There are a lot of things landlords can do to be successful, including strict rent policies, meticulous maintenance upkeep, and being good with numbers. However, the best thing a landlord can do to have a fruitful career in this field is to attract responsible tenants. We’ve all heard the nightmare stories about tenants that have ruined property, squatted, and/or been impossible to collect rent from. Because you want to avoid this, you need to know the red flags but, even more importantly, the desirable traits in a tenant. A thorough screening process can be extremely time consuming, so the last thing you want to do is have to repeat this over and over. Read on for the things you should be looking for in an ideal tenant
Find a Tenant with a Good Payment History
Unless you’ve been caught under a rock, you’ve heard the nightmare stories about squatters. These are people who have stopped paying rent but haven’t moved out and, despite conventional thinking, these people have rights! It’s beyond infuriating and you’ll likely spend a lot of money in court trying to get rid of these people. During your screening process, you’ll want to talk to past landlords to make sure your potential tenant has a long history of not only paying but also paying on time. Also take the time to run a credit check—and learn how to read a credit report to ensure you’re crossing your T’s and dotting your I’s.
Find a Tenant with No History of Property Damage
This is another thing you can learn by talking to past landlords. And, while every landlord worth his or her salt will obviously require a damage deposit, it’s still heartening to know that your tenant is respectful of other people’s property. If they have the “Don’t worry, it’s just a rental” attitude, you might be finding signs of damage for months after they leave. Another way to get at this is to ask why they are moving and see if it jives with what their past landlord has said.
Find a Tenant with No Criminal History
As part of your thorough tenant vetting process, you’ll run a background check. It’s up to you how to deal with misdemeanors. This might be more of a gray area, in that you can factor in the nature of the law broken, how serious it was, and how far in this person’s past the incident took place. A felony, on the other hand, is most likely something that should be a deal breaker for you in choosing the right tenant. As this article from the Balance.com notes, however, you might need to approach this decision with caution if you live in a state like California. This state prohibits landlords from discriminating against potential tenants with certain convictions. As the article goes on to note, “You may have an easier time justifying your rejection of a prospective tenant with a drug or violent crime conviction than you would rejecting a tenant with 50 speeding tickets.”
Be Aware of the Federal Fair Housing Act
On top of the rigorous screening process, there is a certain amount of gut instinct that goes into the decision of who to have live on your property. You don’t want to ignore a bad feeling about a person or people but you can also give some weight to the positive feelings, too. However (and this is a big however!), you definitely need to adhere to the rules of the Federal Fair Housing Act lest you be accused of discrimination. This means you can’t discriminate based on the following:
- Race or color
- National origin
- Familial status (families with children)
You should also keep in mind that each state has their own set of Fair Housing Rules, so you definitely want to be aware of both federal and local laws.
Find a Tenant Who Doesn’t Plan on Packing People into Your Rental Unit
Make sure to ask your tenant how many people are going to be living on the property and that this number seems appropriate to you. You should have them sign paperwork to this effect and if you discover that they have more people living there later on, you likely have grounds to either increase rent or to go for eviction.
Finding an ideal tenant for your rental property might seem overwhelming, but if you follow this simple guideline, you should have a long and successful tenant/landlord relationship.