How Do You Find the Best Tenant? Don't Be Afraid to Search... Carefully!
When you first buy a property that you want to rent out, you may find yourself tempted to grab the first renter that expresses an interest in renting from you. But is that the smart thing to do? Yes, you can only make money when a property is rented, but should you accept the first person that shows an interest in your rental? I found myself faced with a similar decision and almost got myself into trouble. Fortunately, I sought out the advice of others who advised me about how important it is to carefully search for the best possible tenant for my rental. I'm glad I did, because now all of my rentals have great tenants. Let's consider how you go about finding the best tenant for your rental property.
Consider Using a Realtor: I think that by far, the best decision I made for finding the best tenants for my properties was to list them for rent with a realtor. My realtor did a great job for me - I can't say enough good about her (Abbey Carr of Front Porch Realties in Eustis, Florida which is in Lake County in Central Florida). She guided me through the process of purchasing properties, evaluating them to see what needed to be done in order to make them appealing for renters, recommending contractors to use, setting prices based on what rentals were going for in the area, advertising (through the MLS - Multiple Listing Service, Zillow, Realtor.Com, Zumper, etc), showing them to prospective tenants, taking applications, and screening them. Her advice and expertise was invaluable. My husband and I had a good amount of knowledge of the process, but she pointed out things that we had never considered - mostly because we didn't even know about them. I know what you're thinking - stop - yes, there is a cost involved in using a realtor for finding your tenants. But do you know how to go about getting rid of a bad tenant should the need arise (meaning do you know the laws in your state and do you fully understand the eviction process)? My thought was to avoid finding myself in this situation - I wanted to do everything right by making sure I found the best tenant I could possibly find for my rental property. Abbey did that for us - we're fully rented and we have great tenants. No regrets here!
Understand and Follow the Law: Again, using a realtor may be your best bet. Your realtor will know the laws that you must follow and will keep you in compliance with the Federal Fair Housing Act. Not only do you need to comply with federal laws, but there may be additional laws in your own state that you must follow.
Screen Potential Tenants: Too often, people that rent out their own properties miss important elements of what they should consider as part of their screening process. On our rental application, we ask for contact information on our prospective renter, driver's license information, employment, rental history, information on people that will occupy the premises, and vehicles that will be present. From this, we verify that the tenant is who they claim to be, verify employment (including length of time employed and income), run credit / eviction / background checks, and verify rental references. There is a list of reasons why an applicant can be rejected: providing false information, not enough income or unable to provide proof of income, no rental history or problems with previous landlords/owners (late payments, not providing sufficient notice to vacate, complaints regarding noise, disturbances, illegal activities, damage to the unit, failing to keep the property clean, pets in a no-pet property, smoking in a no-smoking property, exceeding the allowable number of occupants of a dwelling), low credit score, civil court records within the past five years (slow pays, judgments, eviction filings, collections, liens, bankruptcy), or criminal records (misdemeanors for crimes of violence, assault, battery, drugs, firearms; felonies within the past seven years; any sexual offenses). We prefer to find tenants that don't move from place to place at the end of each lease term, because that becomes expensive for us (painting in between tenants, having units professionally cleaned, upgrading / repairing damage, etc).
Consider Requiring More Up Front: If you have a potential tenant you really like but you're not entirely comfortable with their credit history, you might require them to have a cosigner. Another way you can try to protect yourself is to require a larger security deposit if your state permits it (Florida does not have limits; other states cap security deposits at one or two months rent). If you are unsure about the person, ask them to provide you with references of people that can attest to their character.
Trust Your Instincts: Have your realtor have a thorough conversation with your potential renters. It's good to find out why they're planning to move from their current rental - it can tip you off to issues that may not come up in the rental history check (a current property owner may be thrilled at the idea of getting rid of a problem tenant and may not give you the entire picture - you may get more honest answers from previous owners because the tenant is no longer their issue!).
Don't make the mistake of grabbing the first person that approaches you about renting your property. Take the time to make a careful, informed decision about who you want as a tenant. By taking the time up front, you can save yourself heartache, time, and expenses later by having to evict the wrong person!
Check out some of our recent posts of interest to tenants & landlords (articles are posted every Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday):
How do I rent for the first time? Even though this post is directed at renters, there's relevant information in there for landlords as well.
Can my landlord come in any time they want? This post outlines the laws in Florida that dictate when a landlord be permitted access to a rented property.
Where can I find my rights as a renter? Both landlords and tenants have rights - it's important to know where to find them in your state.
Since we're located in Lake County, Florida, we like to post things that are of interest to the people that live here. Each Wednesday, we post about activities and events for the upcoming weekend. On Mondays, posts deal with fun things to do close to home. Here are a few:
Fun Things to Do This Weekend in Lake County, Florida - this covers Friday, November 8 - Monday, November 11, 2019
Tap Into Your Creative Side in Lake County Florida - take an art class, music lessons, or even learn to dance
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