Early in my career, new tenants often asked me to “work with them on the deposit.” In other words, they couldn’t quite pay both the rent and deposit required to move in. Being a trusting soul, I usually agreed, and we’d make a plan for them to pay it up within a month or so. What I quickly learned was that something else always seemed to pop up, and the deposit they owed me never quite found its way to the top of their priority list!
So, I stopped allowing that. But then I got people who wanted to “work off” the deposit. They were willing to paint, clean, etc. Thank God, I was smart enough to say no to that proposition! Here’s why:
I had made the mistake of letting one of my good, long-term tenants paint a couple of rooms at his place, with disastrous results. He told me he used to work for a paint contractor, so I gave him the go ahead. He really botched it up — terribly — and I learned my lesson. I don’t ever allow any of my tenants to do work on my properties. There’s too much risk involved, not to mention liability issues. (What if they get hurt while doing work for you? Not good.)
Here’s the bottom line: if your applicant doesn’t have the full rent and full deposit, don’t let them move in. PERIOD. No exceptions!
Also, if they’re responsible for any of the utilities, make sure they put them in their name prior to moving in. Don’t just blindly trust they’ll get it done. Ask them if they’ve made the calls to transfer service and if they say “yes,” call and check. (Yes, I’ve gotten burned on this as well, by trusting it got done, and then receiving a gas bill a month later. Totally my fault. Learning the hard way, once again!)
Between my book and this blog, I’m hoping to save other landlords from making some of the mistakes I made early in my career. Although I did a lot of reading and networking, there are so many things I had to learn through experience.
After being in this business for over 18 years, you’d think I’ve gotten it totally perfected by now, right? Unfortunately, not …
Onward and upward!