E-Renter Tenant Screening News

What Your Tenants Might Be Doing

house-questionRenting property involves a degree of trust, it’s true. Regardless of the language in your Lease Agreement, once you hand over the keys to your tenant, they’ve got the run of the place. However, this does not mean you shouldn’t spend a bit of your time checking up on your units and how they are being used. With more and more stories in the news about tenants who started an animal rescue in their landlord’s property and rent-stabilized tenants who sublet their apartment via AirBNB for high profit, it pays to be a little paranoid about what your tenants are doing while they are renting your home.  Here are some tips for finding out if anything is happening that you don’t allow:

  1. Google your property address.  This may seem a little strange, but if your tenant is running a business out of the home that may break terms outlined in your Lease Agreement (such as subletting or selling food items not made in a commercial kitchen or breeding animals, etc), you may come across a posting online where the tenant has advertised the location, or where one of their customers mentions it.  Periodically searching the Internet for the address of your property may turn up these types of activities.
  2. Talk to the neighbors.  In general, if you are going to be renting a property, it doesn’t hurt to get in touch with the neighbors next door.  First, it is an opportunity to let them know that you will be responsive if there are any problems with the tenants – you can encourage them to call you and hopefully avoid having them call the cops.  Second, you can ask them to let you know if they see any suspicious activities, such as a frequent change in vehicles (this may indicate subletting), or a large number of daily visitors, or animal sounds, or the sound of power tools, etc.  The neighbors will notice much more quickly than you might if something is amiss.  Keep it light with the neighbors, though – you aren’t creating an elite spy network to keep an eye on your tenants, you just want a little extra security.
  3. Drive by once in a while.  Don’t harass your tenants, but taking a quick drive by every so often is another good way to tell if anything is out of sorts.

In any of these scenarios, don’t immediately assume the worst if something is off.  Sometimes there’s an easy explanation that involves no fault from the tenant.  Instead, send them an email mentioning the info and asking if they could tell you a little more about what is happening.  In some cases, the tenant may truly have not been aware they weren’t allowed to do something, and a short conversation may end the issue immediately.  If, however, they have damaged the property or try to hide something from you, you may have a larger problem on your hands.  It is also important to ensure your Lease Agreement clearly outlines what types of activity are allowed on the property.  In general, there are no laws that overtly prevent a tenant from starting an animal rescue in a rental or subletting their apartment on AirBNB.  However, you are allowed to set parameters that are appropriate for you to protect your unit.  If you find yourself in a situation where the tenant is doing something you don’t want in the house but isn’t technically illegal, that Lease Agreement will be your only aid in taking action.

How Can I Prevent This?

Screening your tenants with a comprehensive background and credit check is the best and probably they ONLY way to reduce the likelihood that your tenant will do something with your property that is not allowed.  Ensuring your background check includes any previous evictions, judgements, or liens will help you know if they’ve run into trouble in the past with other landlords.

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