Cameron Cowan | Knowledge Steward
Most landlords have that ideal tenant in their minds. Someone who checks all the boxes and leaves the landlord with little stress and solid cash flow. The key to getting the perfect tenant is creating appropriate criteria and tenant screening. Using RHAWA's tenant screening services, you are armed with the best information on your applicant. The next time you're looking for a great tenant, consider these 7 things.
Can They Pay?
It is recommended, in most cases, that you have a 3:1 income ratio or a flat monthly minimum income requirement. If income isn't verified, then you could end up renting to someone who can't really pay or who has just enough money for the rent and not their expenses. You will end up with partial payments and a lot of excuses. Some tenants believe that they can afford more apartment or house than their income affords. It's important for the landlord to protect their investment and set firm rules on what is acceptable criteria for income. Financial responsibility is key to have the tenant of your dreams.
Paying on Time
A landlord reference is helpful because you can start to get a picture if rent was paid on time. This becomes a measure of financial responsibility. Credit score is one indicator, but there is nothing quite like the personal experience of someone who has rented to your prospective tenant before.
Being on-time to an appointment matters. When someone is on-time, they are showing a respect for your time. This is important. Timeliness says quite a bit about a person. If the tenant is late to tour the unit or home, will they be late with the rent constantly requiring phone calls and babysitting?
In most cases, a tenant's ability to pay is linked to their employment outlook. Things to look for include how long they have been on their job or if they switch jobs often. If they switch jobs frequently, long periods of missed rent may be in your future. This may be a tenant to avoid or to take a deeper dive into this person's background. It's important to write something in your criteria to address this. "Must have been at your job for 1 year" or "Must have been at your job for 6 months" can be helpful to get a stable tenant.
Cleanliness and Housekeeping Skills
No tenant stays forever. Landlords want the property back in good condition when a tenancy comes to an end. Their day to day living should be clean and orderly so that your property will be taken care of in the manner that you would prefer. No one is going to care for your property the same way you do, but it is important to at least look for someone who will do a reasonable job.
Criminal backgrounds must be considered on an individual basis with no blanket policies in your criteria. Criminal activity may lead to stress and expense for landlords. Fortunately, Washington law does have some protections for this sort of thing. If you end up with a tenant who is conducting an illegal activity on your property, you can evict them quickly with a 3-day notice. You can find this notice under the Resource section in the forms on the RHAWA.org website.
How much do you think the tenant is going to stress you out? If they are going to require rent reminders that include phone calls, visits or require constant vigilance for obeying the rules of their lease, it just may not be worth it. The best tenant understands the business relationship and respects it without your having to constantly look over their shoulder.
Not every tenant is going to be perfect 100% of the time, but with these considerations and some well-written criteria, you can have a less stressful experience renting out your unit or home.
A Quick Note For Seattle Property Owners
While all this sounds very well, our members in Seattle might be thinking, "How am I supposed to follow this with the First in Time rule?" The First in Time rule merely dictates that you have to rent on a first-come, first-served basis. Whoever qualifies first for your rental gets an offer. Best practice recommends that you write your criteria to create a pool of applicants that you'll be really be happy with. Everything can be balanced out. If you want to learn more about how to navigate the new Seattle law, take our "Tenant Selection in Seattle" class and learn all about how to navigate renting in Seattle.