It can be a huge relief to finally get your rental property ready to list and rent. It doesn’t matter if it has taken weeks or months to get to this point, you are ready to be done and get a new tenant into the property to pay the rent.
You craft the perfect rental listing ad, create an informational flier and get ready to get phone calls about the property.
Somewhere out there, someone sees your great listing online and steals it. They usually take the entire ad, lower the price and re-list it under their name. They start getting calls about the rental property instead of you.
This person usually uses a burner phone or better yet, only communicates via text or email. They tell the interested renter some story about how the previous tenant moved out and didn’t leave a key. The person who stole your listing tells the interested people to go drive by the house and see if they like it. If they do, this scammer tells them he will hire a locksmith to get them into the property once they sign the lease, wire the full security deposit and first month’s rent to them.
Some would be renters are smart and don’t fall for this. Other would be renters are desperate to find a place to live and don’t question it. They follow the directions of the scammer and unless you catch them in time, they move into YOUR property!
I personally know 4 landlords that this has happened to and I have heard of countless other landlords who fell victim to these scammers. These landlords are then left with someone who has moved into their property and they don’t have a lease with these people or the money the tenant paid to the scammer. The rental amount is usually about half of what the actual rent was and the people who moved in usually can’t afford the higher rent. Often, they have bad credit too.
The tenants who have been scammed don’t want to move because they signed a lease and paid the money to move in. If you are lucky, you can work something out with these tenants but that is usually not the case. Assuming you can’t work something out, the only recourse the landlord has it to take them to court and have them evicted. This takes time and there is no way to make these tenants pay you.
Tips To Prevent This From Happening To You
Over the years, I have had several of my listings stolen. It is very frustrating to say the least! But, luckily, I have never personally had to deal with someone who has actually moved into my listed property.
I got very pro-active and started making sure that the company name and all of my contact information is left all over the house.
Create an information flier with company name, my name and all contact information.
Tape my business card by every flier on the doors and windows.
Also tape this information flier to every door and several windows on the inside of the house.
Leave a stack of information fliers and business cards on the kitchen and bathroom counters.
Leave business cards in a couple of the kitchen drawers and cabinets.
State that the locks are not to be changed!
This so far, has stopped my listings from being stolen. I have received calls from a lot of interested people who said they talked, texted or emailed with so and so about this house (not me). They were told to go to the house and look around to see if they liked it. If they did, that person would get the lease to them. Usually, they were told the landlord was out of state so couldn’t be there to meet them personally.
Imagine their surprise when they show up and see the fliers all over the property. It also lists the correct rent amount so they call me, shocked that the price has usually doubled! Most of them are grateful that they didn’t get caught in this trap. Some try to negotiate the rental price down. Every so often someone is angry that they were mislead and they direct that anger at me!
However, because I had clearly stated who was renting the property and how to contact me, none of them signed the bogus lease and paid fees to someone who wasn’t me!
Also, my hope is that if a locksmith showed up to change the locks, they would call me before actually changing the locks. I make sure that the flier states that the locks are not to be changed.
These are some simple tips to help lower the chance that your rental listing will be stolen and rented to someone you did not approve.
There are no winners in a situation like these. Even the tenants have been scammed. They should have know that something that seemed to good to be true was too good to be true. But many of them are just too desperate to find a place to live and over look the weird vibes. Also, the scammers are usually very practiced and skilled at presenting a believable story.
I would be interested to hear if you all have any tips for helping to stop a listing from being stolen. Or, if you have become a victim to a situation like this, how did it turn out?
A rental income guideline is imperative for every landlord to have. Have you ever talked to a prospect and just loved them! They seem to check all of the rental criteria guidelines but one – the MOST important one.
The one guideline they don’t meet is the rental income guideline which is having income of 3x the rent.
For me, this is a Pass – Fail question. There is no wiggle room. If this prospect does not meet my income requirement of 3x the rent, I will disqualify this person.
Are you still with me? Yes, I know that it is pretty easy to sit here right now and tell you that. It seems drop dead easy to say and many of you may agree with me.
But, I am the first to admit that it can be really difficult to turn down a great prospect who doesn’t have the right income. If you are lucky enough to run across a prospect who is great in every way but the income requirement, you may be very tempted to just go ahead and rent to this prospect.
I mean after all, they are awesome! How can you turn someone like this down?
My response is, very easily.(and yours should be the same by the way).
You may think you are doing this prospect a favor by renting to them but you are not! By renting to someone who doesn’t meet the income qualification, you are basically taking away their financial stability.
