Find the Right Tenant

Private Property South Africa
Julia Hinton

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

www.privateproperty.co.za/rentals/

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

relationship.

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.

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