Bill Gray – The Landlord Doctor

Insider Advice on Collecting Tenant Debt and Screening Tenants

Posts Tagged ‘Paid’

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

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Failure to Comply With Tenant Deposit Notifications Could be Costly

Posted by Bill Gray on February 22, 2010

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A Landlord's Worst Nightmare

Imagine being forced to write a check to a previous tenant who still owes you money.  This is a very real possibility if you fail to comply with the law after the tenant moves out.  With the amounts and occurrences of tenant debt rising, having to pay a previous tenant who still owes you money only adds insult to injury.

In most states, landlords and property managers are required to notify their tenant if they do not intend to refund the tenants deposit after they move out.  States vary in the required timeframe and method of notification, but most do require it.  This notification is referred to in various terms such as SODA (Statement of Deposit Account), Deposit Disposition, Final Account Statement, etc.  Some states require the notice be sent via certified mail, while others accept First Class mail notification.  I advise landlords to mail this notice via Certified Mail, whether the state requires it or not.  Sending it Certified Mail provides you with a receipt proving you mailed it and complied with the law.

Failing to notify your previous tenant of how you intend to apply the deposit he paid you may end up costing yourself even more money!  Regardless of the unpaid rent, damages, eviction legal fees, etc., if you fail to notify the tenant as required by law in most states, the tenant can demand his deposit back.

Let’s say the tenant paid a $1,000 deposit on a twelve-month lease. Six months into the lease, the tenant skipped, leaving your rental trashed and owing you a month’s rent.  Once you calculate your losses, you determine that the tenant owes you $3,000.  After subtracting the $1,000 deposit, you are in the red $2,000.

If in this scenario you do not notify the tenant of how you intend to apply the $1,000 deposit toward the $3,000 loss, the tenant in many cases could demand his $1,000 back, regardless of what he owes you.  Yes, he may have to sue you to get the deposit back, but if you have violated the law, he most likely will win.

So, take a look at what your failure to comply with the law may cost you in addition to a big headache.  Immediately, you have cost yourself the $1,000 deposit plus any legal fees you paid to defend yourself in court.   A quick Google search will give you further proof, revealing a number of class action suits against landlords and property management companies who failed to notify past tenants of how the deposit was applied.

In many cases, you might not have a forwarding address to mail the notice to. Your only option is to mail the notice to the last known address, which is the address of your rental. Half or more of these notices will be returned to you as undeliverable or having a wrong address.  File the returned mail with the tenant’s file and save it.  You may need the returned mail as proof that you did attempt to send the notification.

Comply with your state’s deposit notification law.  Doing so may save you money.

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

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Accepting Late Payments Can Land You in Court

Posted by Bill Gray on February 11, 2010

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t allow a tenant to pay rent late, but the legal implications must always be at the top of the list.[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5D Unfortunately, by being the nice guy, or gal, and accepting late rent payments, you might be establishing grounds for a Fair Housing lawsuit.  Last year, I sat in on a seminar given by Milwaukee landlord-tenant attorney Tristan Pettit, where I learned that case law has been established that says you cannot accept late payments from one tenant and not accept late payments from another.

The Fair Housing Act makes it illegal to “set different terms, conditions, or privileges for sale or rental.”  By accepting late payments from one tenant and not another, you may be violating the law.

Any trip to court can be precarious and expensive in terms of time and money. You can never be certain of what the outcome of a court case or dispute is going to be.  Any good attorney will tell you that avoiding court altogether is always preferred.

To compound the issue of being sued for a Fair Housing violation, consider what you are doing to the terms of your lease by habitually accepting late rent. Let’s say your lease requires the rent to be paid by the third of the month. But for the last six months, you have accepted the rent on the fifteenth. Suddenly, in the seventh month you put your foot down and demand the rent be paid by the third, but the tenant ignores you and continues to pay the rent on the fifteenth. In the eight month, you file for eviction when the tenant again is late with his or her rent.

If the tenant were to hire a savvy attorney to represent them, the attorney could easily argue that you had amended the terms of the lease by accepting the rent late the first six months of the lease. Not only could this force you to continue accepting the rent, it could cause a counter suit.

Enforce the terms of the lease and require that the rent be paid on time—from each and every tenant.  Doing so may keep you out of court.

