Landlord Guide to Tenant Selection: How to Select Tenants You’ll Love

Whenever you have a vacancy, your goal as a successful landlord is to attract a wide pool of quality applicants for tenant selection. The process starts with creating a stellar rental listing that makes the attributes of your property shine. Once you have a strong ad, you can list your property on many of the various popular online rental listing sites to gather prospective tenant applications. With a pool of highly qualified tenants to choose from, finding the right renter should be a breeze.

Listing Guidelines to Attract High-Quality Prospects for Tenant Selection

Your property listing will be competing with other rentals that are available in your market area, so it’s important to create an Ad that will stand out. To create an eye-catching listing for your property you’ll need a great title and quality photos. Be sure to post lots of photos and include shots of every room, and several exterior and street view shots. With today’s technology, you can also add a virtual tour, which is a short video of a walk-through of the house or apartment. Being thorough in your listing will help to ensure you only schedule showings to potential tenants who identfiy your property is perfect for their needs.

A great property listing should have a title that pops. Make sure to design a title using language that’s enticing to prospective tenants. For instance, if your property is close to the beach or a popular local landmark – be sure to highlight the location. For example, your title could be – “Spacious 2-Bedroom Beach Adjacent Bungalow”. Next, provide all the details about the property that a tenant may need to evaluate whether the property has everything they want. Be sure to include:

  • The neighborhood
  • The number of bedrooms and bathrooms
  • The rental amount 
  • The date the property is available
  • The security deposit amount 
  • Which utilities are included (if any)
  • If pets are acceptable (many tenants have pets)
  • Type of parking included (garage, parking structure, carport, etc.)

Finally, you can reduce time and energy in evaluating tenants if you include important tenant criteria in your listing, things such as “Non-Smokers Only”, etc.

Where to Post your Rental Listing 

The most efficient method for attracting exceptional prospects for successful tenant selection is online advertising. One of the best benefits of posting your property online is that tenants can view your ad at their convenience simply by using their smartphones. You have many online rental sites to choose from when posting an ad for your rental property and you’ll benefit from posting on as many sites as you can. These are just a few:

  • Zillow.com
  • Redfin.com
  • Realtor.com
  • Hotpads 
  • Craigslist

It’s also a good idea to list your property on popular Social Networking platforms like Facebook Marketplace and Nextdoor. Remember, the more people that see your listing, the less time the property will remain vacant. Once you’ve published your property listing and requests for tours start rolling in, you’ll need to put together a schedule for showings. 

Tips for Showing your Rental Property to Land the Best Tenant

Before your first showing, it’s important the rental has been professionally cleaned and that everything is in working order. When a prospective tenant arrives, the lights in each room should be on and the unit should look and smell pleasant. Some landlords choose to arrive early and light a candle to create a warm and homely feel.

Although hosting an Open House may seem efficient, it’s better to meet with each renter separately. That way you have the opportunity to learn more about the tenant, their financial situation, and their specific housing needs. While showing off your rental, be sure to focus on the best attributes of the property. Interested applicants should fill out a rental application and screening form.

Tenant Selection Criteria – What to Look for When Evaluating Tenants

When screening tenant applications, it’s important to utilize criteria that evaluate everyone in a uniform and consistent manner. To make sure that your process is equitable, review the anti-discrimination terms of the Fair Housing Act. You can find the specifics on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website (HUD).

There are 4 important attributes to identifying quality tenants – the first and most important is their ability to pay the rent

The other elements to evaluate in addition to income are:

  • Credit Score 
  • Employment Stability
  • Rental History

Income Verification and Employment Stability

The process of verifying income should give you a solid understanding of the applicant’s employment stability. It’s easy to verify the income of an applicant who has regular employment. To do so, you can either call the employer directly or request copies of:

  • The applicant’s most recent W-2 tax form 
  • The last 3 months’ worth of paycheck stubs

Many employers offer salary payments via direct deposit these days, but they should still provide employees with a digital payroll record (an email) for each deposit.

Be sure not to overlook self-employed applicants during your tenant selection process. Self-employed applicants can make wonderful tenants as well, but it’s not as easy to verify income their income. The quickest way is to request three months-worth of bank statements. It’s important to note that some applicants may be uncomfortable providing bank statements due to the personal nature of the information being disclosed. 

Finally, you may have good applicants who are either retired or currently collecting benefits such as disability or unemployment. Requesting bank statements is one way to evaluate income for these applicants. Additional documentation for verifying income could include:

  • Social Security Statements
  • Pension or 401k/IRA Distribution Statements
  • Disability Statements
  • Unemployment Statements
  • Annuity Statements

Credit Score

Your application must include a credit and background check authorization. High-quality tenants should have nothing to hide. Many online application-screening services can help you access a prospective tenant’s credit score, or you can contact credit bureaus directly. 

Rental History and Verification

Familiarizing yourself with a prospective tenant’s rental history is a great way to find out if they are ideal for you and your property. The rental application you provide to prospective renters should include contact information for their current home or apartment, as well as past addresses and contact information for former landlords. Any rental history information given by a tenant on their application is subject to verification by the landlord, so long as the applicant provides consent.

You can learn a lot about a renter by contacting their current landlord or landlords from past homes. You can ask about any damage to the property or noise issues. You can also question if there were lease violations or criminal activity, and importantly – how punctual they were with paying the rent.

Tenant Selection Red Flags

Every successful landlord should be cautious of red flags that come up when evaluating tenants. Red Flags are warning signs that the tenant may not be honest or may be difficult to deal with once they occupy your property. Some telltale signs to watch for include:

  • Someone who has been a problem tenant for a past landlord – it’s crucial to verify any concerns with current and past landlords
  • Tenants who are in a hurry to rent – sometimes a person is in a hurry to rent due to a job change or the sale of a home. It’s good to ask for more details when a potential tenant is in a hurry.
  • Potential pet issues – Make sure that the tenant’s pets match the criteria for pets in your rental listing.

We discuss these Red Flags and more in our previous blog post, Tenant Red Flags – What to Watch For.

Accepting or Denying Prospective Tenants

Now that you have finalized the application review process, it’s time to select a tenant for your rental. You can notify your first choice by giving them a call or sending an email. Wait for confirmation or reply before you contact applicants who weren’t chosen in case your first choice has already committed to another rental. Once you have confirmation, let the chosen tenant know what the next steps will be – this includes information about signing the lease and providing the security deposit.

We recommend notifying tenants who were not selected in writing, via email so you have a record of correspondence with everyone who applied. It’s not necessary to give a specific reason why they were not chosen; you can simply say the property is rented.

Maintaining a Great Landlord-Tenant Relationship

Keeping high-quality tenants happy is essential to reducing rental turnover. Communication is key for addressing tenant concerns and responding to issues that might arise with their home. Here are a few additional tips for nurturing your relationship with your tenant:

Finally, you can make your tenant’s life so much easier by utilizing PayRent to manage rental payments. PayRent provides automated payment reminders and late fee forgiveness. With flexible payment options, your tenant can even pay their rent with a credit card if they choose. PayRent can also boost tenant credit scores by providing on-time payment information to all three credit bureaus, and signing up with PayRent is a snap!

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PayRent is on a mission to build a rent collection app that fosters a positive and productive relationship between renters and landlords. We focus less on transactions and more on the people behind them.

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