Should you market your rental properties on something like Zillow or Craigslist? Or, maybe Facebook is the best option. TIme & time again, we hear the question, “How should I market my rental property to find tenants?”
Property Manager, Andrew Schultz, talks about marketing your rental properties on this latest podcast. Plus, he’ll go over tenant rental applications and what to include, contract clauses in tenant & landlord agreements.
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Voice Over: (00:04)
Welcome to the RentPrep for Landlords podcast. Now your host, Andrew Schultz.
Andrew Schultz: (00:09)
Welcome back to another episode of the RentPrep for Landlords podcast. This is episode three 23, and I’m your host, Andrew Schultz. On today’s episode, we’re going to be talking about tenant applications, and what to include, how to market to potential tenants, contract clauses in landlord-tenant agreements and tenants jumping, electrical boxes. We’ll get to that right after this
Voice Over: (00:32)
Water cooler wisdom expert advice from real estate pros.
Andrew Schultz: (00:40)
Today’s first water-cooler wisdom comes to us via Reddit from the landlord subreddit. My wife and I were looking at sample rental applications and a checking and savings account number was on the application, but we don’t understand why that is something a tenant should provide. So there are a ton of different rental applications out there on the internet, and they all ask for a lot of the same stuff, but you will occasionally find one that asks for something oddball. If you’re looking for a good rental application, you can find one over at rentprep.com/resources. There is one included in the free landlord starter kit, and actually, that’s the paper application that we used over-owned Buffalo for years until we moved to a digital format. So that’s definitely a good form to take a look at. It’ll help you get a good feel for what should and should not be on a rental application.
Andrew Schultz: (01:31)
I can remember back when I first started in property management a whole lot of years ago at this point, the application for the company that I was with did ask for a checking and savings account. Number a, I don’t remember if it asks for a routing number. I know it asks for the bank name, but tenants never provided that information. And we never asked them to provide that information. Realistically speaking, I don’t think that it’s something that most tenants would be willing to provide, even if you did ask for it. And I don’t really think that there’s a need for you to have it just it’s unnecessary information at this point if you’re trying to use that information to put a lien against someone’s bank account down the road or something like that, a wage garnishment, you know, there’s, the bank’s going to be able to find that person and find their bank account and put the lien where the lien is supposed to be.
Andrew Schultz: (02:18)
I wouldn’t worry too much about having the actual account numbers on the application. Some stuff that I think is super important to have on the rental application, full name first, last, and middle social security number, date of birth, current address, previous address names of other people who are going to be living in the apartment both over and under the age of 18, any animals that they’re planning on bringing employment information, you know, what’s their current job? How long have they been there? When did they start? What do they make? Maybe even a previous or a second job, other forms of income, maybe they have, you know, some sort of assistance through a section eight agency or department of social services or the receiving social security income that needs to be on there. We also ask for two emergency contacts and two personal references.
Andrew Schultz: (03:08)
That’s going to be super important down the road. If something happens, you can’t reach the tenant or even worse. You know, we’ve had tenants who have passed away in our apartments. Having an emergency contact is super important for a situation like that. We do ask several questions about the tenants’ background on our application, whether they’ve ever been involved in a bankruptcy, a foreclosure, or repossession if they’ve ever willfully or intentionally refuse to pay rent if they’ve ever broken a lease before the end of the lease term or left owing money to a landlord. If there are any occupants of the property that have been convicted of a crime we ask if they have any collection accounts with the utility companies. The one question I don’t ask here in New York is whether or not someone has ever been evicted back in June of 2019, there were some laws passed here in New York that we can no longer use eviction data as part of our tenant screening criteria.
Andrew Schultz: (04:00)
So we went ahead and pulled that right off of our application so that it’s a nonissue. So that might be something that you want to add to your application. If your state does allow for you to use that data, we do ask tenants for their vehicle information that make the model of the year and the license. That’s a little bit more of an issue. If you have maybe an apartment complex with a limited number of parking spaces or something like that, you might just want to know who the tenants are and what vehicle belongs to, what tenant, and things like that. We also give a blank box that people can fill in any other information that they believe would help us when we’re evaluating their application. So for instance, if somebody has maybe a criminal history but it was 10 years ago and now they’ve reformed and are, you know, on the right track or what have you.
