First of all, it should be worth noting that not everyone has the same idea of the perfect tenant. Everyone’s perfect tenant is different, so we’ve put together some top tips on how you can find yours!
Choosing a good match for your property can be difficult as different tenants suit different properties, and your priorities may be widely different to the landlord of the property next door. For most landlords, the length of tenancy will be their biggest priority. To avoid any loss of rental income between tenancies, you want a long-term tenant who plans to stick around for a while. Otherwise you’ll find yourself going through the hassle of putting your property back on the rental market more times than you would like to and suffering weeks, or even months, with no rent coming in.
For landlords who don’t mind going through the tenant application process every few months, they may prioritise the quality of a tenant more than they do their length of stay. But every landlord knows that both are important.
How To Avoid Bad Tenants
No sane landlord is going to be actively seeking out bad tenants. But many landlords do not make it a priority to thoroughly audit a prospective tenant before renting out their property to them.
Don’t get desperate.
You may feel under pressure to start getting some rent coming in as soon as possible. But don’t be so desperate as to lower your standards, just because you’re not immediately spoilt for choice. It’s a far better compromise to miss a few weeks of rent but result in moving in your perfect tenant, than accept the first offer you get only to find out that you have moved in the worst tenant imaginable who you’ll evict six months down the line and be left back to square one.
Check and follow-up on references.
References are an invaluable resource that only too often get underestimated or even ignored to sit and collect in a filing folder somewhere. If you’re going to request landlord and employer references, as you should, take the opportunity to use them to avoid bad tenants.
Not all tenants will be happy to share their landlord or employer details with you. They may have a very good reason for refusing this request, but if the request has agitated them or they come across as uncomfortably defensive or aggressive in regard to it then it is likely that they have something to hide. The choice is yours.
When contacting the tenant’s landlord, be aware that some landlords will falsify how lovely the tenant actually is in attempt to get rid of them sooner. To get a more accurate representation of the tenant’s character and reliability, you want to go back at least a couple of landlords if at all possible.
Prepare your prospective tenant.
Prepare any prospective tenants for what they can expect from you as their landlord, and what you expect back from them. If in doubt about a tenant, ensure that you make it clear from the beginning that you will be conducting regular inspections of the property. This will deter any tenants who expect to be able to get away with hell with little to no intervention. Inspections may even be on a sort of probation period. For example, once every couple of months for the first year, and then once every six months, and then once a year to check up on the place. If you are unable to conduct these inspections yourself, due to time or distance, you can look for a local property management company to perform them for you. Property managers have a lot of experience in property inspections and know what to look out for in terms of unruly tenants and signs of mistreatment or damage to the property.
Always ask for a deposit.
Always ask for a deposit before the tenant moves in (this is usually the rent amount and you are legally obliged to hold it in a deposit protection scheme) bundled with the first month’s rent in advance. Your tenant’s deposit will ensure that you can cover any damages caused to the property with no excuse should things turn south.
How To Find Good Tenants
It’s not enough to filter out the bad tenants. How do you find the good ones?
Don’t rule out DSS tenants.
All types of tenants come with different lifestyles. Consider this when marketing your property to students, families, couples, young professionals and those in receipt of housing benefits. Many landlords refuse to let to housing benefit tenants due to past bad experiences with this demographic. But it is important to note that many housing benefit tenants are good tenants who are temporarily between jobs. For them, being on benefits is not a lifestyle. Of course, there is less risk to rent out your property to a professionally stable individual who receives regular income each month. But you may want to not rule out housing benefit tenants and instead opt to consider these tenants based on their lifestyle as opposed to their receipt of said benefits.
Don’t just look at the person’s income.
A person’s salary does not equate to their ability to pay rent in full and on time. Someone on minimum wage may be completely debt free and have no other financial responsibilities other than their rent and utility bills. Whereas someone with a well paid job may be having to repay a large amount of debt each month or have a habit of spending beyond their means on holidays and luxury items. This is why it’s important to check their previous landlords’ references to get an idea of their history of paying rent on time.
