The Ultimate Apartment Essentials Checklist for a First-Time Landlord

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Investing in your future by purchasing a rental property in the D.C. area can be highly lucrative. It also takes significant work, and ensuring you’re ready for the responsibility before you begin is essential. 

Finding tenants and keeping them happy might sound simple on the surface, but you’ll have many underlying duties to complete before moving people into the apartment. These jobs continue once you have people living in your rental property, too, as the work seemingly never ends. 

Creating and following a checklist with all the necessary tasks can make the job easier and guarantee you don’t miss anything. This guide includes tips for finding the perfect tenants and an apartment essentials checklist to follow the first time you rent out your new investment property.

Tips for Finding Tenants for Your Apartment

Renting your apartment for the first time can be a nerve-wracking experience. You’ll likely have to trust a complete stranger to live in a unit you own, which can bring anxiety. Some tips for finding high-quality tenants for your rental property include the following:

Have an Ideal Tenant in Mind

You should know what you’re looking for before you begin the process. Create a prototype tenant in your mind and try to find a person or family that meets your ideal requirements. Knowing the type of person you want to rent to can help you narrow your choices down when the time comes.

Develop an Advertising Strategy

Effectively marketing your apartment can help you locate your ideal tenant. You’ll want to make the unit look as appealing as possible by taking pictures and writing a short description that accurately portrays its positives. Poor photos and descriptions can limit the engagement your advertisement receives, reducing the number of applicants looking to rent the place.

Check References

Perhaps the most important aspect of finding a renter is checking references. Anyone can fake a rental application form, filling out fake references and making themselves look as good as possible. You’ll want to check those references before agreeing to let anyone move in, as lying on this form is a clear red flag and is a behavior of someone you should avoid.

Locating tenants who will care for your property can ease your transition into life as a landlord. You’ll still have some duties to complete before your tenants move in, though, ensuring they’re happy with the arrangement moving forward.

Seven Things You Must Do Before Your Tenants Move In

It would be nice if you could just move your tenants in without any additional work, but it isn’t realistic. The apartment probably isn’t brand new, so you must ensure it’s in good shape and handle the necessary paperwork. Some apartment essentials you must complete before move-in day include the following:

1. Complete a Safety Check

You could get in trouble with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs if you let a tenant move into an apartment with unsafe living conditions, so completing a safety check beforehand is a vital step. Your safety check should include an inspection of the roof, walls, and floors while installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replacing the batteries when necessary. You’ll also want to check common areas like hallways, staircases, and elevators for hazards you can relay to your tenants. 

2. Handle Repairs

Address any necessary repairs before your new tenant takes possession. This step could include fixing issues with the plumbing, electrical, HVAC, ventilation, and hot water heating systems to ensure they’re in working order. Replacing light bulbs, window screens, and door hinges could also be necessary, depending on the apartment’s age and condition.

3. Clean Thoroughly

The seller probably cleaned the apartment before you purchased it, but there might have been some foot traffic since that time that has created some issues. Cleaning the apartment as thoroughly as possible shows respect for your new tenants by providing them with a tidy space from the first day. It also sets expectations for how you expect the apartment to look when they move out.

4. Do a Walk-Through

Having your new tenants come for a walk-through before they move in allows you to point out any existing damage to the apartment so they’re aware of it. You can also tell them that any additional damage will come from their security deposit. This walk-through is about establishing relationships and expectations for the apartment while the tenants live there.

5. Change the Locks

Installing new locks or rekeying the existing ones is a vital job you must complete between tenants. You never know how many keys a past tenant might have cut, so eliminating the chance of them returning to the apartment is essential. Keyless access systems or smart locks streamline this process because you can remove access without changing the existing lock.

6. Create a Lease Agreement

Writing up an appropriate lease agreement protects you and your renters throughout their tenancy. This contract will include information on the rental term, rent amount, security deposits, right of entry, agreement for maintenance, accountability for damage, and the right to keep pets. You and your tenants must sign these documents before continuing the process.

7. Collect Rent and Damage Deposits

Asking for the first and last month’s rent and a damage deposit before allowing a tenant to move in is advisable. Getting this money up front limits your risk because you won’t have to worry about your tenant suddenly moving out and leaving you with a vacancy. It also protects you from damage.

Following this checklist makes starting your career as a landlord in D.C. easier. The result is a smoother transition period as you get used to owning a rental property.

Rental Property Assistance

Dealing with tenants, handling repairs, completing maintenance, and collecting rent can be exhausting, especially if you don’t have the necessary experience. One solution is hiring a property manager to assist with the day-to-day operations of your rental apartment, eliminating much of the workload from your plate.

Nomadic Real Estate offers property management services in the Greater D.C. area. Our team will advertise your apartment, vet applicants, and prepare your property for your tenants, ensuring everything goes smoothly. Contact Nomadic Real Estate to learn more about apartment essentials and our property management solutions.

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Enhanced Reporting

Your portal includes a selection of extremely useful reports. Reports are available in the “Reports” section, and are distinct from the financial statements. Unlike financial statements which are static records, Reports are dynamic real-time records that will update with current data every time you view them. 

Scroll down to learn more about Reports:

Navigate to the "Reports" module in your portal:

Owner Portal Reports
  • Keep in mind, these reports are dynamic records. They will refresh to display current information every time you view them. 

