A landlord checklist helps protect the landlord from having to pay for damages that aren’t his responsibility. These checklists are also an organizational tool and are an efficient way to help deal with the paperwork that comes with being a landlord. Avail is also a helpful digital tool in screening tenants, storing leases, and collecting rent.
Below are the three most common types of landlord checklists:
- Tenant screening checklist: This landlord-tenant checklist is used for keeping track of all the paperwork associated with screening a tenant. By checking off tasks once they’re completed, you will know if you forgot an important screening step that could lead to accepting a less than ideal tenant.
- Move in/move out checklist: These checklists are filled out so that you don’t have to incur any expenses at the fault of the tenant. Since leases are often one or more years long in length, it’s easy to forget what the property looked like before the tenant moved in, but the checklists serve as a reminder as well as evidence.
- Landlord operations checklist: This landlord checklist is solely for the landlord’s use and its purpose is to make sure the landlord is set up with all the tools needed to run a business. It has items that help you with the legality of the business, setting up business bank accounts, and completing all operational tasks.
When you’re a landlord, you need property management software to keep you organized. Avail helps you keep everything in one place. You can collect rent for just a $2 automated clearing house (ACH) or 3.5% processing fee as well as find tenants, create leases and manage maintenance requests.
Tenant Screening Checklist
A tenant screening checklist is a landlord-tenant checklist that contains all of the information that the landlord needs to verify that the tenant is qualified. It’s an organizational tool that helps you keep track of each step during the screening process so that nothing is overlooked. It also provides consistency for each of your tenants and protects you from accepting a bad tenant. Avail provides additional help in keeping you organized with tenant screening.
A tenant screening checklist is important because it serves as a written reminder for what the landlord needs to do to verify a well-qualified tenant. The information you collect as part of the tenant screening checklist will help give you an idea of such things as if the tenant pays their bills on time, which is an indicator of if the rent will be paid on time. For more information on vetting tenants, check out our in-depth tenant screening guide.
Key tenant screening checklist items include the following for each applicant.
1. Collect Rental Application and Rental Fee
By filling out a rental application and paying a rental fee, the tenant is taking the process seriously. They have the money and time invested. The rental application is important because it gives you information on the tenant’s background and their previous residence. It will help you vet the tenant and should, therefore, be required as part of the screening process.
2. Make a Copy of Tenant’s ID
The tenant’s ID verifies that tenants are who they say they are. A copy of the front and back of the identification card should be kept on file. Acceptable forms of ID include a driver’s license, a passport, or a military ID card.
3. Perform a Criminal Background Check
Do this so that you know who’s living in your property. A past crime doesn’t necessarily rule a tenant out, but as a responsible landlord, you want to know what the tenant did in the past, especially if there are other tenants living in the same building. Performing a background check on your own can be daunting. Avail will do it for you, and your first unit is free.
4. Perform a Credit Check
Performing a credit check gives you insight into the tenant’s past. If the tenant paid their bills on time or if they consistently didn’t pay their bills on time is a strong indicator of how they will pay their rent.
5. Check Past Landlords for References
Just as with a job interview, you want to know what others are saying about your potential tenant. You can see if their references think they’re trustworthy and reliable. Use this feedback, along with the background checks to determine if they will be a viable candidate to rent your property.
6. Verify Employment History
Checking out the tenant’s current employment and employment history will show you steady their work history is. If they have bounced around at a lot of jobs or have a large employment gap without an explanation, they can be red flags. Checking pay stubs will also tell if they can afford the apartment. The rent should be no more than 33% of their income.
7. Verify Proof of Renters Insurance
By requiring the tenant to provide proof of renter’s insurance, it’s protecting both of you. You aren’t liable for their personal belongings and, if something happens to their belongings, their renters’ insurance should reimburse them.
8. Get the Lease Signed
Having a signed lease is once again beneficial to both parties. Tenants can use it for proof of residency for school enrollment and turn on utilities. Landlords can use it as proof of rental income and in the event, they need to take a tenant to court.
