The first steps in getting a vacant or soon-to-be-vacant property occupied are screening for tenants and showing the property. How successful you'll be in acquiring a new renter depends on your ability to make a good impression as a property manager and landlord. A good showing will allow your unit to speak for itself and convince your applicant that it's a worthy home for her.
Before showing the unit, walk through each room and put yourself in the shoes of a potential tenant. Make sure the unit smells pleasant and the exterior has curb appeal. Remove any unnecessary trash or clutter, and keep your landscaping trim and neat. Freshly paint any rooms or walls that seem lackluster or need freshening up. Clean all windows and replace any broken panes or worn doorknobs. Clean or replace the existing carpet if necessary and make any outstanding repairs.
If the property is occupied, you'll want to coordinate convenient times with the existing tenant and ask for cooperation during this time. Disgruntle tenants may be less compliant, but all tenants are legally obligated to let you show the property if stated in the rental agreement. As long as you and the tenant can agree upon reasonable times and you give him at least 24 hours notice, you will be within your legal right as the property owner. In scheduling showing times with an applicant, try to be flexible. This is his first interaction with you and will shape how he thinks of you as a property manager and landlord.
While it's necessary and acceptable to ask probing questions about the potential tenant, there are certain questions you may not ask if they violate the Fair Housing Act. Asking the wrong question and denying an applicant could result in him filing a discrimination suit against you. Over the phone, refrain from asking questions about his race, age of children, disabilities, religion or marital status. In person, also refrain from showing gender bias or asking questions about the age of children, marital status or disability status. Allow and encourage the applicant to ask questions of you as well.
If it was not previously discussed, disclose the monthly rent, security deposit and any non-refundable pre-screening or credit check fee. Discuss the rental agreement and lease options. Give the applicant a rental application noting areas where he should list references, current employment and previous landlords.
Disclose any outstanding repairs to the potential tenant. In some states you are required to provide a list to the applicant. Make the applicant feel welcome and free to move about the apartment inspecting it for functionality and condition. Disclose how utilities are metered and what utilities the tenant will be responsible for.
- MSN Real Estate: 5 Steps To Renting Out Your Home
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development: Fair Housing - It's Your Right
- NOLO: State Rules on When and How Landlords May Enter Rental Property
- The Landlord Protection Agency: How to Screen Tenants in 5 Easy Steps
- Propertyware: How to Show a Rental Unit and Handle the Prospects
- Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection
Monica Dillon has more than 10 years experience in real estate sales, marketing, investing and appraising. She specializes in energy efficiency building practices and renewable energy. Dillon has been syndicated by the National Newspaper Publisher's Association. Her work has also appeared in the "Journal Of Progressive Human Services."