3 things I look for in a prospective tenant:
- Do they have a source of income to pay the rent.
- Do they have good credit (including criminal background).
- Have they been good to other landlords.
Many landlords skip this critical step. Experience has taught me that some tenants can be so charming when they are looking at a property, and I can be so eager to rent the unit, that I convince myself that my “gut reaction” is to accept this tenant. Once they move, the charm disappears and the reality of Dr. Jekyll starts to appear. The truth is that past performance in human nature is a very good predictor or future behavior. Most of us tend to keep doing the same things over and over again. It stands to reason that if a prior landlord had a bad experience with a person, I will also. Bearing in mind that any judgment I make cannot be in violation of Fair Housing Laws, so to keep things objective, here is a sample letter I send to the prior landlord, or I will ask these questions and write down the verbal responses when I seek a landlord reference:
TO: Mr. Prior Landlord
RE: Ms. Tenant Applicant
Date: today’s date
The above referenced person has authorized you to provide information concerning their tenancy. Would you please answer the following questions and send this form back to me at your earliest convenience?
- When did they move in? When did they move out?
- How much rent did they pay?
- How many times were they late paying rent?
- How many times did you have to file notices for non-payment of rent?
- Did you have to evict them?
- When they moved out, did they give proper notice?
- When they moved out, did they leave the property without damage?
- Where there ever any behavioral problems (loud noise, suspected drug activity, excessive complaints, etc.)?
Thank you very much for your time. Please mail or fax this back to me as soon as possible.
Ben Frederick III, CCIM