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Landlord Questions: Ask Us Anything – Video Extra

In this Ask Us Anything video, Eli Secor from Landlord Gurus joins Facebook Live to answer your pressing landlord questions. Watch the complete video or jump to specific topics that interest you.

Topics discussed in this video include:

  • How much can I charge for the security deposit? [1:23]
  • How do I upload government ID and pay stubs? [4:09]
  • Should the security deposit equal the monthly rent? [6:13]
  • How do you show your home from out of state? [6:52]
  • What is considered rental income? [11:30]
  • How do you find reliable handymen and contractors? [14:22]
  • Is it easy to use property management software? [15:38]
  • What can Facebook do for your listings? [20:56]
  • Is it safe to use Venmo to collect rent? [23:27]
  • What is the best way to vet tenants? [28:56]
  • How do you deal with mold and mildew? [32:52]


Hello. This is Eli from Landlord Gurus. We have Chris and Xu, who are my partners at Landlord Gurus, in the wings. They’ll be sending me little notes if anything comes up that I don’t notice.

For those who don’t have a lot of knowledge about Landlord Gurus, we created it a couple of years ago. Chris and I both manage small portfolios of rental real estate here in Seattle and we were constantly bouncing questions off of each other. Just practical questions about what do you do if a tenant does such and such or what have you found the best way to collect rent is. We realized one day that we could try to help others in the same situation that we’re in and other independent landlords and also try to learn as we go and find tools to help us do our jobs more easily and more efficiently and ultimately, more profitably. 

We’ve written a lot on our blog about the daily day-in and day-out rental property management tasks and challenges. This is our first ask us anything. This is our first live event. So thank you for being here and thanks for the questions. 

I will start by getting into those. We had some really great questions. 

1. How Much Can I Charge for a Security Deposit?

The first one was from Anush in New York. He says “How much can I charge for a security deposit on a rental house?” 

The first thing to keep in mind is that it will depend on your location. As with many of these questions that we deal with, you really have to be on top of either studying up or getting consultations with lawyers or rental housing association resources, who can give the local laws so that you make sure you’re compliant and safe.

We’ll post some articles that we’ve written on some of these topics, along with our recording of this. For example, we’ve written an article, which you can find on our site, is everything property owners should know about security deposits. 

internal link Also Read: Everything Property Owners Should Know About Security Deposits – Landlord Gurus 

I’ll briefly touch on what we cover there. A lot of locations, Seattle being one of them, have limitations on the deposits and fees that you can collect. Here it is, including application fees and any cleaning fees, et cetera, it can’t be more than one month’s rent that you can collect in the form of deposits and fees. 

Then there are a couple of different forms of deposit that are commonly used. Many of you will be familiar with them. I think mostly when people say deposit, they mean a refundable security deposit. Because it’s refundable, you have flexibility in how you use it. If there’s anything left due at all or any damages or any cleaning to be done, you can use that to cover outstanding utility fees, late fees, rent that hasn’t been paid, repairs, or cleaning at the end of a tenancy. That’s a refundable security deposit. 

You can also have fees that you say right up front, I’m going to charge you $200 when you move out, to cover the cleaning. I see where that comes from because sometimes, people move out, they think they’ve cleaned, and it’s not move-in ready. So you end up having a cleaner anyway.

Where you have limitations on the amount that you can collect, I think it’s best to leave it as a security deposit that is refundable and can be used for whatever is needed. The last form is prepaid rent, which is often first and last, is what people will say. First, last, and deposit. That often can add up to three times the monthly rent, which is a lot. A lot of renters can’t afford it.

In some places, it can’t be too much. So, at any rate, we recommend going generally with the refundable deposit that’s held through the duration of the occupancy and is applied at the end to anything that’s outstanding. Something you really need to note here is that in most states, if not all, you have to hold those security deposits in a dedicated separate bank account.

Those funds cannot be touched or used in any way during the tenancy. It can only be applied to anything that’s left due at the end of the tenancy. Collecting cleaning or pet fees can sometimes make sense. You have to think about the combination of different amounts that you’re collecting and what the optimal is for your case. 

All right, let’s move on to a question that was sent to us by Mace from California. They bought a duplex seven years ago and there was a sewer line inspected. Now there are some problems with the sewer line that have cropped up. So, I wanted to just touch bases really quickly on that.

