How to Use Resume Keywords to Get Past Online Screeners

When was the last time you printed out your resume and handed it to an actual human being?

These days, many job seekers don’t interact with a real, live person until they get past an electronic screening round.

More companies are using automated applicant tracking systems (ATS), also known as talent management systems, to find job candidates.

While ATS systems are efficient, they eliminate resumes that are missing important keywords. That means you might get passed up for amazing job opportunities simply because your resume and cover letter aren’t optimized for an algorithm.

We asked career coaches and HR experts for tips on how to ensure your resume gets past auto-screeners programmed to look for certain keywords.

We’ll also cover other ways to make your digital resume stand out in the world of online job searching.

Play to the Resume Keywords

Resume keywords are specific words or short phrases that describe the skills, abilities, credentials and qualifications hiring managers are looking for in an ideal candidate for a particular position.

They are buzzwords, action verbs and concise language that pops on a resume and lands you closer to a job interview.

But how do you pick the right words and key phrases?

Here are a few tips.

Different Types of Resume Keywords

There are two main types of resume keywords employers and computer software programs look for: job-related skills and action verbs.

Job-Related Keywords

Job-related resume keywords describe your primary soft skills and hard skills.

This includes your certifications, industry knowledge, credentials, abilities and previous work experience.

  • Examples of soft skill keywords: communication skills, team building, detail-oriented.
  • Examples of hard skills: technical reporting, computer science, accounting, legal, sales, Microsoft Office Suite, WordPress, financial analysis, Quickbooks.

Action Verbs

Action verbs detail what you did or how you did it. They help describe your skills and accomplishments.

Here are some solid action words to use in a resume:

  • implemented
  • maximized
  • communicated
  • operated
  • streamlined
  • managed
  • integrated
  • overhauled
  • facilitated
  • orchestrated
  • navigated
  • improved
  • executed
  • optimized

Scrutinize Job Listings

You have a better chance of getting an interview If your resume uses keywords from the job description of your desired role.

It makes sense: Hiring managers want candidates with relevant skills that match the position.

You can take two different approaches:

  1. Examine job descriptions that are similar to the positions you’re applying for and identify patterns of keywords to incorporate into your resume.
  2. Tailor your resume to each job listing you apply to, using specific keywords and language from that job description.

If you draw inspiration from several job listings, make a list of common keywords and phrases. Refer back to the list as you revise your resume.

If you write a targeted resume, it should include precise language from the job ad. For example, if the company uses “BA,” you should too. If they say “bachelor’s degree,” go with that resume keyword instead.

Never plagiarize entire sentences or copy whole sections from job ads verbatim.

If you borrow too much content from the job description, your resume might get auto-rejected. Go for a more natural approach and sprinkle keywords from the job ad throughout your resume.

Review the Company’s Website for More Resume Keywords

You can learn a lot by reading a company’s About Us page.

How does the company describe itself? What’s the culture like? Which core values does it emphasize?

Reviewing a company website for keywords is a great way to personalize your resume and increase your odds of landing an interview.

You can also look for resume keywords on: 

  • The company’s LinkedIn page.
  • Employee LinkedIn profiles.
  • Industry organizations and trade websites.
  • Competitor websites.
  • Google “[industry] resume keywords” for more specific suggestions.

Searching Google is a great way to find resume keywords that align with your background and experience.

To find more inspiration, try searching for resume buzzwords based on:

  • The position (i.e. content creator keywords, journalist keywords, nursing assistant keywords)
  • The industry (i.e. advertising resume keywords)
  • Seniority (i.e. management keywords, entry-level position keywords)

Tips on Using Resume Keywords

You’ve found some great keywords — but now what?

Relax, you don’t need to rewrite your entire resume from scratch. Instead, here are a few tips to keep in mind when optimizing your resume.

Be as Specific as Possible

If you’re a pro at Photoshop or WordPress, call the programs out by name instead of saying “photo editing experience” or “worked with content management systems.”

Sprinkle Them In

Don’t just cram as many keywords as possible into the skills section of your resume. Spread them throughout the document. Integrate them naturally into your resume summary statement and past job descriptions. You can also create a separate “relevant skills” or “core competencies” section that lists out relevant keywords.

Don’t Lie

This is obvious, but don’t include keywords unless you have the skills and experience to back them up. You might sneak past the ATS, but lying on your resume won’t fly with the hiring manager.

Mix It Up

Include a variety of job-related resume keywords and active verbs. Consider mixing in synonyms of keywords you’ve already used. For example, instead of writing “created weekly production reports” twice, you can try “facilitated technical paperwork.”

Add Keywords to Your Email and Cover Letter

It never hurts to use some power words and industry buzzwords in your email and/or cover letter to the hiring manager. If a job posting instructs you to include a specific phrase in the email subject line, absolutely do it. Your resume may get screened out otherwise.