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

www.thelandlorddoctor.com

Bill@thelandlorddoctor.com

Tenant Debt & Screening Forum www.theinformedlandlord.com

Copyright 2010 – Click here to reprint/re-post

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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

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Ten Common Landlord Mistakes

Posted by Bill Gray on January 3, 2010

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Effectively Dealing With Tenant Delinquencies And Eviction Proceedings

By Jon L. Farnsworth, Esq.

(Editor’s note: This article was initially published in the September 2009, Minnesota Real Estate Journal, and has been edited and reprinted with the author’s permission.  While the article mentions Minnesota law, and includes commercial leasing issues, the discussion points are generally applicable in other states and to residential lease matters.)

The poor state of the economy threatens tenants’ ability to satisfy their lease obligations. Unfortunately, landlords are feeling pinched by tenants’ mounting delinquencies.

Some tenants lack the cash flow to make lease payments, while other tenants voluntarily withhold rent for business reasons (i.e., conserve cash flow; obtain a lease modification with more favorable terms for the tenant; etc.). This article summarizes ten common mistakes made by landlords when dealing with tenant defaults and eviction proceedings as well as offers insights of how to effectively manage tenant delinquencies.

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Tough Economy Makes Tenant Debt Tough, but Not Impossible, to Collect

Posted by Bill Gray on December 28, 2009

[tweetmeme source=”your_twitter_name” only_single=false http://www.URL.com%5DThe downturn in the economy has caused many landlords to lower their credit requirements for new tenants.  Of course, lowering credit requirements increases financial risk. Renting to a tenant with little or poor credit increases the likelihood that the tenant will at some point leave owing the landlord money.

This change in rental criteria is understandable, considering the need to keep all units rented.  But know that when you lower your standards and in turn incur debt, this debt will be tougher to collect than if you had rented to a tenant with good or great credit.  If you use a collection agency to collect the debt, you should also lower your expectations about how much you feel they should collect.

Collection agencies are reporting that they are receiving many more files than two years ago.  The average amount of debt in these files has also increased.  Relaxed rental standards, coupled with the high unemployment rate, have put collection agencies in a tough spot.

The American Collectors Association reports that the collection industry debt recovery rate is down 30-40% over last year.  Angi Pusateri, National Sales Manager for RentDebt Automated Collections, confirmed that her company is experiencing a similar decline in debt recovery.  However, RentDebt Automated is weathering the storm well and has added employees in the last year at their offices, which are located in Nashville, Tennessee and Dallas, Texas.

Jeff Cronrod, the President of Rent Recovery Service, a national collection agency specializing in the collection of tenant debt, estimates that nearly 40% of the debtors his company is trying to collect from are unemployed.  “It is not that these debtors do not care about the debt or their credit. They simply have no means to pay the bill,” Cronrod explained.

Saul Wertzer, President of Rent Recover Solutions in Atlanta, Georgia (not to be confused with Cronrod’s Rent Recovery Service), told me that his company has also seen an increase, not only in the number of collection files, but also an increase in the average amount of each file.  I have heard this from every company I have spoken with, in every corner of the country.  Wertzer went on to say that it is important for landlords and property managers to think long-term about debt they are owed by previous tenants.  Over time a good percentage of tenant debt is collectible.

If your collection agency has served you well in the past, stick with them, even though recent recoveries may have dropped.  Trust me, every agency is experiencing a tough time collecting debt.  Don’t jump ship and hire another agency, because eventually the economy will improve and many of these tenants who owe previous landlords will get back on their feet.  When they do, they will work to clean up their credit and pay their debt. But don’t wait until then to do something about it.  Now is the time to make sure the debt you are owed is reported to all three major credit bureaus. Whether your collection agency reports the debt or you report it via an automated service, make sure every dollar you are owed is reported.

Doing so will greatly increase the odds that you will get paid the debt your previous tenant owes you.

Email me your tenant screening and tenant debt questions.

Bill Gray

www.thelandlorddoctor.com

www.theinformedlandlord.com

Copyright 2009 Click here to reprint/re-post

Tenant Debt & Screening Forum www.theinformedlandlord.com

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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

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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

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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

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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.

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