Step number one should be reviewing your HOA restrictions. You may have a minimum leasing period etc. You don’t want to lease your home out to someone who drives a truck, parks in the street or has more adult tenants than are allowed in your community. Make sure your potential tenants are aware of all of the restrictions.
Step number 2 is inspect your home. I as a Realtor will not agree to manage a property without first inspecting it. Not only should it be safe but you are going to want to take photos documenting its’ condition inside and out. Also keep in mind someone will be calling it home. They are more likely to treat it with respect if it is given to them in great condition. This documentation is critical if damage is done to the home. If you have it save paint color codes etc.
Step number 3 should be consulting with your insurance company. They may want to alter your policy if you are renting. Better to get this straightened out now before they contest a claim because they did not know you were renting. You should require all tenants to have renter’s insurance anyway. Especially if they have a waterbed or large pets.
Step number 4. Get a up to date legally sound and thorough rental contract. Some rights are governed by law and can’t be restricted by a contract. A judge may throw your whole contract out if it is not good one. If you lose a case in Florida you may even have to pay the other parties “reasonable court cost”.
Step number 5. Consider where you are going to advertise. You are going to want to price your home competitively and get it in front of as many potential renters as possible. If your home sets on the market for couple of months extra because it is $2-300 overpriced, you lose. The more people that see your home the more applicants you have to choose from. Also review the laws pertaining to advertising rental properties and protected classes.
Also, be prepared to pay a decent fee to Realtors who bring prospective tenants by. They may be bringing previously screened tenants. The payment must go to their brokerage and not directly to the Realtor.
Step number 6. Screen every tenant. You must screen them all or you may be liable. Ask yourself this. The renters who get denied tenancy at apartments and professionally managed properties, where do they go? That’s right, they look for a for rent by owner. Treating everyone the same will keep you out of a lot of legal trouble. When I was young I worked in a Federal Prison for 13 years. They are all friendly and look just like your neighbor. You may be talking to a sexual predator or a professional crook.
During this process ask each tenant the exact same questions. Do not let them bait you into saying something you may regret later. Let them do all of the talking just act interested. People love to talk about themselves. Just ask your same questions.
You have made your tenant selection and it is time to get the money. I suggest a first month, last month and deposit. How do you handle keeping the funds? That deposit money can get you into trouble. Make sure you review and strictly adhere to the laws. One of the worst feelings you can ever have is losing a dispute over deposit money because you mishandled it. Not to mention potentially paying the other sides legal fees.
If you expect and prepare for your renters to be trouble the last 3 months of their lease you will be ahead of the game.