The Top 7 Qualities All Good Tenants Have
Published April 6, 2016
To find a good tenant, it helps to know what a good tenant actually is. Here are seven qualities all good tenants have.
Finding a good tenant isn’t easy. Even someone who looks good on paper may not be the best tenant. But, if you keep these seven qualities in mind while showing the property and during the application process, you’ll have a good idea of what type of tenant the person you are dealing with will make.
Leasing your rental to a new tenant sometimes feels like a gamble, but it doesn’t have to be. You can reduce your risk of future tenant issues by knowing the qualities all good tenants have and looking for those in applicants as you show the property and review the application.
Just keep in mind that to avoid violating the Fair Housing Act—a costly mistake you never want to make—you will have to apply your application criteria equally to all applicants. Also, make sure that the determining factors when you make your decision are measurable, such as the income-to-rent ratio and credit score.
A good tenant is responsible.
Not only does a good tenant pay the rent and other bills on time, but he mows the grass, pulls the weeds, changes the filters, and takes care of the day-to-day maintenance issues that are his responsibility. He also alerts you to potential issues that require your attention, such as termite tubes in the laundry room.
Punctuality is your first indication whether a potential tenant is responsible. Check his credit report, too. If he doesn’t pay his bills on time, his credit score will reflect it. Also, watch for judgments for uncollected rent and damages. A responsible tenant will pay his rent on time and in full, and of course, he won’t damage the property.
A good tenant is respectful.
If your tenant doesn’t respect you, you’re in for trouble. He will likely try to take advantage of you by paying late or asking for concession after concession. You can tell whether he’ll respect you after he’s your tenant by the way he treats you before he’s your tenant. Trust your instincts on this.
Respect isn’t just limited to how he treats you. If the tenant isn’t respectful, he may abuse the property by doing things like slamming doors or letting his children color on the walls. Or, he may simply neglect the property because he doesn’t respect you enough to care.
Also, a disrespectful tenant may also become a neighborhood nuisance because he doesn’t respect others enough to play his music at a reasonable decibel or keep the landscaping well-maintained.
A good tenant is able to pay.
This is a no-brainer. If a tenant isn’t able to afford the rent, you shouldn’t be surprised when he doesn’t pay the rent. A good rule of thumb is that the rent should not exceed 30 percent of the applicant’s income. In fact, you may want to make that one of the written criteria for qualifying to rent the property.
But, just because the rent rate is less than a certain percentage of the applicant’s total income, doesn’t guarantee that he will be able to pay. He may be overextended in other ways or live beyond his means. Again, a credit check is a good indicator of how the applicant manages money. Theoretically, the better he manages his finances, the better his credit score will be.
A good tenant is creditworthy.
Saying a tenant is creditworthy is another way to say he has a good credit score. The tenant’s credit score reflects whether he pays his bills on time, how much debt he has, and what type of debt he has. A detailed report may also indicate whether he has had judgments against him for uncollected rent or damages.
Running credit and background checks is an essential part of the application process along with verifying the applicant’s employment, verifying his rental history, and calling on his references. If you manage your own property, you can use online services such as Tenant Verification Service or TenaCheck, to check an applicant’s credit score. (A property manager will obtain the tenant’s credit score and verify his application if you use one to manage your properties.)
A good tenant is honest.
There are so many ways a dishonest tenant can trip you up. He can obviously lie about mailing the rent, having his hours cut, or not knowing why his check bounced, but he can also lie about what happened to the dishwasher or the information on his application.
During the application process, the only reliable way to catch a dishonest tenant is to verify the information on his application. Start by requesting a copy of his drivers’ license (most tenant screening services require one along with a completed application before running a credit check). Does his name and information match what is on the application?
Next, call his employer. You’d be surprised at how many applicants don’t earn as much money as they say they do on the application. Follow that phone call with one to his current landlord, even if it’s his aunt. Has he really lived there for one year or just since he was evicted from the last rental? Finally, call any references, if listed, to get their impression of him.
A good tenant is clean.
You want someone who will take good care of your property, not someone who is going to leave food remnants build up in the microwave or let trash pile up on the patio. Potentially, the bigger the mess the tenant makes while he is in your property, the bigger the mess you will have to deal with when he moves out. Also, filth can attract bugs and other pests and lead to an infestation.
If you have to be careful judging the applicant on his appearance, the appearance of his car, or the appearance of his current residence, if you have the opportunity to meet him there. Refusing to rent to him solely on appearances can be a violation of the Fair Housing Act. Instead, cite a measurable indicator, such as his credit score, or the fact that he lied on his rental application.
However, if he meets all of your criteria, let him know what your expectations are for maintaining your property and include a “cleaning” clause in the lease. The “cleaning” clause will give you the opportunity to evict based on a violation of the lease if the property isn’t kept clean.
A good tenant is drama-free.
Some tenants thrive on drama. These are the tenants that call with excuse after excuse about why the rent is late: they lost their job, their wife left, their dog died. Their life is one problem after another, and you’re invited to the party.
It’s not as difficult to spot these tenants as you would think. They will tell you about their hard knock life (in fact, good luck getting them to shut up about it). Fortunately, these tenants often have histories of late payments and evictions, so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a reason to not rent to them.
A good tenant doesn’t make excuses and doesn’t bother you unnecessarily with the details of his life.