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posted: 8/19/2012 5:23 AM

Factors to consider before actively seeking a tenant

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Q. I have a rental home and can't seem to find any qualified tenants. Recently, a friend of mine who is also a landlord told me all of his rental properties are full, and he credits the fact that they are furnished as being the key difference. Should I consider buying furniture for my property and offering it as a furnished home?

A. The majority of rental properties are offered unfurnished, because most tenants already have their own furnishings. In urban areas, short-term renters may need furnished units, but this is a specific market that is usually addressed by one or more major apartment owners or hospitality companies. However, in some suburban or rural areas there is a demand for furnished rental units for short- or long-term rentals. This is especially true for larger rental homes.

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You need to determine who your target market is and if the specific location of your rental home will be in demand. You may consider offering your home partially or fully furnished. Talk to real estate agents in your area and ask their opinion, as they are likely to be the first ones to hear about prospective tenants who are looking for furnished rental homes. But remember that furnishing your rental property is a major investment.

Another factor in favor of going to a furnished rental strategy would be if your rental home is adjacent to a major employer that regularly relocates employees into the area, as you can often generate significantly higher rents for a furnished rental property.

But also remember that there will be fewer prospective tenants for a large furnished rental home, and the loss of rent due to vacancies between tenants can also be a concern.

Do your homework and gather as much information as you can to decide whether furnishing your rental home is worth a try.

Q. We moved into our rental more than two years ago and have a dog. The manager at that time assured us a pet was OK, and we even paid a pet deposit. Our dog is well behaved and has caused no problems. We now have new management, which is implementing a "no pets" policy. We have been on a month-to-month rental agreement since our initial one-year lease expired. Management said it is going to serve me with a notice that says the dog must be removed in 30 days. Can management evict our dog?

A. Pets may be kept at rentals as long as there is no restriction against them. When there is a lease, it limits what you can have or do as a tenant as long as that limitation language is legal. Sometimes leases have terms that are not legal and do not count even though the tenant signs it. Also, certain promises made when leasing may have a legal effect even if not in writing.

In this case, you were promised that a pet would be OK, and you probably would not have rented it without that promise. That is helpful but not necessarily binding. The other side of the issue is that a month-to-month tenancy agreement provision can be changed with 30 days' notice. Here, legal eviction protections do not directly apply since this is not an eviction of you but a change in your ongoing tenancy. The law allows certain rental agreement changes, but the law also protects tenants from landlords breaking promises. Here the challenge is proving the verbal promise with the prior manager and then making that promise binding for such a long time.

Normally, verbal agreements regarding real property must be in writing if they are to cover a period longer than one year. If you refuse to remove the dog after 30 days, management may try to evict you in court, where you would then have a judge decide on how strong that promise was. The better way to protect yourself may be to get permission for a pet clearly in writing, including in a month-to-month contract, that says the pet may remain during the tenancy even if other terms of the agreement may change.

• Property manager Robert Griswold is author of "Property Management for Dummies." Email rgriswold.inman@retodayradio.com.

2012, Inman News Service

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