How Landlords Keep Things Simple

When things are going well between landlords and tenants, there’s no need to bring in a third party. No renters want to report their landlord, but many have to file a report with a state agency for one reason or another.

Landlords can do their part by keeping things as simple and uncomplicated as possible. A landlord who operates in a straightforward manner is less likely to run into trouble than one who makes things difficult for no apparent reason. Here are three ways that a landlord can simplify things for both parties.

Make paperwork easy

If landlords had access to a genie, they’d probably ask for the perfect tenant to appear magically in front of them, with no paperwork or background checks necessary. While genies aren’t real, it is possible to offer prospective tenants a simple rental application that doesn’t make their life any more difficult than necessary. A simple rental application is one that’s free for you, the landlord, to provide. It sets things like a background check and credit check in motion without you having to perform a lot of additional labor.

For tenants, filling out a rental application is a lot like filling out a job application, in the sense that most people fill out multiple applications at the same time. Very few people look at either a job posting or apartment listing and decide to put all their eggs in that particular basket. Instead, they’re filling out three or four or five or even ten applications, depending on how that particular market is. A long, arduous application which repeats itself and demands a lot of unnecessary information will make it more likely that some applicants just give up halfway through.

Provide only as much info as necessary

Let’s say you run an apartment complex in the Northeast. An ice storm hits, and you need to close part of the parking lot due to hazardous, slippery ice. Tell your tenants that it’s closing without sounding like a meteorologist on The Weather Channel. Don’t start your email to tenants by saying: “On Thursday, a fast-moving cold front hit down and dropped ice on the county.” If they live there, they know what the weather has been like. Get to the heart of the matter as soon as possible and say: “The northern parking lot will be closed starting at 5pm tonight until further notice.”

If possible, you should also let your tenants know when the parking lot will be cleared by plows or de-icers. That may not seem essential to you, but it’s very relevant for the people who fear falling on ice. Generally speaking, property maintenance is the job of the landlord or property management company. You may or may not get sued if someone falls on an icy parking lot, since the rules of premises liability can be complicated. However, there’s no sense risking the safety of your residents just to save a few bucks. Sometimes ice melts in a day or two, but sometimes it can stick around for weeks.

Follow applicable laws

Nothing complicates things like either a major or minor violation of housing laws in your state. As a landlord, you have a lot of power, which is understandable since you own the property. But you don’t have unlimited power. Tenants often have more rights than they realize, and you shouldn’t stomp all over those rights and hope they never find out.

For instance, you have to give proper notice before entering an apartment. The rules are different for an emergency, but make sure you know exactly what does and doesn’t constitute an emergency. A call from your tenant claiming that the person in Apartment E is “up to something” is not an emergency. The law requires you to act reasonably. In the long run, following the relevant rules and regulations is almost always simpler.

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