Don’t be scared to ask questions.
Accompanying prospective tenants on property visits is a great opportunity to see if the tenant is suitable for the property you are renting out. But many landlords and property managers are hesitant to ask too many questions. Don’t be shy in politely asking prospective tenants what they are looking for in a home and why they are moving. Be wary of those who have moved around a lot and can’t provide a logical reason as to why. This information can be used in conjunction with the landlord’s reference to get “both sides of the story”.
Gage the prospective tenant’s reaction and comments.
During visits, you can get a good idea of the person’s personality by how they react to the place and the comments that they make. If they praise the property on how clean it is, then that is a good indicator that cleanliness is a priority for them. If they ask how loudly they can play their music at night, then this suggests two things: That they are considerate of their neighbours, and that they like to play their music loud. Depending on their character, the property and the neighbours (or lack of neighbours), it can either be a non-issue (for example, if the property is already in a noisy or neighbour-free area or if you trust that the tenant won’t play their music too loud if you warn them in advance) or discourage you from wanting to rent to that person.
Attract the right lifestyle.
Consider letting your property furnished. How you choose to furnish your property can help to sell a lifestyle, so decorate and outfit your property to suit the tastes of your perfect tenant. If you want to attract young families, consider child-friendly features and a large family dining area. You may be looking specifically for families as they are less likely to relocate and prefer to settle into their home for the long-term, as they want their children to grow up in a stable living environment. Mothers with young babies are also likely to keep the house tidier and cleaner for their baby, so consider this.
Conversely, if you don’t want young children moving in, opt for furniture with a bit more maturity and sophistication. If you want to attract a young professional who will be tidy and house proud, a scruffy second-hand couch bought off of Gumtree and mismatched furniture just won’t suffice. Poor quality furniture and interiors will also tempt some tenants to be less than careful with how they treat the property and the things inside it. On a subconscious level, you’re almost permitting tenants to not care as, from their point of view, if you don’t care then why should they?
Make your property memorable.
The thing about good tenants is that all landlords are desperate for them. Don’t lose out to the place across the road. Highlight and offer unique features that makes your property stand out from all others. Your competitors are all bidding for the same tenants, which is why you need to make your property memorable. Be extra welcoming, show off any charming structural quirks, or anything that separates your property from every other property the tenant has seen this week.
Consider allowing pets.
Many good tenants face difficulty when looking for a new home that allows pets. The irony being that some landlords won’t accept pets due to the potential damage they may cause to carpets and furnishings, but end up renting to bad tenants who damage the property more than a cat ever could. Don’t miss out on your perfect tenant just because they have a dog. However, if you do choose to allow pets, it can help to specifically state which pets are allowed in the agreement. For example, “one cat named Fluffy. Any additional pets must be requested beforehand” or even “two cats OR one dog allowed”. The benefit to this is that pet owners tend to stick around for longer due to the difficulty in finding somewhere new that allows pets.
How To Keep Good Tenants Happy
When you spend so long looking for your perfect tenant, the last thing you want is for them to leave. But all that hard work you did in securing your perfect tenant will go to waste if they’re unhappy living there.
Do your job.
Be friendly and approachable. You want your tenants to feel comfortable with contacting you should they ever need anything, not feel nervous about calling you if something has broken. It’s your responsibility as a landlord to perform any necessary repairs and handle any complaints they may have in regard to the property. It is important to maintain friendly and open communication with your tenants so that they will hold more respect for you and therefore your property.
Allow them to decorate.
If you think you’ve found your perfect tenant and you want to make sure that they aren’t tempted to leave, allowing your tenant to decorate the property to their personal tastes will encourage them to stay as they would become personally invested in the property and not feel as if they’re just living in someone else’s home. If this is the route you intend to take, to protect yourself financially, make sure to include in the tenancy agreement that the property must be returned to the state it was in when the tenant first moved in. You can state that the tenant can handle this themselves or it can be taken out of their deposit. However, many good landlords will cover the costs themselves if the improvement will also benefit the general state of the property.
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