Andrew Schultz: (04:47)
It’s nice for them to be able to explain, you know, what the circumstances were behind their past so that you have that information in front of you when you’re making a decision on their application. At the bottom of our application, there is a disclosure that the tenant has to sign off on when they go to apply that disclosure allows us basically the way that it’s worded allows us to run our credit and background checks allows us to request tenet references from landlords and employers and things like that. Make sure that you have an iron-clad clause on the end of your rental application so that you can do the tenant screening that you want to do. Ours is pretty lengthy. I’m not going to sit here and read through the entire thing, but you can find like I said, a free rental application in the landlord resources over at rentprep.com/resources. That’s a good place to start. That’s a pretty solid rental application
Andrew Schultz: (05:37)
Without a lot of extra things that you don’t need, but it does, you know, prevent you from asking some of the questions that would get you in hot water as well. So that’s something to keep in mind. Our next water cooler wisdom comes to us again from the landlord subreddit. This is the first time I’ve had a turnover at my place and I’m very new at this. So I was looking for some advice. I just posted the apartment on a Craigslist and Zillow. I posted that place will be available on August 1st. I was thinking I could generate some interest in the place, although I guess I won’t be able to show it until they move out, which might not end up being until July 31st, is it even worth listing until they move out and our Craigslist and Zillow the best places to list an apartment for rent? So the first question you ask here is, is it even worth listing until they move out?
Andrew Schultz: (06:24)
And the answer to that question, I would say is, it depends if you know that the tenants are going to move out when they’re supposed to and are not going to wind up becoming holdover. And the apartment is in good enough shape that you can show it without needing to do much more than maybe some cleaning and some light touch up paint or something like that. I would probably be willing to list that apartment as long as I had good photos. So maybe I’m reusing a set of photos from the last time it was listed. I don’t know if you’ll have that or not considering this you’re saying that this was the first time you’ve had a turnover. But if you have existing photos that accurately represent what the apartment looks like, then yeah, you might be in a position where you should list it before the end of the month and start generating that interest.
Andrew Schultz: (07:07)
One thing I would recommend not doing is taking photos of an apartment that is currently occupied and tenants are in the process of moving out of. It’s never going to be the best set of photos you’re going to get. You’re going to have moving boxes and stuff piled up all over the place. It’s going to be an annoyance to the outgoing tenants because they’re in the process of packing and trying to get their life straightened out. Meanwhile, you’re in there trying to snap photos, and it’s just a bad situation. So I would say if you have a good set of photos, accurately represent the way the property looks, I would say, go ahead and list it. Maybe the week before the end of the month, start getting some interest, and then you can start showing as soon as those tenants move out. If you have a set of tenants that you aren’t sure if they’re going to move out, I would probably wait until, you know, for sure that you’re in possession of the apartment before you go ahead and start scheduling those showings.
Andrew Schultz: (07:56)
The second she knew had here is our Zillow and Craig’s list of best places to list a unit. So currently Zillow is moving across the country and slowly but surely telling landlords that they’re going to start charging at least in the New York market, $10 per week per listing, for every listing that you put on Zillow, I think that they are offering the first one for free. So if you’re a small landlord with only one or two units, this may never be a situation that you run into, but if you’ve got more units or bigger multifamily or something like that, you may find that you’re going to run into an issue where Zillow is going to start charging you. Zillow does push out to three other websites or to three websites total, I should say your rental listing will appear on Zillow.
Andrew Schultz: (08:40)
It’ll also appear on Trulia and it’ll also appear on hot pads. We used to call those the big three because that’s where the bulk of our leads came from when we were marketing apartments. But we’ve seen over the years that that has definitely decreased. So what happened was, and actually you asked about Craigslist, so we’ll get into them. Now, Craigslist used to be the place, these sores to find good tenants for apartments, but over the years, Craigslist has made a lot of changes to their platform. It used to be that you could upload a beautiful HTML template and make your ad look really, really nice. Now they’ve basically stripped all of that back out. So all you can do is I think bold and italic text, maybe underline text as well, no more color, no more HTML. And then you get to upload some images, but you don’t really get to control the size of the images or anything else.
Andrew Schultz: (09:29)
Not to mention the fact that tenant’s eyes aren’t really on Craig’s list as much as they used to be. Then you add onto that the fact that Craigslist is the home of a ton of real estate scams Craigslist. Really isn’t the first place that I would go to list an apartment at this point in time. It doesn’t really have the eyes of the tenants in my market. So it’s not really the first place that I would think of to list an apartment. So when Craigslist really started to fall off the radar, Zillow was kind of the place that picked up. And then when Zillow bought Trulia and hot pads, obviously they integrated that in. So now you’re getting three sites for the time that it takes to list on one, which is not a bad option. The one thing that I will mention is that Facebook marketplace has been where a lot of our tenants have come from recently, but it’s a lot of work.
