Landlording & Rental Properties

6 Crucial Factors That Make a Top-Notch Tenant

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The most important decision you make that will determine the success or failure of your rental is the person you put in the property. A bad tenant can potentially cause years of stress, headache, and financial loss, while a great tenant can provide years of security, peace, and prosperity. Don’t underestimate the importance of renting to only the best tenants. While it’s not possible to know with 100 percent certainty what type of tenant your applicant will be, there are some telltale signs and traits that will give you a pretty darn good indication that they are great tenant material. Here’s what you should be looking for.

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6 Crucial Factors That Make Up a Top-Notch Tenant

1. Their Ability to Afford the Rent Payment

The first and foremost quality of a good tenant is their being financially responsible and their ability to afford the rent. Without proper payment, the landlord will be forced to evict and be faced with potentially thousands of dollars’ worth of legal fees, lost rent, and damages. Most landlords require that a tenant’s (documentable) income equal at least three times the monthly rent. Many tenants believe that they can afford more than they really can—so it is the job of the landlord to set the rules to protect their investment. If the tenant is already financially responsible, earning three times the monthly rent should be sufficient.


2. Their Willingness to Pay on Time

While some landlords look at late rent as a benefit because of the extra income from the late fee, a late-paying tenant is more likely to stop paying altogether. The stress involved when the rent doesn’t come in is not a pleasant experience and can be avoided by only renting to tenants who have a solid history of paying on time.

Related: 5 Expert Tips to Attract Cream-of-the-Crop Tenants

3. The Long-Term Outlook for Their Job Stability

While a tenant may be able to pay the rent and pay it on time right now, their ability to do so in the future is often determined by their job situation.

If they are the type to switch jobs often or have long periods of unemployment, you may find long periods of missed rent.

4. Their Cleanliness and Housekeeping Skills

No tenant stays forever—and when they leave, you want the property back in good condition. As such, it is important that the tenant’s day-to-day living be clean and orderly. They must take good care of the property you have entrusted with them.

5. Their Aversion to Crime, Drugs, and Other Illegal Activities

A person who has no regard for the law will also likely have no regard for your policies. Tenants who engage in illegal activities will cause nothing but stress and expense.


6. The “Stress Quotient”—How Much Stress Will They Cause You?

The final quality of a great tenant is something we call their “stress quotient,” or in other words, the amount of stress a tenant will cause you, the landlord. Some tenants are very high maintenance and constantly demand time and attention. Others simply ignore the terms in their lease and need constant babysitting, reprimanding, and discipline (late fees, notices, phone calls, etc.). This type of tenant will only be a thorn in your side.

Related: 5 Ways Landlords Can Achieve Better Tenant Stability

Obviously, no tenant is going to be 100 percent perfect, so deciding how close to perfection you will require is a personal choice that largely depends on your desired involvement level and the community in which your property is located. If tenants are difficult to find, it may be financially advantageous for you to rent to a less-than-perfect tenant in order to fill vacancies. Notice we say “less-than-perfect tenant,” not “anyone.” On the other hand, if you have plenty of applicants to choose from, you can be significantly more picky. Just remember, it’s much better to have your unit vacant a little longer while you wait for the right tenant than to rent to the wrong person.

[This article is an excerpt from Brandon Turner’s The Book on Managing Rental Properties.]

Any other factors you look for when weeding out the good tenants from the bad?

Leave your comments below!

Brandon Turner is an active real estate investor, entrepreneur, writer, and co-host of the BiggerPockets Podcast. He began buying rental properties and flipping houses at age 21, discovering he didn’t need to work 40 years at a corporate job to have “the good life.” Today, with nearly 100 rental units and dozens of rehabs under his belt, he continues to invest in real estate while also showing others the power, and impact, of financial freedom. His writings have been featured on,,, Money Magazine, and numerous other publications across the web and in print media. He is the author of The Book on Investing in Real Estate with No (and Low) Money Down, The Book on Rental Property Investing, and co-author of The Book on Managing Rental Properties, which he wrote alongside his wife, Heather, and How to Invest in Real Estate, which he wrote alongside Joshua Dorkin. A life-long adventurer, Brandon (along with Heather and daughter Rosie) splits his time between his home in Washington State and various destinations around the globe.

    Elizabeth Blazina Investor from Seattle, Washington
    Replied over 2 years ago
    This is a great list! .. I have to say that I also look at their response factor.. how quickly they respond to questions etc..and how they proceed through the rental application process. In addition , I look at how thorough they are in filling out the application and the persistence in getting it done. This has always been very indicative of a good tenant sometimes in spite of poor credit, and marginal finances.
    JL Hut Investor from Greenville, Michigan
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Another indicator: Good tenant, transparent in the application process, willing to provide all the information your ask for. Bad tenant: Reluctant to give additional information you request, if they act like they are hiding something, they probably are. Honest people have nothing to hide.
    Joel Schanbacher from Annapolis, Maryland
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Thanks for the post Brandon! One group that comes to mind when reading this list is military members. They have solid employment, they’ve been taught to take care of their stuff, and you can contact their command if they are taking care of their responsibilities. The only place they may not score higher in his stressors, since they are able to break their lease with you if they receive orders to move or deploy. Also turnover will be higher since military members are rarely in any one place longer than four years, and it is often less than that. Food for thought.
    Steve Vaughan Rental Property Investor from East Wenatchee, WA
    Replied over 2 years ago
    Great article, Brandon! Wish I’d known about these more back when I started. I like to call your stress quotient the ‘nit-pick factor’. To gauge how many times they will call to say ‘I was thinking…’ or ‘can you replace this carpet or paint this room pink?’ or ‘help – I saw an ant yesterday and maybe a spider last week!’ – I like to start showings (after much pre-screening) when I am a few days from fully completing the make ready process. It’s almost done, but there are some items that aren’t. There might be a corner with my supplies in it. A room isn’t painted yet, some blinds not cleaned, etc. The nit-pickers will flinch and ask about it with their nose up, pointing it out like they’re your boss – the flexible and tolerant will note it but see through it with vision. Slobs won’t notice at all. Avoid those. Cheers!
    Arya Jackson from San Francisco, Bay Area
    Replied 4 months ago
    Finding the right tenant is so important. I found the best tenants by running a background check on them. My rental management app, Tellus, screened them for free! I thought this was a joke because it's such an amazing feature but its true, it's free!