christmas. Unfortunately, even the best landlords find themselves dealing with tenants who are difficult, to say the least. Whether they are messy, consistently late with the rent, complain excessively, are chronic rule breakers or just rub you the wrong way, communicating with and dealing with unpleasant tenants is sometimes just part of the job description.

As long as the tenants are in your property, there will have to be some form of communication between the two of you. When you’re not crazy about your tenants, communicating in a way that is positive, professional and productive can seem like quite a challenge. However, tenants who feel that they are given respect are more likely to give it, not only to you as an individual but also to your property in which they are living.

If your challenging tenants don’t seem to be moving anytime soon, consider adapting some of these communication principles to make the relationship as cordial as possible.

Stay Professional 

At the end of the day, the relationship between you and the tenant is a business relationship. You both have roles and responsibilities that you committed to upholding when you signed the contract, and the business deal works best when both parties stick to their end of the bargain. Even when you don’t feel like they are handing an issue professionally, it is imperative that you do what you can to do so on your end. If you say you are going to be by to fix the busted sprinkler on Tuesday, go fix the sprinkler on Tuesday. If they’re frequently late with the rent or have a hard time following through with things they say they’re going to do, communicate your concerns with them, but don’t withhold services or break commitments just because they’ve done it.

Keep a written log of interactions you have with your tenants. If there are any disputes in the future about whether or not you’ve said or done what you’ve promised, the log can clear it up. In the off chance that law enforcement has to get involved, a detailed log of dates, times and conversations can help paint a clearer picture and get issues and misunderstandings squared away.

Being professional means being polite and respectful, even when you don’t want to be. Don’t engage in name-calling, personal insults, or bullying, even if that is the way they choose to behave. You don’t have to take abuse, but nothing will be fixed or changed if you make things personal.

Stay Positive

Focusing on the good can be a helpful strategy when dealing with tenants that rub you the wrong way. If they’ve been late on the rent a few times, but they’re doing a great job at making the yard look beautiful, compliment the yard without mentioning the rent. (This doesn’t mean let them slide when it comes to paying rent but pointing out their mistakes every time you see them isn’t helpful.) If there is a problem that needs to be addressed, approach the tenant in a calm and confident way. Listen to their side, don’t interrupt, and don’t jump to conclusions or make quick judgments without all of the facts. If tenants think they can do no right by you, they will quickly stop trying. Give them the benefit of the doubt when possible, and work to solve the issue together instead of pointing fingers.

Stay Productive

As a landlord, there are a few things that are vital to the success of your business. You need tenants in your home who pay rent, follow the rules, don’t destroy your house, and leave the home in decent shape when they leave. If your current tenant is not doing one of those things, communicating your expectations with them is paramount to fixing the problem. However, texting them at 2 am to express your dislike for the cactus they planted in the front yard, or a passive aggressive email reminding them to mow their lawn is not productive. It will not spark something in them to have a change of heart and become tenants of the year. It will, however, annoy them, make them feel like you’re nitpicking, and open a doorway for them to send emails and late night texts about problems instead of having a professional, productive, adult conversation. Email is an easy and effective way to communicate with your tenants and gives you the opportunity to think about your message before you send it.

When dealing with issues, do not get personal. Focus on the issue, not on the person and don’t attack them or bring up the past. Stay friendly, and try to find some common ground, something you can both agree upon that you want to change. If you are at fault, acknowledge it, apologize, and figure out a way to make it right. Don’t be too prideful to admit that you’re wrong. And if they admit that they were in the wrong, be graceful and forgiving and let it go.

Whether you’re dealing with first-time tenants who are renting before deciding to buy a home or seasoned renters, communication is key. Focusing on staying positive, productive and professional will help to build a relationship of mutual respect and trust. You and your tenants don’t have to be best buds, but having an open window of communication where you both feel validated and heard can make a world of difference in the way you do business together.

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Can I Stop My Tenant From Giving Keys To Other People?

You might be wondering if you can stop your tenant from giving keys to other people.

A similar question was asked to Avvo’s chief legal officer, Josh King in this webinar with Zillow.

Have a listen and read the transcription below to hear his thoughts. At the bottom we will provide our thoughts as well.