Unfortunately, this is not in our wheelhouse. We’re not real estate lawyers. This is a purchase and sale legal question. So, Mace, unfortunately, I don’t have a good answer for you on that.

2. How Do I Upload Government ID and Pay Stubs?

Let’s see. Sharon from Cook, and I don’t know if that is Cook County or the Cook Islands, or where.

But, this is a great question, actually. It has to do with uploading government forms of ID, a copy of a government form of ID, pay stubs, bank accounts, or tax returns.

With so many people doing different gig work and having less traditional employees, where it’s a straightforward employer paycheck scenario, it really helps landlords to be able to confirm that this is the person, and then also see okay, well, I see that on this contract, they made X number of dollars. And on this one, Y, so that you can verify their income or that they have income in the bank. 

So the answer to the question is, our preferred way of doing that, and you’ll hear me coming back to this, is to use a property management software tool of some kind. I’ll get more into that. 

internal link Also Read: The Best Rental Property Management Software: Product Overviews

But many of them now will allow you, and even as a matter of course, to upload ID and any documents. You can request documents. The other benefit is that those documents then get kept in the cloud and tenants can get to them too.

Another thing that goes alongside this is that you can also require that tenants have renters insurance and provide proof of renters insurance. 

A lot of these are our partners, or when you’re on our site or here, we will mention companies, many of whom we will get a small commission from if you go to purchase a product. We try to evaluate many of them so you have lots of options. But just full disclosure.

But, Avail, TurboTenant, and RentRedi. Many of these really robust property management software, do offer this upload.  

3. Should the Security Deposit Equal the Monthly Rent?

I see that, we’ve got a question from Chuck. There seems to be a good practice to have the security deposit not equal to the monthly rent. 

Well, Chuck, I’m not sure, exactly what you mean there. But, I was advised at one point to keep it very close to the same amount. Just for the sake of not being confused, so tenants don’t think, “Okay, well, I paid a month’s worth of rent. So, obviously, I don’t have to pay rent for the last month,” by which they would be consuming your security deposit, leaving nothing to cover damage or unpaid fees.

That I think is one reason to have it be a slightly different amount. Generally I use either the monthly rent or something very close to it. 

4. How Do You Show Your Home from Out of State?

Here’s a question from Ed, from Ohio/Florida. So, Ed lives in Florida and he has a rental property in Ohio. And the question is, “How do you show your home when you live out of state?” 

So, fortunately, there are a lot of developments in recent years that can help with that. There are some services, all of these are partners of ours, which we call kind of a hybrid property management service. Often, there’ll be a flat fee per unit. 

So there’s Hemlane and Marble. In the Northwest, there’s RentalRiff as well, and they’re expanding. These take up the space between a do-it-yourself property management software tool and full-service property managers. 

So Hemlane, for example, will connect you with a local realtor and facilitate that connection.

Marble, I believe, has that available as well. 

RentalRiff has a little different model where they have people in the markets where they operate, who are kind of handy people/the local face of the rental. So, that’s a nice combination, I think, because you need people to be able to locally attend to renters’ needs and often there are things to fix.

The other thing that’s developing quickly, and I think is going to be a bigger and bigger asset to landlords is the invention and evolution of smart locks. So Marble, which is, by the way, uses a smart lock that they can program remotely. They can give time-sensitive access to people. People have to have their phone, which has a code, that will give them access to the unit so that they can tour it on their own. 

Now, before that, Marble has created a protocol for vetting anybody who goes to a property before they ever have the address. There’s an upload of the photo ID. I believe there’s a credit check. There’s a credit card on file. I believe they have a six-point, step-by-step process for vetting people. 

If you want to do this, there are lots of smart locks out there. They usually have a 9-volt battery, but they can either be a manual keypad that you program and then you go back and you change that code when you’re not showing it anymore. So inappropriate people don’t have access. You can have wifi or Bluetooth-enabled locks. You can make the changes remotely. 

internal link Also Read: Do Landlords Have to Change Locks Between Tenants? Should They?

I think a good way to go is anytime you’re giving people access to a space when you’re not there, is to have cameras around. And, I’ve set up Ring cameras. There are lots of different varieties, but I’ve set up Ring cameras around rental properties. They’re now pretty easy to install, and much less expensive than a whole security system used to be.