Cost To Live
Every prospect needs a certain amount of money to live on every single month. You will quickly find that many of them do not know how much their lives cost on a monthly basis. Your rental income guideline can help them not make a terrible mistake. They may be doing great right now and seem worth taking a risk on. But when you add the rent, you may be sinking their financial boat and yours as well, because you all are now linked together.
Imagine you meet them and their financial history is like a well balance boat. What happens when you add too many bricks to that boat? It will get lower and lower in the water and will eventually sink. That is what will happen with someone that you approve when they don’t have income of 3x the rent. Their boat may float along just great for a little while but will eventually end up under water. These tenants will have been set up to fail.
Where Is The Cut Off?
The problem is, if you make an exception, where is the cut off? I have this discussion all the time with landlords who say, well, this prospect is only $25 short, $50 short, $100 short, etc. Again you already have a rental income guideline and if the applicant doesn’t meet it, where do you draw the line and tell this person that they don’t qualify? Is it $25, $50, $100 etc.?
Keep in mind that I manage a lot of properties and in some I have “inherited” the tenants. I have had tenants tell me that they can’t drive to my office because they only have $25 or $35 or $50 and they can’t afford to put gas in their vehicle until they get paid.
What seems like a minor amount of money to you, may mean the difference in a prospect eating or not.
Co-Signer And The Rental Income Guideline?
You may say well, what about a co-signer? My response is going to be that a co-signer doesn’t help someone pay. A co-signer is not going to guarantee that the person you rented to has enough money that month to cover the rent and all of the other expenses.
The co-signer is the fall back person when when your tenant doesn’t pay and you have another person to collect from. This person is really just an emergency back up plan. The co-signer is most likely not planning on chipping in on the rent every month to make up the deficit. Leases don’t really work that way.
Unless you are going to put in your lease that:
Rent is $1,000.
Tenant will pay $950 each month.
Co-signer will pay $50 each month.
How many co-signers do you think will agree to this? I would wager that not many will. A co-signer doesn’t benefit the tenant when this person doesn’t have enough money to pay the rent every month. A co-signer doesn’t help your applicant meet your rental income guideline.
A co-signer is not really an option for someone who doesn’t make enough money.
Life Happens – Even After This Tenant Moves In
You have rental income guidelines for a reason. Stop and consider what would happen if this prospect wrecks a car, buys a new(er) car, has some hospital bills, etc. All normal things that happen in every day life. This prospect’s income deficit will only increase. When that happens, do you think you will get paid in full and on time every month?
When that happens, it is the landlords fault. You – the landlord – have set this person up to fail. It may happen sooner or it may happen later but it will most likely happen.
This is not a rule that I will bend because it is not in the best interest of the prospect and it is also not in my best interests.
Remember that your decisions affect not just your life, but the lives of the people you either rent to or turn down.
Sometimes the kindest and best thing you can do is to tell this person that they are great, their credit is great, their job is great but they just don’t have the income and you can’t rent to them right now.
Memorize these words and use them often. “Company policy” requires income of 3x the rent.”
You can add any other words that you desire for empathy.
“I am very sorry, but your income is not quite 3x the rent and company policy requires that. “
“I am sorry but the income requirement is company policy I can’t make any exceptions.”
Remind them that it is in their best interests. I have had cases in the past where I was able to switch this person to another property. Then, down the road, when they earned more money, I was able to move them into a bigger property.
Your job is to put a tenant in the property who can pay the rent on time, every month in full. That isn’t going to reliably happen when someone doesn’t meet the very basic income requirement
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Tenants who pay late are very common. If you are lucky, they call you and explain why they are paying late. Other tenants don’t bother to let you know and just randomly pay.
These late paying tenants are a serious problem if you count on the rent money to pay your mortgage. Even if you don’t depend on the rent money to pay any bills, it is very annoying when your tenant continually pays rent late.
Procedure For Handling Late Paying Tenants
Unfortunately, you cannot force anyone to pay. You need to fall back on your procedures for ensuring that the tenant knows what happens next.
Always send out the appropriate late notice. Know the laws in your area. Be sure and consult with an eviction attorney so that you can give the proper notice to your tenant. I live in Louisville, KY and we send a 7 day notice that basically says pay or get out.
Once notice arrives, the tenant will usually touch base with me. If this tenant has already called, this person was warned that they would be receiving the 7 day notice. I do occasionally run across a tenant who is offended that I won’t just “trust” them to pay the rent as soon as they can. I explain that company policy require me to send a 7 day notice to every tenant who has not paid on or before the 5th day. We have a 5 day grace period.
