Preparing property for showing
Make the environment part of the solution
- Make sure your property meets habitability standards. If applicants can’t tell it is legal, they may already know you may look the other way. They may also know most eviction rights have been surrendered.
- Keep property visible. Cut back shrubs and trees, make sure entrances are well lit, and use fencing that can be seen through.
An ounce of prevention
- Reinforce message of being an active manager, committed to housing honest tenants, while keeping dishonest tenants out.
- Establish written criteria. Communicate those criteria to the applicant. Communicate commitment to complete applicant screening.
- Thoroughly screen each applicant. Most landlords don't. At a minimum check photo identification and Social Security cards, run a credit check, independently identify previous landlords and verify income.
- Do it! Don't cut corners. Don't believe it won't happen to you. Don't trust an innocent looking face. And don't accept an applicant on gut reaction.
- Apply rules and procedures equally to every applicant.
- Locate warning signs of dishonest applicants.
- Watch for extreme inconsistencies.
- Use a contract consistent with current law or options will be lost.
- Point out key provisions that address "loopholes" and assure tenant knows these are taken seriously.
- Get signatures on property condition, smoke detectors and other issues to protect against later false accusation.
What to do to keep relationships working
- Don't bend rules. By the time most drug houses are identified, they have a history of evictable behavior which were ignored.
- Know landlord responsibilities.
- Conduct periodic inspections.
- Watch for utility problems and keep a paper trail of all activity.
- Open communication channels, so problems are discovered early.
- Trade phone numbers with neighbors.
- Encourage shared decision making by establishing a volunteer leadership council to interact with management.
Warning signs of illegal activity
How to recognize typical crime situations
- Little or no mail or newspaper delivery to the house.
- Little or no furniture moved into the house.
- Guard dogs: rottweiler, pit bulls, Doberman pinschers, or German shepherds.
- Blankets, sheets or foil hung in the windows instead of curtains.
- Different vehicles arriving at the house and staying for only short periods of time.
- Short, regular visits at all hours by people in expensive cars.
- A willingness to pay rent months in advance, particularly in cash, or to pay large deposits.
- A tendency to pay rent in cash, in addition to a lack of visible means of support.
- Heavy fortification of individual rooms.
- Unusually sophisticated weight scales (accurate to gram weights and smaller).
- Large amounts of aluminum foil, baking soda, or electrical cords.
- Utilities that are never turned on.
- Unusual odors emanating from the house.
Resolve problems quickly and fairly
- Don't wait. Act. If a tenant is not in compliance, address the situation immediately. Don't let it fester.
- Know how to evict. Get a copy of landlord/tenant law and read it. If unsure about something, don't guess, get an attorney experienced in landlord/tenant relations. Cases are often lost on technicalities.
- Know and understand: type of eviction notices available; process for serving notices; and eviction process from beginning to end.
- If a neighbor calls with a complaint, know how to respond.
Working with police
Know the system
- Know how to work with the police, but don't expect cooperation when civil concerns and their criminal concerns conflict.
- If a neighbor calls about possible drug activity on property, know how to respond.
- Know how to report suspicious or criminal activity.
The Section 8 program
Understand the differences
- Before renting under a Section 8 program, learn about the program's benefits and drawbacks.
- Recognize that publicly subsidized renters tend to have broader knowledge of their rights and, for compelling reasons, are more likely to fight eviction.
- Read contracts carefully--there are significant differences from private rental contracts.