By Sarnen Steinbarth
State of Montana Real Estate Instructor
Did you know that September is the official safety month of the year?
Here are some tips to stay safe on real estate showings:
1. Carry a digital weapon - a cell phone. Phones can be a life-saver in a bad situation. Stay in communication with someone who knows you are on a showing. If you don't have cell phone service at the property let someone know when to expect you back.
2. ID and pre-qualify prospective clients (buyers, tenants, etc). At a minimum, get a copy of a driver's license. Having basic information on a person is one of the best deterrents to a crime.
3. Trust your intuition - if you feel uncomfortable with the client bring a buddy with you. Having more than one person dramatically increases your level of safety.
4. Be smart at the property. Let the client go into rooms first, stay in an open and well lit part of the property. Leave the front door open. Tell the client you are expecting someone else shortly.
5. Know the basics of self-defense. Whether or not you are comfortable with a physical deterrent ( weapon, pepper spray, etc.) you should be comfortable with some basic self defense techniques. Not comfortable with self-defense moves? Take a class at a local gym or community organization to learn some nifty moves.
In the first posting of this multi-part series we will cover some frequently asked questions regarding Montana Landlord-Tenant law.
Q: When are move-in condition reports required?
A: A written move-in condition report is required if there is a security deposit. If there is no security deposit then a move-in condition report is not required.
See MCA – 70-25-206
Q: Is a landlord required to notify the tenant of any cleaning necessary prior to deducting cleaning expenses from a security deposit?
A: Yes. A landlord must provide the tenant with a notice, which includes the type of cleaning required, and a 24 hour period to perform any necessary cleaning prior to deducting cleaning expenses from a security deposit. This does not apply if the tenant moved out without notice.
See MCA – 70-25-201
Q: When can a new rule be in effect if it substantially modifies a tenant’s bargain of their rental agreement?
A: The new rule would not be in effect until after 30 days notice for month-to-month tenancies, or after the initial term of the agreement for tenancies longer than month-to-month.
See MCA – 70-24-311
By - Sarnen Steinbarth
State of Montana Approved Real Estate Instructor
Finding a quality tenant for a property can sometimes be a difficult task. Many landlords would rather have a good quality tenant paying a lower monthly rent than a problem tenant who is paying a higher rent. Tenants who are consistently late with rent payments or who cause damage can quickly become a real hassle. Here are 5 tips for finding the best tenants for a rental property:
1. Credit – Possibly more important than anything else is a prospective tenant’s credit history. There are many credit-checking companies online that you can use to check your applicants credit history. (List available here: http://www.mtpropertyeducation.com/software-and-screening.html ) Before you check a prospective tenant’s credit make sure you get a signed authorization form allowing you to access their information. On the credit report look for a history of late or delinquent payments, bankruptcies, profit and loss write-off’s, collections and high unpaid balances. Finding a tenant with a credit score of 575 or above is highly recommended. Be aware that if you deny an applicant based off of their credit report there are certain Fair Credit Reporting Act guidelines you will have to follow.
2. Background Check – Similar to a credit check, a background check can give you information into a prospective tenant’s past. There are a variety of online companies that will provide a background check service. Some background investigating you may be able to easily and inexpensively do on your own. For example, you can do a free search for convicted felons in Montana online.
3. Pets – Depending upon the type of property and size you may or may not want to allow pets. Small dogs and cats typically don’t do too much harm to a property, however you’ll want to be very wary of any potential tenants with puppies or large dogs. Puppies frequently chew and can do substantial damage to carpets and floors. Large dogs tend to do more harm than smaller ones and can also do substantial damage to lawns. If you decide not to allow pets keep in mind that service animals are not considered pets and should be allowed with proper documentation.
4. Smoking – Smoking can have lasting effects on a rental unit – even after tenants who smoke move out it may be difficult to get the smell of smoke out of the carpets and walls. It will be even harder to get new renters to move in if the first thing they smell when touring the property is cigarette smoke. You have the right to ask a prospective renter if anyone that will be living at the property is a smoker and deny them based on whether or not they smoke.
5. References – Make sure you get good references for a prospective tenant. On the application you should gather contact information for past landlords, employers, as well as personal and/or professional references. Try to contact all the references to get a clear picture of the quality of the applicant. Personal references may not be as reliable as previous landlords or employers. Be especially cautious if you get bad feedback about the applicant from one or more of the references listed.
Sarnen is owner/founder of Montana Property Education and is a State of Montana approved real estate instructor. He is also a licensed property manager, broker and owner of Blue River Property Management, LLC. in Helena, MT www.blueriverpm.com.
This information provided by Montana Property Education is provided for informational purposes only; it is not offered as and does not constitute legal advice.