Adding a skills section is another good way to call attention to specific talents and tools recruiters are looking for during the hiring process.

The Old One-Page Rule Still Applies

Remember in high school when you first learned about resumes? Rule No. 1 was keeping your resume to one page.

That still applies, says Michelle Quinn, placement director for HireMinds LLC, a hiring and placement agency in Boston.

The one-pager, she says, is the first test of a person’s “ability to clearly articulate a wealth of information on a limited canvas.”

But, she says, if you think the stuff you leave off is still important for a hiring manager to see, put it on your personal website and add a link to it.

Readability Is Critical to Both Humans and Algorithms

Whether it’s reviewed by a hiring manager or an applicant tracking system, your resume must be easy to read. suggests using a font like Arial or Times New Roman in size 10 or 12 for maximum readability. Skip fonts that look like handwriting or scripts.

If you want to showcase your design ability and work samples, the best place to do that is via your online portfolio. Make sure to include a link to it on your resume.

No matter what resume format you choose, don’t overload it with extra, unnecessary information. Tailor it to the specific job listing you’re applying for.

Also: Be aware of how much white space is on the document itself — too much makes your experience seem sparse, too little is overwhelming to the reader.

Rachel Christian is a Certified Educator in Personal Finance and a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder. Freelancer Elizabeth Carr contributed reporting.




[Targeted] American Express Business Platinum 160,000 Point Offer, No Lifetime Language

Update 6/1/22: More people got a targeted email today with this offer. Subject line, in some cases, is ‘You can earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points if you are approved to add the Business Platinum Card to your wallet. Learn how.’ (Some of these offers are actually for 160,000 points with an extra 10k coming with employee card.)

Update 2/15/22: More people targeted. E-mail subject line is ‘You can earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you add the reimagined Business Platinum Card to your wallet.’

Update 11/18/21: A lot more people have been targeted for this now.

Update 11/15/21: Many people are getting now an email with this 160,000 offer: 150,000 after spending $15,000 and 10,000 after adding an employee card.

Update 7/14/21: There is a new 150,000 point link. You also earn $100 for every transaction greater than $1,000 made on Vendor Pay in the first 3 months. Hat tip to DDG

The Offer

160,000 link | 150,000 link | 150,000 link

  • Get 100,000 points after $15,000 in spend within the first three months of card membership

Card Details

Our Verdict

If you’ve never had this card before, then the call in method is better due to the lower minimum spend requirement. The real nice thing about this offer is the fact it has no lifetime language meaning it’s possible to get the bonus if you’ve gotten the card before.

Hat tip to reader CreditDingo

Update History:

Update 6/15/21: Here’s a link for the 160,000 offer: same 150,000 for $15,000 spend, plus 10,000 for adding an employee card within the first 3 months. Updated below. As always – YMMV.

Update 6/9/21: There is also an offer for 160,000 points. Same as the 150,000 point offer but also another 10,000 for adding an employee card. E-mail subject line is ‘<name>, You’re invited to apply for an American Express Business Bundle’ Hat tip to bedogworthy.

Update 6/9/21: There’s now a public link to this offer (and here’s another link). Won’t work for everyone, YMMV. There’s a stated expiration of this offer of 12/31/21; of course it could get pulled earlier. (There’s also a no-lifetime-language offer on the Business Gold card.) Hat tip to Frequentmiler

Update 6/6/21: Another e-mail has gone out, 150k points again. Email has lifetime language, but actual application page does not. Subject line is ‘Limited-Time Offer for <name> You could earn 150,000 points’

Update 5/10/21: Another round, this time 150k points.

Update 4/24/21: Another round, try this link.

Update 4/5/21: Another round sent out.

Update 3/16/21: Another round sent out.

Update 2/16/21: Another round sent out.

Update 2/5/21: Another round has been sent out, this time the e-mail states the lifetime language but application page doesn’t. $595 annual fee is mentioned on application page. Hat tip to reader BS

Update 12/28/20: Another round has gone out.

Update 12/15/20: More people targeted. Remains to be seen if this new batch ends up having the annual fee waived first or not, just assume it doesn’t.

Update 12/10/20: Despite the terms stating the annual fee is not waived first year, multiple people (1,2,3) have reported applying and then card member approval paperwork showing the $595 annual fee waived first year. This is American Express though so every chance they try to add the annual fee back. I’d apply expecting to pay the annual fee and then it’s a happy surprise if you don’t have to


Best Buy Kicks Off Heavy Week of Retail Earnings

The heaviest part of earnings season has passed, but there are still plenty of notable names left to report. Among the biggest companies on this week’s earnings calendar are electronics retailer Best Buy (BBY, $70.65), chipmaker Nvidia (NVDA, $163.85) and discount goods chain Dollar General (DG, $189.63).

