If you are a returnee and have been following my exploits on Facebook and this website, you will know that I am a huge believer in being transparent. If you are new, welcome. I am a huge believer in sharing the good and bad about being a self-mananaging landlord.
While vacationing in Fiji, celebrating the holidays and my birthday (28 feels years young of course), I posted this Facebook post to the military landlord Facebook group I am a member of (if you are a military landlord I HIGHLY recommend you join this group if you haven’t already. It’s an amazing group.)
You Can Place Tenants Even While Vacationing in Fiji or Anywhere Else!
Before we get started, here are three things to keep in mind.
- I should never have had a vacancy – This house still had six months left on the lease. The only reason I even had to worry about it while I was on vacation was because my tenants could no longer get along. I had intentionally set it up so there would be no houses coming up while I was on vacation.
- Don’t feel bad about holding the tenant’s feet to the fire – These tenants were totally my problem children. They tried to use fake orders. I not only asked detailed questions of the adminstration person they had working with them, I also told them I will verify it. I also followed up with housing and asked for help to verify that the tenant was truly breaking the lease.
- Thank goodness for my break lease fee – I have learned the hard way that if you don’t have a break lease fee as a self-managing landlord, you can only charge for your expense. Unfortunately, your time is not considered an actual expense. Therefore, if it’s not in the lease you cannot charge for it in my experience.
Before we get started lets set the stage. I over priced the house (Mistake 1) and had awful pictures up (Mistake 2) because work was nuts. So my house for a first time in a long time or even ever (memory fading) was not rented before tenant transition. When I negotiated the tenants move out, I gave them the choice of moving out before or after our vacation because their two-month notice was right in the middle of our vacation. (Mistake 3)
Since the house hadn’t rented, I got the brilliant idea to save $250 by ripping all the carpet out of the house to get new carpet. Since I got sick the day I was leaving and the county screwed up the disposal of the emptying of the large dumpster, I was left with 2/3 of the house empty and the other 1/3 with disgusting carpet.
The tenants did not have the house professionally cleaned before they left and the landscaping was a mess. I decided to just deal with the loss of rent and leave the house vacant. My plan was to deal with the house when I go back. That’s when Murphy loved me.
First– I always use Postlets.com. I list in one location as my primary.
Second – I was planning on just following up when I got back from vacation. I knew that was a huge risk because with tenants you need to respond ASAP to have the higher potential for them renting your house. I received interest from an applicant during the vacation.
Third – I called the applicant (using Skype and then my phone) and they were interested in seeing it right away. I had left a key with my best friend. She agreed to show the house and they saw it.
Fourth – The tenant toured my beyond-not-ready house and fell in love because of the location and it being exactly what they wanted.
Fifth – I followed up to see if the tenant had any questions or concerns and if they wished to proceed. They did and they sent me over the documents. I emailed them the application and credit/background check.
Six – I texted that they were approved.
Seven – I followed up to see if they had any questions or concerns and if they wished to proceed. They wished to proceed. I emailed a pdf copy of my lease over to the tenant. I then called them on Skype and later my cell phone to go through the lease.
Eight – We reviewed all 16-plus-pages of my lease together, answering any questions. They only needed some clarification.
Nine – I had them drop off the check and the lease with my friend. It was the quickest way to get it finished (Mistake 4).
Learn From My Mistakes
Mistake 1: Over Priced the House – I priced the house $50 above the previous price, which was already $100 high. In retrospect it should have been listed at $1,400 from day one. A week before the house went vacant, I lowered the house $150. It got rented but it was definitely a slight bummer to lose $100 a month, which is why that break lease fee is even more important.
Mistake 2: Awful Pictures – I made the mistake of allowing my house location to sell the house. I should have put the effort into making sure the pictures were awesome early in the experience. Unfortunately I let my crazy day job and being tired get in the way. In this case, it cost me $467.
Mistake 3: Middle of Vacation – If I can choose again, I will always have the tenants move out once I get back from vacation. Having them move out was silly even if I had already had a tenant in place. I wasn’t thinking, because if I had I would have remembered that one of the highest volume of tenant calls is when they first move in. Little issues always seem to be coming up. So lesson learned, time of year or not (Christmas time is much better market for me than the week after), never install a tenant right before vacation.
Mistake 4: Dropping Off the Lease with a Friend – I took the easy way out. I should had them scan the lease and sent it to me. I also should have required them to direct deposit the funds. I told them I required a certified check, and I came home to a check. While I knew better I took the easy way out. While it appears to have worked out, it would not be my first choice.
Ready to get your lease in tip-top shape and ready for anything thrown at it? Get started here:
Read my post on How to Create a Rock Solid Lease in ONE Evening.
Be sure to grab my eBook! Wishing there was a resource that had explanations and addendum with the lease language already written for you? Check out my book, The Everything Lease Addendum How-To For Landlords. This is where I share all 37 of my lease addendum wording and explanations that I have put together over the years of ulcer-inducing moments, learning the hard way, and participating in forums. I create this with the hope this saves you a few of the challenges I have experienced along the way.
Where have you placed tenants while on vacation?0