Legal Disclaimer: The materials and information presented here were provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Zillow Group does not make any guarantees as to the sufficiency of the information included or its compliance with applicable laws. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed in the audio and from the webinar are the opinions of Avvo and may not reflect the opinions of Zillow Group.


Transcription of the audio file above

Interviewer: I have a tenant who wants to give a key to the neighbor to care for her pet, but I don’t want the neighbor to have a key. Can I stop the tenant from giving keys to other people?

Josh: For the most part no. You can’t do that because, you know, when you lease the unit out to somebody, they’ve got pretty broad rights on who they’re going to invite in. I mean, they’re gonna have a party, they’re gonna have people over to celebrate something, they’re gonna have their friends, their significant others, whatever, including people that they want to come over and watch their pets while they are out of town.

And so, they have fairly broad rights to do that. The one caveat would be, if, you know, you’re in a situation where you have a specific concern, and again you would have to have a pretty specific situation where there’s, you know, I don’t know, like, if a known felon or someone who’s been, you know, engaging in pet-sitter robberies or something.

But again, it comes back to communication. Talk to your people about that. Say, you know, this particular person, I have some concerns and here’s why. It can’t be something that’s unfounded, but again, it comes back to being human in communicating with your tenants about what your concerns are. And maybe offering them alternatives. You know, you don’t have to use this service, you can go board your pet with Rover, or Pet Vacay, or any of these other services that will help care for your pets and keep them comfortable and safe without necessarily inviting this neighborhood burglar into your unit.

But ultimately, if push comes to shove, that’s something where again, your tenants, for better or for worse, have pretty broad rights in terms of who they’re going to let into the unit while they are renting it.


Our thoughts at RentPrep :


Josh lays it out pretty clear that the landlord shouldn’t be dictating who the tenant gives a key out to.

One thing to consider is the type of lock you put on the unit. There are digital locks that have eKeys that allow 24 hour access or temporary keys that you can manage.

The Kevo 2nd Generation lock is one example of a smart lock that has eKey functionality.

If you have unique concerns with your situation, you can search and consult with a landlord/tenant lawyer by clicking here.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

The post Can I Stop My Tenant From Giving Keys To Other People? appeared first on RentPrep.

Landlord Rights When A Tenant Steals Property When Moving Out

It can feel devastating when a tenant steals property upon moving out of the rental.

In this post we address what your rights as a landlord are in this unfortunate situation.

Our friends over at Avvo discuss this in their webinar with Zillow addressing landlord rights with stolen property.


The audio file above addresses this question as Avvo’s chief legal officer, Josh King, weighs in with his thoughts.

Below you can read the transcript of the conversation:

Legal Disclaimer: The materials and information presented here were provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Zillow Group does not make any guarantees as to the sufficiency of the information included or its compliance with applicable laws. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed in the audio and from the webinar are the opinions of Avvo and may not reflect the opinions of Zillow

Transcription of the audio file above


Interviewer: What are my rights, as a landlord, when a tenant steals my property when moving out?

Josh: Yeah, so, this is one that can come up, particularly in smaller units, or ones where you’re renting rooms or the like, there may be material, it could be light fixtures, it could be appliances, whatever, that they decide to take with them and it’s really the same kind of analysis that you would have with any security deposit.

I mean, if it’s extreme enough, certainly, you could report it to the police. But I think you’re better off just simply…if documenting that it happened, take photos, as with anything when it comes to security deposits, I think relating back to our survey data, documentation is so key.

You know, I’ve had experiences in the past, as a tenant, where I got my security deposit and I just get a check and there’s no documentation at all, which is fine if the check is for the full amount of the security deposit. But I think the best practice, for landlords, is be timely about refunding that security deposit and have a detailed documentation about anything you’re withholding.

And so, yeah, you know, if they stole your range, when they moved out, snap a photo of the missing range, the space in between the cabinets, and include an invoice of what it cost to replace it and that’s your deduction of the security deposit. And they don’t really have a whole lot that they can say about that.

So, you’ll just wanna make sure that you document all that as well as you can. But you certainly have a right to offsetting against the security deposit for anything they have taken with them, purposely or even if inadvertently, when they moved out of the unit.


Our thoughts at RentPrep :

You’re going to want to give your tenant a “Security Deposit Disposition” form.  This is also known as a SODA form.