9. Distribute Property Rules and Regulations
These are optional but are advisable if you’re renting out a condo or a home that is part of a homeowner’s association (HOA). Give this to the tenants so that they know the rules they’re required to follow and the consequences if they break these rules.
10. Distribute Pet Addendum
Check to see if the potential tenant has pets and if these pets comply with the HOA if there is one. The pet addendum will only apply if you allow pets in your property. It will let the tenant know upfront what your policy is, so there’s no confusion down the line. It will outline what type of pets and breeds you accept and what the pet deposit and pet rent amounts are.
11. Verify Move-in Money
Verify the tenant has enough move-in money. Standard move-in money includes the first month’s rent and one month’s rent as a security deposit. Some landlords opt to ask for last month’s rent upfront. Use a rent receipt book for this, so you keep one copy and the tenant keeps the other. Keep the security deposit in a separate account so that the funds are available when the security deposit is due back to the tenant.
12. Create Digital and Paper Files
This is important because it will give you access to copies of all the tenant-related documents when you need them. By keeping one file on your computer and one in a folder, there’s a better chance that nothing will get lost. If you have to file an eviction, you will need easy access to the lease. These files contain copies of the lease, rental application, and tenant’s ID.
If you want to have one less item to worry about on your landlord checklist, contact Rent Prep to screen tenants for you. They help you find the perfect tenant by hand compiling each background check.
Move In & Move Out Checklist
A move in and move out checklist is a must-have item for every landlord to use when a tenant moves in or out. Upon move in, this checklist will list the current condition of the entire property, room by room. It should include photos that denote the existing damages if any. Upon move out, the condition of the property is reviewed to the older photos.
This holds the tenant accountable for any damage they may have caused. Remember to itemize the damages and write the cost to fix or replace it besides the item. It’s a good idea to conduct the move out walkthrough with your contractor if you’re unsure of how much things cost to replace.
If you don’t have a move in and move out checklist, it will be too hard to remember the condition of the property prior to the tenant moving in. Having this checklist will help you avoid legal disagreements with the tenant about whose fault the damage is once they move out.
The tenant is typically present during a move in checklist. Regarding the move out checklist, it’s important to complete it after the tenant has returned the keys and moved all of their belongings so they can’t access the property and damage it after you complete the checklist.
Key move in and move out checklist items include several rooms in the home.
1. Living Room
Make sure to note the condition of the floors, walls, ceiling, doors, locks, windows, and screens on the checklist as well as photograph each part of the room before move in and after move out. Also, note if there’s a smoke detector and if it has batteries as well as note how many light fixtures are in the room and their condition. After reviewing the living room, make notes regarding the cost of each item that the tenant damaged.
Note the condition of all of the appliances, including a dishwasher, refrigerator, stove, and oven as well as the sink and garbage disposal. Note the condition of the cabinets and countertops and if any hinges or hardware are missing. Then, look for scratches or missing tiles or pieces of hardwood on the floors.
Also, see if the walls are scratched or have holes in them. Lastly, note any ceiling damage and the condition of all doors, locks, windows, and screens. Write down how many smoke detectors there are, the battery status as well as how many light fixtures are in the room and their condition. Write the cost beside each damaged item and be sure to include the labor estimate.
3. Dining Room
In the dining room, note the condition of the floors, walls, ceiling, doors, locks, windows, and screens. Include how many smoke detectors there are, the battery status, and how many light fixtures are in the room and their condition. Write down the cost beside each item that needs replacing.
Go through each bedroom and note the condition of the floors, including if the carpet is stained or ripped, and look at the walls, ceiling, doors, locks, windows, and screens. Look behind curtains to ensure no windows are broken. Count the number of smoke detectors and note if they’re working. Also, count the light fixtures and note their condition.
