It is a typical scenario for the summer months: whether the property is a cottage or condo in a popular summer tourist town or just an apartment on a college campus, rentals and sublets are incredibly common during the year’s warmest period. Renting out your space is a great way to earn some extra cash in the summer or to avoid paying rent on a property where you do not plan to spend much time for a few months. However, people who rent out their spaces for the summer are often not terribly experienced in playing landlord, which can create some pretty sizable pitfalls for those who aren’t careful.
There are a few different reasons why people who rent their apartments or condos out during the summer might not have a firm handle on how to go about finding reputable tenants. College students, for instance, often sublet their rooms in their summer because they want to spend the season away from campus and don’t want to have to worry about paying rent. In this situation, the students are understandable novices in the realm of tenant screening, simply because they’ve never done it before. Similarly, people who own attractive vacation properties like condos or cottages probably bought them for personal use. Those same owners may eventually decide to rent out their properties to earn or save money, but that does not mean they’ve read the landlord rulebook.
However, if you are going to rent or lease your property during the summer months, there are a few rules to live by.
1. Beware of Scams:Inexperienced landlords are among the biggest targets for scammers, so be cautious and vigilant as you search for summer to rent or lease your space. For instance, if you post information about your rental on a site like Craigslist, know that you are going to have to wade through much spam and potentially malicious inquiries to find someone honest and reputable.
A popular rental scam involves people who troll Craigslist looking for properties or rooms for rent or sublease. These people forge contact, say they want to pre-pay rent costs for several months, and then send a check that is more than enough to cover the costs. Their goal is to get you to deposit the check and then send the excess cash back to them via Moneygram or Western Union. Tip: the check is bogus and will eventually bounce, and if you send payment to these scammers through a wire service, you’ll end up paying that amount out of pocket, with no way to trace the culprit.
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The best way to avoid these scams is that normal, honest people are not willing to pay rent money for a property sight unseen. Genuine renters will want to see the apartment, condo, or cottage and meet you in person before paying a dollar of rent money.
2. Check backgrounds: To answer the question posed by the title of this album, yes, you absolutely should look into the background of your prospective tenants before entering into a rental or leasing agreement with them. From criminal history checks to credit screenings, you can learn a lot about a tenant from simply taking a glance into their background. For instance, the presence of violent criminal convictions on a prospective tenant’s record can tip you off to the fact that that person might be dangerous to either you or any other renters you might have. Similarly, a history of financial struggles can let you know that the tenant you are considering might not be the most reliable person in the world for making rental payments on time (or at all). Both types of red flags can save you a lot of headache down the road, so taking the time to dig them up is worth it – even if you are just looking for a three-month summer renter.
3. Don’t forget about rental history: A background check for a prospective tenant is not the same as a background check for a job. Where employers focus mostly on criminal history, rental history is equally important for current or would-be landlords. You want to know how your prospective renter interacts with landlords and fellow tenants, how they handles rental payments, whether or not they have caused damage to any of the properties they’ve rented in the past, and whether or not they have a history of evictions. You can find out most of this by seeking out references from the tenant and contacting previous landlords or roommates.
If you can get an old landlord on the phone, make the most of the conversation, because they could end up being the most enlightening source of information you can find on your new tenant. Very few landlords will mince words when talking about former tenants, so warnings and bad reviews should be heeded and taken into account. On the other hand, a tenant who is endlessly praised by a former landlord for being respectful and friendly is someone you should want to have in your condo or apartment.
4. Do an interview: Background checks and rental history inquiries can teach you a lot, but when it comes to figuring out whether you can trust and feel comfortable with a tenant, a face-to-face interview is irreplaceable. Remember that you are entrusting your property to this person for the summer. So ultimately, one of the most important things is finding someone who you can be friendly with, who you can trust, who will pay rent in a timely fashion, and who will leave your space better than how they found it. Your gut feeling can give you a “yes” or “no” answer on all of those qualities during an hour-long in-person meeting.
Even if you are just renting out your condo or cottage for the summer, it is still worth it to your assets and your peace of mind to be vigilant with background checks and tenant interviews. These steps might add extra time to the tenant screening process, but in the long run, you’ll be happy you took that time.