Some people become accidental landlords because of a job change or difficulty selling a house, while others find they need to rent out the home of an elderly parent who has moved into a care facility. More than 3 million owner-occupied homes were converted to rental properties between 2007 and 2011, according to a 2013 report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University. Here is some advice for taking on this challenging new role. First, find the right tenant. A credit check and legal background check can help you find reliable, honest tenants, says real-estate agent Gail Carpenter of Northwood Realty in Pittsburgh. “Sometimes a credit check alone” will rule out an applicant, she notes. “Do not take ‘personal’ references too seriously,” says New York City condo owner Sharon Lynch, who rented her home to tenants while spending a year in California. “Anyone can get a friend to write something nice about them.” Lynch suggests using an online directory to search for an applicant’s current address and get contact information for their neighbors. Once you’ve found your tenant, clean your home thoroughly and “make the property as safe as it can be,” Carpenter says. You also may want to tackle any looming home-improvement jobs now, rather than leave your tenant to handle (or ignore) them when they become larger problems. Document the house’s condition and cleanliness by taking pictures of the house inside and out. When your tenant arrives to inspect the home before moving in, have tenants sign a document of the pictures, showing the condition at move-in.” “Always be present for the move-in and move-out inspections,” says Babette Maxwell, who has rented her home to tenants several times during her husband’s Navy career and founded “Military Spouse” magazine to advise other military families about challenges like this one. Also, Maxwell suggests, “Provide your renter with a baggie of ‘approved’ nails, screws, picture hangers.” As you negotiate the lease, don’t forget to have a detailed discussion about outdoor space, too. Will you or the tenant pay for lawn cutting? Who will keep up with pulling weeds and trimming bushes? Is the tenant permitted to plant flowers and do other gardening? Finally, stay in touch. If you won’t be living close enough to check on the property yourself, arrange for a friend or hire a property manager to do so. | Read More