First-quarter earnings season so far has been solid by just about any measure, says Jeff Buchbinder, equity strategist at independent broker-dealer LPL Financial. 

An impressive 78% of S&P 500 companies have beat earnings estimates for the quarter, slightly outpacing the long-term average of 77%, Buchbinder says. And 74% of S&P 500 firms reported higher-than-expected revenue – beating the five-year average of 69%, he adds.

“In this inflationary environment, the revenue is coming through,” the strategist says. “But it is profit margins that were the biggest test for corporate America this quarter, and companies passed that test with flying colors. Not only did margins hold up well quarter-over-quarter – falling less than anticipated – but analysts’ estimates for margins going forward still show margin expansion from current levels.”

Best Buy Q1 Earnings to Reflect Macro Headwinds, Tough Comps

It has been a heavy stretch for retail earnings, and based on the mixed results from Walmart (WMT) and Target (TGT), it was a tougher quarter than initially expected for many in the industry.

“U.S. retailers Target and Walmart presented a grim outlook at their earnings calls,” says the BCA Research Daily Insights team. “Although Q1 topline growth surprised to the upside, lingering pandemic supply-chain issues as well as higher freight, fuel and labor costs weighed down on both companies’ profits.”

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Wall Street will get a closer look at the group this week, with a number of retailers set to report. Among them is electronics retailer Best Buy, slated to unveil its first-quarter results ahead of Tuesday’s open. 

“We see more downside than upside risk due to rising inflation and interest rates, affordability issues for key products, the Ukraine war further weighing on consumer confidence, and additional supply-chain issues in China,” says Wedbush analyst Seth Basham (Neutral). 

And these pressures, as well as tough stimulus-related year-over-year comparisons, led to a sharp drop in store traffic trends in March, he adds.

For BBY’s first-quarter, analysts, on average, are anticipating a 26.9% year-over-year (YoY) drop in earnings to $1.63 per share. Revenue is expected to arrive at $10.4 billion (-10.3% YoY).

Nvidia’s Gaming Segment Could Drag on Otherwise Strong Quarter

Nvidia has a strong history of beating Wall Street’s estimates on both the top and bottom line. But Susquehanna Financial Group analyst Christopher Rolland (Positive) thinks the semiconductor stock is in for a tougher time when it reports its Q1 results after Wednesday’s close. 

“Unlike recent quarters, we believe any significant beat and raise may be capped by gaming headwinds,” Rolland says. 

In addition to noteworthy price drops for Nvidia cards over the last year, “we have also witnessed a significant restocking, with all major card families now available at retailers. We believe the ‘reopening’ is the biggest driver of these changes and presents a potential intermediate-term narrative risk going into the quarter,” he adds.

However, Rolland believes weakness in this segment could be offset by strength for data center, which has become even larger than NVDA’s gaming segment. “Healthy underlying demand for NVIDIA’s products is being driven by hyperscale cloud computing, AI workloads, natural language processing, deep recommender models and vertical Enterprise products,” he says.

Rolland is expecting NVDA to report earnings of $1.30 per share and revenue of $8.1 billion in its first quarter. This compares to consensus estimates for earnings per share of $1.29 (+41.6% YoY) and revenue of $8.1 billion (+43.4% YoY).

Dollar General Stock Spirals Ahead of Q1 Earnings

Dollar General is another retailer that will report earnings this week, with first-quarter results from the discount chain expected out ahead of the May 26 open.

DG stock sold off sharply last week as negative reactions to several retail earnings sparked a sector-wide swoon. Shares of the retail stock are now down around 20% for the year-to-date and have shed almost 27% since hitting a record high near $260 in late April.

What can we expect from Dollar General’s Q1 report?

“We believe some of the headwinds highlighted by other players last week also have negative ramifications for DG including increasing cost pressures – fuel and LIFO [last in, first out; a method used to measure inventory] – and mix shifts,” says Oppenheimer analyst Rupesh Parikh (Outperform). 

And while management addressed some of these headwinds in mid-March, “we believe weather and even stronger cost pressures on the food and transportation fronts suggest incremental risk vs. prior guidance,” Parikh adds. Still, the analyst says he “would buy any dips from here.”

Consensus estimates are for Dollar General to report earnings of $2.33 per share (-17.4% YoY) in its first quarter on revenue of $8.7 billion (+3.6% YoY).


3 Instances When a Landlord Can Legally Break a Rental Lease

Read this to understand when you can legally break a lease agreement.

Even before the pandemic, landlords filed 3.6 million eviction cases on average in the U.S. each year. The process is emotional and difficult for everyone involved, but there are circumstances for which you as a landlord will have to break a lease agreement early.

If you’ve got a month-to-month lease agreement, either party can terminate at any time with proper notification, at a minimum of 30 days. But if you’ve got a fixed-term lease agreement with a tenant, such as a one-year lease, you can’t break the lease mid-way through on a whim.