Along with that, I would recommend actually doing a tour with the potential tenant where you’re on Zoom or FaceTime on their mobile device so that you can talk them through it, as they walk through the property. You can say, “Okay, well, no, over there. That’s where the storage room is,” or “This is where your packages would be delivered.” And that type of thing. 

Along those lines, it’s a really good idea to pre-vet people, pre-screening is the term we use most. That can take a couple of forms. We recommend this no matter what your process is, whether it’s in-person showings or not.

When you have contact with a potential renter, you ask some vital questions right up front. That will indicate to both parties whether or not this is likely to be a fit. So for me, it’s just very simple four questions. I ask, do you have any animals, and I don’t say pets, because I’d like them also to tell me if they have an emotional support animal.

Do you or anybody who will be living at the space smoke or vape in any form? Do you earn X number of times the monthly rent? I use two and a half, but then I caveat that should be after any really large payments, like, a large car payment, or, student loans and that type of thing.

I think Chris uses, a debt-to-income ratio. Maybe he can chime in on how he does that. And then, more recently I’ve started asking “When would you like to move?”. Because I found that, if I forget to do that, then all of a sudden I’ve got somebody who wants to move in 2 months.

And they’re looking at places now and, that I have available now, so best not to waste anybody’s time. Along with that, especially if you’re virtually touring, it’s a good idea to have a video tour that you put up. And on any listing, it really helps to have a video tour that you put up, that people can see for themselves. “Is this something that really I’m interested in?” before they ever take any action to step ahead.   

5. What is Considered Rental Income?

Kim from Michigan has asked, “I own a home and live upstairs, but rent the downstairs to my son. The local city rental inspector said he didn’t need to inspect this home or designate it as a formal rental. Do I still count this as rental income? Is this no longer considered my homestead for tax purposes?

Okay, so again, this is a question to make sure you get the right answer from a tax professional. Right off the bat, we notice that these are probably two different issues. 

The most important aspect is how it impacts state and federal taxes. Cities that register and inspect rental property usually do that so that they’re making sure that rentals in that location are safe. Proper sanitation, have heating, are up to code for safety and habitability, and conform with shared space questions. So that’s usually the motivation behind the city inspections. 

You definitely need to claim any income, whether it’s from a family member or not. That income needs to go on your taxes.The state and the federal government and maybe local taxes and local governments as well, will want to collect their tax on that. That’s absolutely mandatory. 

Now, there may also be benefits to reporting this as rental income, such as depreciation. I’ll give you a very crude overview. If you’re using an asset, like a building or a part of your home in operating a business, which is what you’re doing by renting it out, then you can depreciate, in this case, the building, the improvements on the property, as if they’re being used up over the course of time by the act of your business activity, which is renting. What that does is it means that you get to act like this building is worth less and less each year.

I believe it’s 17 years… 27? Talk to an accountant for rental property. Each year there’s a chunk of depreciation on that asset, that building, those improvements that you can deduct from your taxes. So, there’s a benefit there. And then also, if you have lawn care, Wi-Fi, electrical, water, and repairs, those types of things, you can allocate a percentage, maybe it will be half in this case, to the renter side of things. You would put that down as an expense in your business activity of renting. Half of that house, and you would get to use that as a tax deduction. 

One thing to think about, though, on the depreciation is that when you sell, there is recaptured depreciation. Again, before you set out on all of this, make sure that you have the advice of a tax professional who can guide you through that. There’s some strategy to how you do this. 

You always have to pay the taxes though. So, make sure you do that. 

6. How Do You Find Reliable Handymen and Contractors?

Okay. Rob from Georgia asks, “How do you find reliable handymen and contractors to help with the turnover of your unit and general maintenance?” This is one of the two pain points that Chris and I identified, long before we started Landlord Gurus, and it’s managing maintenance and finding good tenants.

So, this is not easy. In practice, we feel like the best way to do it is to ask people in your community. I’ll keep an eye on neighborhood groups, like there’s a mom’s and dad’s group from my neighborhood. 

People are always asking for referrals and I always take it with a grain of salt when I don’t already know the person who is recommending the resource, the handy person in this case. But it’s better than straight out of the yellow pages, if there was such a thing.

Even, Nextdoor can be a resource for that. People in your neighborhood are using these resources. And generally, nobody’s going to chime in with recommendations if they didn’t like the person. Facebook groups actually can also be a resource sometimes.