Andrew Schultz: (10:16)
It takes zero effort for somebody on Facebook marketplace to click the button that says, yes, I’m interested. You get a message. You have to respond to it, but they’ve already clicked. Yes, I’m interested on seven other apartments. Since they looked at yours, they probably didn’t read the full description. They may not have actually gone through and read all of them, or looked at all of the photos. You know, it’s kind of a mixed bag on Facebook marketplace, whether someone’s really doing the detail work of digging in and looking at an apartment before they say they’re interested, or if they’re just hitting that button and moving onto the next one, the best way to handle it is to have a copy and paste response of what your next steps are. If someone’s interested, we tell them that they have to physically call our office to set up a showing because we talked to every tenant before they set up a time to come out and look at the place.
Andrew Schultz: (11:04)
If you’re using some kind of a self showing platform, maybe you’re pushing them towards a link where they can register for a self showing. Maybe you have a Google form. I know that Eric did a really nice video on how to set up a Google Form to help you pre-screen tenants before you set up showings. Pretty sure you can find a link to that on the RentPrep website or on the RentPrep, Facebook page, excuse me, the RentPrep YouTube page to that. Ah, that’s a cool little resource to help you create a prescreening questionnaire. That might be the route that you want to go because you will get a ton of messages on Facebook and you really have to sift through those messages to determine who’s actually serious about this, and who’s just clicking the button and moving on to the next one.
Andrew Schultz: (11:46)
So there you go, three different resources to consider. When you get ready to list your apartment for rent if I had to rank them in order at this point, I would rank them Facebook marketplace followed by Zillow, Trulia, hot pads, the big three followed by Craigslist at a very, very, very distant third. So that’s typically how we go about marketing our rentals. I think that you’ll find quite a bit of success going that route and good luck to you in finding a good qualified tenant. Don’t forget to screen them thoroughly. Don’t forget to have a written set of tenant screening criteria I could go on for days and days about that. But I think that I’ve kind of beat that horse a little bit. So let’s move on to feet on the street.
Voice Over: (12:29)
Feet on the street, real stories from real property managers.
Andrew Schultz: (12:37)
So this week story comes to us from an anonymous landlord and reads as follows. We got charged hundreds of dollars when one of our tenants got caught trying to jump the power box, a dangerous practice that they can use to avoid paying electricity bills. We don’t write this into the lease. We shouldn’t have to, as it’s clearly illegal, but we do talk to them about not touching this equipment. So for those of you who are unfamiliar with what jumping a power box says, I’ll try to explain it as best I can. I’m going to preface this by saying, don’t attempt to jump a power box. You will get electrocuted. You’re probably going to die. And if it doesn’t kill you, it’s going to hurt the entire time. Don’t try to jump a power box. So there’s a few different ways that I’ve seen meters jumpers in the past.
Andrew Schultz: (13:23)
Sometimes you’ll have someone that is ballsy enough to actually physically remove the electric meter from the meter channel. And they’ll actually connect wire from the part of the box that runs to the electric companies lines to the part of the box that runs to the household lines. Essentially the meter just sits in between those watches, how much electric, current is flowing through. And that’s how they know how much to bill you for your electric bill. Every month. If you take that meter out, there are connections that allow you to go from the, you know, the electric company side to the house side. If you stick wire in there, it’s a good way to electrocute yourself, but it will get you some free electricity until it either gets noticed, or the property burns down to an electric short. Another method that I’ve seen is going from one panel to another, just running a piece of cable from one panel, you know, a breaker on one panel into a breaker on another panel.
Andrew Schultz: (14:14)
Again, this is a great way to use an undersized wire to burn your property down. And another method that I’ve seen would be if you’re doing contracting work, you might have a generator that has a special cable that you can use to back feed into the electric panel and power part of the panel. So maybe if you need like the furnace running or something like that again, super risky because there’s a good opportunity that you’re going to burn the property down by trying to back feed the panel. Electricity is something that should never, ever, ever be screwed with by someone who’s unqualified to do it. So going back to the story here, I don’t really understand why the landlord was charged when one of the tenants was caught trying to jump the power box. It sounds to me as though this was the tenants doing a, if the tenant was responsible for that utility coverage, in theory, their account should be attached to that panel or to that electric account.
Andrew Schultz: (15:06)
And they should be able to go back against the tenant for something like that. That said, it doesn’t sound like the tenant may have established their utility count, which is why they were trying to jump the power box in the first place. But I still don’t see why this is the landlord’s problem with the power company should be really, should be going after the tenant possibly even on some sort of a criminal charge for tampering with their equipment, because the power company owns that meter and definitely owns the supply sidelines. So a lot of issues there, I don’t really feel as though there should be a landlord’s responsibility. Unfortunately, it sounds like you got stuck with the bill. Hopefully, you have some sort of a clause in your lease that allows you to back bill stuff like that to the tenant, but it doesn’t sound like this is a tenant that you’re going to want to keep for too much longer. If they’re trying to jump the power boxes and you know, doing other damages and things like that sounds like you might have a little bit more of a problem on your hands. Hopefully, you are able to get that straightened out both with the tenant and with the electric company and move forward
Voice Over: (16:10)
Forum quorum, where we scour the internet for ridiculous posts from landlords and tenants.
