Q: For the past 20 years I have been buying and managing rental homes and I have to say that these days tenants are worse than I have ever experienced.
Qualified tenants with a stable rental history and good, reliable income are in high demand and can actually find landlords competing for them. I have even seen some tenants who have a resume or reference list that they bring with them that demonstrates to the landlord that they are qualified.
In these situations, you may find that you need to be flexible with your rental rates or upgrade your rental homes so they are more desirable than other comparable properties in your area.
As for the collection of delinquent tenant balances, I cannot recommend a specific company but I can tell you what you should do. Contact your local apartment association or Institute of Real Estate Management (IREM) chapter and ask them for names of companies in your area. Then contact those companies, and then ask for and contact their references.
While the pricing of collection services will vary, they are often quoted on a percentage of the collected amount.
The other key recommendation is that delinquent account balances become much harder to collect over time so the sooner you get the paperwork into the hands of your collection agent the better the results.
Another tip is to be sure to file a small claims suit and get a judgment for the money owed, which can be collected in the future as long as the tenant doesn’t file bankruptcy and get your judgment set aside or discharged. This can be your best strategy because while your former tenant may be down on his luck today, I have had tenants call out of the blue asking to pay everything they owe because they are trying to borrow money for a major purchase and need to get the judgment removed from their credit report.
This may be five to 10 years from now, but most people bounce back from financial problems and they will need to pay you in full in order to get a loan to buy a car or a house. While you would prefer your money today, there is still some satisfaction, and the cash will come in handy regardless of when you ultimately collect.
This column on issues confronting tenants and landlords is written by property manager Robert Griswold, author of “Property Management for Dummies” and “Property Management Kit for Dummies” and co-author of “Real Estate Investing for Dummies.”
E-mail your questions to Rental Q&A at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions should be brief and cannot be answered individually.
Copyright 2009 Inman News
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