And, we’re big believers in rental housing associations who will advocate for landlords and supply resources for landlords. They often have vendor lists or resource books, so that’s a place that I’ve gone as well. I’ve found good cleaners and that type of thing there. Unfortunately, you gotta beat the payment a little bit for that.  

7. Is It Easy to Use Property Management Software?

We have a question from Gail in California. So first off, hi mom. I’m in Seattle and she’s in California and manages a couple of properties down there. Her question is how easy or difficult is it to set up and use the various leasing and rent collection services referring to companies that take care of the nitty-gritty of providing state-appropriate leases, doing background checks, onboarding the tenants, seamlessly collecting rents, and flagging late rents. So this might seem like she’s giving me a bit of a layup here because this is a lot of what we do. 

The answer is that it’s very easy with many different property management software platforms to use out there. Many of which facilitate every step in this process that she’s described. So, just as kind of an overview of what we call a full-featured property management software platform, they would cover advertising, ideally they would syndicate. 

Avail is one of our primary partners. They’ll syndicate out to PadMapper, Zumper, and Apartment List. I think they’ve got 15 or something like that. 

Many of the other platforms that we’ve either written about, partner with, or used, do that. That’s an element to choosing a platform. Basically, how broadly does it propagate your listing out there? How many people is it going to help you reach? 

All it takes to get set up is just to put the data about your rental in the platform, upload your photos, write your ad copy. From that point, once you launch your ad, basically that property is in the platform.

So, somebody comes along, and says, “Hey, I’m interested.” You can message through the platforms, generally, with them to coordinate a showing. Send them an application, which they fill out online. It’s as simple as just forwarding a link and they can pay directly for a screening report.

You then get a complete application. No paper trading hands, no extra meetings, no collecting a check for a background report. You get an application and the screening reports, within minutes. From there, you can evaluate, call the references, evaluate this applicant, and approve or deny them.

If approved, then the best platforms, many of them now, Azibo, Avail, TurboTenant, and I believe RentRedi, all do 50 state leases. So, those leases are adapted to the laws of each of the 50 states. You still need to check on your local jurisdiction. Cities are increasingly writing city-specific laws. So you have to watch for that. 

Then, you can auto-populate a lease once you’ve decided to go ahead. All of their contact information is in the system. You can set the terms of how long it is, how much the rent is, how much deposit’s required, pet fee, pet policy, smoking, etc. 

You can generally edit, you can add clauses, you can attach additional documents if you want. Then, you can send it straight back to the applicant for electronic signing.

There’s essentially DocuSign, built into these platforms. All those documents are then stored in the cloud as well, which is nice because everybody can get to them very easily. We’ve written articles about some of the best services out there for, if what you want is state-specific leases. 

We evaluate products based on individual functions and overall. There’s lots to read if you really want to dig in. And the next step is to move to collecting rent. So once everything is signed, and legally binding, then you can invite them to pay rent electronically. All they need to do is to put their bank routing number and bank account number in. Yours is securely stored there. Most platforms allow you to have multiple bank accounts, so that you can direct the money to different bank accounts, depending on what property it is. From there, the tenants can set up automatic payments, which dramatically reduces late payments because they never have to remember.

Generally, tenants, in my experience, don’t want to be late either, and they certainly don’t want to pay late fees, which you can also set up so that they’re automatically assessed at day three. If rent hasn’t been paid, then my system adds, unfortunately, it’s only $10 that’s allowed here in Seattle, but whatever the set late fee is that you’ve dictated. 

Beyond that, it becomes a platform for communicating on maintenance issues. You can communicate on all kinds of topics there. Many of them have great alternatives to TurboTax and those types of products. Essentially, they have accounting functions that are tailored to the operation of a rental business. They come populated with expense categories, for example, that are really common. The more you can run all of your income through one of these platforms and log your expenses there as well, the easier it’s going to be to prepare your financials when it comes to be tax time.

So, we’ve also done articles on that. There are also some great bank accounts out there. They’re basically online landlord bank accounts that are offering very high yields, especially in recent months. They have a lot of these accounting features as well. So, that’s kind of an attractive way to keep everything separate from your personal checking account and also, earn well on it. I think we got that. Thanks, Mom.

