Real estate is a scarce commodity. For some, purchasing a house is not an option, for a variety of reasons. You will then want to rent a house or property. Before signing that lease agreement, though, you will want to learn a few things about your prospective landlord and the property you are about to rent.
Landlords have ways of checking a tenant’s background, such as through financial documents. You, as a prospective tenant, should also be able to know something about the landlord in advance. You will want to avoid several potential problems with landlords. Some landlords might be doing “slumlord” practices, in which the landlord scrimps on maintenance expenses. Slumlords might also be out for a quick buck flipping the property rather than leasing it for the long term. Some landlords might also be having financial problems, and you might find yourself homeless when the bank forecloses on the property.
Researching on a potential landlord involves checking with various agencies and organizations, to make sure that he is legitimate, and that he is honest in his dealings with tenants. Here area few tips.
- Check with the IRS. Visit or call your local tax office where the property is located. Check if the property is duly registered as a property for-rent.
- Check with the property office at your city or county. The register of deeds will also be able to tell you what properties the landlord has. For example, you can look for the Grantor/Grantee Search Index. Simply key in the prospective landlord’s name and documents matching his name will be displayed.
- Check for court cases involving the landlord or the property. You can check with the general district court in your state for civil or criminal cases filed against the property or landlord. These can be both active and pending cases. A pending case is a sign that you should think twice before renting a property.
- Look for previous tenants and get in touch with them. An easy way to do this is by checking your mailbox for letters addressed to the previous tenants. You won’t be invading their privacy if you just check for their name online. You can do this under the pretense that you’re forwarding letters to their new address.
- You can also ask the landlord for contact details of the old tenants. Explain that you want to get in touch, just to ask about the property, or to forward letters.
- Consult the local authorities. They should have a record of any past problems with the property or with the landlord. Organizations like realtors’ groups or the local chamber of commerce might also have complaints and incidents on their record.
As a potential tenant, you will need to assert your right to know more about the property you are planning to lease before signing that contract. This ensures that your lease or rent agreement is done in good faith. This also helps you avoid potential problems in the future involving your landlord.