I’m — basically — a trusting person. But this personality trait doesn’t work well in the wacky world of landlording. I found that out the hard way, early on in my career. Choosing to think the best in people, I believed what my tenants said. When they told me the (late) rent would be in my hands “next week,” I believed them. When that didn’t happen, I waited patiently when they promised it for the following week.
Fortunately, I wised up through the years and I file evictions quickly when rent isn’t being paid, or when someone is trashing the apartment. But how do you improve your chances of finding a great tenant before they sign on the dotted line?
One great way to do this is to check out the neighborhood they are moving from. Is the applicant willing to have you stop by and visit their current residence? If so, take advantage of the invitation! This visit will speak volumes about how they live and care for their home. Is it clean and orderly inside? Even if it’s a bit cluttered, are the floors, appliances, bathrooms clean? Does it smell funky inside? If there’s a basement, make sure you check that out as well. Sometimes, there’s scary stuff going on in basements!
If the applicant isn’t comfortable having you stop by, BEWARE! This is a red flag. If they move into your rental, they won’t want you to stop by there, either. If they give what you feel is a valid reason for refusing, do drive the neighborhood and check out their particular house and yard. Is there trash in the yard or on the front porch? Is the home well-kept? How about the back yard area? Is there trash scattered around? Are there people “hanging out?” Do the windows have proper coverings, or tattered sheets hanging up? What about vehicles? You can tell a lot about a person by the look of their car(s), inside and out.
Beyond these things, I always observe the personal cleanliness of the applicant/family. This factor has a bearing on how they’ll treat my rental as well.
Aside from the obvious factors — work history, financial ability to pay, rental history — the above factors are equally important. A filthy tenant who pays you on time, every time, is still a filthy tenant. You will lose time and money renting to that person.
So protect yourself. Go the extra mile … check out their living habits. It’ll be worth it down the road.
Onward and upward! :-)