Bill Gray – The Landlord Doctor

Insider Advice on Collecting Tenant Debt and Screening Tenants

Posts Tagged ‘Evicted’

Survey Results – Top Ten Reasons Tenants Give for Not Paying Rent

Posted by Bill Gray on March 9, 2010

Recently I was asked to conduct a survey of my blog readers of the reasons and or excuses tenants [tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5Dgive for not paying their rent. 

I have heard countless times from landlords who allowed tenants to pay rent late, only to be burned in the end when the tenant either skips or must be evicted.  This situation usually ends with the landlord being owed several thousands of dollars.   The economy of the last couple years has increased both the percentage of tenants who leave owing a balance, and the average size of the balance owed.

Here are the top ten results from over four hundred responses:

1. Got laid off, fired or my hours got cut.

2. The bank screwed up my account.

3. My paycheck is late.

4. May car broke and it cost a lot to get it fixed.

5. I mailed it today.

6. I have not had time to get a money order.

7. I spent too much on Christmas/birthday presents and don’t have all the rent.

8. My roommate has not given me their half of the rent.

9. Spent the rent on medical bills.

10. My child support or government check is late.

The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed to be legal advice.  Consult a local landlord-tenant attorney to discuss your specific situation.

Email me your tenant screening and tenant debt questions.

Bill Gray

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

www.thelandlorddoctor.com

Tenant Debt & Screening Forum www.theinformedlandlord.com

Copyright 2010 – Click here to reprint/re-post

Share

Advertisements

Posted in Evicted, Landlord, Landlord Tenant, Property Management, Tenant Debt Collections | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Non-Refundable Pet Deposits Can Actually Cost You Money

Posted by Bill Gray on January 31, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DThe way in which you explain, or don’t explain pet deposits can cost you profit.  If landlords could spend just one day as a professional collector attempting to collect tenant debt, one of the top objections they would hear from previous tenants is about pets and pet deposits.

“The urine spots on the carpet are covered by my pet deposit” is one example of a tenant either intentionally or unintentionally misunderstanding the pet deposit.  Many pet deposits are non-refundable.  If this is not fully explained at lease signing, most likely the tenant will believe that the pet deposit is no different than the standard deposit he placed on the rental unit.

Most tenants understand that when they pay a rental deposit any damage they cause to the unit will be deducted at move out from their deposit.  If the non-refundable pet deposit is not fully explained, the tenant considers it the same as the rental deposit.

So when Fido has several accidents and soils the carpet, the tenant often will guesstimate that his pet deposit will cover the cost of cleaning it.  In reality the cleaning cost is deducted from his refundable deposit.  Imagine the difficulty a professional collector has on the telephone trying to explain the difference between a non-refundable pet deposit and refundable rental deposit.

This is not to say that a certain percentage of previous tenants have a convenient memory when it comes to the terms of the lease.  But I do believe that a good share of landlords do not take the time to fully explain the terms.  An initialed and signed pet addendum will go a long way in settling disputes after move out.

Use a clear, understandable pet addendum and explain it clearly before the new tenant initials and signs it.  Doing so will save you profit by reducing tenant debt when the tenant moves out.

Email me your tenant screening and tenant debt questions.

Bill Gray

www.thelandlorddoctor.com

Forum www.theinformedlandlord.com

Copyright 2010 Click here to reprint/re-post

Share

Posted in Landlord, Landlord Tenant, Landlord Tenant Law, Property Management, Tenant Debt Collections | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Incomplete Rental Applications Cost Landlords Profit

Posted by Bill Gray on January 19, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DFinancially, many landlords are shooting themselves in the foot. The application process is normally the first place they do so. Incomplete and inaccurate rental applications cost landlords much needed profit. Nearly 50% of the applications I review are either missing information or are illegible.

Sloppy applications speak negatively about the prospects filling them out, but they say even more about the landlord or property manager who accepts them.  When a landlord accepts an incomplete or illegible application, he or she is telling the applicant, “I don’t care.” Think about what seeds an “I don’t care” attitude plants in the applicant’s head.

