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10 tips for finding a great tenant

By Peter Gow

Finding a good tenant isn’t easy, but an experienced property manager can help you overcome the challenge.

It’s essential you focus on a prescribed set of qualities that make a good tenant rather than rely on intuition or select an applicant simply because they look good on paper. Also, be aware that the Fair Housing Act is designed to ensure any selection criteria is applied equally to all applicants.

Ask your property manager if they have any potential, trusted applicants on their books who are seeking a property similar to yours. This could save you a lot of time and money.

Whether you place the process entirely in the hands of a property manager, or take part in the selection yourself, it’s worth focusing on these principles.

Make a shortlist

Ask your property manager to form a shortlist of candidates from the overall number of applicants. Have them identify those who have rented through the agency before and can be trusted to fulfill all the terms of the lease.

Undertake a credit check

You must be confident an applicant can pay their rent on time. Your property manager will assist you by undertaking a credit check of the most likely candidates. A good credit score shows the debt and credit held by a candidate, whether they pay bills on time and if any judgments have been made for uncollected rent or property damage. The Tenant Verification Service (TenaCheck) and Equifax are online services that can assist.

Check their references

It’s almost impossible to be certain you’re dealing with an honest applicant. A reasoned approach to answering this question is to request their driver’s licence as part of the application and then verify its details. Also, their employer should be approached to validate their earnings claim. Inquiries might also be made of the applicant’s current landlord. All this might seem invasive but property managers undertake all these checks as a matter of routine. It’s one of many good reasons to use them.

Make sure an applicant can afford the rent

A good rule of thumb is to consider only those whose gross salaries total 30% or less of the required rent. Banks use a similar benchmark when deciding whether to issue a mortgage. If you select an applicant who’ll obviously struggle to afford the rent, don’t be surprise when they fall into arrears.

Trust factor looms large

You should be confident you’re renting to someone trustworthy. An unsuitable candidate will usually demonstrate a bad attitude at the initial inspection. Commonly, they find fault and try to negotiate down the rent or seek some other form of compensation. In the longer term, a petty request or dispute might involve their withholding rent. In these situations, a property manager is worth their weight in gold.

A responsible tenant is key

Ideally, you’ll choose someone who will be responsible for the property. They’ll commit to putting out the bins, keeping the garden in good order, and even undertaking the occasional job so the property remains in good repair. Also, you’ll want your tenant to alert you to any larger problems so you can act quickly.

Make sure they’re mindful

Most properties come with neighbours. A tenant who plays loud music loud, endlessly revs cars at the weekend, or litters around the property will quickly create conflict. Eventually, these arguments arrive at your door. So, consider the needs of your neighbours – and your peace of mind – when selecting a tenant.

Did they arrive for an inspection on time?

Okay, that seems like an odd question… anyone can get held up in traffic. Nevertheless, it is an indication of behaviour to come. If they apologise for taking your time, that’s a good start. If they act as if nothing’s happened, it’s a warning sign. If they don’t respect your time, then they’re unlikely to respect the terms of the lease or the actual property. If your property manager undertakes the inspections, ask them about each candidate’s punctuality.

Insist on access for regular inspections

You need to know if your property is being treated properly, so make a quarterly or six-monthly inspection part of the lease terms. You should state your expectations of cleanliness around and inside the property. You might want to know the state of the carpets or whether the garden is being maintained. Discovery of undisclosed pets, damage to walls, including kids’ drawings, a filthy bathroom, kitchen and cooker are all too common without a regular inspection.

Care, but not much

Everyone has drama in their life, but it’s no reason not to pay the rent. Choose a tenant who’ll not try to draw you into their troubles, and make their rental payment one of them. Sacking, redundancy, the cat getting run over … it’s all very sad but not your problem. Don’t get dragged into their dramas. A property manager is a terrific shield to nullify this sort of emotional manipulation.

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