When can you legally terminate a lease agreement early?

Breaking a lease agreement with cause

You’ve got a lease agreement that’s legally binding that the tenant signed before moving in. If that tenant violates the lease agreement by having an unapproved roommate, unauthorized pet, unpaid rent, has caused major damage or conducted illegal activities, you have every right to terminate their lease “with cause.”

In this instance, you would send your tenant a “cure or quit” notice. Either they “cure” the problem by paying rent owed, for example, or they “quit” the property. You can even send an “unconditional” quit notice if the issue at hand isn’t cured. For example, if the tenant alters or damages part of the property without your consent and there’s no way to fix the problem. Check your state laws on these types of lease terminations.

Eviction notice.

Eviction notice.

Can a landlord break a lease agreement without cause?

You can do so but you must include the reasons for this kind of early termination in the tenant’s lease agreement. If it’s not in the agreement, you can’t just force a tenant out on a whim.

Add a clause to your lease agreement that allows you to break a lease with 30- or 60-days’ notice so the tenant has time to find another place to live. Work with an attorney to make sure the language is accurate. Be upfront and clear in your language and point it out to the tenant at signing. There’s no reason to hide your intentions. If you know well in advance that you may have to break the lease, sign a month-to-month lease.

Reasons to break the lease early

There are certain circumstances under which you can break a lease, including:

1. You want to sell the property

You can sell whenever you want, but you must have a clause in the lease agreement in order to terminate the lease legally. Lease contracts will transfer along with the property and the new owner has to abide by them. Some buyers want properties that are already tenanted.

Decide if you want the tenants on the property during the sales process or if you want them out before putting the property on the market. Also, check whether your state requires you to offer existing tenants the first right of refusal.

You want to keep your tenants happy if they’re staying on the premises. And they do have some legal rights, including 24-hour notice of showings, the right to stay during a showing and the transfer of their security deposit to the new owner once the property sells.

Lay hardwood floors

Lay hardwood floors

2. You need to renovate the property

As a landlord, you must keep your property safe and habitable. If you need full access to the property in order to renovate and remodel to keep your property in good condition, you can terminate a lease. If the upgrades are going to cause health and safety issues, you can terminate a lease early. Again, you must have a clause in the lease agreement in order to terminate the lease legally.

3. You need to move into the rental space

If you’re renting out a house, for example, and you need to move back in, you can legally terminate the lease early.

How to terminate a lease

There are a few steps you must follow to legally end a lease to avoid a tenant possibly filing a claim in court.

Send a notice to the tenant letting them know that you’re terminating their lease. Check your state laws on how to write and deliver this termination notice. There are specific requirements for doing this.

Depending on the reasons you’re giving this notice, it may state the tenant’s transgression and warn them that they must vacate the property or face eviction. Or, you might give the tenant a few days to act on fixing whatever they did wrong, e.g., find a new home for their unauthorized pet or pay any rent owed. Again, check your state laws.

If the tenant doesn’t comply with the notice, you may have to file an eviction lawsuit.

Make sure it

Make sure it

When a landlord is not allowed to break the lease early

The bottom line is if you haven’t included a clause in your lease that you may terminate the lease early, you can’t just go ahead and do so. And your state may have a list of circumstances under which you’re restricted from ending a lease early. For example, there are usually rules around breaking the lease on a rent-controlled apartment.

You may just have to wait

Nobody likes the eviction process, and you don’t want to end up in court. But sometimes, you must remove a tenant. If it’s possible, your best bet is to wait until lease renewal time and not renew the lease. Depending on your state laws, you may need to give 30- to 60-days’ notice on non-renewal.

If you didn’t have an early termination clause in your lease agreement, but you need your tenant to move out, you can pay them, a.k.a., offering cash for keys. You give a tenant enough money to cover their moving costs and a deposit on another place they might rent.

Always be open and communicative with your tenants for the best outcome. In all cases, if you’re a property manager or landlord and you need to break a lease agreement, check your state laws and get an attorney’s input.


Accident Victims (and Their Doctors) Sometimes Get Shafted by Letters of Protection

There is a lot to like about Texas. Texans are known for being down-to-earth, helpful and friendly. Texas-style BBQ is famous worldwide. And who hasn’t heard Deep in the Heart of Texas?

However, the state ranks high among those with the most vehicular deaths, with Houston earning the dubious distinction of being the city with the greatest number of red light wreck fatalities from 2004-2018, according to the National Coalition for Safer Roads. 

“That’s why I would always count one…two…three before driving into an intersection when my light turned green,” “Art” wrote to me, adding, “and, you can’t imagine how many red-light runners I saw during those three seconds!”

Bad Accident Leads to Hiring a Personal Injury Law Firm

One day, while Art was counting at a stoplight, the driver behind him was texting, failed to slow down, and crashed into him, totaling both cars and leaving Art with severe neck and lower back trauma.