Andrew Schultz: (16:18)
This week’s forum quorum comes to us from Reddit over on the landlord. Subreddit, what weird lease clauses have you added to your lease based on experience with tenants? And this was one of the responses. We have a clause that we will only pay for a plumber for clogs that are found to be due to the failure of piping, such as roots cracking, et cetera, clogs that are found due to hair, grease, sanitary napkins, or other objects inside will later be billed to the tenant. They’re also not allowed to use Draino or liquid plumber type products. That’s actually a pretty solid lease clause. To be honest with you. I like that one for a variety of reasons. Number one, it addresses clearly what is their landlord’s responsibility, failure of a pipe roots cracking, things like that. What is the tenant’s responsibility clogs found due to the hair, grease, sanitary, napkins, other objects.
Andrew Schultz: (17:08)
And it also gives an instruction not to use Draino or liquid plumber. That’s a good idea because if you have older cast iron drain pipes, a lot of times it will eat right through. And if you have newer PVC, it can do the exact same. It’s just one of those things where, you know, try to avoid using Draino and liquid plumber type products whenever possible. You’re better off running a snake down through because a lot of times you’re going to be able to get that clog out with the snake without causing damage to your lines versus the Draino or the liquid plumber, which could sit and eat through a PVC. You know, if you leave it sitting in like a PVC P trap or something like that, it’ll eat right through there. And if you have a thin wall on an existing, like a cast iron drainpipe, we see a lot of cast iron here in the city of Buffalo.
Andrew Schultz: (17:52)
Again, it can eat right through if you’ve got drain or a liquid plumber type product. That’s not to say that a snake is not going to go through a thin wall on a pipe either. You know, realistically speaking, if you’ve got a situation where a pipe has thinned out just from use and corrosion over the years, it’s time to replace that pipe. This is a good lease clause. It clearly delineates who’s responsible for what it also clearly delineates that if a tenant causes a clog, that they’re responsible for making sure that that clog is taken care of. I went ahead and pulled our plumbing clause out of our lease as well. And I’ll go ahead and read that for you. Now, tenant agrees not to put or pour any debris grease paper towels, Q-tips tampons, newspaper, food, or any other matter in the sink drain or toilets tenant agrees to pay the entire amount on bills for all sewer cleaning services resulting from clogged pipes or sewer backup.
Andrew Schultz: (18:44)
This actually also includes some information on electrical smoke detectors, carbon monoxide detectors in furnace. I’m gonna actually read the whole thing. It’s a pretty good clause. A tenant must not overload electrical circuits. Only two electrical operated items may be plugged into any electrical receptacle. The apartment has a smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector in working condition. And if it is battery operated, the tenant agrees at their own expense to replace the battery. To keep the detector in working condition. Tenant will notify management. If the smoke or carbon monoxide detector is not working or for any reason, other than a dead battery, the apartment has a furnace in working condition. If the furnace has forced air tenant is responsible for replacing air filters with appropriately sized filters. Once every three months, if the furnace has high efficiency or side venting tenant is responsible from keeping objects, snow, and debris from the air intakes and vent areas, a buildup of snow debris or objects can lead to the furnace producing carbon monoxide, a colorless odorless gas, which can be fatal.
Andrew Schultz: (19:43)
So we kind of cover a little bit more in that clause on our lease, but we definitely make sure that we cover the fact that tenants are responsible for making sure that the plumbing doesn’t wind up clogged by their own means. And it does state that if the tenant does cause damage, or we have to send a plumber and it’s as a result of something that they did, that they’re going to get charged for, that plumber’s visit. So those are the two key things to have in the clause. Number one, what the tenant shouldn’t put down the drains, and number two, what’s the tenant’s responsibility. If they do put something down the drains that doesn’t belong and it causes an issue. So that pretty much wraps things up for this week, but there’s always more to check out if you’re looking to find me head on over to own buffalo.com for links to all of our social media, our YouTube pages, and our Facebook pages are where we post the majority of our content. If you’re looking for a tenant screening services, you can head on over to rentprep.com and check them out. And don’t forget to check out the best free landlording resource on the internet, the RentPrep for Landlords Facebook group. This is a private group for landlords and property managers with just shy of 12,000 members. Right now, you could find that group over at facebook.com/groups/rentprep. Thank you so much for listening. We really do appreciate it until next week. I’m Andrew Schultz with Own Buffalo for rentprep.com, and we’ll see you next week.