You’ve bought yourself a nice piece of rental property and gotten it fixed up. Now you just need one thing: someone to live in it. There are plenty of horror stories about renters who destroy property, refuse to abide by the rules, and generally make life miserable for their landlords. How can you avoid that? How do you find someone who will work well with your property and your policies? Of course, there’s never any guarantee, but there are a few things you can do to screen your candidates. Here are a few questions to ask when searching for the perfect tenant.
Why Are You Moving?
There are all sorts of reasons for moving to a new home. Maybe they just got a new job and have to relocate. Maybe they’re planning on starting a family. Or maybe they couldn’t get along with their previous landlord, or are being evicted.
A housing interview is a lot like a job interview. It’s bad form to speak ill of your current/previous landlord or living situation. Maybe the tenant’s previous situation really was a nightmare that they had to get out of. But still, if they mention any problems with their previous living situation, take it as a red flag. There’s every possibility that they’ll have the same issues with you that they did in their previous situation.
Can You Provide References?
References will provide you with other people’s perspectives on what this person is like as a tenant and a person. Don’t accept personal references from friends or family. The best references are from previous landlords, as well as employers. If they do any volunteer work, you may also accept references from someone they report to in that capacity.
Good references can speak to a person’s character. They’ll give you an idea of whether they’re reliable, trustworthy, easy to get along with, and more. Look at a prospective tenant’s references carefully before making a decision about them.
Will You Consent to a Background Check?
Reference letters can give you some idea of what a person is like, but it’s still good to have facts and statistics at your fingertips. A background check can tell you things like if they have an arrest record, while a credit check gives you an idea of their financial situation, and whether they’re in a position to pay the required rent. If someone doesn’t consent to a credit and background check, it can immediately eliminate them as a candidate.
Do note that, by law, you can’t require your prospective tenants to take a drug test. You can, however, request them to take one, and give preference to the candidates who agree (and pass).
Do You Have Any Questions?
One of the best ways to get to know someone is to get them to ask questions. This gives you an idea of what’s important to them, rather than you simply telling them what’s important to you. What are their concerns? Are there any particular accommodations that they want or need? Are you willing and able to provide them? Letting your prospective tenants talk for awhile is perhaps the quickest way to determine whether or not they’re a good fit.
Is there really such thing as a “perfect tenant”? Maybe, maybe not. But either way, renting out property doesn’t have to be a nightmare. With the right questions and a little pre-planning, you may not find the “perfect” tenant, but you can find the tenant that’s the best fit for you.