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Two of the top 5 main concerns we discovered when we recently surveyed our landlords was how to find good tenants.

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

In this article, we detail everything you need to know about how to find and keep 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 with your tenants to ensure both parties are kept happy.

How To Create A Rental Listing That Attracts Good Tenants

In order to find good tenants, you need to create a rental listing that will generate interest in your property. The better your rental listing the more interest and the higher the quality of applicant you are likely to get.

You can now create rental listings with Landlord Studio. Find out more here →

As such, to find a renter your very first step is writing your rental listing and gathering the assets eg. the photography of the property that will make it stand out from the crowd and encourage great tenants to enquire immediately.

Writing A Great Listing When Looking For Tenants

Write a catchy title that includes the price, number of bedrooms, number of bathrooms, type of property, and highlights a great feature of the property.

Eg. $800pm – 2 bed/1 bath apartment with balcony and skyline views of the city in Old Chicago Town

Write a short description in which you:

  • Highlight the property’s best features eg. is it near downtown, near parks, or has schools close by? Does it have tall ceilings, a usable fireplace, en suites, or a garden?
  • Use positive descriptive words such as beautiful, cozy, intimate, spacious, traditional, funky, etc.
  • Talk about the neighborhood – why would they want to live in this area? Is it professional, fun, quiet, vibrant?
  • Describe what’s nearby – parks, universities, bars, restaurants, schools, train lines,
    Give an exciting detail – large garden, beautiful views, balcony, hardwood floors, new renovations, etc
  • Give details about the rental – are pets allowed? What’s the smoking policy? Are utilities included? How much is the deposit?
  • Outline how renters should get in contact to express their interest. Include the application process, the credit and background check process and fee, plus a contact name and number.

Getting Photos To Find Good Tenants

  • Always include multiple photos
  • Photograph all of the major rooms.
  • Make sure it’s tidy and photographs show off the best elements. Eg. if theirs a balcony with a view make sure there are photos that show it.
  • Think about the lighting – you will want to photograph the property during the day when there is plenty of natural light.
  • Think about hiring a professional.
  • Include a floor plan.
  • Consider including video tours.

Keep your rental property description concise. Use short sentences and paragraphs and make sure that the text is easily skimmable. Avoid using all caps and exclamation marks and ensure the listing is grammatically correct.

How To Find Tenants With Online Listings

Get Your Listing In Front Of As Many Interested People As Possible

When thinking about how to find tenants you need to first consider all the potential options to getting your rental listing in front of as many relevant people as possible as quickly as possible. Only then can you start to manage the tenant applications and go through the process of selecting the best tenant for your rental.

Thankfully, this has never been easier. With the advent of websites like Zillow, Craigslist, and Facebook you can easily get your property in front of thousands of people for a small fee, or even for free. Below, we outline a few of the key websites for you to consider to get your listing maximum exposure. 

For more rental property listing site options you can read our blog 11 Websites For Managing Your Rental Listings

Creating A Zillow Listing To Find Tenants

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:

Related: 11 Websites For Managing Your Rental Listings

Creating A Craigslist Listing To Find Renters

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 To Find Tenants

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.

Landlord Studio rental property listing
Landlord Studio rental listing feature

How To Impress Prospective Tenants

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.

Respond to inquiries 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 inquiries quickly, answer the phone when prospective tenants call and arrange viewings at the earliest convenient time.

How To Select The Best Tenant

What makes a good tenant?

When looking through tenant applications you need to know what you’re looking for in order to select the best renter for your rental property.

Your primary concern when selecting a tenant is ensuring that the prospective tenant can and will pay their rent on time and in full every single month. There are several ways you can determine this, including running a credit check to get an idea as to their financial responsibility, requesting proof of their current income (generally you’re looking to ensure the tenants earn a minimum of 3 months the total rent amount available), look at their previous rental history to see if historically they have paid rent on time.

Secondary, concerns to think about it include assessing whether or not the prospective tenant will be tidy and respectful of your property during their tenancy. This is harder to determine, however, you can again look at indicating factors such as rental and eviction history their criminal history.

finding great tenants

Meet and interview prospective tenants

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 (which can be the quickest option) or send you an email later.

Read our full article: 15 Questions To Ask Prospective Tenants Before They Move In

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.

Setting Your Rental Applicant Criteria

You will want to set solid predetermined minimum criteria for your prospective renters to meet before your tenants apply and hold all tenants to the same exacting standards. If none of your tenants meets the standards then you should continue showing the property. If multiple tenants meet the pre-described standards then you should simply rent to the first of the qualifying tenants that applied.

When setting your tenant standard you must make sure not to discriminate against any of the protected classes. The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in the purchase, sale, rental, or financing of housing – private or public – based on race, skin color, sex, nationality, or religion. The statute has been amended several times, including in 1988 to add disability and family status.

You can however use the following factors to set qualifying criteria for tenants:

  • A minimum income requirement (eg. 2-3x monthly rent);
  • Eviction history;
  • Prior felonies;
  • Credit score;
  • Landlord references.

You can however use the following factors to set qualifying criteria for tenants:

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.

How To Run Tenant Screening Reports To Find The Best Tenants

If they pass the above steps and criteria then the next and final step 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.

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How To Run A Background & Credit Check using Landlord Studio – a lesson from our Tenant Screening Secrets coaching program.

Get the Relationship Off To A Good Start

Once you know what makes a good tenant, and have used secured a renter for your property you will want to make sure you manage them properly to ensure they are happy in their tenancy. This will encourage them to look after the property and respect your assets, and perhaps more importantly, if they are treated well they may be inclined to stay for longer, meaning a reduction in costly vacancies.

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 clauses, 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:

Download Our Free Lease Template

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.
Download Our Free Welcome Letter

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.
 
lease documents

Treat your tenant as 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 property’s 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.

Tips For Maintaining a Good Relationship With Your Tenants

Know your Legal Obligations

Tenants have rights, as do landlords. You must understand what is legally required of you and the rights that your tenants have. Laws vary widely from state to state.

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 property’s 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.

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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.

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 yearly. 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 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.

Final Words

When asking yourself how to find tenants you need to think about more than just what it takes to find renters. Finding tenants means creating a great listing, utilizing the websites to market your vacancy, managing applicants, and running tenant screening reports to select the best available tenant from each of your rental property applicants. 

Once you have found a tenant you will need to efficiently communicate with them around things like rental property inspections, maintenance requests, and any complaints that might come up during the tenancy. Doing this will help you keep those great tenants that you find and reduce the risk of vacancies occurring again.

Other considerations include day-to-day management tasks such as income and expense tracking and implementing an efficient way to collect rent to reduce late rent payments. You can use Landlord Studio to manage a lot of these tasks in one handy place, from tracking your prospective tenants and running tenant screening reports, to automating rent collection and your income and expense tracking.

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Ben Luxon

Ben is the editor and lead writer for Landlord Studio. He has worked with real estate professionals all over the world and written educational articles on tech, real estate, and financial growth for sites such as Forbes, NARPM, and Business Magazine.

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