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Property Management, Tenant Management

How to Find (and keep) the Best Tenants: The Ultimate Guide

Contents

Two of the top 5 main concerns we discovered when we recently surveyed our landlords were finding and managing tenants. 

We’ve all heard the horror stories around bad tenants, and (rightly or wrongly) some of the biggest worries DIY landlords have are ensuring their tenants respect their properties and efficiently communicating with their tenants.

In this article, we detail everything your need to know about finding and keeping great tenants. We’ve even got a free lease template, details on how to run tenant screenings as well as advice on managing your communications.

 

Online Listings

Get as many interested parties as possible

The first step to finding the best tenant is getting your property in front of as many relevant and interested parties as possible.

Thankfully, this has never been easier. With the advent of websites like Zillow, Craigslist and Facebook you can easily get your pretty in front of thousands of people for a small fee, or even for free.

In the UK? Check out this article: How to List your properties Online and Fill your Rentals for Free

Creating a Zillow Listing

Zillow is one of the biggest property listings websites in the US. It’s free to list on. The features include an interactive map and allow prospective tenants to compare two properties side by side.

In conjunction with Zillow, top websites in the US to list your Property on include:

Creating a Craigslist Listing

An oldie but a goodie. Craigslist is where many people turn for everything from jobs to accommodation. It’s an inexpensive option and allows you to word your listing in your own way. The main problem is that not everyone will be serious when they inquire and that can take up a lot of time.

Facebook Marketplace

Pretty much everyone has a Facebook account which means it is the place to reach people. Facebook’s more recent updates are leaning towards pushing their groups and their marketplace, so listing on the marketplace and pushing through Facebook’s relevant groups is a sure-fire way to find tenants.

Related Articles:

 

Impress Prospective Tenants

2. Upgrade your property

To attract the very best tenants you want to have a property that will actually attract tenants… 

What we mean by that is simply, that a run-down apartment with peeling paint, old carpets, or appliances that look like they might explode at any moment probably isn’t going to entice someone in the same way as a freshly painted one, with new(ish) appliances and glossy hardwood floors.

And on top of this, if you don’t respect your rental apartment, why should they?

How do you cost-efficiently upgrade your property?

The first thing is to clean. If you’re going to be showing the apartment whilst your current tenants are still in residence (make sure to check local laws, and give them an appropriate warning first), then offer to pay for a cleaner beforehand. This can go a long way to making a property look newer and generally nicer.

Next is something we often talk about, give the apartment a lick of paint. It’s an inexpensive way to keep a property looking new and cared for.

Other minor maintenance tasks that you could do which are inexpensive but very effective include:

  • Replacing leaky or limescale covered faucets
  • Recaulk between tiles in the bathroom and kitchen
  • Replacing ancient appliances.

In the UK? Check out this article: How to Increase the Value of your Rental Property without Breaking the Bank

Respond to enquiries and questions promptly

Slow responses can easily see you lose a good tenant to a landlord who is quicker, or just more enthusiastic. 

If the perfect tenant gets snapped up by someone else then you may have to settle for a less perfect one – or it may take a while to find another good tenant which means a longer vacancy period.

So, simply, make sure you respond to all enquiries quickly, answer the phone when prospective tenants call and arrange viewings at the earliest convenient time.

 

Selecting the Right Tenants

Set High Standards

Finding the best tenants

If you have a nice property, and you are expecting to get good tenants then you need to set strict standards that you hold your tenants against.

For example:

  • Set a minimum income requirement eg. 2-3x monthly rent;
  • Avoid tenants with prior evictions;
  • Avoid tenants with prior felonies;
  • Look for a good credit score;
  • Get references from past landlords.

If the prospective tenant doesn’t match these standards then you may not want to rent to them. Having clearly defined standards makes the screening process easier allowing you to judge them of their applicability rather than in an emotive fashion.

