How To Choose Good Tenants For Your Rental Property

I‘m pretty sure I’m not cut out to be a landlord. However, I have watched friends and relatives do the landlord thing. I know that, if you are the right sort of person to be a landlord, it can be profitable. You could easily fund your retirement with the income from your tenants.

On the other hand, though, if you aren’t careful, you could end up in a nightmare. The wrong tenants might ruin the house, or be late paying. You could end spending far more than you are bringing in, just to make repairs and try to collect rent (or end up losing your money altogether). After watching the saga play out with my in-laws, and after what happened across the street from me, here is what I would do if I were choosing tenants:

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how to choose tenants

NEVER Rent To Friends Or Relatives

As with so many things in life, trying to make something business-related work with friends or family can backfire on you. Friends and relatives might assume that you will give them a break — even if you do sign a lease (and you should always sign a lease), and do everything by the business book. In the end, friends and family expect your personal relationship to come first, and the business relationship to come second. If you try and stick to the business relationship on rent-related matters, your personal relationship can easily become strained.

Credit Check

Before agreeing to let someone move in, you should run a credit check. Find out what sort of credit the tenant has. Check references. Don’t be afraid to ask for the name and phone number of a prospective tenant’s boss. Even if you don’t run a credit check, you can ask for proof of income, and proof of employment. Pay stubs or bank statements (tell the tenant to black out the account number) can serve to help you verify income.

As part of this process, ask for a previous landlord’s information. Our friends rented out their house, across the street from us, and even though the tenants were evicted from their last home, they still allowed them to move in. Needless to say, after more than a year of frustration, our friends finally evicted these tenants — and performed extensive repairs on the house. Talk to the previous landlord, and find out what kind of tenants they were.

Get Money Up Front

You don’t want to start your landlord-tenant relationship out with your renters owing you money. Find out if they can give you the first month’s rent plus security deposit up front. For the most part, responsible tenants are also responsible with their money, and build this type of payment into their plans. Establish,

When all else fails, trust your gut. If you have a bad feeling about a potential tenant, don’t go through with the transaction. Look for someone else. Interview potential clients so that you know what to expect, and look them in the eye. While you can be fooled by some people, your gut can be very valuable as you decide which tenants to accept. Remember: As long as you follow the law, you can be picky about the people who live in your rental.

What are your tips for choosing tenants?

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Miranda is a freelance writer and professional blogger. She writes for a number of personal finance blogs, including Planting Money Seeds. She has a M.A. in journalism, and is the author of Confessions of a Professional Blogger. Miranda lives Utah, where she enjoys spending her free time reading, traveling and playing with her son and husband.

Last Edited: 4th February 2013


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  1. says

    My sister had a rental and the tenants trashed it! They did all the necessary things up front. Where they went wrong was not checking in on the property. They did so for the first couple months and then stopped because all was good. Not so by the end of the lease. So even after you get good tenants in make sure they remain good tenants and check on your property.

  2. says

    Great points. I definitely follow last two. They are very important and are must to do if you are a landlord. The first one is interesting. I can see how it can back fire on you but I can also see how it can work out as well. So far, I have not run into #1 but I would have to really think about it if I were in situation to rent to my friends or relatives.

  3. bones says

    One more tip for the list. Don’t just check the references of the applicants current (previous) landlord, Check with the one or two before the current one. Current landlord might give you a glowing report just to get rid of these tenants. Going back two or three landlords, if possible…..they tend to be very frank.

  4. fungus says

    Another good landloard practice is to never answer the phone. Listen to the message and think about it first. Listen to the background noise of callers wanting to rent. Listen to the proper use of language and sentence structure. You can learn a lot and get a clue to an individual by listening.

  5. JL says

    What services do you recommend for checking out potential tenants? I’m considering renting a property I have, but Im not certain which background services are good and which aren’t.

  6. tj says

    I do all that plus two more things:
    a) I do a quick check on Google, Facebook & to see if there is any openly public information about them. I found out on Facebook that one young woman who wanted to rent from me was known for throwing “epic” parties on a weekly basis and that she had 4 cats but only listed 1 on her application.

    b) I also search the sex offender registry. I search both by names of all parties and all previous address listed on the application. This part is more important for someone like me who rents within 1000 feet of a school in California, but it doesn’t hurt to know who you are renting to.

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