Monday, May 9, 2011

Tenant Selection Application Form

I believe most landlords agree that tenant selection is one of the most important (if not the MOST important) part of renting out property. Having a good tenant means your property is taken care of properly and is of minimal hassle to manage. My definition of a good tenant is one that:
  1. Pays rent on time (obviously)
  2. Maintains the property (cleans regularly, doesn't damage the place or wreck appliances, and informs me any time there are problems that might compromise the property... leaks for instance)
  3. Is a good neighbour (quiet and respectful... no wild parties at weird hours)
  4. Doesn't smoke (I screen specifically for this)
  5. Doesn't own pets (I also screen specifically for this)

From all I've read, and my own experience you really have to be careful in your tenant selection. It will only hurt you in the end to accept the first person that is willing to put a deposit down... even if your place has been on the market for a number of weeks or months. A bad tenant will cost you way more then a few months rent (imagine holes in walls, damaged appliances, or just having to go through an eviction process because of not paying rent... or all three?).

I've been rather lucky in my short time managing my condo (3 years so far and 3 sets of tenants). But I have been fairly diligent in my processes to screen and check my tenants and it all starts with the application form.

I recently listened to an interview with Chris Bradnam from Credit Info Canada talking with Russell Wescott of Real Estate Investment Network. I downloaded it awhile back but only recently actually listened to it. Credit Info Canada from what I understand handles credit checks for landlords as well as doing the chasing down debts owed to landlords if need be. I don't use them myself, but I found the interview had some interesting points. One of which was that if a prospective tenant can't be bothered to fill out an application form properly then they probably aren't an ideal tenant.

One of his clients even has a 5 page tenant application form. I'm not exactly sure what they would put in there... but there are definitely some must have fields that I have on my application form. (Generally what the credit check requires is the bare minimum and I've added a few of my own)
  1. Name
  2. Date of Birth
  3. SIN/SSN
  4. Phone Numbers (Cell, Work, Home)
  5. Current Address and previous address
  6. Reason for leaving
  7. Landlord name's and contact (last two landlords)
  8. Employer address
  9. Supervisor name and phone number
  10. Salary and length of employment
  11. Emergency Contact info
  12. Driver's license#
  13. Required Possession Date
With this information you then have to do your due diligence before accepting them as your tenant. After getting your applicants there are a few things to look for an do:
  1. A high income. Generally you want to make sure that their take home pay can easily cover your rent. You don't want someone who needs to use more than 35% of their take home pay on housing. Yes someone with a high income could also stiff you on rent, but I just feel safer with someone that can easily cover their rent versus someone who will require say 50% of more of their pay to cover their rent. (I've had people that were around the 60 to 70% range apply...)
  2. Check their references. Former landlords. Any problems with them? Did they pay their rent on time? Were they clean? Would you have them again? Talk to their employer. Good reliable employee? Is their salary what they say it is? Have they worked for the length of time they say? (Not all people will answer all questions and you can generally tell when people might be hesitant... sometimes it is gut feeling)
  3. Do a credit check on your top applicant to see if there are any signs on their credit report that show they might be a credit risk.
I've been fairly lucky thus far with my tenants. I'm also on the board of my condominium and have only heard praises for the tenants that I've had from the next door neighbors.

First impressions are also useful. There is something to be said about gut feelings and how someone treats you and your time. Were they on time or early for their scheduled showing? How were they dressed? How did their vehicle look? (Is it messy and not well kept?) There will always be people who also don't show up... but those people aren't worthy clients anyways (even if they try to call back and reschedule, not worth it... they don't respect your time and won't if they were tenants)

Is there anything else I maybe missing? I'm constantly trying to improve my tenant selection process.

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