A rent roll is a record for all your units in a building (or in your business) that shows at a glance who is paying what, who owes what, and what you’re getting for each unit. This contrasts with a renter account history that shows, for a given renter, what rent was paid and when, what the rolling balance was, and what the balance is today.
Rent Roll Uses
A rent roll is an essential business tool to help you stay organized. If you have one, you will be able to answer the following questions:
- Which renters do I need to chase for payment this month?
- Which renters are due for a rent raise?
- Which renters are coming due for renewal, such that I should decide to terminate or renew?
A rent roll not only provides business insight, but also may provide legal defense, especially if your state or jurisdiction tends to sue owners for discrimination.
Consider, for example, if you raise the rent 15% on a renter who is a member of a state or federal “protected class.” Your renter may believe you have discriminated against them and file a claim in court. A rent roll would show that you are treating them fairly and consistently with all your other similar units.
Rent Roll Example
A rent roll example for an owner who primarily has condos scattered around everywhere, and one multi in Boston.
|Address||City||Point of contact||POC Phone||Contractual Rent||Balance||Notes|
|1 Dorchester Ave, Apt 1||Boston, MA||Margaret||617-555-8746||$2,800||$0|
|1 Dorchester Ave, Apt 2||Boston, MA||Ayisha||617-555-3681||$2,800||$0|
|1 Dorchester Ave, Apt 3||Boston, MA||Tom||617-555-8746||$2,400||$0||should raise the rent|
|84 1/2 84th Street||New York, NY||Joan||212-555-2259||$3,000||$30||trash fine to be paid next month|
|5065 W Fulton St||Chicago, IL||Ting||312-555-7685||$1,813||$1,813||no contact|
|2 Langmuir Ave, Unit 1B||Los Angeles, CA||Mike||661-555-1391||$1,975||$0|
|1649 Easthurst Ln||Houston, TX||Jo||713-555-4446||$1,249||$0|
|1514 E San Pedro, Unit 4||Phoenix, AZ||Arjun||480-555-7861||$2,800||$1,400||half on 1st, half on 15th each month|
|3599 S Wamock St, Floor 3||Philadelphia, PA||Hilaria||215-555-7765||$2,250||$0|
Rent Roll Essential Elements
A rent roll should have one row for each renter. Each renter should have their street address, unit number, city, state, and zip code identified. The authorized residents could be listed, or you could list only the household point of contact.
The rent roll should show the current contractual rent, the balance owed as of today (updated on the 1st of the month, or whenever rent is due). If rent remains unpaid after the first, the rent roll should give you a current reminder of the plan. “Renter to pay on 5th” or “No communication – serve notice.” It should also show the tenancy start date and end date.
A rent roll in Excel will let you filter and sort. This can be very handy. You can sort the rent roll to show all renters who are below market rent. You can filter to show all renters who haven’t paid yet this month. You can sort another way to show which renters are coming up for renewal soon.
Rent Roll Nice-to-Have’s
Your rent roll might be expanded to include a history of rent increases. You might, for instance, have one column for each year of the tenancy, and list that contractual rent for that year. This will help you to identify which units are due for a rent raise. It will also help you to show in court that you apply your rent raises to all renters equally.
If your apartments are different sizes and in different conditions, you may wish to note this information on the rent roll, as well. This helps you to remember why you have raised the rent on this unit, or why you haven’t on another. It also helps explain unequal treatment in rent raises should your records be called into court.
A Rent Roll is not a Renter Account History
If you have to evict a renter for non-payment, your rent roll may not be adequate documentation. It is far more compelling to a judge or magistrate to show a history of what was paid, when it was paid, and what is still owed. This is called a renter account history.
Renter Account History Example Showing Trouble
Renter Account History Essential Elements
A renter account history should have one row for each date, and columns for “rent payments,” “fines and fees” (if applicable), and “running balance.”
“Rent payments” should show the actual amount paid. Imagine last month you received half the rent on the first, and a third of the rent on the tenth, and the rest on the 20th. In this case, you don’t want your record just to show that rent was paid that month. You want the late payment history shown in the record. This is useful to you when you’re evaluating whether to renew, and useful to the court if you’re evicting for either late payment or habitual late payment.
“Fines and fees” can show extra amounts that may or may not be allowed your jurisdiction. Late fees can be calculated here. Trash fines can be added. Check bounce fees, NSF’s, and interest can all be shown in this column. Just add a new row with a new date for when the item was applied to the account and another row for when it was paid.
“Running balance” should show how much a renter owed and when. Each time rent is due, the running balance will increase by the amount owed. Each time a payment is made, the running balance will decrease. Likewise for fines and payment of fines.
Renter Account History Nice-to-Have’s
The most valuable thing you could ever have in a renter account history may not be the numbers that show payments. It may be a log of all communications you have had with the renter.
A log of communications has a business purpose. It helps you to know objectively when a renter reported a problem, how long it took you to respond, and how frequently each renter engages with you or your staff.
A log of communications also has a legal purpose. If the renter claims they notified you, and it’s not in your comprehensive log of all communications, the balance of the evidence is against the renter. If the renter claims you took too long to respond, or you were unkind with your choice of words, your log will show objectively how long you took, or actually what you said (nevermind how they perceived it).
Rent Roll and Renter Account History Conclusion
A rent roll is a business snapshot showing you the productivity and status of each of your units compared with one another. A renter account history shows the details of each renter’s experience. Create and maintain both so that you are prepared to run your business well and defend yourself in court.