This is the form that documents damages and/or missing furnishings. This form is helpful if you charged a security deposit. If you haven’t you will have a difficult time getting your money back.

The SODA form is a part of our Landlord Form Bundle and will be your ally in court if the tenant disputes you keeping the security deposit.

In the future the best defense to having to deal with this situation is to call previous landlord references on tenant applicants.

If a tenant can’t give references they’re a higher risk because they’ve either never lived on their own before or they don’t have a good relationship with past landlords.

When calling the previous landlord references be sure to ask qualifying questions to verify they’re the tenant.

For example…

“Hi I’m calling about (insert tenant applicant name) and he listed you as a previous landlord. Can you confirm?”

At this point if the applicant asked a friend to cover for them you can trip them up with other questions.

“What was the street address and years of residence? Also, what was the rent amount?”

Most friends won’t know that info if they’re pretending to be a landlord reference.

At RentPrep our screeners make hundreds of verification calls to previous landlords every month (see Platinum details). It’s not uncommon to find out that the landlord reference is actually a friend pretending.

If you’re still unsure what to do in your particular situation, you can search and consult with a lawyer by clicking here. That link will take you to Avvo and give you 15% off your consultation.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

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Does A Landlord Have To Provide Lockout Service At All Hours?

We’ve all been locked out at some point but some people seem to fall victim more than others.

Here’s what you need to know if you have a tenant that is calling too frequently because they’re locked out.

Our friends over at Avvo touch on this in their webinar with Zillow addressing landlord responsibilities concerning lockout service.


The audio file above addresses this question as Avvo’s chief legal officer, Josh King, weighs in with his thoughts.

Below you can read the transcript of the conversation:

Legal Disclaimer: The materials and information available in this webinar are being provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Zillow Group does not make any guarantees as to the sufficiency of the information included in this guide or its compliance with applicable laws. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed in this webinar are the opinions of Avvo and may not reflect the opinions of Zillow Group.


Transcription of the audio file above


Interviewer: As a landlord, am I obligated to provide lockout service at all hours?

Josh: I would certainly hope not. There’s not gonna be any requirement that you did that unless you put it into your lease, which I can’t imagine any rational landlord would do. I mean you’re obligated to give your tenants keys, or at least a key, but really, they have to have a certain amount of responsibility, themself.

Now that said, I mean there’s certainly, you’re going to have irresponsible tenants. You’re gonna have people who lose their keys. And I think this is one of those things where, you’re never going to get sued over something like this, but as a landlord, it’s a great opportunity for communication where maybe you can set something up where they have multiple sets of keys. Maybe you even have a way where they have a lock box.

You may find that if it’s becoming a problem, it’s becoming increasing affordable to put in place key coded locks so they don’t have to carry around a physical key. Or if it’s a persistent problem, you may even consider entering into a business arrangement with a local locksmith who can provide that 24-hour access so they have a phone number they can call. And it’s obviously going to cost them to have that person come out and let them in, but you would have that arrangement so that they wouldn’t have to run through any of the additional verification procedures in order to get into the apartment.

But at the end of the day, you’re not obligated to be on a 24-hour pager just because you’ve chosen to be a landlord.


Our thoughts at RentPrep :

Josh touched on key coded locks in his answer and I think this is worth mentioning again.

There are many ways to deal with tenant issues, usually good communication and fair but firm enforcement of rules are a great starting point.

In this instance, I think updating your locks is the easiest answer.

Here’s a touchpad* you can purchase and install for $65.

I’m not a fan of being an enabler but in this instance I think the best course of action is to update the locks.

I’d also make sure that tenant knows to keep their keys on them in case the battery dies on the keypad. It may stop a future late-night call and also let your tenant know that you’re responding to the issues they’re having as a tenant.

If you’re still unsure what to do in your particular situation, you can search and consult with a lawyer by clicking here. That link will take you to Avvo and give you 15% off your consultation.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

*Lock link is an Amazon Affiliate Link

The post Does A Landlord Have To Provide Lockout Service At All Hours? appeared first on RentPrep.

How To Deal With Rental Grace Periods With Late Paying Tenants

Grace periods are a period of time after the rent is due where a tenant can still pay the rent without any penalty.

Grace period timeframes can vary state-by-state but are a common issue for landlords with tenants.

