[Note: The following is an excerpt from Brandon Turner’s The Book on Managing Rental Properties. To learn more about screening tenants and saving yourself from the heartache of a poorly managed property, be sure to check it out here!]
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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, how exactly do you weed out the bad ones and find those quality tenants? The answer involves setting strict qualifying standards and screening your applicants to verify whether or not they meet those standards.
Are there any items you’d add to this list?
Let us know how YOU screen tenants — and be sure to check out The Book on Managing Rental Properties to read more!