Perhaps one of the most difficult parts of managing a rental property is learning how to find tenants — and not just any tenants, but good tenants. Luckily, you can land high-quality tenants by adopting a few key practices.
In this article:
How to Find Tenants for Your Rental Property
With 43 million renters in the United States, it’s clear that the rental market is a lucrative one. But, after investing in a rental property, you can’t simply expect a tenant to fall into your lap. As a property owner and landlord, it’s your job to find a tenant. Oftentimes, that means weeding through a sea of bad tenants just to find a good one.
What do most landlords look for in tenants? The number one quality that most landlords look for in a tenant is someone who pays rent on time and in full. But, you also want a tenant who takes care of your property and behaves like a good neighbor. In short, good tenants follow the terms of your lease.
While listing down your must-have qualities in a tenant is one thing, finding good tenants is an entirely different battle. If you have never experienced the search process before, you’re most likely asking yourself, “How do I find the best tenants?” The answer, though, involves more than one action. To find renters who are reliable and trustworthy, you often need to go through a series of steps — from advertising your property to tenant screening.
Here is your guide on how to find good tenants:
1. Improve Your Rental Property
If you want to attract great tenants, you must first have a rental property worth their time and attention. You can’t land good tenants (or even bad tenants) if you have a poor-looking property. That means swapping out old carpets with new ones, replacing repairing or replacing run-down appliances, and applying a fresh coat of paint. Your property could also use a thorough cleaning, especially before you take listing photos or a property showing.
2. Advertise Through the Right Channels
How do I find a prospective tenant? A surefire way is to advertise through the proper channels. More often than not, you can find tenants online through real estate websites like Zillow, Apartments.com, and Rentals.com. These services usually cost a small fee per listing. Keep in mind that good tenants are probably not looking for rentals on Craigslist or other sketchy websites since they are a hotbed for scammers.
There are also other means of marketing your rental property. You can take out an ad in a local newspaper, print out and distribute flyers, or post your ad at community boards or local businesses.
Apart from tackling “the where,” you must also address “the how.” Namely, how do I advertise my property for rent? Your rental ad should include key details, such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, location, monthly rent, and any other special features or amenities worth mentioning. You should also include high-quality photos of your rental property.
3. Have Prospects Fill Out a Rental Application
You need to collect personal information from prospective tenants, and the best way to do that is through an application form. When creating your application form, make sure to ask for the following details:
- Names of applicants
- Prior addresses
- Children’s names (if any)
- Pet details (number of pets, breed, etc.)
- Sources of income and amounts
- Employer’s contact information
- Previous landlord’s contact information
- Driver’s license numbers
- Social security numbers
- Personal references
Some states allow you to charge a non-refundable application fee to pay for any background checks. This fee usually dances between $25 to $40. It’s also worth informing applicants about your rental policies upfront to avoid wasting time. For instance, if you don’t allow pets in your rental property, applicants with pets can simply move on.
The information you ask for on a rental application can be sensitive, so make sure to practice confidentiality and professionalism. Additionally, you must comply with the Fair Housing Act and any fair housing laws in your state.
4. Screen Your Prospects
Tenant screening is a critical part of how to find good renters. How do you screen a tenant? Screening a tenant usually involves checking their employment history, credit score, rental history, criminal history, and references. This background check will allow you to filter through your applicants.
You may wonder, “How do I find my tenants history?” You can use the information you obtained through the rental application form. There are many services that offer to check credit scores and criminal histories for a fee. You can also check their employment status and history yourself by contacting their current and past employers. The same goes for personal references — just make sure they aren’t family members.
To check rental history, you can contact the applicant’s previous landlords. Ask about the applicant’s behavior. What is considered bad rental history? It depends on the landlord. But, a tenant is generally considered to have a bad rental history under one or more of the following terms:
- Consistently paid rent late (or not at all)
- Committed lease violations
- Left the rental property in terrible condition
- Has been evicted
5. Require Renters Insurance
If you’re a property owner looking for tenants, renters insurance is a must-have. Renters insurance covers the cost of any damages your tenant might cause to your rental property. It also typically covers the cost of the renter’s belongings.
It’s imperative to let tenants know during the application process that you require renters insurance. This way, they can obtain renters insurance before moving in. On the day of the move-in, make sure to ask for proof that they have, in fact, obtained renters insurance.
6. Set Up a Meeting Before Signing the Lease
A face-to-face meeting with rental tenants will allow you to assess their personality and behavior. You will be dealing with your tenant for a long time, so it’s important to get a feel of how they act prior to signing the lease. This meeting will also give you the opportunity to ask critical questions such as:
- Why are they moving house?
- How long do they plan to live in your rental property?
- What are they looking for in a home?
When asking questions, always keep fair housing laws in mind. Never ask about or discriminate against applicants based on their race, color, national origin, sex, religion, familial status, or disability. Your state’s fair housing laws might also include other protected classes.
7. Ensure Payment Before Giving the Keys
It’s standard procedure to ask for the first month’s rent and a security deposit prior to allowing the tenant to move in. But, don’t immediately hand over the keys after receiving the checks for these payments. Make sure to wait until after the checks clear before giving them the keys to your rental property.
8. Don’t Settle or Rush Into Things
If you want to learn how to find tenants, you should approach it carefully. Some landlords don’t want to spend time looking for tenants, but this can ultimately put you at a disadvantage. The tenant searching and screening process takes time, so you shouldn’t rush it.
It would also be unwise to sign with the first applicant that contacts you — unless they pass your screening process. Settling or rushing things will only increase your chances of getting stuck with a bad tenant for the entirety of your contract duration.
9. Trust Your Gut
While screenings are effective tools for filtering out bad tenants, they can’t judge a tenant’s character. When it comes to renting tenants, you should always trust your instincts. Even if a tenant passes your screening tests, you might feel that there is something not quite right about them. Plenty of landlords have been scammed by tenants who faked their identity during the application process.
10. Ask for Help
Finding tenants without an agent is certainly possible if you have the time and resources for it. But, more often than not, property owners have other priorities to manage.
There is no shame in asking for help either through a tenant service or a property manager. You can easily find a tenant service with a quick search online. These services specialize in finding a tenant for your rental property. If you want something more comprehensive, you might be better off hiring a property management company. A property management company manages everything about your rental property — from tenant screenings to rent collection.
The Bottom Line
Learning how to find tenants can be a challenge if you have never done it before. When it comes to the best way to find tenants for rental property, you can never go wrong by following these tips.
Start by improving and advertising your property to attract potential tenants. Once you have their attention, ask them to fill out an application form and then screen your tenants carefully. Always trust your instincts, and don’t be afraid to ask for help.
In need of a property management company? Find the best one in your location today using Rental Choice’s online directory.
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