How to evict a tenant from our rental property

Things are about to get interesting. Our tenants from our single family rental have been consistently late on their rent for over a year (but always came through with payment!). Last month, their rent check bounced. Our management firm hassled them for the rent consistently on our behalf, but sadly, no money came to fruition.

Read more on How to evict a tenant from our rental property…

Hiring a property management firm to rent out your duplex

I haven’t been as active on this blog lately, because I haven’t been as active of a property manager at my duplex. There are a few things that contributed to this step:

  • About a year and a half ago I started an exciting new chapter in my life, becoming a mom! As luck would have it, my downstairs tenant gave me notice that they were going to move out pretty much exactly on my due date, which was not going to be terribly convenient, to say the least. My husband could have fielded all of the calls and done the showings, but his day job is a lot less flexible than mine, so we were kind of in a bind
  • My husband owns another rental property, and is far less into the active management portion than I am (he has his rental property by “luck”, as he was unable to sell it during the end of the real estate bubble). He had already been working with a property management company for some time, and was reasonably happy with the results.
  • I had been getting tired of dealing with the inter-tenant issues that had been popping up since I’d moved out of the duplex anyway. My hope was that if my tenants were dealing with someone that they viewed as a “professional” property manager, they would be less likely to bug them about nit-picky he said/she said things and figure it out for themselves.
  • I own an unrelated business (that’s my “real job”), and things had been getting a lot busier, so I was looking for ways to simplify, streamline, and delegate.

Showing the apartment that you’re living in…

I listed my place on Craig’s list last Sunday, and have had 5 showings so far (no applications yet…) At each of the first showings, I introduced myself as the owner, described the remodeling work that’s been done to the apartment, mentioned that I had been living there (thus facilitating the remodeling), and was moving out. If they asked why I was moving, I told them I was going to be living with my boyfriend, otherwise I would be staying, it’s a great apartment. I realized, though, after a couple of showings, that this situation might actually be weirding some of them out…

Cosigners, a signed lease, and a successful turnover

Well, this last turnover turned out pretty well — possibly the best so far. I sent out one cosigner application (I really only needed one additional guarantor), and received a complete application from not one, but two parents of the couple moving in. (Maybe each father wanted to be on equal financial footing if things were to go awry?). I pulled credit reports on both guarantors, and they both checked out just fine. I scheduled a lease signing, got a check for the security deposit, and received signed and notarized cosigner agreements within a week. The couple really seemed genuinely excited about the duplex, and it seemed cute that it was their first place that they would have together.

Just signed a new lease this week

I always freak out when I find out that my tenants are leaving. Turnovers are a lot of work — painting, changing the locks, squeezing in improvements where I can, refunding security deposits, getting the new tenants moved in…. Oh, and the biggest task of all, actually finding and screening suitable new tenants. A couple of years ago, when the rental market was a lot worse (and I was brand new at this whole landlord gig), I think I had 50 showings before I had a signed lease. (Last year, thanks to a very directed ad, and an improving rental market, I found tenants on the first day, after about 5 showings).

Rents Rising?

I had a much easier time renting out my duplex apartment last April than I have the previous few times… I had chalked it up to better advertising, cosmetic improvements, and luck. According to an article at, however, perhaps there was something bigger at work — rental vacancy rates (and rents) are turning around, coming out of the five year slump they’ve been in.

Fair housing laws and renting (or not renting) to families with children

When selecting tenants, I have a limit of three people for my rental unit. Local zoning laws state that I cannot legally rent my unit to “more than three unrelated persons,” which means that a family of 5 or 6 (or more) could legally live in that space. However, even though it is a three bedroom apartment, it isn’t very large. Also, there is only one water heater for the duplex, AND I live below the rental unit, so I like to keep the number of people as low as possible. As far as I can tell, it IS legal to tell someone you can’t rent to them because they have too many people. However, you CAN’T tell someone that you won’t rent to them because they have kids — that violates fair housing laws.

Refunding the security deposits. Mostly.

Tonight I finally figured out what I was taking out of my departing tenants’ security deposits. Since I live in the duplex that I also rent out, I get to know my tenants quite well, and become friendly with them. Friendly enough that I feel guilty for not refunding their security deposits 100%. But I have to remind myself that I’m running a business here.