“His insurance company said that I caused the accident by not promptly driving off when my light turned green! On top of that, while I had auto medical payments insurance, the limits were not adequate for my needs.

“So, I hired a Houston attorney – whose ad I saw on television – and he assured me there would be no problem in getting the care I needed. ‘We will send our Letter of Protection (LOP) to the doctors you treat with. This assures them of being paid when the case settles,’ they told me, but none of the physicians I have seen will take my case as long as I am represented by this law firm. What’s going on?”

How a Letter of Protection is Supposed to Work

A letter of protection, also called a medical lien, is commonly defined as:

  • A contract between the lawyer, physician and client/patient that assures payment for professional services provided to the patient when there is a financial recovery, by settlement or by trial.
  • The treating physician agrees to wait for payment until the case is resolved.
  • If there is no monetary recovery, the client who was injured is still obligated to pay the doctor’s bill, but sometimes the lawyer might try to negotiate with the doctor.

That’s fairly straightforward, wouldn’t you agree? In fact, ethics opinions of the State Bar of Texas – and just about every other state bar – make it clear that the LOP creates a fiduciary relationship in which the lawyer is obligated to protect the financial interest of the treating physician.

Lawyers Who Pay Themselves First!

But then, just spend a few minutes talking with attorney Rebecca Pennington, who is office manager at MedCenter Pain Management in San Antonio, Texas, and you, too will wind up shaking your head in disbelief, as I did, wondering how some lawyers can justify completely ignoring their legal obligation to protect the doctor’s financial rights the LOP creates.

“I just read your article When Lawyers Refuse to Pay a Client’s Bill. Our pain management clinic in San Antonio sees a large number of personal injury patients. The LOPs have, in the past couple of years, become almost meaningless. They are NOT letters of protection. In fact, they disclaim any responsibility to pay. Here is typical wording from an LOP we received today:

“‘THIS FIRM IS NOT ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE PAYMENT OF FEES OR SERVICES RENDERED TO OUR CLIENT. However, if compensation is recovered on our client’s behalf, your fees will be reimbursed from any money recovered, provided said recovery is reasonable. Whether or not such recovery is reasonable shall be determined at the sole discretion of this law firm.’

“They are saying, ‘We don’t have to pay you, Doctor, unless we want to!’

“This is so unfair, so wrong! Do you have any insights into how to handle this sort of non-LOP? It seems this has become the norm, and our clinic is considering refusing to accept PI (personal injury) cases now. It’s a waste of time to have bills in the thousands for very expensive procedures only to recover less than enough to pay for the medical assistant’s time, much less to pay the doctor or cover cost of meds and equipment. Thanks for any input you might have.”

I have seen LOPs from several Texas lawyers that make one thing clear. They pay themselves first and in full. The physicians must, on a pro rata basis, reduce their bills, but the lawyers impose no such requirement on themselves!

Every request I had to speak with attorneys whose LOPs have similar language was ignored.

Difficult for Patients to Find Doctors Who Will Treat Them

My reader Art told me that he has had referrals to several physicians, and none will treat him if he remains with the same law firm. Attorney Pennington confirmed that many physicians are rejecting attorney referrals with LOPs for the same reasons.

Texas is not alone with these issues. Florida is a carbon copy and in many instances, far worse.

And the remedy? On condition of anonymity, a Texas legal ethics law school professor told me, “Part of the problem is greed – by physicians who are charging several times what is a reasonable fee and lawyers who ignore their legal obligation under the LOP. It is time for the state bar and medical board to get involved and set proper standards.”

What Patients Should Do

  • Read the lien or LOP carefully. To determine that you are dealing with a legitimate letter of protection, look for language that says, in so many words, “We agree to pay reasonable and customary charges for medical services.”
  • Be sure to also read the LOP together with the doctor or office manager, and if you see language that says something like, “We decide to pay or not to pay the doctor,” then this is not a true LOP. (And if you run into this issue, the section below discusses the next steps to take.)
  • Realize that you, as a patient, are always responsible for the bill in the event that there is no settlement or you lose in court.
  • For people who have no private insurance or other means of paying for personal injury-related treatment, they should be referred to the appropriate public hospital.

One more thing: Medical payments coverage isn’t all that expensive and high limits of PIP coverage, if available in your state, can be money well spent.

What Health Providers Should Do

Know that you do not have to accept a lien or LOP that gives the attorney the sole right to pay or not pay you. If you accept such a lien, expect trouble.  Instead, it never hurts to cross out the offending language on the document, initial it, have your patient initial it, and insist upon the lawyer also initialing it and returning it to you before scheduling medical procedures.

Do not trust lawyers to do the right thing unless it is spelled out in black and white and they have signed it. If asked for a reduction on your bill, insist on seeing a complete breakdown of the case settlement or jury verdict. Is the lawyer taking a reduction or treating you like a sucker?

