Unruly uni students who like to party, pet owners who fail to housetrain their animals and the guy who likes to park his motorbike in the living room…
These are just a few of the tenants who constitute a property investor’s worst nightmare, and Peter Koulizos, university lecturer and property book author, has heard just about every terrible tenant tale there is.
Koulizos recalls hearing of bedrooms being badly damaged by hydroponic set-ups, and knows of malicious tenants who poured concrete down the toilet. And then there’s the motorbike: “We experienced somebody parking their motorbike in the lounge room,” he says. “It was fixed by a couple of doses of carpet steam-cleaning.”
Thankfully for landlords, trashed houses and nasty tenants are not too common. What’s more, there is one tried and test step you can take as your first line of defence against being stuck with a tenant from hell, says Bob Wilson from hotspotting.com.au.
That is, hire a property manager.
“Most residential managing agents charge between 5% and 8% of the weekly rental, and it’s a fairly modest fee if you consider it as a buffer between the investor and the sorts of things that can go wrong with a bad tenant,” Wilson says.
“A good agent will properly screen a rental applicant including checking out their references, and they’ll look after the small details including regular inspections and property maintenance.”
This is not to say that engaging a property manager will guarantee a good tenant. Firstly, you need to make sure the real estate agent has proven credentials, which means asking for references and testimonials.
You should also ask your property manager what their procedure is for vetting tenants. In today’s day and age, “references can be falsified and so can names”, Wilson warns, so find out what their processes are for finding the best tenant for your property.
For instance, do they request written references from their applicants, or just phone numbers? Do they phone every reference listed in their application, and do they check via a quick google search that the person they’re calling and the number they’ve been given actually match up?
Wilson also suggests that you become a proactive investor. “Make the agents earn their fees by insisting on monthly reports, covering things such as, are the lawns being mowed, and does the property appear to be in good order?” he says.
Finally, follow your gut. Your property manager is your eyes and ears on the ground, which is particularly important if your investment property is located interstate or away from where you live, so make sure they are actively monitoring your tenants.
“Don’t hesitate to change agents if you have more than one incident where something happened that the agent should have known about,” Wilson says.
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