In this episode, Clint Coons of Anderson Business Advisors welcomes Kevin Kiene of ezlandlordforms.com. Kevin has appeared on many different podcasts and is a familiar name in the real estate rental space.
You’ll hear about Kevin’s start as a landlord at the tender age of 18, how he kept finding things he needed to add to his lease agreements (the genesis of EZLandlordforms), tips and tricks regarding what to look for when screening applicants, different clauses and protections available through EZLandlordforms, and what to do if things take a turn and you need to send notices or evict tenants.
- Background – how Kevin got into real estate
- What to look out for in the application screening process
- Mistakes to avoid and things to include when creating a lease agreement
- Help with the processes – notices, eviction, lease enforcement, etc.
- The state of real estate rentals today
Full Episode Transcript:
Clint: What’s up, guys? In this video, what I want to talk about are lease agreements. If you’re an existing landlord, thinking about getting started in real estate, or maybe just have that first property that you just acquired, and wondering, all right, now here’s the next hurdle. I’ve got the property, but I got to get a tenant into it. What are some of the concerns that you need to be aware of as a landlord when it comes to working with tenants?... Read Full Transcript
One of the individuals that I’m going to have on here with me today is someone that I’ve known now for over a year. He’s become really synonymous with working with tenants and lease agreements. When I came across him for the first time, I was just blown away at the depth of product that he has to assist landlords in working with tenants.
His name is Kevin Kiene of ezlandlordforms.com. You may have seen him out there before. He’s been on a ton of different podcasts. That’s how I originally came across them. I was so happy to be able to get him to come on and spend 20 minutes with us to talk about this really important topic when it comes to real estate investing.
Kevin, how are you doing?
Kevin: Great, Clint. Great to be here. Thank you so much.
Clint: It’s awesome. I’m glad you’re able to work out the time. I know your schedule is quite busy. Before we get into the lease stuff and all the legal, why don’t you give the people that are watching this right now some background on how you got started?
Kevin: I started being a landlord when I was just 18 years old and really was motivated to get ahead in life and build my future, I guess, for lack of a better term. I started being a landlord very young, built up properties over time, and finally came up with this idea.
I really struggled with having a great lease, and that drove me to take my lease and keep modifying it and adding in new clauses as I saw fit like different troubles I’d have with tenants that I would say, oh, if I put this into my lease, this won’t happen again. That carried through many tenants and many changes in the lease, and I finally realized I could make this a business.
I launched the site in 2006, ezlandlordforms.com, and we have millions of happy customers now. It’s been really great to help them, see them succeed, and continue their journey. A lot of landlords start small—one or two rentals—and build things up. Many have hundreds of properties, so it’s building millions of dollars of net worth that’s great to see and be a part of.
Clint: How old are you?
Kevin: I’m 54.
Clint: If you’re doing the math—what I just did—that’s 36 years of experience that have gone into your lease agreements. That’s quite a bit of time.
I got a lot of questions I’m going to dive into about the actual lease agreement and some of those more important provisions, but there’s more to that. If you’re a landlord, before you even offer someone a lease, you’re going to want to start with an application process. Maybe you could walk us through your application and what that process is like in dealing with tenants and things that you need to look out for in that process.
Kevin: I totally agree, Clint. A huge part of being a successful landlord is doing a great screening, making sure someone is qualified, making sure you’re both on the same page, when are they going to move in, how many people are going to move in, whether or not people have pets, and then on top of that, checking their credit, criminal, and eviction history background.
This is a service that we provide at ezLandlordForms. Again, it’s worth its weight in gold. We charge right now $35 to do a full screening. You can charge that directly to the applicant, so it doesn’t really cost you anything, and people are willing to pay for it. They have no issue with it.
All you really need from an applicant is their name and email address. You send a request out to them and they fill it out, you will have that report in a matter of minutes, we can create that report very quickly for you, and then you’re well on your way. You have that and like you mentioned a good solid lease in place, and you’re really on the road to success for being a landlord.
