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There are statistics that say as high as 95% of the problems that landlords have with rental property are the result of the residents we select. Whether that figure is that high or not, it is clear that choosing the right residents is one of the most important things we do as rental owners and managers.

Recently on the Q&A forum, a landlord asked “I keep hearing about landlords needing written criteria for their tenants…. please help me add to my criteria.” One sample set of criteria shared by an experienced landlord is listed below:
Resident Selection Criteria

We will accept as a tenant any person who submits an accurate, complete application for an available home; meets the standards set forth below; and agrees to abide by the rules and regulations set forth by Management. We support the Fair Housing Act as amended, prohibiting discrimination in housing based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, handicap, age or familial status. Every person 18 years & older must submit an application.
Income Requirements:
The monthly rental rate can not exceed 1/3 of the resident’s monthly household total disposable income. Applicants must prove income via current pay stubs from a local company or equivalent for 1 year. The income verified must be stable and not be temporary or seasonal work. Unverified income for the past year causes the deposit to increase to triple deposit.

Credit History Requirements:

A CREDIT REPORT is requested from the CREDIT BUREAU.
*Applicants with any unpaid collections if accepted, deposit will be increased $150, or up to the amount of the collections.
*Applicants with a limited recent history of late payments, but current to date, if accepted, deposit may be increased $150 extra.

Rental History Requirements:

Applicants must indicate name, address, and telephone number of current and previous landlords for 2 years. We will verify current & previous rental history. Applicants with negative rental history may not be accepted. Examples of negative history include but are not limited to evictions, default of lease, non-payment of rent, or damages to home or apartment. If negative rental history is accepted, deposits will be double. Applicants with no rental history, deposit will double, and must meet the income and credit history requirements.

Criminal History Requirements:

* Criminal convictions that involve moral turpitude, integrity or honesty will not be accepted.
* Criminal convictions that involve physical violence or endangering the health or safety of another person will not be accepted.
* Criminal convictions in connection with the manufacture or distribution of a controlled substance will not be accepted.
* Applicants with recent multiple misdemeanors will not be accepted.

Pet Policy:

Up to 1 pet or animal may be accepted of many types and 1 is the maximum. There is a weight limit of 20 lbs for the pet/animal. No pet/animal that may be expected to grow over 20 lbs will be accepted. No vicious, unruly, difficult or dangerous pets/animals allowed. A 20 gallon tank is maximum size and counts as one pet/animal as long as all pets/animals live inside, always. All pets/animals must be always friendly to strangers. A pet/animal registration fee of $150 per pet/animal will be charged for the pet/animal and the monthly pet/animal rent is $25 extra for the pet/animal. All pets/animals must have complete local Veterinarian file provided to Landlord prior to move-in. Seeing-eye dogs are permitted with written physician’s statement at no additional cost. No pets are allowed except with the written permission of Management. No visiting pets/animals allowed at any time.

Did you know that Facebook can help you screen prospective residents and CURRENT residents? One big benefit that one landlord has discovered, was that Facebook can be used to check his rentals from time to time by having his spouse pull up tenants’ Facebook pages. Very often, tenants post pictures that are taken inside the units. Works very well to see the condition of the unit without going inside.


“What is the ‘correct’ course of action when confronted with tenants who are chronically late or non-payers? I have responded in my usual way–no pay, no stay.

I thought it would be useful to also talk about when and how we as landlords approach the topics of Mercy, