As a landlord, you want to protect your investment while avoiding prolonged tenant vacancies. These two goals can contradict each other as many landlords tend to get antsy about filling their units and allow unqualified tenants to move in. However, this can lead to more time-consuming problems down the road. While it can take some time to learn how to find good tenants and wait for them to apply, being patient and putting in the effort will allow you to see a big return in the future.

What Makes a Good Tenant?

A great tenant is someone who pays rent on time, takes care of the property, and is a good neighbor to those around them. They have a steady income, no criminal history, and don’t host parties every Friday night. This criteria may sound like a dream, but it can become your reality with a few simple steps.

Create a Detailed Rental Application

Knowing what to include in a rental application can be confusing. If you don’t include the right questions, you’ll have no way of separating the good and bad applicants. Be sure to ask for references, employment history, and rental history. You’ll also want to be specific on your requirements such as minimum household income, credit score, and pet policy. Finally, be sure to follow the Fair Housing Act and do not discriminate based on race, religion, familial status, or disability.

Take Credit Checks Seriously

A credit check is a useful tool for determining whether or not a potential tenant is financially responsible. This will help you determine if they’ll pay rent on time or not. Call their listed employer to be sure they still work there and check that they make at least three times the rental cost. The credit check will also let you know their income-to-debt ratio, letting you know how likely they are to keep on top of their payments each month. Finally, you’ll get a list of bankruptcies, prior evictions, and other civil judgements related to their financial history that will help you decide if this tenant is worth the risk or not.

Keep the Good Ones

The best way to prevent vacancies is by treating your current tenants well so they don’t want to leave. If you have a tenant you enjoy renting to, the best thing you can do is treat them with respect. Speak to them kindly and often. Consider sending them birthday and holiday cards. Let them know you’re available for any feedback or concerns and try to address these quickly. Respond to their maintenance requests in a timely manner. You may even want to let them know about other properties you own in the area, so even if they want to move out of one, they have other options they can move into.

Ask Questions and Don’t Settle

The more questions you ask an applicant, the more information you’ll gather and the more you’ll know if they’ll be a good fit for the property. Ask them questions such as why they’re moving, if they’ve ever had problems with a landlord before, and what they look for in a home. Each of these will help you understand their needs, hopes, and rental goals. Finally, be patient. The right tenant probably won’t be the first or even the fourth applicant you interview, and it can start to feel like a waste of time to continue to wait. However, it will ultimately be worth it. Settling for a less-than-ideal tenant will lead to evictions, late rental payments, and property damages, which will all cost you more than simply waiting for the right tenant.