Finding the right tenant

How to enjoy the benefits of choosing the right tenant

The tenant who pays 12 months rent in advance, all cash, no paperwork, no questions asked, might seem like the ideal tenant but repairing those bullet holes in the walls and ceilings can take a bit of the gloss off the situation.

Successful property managers know selecting the right tenant can make the difference between profit and loss, happiness and anguish. Choose wisely. Learn from your experiences. If you own a rental property for 10 years you will probably only have between 8 and 15 tenants in that time. It really isn't a lot of experience. Real estate agents will arrange this many leases over a weekend.

Private property managers tend to attract prospective tenants who may not want to go through a real estate agent. Usually the reasons are innocent enough. This may be the first time this person has ever taken out a lease. They do not have previous references and find it hard to have any success with agents. But sometimes you will attract the very wrong kind of people. They can be hard to spot because they have more experience than you in manipulating your emotions leading you to bad decisions. Beware the hard luck story. Don't be a charity and feel you need to house the world. That's what the Salvos are for.

Advertising

I have only ever advertised in the local paper where my property is located. In over ten years of managing my own properties I have never had to advertise for more than 2 weeks to find a tenant.

People are not stupid. Filling your advert with lots of flowery descriptions will only benefit the classified advertising department of the newspaper you place it in. Keep it concise and accurate. State the suburb, number of bedrooms, bathrooms, parking and the weekly rent amount. I have found no difference in response rate regardless of the size of my ad or use of bold and colour. A simple 3 or 4 line single column ad works as well as a more expensive variety. True prospective tenants will find your ad and ring you for more information. Every real estate agent in the area will also find your advert. You will receive a number of calls offering to find a tenant for you. I pleasantly (sometimes sarcastically) decline their offer. If I haven't got a tenant leading up to the 2 week mark I am starting to get anxious but experience has shown me to be patient.

Showing the property to prospective tenants

When people ring to enquire about the availability of the premises I generally give them a brief description and give them the address. If they show any hesitation I usually suggest they drive by the property, have a look from the outside and if they are interested, have them ring me back. I do not want to convince anyone to live in my property. I want them to make the decision they would be happy to live there.

I never make special trips to show a prospective tenant through the property. I tell all applicants the property will be open for inspection for an hour at a specific time. If they are interested they need to show up at those times.

When people come to view the premises, introduce yourself and welcome them inside. Ask them to have a look around and if they have any questions feel free to ask. Let them inspect the property without you hovering.

Some people will thank you and just leave. Other people will come to you and start asking questions. Emphasise the positive about your property. Talk about proximity to schools, shopping, transport etc. In most cases people already know about the suburb and have chosen to find a place in that area. Ask them if they want to fill out a Tenancy Application form. If they decline then regardless of the reason they are not going to rent your place.

You will probably be asked if you have had many people through and has anyone else applied. I always say yes to both questions and advise that until I have received a deposit the property is available. I tell them I do not expect it to be on the market for long. I always ask "If I offered the property to you would you accept my offer?" If they answer positively I tell them I will review their application, contact their references and employer and give them an answer within 24 hours.

Tenants Application Form

You really should have tenancy application forms available for prospective tenants. Writing details down on scraps of paper will not help you make a good choice. Click here Click here for our Free tenancy Application form.

Have the tenant completely fill out the form. If they say they do not have certain information with them suggest they can ring through the details later. Once the form is completed have a quick read over it, clarify any queries you have with their information and advise them you will give them an answer within 24 - 48 hours. Make sure you ask what rental period they are looking for eg. a six month or 12 month lease.

Ask for proof of identity. Have them show you their license or credit card or something that makes you feel they are who they say they are.

When the prospective tenant leaves, write down a score out of 10 on their form based on your gut feeling. Grade the first applicant as 5 then gauge all further applicants compared to that benchmark. Make other notes and comments to help you remember that particular person. You must do it at the time you meet the people as you will never get it right if you wait till you get home.

Reviewing the tenancy applications

A good tenant has the money for the bond and advance rent, can pay the rent on time and will respect your property. This is the person you are trying to find.

Review your applicants. Discard anyone with a low score. Hopefully you still have 2 or 3 applicants left. If you have no applicants left after this initial review just wait for more phone calls or run another ad. Don't try to pick the best of a bad bunch. You know it will only lead to grief.

Review the applicants that have made it to your shortlist. Are they employed? Is there more than one person going to live in the premises? Do they both have jobs? Have they rented before? Are they happy for you to ring previous landlords or have they given you a tale of woe as to why they had prior problems?

Choosing your Tenant

Ring the references. Ring the previous landlords. Ring their employer. Make sure they really have a job. Ring. Ring..Ring.

It may surprise you to hear that not all people tell the truth on their application forms. If you don't ring around to check things out and you choose that applicant, chances are that everything will turn out alright. But if they don't, you have no one to blame but yourself. It is not just the hassle and potential financial loss of choosing a poor tenant due to insufficient screening. There are also those "I told you so" looks you get from your wife. Don't give her the satisfaction.

Contact the applicant's current and previous landlords to ask:

  • Did the applicant give proper notice to vacate?
  • How long has the applicant lived at that address?
  • Does the applicant pay rent on time and in full?
  • Does the applicant have pets?
  • How many people live in the applicant's home?
  • Does the applicant have co-tenants not on their lease?
  • Is the applicant's property kept clean?
  • Would you rent to that tenant in the future?

Contact the applicant's employer to ask:

  • Is the applicant's employment permanent or temporary?
  • How long has the applicant worked for the employer?
  • Does the applicant report to work regularly and on time?
  • What are the applicant's prospects for continued employment?

Make those phone calls.

Advising the successful applicant

When you have made your choice ring the applicant and ask if they are still interested in your property. Congratulate them for being successful applicants. Ask them if they wish to proceed. If so, arrange a time to meet to finalise all the paperwork and collect the bond and advance rent.

Advising the unsuccessful applicant

it's not over yet. You need to ring all the people you promised to call back with an answer. Don't put it off till another day. It will just gnaw at you and get inside your head. it is never easy to tell someone they have not been chosen for something.

Ring these people and say something like this. "Hi Mr Prospective Tenant. It is Mr Landlord here from the property you looked at in Somewhere St Propertyville. I am just ringing to advise you your application was unsuccessful. Good luck with your house hunting. Bye"

Keep it short and sweet. They will try to ask questions like "Why didn't you pick me?" or "Who did you give it to?" Politely decline to answer by saying. "I am sorry but my policy is not to discuss these issues. Thanks for your time. Bye." No need for conversation. Finish the call and move on to the next one.

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