Landlords :: Five Rules for Screening Tenants

As a landlord, selecting a qualified tenant is one of the most important steps in the process of getting your home rented. In choosing the right tenant you should expect to receive your rent in full, on time, and that your property will be well kept. On the other hand, a poor or uniformed decision on your part can result in a myriad of problems, including having to make your mortgage payment out of pocket while trying to collect the rent or evicting your tenant.


That said, here are five rules to consider in seeking a tenant (when applying these rules make sure you are working within your state’s rental laws):


1. Establish minimum criteria that every applicant must meet to be accepted including:


-Verifiable income that is at least three times the amount of the rent

-Credit score above 600

-Clean background check with no evictions


2. Require a formal application. This information will be provided to the tenant screening company who will charge you a fee for the report. This charge is passed onto the applicant as the application fee. Collecting the fee up front ensures you are covered for this expense and is your first red flag should they balk about paying it. Always obtain written consent to run a credit report and background check.


3. Get permission to contact current and past landlords as well as employer(s). Current or former landlords and employers may only confirm atenant’s residency or employment, but you can try sending a form asking direct questions that may provide information vital to making informed tenant decisions.


4. While not always practical, you may want to visit a prospective tenant in their current home. This can provide a window into what you may expect from this applicant.


5. Should you turn down an applicant always do it in writing and provide the source, if any, of the information you used to reach that decision. Better rental screening companies will provide a pre-written acceptance or rejection letter to make your job easier.


The key to success in procuring a tenant is your determination to say no when the screening results do not add up. By not letting your emotions affect your decisions and maintaining consistent rental policies you can avoid dealing with a tenant who could become your worst nightmare.


This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

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Renting Your Vacation or Second Home

RentalsRenting your property can be a great way to offset some of the ongoing expenses of owning a vacation or second home. If you are an out of town owner you will need to consider how you will manage the property long distance. Hiring a property management company or a real estate professional are two options that can ease the stress of going it alone.

A property management company will charge an ongoing fee, usually 10% of the monthly rent for their services (in addition to their fee for procuring a tenant) while a Realtor may offer some services as part of his listing agreement. The latter can save you an ongoing management fee but will require some “hands-on” participation from you.

As a Realtor who handles rentals as well as home sales, I provide many of the services offered by a property manager as a courtesy to my clients. This primarily consists of getting your home “rent ready” with the assistance of service professionals who provide various maintenance services directly to my clients for a fee while I help manage the process.

Some owners rely on a neighbor or nearby relative to perform these functions only to find the job does not get done or is done poorly. In the end you wind up with an unhappy tenant you need to deal with from miles away. Regardless of which approach you take, your home must be spotless and equipped to handle the demands of tenants seeking a stress free vacation rental and who may become repeat renters for years to come.

Preparing Your Unit to Rent

It may seem obvious but having a bright and clean rental will result in a quicker sale and a better tenant! For seasonal rentals I recommend a thorough cleaning before we begin showing the unit. You should also plan on another cleaning before your tenant arrives, especially if it has been vacant for a while. Bathrooms need to be spotless and free of mold and grime. Carpets may also need shampooing. You may want to consider a cleaning service for scheduled visits – local cleaning companies charge about $100.00 for a typical 2/2 condo or villa (basic service).

Clutter and personal items should be removed or stored in a secure area. You should also try to address any maintenance needs before showings begin.

If upholstered furniture or bedding is showing its age, consider having it cleaned or replaced. Likewise, threadbare linens, pillows and sheets should be replaced as needed.

Also, consider a fresh paint job if the walls are dingy or showing wear and tear. This is very important for vacation rentals to help move them quickly.

You should provide your tenants a list of contact numbers (including yours) for service emergencies. Include information about anything that pertains to your unit, complex or community.

This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

Listing Your Rental: Frequently Asked Questions

RentalsQ: We are flexible in terms of short or long term rentals and would like to know your opinion on each market for the area and our property.

A: Right now there is a strong demand for annual unfurnished residential properties. I also get calls for short term rentals, which often are corporate relocations such as FPL and Martin Memorial Hospital employees, but demand is unpredictable.

Q: I am interested in finding out your fees for services. Also, we do not live in Florida at this time and would like to know your availability for seasonal rental in case this is the option we decide on. We are looking for services that can take care of the turn around for new tenants.

A: Here’s what we do when we list your rental:


-Evaluate the rental potential of your property

-Create a Web page featuring the rental

-Exposure on multiple Web sites including CraigsList, Facebook, and TCPalm (the Stuart News’ Treasure Coast Web site).

-MLS and

Finding a Tenant

-Comprehensive tenant screening including credit and background check

-Collect advance deposits

-Lease preparation

-No fee until we rent your property

Fee Schedule:

10% commission for annual rentals

15% commission for rentals less than six months

Note: we share our fee with cooperating brokers who help procure a tenant.

Sales Tax

We collect sales tax on all rentals less than six months from the tenant. This fee is disbursed to you with other advance deposits. You must file and pay the tax to the state of Florida.

Property management:

We do not offer property management but I can recommend service people for repairs and maintenance. You would pay for these services directly but as an out of town landlord I can assist you with coordinating maintenance schedules in terms of getting the house “rent ready”.

Rent Collection

We collect advance rent, which is typically first, last and security. These funds are disbursed to you less our fee. The tenant then pays the ongoing monthly rent to you directly from the second month on. Seasonal rentals under four months are paid in full in advance. Note: Florida law requires you to keep the tenant’s security on deposit in a Florida bank.