If the landlord is not serious about the application and the information which may or may not be in it, what else is he lax with? If he is not serious about the application process, is he serious about the rent being due on the 1st of the month? If the landlord is unprofessional during the application process, is he serious about the prospective tenant taking good care of his rental unit?

The application has several important purposes, all of which rely on it being completed legibly.

Much of the information requested in an application is needed to sufficiently screen the tenant. When I see a sloppy application, my first thought is that the landlord is cutting corners in the screening of potential tenants. By the way, the reason I am called upon to look at the application and file is because the landlord is owed money by the very applicant who submitted a sloppy application. Now, he is turning to me for advice on collecting it. I firmly believe there is a direct correlation between the application/screening process and tenants who leave the property owing an average of $3,500.

The rental application should contain a space for at least one emergency contact.  Completing this section should always be a requirement.  Nobody wants to envision a situation where you need to contact someone in case of an emergency, but if you do, you will have the contact information to do so.

The property manager who is eager to rent seldom considers the last purpose of the rental application. The information on the application is invaluable in the collection process when the tenant is either evicted or abandons the property and the lease. In that case, an incomplete or illegible application makes collecting the debt difficult, if not impossible.

Require that your applicants complete the application in its entirety and legibly.  Doing so will decrease debt and increase profit.

Also see my article, “Don’t Miss an Important Component to Screening New Tenants!

Email me your tenant screening or tenant debt questions.

Bill Gray

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

www.thelandlorddoctor.com

Copyright 2010 Click here to reprint/re-post

Share

Posted in 1, Landlord, Landlord Tenant, Landlord Tenant Law, Property Management, Tenant Debt Collections | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Rising Tenant Debt Challenges in a Down Economy

Posted by Bill Gray on January 6, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DOur country’s current economy has had a severe impact on the real estate and housing market.  The nightly news covers the blight of communities impacted by a high number of foreclosures and the emotional stories of people who are facing such a crisis.  Unemployment, lack of medical insurance, and the credit crunch caused by sub-prime mortgages add to the crisis, making the current real estate market grim.  As a result, the downturn of the economy has also significantly affected landlords and property managers, presenting them with an unprecedented number of challenges.

As ‘The Landlord Doctor,’ I’ve reviewed over 70,000 cases of tenant debt, encompassing more than $200 million dollars.  Every day, I witness the negative impact of our economy on landlords and property managers across the country who seek my advice and instruction in reducing or collecting tenant debt.  As I sit on boards of professional associations and talk to the people who attend my conferences, I’m astounded by the increased spark of questions and concerns raised by landlords because of the economy.

As more people are displaced from their homes, those questions and concerns will continue to rise.  The need for extensive tenant screeningcollect tenant debt will increase as people become victims of the economy, and the need to will be a pressing issue for landlords.  There has already been a tremendous increase in landlords seeking my assistance in these areas, which is why I thought I’d share two common questions which have been posed in the past few months.

“My tenant is three months behind on rent. He’s always been a good tenant, but has lost his job. What should I do?”

First, like you, I sympathize with your tenant’s situation. However, three months is a long time to receive free housing. Remember, while you’re trying to be a nice guy, being a landlord is still a business. My experience shows that once a tenant is allowed to become two months in arrears on their rent, the odds are slim that they will become and stay current. In fact, these tenants usually owe much more than two months rent when they leave. When you first become aware of a change in their financial situation, make it clear that while you empathize with their dilemma, you cannot afford to allow the rent to go unpaid.  Be straightforward from the onset, notifying the tenant that carrying a balance due on rent is not an option. Additionally, a good attorney will advise that past case law has indicated that routinely allowing tenants to pay late sets a precedence which could force you to continue accepting late rent payments. Even worse, allowing one tenant to pay late, while refusing other tenants the same latitude, may cause a Fair Housing lawsuit, as all tenants must be treated equally.

“My tenant skipped out on their lease and damaged my rental. How can I collect what they owe?'”

