DEAR BOB: I own a rental house. I recently renovated it and now want to rent it to tenants. My previous tenants were there for 12 years, but I was a lazy landlord and they took advantage of me. I put about $50,000 into the house and want to screen prospective tenants. What is the best way to do that? –Berta G.

DEAR BERTA: Qualifying a rental tenant isn’t difficult. Of course, insist on a written rental application and a deposit that is fully refundable if you don’t select the applicant.

Purchase Bob Bruss reports online.

It is perfectly legal to take several applications for the same rental, check each applicant, and select the best-qualified applicant. Then promptly refund the deposits of the applicants you don’t accept. Of course, the first step is to verify employment and income.

Next, be sure to get a credit report on all applicants, including their FICO (Fair Isaac Corp.) credit score. Better yet, ask all applicants to supply their credit report and FICO score, which they can obtain for $14.95 at If the applicant’s FICO score is 650 or higher, you probably have a good applicant who will pay the rent on time.

However, be sure to also phone the applicant’s two or even three previous landlords to inquire why the applicant moved out. My experience is landlords are usually very truthful on the phone (except perhaps the current landlord who might want to get rid of the applicant).

My final question to prior landlords is always, “Would you rent to this tenant again?” You will instantly know if you found a good tenant.


DEAR BOB: My husband died about four years ago. We hold title as joint tenants with right of survivorship. Our house was our major asset together. I haven’t done anything about the title, but as I read your articles, I am thinking I might need to go to the probate court to clear my title. Do I need to hire a lawyer? –Angie W.

DEAR ANGIE: No. Please clear the title now to your home before you have an urgent need to do so. As the surviving joint tenant, you automatically received 100 percent ownership without the need for probate court proceedings.

However, you must clear the title. In most states, all that is required is you record a certified copy of your late husband’s death certificate along with an affidavit that you are the surviving joint tenant. A phone call to your local recorder of deeds office clerk will give you exact details of what you will need to record to clear the title.


DEAR BOB: My brother is a real estate agent. Is it a good idea to hire a close relative to sell my house since I am now living about 1,000 miles away? I did not use my brother when I bought the house in 2001 because I felt it was not a good idea. –Carol M.

DEAR CAROL: If you trust your brother, and if he is a successful real estate agent selling homes near the house you want to sell, why not give him a try for a 90-day listing?

However, before deciding, please interview two or three other local agents who sell homes in the vicinity. Compare their CMAs (comparative market analysis) forms with the CMA provided by your brother. The recommended asking price and probable sales price should be fairly close among the interviewed agents.

Only after you interview several competitive realty agents will you know if your brother is the best agent who should get your 90-day listing.

The new Robert Bruss special report, “2006 Realty Tax Tips: Eight Chapters of Tax Savings for Homeowners and Realty Investors,” is now available for $5 from Robert Bruss, 251 Park Road, Burlingame, CA 94010 or by credit card at 1-800-736-1736 or instant Internet PDF delivery at Questions for this column are welcome at either address.

(For more information on Bob Bruss publications, visit his
Real Estate Center


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