7 Tips to Finding the Right Property Tenants
We’ve all heard the horror stories. Tenants seem nice when they move in, but sooner or later they turn into a real-life nightmare. Trying to avoid a trashed property or squatters who won’t leave? Try these seven tips to help you find the right tenants for your rental property.
1. Be Clear about Expectations
Set yourself up for success by deciding what you want in a tenant before you even start looking. Draft advertisements with your criteria in mind to hopefully keep the wrong kind of applicant from responding in the first place. Some questions to consider when setting your criteria:
- How much money should your tenant make?
- Will you allow a cosigner if the applicant’s income is insufficient?
- Will you allow smokers or pets?
- Would you allow your tenants to sublease?
- Will you require rental insurance?
- Will you require a security deposit? If so, how much?
2. Run a Background and Credit Check
Running a background and credit check is a common practice landlords use when vetting a potential tenant. If history comes up, consider the severity and frequency of the offenses before you immediately rule somebody out.
When it comes to credit, look for a tenant with a solid credit score (typically 680 or above is considered good) and a history of making payments on time.
Keep in mind that some states have laws against discriminating against people convicted of certain criminal offenses in housing applications. Missouri allows you to use records as part of your consideration, but be careful if you’re renting outside the state (like in California, for example).
3. Contact their References
One easy way to check if an applicant is telling the truth is to contact their supplied references. It is a good idea to verify their income with their employer to ensure they will be able to make their rent payments.
You should also check with the applicant’s former landlord to get a feel for how he or she is as a tenant. Make a point to ask about their payment history, cleanliness and respect for the former property.
4. Ask the Right Questions
The application should include all of the questions you’d want to know in order to make a decision about a tenant. Below are some sample questions to consider, but you should add as many as you think are appropriate in order for you to make a decision.
- Have you ever been evicted?
- Do you have any pets?
- What is your current monthly income?
- Do you have references from a current employer and a landlord?
- Will you agree to a background check?
- Do you agree to pay a security deposit by the set date?
5. Do your Part
High-quality tenants expect high-quality landlords. If you want the best tenants to say yes to your property, you should do what you can to meet their expectations.
Clean thoroughly and take care of necessary turnover repairs before showing tenants the property. Establish an open and clear method of communication, and be available to tenants to answer questions as they evaluate the property.
It is a good idea to be physically present while tenants view the property. A quality tenant will likely have questions, and you can get a better feel for them as people and look out for red flags.
6. Look for Red Flags
As mentioned above, the best time to look for physical red flags is at the property showing. A tenant could have a clean background or credit check, but you should still pay attention to their behavior in person. Watch out for questionable behaviors like:
- Not showing up on time or at all
- Acting rude or disrespectful
- Showing up dirty or unkempt
- Providing fake references
- Dodging questions about their rental history
7. Follow the Law
As a landlord, the Federal Fair Housing Act requires you to treat every prospective tenant equally. The law prohibits you from using certain factors as part of your consideration process.
By law, you are not allowed to discriminate based on:
- National Origin
- Familial Status (whether or not somebody has children)
Certain states have additional laws that go beyond this one. Check out this reference for a list of fair housing requirements in Missouri.
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