Clint: When it comes to tenant applicants, are there some things that you would tell the viewers right now that they should probably be on the lookout for that you would consider to be red flags with tenants that may not be obvious on an application or even a credit report?
Kevin: For one thing, you never want to discriminate, so you always have to be straight and honest with people. The first applicant that meets your requirements is who you’re legally obligated to rent to, so it’s important to know the laws as far as fair housing goes.
On top of that, there can be a lot of red flags. It’s always best to meet the people in person if you can. I know we live in a digital age, everything’s automated, and people have locked boxes on doors or keypad locks that they can’t let people in, but there’s nothing like knowing someone face to face, especially a tenant. Of course, hopefully, you live near your rental that you’re able to do that, but I think it’s very important.
I look for people that are not in a huge rush like, oh my God, I got to move in next week. They try to rush along the process.
Of course, you want to check someone that has good credit, criminal, and eviction history, but hopefully, they’re established at their job for a good length of time and they meet your requirements.
Hopefully, you allow pets. I allow pets. I think it opens you up to a much broader range of tenants for your rental. You may want some restrictions with that and may even design your property to be more pet friendly, so you might use more solid surface flooring instead of carpet. It might be a wood floor or tile floor, for instance.
There’s really a lot you can do to prepare your property and to help pick good tenants.
You’re referring to what you look for in screening. I look for people that are organized. If you’re going to meet them, they’re on time and polite. I think you’ll learn a lot from what questions they ask you about the rental.
You’re a sales guy, so you want to sell that space and highlight the features. Some people are interested in what’s nearby as far as shopping, grocery stores, and so forth, so you want to have in the back of your mind what is local to that area and what’s convenient. Some people like public transportation, so it’s good to be informed about public transportation.
Some people rent with homeowners associations where they might have certain restrictions, so it’s certainly important to know what their rules and laws are for a rental property. Even for a tenant, the HOA may need to screen the tenant as well as your screening, so you want to know what their requirements are in an applicant or renter at that time.
Clint: You hit on something there that I think is important. I learned it early on in my landlord career—how many questions they ask. Are they truly interested in the property and the surrounding area?
I found that people who don’t ask questions are just looking to get in someplace. It’s as if they don’t care about the property. They just want somewhere to live immediately. That tells me that something’s going on because if they’re not asking questions they should be asking, then it could be a potential problem.
Another thing when I was growing up that I still use today—I don’t know if you’ve done this before—is I look at their shoes. That’s one of the things I’m a stickler about. I look at someone’s shoes to see what condition they’re in and their general appearance.
I also look at their car. When they come in, I’ll go by, and I’ll look at the car to look inside because how they treat their car—I personally believe—is going to be a representation of how they treat your property. If you see a car that’s just full of crap, Donald’s wrappers everywhere, and garbage all over the place, you can imagine that when you turn that property, there’s going to be a lot of costs in the cleanup.
Those are some of the things that I think are important for landlords who are self-managing.
You got the applicants there, and now you’re going to move to that next phase, which is putting together that lease agreement. We’ve done the math on you, and it’s 36 years here of clauses. What are some of the things that you see people that are getting started or putting together lease agreements, some of the mistakes that often come up, or maybe that you’ve even made in the past as well so other people will make?
Kevin: I made tons of mistakes, that’s for sure. But that’s how you learn. Mistakes are okay.
Of course, first and foremost, that lease needs to be state-specific. It needs to meet the laws of your state. There may be county laws that are required for your lease.
I really like a very comprehensive lease, so some of the things I’ve learned is to put into your lease whether or not pets are allowed and who’s required for certain things. Who cuts the grass? Who shovels the snow? Who checks the batteries in smoke detectors? Sometimes, even the filter on the air conditioning unit.
These things, many beginner landlords aren’t thinking of. All are completely off their radar, but you really have to think long-term in the rental. You won’t be there, and these are things that you need to check in with that tenant.
Are you going to take care of this or am I? You really want to address that ahead of time and make sure that everything’s crystal clear so that the rental goes very smoothly.
That’s a win for everybody. You really want that rental right from day one that there are no surprises and everyone’s clear on their responsibilities. We want them to be peaceful with the neighbors, not have late-night parties and make a lot of noise.