This situation can be more complex. While it’s certainly something no landlord wants to  encounter, it happens.  Though this situation is more common during tough times, efficient property managers have learned to minimize it by applying good business practices from the time the prospect walks through the door, until he or she moves out of your rental. If it happens, I recommend that you take pictures and document all damages.  Follow your state law regarding proper notification to the tenant about the application of their deposit. Insofar as collecting the debt, you have three options:  1) sue the debtor in small claims court; 2) hire a collection agency (only an agency that specializes in tenant debt), or report the debt to all three credit bureaus and attempt to collect it yourself.

While I know that each of those situations has its own unique set of circumstances, a common theme prevails—an increasing number of landlords and property managers are experiencing a rise in cases of tenant debt.  These new challenges should make us more aware of the need for prevention, education and remedies in screening and the collection of tenant debt.

Use this difficult time to hone your skills as a property manager and your focus on the details. Improve your business practices by making small changes and improvements.  As a result, you’ll decrease incidences of tenant debt and increase your profits.  These are critical areas landlords must address to survive in any economy.

Email me your tenant screening and tenant debt questions.

Bill Gray

www.thelandlorddoctor.com

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

Copyright 2010 Click here to reprint/re-post

Share

Posted in Landlord, Landlord Tenant, Landlord Tenant Law, Property Management, Tenant Debt Collections | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

USA Today – The Landlord Doctor

Posted by Bill Gray on January 4, 2010

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DDecember 30th USA Today published an article titled “Apartment renters win as vacancy rate climbs”, when he wrote the article author Paul Davidson asked me what effect concessions are having on the tenant delinquency rate.  My quote is included in his article.  The bottom line is that concessions may help rent empty units, but tenant debt continues to rise.

Link to Article: “Apartment renters win as vacancy rate climbs”

Bill Gray

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

www.thelandlorddoctor.com

Tenant Debt & Screening Forum www.theinformedlandlord.com

Share

Posted in Evicted, Landlord, Landlord Tenant, Property Management, Tenant Debt Collections, Tenant Screening | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

New Landlord Forum – Tenant Debt and Tenant Screening

Posted by Bill Gray on November 25, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DThanks for reading my blog.  I try hard to respond to every email I receive, but I receive more and more every week.  It is getting hard to keep up.  I started a forum that will address tenant debt and tenant screening issues to help answer the commonly asked questions.  Please help me get the forum off the ground by registering and posting your questions.

The forum url is: www.theinformedlandlord.com

Thanks,

Bill Gray

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

www.thelandlordoctor.com

Copyright 2009

Share

Posted in Credit Bureau Reporting, Evicted, Landlord, Landlord Tenant, Landlord Tenant Law, Property Management, Tenant Debt Collections | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Are Landlords Increasing Occupancy: Or Are They Increasing Tenant Debt?

Posted by Bill Gray on November 21, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DThe poor economy has caused landlords and property managers to take drastic measures to lease units and keep them occupied. Some of the measures are understandable, considering the circumstances, but others make absolutely no sense at all.

This week I reviewed approximately 80 files from previous tenants who left a large residential property in Sarasota, Florida, owing money. I sat with the manager and discussed how the residential housing market has been turned on its ear, and in some ways seems to be in a downward spiral. I noted that not only had the number of debtor accounts more than doubled, the amount of the average debt had increased by at least a third.

The manager explained that the property had tried to increase its occupancy by allowing tenants to try and work out payment arrangements. As I looked at her over this mountain of files, I asked her, “How did that work out for you?” She understood my sarcasm and explained that the owners of the property had pressured her to do something to keep their residency rates up. She agreed that allowing tenants to pay late had only delayed the inevitable and increased the amount of bad debt the property must now write off.

I would argue that in such cases, if closely analyzed, the cost is actually even higher. The tenants she allowed to get behind on rent grew accustomed to management’s tolerance. When she finally drew the line and required payment, she was then often forced to file eviction proceedings before these tenants would leave the property. The cost of filing these evictions must be added to the lost rent and damages, etc. What if she had evicted the tenant after the very first month the rent was not paid and found a new tenant that did pay the rent on time? I realize this question is easy to ask in hindsight, but it is a question that should be asked when these kinds of management changes are considered.