If you have a case where the lawyer did not protect your bill despite a signed lien, file a complaint with your state’s bar sssociation.  

Attorney at Law, Author of “You and the Law”

After attending Loyola University School of Law, H. Dennis Beaver joined California’s Kern County District Attorney’s Office, where he established a Consumer Fraud section. He is in the general practice of law and writes a syndicated newspaper column, “You and the Law.” Through his column he offers readers in need of down-to-earth advice his help free of charge. “I know it sounds corny, but I just love to be able to use my education and experience to help, simply to help. When a reader contacts me, it is a gift.” 


How To Handle a Tenant With an Unauthorized Pet

Have pet policies in place before confronting a tenant about an unauthorized pet.

Claw marks on baseboards. Odors clinging to carpets. Frayed curtains. Damage to doors from unauthorized pet flaps. Telltale signs that the renter who recently moved out had a pet in their unit — possibly an unauthorized one.

According to, landlords who prohibit pets estimated that 7 percent of their tenants kept pets anyway but tenant data showed 20 percent of tenants surveyed were keeping pets illegally. Ouch! That’s a lot of cat scratches in time, money and insurance costs for landlords and property managers.

What do you do if you find tenants hosting an unauthorized pet in your rental unit?

Head to your lease agreement section on pets

If you’ve got a no-pet policy, that’s your first line of defense. But does your lease agreement include language saying you don’t allow pets — even temporarily? Does it say that if a tenant is found with an unauthorized pet you will charge a fine? Does it say that you will evict the tenant? Make sure you’ve got language that clearly defines the policy.

Your renter signed a lease agreement before moving in and should know and understand the rules regarding pets. You should know your goals before approaching your tenant, lease in hand: Do you want the tenant to remove the pet? Do you want your tenant to move out? Or, maybe you want to change your pet policy.

If you allow pets, there might be parts of your agreement that prohibit certain types of pets. For example, many pet policies require a tenant to tell you the animal’s breed, weight and name and give you copies of current vaccinations. Not doing so could put a tenant in violation of your lease agreement.

Keep in mind that for many people, their pets are their children, their “fur babies.” Heck, you might even love dogs or cats or bearded dragons. Removing a person’s pet could be emotional. Be understanding but stick to your lease terms and follow through with the legal procedures you’ve set in place in order to attain the goal you want.

They will try to hide their pets from you.

They will try to hide their pets from you.

Keep tenants honest

It’s important to you (and a legal obligation) to maintain a safe, clean, livable property. One way to do that and keep an eye out for unauthorized pets is to do quarterly maintenance checks. Let prospective tenants know that you or another employee (properly ID’d) will stop by to test smoke alarms and carbon dioxide detectors, replace furnace filters, check dryer lint traps, etc.

Prospective tenants will be less likely to keep an unauthorized pet if they know you’ll be popping by for a visit.

If you discover an unauthorized pet

There are several steps to follow through on if you find that a tenant has a pet and that it’s clearly a lease violation.

1. Get photographic evidence

Keep in mind that you can’t legally take photos in your tenant’s unit willy-nilly. You need to have just cause, e.g., there’s damage (which you likely noticed on one of your maintenance checks) that you’ll need to repair. Or, you need to replace something. You may legally take photos of the damage because you’ll need to carry out a repair.

2. Send your tenant an official notice stating the lease violation

Let them know your timeline and your goals for their actions. Again, do you want them to remove the pet or have a tenant pack up and leave the premises? Do you want to modify your lease terms?

3. Let tenants know about any fines they incurred

If they’re in violation of the lease, remind them that they’re responsible for any damages caused by the unauthorized pet.

4. Be clear and firm in your notice

Your letter should also state the consequences of their actions if they choose to ignore your directive, i.e., you’ll move forward with an eviction, and they’ll be charged attorney and court fees.

You must allow service dogs.

You must allow service dogs.

Exceptions to a no-pet policy?

Despite your no-pets policy, you must allow tenants with disabilities, mental or physical, to have service animals. This is because people with a disability require “reasonable accommodation” under the federal Fair Housing laws.

Note that there are differences in the types of helper animals:

Service animals are dogs — and only dogs, according to the Americans with Disabilities Act — trained to help people to perform tasks that they can’t because of a disability. The ADA protects the rights of people who have such dogs. Some states may define service animals more broadly so check your state laws.

According to the American Kennel Club, emotional support animals, such as therapy dogs and comfort animals are not considered service dogs under the ADA. Owners of such animals have limited legal rights. But these pets may qualify under the Fair Housing Act.

Determine a reasonable pet policy

Depending on the type of property you manage, determine your risk and exposure to damage as you consider your pet policies. According to the Humane Society, two-thirds of American homes have pets. Prospective tenants increasingly come bearing four-legged family members.

