How do I find a good tenant?
July 6, 2005 5:17 PM   Subscribe

Our house has a basement suite and I find myself doing one of my least favourite tasks: finding a tenant. The key things that I'm looking for are cleanliness, quietness, and a prompt payment of rent. Neither of the past two tenants we had did very well in these categories. Does anyone have any good tips for finding good tenants?

We've done the typical advertisement in the local papers, and are careful to check references and perform a basic credit check. I talk to people with suites that have lucked out with the 'dream tenant' and I'd love to find one too (wouldn't every landlord?)
posted by kaefer to Home & Garden (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We have some rental property and (knock on wood) have only had "dream" tenants. I think the secret is to have a "dream" place. I read a landlord book once that said as a landlord you need to think of yourself as a competitor with all the other landlords for the best tenants. The book suggested lowering the price of the unit to slightly below market so you have your choice of tenants and fixing up the place. The astute suggestion was that people who take care of stuff only want to live in place that is well taken care of. Since it is a basement situation that might make it much more difficult. Good luck. (And, fwiw, we always rent our properties through craigslist.)
posted by wtfwjd? at 5:48 PM on July 6, 2005

If the place is still vacant in January....
posted by PurplePorpoise at 5:56 PM on July 6, 2005

Talk to the people you know who have lucked out with the "dream tenant". Tell them to ask their dream tenants if they know of anyone who is looking for a place. Birds of a feather...dream tenants are friends with other dream tenants.
posted by duck at 6:02 PM on July 6, 2005

Whenever I've looked for a place in Washington or California, they have generally required that I pay $35 or so for them to have a tenant report and credit check done on me. They call my last few landlords or roommates or whatever, and ask how I was. I don't know specifically what else the checks involve.

I'm not sure how many places this is standard practice. I'm imagining state laws affect this kind of thing. If it's not unheard of in your area, it would probably be a good way to narrow down some good tenants for yourself.
posted by agropyron at 12:37 AM on July 7, 2005

Try advertising on Craigslist too. There, you can go on at length about your requirements, and you would probably get a higher percentage of responses from people who think they live up to your criteria. Then you can do background checks on them.
posted by agropyron at 12:39 AM on July 7, 2005

When we were renting we advertised heavily at a couple of local seminaries, where we thought out of town students would be looking for a place. Our rentals tended to turn over every couple of years but it got to be a word of mouth thing and we always had good people.

I'm not a subscriber that religious people necessarily = people of upstanding moral character, but it's a percentage game...
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 3:58 AM on July 7, 2005

Advertise in your local Chinese- and Korean-language newspapers. Every major city has thousands, if not tens of thousands, of single Asian immigrants who are generally going to be dream tenants. They work long hours for cash. They want no trouble at all, and are going to cause very little. No parties, no drugs, no kids, no complaints to the housing regulators, no dilatory three months/no rent foot dragging when you evict them, no nothing. A basement suite is a big step up from the circumstances in which they often live.

Weekly rent is also pretty customary in this market, so you can keep three more weeks ahead of default than you might otherwise, if you get a decent deposit up front.
posted by MattD at 5:35 AM on July 7, 2005

Call the Residence Life offices of the local colleges. They'll know both who is looking for housing (they often help students find off-campus accomodations, too) and they also know who they have dealt with over the past several years. They should help you find a nice quiet student who doesn't cause trouble and needs an apartment.
posted by NotMyselfRightNow at 6:12 AM on July 7, 2005

I've always rented, and have had quite a few apartments in multiple cities, so I'll chime in from the tenant side. (I'm a good tenant. Ask my landlord.)

My better landlords called previous landlords and references. However, I don't know that this yielded very useful information, particularly in the case of my references. Does my boss think I'd be a good tenant? Um, sure she does, not that she'd be in any position to know.

I think that the major variable missing from your question is what level of accommodations you're providing. How nice is the apartment? How private? How upscale of a neighborhood? How does it compare with other properties in the area? Attracting and keeping good tenants depends somewhat on knowing what sort of niche the property fits into, and there's a lot of niches. If you're not sure, pose as a tenant and look at a couple of similar properties. You may be undercharging or overcharging; both can affect who rents your property and how long they stay.
posted by desuetude at 7:25 AM on July 7, 2005

agropyron writes "they have generally required that I pay $35 or so for them to have a tenant report and credit check done on me. "

Sounds like a good scam. Put a desirable place on the market for 30% under market value and then just keep on looking for a tenant while charging $35 per application.

To the question. The best tenant is one that never moves away while still paying rent. Best way to find and keep this kind of tenant is to keep your rent under market value by 5-10%. Every time your suite is emtpy for a month you loose 8% of your annual take + the cost of cleaning/painting and advertising and other upfront costs. Plus a long term tenant is generally willing to cut you a bit more slack when the water heater goes on a Sunday night of a long weekend.
posted by Mitheral at 8:48 AM on July 7, 2005

I've been asked to pay for the credit report. I think it's tacky, but if it's a private owner and the places is good, I'll go along with it. (Even though, as I said, tacky.)

Sometimes it is a scam...I've seen it. I knew it was a scam because they were sucky scammers.

Personally, I stay away from realty companies that charge an "application fee." It's one thing for the landlord who lives across the street and owns one building to cheap out on the expenses, it's quite another for a company that manages dozens/scores/hundreds of properties.
posted by desuetude at 9:23 AM on July 7, 2005

should be: place is good
posted by desuetude at 9:31 AM on July 7, 2005

i second what wtfwjd said. i am also a landlord and find that attracting and keeping the dream tenants is a matter of the price and attractiveness of the place. it seems silly but the most important thing for me has been "curb appeal". i have had several tenants tell me they rented a particular unit because it looked cute from the street. i plant flowers in the spring, make sure the lawn is always healthy and trim and keep the exterior looking clean and kept up.

secondly, i never charge for a credit check. that is despicable. i just consider this to be the cost of doing business, like getting a carfax before buying a used car. however, a credit/background/rental history check is also a vital part of finding good tenants. i always check credit and criminal background as well as call each previous landlord they list on the application.
posted by toomuch at 10:22 AM on July 7, 2005

Post an ad for a female tenant at the foreign student office of a local school.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:46 AM on July 7, 2005

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