7 Ways to Get to Know Your Tenant

By Alicia Geigel on October 21, 2021

As a property manager, you want to do everything you can to ensure your business runs properly. Maintaining your rental units, keeping up with the landscaping, and having a good relationship with your tenants are just some of the responsibilities to take on. Having a good relationship with your tenants depends on getting to know them first, and determining if they are a good fit in your rental property. Employing different techniques to screen through tenants isn’t always foolproof, but it can certainly deter a lot of the bad apples.

Are you a property manager? Looking for the best ways to screen through potential tenants and get to know them better? Here are seven ways to help you in the process!

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Before the Lease is Signed

Conduct a Background Check: One of the first ways to effectively get to know your tenants is through a background check. Conducting a thorough background check is an industry-standard and can tell you if your tenant has any criminal history (major or minor) that you need to be aware of. Once the background check comes back, you can ultimately decide what further steps you would like to take with your prospective tenant. If it is clean or has a minor offense, you can move on to the next steps. If they have an extensive record, then it is clear that might be a tenant you should avoid.

Run a Credit Check: Along with a background check, a credit check is perhaps the most important piece of information to have in regards to your tenant. As a property manager, you don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you are losing money or having tenants that are not responsible for handling their money. Running a credit check can be a helpful way of determining if your tenant can comfortably pay the rent and not fall short each month. A credit check will first and foremost, show their credit score, and additionally show if they have a history of paying bills on time, as well as their debt to income ratio. In terms of income, the industry standard is the tenant should make an income that is at least 3 times the cost of rent, however, there can be exceptions to this, so use your best judgment accordingly.

Look into Their Rental History: Another important aspect of getting to know your tenants is to look into their rental history. Erin Eberlin of the Balance suggests, “If possible, you should talk to at least two of the tenant’s previous landlords. This is because if the applicant was a problem tenant, the current landlord may want to get the tenant off their hands and may not be as truthful.” Talking with previous landlords can paint you a picture of what your tenants will be like if they sign a lease with you/your property. Consider asking the previous landlord(s) questions such as: if the tenant paid rent on time, if they took care of the apartment, if there was there any damage after they left, etc.

Ask the Important Questions: Once all of the official checks are out of the way, you are simply left with getting an impression of the prospective tenant from your own judgment. Erin Eberlin of the Balance writes, “Every landlord should have a standard set of questions to ask any prospective renter who contacts them to view the property. This is one of the first steps of a successful tenant screening process.” Continue to feel them out by asking some important questions, which can include: the nature of their move, the number of people living in the apartment, the number of pets they have (if any), etc. Depending on how they answer questions like these can give you an idea of what kind of tenant you are looking into and whether or not it would be worth signing them on to live in your rental property.

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After the Lease is Signed

Arrange a Small, Short Conversation: Once all of the complicated paperwork is taken care of and the tenants are moving in, try and arrange a small, short conversation with them. In today’s world, so many people are detached from one another and things are purely transactional, with little interpersonal connection in between. As a property manager, give your tenants some peace of mind and show them that you genuinely care by simply getting to know them. This doesn’t have to be comprehensive and no one needs to give the other their life story, but just making simple conversation can build a proper connection between you and your tenants, which can make way for a good relationship in the long run. Ask questions like: do you have any children? Where are you from? What are your favorite hobbies? What are some of your favorite shows? These innocent questions don’t get too personal and can ultimately foster a healthy and communicative relationship with your tenants, which can give you less of a headache and them a better sense of security.

Leave Your Contact Information: After the lease is signed and the tenants are all moved in, you want them to get the impression that you care and are always open to hearing them out, whether it’s about an issue paying rent, neighbor problems, or something broken/not working in the apartment/home. The last thing you want to do is be completely detached from your tenants, since for one, it gives them the impression that you are just in it for the money. Secondly, they might get the impression that you don’t care and thus can take whatever liberties they feel in your rental, potentially destroying or damaging it. To avoid this altogether, leave your residents with your contact information, such as mobile phone number and email address, and give them the freedom to contact you if they need to. You can put certain boundaries or limitations on this, such as the best hours to contact you, or 24/7 emergency availability.

Keep in Touch with Residents: Now, more than ever, it’s important to show your tenants and residents that you care. No one wants to be viewed as simply a commodity, but rather, a person first. Despite what personal or financial situation you may be going through, it still means a lot to value and show compassion toward your residents. Reach out to them, whether it be through an email, a text, a video call, or a letter, and ask them how they are doing. Ask them what you can do as a property manager to make their life easier. Do routine check-ins and make sure there aren’t any issues they are dealing with that could prevent them from paying their rent. If so, don’t immediately shut them down and evict them, but try to work with them instead.

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Going through these different steps does not always guarantee that your potential tenant will not be a problem, however, following these tips and going with your best judgment can most likely get you tenants that will be a breeze to deal with.

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