How to be a Landlord - Finding a Good Tenant

In this posting we discuss interviewing prospective tenants and the application process.

In our last posting we talked about the fair housing laws and how they apply when advertising your property. We also talked about some effective ways to advertise.

Now that your advertising has delivered prospective tenants, what's next?

Well, you'll be showing the property to them of course. As you show it, take note of the prospect.

  • Did he or she make an attempt to make a good first impression?
  • Take notice of their car.
  • Does this prospect behave respectfully?

You can learn a lot about people even before speaking to them. Sometimes it helps to pay attention to details. Are the prospects pointing out legitimate concerns about the property, or are they trying to come up with items to negotiate price?

If they indicate that they want to rent from you, first have each prospect fill out an application. There are a number of ready made applications you can find online but at a minimum it should ask for basic contact information, present address, how long they've been there and if they are currently renting. You should also ask for a previous address.

Basic Information:

  • name
  • relationship
  • occupation
  • age (of each of the proposed occupants.)


If you allow pets, ask for the name, type, breed, and age.


Ask for the year, make and model of any vehicles.


You'll also want to know their current employer, occupation, and if its full time or part time employment. Make a copy of their government issued ID and keep it on file. If you'll be doing a background check (which I recommend), be sure to ask permission for such a check on the application form which they sign and ask for a social security number.

How will this help you?

Each of these pieces of information will not only help you do a background check but also help you get a better idea of what kind of tenant they might be and if there might be problems down the road. For example, knowing the breed of the dog might help you avoid problems with your insurance company if they have such restrictions. If a prospective tenant lists three vehicles and you only have room for two, then you might want to address that in advance.

Online Tenant Screening:

There are a number of services that offer online tenant screening. Most will do a basic credit report, criminal arrest record search and eviction record search at least in this county and it's well worth the nominal fee. Asking for a small application fee to cover your cost is not a bad thing.

What to do when you've found the right tenant for your property:

If you're happy with the results of your background check and you feel good about the tenant, call them up and let them know you're happy they've been approved. Set the time, date and place for your lease signing. Instruct the applicant(s) to bring the proper amounts of monies, identification (if you don't already have it), and how you prefer to be paid (cashiers check or money order). Now we need to get that lease prepared which we'll discuss in the next posting.

Please feel free to ask questions in the comments below.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Lynda March 25, 2012 at 02:50 PM
Many people I know are increasingly reluctant to give their Social Security number when asked. What is the purpose of including the Social Security number on a rental application if picture ID is also asked for? Thank you.
Anita Shwarts March 26, 2012 at 12:21 AM
Lynda: Good question. The tenant verification services I'm aware of all ask for a SS#. It is used for credit history and to cross check the drivers license with address, etc. As a landlord, it is your responsibility to protect the information you collect. -Anita
Lynda March 26, 2012 at 12:50 AM
Thank you for the info, Anita.


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