Washington, DC


This weekly column is written and sponsored by D.C. real estate agent and Kalorama resident Jeffrey Tanck. He can be reached at [email protected].

Now that you’re properly licensed and insured, its time to find a great tenant for your rental. Your mantra here should be, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

Just like dating, most renters encounter their future home online — and you have about two seconds to compel your prospect to swipe right, so to speak. Like your Tinder profile, the listing for your rental should shine.

Invest in professional photography. Camera phone photos won’t cut it.

Have a floor plan made of your space and post it online and list the approximate square footage based on the measurements. The more information you can provide to potential tenants, the more invested they will be when they contact you to set up a tour.

Your listing should clearly articulate the amount of the rent, the security deposit, minimum lease term, your pet policy, which utilities are included and which ones are the responsibility of the tenant and what fees are involved with the application and move in.

There are many great places to find tenants: Craigslist, community listservs, housing offices of universities, human resource departments and online listing sites like Trulia, Zillow and Pad Mapper. These same sites are also great places to research what comparable properties are getting for rent.

When pricing your property, what you pay per month to carry it is irrelevant. Of course you would like to cover your costs and make money — but the market sets the price and you might not be able to cover all of your costs at this point.

Set a price for your rental that is in-line with available properties in the same general condition and location as your own.

When it comes to showing your property to potential tenants, consistency is key. You need to treat every prospect the same. Offering different terms, conditions or deal structures to different prospects could violate fair housing laws. DC has 19 protected classes and you need to be familiar with them.

Having an open house is a great way to show the property to the most number of people in the shortest amount of time. It can also help create a sense of urgency among the potential tenants if the open house is well attended. You can also schedule individual appointments as needed.

Once you have an interested prospect, you need to vet them.

Again, consistency is key. Each applicant needs to be treated the same: Same application, same fees, same everything. To ensure compliance with Fair Housing laws, you must use the same criteria for vetting all applications.

Having a comprehensive application is important, as it is the document that contains the information needed to begin making a decision. The lawyer that you retained (remember them?) might offer an application and screening service. If you prefer the DIY route, there are several forms available online.

In addition to the application, you should have the tenants screened for credit history, past evictions and criminal convictions. Several credit reporting agencies as well as online services offer this product.

Be sure to call references and verify that the information provided on the application matches the details on the screening report. You’re establishing an important financial relationship with a stranger: you need to do your homework.

Once you have decided on your tenant, you’ll need a great lease.

Again, your lawyer might have a lease you can use. There are also many generic forms online — but make sure that whatever lease you use is in compliance with the laws of the jurisdiction where your property is located.

If your property is in a condominium or cooperative building, there might be a lease supplement or addendum that is required. Check with the building’s manager for this. You’ll also need to provide a copy of the building’s house rules to your tenant.

The building manager will also generally require a copy of the fully executed lease before your tenants move in. In a cooperative apartment, your tenant might be required to sit for an interview with the Admissions Committee.

Phew, we’re almost there — but this is bleeding into Part 3! In the final installment, we’re going to cover managing your property and touch on the recently revised Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), which was just updated for the first time in decades.

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