Be strict. If for any reason you do decide to lower your standards, for example, the property might have been empty for too long, then think about increasing the deposit (again check your local laws to determine maximum deposits), or even getting a cosigner.

Meet and Interview

Ask potential tenants to ring or email you to arrange a viewing. You can then use common sense to take stock of the person on the other end of the call or email thread.

Do they sound genuine? Are they eager to view the property, or do they sound like they might be a bit of a time-waster?

Telltale signs include asking about whether the bond could be waived or how you feel about small animals inside when the advertisement clearly said no pets.

You can then meet with prospective tenants in person at the viewing. This will give you a further opportunity to ask questions and find out more information.

Ultimately, you are trying to gauge whether this person appears trustworthy, mature and reliable.

Questions to ask prospective tenants:

  1. What is your current job?
  2. How long have you worked there?
  3. Do you have any pets?
  4. Why are you looking to move?
  5. What has your experience been with past landlords?

At the viewing, invite any interested parties to complete an application form, either in hard copy or electronically. They can fill the application form out on the spot (can be the quickest option) or send you an email later.

Corroborate their story through social media

After you’ve met them you’ll likely have a feeling about them. If you liked them then it could well be worth checking the details of their story through their social media profiles.

You can often get a good sense of someone by quickly Googling them and checking their social profiles like Facebook, Instagram or LinkedIn. For example, they might have said they work for Google, but when you look on LinkedIn there is no evidence of this, and their career history doesn’t support this either.

tenant check

 

Run a Tenant Screening Report

If they pass the above steps and criteria then next and final ste[p is to run a tenant screening report. A tenant screening report will allow you to find out about their rental history, employment history, any criminal background they might have and they’ll run a credit check for you.

From these final details, you can make a final decision based on facts about whether or not they are going to be a good tenant.

You can run a tenant screening report right from inside the Landlord Studio app.

Well done you’ve secured some awesome tenants! You probably, unless you’re one of the lucky ones, thought that whole experience was all a bit of a hassle. So, if you’re anything like us, you’ll want to keep these fantastic tenants for as long as possible. Fewer vacancies means less money lost, and less chance of ending up with bad tenants.

Once, when you’ve done all this, once you’ve secured an awesome tenant, someone who pays rent on time and in full, who reports maintenance issues in a timely fashion but doesn’t complain about minor things, someone who looks after your property, because they enjoy living there. If you’ve found this person (or people) then you will want to keep them in the tenancy for as long as possible.

 

Get the Relationship off to the Right Start

Welcome letter and welcome package

Once you’ve secured an awesome tenant you want to make sure the moving in process goes off without a hitch.

Sending through a detailed welcome letter that outlines the key things they need to know about the house is a great start.

Your welcome letter should provide the following information:

  • Next steps and move-in details;
  • Setting up utilities;
  • Reminder about renters insurance;
  • How to pay rent
  • How to report maintenance issues;
  • Information on garbage collection;
  • Parking information – if relevant;
  • Neighborhood guidance;
  • Contact info.

Following that, something that often yields great ROI is leaving a welcome package for your tenants upon move-in.

Include your welcome letter as well as a few other things like:

  • Cleaning supplies;
  • Information about the area;
  • Local take-out restaurant menus;
  • A small appropriate gift.

Have a clear lease agreement 

The lease is the legal document that outlines the rights and responsibilities of both the landlord and the tenant. It allows the tenant to occupy and use the property for a specific period of time under certain conditions.

In this way, the lease forms a layer of legal protection for both parties and ensures that both landlord and tenant are clear in their roles towards the property. For example, there might be a joint and several liability clause, or the details of the landlord’s pet policy. Having the rules clearly outlined upfront will help ensure neither party breaks them.

Make your custom lease document here or alternatively:

lease documents

Treat your tenant like a customer

Running a rental is much like running any business. You have something that someone is willing to pay for; in this case, the right to live in a property as specified by your lease agreement.

