LitaWrites (real_lawyer) wrote,

What are the pitfalls of renting out my house?

I just finished a long e-mail reply to a client who posed the above question after having no true activity on her home listing since mid-June. She needs to get some money soon, as she and her sisters have already bought side-by-side-by-side condos in Florida!

When home sales slow, rentals do pick up, so the pool of potential renters should yield someone fairly soon for my client. But her choice of the word "pitfalls" was a good one, as there are quite a few.

1. Renting your home basically eliminates being to sell it through most of the term of the lease, as the home won't usually show very well with a tenant, and most buyers aren't interested in someone else living in their new home. Of course, that doesn't apply to investors.

2. It is hard enough to be a landlord when you live next door. If you move hours and hours away, how will you check on the condition of the property and control the cost and expertise of any repair persons that are required? If you have a relative or neighbor who will "manage" the property on your behalf you can soften this headache.

3. I am fairly certain that there is a school being run somewhere, by someone, on how the less than honorable tenants can rip off their landlords. You have to treat this rental like a business, protect your finances by getting as much security (and last month's rental) as you can, insist the tenant have renter's and liability insurance, and be prepared to act quickly if rent is not forthcoming when due.

4. Make sure that there are no restrictions in your town, home owner's association, condominium or cooperative that affect renting. If there are, take all the proper steps to make sure you have complied, because no judge will side with you for a money judgment if you were renting in violation of some restriction.

5. Notify your insurer that you are renting, and make sure that you have the proper coverage. It is still your property and you still have lots of liability.

6. Don't use a form lease you buy on-line or at the store. An experienced real estate attorney should personalize a Lease for you at a reasonable cost. [Negotiations with a cantankerous tenant are another story]. You know you'll be protected under local laws and have all the specifics of your situation covered (e.g. one client prohibited the use of the wood-burning stove as he was fairly certain it did not meet fire code).

Rental is a better solution than foreclosure or a monthly financial drain, but it is far from a cut-and-dried, stress-free resolution for most homeowners.
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