I could come up with a lot of good life advice based on the screening of tenants. Most of it is “what not to do”, unfortunately. Or, more specifically, “how not to end up”. As I’ve mentioned before, it’s so often those who can least afford it, who are in positions that cost them the most. They are the ones with kids (usually two or three) but no spouses. The ones with pets (usually two or three) who must pay non-refundable pet deposits. The ones who bounce checks and must a) pay the bank fees, and then b) pay with certified funds, for which they pay a fee. I swear, people would be better off learning about rent, credit cards, child support and real life situations than algebra in school!
Here are some examples based on this week’s calls. Keep in mind that we’re renting a small, 2 bed/1 bath single family home with a yard that needs to be maintained.:
– a guy, his pregnant girlfriend, and their two Rottweillers and a Chihuahua.
– single woman, Section 8 (ie. govt pays), with three kids and two dogs.
– a woman and her “fiancé” and her three-year-old kid and his two-year-old kid. 80% of the calls we get involve “fiancés/fiancées”
– four twenty-something roommates and at least one dog.
– a woman and her fiancé and a guinea pig and maybe a dog. They can pay for the whole year in advance (big positive) but they are from out-of-town and have neither jobs nor work history (huge red flag). There’s a decent chance they’ll have a horticulturist bent – something we’ve dealt with before. Or maybe even a chemistry bent, ala Breaking Bad, something we’ve not had to deal with before. Knock on wood.
– many of the prospective tenants needed to move ASAP, as in today or tomorrow.
Again, this is a small, 2 bed/1 bath single family home. And we aren’t a large corporation, so we can be much more selective. So, while we might seem “mean” by being so picky, it’s not like places aren’t available for the people I’ve just described. Trust me there are, but chances are they’ll cost more than what we charge or they won’t be nearly as nice. Or, they will have to settle for renting a condo or apartment with no yard – not so great for kids and pets, but cheaper, with no maintenance to worry about.
Good prospective tenants tend to get a break, financially. And, once they’re good proven tenants, the breaks continue. Good behaviour is rewarded. Over the years we’ve probably had 50 tenants. We’ve had single women, families, roommates, married couples, and unmarried couples. We’ve rented to a single woman, only to have her daughter, her grandchildren and her daughter’s boyfriend (and their pets) move in. And they were surprised when we asked them to leave. We rented to a couple where they were already behind in their rent when she stabbed him (he was OK), he bled all over the carpet, the cops had to break down the door, and we evicted them. She later called and asked for her security deposit back! We’ve had/seen drug addicts, alcholics, mental illness, arrests, damage, broken leases, late rents, no rents, one grow house, and a few evictions. We have paid people to move out, just to get them out.
We have also had wonderful tenants, like “Jenna” who has paid on time and caused not an iota of trouble since ’99. Is she paying below market rent? You bet!! And the young couple who are now just moving out. Wonderful kids, we wish they could have stayed for a decade. But their plan was to save enough money and get qualified to buy a house. It only took them two years.
Who are we renting to next, you may wonder? A wonderful woman with one dog, a great job, great references, and a story that has no holes in it. She just sold her townhome and is regrouping. She would like to move in at the beginning of October, if possible, but has backup plans for the next month or so. She probably won’t stay nearly as long as we hope – maybe 2-3 years. But, who knows, maybe she’ll still be our tenant in 2025…