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November 02, 2012


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I agree with these posts. The summary in the last five years I have been renting my single condo follows:
-All ads have been on Craigslist, I have yet to spend money on any ads.
-Policies for tenant rejection allow for tenants with no credit history since my population largely lacks credit history of any kind. I base on combination of previous landlord recommendations, safety deposit, and income. Most tenants of mine make six figures and additionally I get monthly checks directly from their employers. I check credit at and also reject based on delinquincies.
-Screening is important but I personally do not do a thorough criminal background check, just the basic terrorist check as the law now requires.
-I've never had problems with a tenant so far, knock on wood! If I did, my month to month contract would allow me to quickly end the contract. As such, I do not really get families with school age children as tenants.

Apex, I have two questions do the policies on tenant rejection need to be dated and notarized? Would an expired contract really give me as landlord expedited authority to remove a problem tenant?



The purpose of the policies is not to remove tenants. It is to spell out reasons for denying a tenant application so that if the tenant claims you denied them for a discriminatory reason you can point to your policies which they signed as an acknowledgement that they were aware of them.

As such there is no reason to have them notarized but you should have the tenant sign and date. You could not use them to remove a problem tenant however. You can only do that based on your lease, not your policies.

Have you come in contact with a tenant that lost their income and wants to apply for state funded rent assistance? I have a friend that is in the middle stages of allowing this type of government funded program to a family he is renting too.


I have not. If the assistance was merely a government subsidy that required no extra agreements from me to follow any special rules of a government program I would have no problem with that. In fact, it is illegal to refuse to accept government subsidies as rent at least in my state, and it could be a federal rule, I am not sure.

However if it was to enter a program such as section-8 which requires me to have my properties inspected by the government, follow their rules, and allow them to amend my lease (which section-8 does), then I would not allow that and would force them to leave. It is not illegal (in most states) to refuse to accept section-8 vouchers from the government because it comes with other rules that the government imposes on you.

Thanks for the input, it is section 8 and I will let my buddy know. I have heard horrible stories of tenants having more power than the owner and eviction rules being too strict.


I don't have any first hand experience with section-8 because I refuse to take it. I don't know the details of eviction rules being stricter, etc. What I do know from other investors who have done it is that you have to get your properties inspected and meet their rules whether they make any sense or not. But even worse the program requires you to give them power over your lease.

In one case the section-8 housing program had a reduction in funding and the state came in and unilaterally reduced the rent that every section-8 tenant was paying. They simply over-rode that portion of the lease while leaving the rest of the lease in force and giving the landlord no options.

One particular investor I know had over 80 units participating in section-8. He went to the section-8 hearing on the issue being held by the state board and told them if you do this, you will scare aware many of us who have participated in this program for years. He told them he would not renew any section-8 tenants if they forced down his rent. Imagine this investor having his rent forced down on 80 units? The board did not care, they had a budgetary problem and this is how they solved it.

This investor does not have a single section-8 tenant today explicitly because they did this. He did not know they could do this prior to it happening. I suspect most landlords do not realize the power they give up when they allow the government to give them money and sign papers giving them power to dictate terms.

I also have heard horror stories about the types of tenants you are more likely to get when you self select from the section-8 pool, which is another big reason I avoid it. In your friends case that is not a problem since he already knows the tenant.

Is he getting paid rent in the meantime while this tenant is trying to get approved? If not I think that is a mistake. If he is getting paid rent one way or another that may be ok but if not, I fear he may have to just right that money off and it would have been better to just move to a new tenant if that is the case.

All great advice.

Past starting with a good investment property, picking the right tenants is probably the #1 key to success with rentals.

Having patience for a qualified tenant is very important.
At the same time you don't really need to hold out for a 'perfect' tenant. Most people will have a blemish on their history.

Sticking to basic selection rules like income, rental history and criminal history is important. It should go without saying but: the #1 way to avoid discrimination lawsuits is to not discriminate.

You also need to learn your local and state rules as there may be additional protected classes.

While you do need to obey laws, I wouldn't be paranoid or freaked out about discrimination lawsuits. Its not like every other tenant sues you or anything. My dad has owned rentals for over 4 decades and never had an applicant or tenant file an actual discrimination complaint or lawsuit. Course it certainly helps that he doesn't discriminate, but you know there are always fake, imagined or illegit complaints.

I think its a good idea to pre-screen your potential applicants on the phone. Ask basic questions and reinforce basic rules. If you don't do this and just setup showings to everyone you call then you may waste time with someone trying to convince you to bend a rule or springing their unemployment status on you last minute.

Take all applications. Refusing or turning down an application could look like you're discriminating or just invite suspicion among applicants.

DO NOT change any rules or policies or selection criteria from applicant to applicant. You can't change your mind or be flexible in some ways. Or it can potentially be viewed as discrimination.

Make applicants pay for credit /history check. This screens out people who aren't serious and stops you from wasting your time and money. You could make it refundable to the tenant you rent to.

