How To Choose Between Prospective Tenants- Which?

Choosing Between Tenants

Guys, I’ve been in this cock-shaped pickle many times over the years. In fact, very recently, which is what spurred me into checking into my local Starbucks to whip up this blog post.

It can be a real puzzle for self-managing landlords. And the truth is, sometimes you’ll get it right, other times you won’t. But the best we can do as landlords is to try and stack the odds in our favour in hope of making the right decision, and fortunately there’s plenty we can do to help with that.

There’s no secret source, I think it’s safe to say that all good landlords are looking for the same qualities in tenants:

  • Reliable
  • Honest
  • Clean
  • Competent

(I won’t say “long-term tenants”, because not all landlords and tenants are looking for that)

Those adjectives can pretty much cover all bases.

But what happens when you’re privileged enough to have more than one applicant that ticks all the boxes (which isn’t terribly uncommon in a booming rental market, when demand for vacancies outstrips supply)? How does a private landlord choose between great tenants (at least, on paper)?

Funny story.

In my latest tenant-find escapades, I strategically narrowed my shortlist down to two wonderful prospects. But I made a right pig’s ear out of the situation, because I somehow said “yes” to both applicants. Needless to say, sorting that mess out was a right awkward palava, but it’s another story for another time!

Tenant referencing: DONE!

Just to clarify, in order to get to this stage (choosing between multiple promising prospective tenants), the presumption is that the remaining shortlist all passed a thorough rectal examination (a.k.a referencing), including:

  • Credit checks
  • Previous landlord reference
  • Employer reference
  • Face-to-face interaction

If not, then that should be your starting point. It will be one of the best and most efficient ways of whittling down your list of prospective tenants. You can read my complete guide on tenant referencing to help you get started.

Don’t fall for any gimmicks or incentives!

My first tip would be not to get swayed by superficial gimmicks or incentives that tenants may offer in order to win you over (often happens in a heated rental market). For example:

  • Several months rent upfront
  • Larger deposits
  • Guarantee of a long-term tenancy
  • Willing to pay above the odds

While they’re all certainly appealing incentives, and shouldn’t be entirely ignored, the important point to note is that they don’t necessarily result or correlate with the quality of tenant you’ll end up with.

Simply, the better tenant may not be in a position to exceed their budget, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

This is completely anecdotal, but in the past I’ve been proven right by being suspicious of generous incentives.

If you’re using a letting agent

I don’t use traditional high-street letting agents to source tenants or manage my rental properties anymore, I’m completely self-managing, and fully reliant on sourcing tenants from online letting agents.

However, that wasn’t always the case. There was a time when I didn’t know any better, so I was eager to hand over large sums of cash to my local agent to fully manage my properties. I used to wholeheartedly believe that was the “convenient” solution. Perhaps it still is for many landlords, but that certainly wasn’t my experience.

Ultimately, after years of good and bad experiences with my management agent, I realised that they’re just as able as I am at finding bottom-of-the-barrel, deadbeat tenants, capable of pushing me to the verge of suicide.

What I mean is, even those that we deem as the “professionals” managed to fill my vacancies with shocking tenants, even after allegedly passing strict referencing protocols. And I’m not throwing shade on agents, I’m simply saying that no one gets it right 100% of the time.

If I was personally still using my local high-street agent to manage my affairs, I wouldn’t leave it entirely in their hands to make the final decision on who gets to live in my property. I would look over the applicants and conduct my own analysis. Arguably, that beats the purpose of paying through the nose for a management service, which I completely understand, but what I’ve learned over the years is that no one cares about my property/investment as much as I do, which inherently means I’m likely to make better decisions (especially because I’m not incentivised by a cash-grab).

So, if you can, get involved and have your say, even if that entails having a conversation with the most promising applicants [determined by your agent] over the phone.

My single best tip: use your gut instinct and intuition

The reality is, if you’re still confused by your options after you’ve exhausted all the tools you have available during the referencing and screening process, the only remaining heavy artillery is your perception and gut instinct.

