Selecting the right tenant can be as difficult as choosing the best employee for a job. There are a handful of elements to consider, but the applicant is always presenting their best qualifications while hiding their faults.
For that reason, we’ve compiled a short tenant selection checklist you can use while renting your property. Checking these boxes will give you the best chance of renting your property to the best candidate who applies.
Income, Employment, and Credit
Verifying the income, employment, and credit of each applicant is one of the first boxes you should check on the tenant selection checklist.
This procedure is standard and will give you a good idea of who will be able to pay rent on time and who won’t. A lot goes into having a good tenant, but having rent payments available when you need them is one of the most important characteristics.
Your ideal tenant should make at least three times the monthly rent. This way, you can be sure that paying rent won’t be a burden on them, and they won’t need frequent extensions.
Consider all of the following when looking at a potential tenant’s income, credit, and employment:
- Income to debt ratio – make sure your tenant doesn’t have too many outstanding debts that will make paying rent difficult for them.
- Credit history – do they have a verified history of paying their bills on time?
- Eviction history – any evictions should be a red flag, especially those that revolve around rent.
- Stable employment – how long has the applicant been working at their current job? Are they self-employed or do they have a manager you can talk to?
- Landlord references – these are important for multiple reasons; not least of which is finding out whether they have a history of timely rent payments.
Landlord references can tell you whether or not the potential tenant has paid their rent on time, but they can do a lot more than that. Previous landlords will tell you if the tenant cares for their property, pays attention to the rules, and if they frequently disturb the neighbours.
Ask the references about noise complaints and any violations the tenant may have made. Make sure to ask the question: “Would you rent to your tenant again?”
You can learn a lot from talking to previous landlords. They aren’t always the most reputable sources, but multiple bad references usually isn’t a good sign.
Landlord applications are a piece of rental history, but there are a few things that you can infer from the places your applicant has lived in the past few years.
Does the applicant have three or four locations within a year or two? This should be a red flag, as there’s a reason the applicant can’t hold down a single residence. If the locations are close together, there’s clearly an element – courtesy, financially, or otherwise – that this person is missing as a tenant.
Are there any gaps in living arrangements? Gaps usually signify a landlord that the applicant doesn’t want you to contact. You should ask them about the gap, just as an employer would ask a potential employee.
Meeting With Tenants
You should always meet with tenants before accepting a deposit from them – just as they should see the apartment before committing. There are a few things to look for when you meet with them that might give you an indication of how they’ll behave as a tenant.
Do They Have Stories?
Some of the best storytellers make the worst tenants.
Does your applicant have a long list of stories about hardships they’ve faced in professional life, leading to a poor credit rating?
Does your applicant seem to be a magnet for landlords from hell?
While these stories might be true, they are almost always sugarcoating the facts: that this is not the person you want to rent to.
Is Everything On Time?
Did the applicant hand in their paperwork in a timely matter? Did they show up for the interview on time or a bit early?
First impressions mean a lot, and you can tell how much your applicants value appointments and commitments by how they present themselves when you first meet.
Double-Check to Prevent Future Trouble
While the tenant selection checklist may seem like a lot of additional work, it will protect you from renting to the wrong person. It will also prevent you from making spur of the moment, rash decisions that will lock you into a contract with a bad tenant.
In the end, you should go with your instincts when it comes down to renting. If everything checks out, but you have a bad feeling about a tenant, there’s no reason not to explore other applicants instead of them.
Stay alert and diligent throughout your search. If someone comes in smelling of cigarettes with no mention of such on their application, make a note. These small details can add up over a year-long lease, and it’s best to figure them out right away.
Tenant Selection Checklist (Summarised)
Here’s a list of everything you need to check before you move along with a potential tenant.
- Income, employment and credit
- Income to debt ratio
- Credit history
- Eviction history
- Stable employment
- Landlord references
- Rental history
- Meeting with tenants (Do they have stories? Is everything on time?)
- Double-check to prevent future trouble