Enhanced Rent Roll Report:

Enhanced Rent Roll Report
  • The Enhanced Rent Roll Report will show the rent amount, last payment date, move-in date, lease expiration date, and security deposit amount for each of your tenants. 
  • It will also show a portfolio summary with occupancy percentage, vacancy loss, and more!

Unit Comparison Report:

Unit Comparison Report
  • If you own multiple units (or buildings) with Nomadic, you’ll get access to the Unit Comparison Report. 
  • This report enables you to quickly compare financial performance between your units at a glance without toggling between individual reports. 

Income Statement Month-Over-Month:

Income Statement by Month Report
  • The Income Statement Detail – Monthly Report serves as a month-over-month record of portfolio performance. You’ll see itemized income and expense categories and can track monthly. This report will update with fresh data every time you view it. 

Financial Statements

Financial statements will be published to your portal on a monthly basis. The statements are found in your Documents library, and provide a historical record of all financial performance. The statements serve as a snapshot of financial performance over a given period, and are static documents (unlike Reports, the statements do not update/change in real-time). 

Scroll down for more info about the Financial Statements in your Documents library:

The Documents area contains monthly financial statements:

Owner Portal Documents
  • The statements in the Documents are are static documents. They are posted to the portal once a month to serve as a historical record of financial performance. 

Download a statement to see month and YTD financials:

Owner Portal Property Statement

You'll also find a month-over-month operating statement:

Month over Month Statement

Portal Communication Tool

You can use your owner portal to communicate with our team. Any messages you send through the portal will go straight to your Account Manager. When we reply, you’ll get an email notification and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

Here’s an overview of using the communication platform:

Click "Communications" and navigate to "Conversations":

Commincation Dashboard Screenshot
  • The communications module will contain a record of all messages that you create through the portal. 

Click the "New Message" button and send your message:

Owner Portal New Message Screenshot

Responses will show up in the conversation ticket:

Portal Conversation Response Screenshot
  • You’ll get an email notification whenever you get a response, and you’ll also see the message in your portal next time you log in. 

You can reply in-line using the comment box:

Owner Portal Comment

Each conversation will be logged in its entirety:

Portal Conversation Snapshot

Understanding the Ledger

Your portal includes a ledger with all transactions. The ledger is populated with data in real-time as transactions flow through our accounting software. Much of this information is also available in the Reports area, as well as the Statements in your Documents library, but the ledger is the most comprehensive resource for diving into the details. 

Please scroll through the sections below to get a better understanding of how to interpret the ledger. 

By default, transactions are sorted chronologically:

Owner Ledger Dates
  • The date reflected in the lefthand column is the actual transaction date, not the “bill date”. This is the date the transaction was actually processed. 

If you have multiple properties with Nomadic, you'll see the address for each transaction in the "Location" column:

Ledger Property Column
  • You can filter the ledger to look at just one property, all properties, or specific sets of properties. 
  • If you only have one property with us, you’ll just see the ledger for that property. 

The Description column displays the transaction type:

Owner Ledger Description Column
  • BILL: this is an expense transaction, such as for repair costs or management fees.
  • CHARGE: this is a transaction  billed to the tenant, most typically a rent payment. 
  • NACHA EXPORT: this is a credit we processed to your distribution account. This type of transaction is how you get paid! 

The Amount column shows the dollar value of each transaction:

Owner Ledger Amount Column
  • Positive Amounts: if an amount is positive, it reflects a transaction that is payable to you. Typically, this will be a rent payment that we collected from your tenants. On occasion, a positive number could also signify a journal entry or credit adjustment. 
  • Negative Amounts:  if an amount is negative, this is a transaction that is either payable to Nomadic or is an amount that has already been paid to you. Typically this will be for repair costs or management/leasing fees. Owner draws (net distributions into your checking/savings account) also reflect as negative amounts, since they have already been paid to you. 

The Account Balance column shows a sum of positive/negative transactions at a given point in time:

Owner Ledger Account Balance Column
  • Account Balance should always equal zero after a net distribution has been processed. When the balance is zero, this means that all expenses have been paid and you’ve received the remainder as net operating income, leaving a balance of zero (meaning: no one is due any money, as all funds have been distributed appropriately). 

Navigating the Propertyware Owner Portal

Your portal includes some extremely useful features that help you understand your property’s financial performance at a new level, with real-time transparency into every transaction.

Scroll through the snapshots below for an overview of portal navigation! If you need more help or have specific questions about using the portal, you can reach out to your Account Manager any time for a screen share. 

You can filter all info by date range or property:

PW Portal Filters

View a snapshot of income and expenses on your dashboard:

PW Owner Dashboard View

See every transaction in real-time on your ledger:

Owner Portal Ledger View

Statements and forms will be posted to your documents library:

Owner Portal Document Library

View a suite of real-time financial reports:

Portal Reports View

See a running list of all bills, and drill down for more detail:

Owner Portal Bills View

Under Bill Details, you'll find dates/descriptions/amounts and more:

Portal Bill Details

You can also communicate with your Account Manager through the portal:

Owner Portal Communication Tools

How do net distributions work?

Net distributions keep your accounting clean and simple. Each month we’ll collect rent from the tenants, deduct any repair expenses for the previous month and any management/leasing fees for the current month, and credit the remaining net operating income to your account. 

Net Distribution

You’ll receive a statement via email each time a net distribution is processed, and can view all transaction details in your Propertyware owner portal.