As a landlord, you are essentially giving a stranger the keys to your property. Taking the time to select the right tenant for your property is an important way to protect your investment. Here are some ways to differentiate the good tenants from the ones who could cause you problems down the line:
Your desire to find the right tenant for your property does not make you exempt from adhering to the Federal Fair Housing Act. You must always adhere to this Act to avoid charges of discrimination. In short, you cannot discriminate based on:
In addition, many states have their own Fair Housing Rules that you must comply with, so make sure you know and adhere to your local laws as well.
You want to look for a tenant who is financially responsible. If they are responsible with paying their bills, they will most likely pay their rent on time and be responsible with your investment.
Criminal information is a matter of public record, and can be viewed at various court houses. This check will turn up both serious and minor offenses. You will need the tenant’s name and date of birth. Keep in mind that those with a criminal record will often try to falsify this information when looking to rent an apartment so make sure to check a valid ID to verify that they are who they say they are. A thorough criminal check should include:
You should talk to at least two of their previous landlords. This is because, if the applicant was a problem tenant, the current landlord may not be so forthcoming with the truth as they may just want to get the tenant off of their hands. Questions you should ask:
On their application form, look at their prior addresses and employment history. Do they move or switch jobs often? If they move often, this pattern is likely to continue and they will not be a long term tenant. If they have not shown consistent employment, they may not be able to afford the apartment in three months and you will be left starting your tenant search from scratch or dealing with an eviction.
Although HUD does not have specific regulations regarding the number of occupants per bedroom, a rule of a maximum of two people per bedroom is considered reasonable under the Fair Housing Act with the following exceptions:
The more people per apartment, the more noise and the greater the wear and tear on your investment. Considering all of these factors will help you choose the right tenant for your property and hopefully save you time and money by avoiding costly evictions, non-payment and damage to your property.