8. What Can Facebook Do for Your Listings?

Let’s see. Linda from Washington asked what Facebook can do for my business. Really, the name of it here for us in our mind is reach. Like I touched on with the description of the property management software platforms, it’s all about getting out in front of as many people as you can so you have the greatest pool of potential applicants to choose from. For me, what that has meant is I’ll advertise on Avail or TurboTenant. Then I’ll also go to Zillow because Zillow doesn’t cooperate with, or not reliably, it seems to change, with the syndications from other sites. I still do Craigslist, and then Facebook Marketplace is another opportunity there where you can create a property listing with your description and your photos. It’s just another platform to get you out there.

Another aspect of this that’s different than others is that there are also groups on Facebook. Traveling nurses, for example. You can get interest groups or particular access to people who might be suitable, for one reason or another. As we know, Facebook is the largest social media platform and has lots of different kinds of ins and outs to it.

Chris pointed out that Facebook has an in-app camera. In the Facebook app, you can create your listing and take photos. I’d have to confirm whether or not they have video capability, but that’s handy to be able to take those photos right from within the platform.

And messaging, yeah. You can also correspond back and forth, of course, through the app. But there are a couple of limitations. What we’re getting at here is that this is not a replacement for a property management software platform because it’s got no security or background screening functionality. None of the property management software functions, such as outside advertising applications, or rent collection leases. So it’s not a replacement. What I do is I have my native platform that I do everything on. I wish I didn’t have to do it, but I bring people from Craigslist or Zillow and I say, “Okay, well, here’s where I take my application.”

I always turn off automatic applications, Zillow in particular, so that I have to invite applicants. Then I’ll take them to Avail or TurboTenant or the other platform that I’m using. The reason for that is I get a lot of tire kickers who are not very serious when I just allow applications to come in and often people can use the same application in a number of different ways. So they’re just kind of scattershot, and it ends up being a waste of time. 

We suggest having a separate platform but using Facebook to get the word out there on your property. 

9. Is It Safe to Use Venmo to Collect Rent?

Here we have a question from Lola from Texas. “I want to stop collecting rent checks and cashing them. Is it safe to use Venmo to collect rent?” Very good question, Lola. We have, a couple of articles that address this. The short answer is, no, we don’t recommend collecting rent on Venmo, Zelle, PayPal, or any other peer-to-peer payment platform.

internal link Also Read: Apps to Pay Rent: Should Landlords Use PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle?

And, the reasons that we recommend against doing that are that sometimes, there are actually fees associated. So, if you have a business account, for example, and you’re a business entity that an individual is paying, then usually, PayPal, I know, for example, will charge a transaction fee. That would be something that you would pay, not the renter. With PayPal and Venmo, the funds also go directly into their accounts, the accounts that you hold on those platforms. Any of these electronic transactions do take time.

That’s something that you can look at when you’re choosing a rent collection platform, is how long does it take? But generally an ACH, a clearinghouse or an EFT, an electronic funds transfer, both those acronyms mean the same thing. They take 1 to 3 days, sometimes a little longer. Usually, it’s at least three in my experience. I don’t think that’s generally as long with Zelle, PayPal, or Venmo, but you have two steps in the process here because you then have to move the money to your account. So, it doesn’t land there on the day or two days right after rent collection and you have to make it happen. 

There’s no way to set up automatic recurring payments. Your tenants can’t set those up and you can’t set up a requirement for that. You can in the rent payment or property management software platforms. PayRent is a partner of ours, by the way, one doesn’t need to have a full service, full-featured property management software platform that you use. There are lots of a la carte. PayRent focuses on the issues of collecting rent. That’s really their focus and they do a great job with it, including late fees, reminders, and all that type of thing, which you can’t do through these peer-to-peer services.

You also can’t block partial payments. This is important when you get into a situation where you’ve initiated eviction proceedings. If you accept a partial payment, any amount, it will set the clock back. You have to start the whole process over again.

Most of these software solutions that we recommend allow you to stop payments, basically keep payments from processing or set it to, yes or no, accepting partial payments. You can’t do that with these peer-to-peer services. 

Some have a maximum transfer amount. For example, Zelle has I think a cap of $1,500 a day. So where that’s not enough to cover the month’s rent, then you have to get the tenants to go back and do it twice. Then you have to deal with it twice and remind them potentially. There are some cases in which, tenants are able to reverse charges. To be honest, I’m not clear on what the conditions have to be or which platforms they affect. Their consumer protections, that exist there for, not just renters, but for people who are purchasing items using these platforms where there’s a form of insurance where you can get money back in certain situations, if something untoward has happened. But, you wouldn’t want people to be able to pull their money back.

So, a few cases, although I don’t think that these peer-to-peer platforms require it, people used to send a tenant to the bank with their bank account and routing number to say, “Okay, set up a transfer here.” And obviously that’s a very bad idea, you don’t want people having that information. The property management software, it gets you around that. User IDs on these can be kind of confusing. Am I Eli123 or am I Eli-123? If I’m Eli123, and my tenants start sending payments to Eli-123, I may be out of luck because the tenant has paid, but not to me.

So, I have had to be really careful about this. Just to reiterate, lots of different ways of doing this online. Most of them are free. We recommend you get set up on a service of your liking that allows you to set your rent, set the reminders, set the late fees to be automatically charged if you want to do that. You can then tie into your accounting and bookkeeping aspects, if you choose a platform that will do that. You can go back and take a look at your rent roll, right on PayRent, Avail, Stessa, or those types of platforms. You can see it all right there. 

That’s really handy. Before I started doing this, I was collecting checks. I had a ledger, or a spreadsheet, and just takes a lot of time to keep that up. Whereas I can log in and take a look at who’s paid and who hasn’t right at a glance, and get a rent roll.

The bottom line is no, don’t use the peer-to-peer services. And you don’t ever have to collect checks again. I didn’t really get into it, but don’t ever take cash either because there are all kinds of potential security issues with that. People could say you were accepting cash when you hadn’t. It’s just not a great way to do it. 

10. What Is the Best Way to Vet Tenants?

This is Veronica. “What is the best way to go about vetting tenants? Should I have a broker do it or should I?” Definitely, you can vet your own tenants. We recommend it. One of our reasons for being is to help landlords like ourselves self-manage property so that we don’t have to pay brokers or property managers to do that for us. In this day and age, it’s very easy to do. There are lots of different background screening services out there, ApplyConnect, for example, does. Like PayRent, ApplyConnect really just focuses on doing background, eviction, criminal screening, background reports, and credit reporting. That’s also built into all these full-service platforms that we’ve talked about, which is what we advocate. At any rate, there are all kinds of tools to do it.

What we recommend is that you start by developing a rental criteria checklist, which is required here in Seattle and other places by which you just say here’s what an applicant needs to fulfill in order to be accepted. So, need to not have any pets, not be a smoker, have three times the monthly rent in income each month, 12-month lease, rental references that check out, etc.

It’s just a list, of things that have to be fulfilled and if they are, then you say, “Yes, I’m going to accept this applicant.” So that’s right up front. That’s it. That’s one of the most important types of vetting you can do is to tell people what they have to show up with in order to be accepted, and then do prescreening.

Like I was saying before, I ask about animals, income, smoking, and move-in date. That’s the way I do my prescreening, some of the platforms have set prescreeners and it’s kind of like a mini application. TurboTenant does that.

And, there are lots of articles we’ve written on screening and there are lots of free ways to do it. The applicant pretty well always pays for the report depending on the service, it’s $25 to $40 or maybe $50, and they pay directly.

internal link Also Read: How To Screen Tenants in 7 Easy Steps 

If you just want a la carte tenant screening services, there’s RentPrep, ApplyConnect, and then there are the others that do all the other features as well. Once you’ve got your application and your reports in hand, sit down and really look at them thoroughly.

Does this person meet the criteria that you’ve set? Have you been able to reach some of their references? Ideally a few past rental references. If you can’t reach those, sometimes I will reach out to an employer just verifying the information and open-ended questions. We have an article about what questions to ask.

internal link Also Read: Choosing the best questions to ask rental references

Look at the credit scores. I set a minimum credit score of 650, and that there are no outstanding delinquencies and that there are no more than two late payments over the course of the last two years. That’s just an example.

Check on evictions, if you’re allowed to, you’re not in all cases. Check to see whether or not there’s any criminal history, and in all cases that I’m aware of, you are able to take into consideration sex offender status. So, set your own criteria, but that would be something that would lead to me not accepting an applicant. 