Check local, state and federal laws to come up with a pet policy that works for you, your tenants and your property.

The information contained in this article is for educational purposes only and does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional legal or financial advice as they may deem it necessary.


Assumable Mortgages: A Little Known Tool You Can Use Now That Interest Rates Have Surged Higher

Everyone knows mortgage rates are no longer super cheap. The popular 30-year fixed was in the 2% range just last year and today is closer to 5.5%.

And it’s possible mortgage rates could move higher before they move lower, though they could be close to peaking.

For existing homeowners, this has created a strange dynamic where they are effectively “locked-in” by their low rates.

In other words, they have less incentive to move out if they need to buy again and subject themselves to a higher interest rate on their next home purchase.

But if their mortgage is “assumable,” they could use it as a leverage to sell their home for more money.

How an Assumable Mortgage Works

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  • Assumable mortgages can be transferred from one borrower to the next
  • A homeowner can sell their property and transfer their home loan to the buyer
  • A possible selling point if mortgage rates are much higher today than they were in the recent past
  • Could also be beneficial if trying to qualify a buyer via the lower interest rate

An “assumable mortgage” allows a home buyer to take on the home seller’s existing mortgage.

This includes the remaining loan balance, mortgage term, and mortgage rate, as opposed to getting their own brand new loan.

The main purpose of assuming the seller’s loan is to obtain an interest rate below the prevailing market rate.

So if mortgage rates increase rapidly in a short period of time, it could be in the best interest of the buyer to see if they can assume the seller’s mortgage.

A recent report from Black Knight revealed that something like 25% of all outstanding first-lien mortgages have an interest rate below 3%!

So clearly there’s opportunity here now that interest rates are 5%+ and potentially rising.

Example of how an assumable mortgage can save you money:

30-year fixed mortgage rate in 2021: 2.75%
30-year fixed mortgage rate in 2023: 6%+

If a seller obtained an assumable mortgage at 2021’s low rates, at say 2.75% on a 30-year fixed mortgage, they could transfer it to a buyer in the future.

This would make sense if mortgage rates increased significantly between the time they received their home loan and when it came time to sell.

The scenario above isn’t all that far-fetched, and in fact mortgage rates could rise even higher over the next several years.

And you better believe a future buyer would be more than happy to take the 2.75% interest rate versus a 6% rate.

On a $200,000 loan, we’re talking about a monthly payment of $816.48 versus $1,199.10, not factoring in the lower loan balance at the time of assumption.

They could also potentially avoid some of the settlement costs associated with taking out a fresh home loan.

Of course, if rates remain relatively flat or go down, the assumable mortgage won’t make much sense. This was the case for many years until just lately.

Additionally, not all mortgages are assumable, so this strategy doesn’t work for everyone.

What Types of Mortgages Are Assumable?

  • Government-backed loans including FHA, VA, and USDA loans are all assumable
  • But restrictions may apply depending on when they were originated
  • Most conventional loans are NOT assumable, including those backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • This means a good chunk of the mortgages that exist cannot be assumed

These days, most conventional mortgages are not assumable.

However, both FHA loans and VA loans are assumable. And so are USDA loans. Basically all government home loans are assumable.

Before December 1, 1986, FHA loans generally had no restrictions on their assumability, meaning there weren’t any underwriting hoops to jump through.

And some FHA loans originated between 1986 and 1989 are also freely assumable, thanks to Congressional action that determined certain language was unenforceable.

But let’s be honest, most of those old loans are probably either paid off, refinanced, or have very small remaining balances, so no one in their right mind would want to assume them.

FHA loans closed on or after December 15, 1989 need to be underwritten if assumed, just as they would if they were new loans.

In other words, underwriters will need to review a potential borrower’s income and credit to determine their eligibility.

Additionally, it should be noted that investors are not able to assume newer FHA loans, only owner-occupants. So the property should be your primary residence.

VA loans are also assumable, and require lender approval if closed after March 1, 1988, but understand that there are some complicated issues that revolve around VA eligibility.

For example, if the borrower who assumes your VA loan defaults, you may not be eligible for a new VA loan until the loss is repaid in full.

Is an Assumable Mortgage Worth the Trouble?

  • Most assumable mortgages still need to be fully underwritten
  • This means considering your income, assets, and credit to gain approval
  • And even then it might not be worth it, nor will it be feasible to assume one in many cases
  • If the outstanding loan amount is too small it may be insufficient to cover the purchase price

As you can see, while they have the potential to be a big money-saver, assumable mortgages aren’t entirely cut and dry.

First and foremost, be sure to get a liability release to ensure you aren’t accountable if the borrower who takes over your mortgage defaults in the future.

You won’t want to be on the hook if anything goes wrong, nor have to explain to every future creditor what that “other loan” is on your credit report.

Additionally, understand that an assumable mortgage will likely only cover a portion of the subsequent sales price.