I know, I know, and believe you me, I can hear your disappointment. After all that, “you’re telling us to use our bowels”

Yes, I am, and that’s not a bad thing either. I’ve been a landlord for over a decade now, and it didn’t take me long to discover that my gut is the most effective tool when it comes to referencing tenants, and more often than not it’s yielded great results.

The single best decision a landlord can make before accepting any tenants is to meet and greet them (preferably during the viewings), and establish whether or not you can build a good rapport with a particular applicant. Sometimes you just “click” with someone and everything becomes clear. There’s never been a case where I’ve had the exact same chemistry between two applicants when interacting. I’m not saying that one has always been better than the other, but they have certainly been “different”

There is no substitute for human interaction, it’s so very telling. That’s precisely why I personally conduct all my tenant viewings, and recommend for all landlords to do the same if possible.

I’ve actually written another blog post on the topic of Early Signs Of Potentially Awful Tenants, which nicely supplements what I’m saying. In short, it’s a list of observations I’ve made during viewings, which effectively made me think twice about the applicants. These are observations no referencing or screening tool would have unearthed. For example:

  • Late arrivals (with no apology or attempts to provide pre-warning)
  • Dirty footwear and no intention of removing them before entering the premises
  • Applicants with poor visible poor hygiene
  • Poor communication skills

You’re never going to get it right all the time

There really is no silver-solution bullet to finding and choosing good tenants, if there was, bad tenants wouldn’t exist.

But as I touched in earlier, we can all do our best to stack the odds in our favour to avoid disaster. And in my opinion, we’re onto a pretty good start by:

  • Thoroughly referencing tenants
  • Being involved with the process
  • Using our gut instincts and perception

Nothing ground-breaking by any means, but hopefully I’ve managed to provide food for thought.

Happy hunting, friends xoxo

P.s. I’ve updated this blog post from its original form, so some of the comments below may seem totally bizarre and out of context, and quite frankly, ridiculous. My first iteration of this blog post covered more of the details regarding my absolute balls-up of accepting two different tenants: a sweet old lady (with absolutely gigantic knockers) and a family of three, which consisted of an outrageously attractive daughter. Seemingly, it distracted folks from the actual point of my blog post.

9 Join the Conversation...

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andy sheppard 29th September, 2010 @ 14:39

I would select the old lady and say to the family that your partner had cocked up and had taken a deposit that you were unaware of. Great position and makes up for the times when you get shafted, like having too many strikers at football!

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Jeff 29th September, 2010 @ 16:02

I'd go huge-titted old lady as well. That's a novelty you can't turn down (neither is a potential 20-year streak in rent). Chalk the fuck up to the old lady giving you the security deposit, then saying she couldn't stay, but not getting her deposit back before changing her mind again (so technically still had a right to the property). Also, tell the family you'll shag the daughter as a consolation prize.

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jeffo 30th September, 2010 @ 00:28

As the first lot didnt get back to you with a deposit you can simply say 'sorry, I assumed you had found somewhere else'

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The Landlord 1st October, 2010 @ 10:29

Guys, thanks for the advice, much appreciated! I ended up choosing the old lady! I feel relieved this saga is over with now!!

@jeff: Your idea is genius! I bet the family would actually be relieved if I took her off their hands a few nights a week since she talks too much. I know exactly what to shaft in her mouth to silence her as well!

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Chris Rains 1st October, 2010 @ 16:30

I am glad you took the old lady as well.
To be honest ive just read the blog, in my head with the voice of Dara Ó Briain (it just happened that way)very cool.
But for the future if you find yourself in the same situation, suggest to the family that a rental reduction could be worked out if the lovely daughter was cooperative, and then ask the mum if she knows how to use a camcorder. I am no expert but i guess they will find another place to rent..........or will they?

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Sukhi Dehal 8th October, 2010 @ 09:56

You're just too funny!

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Twattybollocks 8th October, 2010 @ 15:22

Have you given her one yet?

TB

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ccdev 29th October, 2010 @ 07:29

give it to the old lady with the big boobs but make sure you get the contact of the shagable talkative bitch

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mimi 30th March, 2013 @ 20:54

you, sir, are a riot.

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