Lawn signs : In addition to posting on Craigslist I would also recommend putting up a 'for rent' sign on the actual property. You'd be surprised how many renters this can attract.


All good advice, especially the phone screening. I always ask a few basic questions on the phone to make sure we are not going to be wasting time.

The other thing I do is if someone sets up a showing 2 or 3 days in advance, I tell them that they will call me the day of the showing by noon and confirm. I make it very clear they must do this. If they do not call and confirm, I will not be showing up to show them the property. The percentage of times you get stood up for a viewing that was booked a few days in advance can approach 50%, and they never call to cancel the viewing. So if you don't want to get stood up repeatedly, you should make the applicant confirm the day of.

Agree with all points made. Only wish to add a question to the list for previous landlords. That is if the tennant is eligible to rent from the previous landlord again. Often this is in the record and will cover problems which you did not specifically ask. It is on my list.

I try and do an 'open house' on saturday afternoon. That way I can then arrange to show the rental to multiple people at the same time and not have to run back and forth multiple times at everyone elses convenience. If they can't make it on Saturday then I'll show it at other times, but most people can make it on Saturday so it saves a lot of trips and wasted time.

Apex -
Regarding Craigslist - in the city my rentals are in, there are literally 100 new listings by noon (meaning your listing gets pushed to the second page halfway through the first day). Do you have a strategy for keeping your listing current and visible?

Great tips!

One thing that I do to verify income is to request to see one or two recent pay stubs. I've been burned by tenants who aren't completely honest about their pay checks.

I'm always a little suspicious when someone tells me that they have a secure job selling things on eBay, and their girlfriend is in the process of finding a job. I want to just rap them on the head with a rubber hammer, and say "Hello, is anybody in there? Selling t-shirts on eBay is not an real job."

But, I never actually do that. I just say, "Okaaay, we have a lot of applications for this property. We'll contact you if you are selected."


That's a good tip.


What city, state are your rentals in?

I am in suburbs of the Minneapolis/St.Paul metro area.

If you look at that entire area my listing would be pushed down within an hour, but I don't consider it important that I show up in the broader listing.

I think most people are searching on the suburb area they are most interested in. I think they are also likely filtering by price and bedrooms. On that criteria I stay up very high until I can renew the post in 2 days which I always do.

But here is some advice that I also do. I list as many local suburbs that surround my property in the listing as possible. I find ways to mention things in those cities, like malls or other attractions to get the city name in the ad. If there is nothing to list I simply list nearby cities. This will make my listing show up for people who search on those cities.

Another idea is to make two or three different listings that use different text. Craigslist won't let you put up the same or nearly same listing prior to 48 hours. But if the listings are considerably different they will both go up. This would let you keep one of these listings near the top each day.

A third tip is never let old listings linger while creating duplicates over and over. I see this on craigslist all the time. The same listing is out there today, and 3 days ago, and 10 days ago and 30 days ago. Rather than delete listings they are submitting the same listing over and over. Sometimes with different prices. I am not sure what the strategy is here but if I am looking for a place and I see this person has been listing their unit over and over for a month, changing prices, etc, I am going to assume 2 things. One there is something potentially wrong with this place because it won't rent (what's wrong with it could be the price but who knows). Secondly if I did view it I am going to think I can talk you down in price because it may look desperate.

I would never let multiple listings be out there that are more than a week old and don't let there be multiple listings with different prices.

As a tenant (and a good one, IMHO), I really appreciate landlords who follow your advertising strategy. If I have to parse the ad carefully to determine the unit's amenities, I might still be interested, but we're starting on the wrong foot. If there are no pictures, it's not worth scheduling a viewing. If the pictures are dishonest, trust is broken and there's no chance I'm renting.

Thanks for the tips. We had our first tenants move in this week and they met all of your criteria, even if we had a little drama on move in day. I hope we made a good choice.

It's important to be a good landlord in order to recruit good tenants. If you don't maintain the property or do your duty as a landlord, any chance of keeping a good tenant will be significantly reduced. I've never looked for a rental in a newspaper and it's surprising that this is still a advertisement method.

Great tips! Here's another one:

I have a couple single family house rentals in a working class neighborhood. I tried Craigslist, but found that most people who responded were pretty flaky (like asking me to be at the house and never showing up). However, with a simple "for rent" sign in the window I was able to find families with kids who were already in the neighborhood, and were being foreclosed (this was two years ago, during the peak of the foreclosures). The sign led to better interest and better quality candidates than Craigslist. While they didn't have perfect credit, both families have been pretty good tenants.

I also did renovate the houses to make them more attractive ($10-20k each in new paint and carpet, and kitchens and bathrooms where needed). I think this has helped attract tenants who take better care of the house (and who pay a premium rent).


Yard signs are certainly good ideas too. I like Craigslist for the wider audience but it's certainly a good idea to get any drive by advertising you can get as well.

Question: is it gross income or net income when referring to the 3:1 ratio of income to rent?

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