Our friends over at Avvo touch on this in their webinar with Zillow addressing grace period concerns.


The audio file above addresses this question as Avvo’s chief legal officer, Josh King, weighs in with his thoughts.

Below you can read the transcript of the conversation:

Legal Disclaimer: The materials and information available in this webinar are being provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Zillow Group does not make any guarantees as to the sufficiency of the information included in this guide or its compliance with applicable laws. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed in this webinar are the opinions of Avvo and may not reflect the opinions of Zillow Group.


Transcription of the audio file above

Question: Great. Okay. So, one question that we received, is that I am required to give the five day grace period for late fee on rent every month. Is rent due on the first or the fifth?

Josh: A part of this is just gonna depend on what’s in your lease. So your lease may say you’re giving a grace period but, I mean, rent is technically due on the day you say it’s due or you say it’s due in the lease. And, so, what I’ve heard the people should do, if you are having a problem for this because, I mean, hey, if someone gave me a grace period, I would pay it at the last possible date, right? If that’s getting to be a frustration or a problem for you, you should probably just take the grace period out of the lease. And have a provision that if they pay late, that is going to be…that’s going to incur a late fee, or even better yet, that it’s going to incur additional rent.

That’s not necessarily going to solve a problem for you, people may still continue to pay late, and not pay you that additional rent, but what it’s probably going to do is discipline the process and not, that for the most part, you’re gonna be getting people to pay on time when you don’t even give them the opportunity of the grace period.



Our thoughts at RentPrep :

The relationship you have with your tenant (or people in general) is going to be built upon past experiences and the resulting expectations.

If your tenant has been maxing out the grace period duration it’s going to be difficult to change their expectations on when rent is due.

That’s why your initial standards and communications with a new tenant are so important. Here in New York the grace period is 5 days.

I had a tenant who sincerely thought rent was due on the 5th because of how it was written in the lease. It wasn’t the tenants fault but my own fault for not clearly communicating when rent was due. After explaining when rent was due that tenant started paying on the first.

My first tenant who was an actual problem with paying late was because I did not have a late fee in place. Once I started charging $5 a day (after the 5 day grace period in NYS) I started getting the rent on the 5th.

Ideally, you want to be able to avoid any grace period talks because your tenant always pays on time.

Proper tenant screening, clear communication, and charging late fees are all ways to ensure that a tenant isn’t taking advantage of the grace period afforded them in your state.

If you’re still unsure what to do in your particular situation, you can search and consult with a lawyer by clicking here. That link will take you to Avvo and give you 15% off your consultation.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

The post How To Deal With Rental Grace Periods With Late Paying Tenants appeared first on RentPrep.

Can A Tenant Stop Paying Rent Due To A Noisy Neighbor?


A common issue that arises from owning and renting out a multi-unit are noise complaints.

Our friends over at Avvo recently did a webinar with Zillow addressing common issues between landlords and tenants.

The audio file above addresses this question as Avvo’s chief legal officer, Josh King, weighs in with his thoughts.

Below you can read the transcript of the conversation:

Legal Disclaimer: The materials and information available in this webinar are being provided for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Zillow Group does not make any guarantees as to the sufficiency of the information included in this guide or its compliance with applicable laws. You should contact your attorney to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue or problem. The opinions expressed in this webinar are the opinions of Avvo and may not reflect the opinions of Zillow Group.


Transcription of the audio file above

Question: My tenant stops paying rent due to the upstairs tenants making noise. Do they have a right to do that?

Josh: Well, tenants have the right to engage in all forms of self-help if there are problems that are effecting health and safety. If there is no running water or the lights don’t work ect.

Noise from upstairs tenants is a lot less likely because a noise is annoying but it has to be really loud and consistent before it crosses the line of health and safety.

I think this is one where you’d want to have some very direct communications with your tenant. I think this is one where you’d want to have some direct communications with your tenants.

It’s one that you would be best to talk directly with your tenants to see what the problem is and see if it can be solved. Certainly if the people upstairs walk around a little bit, these are all things we deal with if we live in apartments or condos and certainly within an acceptable range.

It would have to be very very extreme before they could withhold the rent.


Our thoughts at RentPrep :

Noise complaints can be tricky. I agree with Josh that getting in direct communication with your tenants is your first step to resolution.

