Finding the right rental property can be very stressful. Renters spend most of their time searching for an rental unit that satisfies basic living needs, such as the size, look and location of the property. But if you don’t find a great landlord, you won’t enjoy living in your new home even if it has all of the things on your rental property wish list.
How should you find a great landlord? Here are some suggestions you should follow:
Go visit the property. Nothing is better than an eyewitness, someone who actually has firsthand experience living where you want to move. So take time to explore the area and talk to tenants. They will have a lot of the information you need.
They will be able to tell you about the property and why they like or don’t like living there. This might sounds intimidating, but just be polite and most people will likely be more than willing to help. Start by asking what are the pluses and minuses of the rental property. Current tenants can tell you many important details about the place, such as if repairs are done in a timely fashion, how complaints are handled, how disputes are resolved, how security is maintained and the quality of basic services like water and heat.
Ask them about turnover. Do they have neighbors who are settled in, creating a more stable community? Talk about the building engineer and whether the property is properly managed and kept up, and any issues are addressed promptly.
Be sure to look around the property itself. A great landlord will make sure that signs are properly attached, fencing is in good shape, and parking spaces are properly striped.
Check out the landlord online. A great landlord will have a website that not only showcase’s the landlord’s property but also provides additional information on the lease, rules and regulations and contact information for the engineer of the property.
Everyone is aware that Google, Yelp, and a myriad of other sites provide the opportunity for customers of anything to provide reviews and ratings of services and establishments, including rental companies, apartment complexes and the like.
When it comes to reading online reviews, you’ll need a discerning eye, because often times unhappy tenants will put up a review that may not accurately reflect the situation, how the landlord responded, and how the ultimate resolution played out for all parties. Remember, such review sites are most often used by those who want to register a complaint than they are used to offer positive feedback.
If you want to turn up the online spotlight, check out public records, most of which are available online.
A check of the local court’s website can reveal a lot about how a landlord has conducted his or her business. You can see if individuals or businesses have faced criminal or civil charges, and how the matters were resolved.
Context is needed here also. It’s not unusual for companies or people in business to have been involved in matters that were settled by a court. What you are mostly looking for is the person or company that always seems to be in court, or who has faced substantial fines in the pursuit of his or her business, as well as the nature of the complaints and whether they seem reasonable or not.
Additionally, county auditor and treasurer websites can tell you whether there are unpaid taxes on a property or whether it’s in default – or warning signs about the operation.
Most landlords are reputable business people who live by the rules. Finding a great landlord means looking for someone who will go the extra mile to make you feel comfortable in your new home.
Ron Carter is the former Business Editor of the Columbus Dispatch.