This post has been authored by Eric Slifkin, REALTOR® serving South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my Web site. As your resource for information on new or resale homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me about any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad and I will research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

Stuart, FL Rental Homes | For Landlords Seeking Tenants

When it comes to finding a tenant in the competitive Stuart, Florida rental market, flexibility in what you allow can expand your pool of prospective tenants and minimize vacancies. Here are some things to consider when seeking a tenant for your rental property:

RentalsLease Terms

You may want to allow a shorter lease term or offer an early termination clause (you can charge a higher rent or require a cancellation fee). This works well for corporate transferees and relocating families who plan on purchasing a home. They also can be good tenants as their move is often subsidized or they have cash from the sale of their home.

Getting Creative

Offer a step-up lease for a desirable tenant who is unsure of the rent. A step-up lease starts at a lower rent and increases after a six month period. You may want to include verbiage that the tenant can cancel the lease without penalty at the end of six-months if he is unwilling to pay the rent increase.

-Be flexible about allowing small pets (with an additional pet fee or deposit).

-Allow the tenant to pay the security deposit over a period of several months.

About Credit Challenged Prospects

Due to the loss of a home and other issues arising from this economy, many prospective tenants will have damaged credit. You may want to be flexible on credit standards as many of these people have money and will need a home; it makes sense to try and find a way to work with them.

-Do not let a tenant with a poor credit history spread out his security deposit over several months.

-Be sure to perform a detailed background check.

-Set the ground rules going in. For example:

* The rent is due in full at the first of the month.
* The late fee goes into effect on the 4th.
* The eviction process starts on the 8th.
* If they vacate by the 15th, leaving the unit undamaged and broom-clean, their security will be returned, otherwise you will file suit.

I have been listing rental properties here in the Stuart area since 2003 with few problems. But I have had several evictions over the past year, largely due to the recession. That said, as a landlord it is important that you perform your due diligence and enforce tenant rules.

Landlord Update: Collecting the Rent | Rentals in Stuart Florida

As a Realtor who handles dozens of rental transactions, the number one question I get from new as well as experienced landlords has to do with collecting the rent. Most are happy to have the tenant mail a check while others provide a supply of deposit tickets to their tenants, enabling them to deposit funds directly into the For  Rentlandlord’s bank account. Some tenants have even elected to pay the rent using online banking or a wire transfer. Landlords are understandably excited when a tenant pays electronically, as they get paid on time and have immediate use of the funds.

Recently I was asked to draw up a lease where the landlord required the tenant to pay electronically. I submitted the request to our lease attorney who provided the following reason why we should not have such a clause in the lease:

“In the event of an eviction if the tenant has access to owners or property managers bank account and the tenant deposits money after the eviction has been filed it would stop the eviction and cost the owner or property manager more money. Also, that bank account would become part of the exhibits during an eviction action.”

A real estate attorney can explain all the ramifications of accepting direct deposits into your account but the “long and short” of it is that if the tenant deposits money into your account after you initiate an eviction, it can cause you to have to start the process all over or worse.

Under the best of circumstances being a landlord (especially an accidental or out of town landlord) can be a challenge. Working with a qualified rental agent will help you minimize the pitfalls of being a landlord and procure the best tenant, in the shortest possible time and with the least amount of stress.

Stuart, Florida Realtor Eric Slifkin, serves South Florida’s Treasure Coast. You can reach me at 888-288-1765, or visit my main Web site at

As your resource for information on new or resale homes and rental homes throughout the Treasure Coast, please be sure to contact me with your needs or for information concerning any home you may find on the Web, yard sign or ad. I will be pleased to research the property, arrange showings and handle all the details.

Stuart Area Rental Homes – Getting Your Property Rent Ready

RentalsIn the current real estate market, many home sellers out of necessity have become landlords. If you are considering renting out your home, getting your property “rent-ready” as quickly as possible is essential to success in maximizing your rental income and finding a quality tenant in the shortest time possible.

When it comes to rental homes, you should consider the following:

-When leasing a property you only get one chance to make a good first impression. It is essential that the home look as good as possible before marketing of the rental begins.

-A rental in good physical condition will attract better quality tenants, who will pay higher rent and present fewer problems.

-Vacancies are expensive! Some maintenance costs can be recovered, but not vacancy – once it’s gone it’s gone. A lost month’s rent cannot be recovered.

In preparing your property for rent, inspect the home and note any repairs that may be needed. This includes appliances, plumbing and A/C systems, which must be up to code and in good working order. Broken windows, doors, cabinets and fixtures should also be repaired or replaced. Next you will want a fresh coat of paint followed by a thorough cleaning including floors and rugs.

Curb appeal is as important in a rental as a sale, so make sure the lawn is cut, shrubs trimmed and outside repairs completed. Patios, sidewalks and driveways should be power washed and the roof inspected by a professional roofer.

If there is a homeowners association, make sure to complete any required forms and obtain an application along with a copy of the rules and regulations for the tenant. You will also want to make sure you have gate clickers, garage remotes, pool and mailbox keys ready to go. If you are working with a Realtor®, he or she will need these items with the signed rental listing agreement.

Getting your rental property “rent-ready” will ensure you procure the best tenant, for the most rent in the least amount of time!