The late notice should list the past due rent and any late fees. I have a $50 charge on the 6th and $5 per day after that. So, if the tenant pays on the 10th and their rent is $1,000, the tenant would owe $1,065. I don’t charge for the actual day they pay. It is in your best interests to insist that the late fees are paid along with the rent. There are times that I will allow a payment plan, especially if the late fees are high. For example, if the tenant paid rent on the 25th day of the month, late fees would be $140. Many tenants won’t have that much extra money. But, I only allow it to be split in half.
The main issue is that when a tenant pays this late in the month, the chances that they will pay late the following month increase dramatically. Then you are on the path of a tenant who pays chronically late and can’t afford the late fees. At some point, this has to stop and the tenant needs to move. I usually sit down with the tenant and try to get them to move out but I will evict them if I have to. It is much easier and cheaper to get them to willingly move. Not every tenant will be agreeable to just moving but it is what I try first.
Always Pays Late But Pays Balance In Full
I have a couple of tenants who pay late roughly 5 or 6 months out of 12. For one of them, I moved the rent due date because she went on disability and SSI and her payment often didn’t arrive until the 10th or the 11th of the month. She was never going to get caught up and it was just easier to move her due date.
For the other tenants, they randomly just pay late and they always pay the late fees. While this is annoying because I still send the 7 day letters every single month, they always pay the late fees and they never complain about paying them. The company makes more money every month and for now, it seems to be working.
Improved Screening Of Applicants
This issue drives me crazy. I did a review of these tenants to see if I could have spotted these issues during the application process. There were no red flags during the application process that I could find. I always send over a questionnaire for the previous landlord to fill out and none of them flagged these tenants as late payers. It is possible that the landlords just wanted to get rid of these tenants and didn’t say anything.
One thing that stood out on two of them is that while they met the income requirement of 3x the rent, they had no extra money. One tenant ended up losing their job and the new job didn’t pay as much. There was no way to predict that this would happen.
Another tenant had a lot of student loans that they started paying on which reduced their spendable income. Very few landlords count student loans or medical bills but I have started to see some issues with this. Remember, at some point they will have to start making payments on their student loans and those payments can be quite high. In many cases, those monthly payments will cause the tenant to not meet the debt to income ratio. You need to have a process for considering student loans because it can significantly reduce your tenants monthly income.
3 Strikes Rule
Many landlords I know have what I call a 3 strikes rule. Typically, they only allow 2 late pays or 2 eviction filings per year before they move to evict. Once the tenant pays late the third time or has an eviction filed against them for the third time, the landlord will no longer accept the rent. The landlord will move to evict these problem tenants.
I personally don’t have this rule because it is very costly to turn a house and get it ready to rent again. I work with the tenant within reason. I follow the process but if the tenant comes up with the money for the past due rent, the late fees and the court fees, I will accept the money. This is strictly a business decision on my part.
Neither way is wrong and you will need to decide what works for you.
Follow Your Procedures
Late paying tenants seems to be one of the top problems that landlords have. When you have this issue, have procedures in place and follow them.
Spell out in the lease what happens when a tenant pays late and follow through.
Send the late pay letter and charge late fees.
Be prepared to file an eviction against them.
Decide at what point you will no longer accept payments.
How many late pays or eviction filings will you allow?
Following Your Procedures Makes For Better Tenants
The most important thing to always remember is that you are setting expectations for your tenants. When you follow your procedures every single time, they know what to expect. If you don’t follow your procedures every time, you are teaching your tenants that it is ok to pay late. Why should your tenant pay on time every month if you don’t charge late fees or you never start the eviction process by sending out a late notice?
It is your job to make sure this tenant stays on track. It is my belief that bad paying tenants are created in part by landlords who don’t enforce their rules. These tenants never learn that they have to follow the rules.
When you have rental properties, there are certain rules that your tenants are expected to follow. Rules are great but they only work if you enforce them. For me, this process actually starts in the pre-screening phase. I look for a prospect who can follow directions and provide the information that I ask for. Prospects who cannot follow simple rules do not make it past the pre-screening stage.
Once you convert an applicant to a tenant, it becomes even more important to have tenant rules. Tenants have the right to know exactly what to expect and what they can and cannot do. Your lease should outline their rights and responsibilities as well as what happens when the rules are broken. Treat them like employees. When you start a new job, there is typically an onboarding process. You should give your tenant the same experience.
Common Tenant Rules
There are some common tenant rules that you need to explain and enforce. A good lease will save you a lot of trouble. Just be sure that you go over the lease with your new tenant. Anytime the rules are broken, refer your tenant back to the lease.
Rent due date.