I explained to her that not only had the new policy cost the property money in bad debt, the policy had also made the debt less collectible. As the amount each debtor owes increases, so do the odds that they will never pay. The amount becomes so high that many debtors will simply throw up their hands and live with the debt, rather than come up with a plan to pay it.

I understand that these are very trying times and difficult decisions must be made; but please make decisions with your eyes wide open and with an understanding of what the subsequent consequences could be.

Contact me with your tenant debt and screening issues.

Bill Gray

http://www.thelandlorddoctor.com

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

Copyright 2009

Share

Posted in Collection Agencies, Landlord, Property Management, Tenant Debt Collections | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Don’t Miss an Important Component to Screening New Tenants!

Posted by Bill Gray on October 7, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DA vital part of tenant screening requires more than learning about applicants, their employment and credit history—it’s learning everything you can about theirtele-interview2 previous rental history. Yes, former landlords who have rented to this tenant before have a wealth of information which should be weighed carefully before you approve an application.

Think about it. For six months or six years, former landlords have received or not received payments from your applicant. They know how the tenant left the property and about any complaints made when they leased it.  Their file and recollection can provide you with more insight than you’ll find by calling employers or ordering a credit report.

Start with the end in mind and weed out any applicants who might not treat your property with a gentle, kind, and caring hand. Was their former landlord impressed with the condition and cleanliness of the property when the tenant moved out?  Or were they overwhelmed and disappointed with the lack of attention and personal consideration they showed by leaving the unit a mess?

Screening former landlords can reveal much more, though, and the information you gain is worthy of your time. Does the tenant have a history of short-term housing, indicating problems with payment or other terms of the lease? Was the tenant a nuisance to other tenants? Did the tenant honestly disclose past information to previous landlords, and did that information hold true?

I should note here that all applicants are not Honest Abe.  Dishonest applicants know that telling the truth on applications could hurt their chances of being

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Credit Bureau Reporting, Landlord Tenant, Tenant Screening | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Landlords Who do Not Screen are Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Posted by Bill Gray on September 23, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DemailOf the 20 to 30 emails I receive per day from landlords with tenants who owe them money, 5 or 6 are from landlords who did not screen their tenants before they rented to them and are now upset that the tenant burned them.  I shake my head when I read these requests for help.

For whatever reason, the landlord rented to someone who “looked okay” and then got upset when the tenant burned them.  Would these landlords buy a used car sight unseen?  Or show up at a dog shelter and say, “give me any dog, I don’t need to see it or know anything about it.”?  Of course they wouldn’t.  As absurd as this sounds, it is basically how they run their rental business.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Collection Agencies, Credit Report, Evicted, Tenant Debt Collections, Tenant Screening | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

SUING AN EX-TENANT FOR PAST DUE RENT: What Factors To Consider

Posted by Bill Gray on September 14, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DTristan R. Pettit, Attorney at Law, Milwaukee WI –       Tristan’s Landlord – Tenant Law Blog www.petriestocking.com/blog/

Your tenant has already vacated your rental unit – so there is no need to file an eviction action — but they left owing you money.  Is it worth your time and effort to sue them in order to obtain a money judgment?  This is probably the third most frequently asked question that I receive when talking to landlords (the first two most asked questions in case you are curious are (1) which notice do I use when? and (2) how do I evict my tenant?).

There is not a simple answer to this question.  It depends . . . on many things.  Many variables need to be taken into consideration before deciding to spend the time and effort to sue an ex-tenant.  Let’s consider what some of those variables are.

1.     How much money does the tenant owe you?

Is the amount that is owed to you worth the time, energy, and cost to attempt to collect it?  You will need to purchase a small claims summons which will cost you approximately $100.  You will need to personally serve the ex-tenant with the assistance of the Sheriff or a private process server — typical cost between $35-$100.  If you are representing yourself you will spend time away from work and therefore lose some wages.  If you opt to hire a lawyer to represent you, you need to consider how much you will have to pay the lawyer.

There is no magic dollar amount that makes suing a tenant worth it or not worth it.  The “breaking point” as I like to call it, will be different for different people. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Credit Bureau Reporting, Evicted, Landlord Tenant, Landlord Tenant Law, Tenant Debt Collections | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »