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olo.com) or by phone (800-728-
3555). You can also find Nolo books at bookstores and libraries.
Be sure to check out the Nolo website, which has lots of free information of interest to landlords, including legal updates. On the home page, choose Property and Money, then Landlords and Property Management.
11 Tips for Being a Successful Landlord
1. Don't rent to anyone before checking their credit history, references, and background.
Haphazard screening too often results in problems -- a tenant who pays the rent late or not at all, trashes your place, moves in undesirable friends, or worse.
2. Avoid illegal discrimination. Comply with all federal and state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race or color, national origin, gender, age, familial status, or disability. (See Chapter 3 for an overview of the topic and the special legal guide "Complying With Discrimination Laws" on the Landlord Rental Forms CD.)
3. Get all the important terms of the tenancy in writing. Beginning with the rental application and lease or rental agreement, be sure to document important facts of your relationship with your tenants -- including when and how you handle tenant complaints and repair problems, notice you must give to enter a tenant's apartment, and the like.
4. Establish a clear, fair system of setting, collecting, holding, and returning security deposits. Inspect and document the condition of the rental unit before the tenant moves in to avoid disputes over security deposits when the tenant moves out.
5. Stay on top of repair and maintenance needs and make repairs when requested. If the property is not kept in good repair, you'll alienate good tenants. And they may have the right to withhold rent, sue for any injuries caused by defective conditions, or move out without notice.
6. Don't let your tenants and property be easy marks for a criminal. You could well be liable for the tenant's losses. Landlords are sued more than any other group of business owners in the country. The average settlement paid by a landlord's insurance company is $600,000, and the average jury award is $1.2 million.
7. Respect your tenants' privacy. Notify tenants whenever you plan to enter their rental unit, and provide as much notice as possible, at least 24 hours or the minimum amount required
by state law.
8. Disclose environmental hazards such as lead. Landlords are increasingly being held liable for tenant health problems resulting from exposure to environmental poisons in the rental premises.
9. Choose and supervise your manager carefully. If a manager commits a crime or is incompetent, you may be held financially responsible. Do a thorough background check and clearly spell out the manager's duties to help prevent problems down the road.
10. Purchase enough liability and other property insurance. A well-designed insurance program can protect your rental property from losses caused by everything from fire and storms to burglary, vandalism, and personal injury and discrimination lawsuits.
11. Try to resolve disputes with tenants without lawyers and lawsuits. If you have a conflict with a tenant over rent, repairs, your access to the rental unit, noise, or some other issue that doesn't immediately warrant an eviction, meet with the tenant to see if the problem can be
resolved informally. If that doesn't work, consider mediation by a neutral third party, often available at little or no cost from a publicly funded program. If your dispute involves money and all
attempts to reach agreement fail, try small claims court, where you can represent yourself. Use it to
collect unpaid rent or to seek money for property damage after a tenant moves out and the deposit