As a landlord, it’s easy to feel like an empty unit is the worst thing you could have. But that’s not actually the case. There is one thing that’s even worse:

A bad tenant.

Terrible tenants are everywhere, and they come in all forms. That’s why you need to know how to identify them before you hand them the keys and let them move in.

Fortunately, there are just as many good tenants out there. You just have to know where and how to find them.

Looking to fill a rental unit? Here’s how to find the perfect tenant for your property.

What Makes A Good Tenant?

Every landlord hopes to find good tenants. But what exactly does a good tenant look like?

They’re the people who pay their rent on time, every month. They’re stable, responsible people with jobs or a steady stream of income.

They treat your property with respect and inform you of little problems before they turn into big issues.

They follow the rules, they’re forthcoming with information, and they are pleasant to the other neighbors. They’re honest, reliable, and easy to deal with.

These are the criteria that every landlord should look for when seeking a new tenant.

Advertise Your Apartment In The Right Places

The tenant hunt starts with creating a listing and advertising your apartment. So, make sure to market your property to the people you’re trying to attract.

It’s like selling any product or service; you have to market your property to your target audience.

Your apartment listing should include the cost of rent, the security deposit, and utilities (if they’re the tenant’s responsibility). Giving clear numbers will weed out most of the people who can’t afford the place.

Screen Tenants In Person

Don’t rely on emails, text messages, or snail mail (if that even crossed your mind). It’s crucial that you meet your potential renters in person.

It’s important to know the law and understand that it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of age, gender, race, and other factors. You can, however, use your gut instinct to help you make your decision. Rely on your own judgment. If you have a bad feeling about someone, they’re probably not the occupant for you.

When you do find a tenant that you want to rent to, have clearly defined rules and a thorough lease to protect yourself. Bad tenants often seek out landlords that aren’t explicit about their expectations.

Run A Background Check

Running a background check is one of the best preventative measures a landlord can take. A background check will provide info on the tenant’s criminal history. It will also include evidence of prior evictions.

When you ask a potential tenant to consent to a background, pay attention to their behavior. You need to keep an eye out for red flags.

They may try to stall the process by “accidentally” spelling their name wrong on paperwork or saying they don’t know their social security number. If anything seems unusual or causes concern, they may have something to hide.

Some tenants go so far as to provide info that doesn’t match their ID. In a situation like this, they may not even be who they say they are.

If you notice any of these delay tactics or find any inconsistencies, walk away and start looking for someone new.

Do A Credit Check

A credit check is just as important as a background check. After all, if they can’t pay the rent, there’s simply no point in going through the rest of the process.

Bad credit is a telltale sign that someone isn’t able to pay their bills or pay them on time. But there’s more to it than that.

It could also be an indication that they’re irresponsible.

You may come across tenants who don’t have any credit, good or bad. In those instances, you should dig a little deeper to find out why.

If you find a tenant you love that has less than stellar credit, there is one other thing you can do:

Make them get a cosigner.

Having a cosigner on the lease offers an added layer of protection in case your tenant isn’t able to pay the rent.

Verify Employment

With the exception of retirees and college students, most responsible adults have jobs. Make sure your tenant has a steady, permanent job and that they can provide proof of it.

Ask for copies of recent pay stubs. Call the employer to verify that the person still works there. Make sure they do what they say they do.

A good rule of thumb is to look for tenants who earn at least three times the monthly rent. If you’re charging $1,500 per month in rent, you don’t want someone who only earns $2,500 per month. A tenant who makes at least $4,500 every month is more likely to pay rent on time and in full.

Check References

References are important, especially ones from previous landlords. Ask your potential tenants to provide personal, professional, and landlord references. If they can’t, start looking for someone new.

Previous landlords will almost always be honest with you. If someone was a responsible tenant, they’ll tell you. If they were consistently late with rent or ever caused a problem, they’ll let you know that too.

While landlords may compete to get the best tenants, they tend to look out for each other, especially when it comes to problem renters.

In Summary

Looking to fill your empty apartment unit with a great new occupant? Here’s what you need to do:

  • Advertise your apartment in the right places
  • Screen tenants in person
  • Run a background check
  • Run a credit check
  • Verify their employment
  • Check their references

Fail to take any of these steps and you could be in big trouble. Having an empty apartment is one thing, but having to evict a tenant or take them to court is always worse.

Angus FlynnAuthor Bio

Angus Flynn has five years of property management experience working primarily with high-end apartment communities.  His ability to deliver white-glove service to his residents and prospects has propelled him into a successful career that now finds him leading the team at Turtle Creek, a luxury apartment complex in Riverside, California.