Apr 23

How to Rent to Mr. or Ms. Right


Finding your “dream tenant” is a lot like trying to find the perfect employee. You want someone you can rely on to take care of your unit and contribute to your business. To find a good tenant fit, you have to look beyond the job description, or in this case the tenant description, and probe for personality traits that best match your requirements. Often what makes the difference between getting a great tenant or a “quiet tenant” who fails to pay rent and skips town, is asking the right questions and looking for cues.

Ask yourself, what operational characteristics are important to you?

  • Do you want a long or short-term tenant?
  • Do you want a seasoned renter or are you willing to take a chance on a friendly person with little rental history?
  • Are you OK with the drama that comes with all couples, or would you prefer a single person with a pet?
  • Would you lower the rent for someone you felt would take good care of your unit? Or are you willing to accept a bit of carelessness for higher rent.

Once you’ve assessed the pros and cons of the different types of tenants you may encounter, then you can map out questions that will most likely direct you to the tenants who are the best fit for you.

So, what brings you to my door? During the viewing, ask the potential tenant why they are selecting your property. It sounds very basic, but it’s easy to get caught up in the details of the property and to forget that this is an assessment interview. People who are not looking to move closer to school, work, transportation hubs or to a part of town that they particularly enjoy, are not normally motivated to stay in that location and therefore may be better suited to a short-term rental or a rental with plenty of amenities, such as on site laundry or security cameras. Conversely, many people will accept funny layouts or older-style apartments if the location is a desirable one. By finding out what draws potential tenants to your property, you will have better a better idea of what your dream tenants may value most, which can then be emphasized in your marketing materials.

Lack of perfection is not necessarily a drawback. When you’re profiling your potential tenants, it’s important to understand that not all tenants may meet 100% of your model tenant requirements. The key is to mitigate risks when you find someone whose matches the type of personality you’re looking for.

You might find someone you really like, but who has had difficulties with another landlord. If that prospective tenant is upfront about their drawbacks during the viewing, then you can feel better knowing that they aren’t trying to hide something from you. Also, if they can prove that they are considerate tenants and consistent about paying rent, then you can feel confident that they have a high probability of being a good tenant for you. There are companies who offer tenant evaluation services, or an even simpler evaluation method would be to review the tenant’s previous rent payment record. This is easily done with electronic rent payment methods such as pre-authorized debits and online bill payment.

Consider the case of student rentals. Many landlords justifiably cap the number of student renters in their units because there is a perceived risk that many (not all) students are not adept at budgeting or are consistent about paying their rent on time. If you really like the student you’ve just met, one way to offset this risk is to obtain a guarantor, such as a parent or relative.

Another promising situation is the case of a family or young professional with pets. Families and professionals are considered to be stable and revenue consistent tenant choices by most landlords, however the presence of a pet may be seen as a major damage risk by some. This can be mitigated by asking for a refundable damage deposit to cover the potential cost of carpet or floor cleaning if you choose to rent to a tenant with a beloved pet.

These are just a short list of suggestions for helping you find your dream tenant. The key is to be honest with yourself about what risks you are willing to take on and to structure the viewing as a relaxed, yet formal interview. The same questions you ask the potential tenant can be adapted when checking references as well. The time you put into this process with yield long-term positive dividends in the form of tenants who you can feel good about building a relationship with and who will work with you to properly maintain your unit.