Bathrooms often have hidden damage, so check around the toilet for leaks, broken tiles, and note the condition of the faucet, shower head, lights, mirror, sink, and ceiling. Remember to inspect the flooring, walls, doors, locks, windows, and screens. Take photographs of every part of the bathroom and write down the cost of any damaged areas. Remember to include related materials like the grout for tiles and brackets to hang a mirror.
When checking the hallway, look for marks on the walls, ceiling, and any damage done to the flooring. Note the condition of the doors, locks, windows, screens, light fixtures, and smoke detectors. Hallways are high-traffic areas, so the paint tends to get dirty and flooring wears out quicker here.
This section is used to note anything that wasn’t included in the above-mentioned rooms. Write down how many keys the tenant received as well as the condition of the washer and dryer, front door, garage, and any furniture that was included with the property. Also, include the condition of the outdoor area.
Once again, photograph everything prior to the tenant moving in. Then photograph it again and mark the damage, if any, once the tenant moves out. Beside each item, note the cost to replace or repair it. Include signature lines for the landlord and tenant at the end of the checklist. The tenant needs to sign the checklist prior to moving in but doesn’t need to sign it when they move out.
Landlord Operations Checklist
This is the only checklist that doesn’t have anything to do with the tenant. It’s a list of helpful suggestions for the landlord to complete prior to renting out the property. All of the items on this checklist will ensure that the operations aspect of the business is set up properly.
A landlord operations checklist is important because it saves time and money by having all bank accounts and operational procedures set up before renting out the property. Items on the checklist include such things as setting up a post office box and bank account as well as a dedicated cellphone.
1. Choose a Business Structure
Choosing a business structure is important, so you protect and keep separate your personal assets and business assets, which decreases your liability. The most common entity for landlords is a limited liability company (LLC).
2. Have a Dedicated Cellphone
It’s common to have a dedicated cellphone for your real estate investment business. This is a line that contractors and tenants call you on. It keeps your personal number private, and you can answer the dedicated line only during business hours or be prepared that if it’s a late call, it may be an emergency.
3. Open a P.O. Box
This also protects your privacy since it doesn’t give tenants your home address. A P.O. box is ideal for tenants who pay their rent by mail. You can check it once or twice a month, and you can also get all property-related mail sent there.
4. Have Dedicated Bank Accounts
Set up at least two dedicated bank accounts to begin with. One account will be solely for security deposits. It will keep them separate from other monies, which is required in some states and, if not required, is a good idea to make accounting for the money easier. The second business account will be where your rents are deposited and where your expenses are withdrawn from.
5. Compile a List of Contractors
Keeping a handy list of contractors, their contact information, and what they specialize in will save you time and money. When an emergency repair needs to be handled, you won’t be nervously searching for contractors and paying higher prices.
6. Hire a CPA
Hiring a certified public accountant (CPA) is vital to ensure your taxes are done properly, on time, and that all necessary tax deductions are accounted for. Their job is made easier, as is yours by also using accounting software. Also, in the event of an audit, a CPA will be able to guide you through the process and stand by their accounting methods. If you do taxes yourself or hire a non-CPA, mistakes are more likely to happen.
7. Put a Real Estate Attorney on Retainer
Having a real estate attorney on retainer is worth the money. They can guide you with landlord-tenant situations, evictions, zoning issues, and housing laws. It’s better to be overprepared than to get into a messy situation that ends up costing you money, time, and your reputation as a landlord.
8. Implement a Marketing Strategy
Don’t wait until you have a vacancy to devise a marketing strategy. Have one ready to go prior to a vacancy so that you can get the property marketed and rented right away. This will bring in faster rental income, which is positive for cash flow. Include a marketing budget, photos of the property and what the ads will say, and where they will be placed.
Being organized and documenting everything are the keys to being a successful landlord. Having a tenant screening checklist, a move in and move out checklist, and a landlord operations checklist will help you be the best landlord you can be.
Now you have your landlord checklist, it’s time to take the organization up a level. Check out Avail to manage your properties easier. They offer property listings with photos as well as online rent collection and maintenance requests. The first unit is always free.