Once you get through reviewing all of this, then there is, in a lot of these, there’s kind of a green light, red light function where you say, yes, I accept or thanks anyway, but, I’m not going to accept you as a tenant. Which will ultimately then lead, in property management software, platforms will lead you into taking the next step. Beginning to, collect rent, and all, those things. 

11. How Do You Deal with Mold and Mildew?

How about we just take a question out of the sky? I think I addressed all that came in already. How about how do you deal with mold and mildew? That’s one that’s just come up recently, and falls more under our maintenance line of content that we’ve created.

internal link Also Read: Mildew and Mold in Rental Properties: Landlord Gurus Experience 

So we’ve written about that, in specifics and then lots of other questions around how to manage the maintenance and upkeep of a rental property. So, the first thing when it comes to moisture is to communicate to tenants that it’s their responsibility to report if there are any signs of moisture.

A little bit of discoloration in the paint. Usually, especially in bathrooms, it’s up in the upper corner, spots on the wall, a lot of condensation hanging on the inside of a window. And to also communicate to them that they’re responsible for using fans both in the kitchens and bathrooms. We have a handout here in Seattle, that tells people how to address it, bleach solution generally. And other good measures are to install really good fans. Make sure that they move a good amount of air and that they vent outside. Sometimes a kitchen fan will seem like it is venting out, but it’s really just a fan that recirculates, so ducting everything out. 

Evacuating steam that comes off of a pot, can bring the humidity in a space down quite a bit. In bathrooms and laundry rooms, I’ve taken to installing either timers so they come in and they hit a button for, 15, 30, or 45 minutes and that turns the light and a fan on for a set amount of time so that somebody doesn’t walk out and turn the fan off.

In lots of rentals, the fan and the light go together. So your tenant gets out of the shower and they leave. There’s still lots of steam in the air. They turn the light and the fan off, and they’re done. 

The other thing you can do is put motion sensor lights in, or motion sensor switches for fans in. Or even, humidity sensors. There are lots of smart and now relatively inexpensive ways to deal with this type of thing. And, it just is better for your building. You don’t want people either having issues with moisture/mold, or even just fearing that they will. It’s better for everybody just to kind of take the precautions around that. 

The same goes for lighting, you know, the lighting in common areas. There are now motion sensing bulbs that you can use so that you don’t have to have always-on lights in a hallway, for example. Or a light that is set to a sensor that would be wired all the way up to the roof. That would turn on a light, when the light gets dim. So you can just replace an old bulb with a new bulb that has a motion sensor on it, for example. Or there are switches I’m using at my house.

I’m using some Leviton switches that I have an app and timers associated to them. So it can be customized to the seasons, for example. 

That’s it for the questions today. Please go ahead and follow us if you aren’t already, come to and sign on with your email, so we can send you our newsletters and new content. Like our content, please just participate. Let us know how we can help. Give us ideas. And, we’ll look forward to talking with you again soon. Thanks so much for being with us today. Take care. 

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Here at Landlord Gurus, our commitment is to provide expert advice on the complex and important issues faced by landlords and property managers. Together we have over 30 years of experience in residential property ownership and management. In addition to sharing our own expertise and experiences, we call on specialists in fields including maintenance, law, tenant management, and more. Where we see topics that require more in-depth discussion, we create insightful articles that provide valuable information and guidance.
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2 thoughts on “Landlord Questions: Ask Us Anything – Video Extra

  1. We recently had a prospective tenant through FB give false property manager contacts on his application for past rentals. I contacted the homeowners instead because of my suspicion. They told me they did not use a property manager and said not to rent to him unless I wanted my property destroyed. They were very concerned that I might mention their comments to the person and then be retaliated on. We found out the prospective tenant had a criminal record as well. I told the prospective tenant that we’d decided not to rent it so we ended the communication through Facebook and pulled the ad. This incident made me realize how vulnerable former landlords are if they give an honest assessment of a tenant. If I had mentioned their names to him, he could have harmed them or their property. Do you have any recommendations on how to get honest feedback from a landlord without putting them in jeopardy? We need to look out for one another!

  2. Hi Mary,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. You were smart to contact the homeowners directly instead of the false property manager contact!
    We recommend framing your questions you ask to references as yes/no questions. That way they don’t have to provide information that could potentially get them in hot water. Also, if you reject an applicant, send them a legal “adverse action” or denial form. You shouldn’t have to identify specific landlords and their comments to the applicant, keeping them out of potential harm.

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