If you find your rental property without a tenant this fall, it may not take long before you’re tempted to take the first applicant who shows up. Sometimes it doesn’t take much longer to remember why that can be a costly mistake!
Hastily selected tenants can transform your property from a dependable revenue-producer into a sputtering headache-producer. Troublesome tenants are hard to manage, can cause serious damage to your rental—and can be infuriatingly difficult to remove.
Of course, the best solution is to avoid renting to trouble-making tenants in the first place. Whenever your rental property falls vacant, you’ll be much more likely to sign a quality tenant if you follow the basic self-protection procedures:
1. Be Wary of Cash Buyers
A tenant who’s willing to pay cash upfront for months in advance might seem like a walking windfall—after all, doesn’t it seem as if the offer would eliminate a degree of risk? But sometimes cash shouldn’t be king. Experience shows that there is usually a reason why an applicant wants to rent on such seemingly advantageous terms. It may be because they want to distract from a poor rental or credit history, hoping that the cash offer will deter the landlord from asking too many awkward questions. Less likely (but possible) could be that they want to use the property for some illicit purpose—such as storing or manufacturing drugs.
2. Check Employment Records
On your tenant application form, ask for an employer’s name and a point of contact at the workplace. Few employers object, so applicants who are reluctant to provide this information (or who do not have regular employment) will be flashing caution lights. Don’t neglect to follow up on the information: a short, courteous phone call will confirm what the application form says.
3. Credit Record Checks
A credit check will help you to sort ideal tenants from those more likely to have trouble paying on time. A credit check is inexpensive, especially measured against the cost and hassle of reluctant payers. Credit record checks are available through a number of online services (they usually require the applicant’s social security number). But it’s also important to realize that any kind of reference check is only useful if you are researching the right person! Make sure to properly confirm the identity of the person applying for your rental property. Check identities using a government-issued identity document, with photograph, and social security number.
Trouble tenants can, at least in the short term, waste valuable time and effort. You can avoid the whole problem by enlisting a qualified local property management firm; but if you choose to handle the details yourself, taking these simple precautions will prove well worthwhile.
If you are already a local landlord, or are in the market for a rental property, there are many good prospective investments from which to choose. Give me a call to take a look!