How can I rent out my unit fast and improve my cash flow?

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Question:

I am having difficult time finding tenants for one of my rental units. Any advice on how I can get the place rented and improve my cash flow?

Answer:

One thing you don’t want to do is loosen up your screening requirements for new tenants. In the long run, a bad tenant—someone who constantly pays rent late, damages the rental unit, or disturbs other neighbors—is not worth the price of having the rental occupied.

Instead of taking a chance on a risky tenant, ask yourself the following questions and take appropriate action:

  • Is the rent too high compared to similar properties? If so, consider lowering the rent. Check rents of comparable rentals in your community on Craigslist, and visit a few places that sound similar to yours. You might find out that charging slightly less than the going rate is a great way to find and keep excellent tenants.
  • Does the rental unit need work? The condition of the rental may be affecting tenant interest. A new paint job, carpeting, or window coverings might make a big difference.
  • Is your ad failing to draw in prospective tenants? Check ads for similar rentals on Craigslist and see if rewriting your ad will make your rental more appealing. See the Nolo article Where Landlords Can Advertise Their Rental Property for more on the subject.
  • Would you find more tenants if you allow pets? If you currently don’t allow pets, consider changing this policy. You’ll find a lot more interested applicants if you allow pets in your rental. Many landlords find that pet-owning tenants are more appreciative, responsible, and stable than the norm.
  • Might tenant incentives work? Some landlords have great success with resident referral program in which you pay a premium to a tenant who refers you someone whom you ultimately sign a lease or rental agreement with. If you don’t have a lot of other tenants, broaden the pool of people who might refer you to a new tenant. Or you could consider offering new tenants a free month’s rent, free satellite service, or free parking. If you do provide incentives, be sure to offer them in a fair and consistent way that avoids charges of housing discrimination.

For more advice on choosing new tenants and renting out apartments and rental units, see the Nolo book Every Landlord’s Legal Guide, by Marcia Stewart, Ralph Warner, and Janet Portman.

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