New landlord? Keep accurate records, respect tenant's privacy


March 13, 1994|By George B. Laurent

Many tenants are unfamiliar with their rights and responsibilities. This is also true of the many nonprofessional landlords in Maryland.

If the opportunity and inclination arise to be a landlord, here are some things to keep in mind:

* The property should be in good condition, especially such things as plumbing, electrical system, furnace and roof.

* Baltimore City and most counties do not require a landlord to provide a stove and refrigerator -- check with the local government. However, most tenants expect such amenities in an apartment, and a good-looking stove and refrigerator will help rent it.

* Establish a reasonable rent -- consider the value of your property and what similar properties are renting for.

* Many landlords want the assurance of a year's lease, but for some a month-to-month lease is easier, especially if a tenant becomes a problem. Make sure your lease covers points of concern to you, such as late charges, pets, subleasing, who can occupy the apartment. If your lease contains an automatic renewal clause, make sure the tenant reads the clause and signs * Check to see if your city/county requires that you have a license or that you must register the rental property.

* Research your rights and responsibilities under the tenant/landlord law.

* Require a month's rent as security deposit and the first month's rent before allowing the tenancy. It is risky to give a tenant who is not able to pay this money up front possession of the property. Be aware that the security-deposit law requires the landlord to inform the tenant in writing of the tenant's right to be present at an inspection of the property at the end of the tenancy.

* Yearly rent should not exceed 30 percent of a tenant's gross income. If, for example, yearly rent is $3,000, the tenant's gross income should be $10,000.

* Request that the tenant give you a credit report.

* Confirm the tenant's employment.

* Ask the previous landlord specific questions as to rent record, conduct and care of property. If there are problems, discuss the specifics with the tenant.

* Keep accurate records -- especially for rent. Give rent receipts.

* Establish good communication, respect your tenant's privacy and treat your tenant with dignity.

George B. Laurent is executive director of BNI, or Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc., a private nonprofit group that works to resolve tenant-landlord problems and to eliminate housing discrimination.

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