Home or apartment rental problems can almost all be solved the same way: having an ironclad lease. The best way to avoid expectant problems is to make sure your fear is addressed in the lease. Extant problems can also best be cured by holding the other party to the terms of the lease.
Residential leases, while less complex than commercial agreements, are still complicated enough to require an attorney. In fact, I tell all my clients who are contemplating becoming landlords to hire professionals to oversee the entire process. Unless you plan on getting into the real estate business full-time you don’t have the time to do the kind of job that’s required to insure your interests are fully protected. Leave the drafting of the lease to your lawyer and the screening of tenants to an agent. All you should have to do is deposit the rent check on the first of the month.
Won’t the tenants create damage?
This is an entirely rational problem. Tenants almost always create damage, just as any residents will. You must expect a certain amount of wear and tear anytime property is used. In order to mitigate damage problems you must express your concerns to your attorney when she is preparing the lease. She can insure that your lease requires an adequate security deposit, insist that no changes can be made to the property without your approval, and provide you or your agent with the right to make occasional formal inspections of the premises.
You also need to make your worries plain to your renting agent. He must be prepared to make a real judgment of the tenant’s character, and to check their references and background. In addition, get the agent’s input on what type of restrictions make sense. After all, a family of four with two pets will create more damage than a couple with no pets.
What if I can’t get them out?
As anyone who has ever tried to evict a tenant can tell you, this is an entirely rational problem. It is very difficult to get someone out of a residence, even if they haven’t paid rent. In many states, the law bends over backward to protect the tenant at the landlord’s expense. This is one reason why I don’t encourage my clients to get into the rental business.
You can never totally protect yourself from this happening. A tenant who interviewed well, and who was reliable for years, can suddenly change and become a problem. All you can do is mitigate the problem. First, make sure you have an experienced agent do the screening, looking out for potential problem tenants. Second, ask your lawyer to do everything possible to keep a recalcitrant tenant from barricading himself in your property. She may be able to construct the lease so that tenants become trespassers if they overstay, allowing you to enlist the aid of the police in having them removed.