Every tenancy is different. But there are some common rental property problems that most every landlord will encounter at some point. The best way to avoid these issues is to learn about them, and find ways to build the groundwork to avoid them in the future. For instance, add some extra clauses into future leases. Or add an addendum to a current lease. Maybe work to create a better, more stringent tenant application/screening process.
You've now got to deal with a vacancy and possibly another real estate commission to pay out. What can you do if your tenants move out early?
Good news: June 10th, 2008 the State of Florida enacted the Early Lease Termination Bill. You can now have your tenants sign an addendum with gives them a choice: pay liquidated damages or a termination fee. For full story: HB 1489...
Early Termination Remedy, FS 83.595
Make sure to include a late payment penalty in very clear terms within your lease. This is THE most common rental property problem landlords almost always have to deal with. Consider yourself lucky if your tenant has never paid late!!! What day is rent due? How many days before a late fee is owed. How much is the late fee penalty?
Your lease may be unclear or may charge too little in penalty. Tenants often take advantage of the situation. Include in your lease the maximum one-time late fee allowed by law, and if allowed - a daily fee as well. Florida currently has no cap on late fees. It is subject to "usery" laws. Try not to charge anything excessive. However, you can be sure your tenants are paying their other bills on time... and taking advantage of you by choosing to pay their rent late. You need to change this thinking... and the best way to do this is by strictly enforcing the terms of the lease (if indeed you have good terms). Strict additional fees will deter tenants from paying late. Period.
The BIGGEST problem Landlords create for themselves? INCONSISTENCY! Landlords usually are nice people, and want to be fair. So they may be lenient and say "okay, you can pay late" if they believe their tenants are in a hardship of some sort. BE CONSISTANT. You have to pay your mortgage on time. Tenants have to pay their rent on time. Period. It's their legal obligation to you. The day after they are late, you can go ahead and issue a THREE DAY NOTICE and begin assessing the late fees. The lease is a CONTRACT and BOTH PARTIES should adhere to exactly what the terms are. However, that Three Day Notice is the start of the eviction process. IF you want to give your tenants ONE chance, because they normally always pay on time and are good tenants otherwise... you can consider serving a Courtesy Late Rent Notice first, giving them a few extra days. More information on late fee Courtesy and Three Day Notices here:
One day you decide to drive by your property, and realize your tenants now have a dog. This is a very common rental property problem to encounter. Or in your lease, you approved one small dog. And yet now you learn they have three dogs. Your lease agreement didn't include any pets, so there's no pet deposit or stipulation. So what do you do? Should you be afraid of confronting your tenants - afraid to lose them because of the pet situation?
Keep in mind, pets can be a big problem if not handled correctly. There have been cases where the Landlord has been found guilty for the tenant's dog causing harm to a visitor, citing that the Landlord "should have known" there was a dog on the premises. Landlords must be VERY cautious of pets. Make sure your lease has a clause addressing the remedy if a pet is found without prior written approval. Usually the remedy is monetary and it is normally in the form of an immediate increase in rent ("if a pet is found... an immediate 20% increase is due plus..."). Whatever the remedy, make sure it is clear and strictly adhered to by both you and your tenants. If there is a pet, make sure you collect an additional "pet deposit" whether refundable or not. This will help with any additional damage the pet may cause (if a puppy, chances are corners of wood doors and molding are found chewed... carpet stains for cats... etc). Protect yourself. This is a rental property problem that creates extra liability for you, and can potentially be costly when not dealt with.
Many leases we see don't include the names of residents allowed, and/or the number of occupants. This creates major issues when all of a sudden you learn there are six cars in the driveway and two families living in your property! Over-occupancy is problematic on many levels. First, make sure your lease specifies WHO is an occupant (list names of adults and minors).
Make sure there is a legal clause/remedy in your lease for what tenants can expect if they have someone live there for more than the normal two week guest period. More people living in the house means added stress on the plumbing and flooring, more potential for issues. Remedies can include raising rent or termination. We never recommend inaction. By not addressing it, you are essentially giving the your extra renters permission to be there, once you know for sure they are not merely guests.
Often, tenants leave their unwanted junk behind. They assume you'll have no problem dumping their junk for them. So what do you do? Hire a guy to dump it for you... and claim that amount from their security deposit. You can specify in your lease what your expectations are for your tenant's move out proactively too. Consider adding a paragraph outlining the condition you expect the property to be in when tenants move out. Make sure to follow Florida law, but you can certainly add that verbiage that all personal belongings and trash must be removed completely from the unit, from the yard, and from any trash and recycle bins. Also consider writing a one-page "Move-Out Guide" for your tenants and providing them with it within their last month in the unit. Include any suggestions like making sure all appliances are clean, new AC filter installed, holes from any flat screen TVs etc should all be repaired.
Tenants love to leave their unwanted junk curbside. They assume it will magically disappear. This pile can often mean a warning or fine by any applicable town/city ordinances regarding dumping. You can certainly allow tenants to use bulk pickup... but we don't recommend it. There is a limited number of times you can use this service per year, which means if you need it in the future to remove a tree or the tenants left more junk inside you'll be charged for the service. It's best to put the responsibility and cost of removing all junk onto the tenants. Reserve the public service of bulk pick up for your use and keep control over how many times the service is used each year.