Do you own a Colorado rental property? Did you have a tenant leave it in less-than-perfect condition? It happens! In fact, it’s an experience that probably every landlord has faced at least once. If you looked at your empty rental property and said, “Help! My tenant trashed my Longmont house” then here are some things you can do about it… and some key questions to ask during your tenant pre-screening process.
Is it worth going after the tenant?
You need to first assess the damage and decide if it’s worth going after the tenant. Unfortunately, it often isn’t worth the hassle because it may be a time consuming and even expensive effort to get the tenant to pay you back. However, if the damage is significant enough, you may choose to do this.
Is it worth repairing the damage?
From holes in the walls to missing toilets – we’ve heard of just about everything you can imagine! Sometimes a bit of drywall and paint will fix the problem, in which case you may want to fix it up and rent it out again, and then just accept the inconvenience as the cost of doing business. However, if the damage is not worth repairing yourself then you might be interested in a couple of other options:
You could rent your house to a handyman
One little-known option that is actually really helpful is to find a handyman who wants to rent the house. In exchange for a discount on rent (or even free rent) they can fix up the house for you to make it a nice rental property again. Make sure you have a timeline all spelled out, though, to avoid them staying too long without a lot of work getting done.
You could sell the house
Another option is to sell the house and move on from owning a frustrating rental property. However, be aware that if you try to sell the house on the open market, you may have to fix it up first in order for the agent to list it. Another option is to sell privately to a house-buying team like ours. (We buy houses in as-is condition and we’ll fix them up ourselves).
7 Key Questions To Pre-Screen Your Tenants
The best way I have found is to spend more time up front in the screening process. It may take a little more time and cost, but the ROI is worth it.
Many landlords waste a lot of time showing a property to tenants that are not a good fit for the home. Save time and focus your efforts on the right tenants by asking some key questions on the phone before you set up a time to view the home. These questions are more easily asked today through todays technology, but keep in mind, if you don’t ever actually SPEAK with a prospective tenant, you may want to use that as a red flag. Motivated and responsible tenants tend to pick up the phone and call. Here are 7 questions I use in my tenant screening process, and I always make them go through the application process (that weeds 60% out immediately)
- Why are you moving? – I look for tenants who demonstrate responsibility and don’t blame others for their bad experiences. When I tenants story and it doesn’t match their prior landlord’s version, that makes for an easy decision.
- Who will be living in the property? It’s common to write a lease, only to find out after the lease has been signed that there are more people living there than you knew. Formalizing who will live at the property before the lease is signed, along with getting the names and age of each occupant sets the expectations. Then, establish the rules for additional occupants. In some cases you may allow it at an additional cost which helps to cover the increased wear and tear on the property.
- How long do you think you will stay? I look for specific answers and those who seem to have a plan or a commitment to their jobs, kids schools, hobbies such as volunteer fire department, etc. Those who are looking further into the future with their personal lives, tend to make good long term tenants who take care of the property.
- Do you have pets? I’m not keen on missing snakes in my property
- Where do you work? Enough said…….And then verify it with their employer’s HR department and their manager. I don’t typically ask employers for salary information, but I do ask if they presently work for the employer and if they are in good standing and a valuable contributor to their team. I am simply looking for clear, confident, and constructive feedback that normally leads to valuable discussions. More and more, and in todays competitive rental market, I have also been requiring 1st and last months rent, and a full month deposit on the property. I tend to find that those who can afford that, tend to be highly reliable, responsible, and leave the property in good condition.
- When are you looking to move? Assuming they are looking for the next month seems to be the norm, but if you don’t make that one of your initial questions, you may find yourself showing a property to somebody who is planning 3 months out, and you need to rent it NOW.
- Can you pay the application fee? Good Tenants are accustomed to paying application fees. Make mention to the application fee and give them an opportunity to have the conversation about what is on their background. I often waive the application fee after I’ve selected my best tenant as it was more important to put them through the diligence and learning process, rather than collecting the application fee. Those tenants who have gone through this process with me have proven to be forthcoming with questions and information which lead to me being flexible to accommodate them more as a “customer” vs a “tenant”……That’s a good relationship to have.