Before Tenants Move In

Record the Physical Condition of the Unit Before Tenants Move In

It is wise to take notes (with the tenant present) of the unit’s condition before the tenant moves in. It is the tenant’s right to have the condition of the dwelling in writing. It protects both the landlord and the tenant to take photos to document the pre-leased condition of the apartment. Both written notes and photographs are very helpful so that there is no dispute regarding the condition of the unit later on. Make sure your photos and notes are dated.

If the rental unit is in need of repairs, these repairs should be completed before the tenant moves in. Both unreasonable delays in repairs and unrealistic expectations by tenants can cause conflict and it is best if everyone has a written plan for what repairs, improvements, or changes will be made and when. It is in your best interest to have the unit in move-in condition when the tenant moves in. Make sure you have documented the condition of the unit with photos and a walk through with the tenant.

When it is time for the tenant to move out, any originally noted defects should not be charged against the security deposit since they were present before the tenant moved in. You will want to be able to show proof of the condition of the apartment should you need to withhold the security deposit after the tenant moves out or to assess additional damages.

Make Sure Critical Information is Shared and Understood

Before the tenant moves in, set up a day to meet and go over the lease agreement and house rules. Provide the new tenants with a move in letter which highlights your phone number and emergency contact information, how and when to report maintenance problems, and trash disposal and pickup information. Make sure that you show the tenant the location of water shut off valves, fuse boxes, and smoke detectors.

Establish Tenant Files for Basic Recordkeeping

You will want to establish a file for each tenant that includes the following:

  • Tenant’s complete contact information including email, cell phone number, work number, and emergency contacts
  • The make, model, color, year, and license plate number of tenant’s vehicle(s)
  • Copy of the tenant’s rental application, credit report and references
  • Signed copy of the lease agreement
  • Financial ledger for rental payments and security deposits (including the bank account information where the security deposit is held and the interest rate)
  • Complete inventory of the rental unit and photos showing the condition of the unit before the tenant moved in

In time, you may add additional important records to this file including maintenance requests, requests for reasonable accommodations or modifications, copies of all correspondence with the tenant, copies of your requests to enter the premises for inspection or maintenance, rent increase notices, lease renewals, late fees, late rental notices, and records of any lease violations that might occur. Accurate record keeping is time well spent.

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers and Other Subsidized Rental Programs

The Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as a Section 8) is a rental subsidy program that provides steady rental payment assistance for low income individuals and families in the private rental market. Those who qualify for the program pay a monthly adjusted amount for their rent and the balance is paid directly to the landlord by the local housing authority.

In Pennsylvania, source of income is not a protected class, meaning that a landlord can refuse to rent to individuals who hold a Housing Choice Voucher from the Housing Authority. Various localities within Pennsylvania have added source of income as a protected class. Contact your local government or municipality to find out if source of income is a protected class in your area. If source of income is a protected class in your area, you will be required to accept Housing Choice Vouchers.

Benefits to Participating in a Housing Choice Voucher Program or other Subsidized Rental Program

Reliable Rental Payments

Many property owners appreciate that housing vouchers and subsidies guarantee a consistent rental income at market rate. Landlords whose rents are paid by housing vouchers and/or subsidies do not have the same risk associated with depending on a tenant’s ability to maintain steady income in order to pay rent. Job loss or other crises that tenants may experience can greatly impact their ability to pay rent on time every month. Accepting housing vouchers and/or subsidies can provide a level of financial stability to landlords that they would not otherwise have.

Financial Incentives

Other rental subsidy programs offer financial incentives to new landlords. Signing bonuses, rent guarantees, and offers to cover damages which may exceed the security deposit are often available to landlords who participate in these programs. Some programs offer one month rent payments to hold an apartment or payment of legal fees and court costs if lease violations occur and lead to eviction.

Increased Occupancy Rates and Marketing Benefits

Landlords who participate in rental subsidy programs have a steady stream of prospective tenants who will be referred directly from the rental assistance program. Turnaround between tenants can happen rapidly without having to spend time advertising and marketing vacancies.

Low Turnover

Housing Choice Voucher holders have low turnover rates. The average renter using a Housing Choice Voucher stays in a rental unit for 6.6 years. If a Housing Choice Voucher holder loses their job or experiences a health or other crisis, the housing authority will increase their rental subsidy to help them navigate the financial crisis without losing their housing. Landlords can avoid having to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent.


Landlords who participate in rental subsidy programs are generally offered a level of support by the participating agency. Mediation services are sometimes available. Case management is provided to reduce minor tenant concerns and property maintenance issues. Landlords who participate in rental subsidy programs are a valuable asset to agencies assisting individuals with permanent supportive housing. These programs will work to ensure that you are satisfied with the arrangement and continue your participation in the program.

Participating in the Housing Choice Voucher program will require adherence to some additional regulations that should not be burdensome if you are already following good rental practices and properly maintaining your property. Your rental unit will be required to pass an additional inspection to ensure that it is habitable. You are also required to comply with HUD’s Equal Access Rule. This means you cannot deny housing based on an applicant’s or resident’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity, or marital status.

For more information, refer to the HUD Memo on Preventing and Combating Discrimination on the Basis of Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation


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