Find out what the source of the noise complaint is and communicate with both parties involved.

You may find that they’re “slamming” doors upstairs and there might be a simple fix below are a couple videos I recorded a few years back before joining RentPrep.

At the time I was on the lower floor of a double home I owned and there were some easy fixes to limit noise in the apartment.

The following playlists covers some simple tricks to help limit noise in an older rental unit.

  • Fix noisy wooden floors
  • Quiet loud cabinet doors
  • Soundproofing loud noisy doors
  • Fix for loud noisy garage door

If the noise complaints are legitimate you will want to document the noise complaint with the accused tenant.

You may want to lookup your town’s noise ordinance via a Google search.

If the noise complaints are occurring after hours you can let the tenant know they are in violation of the town ordinances as well.

If you’re still unsure what to do in your particular situation, you can search and consult with a lawyer by clicking here. That link will take you to Avvo and give you 15% off your consultation.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment box below.

The post Can A Tenant Stop Paying Rent Due To A Noisy Neighbor? appeared first on RentPrep.

Landlord Anger Could Be Damaging Your Business

Anger is rarely an asset in a business setting, and it’s no different for landlords and real estate investors. No matter how much effort landlords put into keeping their cool, there have likely been moments where their temper has gotten the best of them. If you are a landlord, you are going to be put into situations where it will be hard to control your emotions, especially anger.

Successful landlords understand that anger and losing control have no place in business, and doing it may cost them an excellent tenant or a ruin a good business relationship. Just like all aspects of business, losing your temper is definitely going to have a negative effect on your landlord/tenant relations as well as your interactions with service people and contractors. Excessive aggression and hostility can even negatively affect your health.

The Emotion of Anger

Anger comes from a negative place inside you where you overwhelmed with irritation, unhappiness, frustration, worry, fear, intense dislike, disappointment or aggravation. If you are going to give into this negative emotion, you will not be able to make good judgments in your daily business decisions. You will also shut down communication between you and the other person, causing them to stop trying to see your side of things. Finally, anger often pushes people to do or say things that they regret, possibly damaging business relationships permanently.

Of course, there are always situations where anger is a healthy emotional response, but should be expressed appropriately. Landlord situations that may trigger anger include discovering excessive damage in a rental property, having to go to court for an eviction, dealing with belligerent tenants when trying to enforce the lease agreement, or working out a big problem with a contracted service person. Any of these can trigger an emotional response, but most professionals manage to keep a cool head during these times and then vent later on in private. But for those landlords that are quick to display their temper, it’s better to keep it under control and use other tactics to resolve a situation.

Tips to Manage Anger

There are many ways to deal with confrontation, conflict and stress than resorting to losing your temper. Landlords have to deal with a wide range of people and some of the most unusual situations. Keeping your cool can help you be a better business owner and will definitely help you resolve conflict in a more effective way.

Here are 5 tips on how landlords can control their anger and get better results from themselves and others in resolving any business situation.

  1. Stop and Think. Anger emerges in big bursts and can often fuel a landlord for a long time. Before opening that symbolic door to anger, people can mentally step away from the situation and take a minute to collect themselves. It’s not out of the way to state, “I’m going to need a minute,” and take a long pause before getting into a conversation with someone. The old trick of counting to ten really can help people get their thoughts together before they speak.
  2. Don’t Match Anger With Anger. Sometimes, anger is triggered because another person is confrontational and aggressive to begin with. Landlords can be the voice of reason in a tense situation and can even steer the conversation toward a more civil tone by keeping calmer than the other person and refusing to rise to the level of anger they are showing. Even if the landlord starts out angry, they can change the tone of the conversation by calming down.
  3. Move Forward. When feeling irritated or frustrated at a landlord situation, it’s important to keep moving forward. Staying stuck in a fit of anger will only make a situation worse and cloud judgement, preventing people from making the best decision. Address the situation with a problem-solving attitude and the anger will fade soon.
  4. Just Walk Away. If a situation is getting too tense and both sides are not expressing themselves well or being heard by the other, it’s time to walk away and resume at another time. Landlords can physically remove themselves from the situation, ask the other person to get out or call the police in extreme situations. With a commitment to resume the conversation at a later time or date, both sides will benefit from a new perspective and from blowing off steam.
  5. Look For The Positive. In almost any situation, there’s a little bit of positive and often that can be enough to hurdle over feelings of anger. For example, if the anger is triggered by heading to court for an eviction, landlords can see the silver lining in that they are almost done dealing with those problem tenants. When confronting a bad tenant about a lease violation, the landlord can keep in mind that a formal written warning may compel the tenant to better behavior.

