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Rent it Right

by Janet Portman, Inman News

Q: We hired a management company to find tenants and collect rent at our rental in a nearby town.

Over the past two years we’ve had four sets of tenants; one broke the lease and we had to file evictions on two of Abacusthem. The property is nice though the market is cool now.

We’re tired of the fast turnover — are we or the management company doing anything wrong? –Jose M.

A: It sounds like the company is filling your property too quickly, perhaps without taking the time to properly screen applicants. A management company will be tempted to find tenants fast because it gets a cut of every monthly rent check: The sooner it’s rented, the sooner the checks come rolling in.

In addition, the company gets a fee every time it has to show and rent the property. It doesn’t take a genius to see that frequent turnovers and minimal vacant months are in the management company’s best interests. If an eviction is necessary, you’ll pay the company extra to handle it (of course, you’ll pay a lawyer, too, but the management company won’t usually have any legal expenses).

Balance those interests against yours. You want minimal turnover and you want stable tenants whom you won’t have to evict. Those needs translate into patient, thorough tenant screening and the willingness to go without a tenant for a month or two or three until the right prospect comes along.

True, you’ll be losing rent, but that lost rent will pale when compared to another round of turnover costs a few months down the line, let alone the cost of an eviction. But your management company has no incentive to wait it out — instead, they’ll be anxious to place a tenant and begin taking a cut of your rent.

Truly professional companies recognize that the temptation to quickly rent a place with minimal screening is not ethical. Practically speaking, too, such practices will not enhance their reputation. In the long run, they’ll become known as outfits that don’t deliver quality tenants for their owners. Maybe it’s time that you switched management companies.

Talk to other landlords and find out who has had a good experience. The number of evictions they’ve had to file and whether they’ve had hassle-free tenants will tell the whole story.

Janet Portman is an attorney and managing editor at Nolo. She specializes in landlord/tenant law and is co-author of “Every Landlord’s Legal Guide” and “Every Tenant’s Legal Guide.” She can be reached at 2009 Janet Portman

See Janet Portman’s feature, How to Negotiate a Lease Buyout.
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