Date late fees start to accrue.
Date the eviction process starts.
Move out policy
Conditions that will cause the security deposit to be forfeited.
Keep the grass cut.
Take care of the property.
These are just a few of the common rules you need to address in the lease. For example, if you give a grace period on the rent due date, be sure that you always send the appropriate notice when the rent is not received on time. Here, it is a 7 day letter that starts the eviction process. The tenants receive a certified letter and are told that they have 7 days to pay the rent. When they don’t pay the rent within that time frame, I can send this to the eviction attorney to start the process of removing this tenant. Your tenants must know that there are repercussions when they don’t do what they are supposed to do.
Enforcing Tenant Rules
This is a business and when your tenant doesn’t follow the rules you, as the landlord, need to be prepared to follow through. If you are not consistent and fair with every tenant, you will start to run into problems. Have procedures and follow them every time. Once you start making exceptions, your tenants will notice immediately and your problems will only multiply.
When you start feeling sorry for a tenant, remember that your rental property is an asset and this is your business.
Your tenants have been given rules and you need to demonstrate that you expect them to be followed every single time. Tenants who will not or cannot follow the rules need to understand what will happen. For example, when rent is paid late, there is a late fee and it must be paid. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to continually waive late fees. They learn that it is ok to pay late.
Start off the way you intend to continue. Failing to enforce your rules sets a bad example and will they will never learn to be great tenants.
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Hearing that your tenant can’t pay rent is something that no landlord wants to hear. You are a landlord and you hope that your tenants will pay their rent each and every month, in full and on time.
The reality is that most of your tenants will pay their rent on time. But, even if you have GREAT tenants, at some point in time, someone will not be able to pay their rent for whatever reason.
[ctt template=”5″ link=”4EevH” via=”no” ]Regardless of what the situation is, you need to follow your eviction procedures. [/ctt]
Tenant Can’t Pay Rent Excuses
As a landlord, you will hear lots of different excuses but the most common ones are:
Lost a job
Laid off from a job
Too sick to go to job
Car broke down and couldn’t go to work
Someone died and I had to pay for the funeral
What Does That Mean?
If you are lucky, the excuse you are given is any of the above EXCEPT “I lost my job”. Once your tenant loses his job, that means he isn’t getting paid. Even if he gets a job right away, you won’t get paid for at least two weeks.
The other situations mean money will still be coming into their household and they should be able to get caught up much more quickly.
What Should You Do?
Regardless of what the situation is, you need to follow your eviction procedures as soon as your tenant says I can’t pay rent this month. Even if your tenant says he will pay on the 14th, it is still very late. You need to know what steps you need to take and that can vary by state.
Send the 7 day letter
Get a court date
File the eviction
Schedule the set out
Perform the set out
7 Day Letter
If you live in Kentucky, the first thing you do is send a 7 day letter that basically says “Pay or get out”. You can send this letter on the 2nd day of the month if you wish or you can give the tenant a couple of days to get rent paid.
Get A Court Date
The 7 day letter is so named because 7 days after you send this letter, you can call your eviction attorney and start the second step of the eviction process. You use the day the letter is sent as Day 1.
At the court date, your attorney or you, will attend and possibly your tenant. If your tenant does show, he or she will be asked if they owe the money and if they plan to pay. If the tenant can’t pay rent at that time, the judge will advise him that he has 8 days to pay you the rent and fees owed or get out.
File The Eviction
On the 8th day after you have been to court, you can call your attorney to get the ball rolling to schedule the eviction. Either you or your attorney will get the paperwork to the sheriff and once they have it, they can proceed to the next step.
Schedule The Set Out
You can get a set out date once the sheriff has the paperwork which can take anywhere from one week to several weeks depending on how busy it is. They will post a “scare notice” that basically tells them they have a day or two to get out but in reality, they actual date will be several days or a week out.
Set Out Day
When you schedule the set out, the sheriff will tell you how many people you must have present at the property to move the people out. If you show up without them, they will leave. The sheriff’s are there to enforce the set out order and to protect you. They are not there to help you move all of the tenant’s stuff out of the rental unit.
Know The Law
This is how the process works in Kentucky. You MUST be familiar with the laws in your area so that when a tenant can’t pay rent, you will know what to do. I strongly recommend contacting an attorney and having them detail the process for you.
Evicting a tenant is never a fun process. We will discuss some ways to avoid a set out in a future article.
Most Unique Excuse For Not Paying Rent
I was in a train rech so I have been down. Am sending you $235 and I will have the rest by August 18, 2015 plus the late fees. I will contact you or you can contact me.?”