These are all clauses you can build right into your lease and really make it clear that everything that they need to do is clear and everything that the landlord is responsible for.
The landlord has to do their role. They have to be on top of repairs. If the tenant has a problem, you respond quickly and make sure you get contractors in as soon as possible.
As you build more properties, you get your team together. You get your plumbers, electricians, and maybe a flooring person. The more you do it and the more you get these contractors lined up for you and get to know your properties, the easier and easier things become for you.
You may even get help with property management where the tenant may call someone that works for you, and they know who to dispatch with whatever problem that the tenant might be having. There are really a lot of things that you could build into that lease to really make your rental go much smoother.
Clint: I have properties that are on septic, and there are also on sewage. One of the things built into my lease is that, hey, understand that this is a septic system, so there are certain things that you cannot flush down that toilet. If you do and it blows it, then you’re going to be responsible for the damage that that has caused.
You got to put people on notice so they understand, hey, I have to treat this a little differently.
Satellite dishes are one that I learned a few years back. People would put a satellite dish up on the house, and then they would leave. Now you’ve got DISH Network on one side, and then DirecTV on the other. Before you know it, your house is going to be covering those unless you’re there to take them down. You’d want to make sure that that is probably covered in the lease.
Your point is well-taken. These are the things that when you’re putting together a lease agreement you may not know about yet.
Correct me if I’m wrong, the software that you use, does it allow you to go through and pick certain clauses that you can put in there like we just discussed?
Kevin: Exactly. We—for lack of a better term—hold your hand or walk you through step by step all the relative questions that you need to answer to conform to your rentals.
You mentioned septic systems. We actually have certain documentation just for that that you add in addition to your lease to give instructions for things like that.
The same thing for satellite dishes, whether or not you allow it. If you allow it, they need to ask your permission and explain where’s that going to be located on the property and how the wires are even going to be run.
All these nuances and details, like you said, can make or break you really as a landlord. The more detail you provide, the better.
You really want to insist that your tenant read the entire lease. We’re just about to launch a new add-on video feature where you will not only send a lease to them to read but a video that goes along with it that helps explain some of these fundamental things.
We also instruct people to check the breakers to know where the electrical breakers are and where the water shutoff valves are just in case, God forbid, a pipe bursts somewhere at some time so that they’re at least aware of what to do, where these shut-offs, and so forth are located.
It’s really important to make sure that you and them are on the same page and that they have a basic understanding of how the property works, and the things that they need to know when they’re living there on-site.
Clint: Like you said, knowing where those things are can mean the difference between a little bit of damage versus an extensive amount of damage because the tenant wasn’t aware. They’re not just going to stand and let your property flood. They’re going to do their best typically to ensure that they get that water shut off, but if they don’t know where to find it, then that’s going to be a problem.
I remember our daughter. When she just rented an apartment in Denver, Colorado, she ran into a problem with electricity. When she went in, they didn’t—or maybe they did, she said they didn’t—walk her through and explain to her where the electrical box was.
Finally, she found it, but it was in the most obscure spot that you would ever think where an electrical box might be. I was telling her to look in all the closets and that type of stuff.
To your point, those are important. If you don’t know about that, then you’ll learn it eventually.
What’s great about your lease software is that it walks someone through and educates the landlord on the things that they need to be thinking about. On the backside of that, let’s assume that we’ve got a tenant on the property. What happens then if you have to enforce the lease? Do you use software, or is there anything that you run into before where you can instruct landlords on what they should be doing process-wise?
Kevin: For eviction, you’re talking about?
Clint: Yeah. Unlawful detainer.
Kevin: It’s really, of course, up to the landlord whether or not they want to hire an attorney to handle it from there or if they want to submit some of that paperwork themselves.
We do offer all the forms that you need for eviction. Sometimes, a specific one for your county that we may not have, but as long as it’s just a normal state form, we almost always have it.
We have all kinds of documents to help you throughout that whole process both from a simple notice of late rent payments to evicting for all different reasons. Of course, there’s non-payment of rent, but there’s a whole list of other terms or reasons you may be wanting to evict that tenant.
