You have a responsibility–a responsibility to the good tenants who live in your properties. Something over 90 percent of the people who rent are what you could call “good” tenants. They take care of their homes, they pay the rent on time, they are good neighbors and want to rent from a landlord who respects that. They also pay you thousands of dollars a year in rent and make a profit for you.
Your responsibility is to provide these folks with a great place to live. If you rent to a bad tenant, you are telling the other people who rent from you, the good tenants, that you don’t value them as customers, especially if you own a plex or an apartment building. Bad tenants are the people who don’t pay the rent, who disturb their neighbors, who trash and place and who consider a good place to live one where they can get into whatever mischief they want without interference from their landlord. In fact, they consider landlords to be an infringement on their freedom and their right to be general, all-around bad citizens.
When you rent to an unqualified or outright “bad” tenant, you don’t do your other tenants, your property, the property’s neighborhood or yourself any favors. Rather you drive off the good tenants, you lower the value of your property (both for sale and for rental), you degrade the neighborhood and you cause yourself untold worry, grief and lost profits.
What’s a sure-fire way to keep the bad tenants out? Bad tenants leave such a smelly trail that even a landlord with a sinus infection can follow it. But if you do it right, you won’t need to check the vast majority of the bad tenants who may want to rent your property; they’ll just go away. Create rental standards and stick to them.
Just setting up basic rental standards will go a long way toward ensuring that you keep bad tenants at bay. Four items must be on your rental standards even if nothing else is. These will eliminate the worst of the worst before you have to worry about income, rental history, credit and other qualifications. Even if you don’t do anything else, use the following:
1. The rental application must be completely filled out. That means no blank spaces or incomplete information. And don’t accept the application until it is completed to your satisfaction. No excuses that “We don’t have all the information with us.” Someone who is out looking for a place to rent and isn’t prepared to provide all the information on the spot has one strike against him or her right off. If they don’t have the information right there, refuse to accept the application, make them take it home and find it. Most renters know what’s on a rental application. Under no circumstances should you accept the application and wait for them to call you with the information to fill in the blanks.
2. You must be able to verify all information on the rental application. No exceptions here. Bad tenants will try to use friends and relatives to act as landlord and employment references. Addresses and phone numbers have to match. You have to be able to verify that the “landlord” really is the landlord, that their “employer” is really their employer.
3. You must meet every adult who will be moving into the unit. That includes adult children. You cannot allow, for example, a woman to take the application home for her husband to sign; you have to meet him, even if they have to come back at another time.
4. You must see picture ID from each adult moving into the unit.
These four requirements need to be first on your list, ahead of amount of income, ahead of landlord and job references, and ahead of a good credit report. If you just insist on these four first, many a bad tenant will be off down the road looking for a landlord who isn’t so careful.
Too many landlords don’t want to be hard on tenants because they worry about being thought of as “one of those” landlords. When you rent only to good tenants, you are being a good landlord. Good landlords know the importance of good tenants to their other tenants, their property, their neighborhood and their business. Good tenant selection is good business.