If you are a new rental property owner or landlord in Florida, this article will help keep you on the straight and narrow. Set up your rental properties just as you would any other business and make sure you understand the full rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and tenant sides of the equation. To help you get started the right way, we have provided eight useful tips every first-time or veteran Florida landlord should know.

1. Manage Your Rental Income

Manage Your Rental Income

Even if you only manage one unit, treat your rental properties as business assets. This will help you maintain the right mindset when it comes to making decisions. It’s important to manage any income you earn from your rentals separately. This means keeping them in a separate bank account. Additionally, you will need to keep your tenant’s security deposit in a separate account. This will help you manage fees, security deposits, and other funds associated with each tenant. Additionally, it may benefit you to research software that allows you to do this effortlessly.

Have you considered getting a property manager? If you aren’t experienced in finding tenants, collecting rents, and the other intricacies of rental property ownership, it might make sense to invest in a property management company, particularly if you have more than one rental.

2. Create a Custom Rental Lease

Custom Rental Lease

Many landlords simply use templated rental lease agreements to save money and time. However, it’s worthwhile to create a custom lease agreement that appropriately addresses items specific to your unit. Whether you own a condo or a single-family home, a personalized rental lease spells out all the details you need to hold your tenants accountable.

Did you know that you can download lawyer-written lease agreements designed specifically with Florida landlords in mind? These lease agreements and any other you consider using should include the following information at a minimum:

  • Monthly rent
  • Security deposit requirements
  • Terms of lease
  • Clauses to safeguard landlord and tenant

3. Comply With Anti-Discrimination Laws

Florida landlords can reject applicants based on a number of factors, including the following:

  • Past behavior of late rent payment
  • Bad references from previous landlords
  • Poor credit history
  • Other factors that make potential tenants a risk

Despite this relative freedom to rent to whom you want, it’s important to know the laws regarding discrimination. Protected classes include familial status (has children, divorced, etc.), gender, religion, race, national origin, and physical or mental impairment. These rules are stipulated under the Fair Housing Act of 1968 (amended, (42 U.S. Code § § 3601-3619 and 3631).

4. Screen Potential Tenants

It’s important to generate enough leads so that you can choose potential tenants that meet your screening criteria. This process includes running the following checks on rental applicants:

  • Credit
  • Background
  • Eviction

Take advantage of the information offered on the rental application. By calling references and running the appropriate checks, you can protect yourself and other tenants (if you have a multi-unit property).

5. Meet State Security Deposit Limits and Return Rules

Florida, and every other state, has limits to how much you can charge for a security deposit and rules regarding the return of the security deposit. You have 15 days to return the security deposit to the tenant and 30 days to notify them if you plan to take out deductions. It’s a good idea to review the Florida landlord laws on security deposits or to speak with an attorney who can help you fully understand them.

6. Know Your Rights – and Those of Your Tenants

Your Tenants

It’s important both understand your rights as a landlord and to understand the rights of your renters. To avoid conflicts that can lead to reputation damage and potentially impact your rental income, lay things out in writing whenever possible. This includes understanding and quickly responding to:

  • Maintenance requests
  • Issues with pests
  • Complaints regarding the property

Some of the things that you should put into writing are whether or not you allow pets, what if any modifications tenants can make to the property, and expectations prior to moving out, such as cleaning responsibilities.

7. Clear Out Debris Inside and Outside

Clear Out Debris

You can do yourself a big favor by finding a comprehensive cleaning list and adding anything specific to the property. Provide tenants with a moving checklist, such as the one compiled by the American Apartment Owner’s Association (AAOA).

Be as detailed as possible. For example, the AAOA suggests listing common features in one area and simply designating “in all rooms that apply.” This list might include:

  • Walls
  • Ceilings
  • Electrical outlets
  • Smoke detectors
  • Floors
  • Windows & window treatments
  • Light fixtures
  • Doors
  • Locks
  • Carbon monoxide detectors

8. Make Replacements as Needed

Inspect the appliances after your tenants move out and before the next tenants move in. If you have appliances more than 15 years old, consider replacing them rather than continuing to pay for maintenance costs. Besides, replacing older appliances can result in energy savings and help you attract better tenants.

What should you check? Here’s a list to get you started:

  • Lighting fixtures
  • Air conditioning and heating units
  • Dishwashers
  • Washers and dryers
  • Curtains/Shutters
  • Refrigerators

Conclusion

If you follow these eight tips, you will be well on your way to becoming a successful and compliant landlord in Florida. Remember to communicate and respond promptly when it comes to expectations or concerns raised by your tenants, and you will keep them longer.

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