What to Look for in a Good Tenant

Written on Wednesday February 20, 2019 by Bob Hinrichs

Being a landlord is tough work, but renting to the right people can help make the job easier and even enjoyable! But, what makes one prospective tenant better than another? And how can you tell their personality isn’t just an act to get a nice place to live? Let’s dive into each of those questions so you can start building the renter community of your dreams one good tenant at a time…

What are desirable tenant qualities?

It’s easy to overcomplicate this part of the process, but the easiest way to think about it is to ask yourself, “If I were looking for a roommate, what traits would I want them to have?” While you won’t exactly be living with your new tenant, they are moving into your home, so you want someone who is going to take care of it. Here are a few attributes you should look for in a prospective tenant and why…


While you may not think that a detail as small as the frequency in which they do their dishes is a big deal, it can be. Someone who doesn’t take pride in their space could let your property get past the point of just being a little messy. Piled up dishes or wet towels on the floor could lead to serious mold issues that will cost you money and resources to fix. A lack of vacuuming could quickly ruin that brand-new carpet you installed. Little by little, small messes can become full-blown damage.

Financially Stable:

Property management comes with many expenses and if you’re not receiving rent, you can’t operate effectively. An ideal tenant should be one that has a reliable job that pays them enough to cover their rent each month. A good guideline to follow is only renting to people who can prove they make three or more times the monthly rent amount. If they miss rent, you’ll have to spend time hunting them down or even taking them to court to evict them. Then, you’ll still have to find a new tenant to replace them with, which can be costly on its own!


This trait goes hand-in-hand with financial stability. Even if your prospective tenant makes enough money to pay rent, are they responsible enough to do so on time? Do they have a history of forgetting or having to be reminded to pay? And aside from just the financial component of paying rent on time, a tenant who keeps up with their bills is also more likely to translate that responsibility into taking proper care of the property. They’re more likely to let you know if something isn’t working properly to prevent worsened damage. A good way to get a pulse on whether or not they’re responsible is to set up a showing of the property and see if they show up on time.


While their responsibility will make a big difference in regards to taking care of the property, finding respectful tenants can save you from getting complaints from neighbors. Respectful individuals won’t typically blast music, mess up common areas, or act rudely toward other renters.

Clean Criminal Background:

This one sort of speaks for itself, but if your prospective tenant has a decent track record of breaking the law, what is to stop them from breaking your lease terms? Background checks can tell you a lot about a person’s overall ability to follow rules and respect authority.

Positive Attitude:

You’re not trying to find a new best friend, so why should you care what their demeanor is like? Well, a positive person is less likely to be dramatic and cause issues. Every landlord has had at least one “Negative Nancy” who just seems to complain about everything and has a laundry list of issues longer than all of the other tenants combined. Find someone who is easy to deal with. A good way to gauge this is to ask them why they’re moving. If they give you sob story after sob story about why their life sucks, don’t rent to them. If you do, get ready for that same kind of drama to be in your life until their lease is up!

How can I be sure of a stranger’s personality?

Use Objective Data:

You’re not a mind-reader, so how can you mitigate your risk and limit your misjudgments? First off, numbers don’t lie, so start there. Run a credit check and look at their credit history and score to determine their responsibility. Require income verification from their employer or a few months’ worth of pay stubs to determine financial stability. Run a background check to determine their criminal past (or lack thereof).

Let History Talk:

Once you finish doing all of the objective digging, start contacting their personal and past rental references. Ask old landlords how the prospective tenant treated the property as well as other tenants, and if they paid rent on time! Their answers will tell you a lot about the potential renter’s respect, responsibility, attitude, and cleanliness. Ask personal references about the tenant’s character to learn more about their overall disposition. If their friends don’t like them, chances are you won’t either.

These traits and screening methods can help save you a lot of headaches, time, and resources. While we unfortunately haven’t created the perfect machine to tell you who to rent to and who to avoid, these tests (when combined with time and experience) can truly be effective majority of the time. It might seem easier to just fill your properties to avoid the financial burden of vacancies, but in the long run, you’ll end up spending more on a bad tenant than you’ll gain. Be patient, follow your gut, and use objective data and you’ll be on your way to building a great renter community in no time!

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