10 tips to help you select the right tenant for your property.
Most landlord hassles can be avoided by just finding the right tenant in the
first place. Whether it's your home or an investment property, finding a good
tenant is the key to successful renting.
It can be stressful enough looking for someone to fill the position, but the
stress is nothing compared to the hassle of trying to get rid of a nightmare
tenant. Rather do it properly the first time, even if it takes a little longer
than you'd like it to, but don't settle on someone you are not one hundred
percent happy with.
To prevent misunderstandings and avoid making an expensive mistake, here are
some basic steps to guide you through the process:
1. Smart advertising
The process of finding a tenant starts with advertising your rental property
in the right place and to the right market. The obvious places to start are in
the property classifieds section of your local newspapers, possibly on community
notice boards and on some websites such as Private Property Rentals, which
offers paid (R150) and a free rental listing options. Be sure to advertise for
the kind of person you want. For example, if you would prefer a single person
then say, 'suit single professional' and be clear on things like 'no pets
allowed' otherwise you could have ten people calling you about your granny
cottage for rent only to find out when you actually meet them that they were
hoping to bring their pet dog along.
2. Pre-screen applicants
It is wise to pre-screen applicants on the first call. This will help to
avoid you wasting your time interviewing unsuitable people. Prepare a list of
questions and notes about what you want to ask and tell those who call to
enquire about your property. Start the conversation by asking them why they are
moving and exactly what they are looking for. This will help you establish
whether they could be right for your property and whether it will be worth
meeting them. Then let them know about the rent, deposit and any specific
conditions you may have e.g. pets, smoking, parking, visitors, number of
occupants, etc. It is important to match the ideal tenant with the property
type, for example, an elderly person will not be ideal if you have a loft
bedroom apartment and too many steep stairs or indoor ponds would not suit a
family with toddlers.
3. Meet prospective tenants
Even if you are using a letting agent it is advisable to meet the applicants
yourself. Usually you will be trying to show off your property and hoping to
make a good impression, but remember that you must also like what you see. Try
and get to know them while you show them around and note things like: Do they
arrive at your appointment on time and do they seem like people who will look
after your property?
At the end of the day, you will have to listen to your gut instincts and see
through to the real person.
4. Application form
It is advisable to ask prospective tenants to fill out a short application
form with their personal particulars and any other important information that
you need to know for the screening process. You can download a Lease Information
template from the Rentals page on
5. Do a credit check
This is a very important step and can tell you a lot about a potential
tenant. The way people handle their money often reflects the way they live their
lives, so if an applicant is bankrupt, has payments overdue or a low credit
score, then you would be well-advised to cross them off your list and avoid
potential trouble in the future. Simply tell them they have been unsuccessful
and why, and then move on until you find a suitable candidate.
Private Property in partnership with Tenant Profile Network (TPN) offers you one
of the most comprehensive credit reports available. For only R105.70 the report
includes a HAWK enquiry, ITC as well as an Experian report. If you go with the
full house paid rental option on Private Property, this report is included in
the listing fee. For lower-end properties credit checks could sometimes prove
less helpful, in which case you could ask for proof of income as well as
referrals to past landlords or referees.
6. Ask for referrals
Find out where prospective tenants have lived before and ask for referrals to
previous landlords they have rented from. A quick call or two will soon tell you
whether the applicant is the kind of person you are looking for.
7. Communicate expectations clearly
You will have already covered most of your expectations in the first phone
call, but it is just as well to make a list to remind yourself and go through
this carefully with a prospective tenant. Something which may seem unimportant
to mention, such as where visitors should or should not park, can became a grand
annoyance later on once the tenant has settled in and feels that it is now their
home. It is really a simple matter of establishing the ground rules.
8. Get a deposit
You must make sure you get at least one month's rent as soon as the applicant
decides to take the property. Don't let a few days go by or cancel your
advertising before you have the deposit in your bank account. If the tenant is
serious, they will expect to pay a deposit and will be equally keen to secure
the deal. Otherwise you could find yourself out of pocket, annoyed and starting
the process all over again if a person you thought was right, suddenly decides
to change their mind, but hasn't given you a deposit.
9. Always sign a lease agreement
As soon as you have decided on a tenant and offered them the property you
must sign a lease agreement. Apart from the lease period, notice required and
other standard clauses, it is important to stipulate any specific conditions
such as the maximum number of occupants allowed, pets or no pets, non-smoker,
etc. Make sure that the agreement caters for every eventuality to ensure that
you have covered your back and that there can be no misunderstandings. Visit
www.privateproperty.co.za to download a comprehensive standard lease agreement.
10. Remain professional
Remember that this is a business arrangement and you are essentially
interviewing candidates for the position. Do not fall for any sad stories or try
to be too friendly towards prospective tenants. It is important to act and dress
in an appropriate manner and to take a professional approach at all times. This
way you are likely to be rewarded with a good tenant and a longstanding
So whether you are a newbie or an old-hand at it, managing your rental property
can be a breeze if you just follow these basic guidelines.