Anger is never a good emotion to display in a professional situation. If a person wouldn’t show anger at an office or business setting, they shouldn’t show it in their landlord/tenant relationships. The most successful landlords are those that have plenty of control in any situation. The good news is that landlords that have a temper can always improve and get themselves to where they want to be the next time a stressful situation arises.

The post Landlord Anger Could Be Damaging Your Business appeared first on RentPrep.

Hey Landlords! Isn’t It Time for a Vacation?

If you are one of those workaholics that doesn’t like to take vacations, then you need to change your mind and quickly. Landlords are especially subject to the stresses and burnout associated with running their own business, and can really suffer because they feel like they have to do it all. Like all entrepreneurs, landlords need to recognize the warning signs that come from never getting time to rejuvenate and recharge.

Why Landlords Need a Vacation

There are plenty of studies that show the benefits of stepping away from work and getting re-energized. According to, people who vacation only once every two years are more likely to experience stress and depression than those who get away from it all at least twice per year. Overworking can also lead to poor health, as shown in the research by Marshfield Clinic. Vacations can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk for coronary heart disease and much more. In order to remain happy, healthy and able to make good decisions and run the business better, landlords must make time for vacation.

There are several ways that landlords like you can make arrangements to take a vacation. After all, you are responsible for your rental properties, but you aren’t chained to them. There’s some good advice here about when and how landlords can take a vacation without having their business suffer.

Warning Signs That Landlords Need A Break

Here are 5 signs that even you as a landlord need to book a vacation right away.

1. You Are Not Yourself

While everyone goes through stress at different levels, those who avoid taking time off can get more irritable, have trouble concentrating, develop frequent headaches, or insomnia. You might even look in the mirror and see just a shell of who you used to be. If you are no longer feeling like your old self–that smart and capable person you once were, especially when it comes to conducting business–it may be time to leave town and invest in yourself for a change.

2. Your Work is Suffering

Even if you are trying hard to stay on top of everything, landlords that are burned out can make some mistakes that are hard to undo. From making errors in financial reports to making bad judgments in the day-to-day operations, when the work suffers, it can be a big red flag that landlords should heed. In a worst case scenario, a mistake at work can land you in legal trouble, so it’s important to stay at your best by vacationing for at least a few days at a time.

3. Your Spirits are Low

While not every person is thrilled about their job every day, landlords should at least feel glad that they are their own bosses, that no two days are the same and have pride of ownership over so many fine properties. When you have low spirits, it’s hard to pull yourself out of that depressed state. You may have trouble concentrating, or you daydream of being anywhere else but where you are. If work brings out more sighs than smiles and you are trudging through the parts of the business that you once liked, it’s definitely a good idea to make plans for some “me” time.

4. Obstacles Seem Larger Than Ever

A big part of being a landlord means that you have to deal with every challenge that is thrown your way. Challenges must be tackled one at a time with everything you’v got, from broken appliances to rowdy tenants. After a while, the same problems that once seemed fairly minor might just be starting to cloud your judgement and take longer to resolve. When those quick decision-making skills you once displayed are no longer around, it is a sure sign that your brain needs a break.

5. Your Health is Suffering

When people need a vacation from work but don’t get it, their short-term health can suffer. If you can’t find time to do those activities that kept you happy and healthy before, like exercise, healthy eating or getting to bed on time, then work is taking over your life way too much. What’s worse is that many people increase their drinking habits or overeat when stressed, which isn’t good for them or their business. When you see the signs of declining healthy habits, put the brakes on it and make plans for a getaway.

The bottom line is that even landlords need a break from their work life, but they may be less likely to take one because they are often a one-person business when it comes to real estate investing. However, nothing is more important than your health and wellness, and you need to make every effort to take some time off and do what you enjoy. It’s in the best interest of every landlord and their business to be the best they can be, and vacation time is a proven practice of highly successful people.

The post Hey Landlords! Isn’t It Time for a Vacation? appeared first on RentPrep.