Landlord Advice, Property Manager Advice, Tenant Screening

Common Questions from Savvy Renters

There are many articles and blog posts addressing the types of questions landlords should (and should not) ask prospective tenants. But renters will have questions of their own. Landlords can avoid being caught off guard by preparing answers to the following common questions from renters.

“How long is the lease?”

Landlords will want to consider what lease terms they are comfortable offering tenants. For example, some landlords may offer month-to-month leases because the unit is in high demand and will be easy to rent again – perhaps at a higher rate. However, other landlords may prefer a long-term tenant and require a year-long lease at a minimum. The lease terms will depend on the individual property. Keep in mind that flexible lease terms may help attract more tenants.

Before they are ready to sign a lease agreement, tenants will want to understand the answers to these common questions.

“Will I get my security deposit back?”

Be prepared to conduct a thorough walk through of the unit at the beginning of the lease. Be clear about expectations for vacating the unit at the end of the lease. Communicate any charges that may be deducted from the deposit and the types of damage tenants should be aware of. Think about distinctions between normal wear and tear versus neglect or damage. Take photos of the unit – they will last longer than your memory!

“What happens if I need to break my lease early?”

Landlords should consider what penalties – if any – will be charged to tenants for breaking the lease and associated timelines to notify and vacate the unit. For example, tenants may be required to give at least 30 days’ notice before the lease term can be ended. Landlords will want to make consequences for breaking a lease clear in the rental agreement. When in doubt, consult a lawyer and be sure to screen your tenants ahead of time.

“Can I make changes to the unit?”

Landlords should consider what changes to the unit, if any, are allowed. For example, a simple but popular change would be painting the walls. If painting is allowed, the landlord should communicate if the tenants will be required to re-paint the walls in the original colors before vacating the unit. Landlords should also consider the consequences for tenants who make unauthorized changes to the unit.

Television is king! Tenants will want to know how to install cable and/or satellite TV subscriptions.

“Is the unit cable ready?”

Perhaps the unit is cable ready – but only in certain rooms. Landlords should consider whether they will authorize installation of additional jacks – and if so, who will cover the installation costs. Tenants may also inquire about installation of satellite TV.

“How do I request maintenance to the unit?”

A clear communication system should be in place for tenants to request both routine and emergency maintenance. If there is a gushing water main leak at 2AM, both tenant and landlord will want a plan in place to limit the damage. Landlords should plan ahead to mitigate the stress of an unexpected major repair that occurs after business hours. Landlords should also communicate what issues they expect to be reported right away by tenants. For example: water leaks, mold, or electrical problems should all be reported immediately.

With a little preparation, answering renters’ questions will be a breeze. What kinds of questions have you encountered from would-be tenants? Share your experience in the comments!

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