Often though, landlords forget the equal nature of transactional services. Tenants are, in many senses of the word customers and, whilst the old saying, the customer is always right, should never have become a saying, they should be treated with respect, especially if you want them to continue using your service.

A few simple things you can do to ensure your tenants feel valued are:

  • Make sure they know how to and can contact you, and always keep a clear communication paper trail just in case.
  • Give them an informative and helpful welcome letter.
  • Take pictures of the properties condition before and after their tenancy – don’t leave room for arguments always have proof. – or if you’re in the UK use a service to do so.
  • Be professional in all your dealings with them.

Respect your renter’s privacy

In most places, you are legally required to give at least 24 hours of notice before entering a property. Generally, more notice is more polite though. On top of this, you should only ever enter the property when absolutely required. For example to do requested maintenance work, gas or electric safety checks, routine maintenance inspections, or in an emergency.

 

Be Professional

Know your Legal Obligations

Tenants have rights, as do landlords. It is imperative that you understand what is legally required of you and the rights that your tenants have. Laws vary widely from state to stat but you can find a pretty good overview of the United States Landlord and tenant laws broken down by state here.

Respond to maintenance requests promptly

A major problem for both landlords and tenants is property maintenance issues. Whilst some things the tenant can and should deal with (like mold caused by poor ventilation), a lot of the properties maintenance falls to the landlord.

Building on the last point this next point is all about keeping effective communication channels open. If your chosen method of communication is email, make sure you check your emails regularly and respond quickly to any questions or maintenance needs they have.

Using software like Landlord Studio you can save yourself a lot of time by automating routine communications.

Make improvements on the Property

Cosmetics are important! A run-down apartment isn’t going to make people want to stay. If you want long term tenants then you need to ensure the property is looked after. Peeling paint? Old leaky faucets? 

These things aren’t vital to fix, and many tenants won’t even complain. Instead, they’ll just move out as soon as possible. If you want your tenant to stay for longer, invest a little bit of time in your property, give it some TLC, and don’t wait for someone to complain.

Deal with disruptive tenants quickly 

If you’re managing a multi-family residence, dealing with tenants who are undermining the group’s ability to live together peacefully is crucial to your business. Deal with disruptive tenants quickly and appropriately to make sure all your tenants have a comfortable living experience.

 

Final Notes

Go easy when raising rents 

Nobody likes it when you raise the rent on them. That being said, most people, especially if they are experienced renters will know that you’re going to increase rent on a yearly basis. The problem is their paychecks probably don’t go up every year. If you raise the rent too much, or too frequently you may price out your great tenants, and it will certainly lead many tenants to look elsewhere.

One thing that surprises me most is landlords who put the rent up without A) researching to make sure their property is still priced correctly for the neighborhood after the rent raise, or B) ever doing any maintenance work on the property. Whether that’s cosmetic or more functional like replacing old appliances. By doing the latter you improve the property in some way and that rent raise will seem fairer. Plus, it shows you as a landlord care about your property, and about your tenant.

This being said, you do want to ensure you keep your rent at an appropriate market value. For this purpose, small incremental increases over the years are going to be better than increasing the rent by a large amount all at once.

welcome gift

Give small tokens of appreciation 

Things like a welcome pack – the occasional extra perk here and there will go a long way to making your tenant feel valued and not just like they’re being mined for their cash. They will likely reward you by taking better care of the property as well as want to stay longer. 

The end goal of all of these tips is to decrease vacancy periods by keeping your tenants. Less vacancy time means less money lost. As with anything, a little goes a long way, and making your tenants feel at home and valued by investing a little more time or money into your management of them and your property will show a fantastic return on investment.

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Ben Luxon

"Ben is an author and real estate enthusiast. His interest in all things entrepreneurial has led him to work with real estate professionals all over the world, distilling their knowledge into articles and Ebooks. His love of travelling has taken him to over 10 countries in the last year, where he has sampled the craft beer of them all."