Because the mortgage balance will be somewhat paid off when assumed, and the property value will likely have increased, you’ll either need to come in with a large down payment or take out a second mortgage when assuming a mortgage.

If you need a second mortgage, you should do the math to ensure it’s a better deal with the blended rate factored in versus a brand new first mortgage.

If You’re a Seller, Mention It, If Buying a Home, Ask If It’s Assumable

The assumable mortgage hasn’t been on anyone’s radar over the past couple decades because mortgage rates kept creeping lower and lower.

But now that they’re surging higher and higher, you’ll likely hear more about them. Just know the many pitfalls and drawbacks involved.

If you’re a homeowner with an assumable mortgage, you could use it as a tool to sell your home more quickly and/or for more money.

Or perhaps help a home buyer qualify for a mortgage who otherwise might not at current market rates.

If you’re a prospective home buyer, it’s worth asking if the home seller’s loan is assumable. It could save you some money if the spread between their rate and current rates is wide.

Lastly, for those thinking they can make money by taking out a mortgage that can later be assumed, it’s probably not advisable to obtain one just in the hopes of using it as a selling tool in the future.

Sure, the buyer may be interested in assuming your mortgage, but they may not be. If you already have an FHA loan, sweet, it may come in handy when rates rise and you decide to sell your home.

But paying costly mortgage insurance premiums on an FHA loan just for its potential assumption value is a fairly big bet to make if you can get a conventional loan for a lot cheaper.

Long story short, don’t assume someone will assume your loan, but don’t overlook it either.

(photo: Andrew Filer)


5 Moves That Will Sabotage Your Job Interview

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Hiring the right person for a job is difficult, and there is much at stake for employers. If the company hires the wrong person, it could be stuck for years with an unqualified worker.

That’s why everything an applicant does is closely scrutinized, from the wording of their resumes to the clothes they wear to interviews.

Job applicants often do things that sabotage their own efforts to find work. Here are some things to avoid if you want to get on the payroll.

Dressing inappropriately

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The quickest way to send a message that you’re not interested in a job is to dress inappropriately for an interview. Strive to fit in by dressing like the people you’re seeking to work with.

Don’t forget that it is possible to overdress. If you’re trying to get a job on a construction site, showing up in a suit and tie won’t be appreciated. Your goal should be to dress as if you were going to be hired and put to work immediately.

Also, there’s evidence that the color scheme you choose makes a real difference. Check out: “70% of Successful Job Candidates Wear This Color.”

Not tapping into your personal network

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Use your network of friends, acquaintances and business contacts to find openings that might be appropriate for you. One survey reported by LinkedIn found that 85% of jobs are filled through networking.

It may be embarrassing to ask friends if they’re aware of job openings, but if you don’t you’ll be missing out on an important source of information.

Check back with friends and acquaintances every few weeks so they’ll immediately think of you when they hear of a job opening. Here’s more on that subject: “9 Tips for Successful and Painless Networking.”

Failing to take a job interview seriously

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Bad jokes and flippant remarks can cost you a job by calling into question your character, or your ability to fit into the workplace.

Once people are hired, letting them go can be a cumbersome process. That’s why employers don’t hesitate to pass on applicants who don’t seem to be taking interviews seriously.

Speaking of interviews, consider some of the curveballs you might get: “20 Bizarre Job Interview Questions, and How to Answer Them.”

Not following up

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Your job search doesn’t end after you’ve filled out an application. Getting the attention of prospective employers usually requires polite persistence.

The goal is to stand out from the crowd as the best person to hire. To do this, follow up applications with emails and phone calls.

Make sure employers know that you’re eager to join their team. Stand out by displaying a can-do, ready-to-work attitude.

Trashing your previous employers

Angry businessman lashing out in a meeting.
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Criticizing past companies you’ve worked for, even if the criticism is deserved, can give the impression that you’re disloyal. Your interviewer may decide that since you don’t like past jobs, you won’t like the new position you’re seeking.

Employers are looking for people who are eager to fit into new surroundings. They don’t want to hire workers who will leave the company unhappy and tell unpleasant stories about their job.

Covering up a layoff or a dismissal

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Be prepared to honestly explain employment gaps in your work history caused by dismissals or layoffs. If you try to cover up a past problem and your interviewer learns about it, he or she isn’t likely to hire you. And you will raise concerns about your honesty.

Instead, acknowledge and briefly explain the situation. It’s better to deal with such issues openly than to have your employer discover them later.

Using inappropriate language

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The use of profanity is increasingly common, but it has no place in the job-seeking process. Your peers may not care if you drop an occasional curse word into conversations, but foul language is likely to cause a job interview to end badly. It will be interpreted as disrespectful, regardless of your intent.

Most employers will assume that you’re on your best behavior when seeking a job. If you swear during your job search, they’ll conclude that your language will be worse after you’ve been hired.

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