“But they seemed like such nice people!” Famous last words of the landlord whose bad tenant was just about dragged out of their property by the deputy sheriff, eviction order in hand, and told to remove his belongings from the sidewalk in no less than two hours. The landlord surveys the broken windows, cigarette burns in the carpeting, torn off doors, and shivers at the lost rent for the past three months.
Five months earlier that landlord had had three other prospects, each of whom was excited about renting what would soon become a less-than-sparkling property, but the landlord picked the bad tenant. Why? It’s because bad tenants are adept at selling themselves. It has to do with why people buy.
Make no mistake, every applicant is selling himself when applying to rent. Some are far better at it than others; in fact, some of them are truly experts. For some, it’s just the con man, or woman, in them; for others it’s because they have had so much practice. In both cases, the landlord ends up paying.
One of the first things I tell students in my sales training classes and seminars is that people like to do business with people they like. Think of your own experience. There is no way you will do business with a person whom you do not like, trust, or believe even if he or she has the best prices and products in town. As the famous sales trainer Zig Ziglar pointed out numerous times in his presentations, “You can’t make a good deal with a bad guy.”
Bad tenants have taken that dictum to heart and learned to act like good guys, people we like, people we want to do business with.
No, we don’t want bad tenants. Yes, we do want to rent to people we like. We want people renting our properties who will take pride in the way their homes’ look, will be responsible and pleasant neighbors, and will resolutely pay the rent on time. Those are people we like.
We like friendly people. We like people who smile, who are agreeable, and who are courteous. But are those the qualities that make good tenants? Smiley, agreeable, courteous people are the ones we might like to have a beer with. But rent to them? Renting is a business decision. Having a beer and a good time is a personal decision. The two are not mutually exclusive because we can rent to people we like and have them be good tenants. A personal relationship can go along well with a business relationship. Some of my friends in business are also people whom I enjoy having lunch with.
Even so, the two relationships are different. Trouble is, many landlords somehow feel that wanting to socialize with someone is what counts.
No, we don’t want to rent to jerks. They may be good tenants in that they take care of the property, pay the rent on time and are tolerable neighbors, but they are a pain. I had some tenants once who always paid the rent on time, who always took immaculate care of the property, but whom I dreaded getting the rent check from (always on the first of every month) because they included a laundry list of nitpicky repairs that “needed” doing, right down to light bulbs that burned out too often.
These two were just annoying. I certainly had no desire to socialize with them. But the business relationship was tolerable. (I have to admit I was pleased when they bought a home, though.)
In the nightly meetings of bad tenants (they must have them), the discussions must revolve around how to get landlords to rent to them in spite of their less-than-stellar rental histories. The two most obvious tactics to get to move into a property are to find a landlord in a hurry or to get the landlord to feel sorry for them. That isn’t enough. A landlord may feel sorry for an applicant or may be stressing over the mortgage payment he will have to take out of his own pocket if he doesn’t get some rent soon. But if the landlord doesn’t like the applicant, there’s little chance that the landlord will go along with excuses such as having to “find a place today because her boyfriend kicked her and her baby out” or “not having enough cash for the first month’s rent and the security deposit right now.”
That means bad-tenant applicants will be on their best behavior, acting just as their mothers told them to act, when they look for a new place to live. They will smile, say thank you, and corral their bratty kids when they tour a property. You will like them. And that’s fine. Whether you rent to them or not should depend on different criteria. But you know that.
Good tenants fill the application out completely. They have to have an acceptable rental history. They have to have sufficient, regular and verifiable income. They have to have the rent and deposit up front.
Prospective tenants can seem like nice people. They can, in fact, be nice people. They can be people whom you could socialize with. But they first and foremost, they must be people who can prove they will be good tenants. Then you won’t have the deputy sheriff, eviction order in hand, dragging them and their belongings out of your rental property. You will have tenants whom you will value as good customers, even if you don’t want to have a beer with them.