A lot of times, by sending the right paperwork and documentation, they’ll respond quickly. I always say to landlords, don’t wait. If people start falling behind in rent and they’re not communicating with you, start the process early because it’s very easy. They’re either going to pay you right away and clear things up or not, and then you know which path you need to take to get that tenant out and get it re-rented as quickly as possible.
The whole name of the game is you need to have as little vacancy or as little amount of time that you don’t get paid as possible. A lot of landlords, especially in the beginning, feel bad for people.
I feel bad for people when they fall behind on rent, but at the end of the day, I think you have to have the mindset of a landlord of this is a business, you’re in it as a business, and you need to treat it like a business. It’s unfortunate when people fall on hard times, but you can’t take that burden on yourself because what happens is you can’t pay your mortgage on the property, you fall behind, and your credit goes bad.
Sometimes, you can’t even afford an attorney to do an eviction for you, so it’s really in your best interest to get on top of it immediately and to start filing the paperwork right away.
Clint: If I’m correct, when I was looking at it, you also have a CRM where they’ll auto-generate the documents for you. You put in your tenant’s information, and then you just jump in there and say, oh, I need this sent out. It makes it really simple for someone to self-manage.
Kevin: Yeah. Whether you have 1, 2, or 100 properties, we make it really easy to autofill. We call it autofill. Just like you said, it’s like a CRM system where it will say first name, last name, and tenant’s address, and we’ll put that in for you. In other words, you could have 1 document and have the system create 5, 10, or 15 versions of it for different people all in one process in one shot.
That really makes it efficient as you build up more and more rentals that you’ll be able to grow exponentially over time. Again, it makes it easier and easier. As you get more rentals, the process just becomes easier. You have more contractors, you have your forms in place, and you set up all your procedures and systems to have tenants move in and have tenants move out. It’s great to get those rent checks coming month to month again. It’s a great business to be in.
Clint: With all your clients that you work with, have you been hearing anything with the economy? Have they been reaching back out to you and telling you, hey, this is what I’m running into now and other people should be aware of it? If so, would you like to share some of that?
Kevin: Yeah. It’s really different in different states and different countries all over the country. I live in Florida now, and the real estate is still pretty strong. But I was just in Las Vegas not that long ago, and their housing is coming down in pricing and is really opening up much less competitively.
It’s varying a lot. Some people will say we’re headed toward a recession. I’m not an expert in that department, but the rental business has still stayed strong even in harder times. The rental business has always done well, so I think it’s always worthwhile to get into owning rental properties. Real estate may come down a little bit over time for certain periods, but over a long period of time, real estate goes up substantially.
Some people in the last five years have more than doubled the value of their property. It’s quite amazing to see your net worth. Sometimes, you put a small amount of money down. Maybe you put $20,000 down to buy a property, and maybe it’s a $300,000 or $400,000 house. It doubles in value in a couple of years. You just made $400,000, and you only spent $20,000.
That’s some of the magic of real estate. Being able to get loans for it and building up rentals without a lot of money in your own pocket is really unique and special.
Clint: Great. If people want to get a hold of you and want to check out what you can do for them, I’ll have it in the show notes, but why don’t you just tell them the website again?
Kevin: It’s ezlandlordforms.com. You can catch us on Instagram or Facebook. We’re really all over social media and TikTok as well.
We have a great forum if you have any questions to ask. We also have great support staff. If you have any questions either with our product or even outside of our product, we can answer them through our forum or chat on our website.
We love helping landlords be successful. That’s what we wake up and get excited to do every day. It’s great.
Clint: Awesome. Kevin, thanks for coming on and sharing with everyone some of your knowledge when it comes to putting together lease agreements and screening tenants. I’m sure that for those people who—like I stated earlier—are just getting started in real estate or maybe have been doing it for a few years, want to take it to the next level, and have been running into problems trying to find that perfect lease, you can be a solution for them. I appreciate your time.
Kevin: Sure. Thank you, Clint.
Clint: All right, take care.