When dealing with tenants, there are many things you can do to create good landlord-tenant relationships that are mutually beneficial to one another. Here are a few points that will help you understand what rights each of you have and how to be a successful landlord.
First of all, thoroughly screen all potential tenants. Let's ensure we start off on the right foot by only renting to tenants with a good track record. Make sure you are doing your due diligence by running credit checks, screening their employee references and looking for prior bankruptcies. A track record of evictions, late or non-payments with former landlords. Bad credit and gaps in their rental history and suspect landlord references are all red flags.
You've done a great job screening and have found great tenants for your property. So what's the next step? Well, like any relationship you want to establish boundaries right off the bat. Make sure they clearly understand your expectations and that you understand theirs. Communication is always key. Your tenants must have a reliable way to get hold of you. However, you may set guidelines as to when is the best time to contact you for routine issues.
Make sure you have a good lease. Ensure the lease you are using is legal and comprehensive. Retain a lawyer who specializes in landlord-tenant law reviews it. Make sure it clearly spells out each party's obligation in detail. A good understanding of what is expected at the outset will save many headaches down the road.
I've already got the tenant from hell and I am about to lose my mind. What can I do? Basically there are three broad areas for eviction. They are ‘eviction for non-payment',' eviction for cause' and a ‘no-fault eviction'.
- Eviction for non-payment – to evict a tenant for non-payment you must send your tenant a statutory 14 day "notice to quit" before starting the eviction process. The 14 day notice to quit should be drafted carefully, and served by a constable or sheriff to ensure proof of delivery.
- Eviction for cause - This covers the range of violations of lease provisions by the tenant. These may include, but are not limited to illegal activity, drug use, excessive noise, uncleanliness, harassment of other residents, and non-approved residents. As is the case in all other evictions, you must issue a notice to quit to the tenant stating the specifics of the offenses. Evicting for cause can take up quite a bit of your time since you have to offer live testimony of your tenant's violations and getting any police officers to show up in court to corroborate for you can prove difficult. In the case of drugs and other illegal activity, there is a special expedited eviction process.
- No-fault eviction – Landlords must give their tenants a '30 day notice to quit' before serving the eviction. At a minimum it needs to have an eviction date and a reason for eviction. These must be drafted with care and according to Massachusetts Tenancy law or it will never make it through any court proceeding.
When seeking to become a landlord, nothing will beat preparation, knowledge and diligence. Make sure you have the law on your side and that you fully understand your rights and responsibilities and that is clearly communicated to your tenant. As with anything an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.