Choosy landladies love their tenants

Finding the best tenant for your rental is, like anything else that involves humans, part science and part art. The scientific part is easy. Have tenants fill out a simple application and attach a copy of a driver’s license or state ID and proof of income (paystubs, etc.). Using this data you can confirm a few important details:

1. Check for ID. You want to make sure the tenant is who he or she reports to be. You don’t want to unwittingly rent to someone posing as a law-abiding citizen BUT is, in fact, a hardened criminal.

2. Utilizing free websites in your state/county/city, you can confirm that she or he is not a criminal or sex offender. You can also confirm whether or not the tenant has been evicted in the past through public court records. My small town has a municipal court website that provides public access. My county sheriff’s office provides sex offender information. I bookmark the websites and application confirmation is a simple process. I also ask questions on my application where the tenant is asked point-blank about sex offender, criminal and eviction status. If the boxes are marked yes—you might even be able to save yourself the web search time! Also, if the tenant lies on the form and you have to evict him/her later, the documentation is helpful for your case.

3. If desired, you can do a credit check. I do not do this. In my opinion, tenants often have poor credit (this is often why they aren’t buying a home themselves but, in fact, renting from you). And I see no correlation between poor credit and tenant success. My best tenants often have deplorable credit—as long as tenants know that rent must be paid on time, every month—things work well.

4. By confirming income, you ensure that tenants have at least a 3:1 ratio—three times the rent as full income. For example, if your rent is $500 per month, tenant income should be at least $1500.

Now the tricky part—the art of reading a person. Sometimes a tenant looks awesome on paper. I had a pharmacist rent a duplex once who appeared to be the dream tenant—gainfully employed, no evictions and no criminal. However, that tenant trashed the duplex, painted all the hardwood floors and was mentally unstable. If I had read the warning signs upfront, I would have saved myself from the aftermath. So the main thing is to look for red flags.

1. Look for personality quirks. If a tenant calls over and over and proves to be annoying upfront, be assured that the same person will call you over and over once moved in. In fact, the tenant will expect even more response from you because he/she is paying monthly rent. Listen to the voice inside of you that says “this person is crazy.” If you deal well with crazies, by all means, take him/her on. But in my experience, crazy persons utilize 90% of your time/energy/resources. Look for cleanliness. You have the tenant’s current address on your application, so drive by. I have saved myself several times with this tip. If their current location is trashed, that’s a serious red flag. Also, check out their vehicles and the clothing worn at the apartment showing. If the prospective tenant didn’t bathe and his/her truck is trashed, just imagine how he/she will treat your property.

2. Look tenants up on social media. You can learn a lot from a simple Google search. You might find newspaper articles from other towns that show a pattern of bad behavior. You might see pictures that show drug use or a tenant with 8 dogs that were not listed on the application. Conversely, you might see tenants that appear to be happy, well-adjusted and living in lovely interiors.

Your properties are only as good as the tenants living there. By utilizing an application and listening to yourself, you can find the best tenant for your property. In my business, we love our tenants because they pay our bills and take care of our properties. Choosing wisely will help you have the same mutual relationship.

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