Phone skills for landlords

I recently had the opportunity to go apartment hunting for a good friend of mine who is moving in from out of town. The tables had turned, and I got to experience what its like to be on the tenant side of things.

I scoured the newspaper classifieds, printed out some pages from Craig’s list, and wrote down numbers from for-rent signs in the neighborhood. Monday morning, I started making calls.

And realized why the vacancy rate is so high — hardly anyone answered their phones!

Preventing Rental Vacancies

I recently went apartment-hunting for a friend who was moving here from out of town. As I scoured the newspaper listings, I was aghast at how many times I saw those dreaded words:


They had let their units go empty. Some of them seemed to have done it on purpose, to allow more time for cleaning, improvements, and the like (and to prevent the 24 hour maintenance marathon.) Although its a lot of work, I’ve tried very hard to prevent my duplex from ever going vacant, for a variety of reasons:

Moving in welcome kit for new tenants

I recently talked to a friend of mine, who told me that every apartment he’s ever moved into (including the dumps we lived in during college) gave him a little gift basket with soap, candles, paper towels, and other essentials that a person needs when setting up a new apartment. Somehow, I’ve never experienced this, but I do think its a nice touch. I think I’ll plan on doing something like that for my next batch of tenants. Up until now, here’s what I provide my tenants with when they move in:

The cleaning supply arsenal

My departing tenants have always done a good job of cleaning (perhaps the checklist helps?). However, I always fully arm myself with cleaning supplies, just in case. I don’t want to have to run to the store during my brief 24 hour turnover period. I always make sure that I have on hand…

Recovering from the turnover marathon

Perhaps my father is right; I am officially too old to be pulling all-nighters. My friends who own rental property were all very impressed with me and my overnight industriuosness; their duplexes are all in much better shape than mine, so they aren’t quite as motivated about fixing them up.

Moving in (Or, when their U-HAUL breaks down in your driveway)

I am such a nice landlady that I allow my tenants to use my personal driveway (and parking area) when they are moving in and out. It makes moving much easier for them, especially if someone’s chosen to park right in front of the duplex on that particular day. I don’t mind parking just across the street.

The only thing that makes me nervous is the fact that my driveway is awfully close to the gas meters of the house next door. Oh, and the fact that most U-Haul renters have no idea how to handle (and back up) a truck that big. I notify them of the gas meters, and go inside so I don’t have to watch (it hasn’t been a problem yet. I tend to have pretty careful renters.)

Unwanted Stuff

My old tenants are out. Mostly.

This girl Marcy, who subletted from one of them last summer, still has a hammock in the backyard, and a couple of boxes of things in the basement. The departing tenants called her the day they were moving out, and asked her to come get her things that day if possible, but she was a no-show.

Now, the hammock I don’t mind if she leaves here. I like having a hammock in the backyard. I’d hate for her to come and get it.

But what am I supposed to do with her boxes of stuff? I’ve called and left a message, letting her know its here, but haven’t heard back from her. How long do I wait, before…

The twenty-four hour maintenance marathon

Last week I had the pleasure of turning over my upstairs apartment in only 24 hours. Actually, it was less than that, because the old tenants were an hour or so late in vacating the apartment, and the new ones called early in the morning on the first, wondering if they could start moving some things in. Valiantly, I pulled an all-nighter working in the apartment — doing general turnover maintenance and also squeezing in some improvements. I got a lot done, but it took me a few days to recover (as my father thoughtfully informed me, “I’m getting too old to be pulling that kind of thing anymore”). Thanks, Dad. Yes, and I also know that I’m an old maid for not being married at 30…

I had my to-do list all worked out, but things rarely go according to plan.

What everyone looks forward to… the cleaning checklist

I created a cleaning checklist for my departing tenants to ensure that I didn’t have to do much cleaning during turnover. When I first put it together, I worried that it made me look like a bit like a nazi… however, the departing tenants told me that it was actually very helpful. Moving is a frantic time for everyone, and it helped them to get organized and quickly split up tasks between roommates. Here’s my cleaning checklist: