Renting your home or apartment can be a painful process if you’re not going through the proper channels. You’ve taken time and money to create a warm, safe, and inhabitable environment for your potential tenant — so of course, you want to find the appropriate person or people. Here are some good ways to do just that.
As a landlord, you should always familiarize yourself with the landlord-tenant laws that govern your state. The Fair Housing Act specifically outlines what constitutes illegal discrimination against qualified tenants. For example, you could base your rejection on credit or criminal history, but not on race, religion, national origin, gender, age, or family status.
Knowing where to advertise is also crucial to finding the type of tenant you want to attract. Take out ads online where you know your targets will engage. Printed ads in local newspapers are also effective. If you’re a member of a church, for example, you can post fliers regarding the vacancy; you’re likely to attract a like-minded tenant that way. But the good old-fashioned word of mouth system has never failed. Make sure you hold everyone to the same screening standards. Even if you receive a prospective tenant by word of mouth from a very good friend or family member, make sure to screen them the same way you would screen a stranger.
Even before putting the word out, make sure the property is clean and ready to show. Remove all clutter, take care of repairs, and take photos of the entire home so that you’ve documented the condition of the place before renters move in.
Many potential tenants in need of housing are midway through a search by the time they find your listing. So they could respond within hours of an ad posting, and they might want to move in as soon as possible. A well-maintained dwelling increases your chances of attracting a responsible tenant.
Rental application, lease, and background check
Using an application will help a landlord consolidate all the prospective tenant information. Depending on your state’s laws, you may be able to charge for an application, but you can also run a tenant background check free of charge. In addition to the application, provide a rental policy sheet that clearly spells out the terms and conditions of the lease, such as pets, cosigners and renters insurance requirements.
A strong, detailed lease sets the terms and conditions for the tenants in the dwelling. These terms can include who will live there, who pays for what utilities, when the rent is due, penalties for late payment, and the basis for eviction.
Meet the tenant
Meeting the tenant face-to-face should go without saying. There may be cases where it’s not possible for a personal interview, but do make it a point to meet the prospective tenant before any agreements are made and signed (and always make sure all Fair Housing guidelines are being followed). This will give you an opportunity to get a sense of who you’re renting to, instead of just going by information on paper.
In addition to background checks and face-to-face meetings with the prospective tenant, an important part of the process is to also check employment and prior rental references. A lot of employers will only confirm employment, and they will not give out any other information, which is fine. If you run a credit check and request W2 forms or pay check stubs, you have the financial information that you need anyway.
You will want to have actual conversations with prior landlords. During these conversations, ask whether they were happy with their former tenant, and whether that tenant respected and took care of their property.
Lastly, always make sure to wait for the check to clear before you turn over the keys. Being picky about who you rent your dwelling to can avoid enormous problems in the future.