Weeding Through Tenants

Jean is a landlord. She doesn't rely on previous landlords for referrals on tenants. What's the best way to weed through prospective tenants? Dave gives Jean some tips.

QUESTION: Jean in New York City is a landlord. She doesn’t rely on previous landlords for referrals on tenants. What’s the best way to weed through prospective tenants? Dave gives Jean some tips.

ANSWER: I check the place they used to live before. We pull a credit bureau on them. We get a huge deposit upfront—at least a month but usually two months’ rent in addition to the first month’s rent to be paid. We interview them. We talk to them. We want to see how they converse. They’ve got to be pretty good con artists to get past us now. You just spend more time screening your tenants and digging into what’s going on there.

I’ll tell you another trick I learned. Depending on the type of property you are and where the people live that are moving, you can drive by the place they live in now. I’d like to see what it looks like—how they’re maintaining it. If they’ve got a bunch of junk sitting in the front yard and the grass is grown up around the windows where they’re living now, I don’t want them in my house. That’s another indication of how good a care they’re going to take of your property. But more than anything, you just do a good, strong interview with the tenant, dig in, and I think you’re doing a really good thing pulling up the checks. Show me some proof of the actual payments being made on time. That’s what you’re saying, and that is a great way to do this.

I think you’re right on track. The big thing is that people who are landlords are just like people that are employers. They don’t take enough time screening the relationship meaning that most people who do hiring don’t spend enough time doing the hiring. Most people that put tenants in their homes don’t spend enough time interviewing the tenant and digging into what’s going on there.

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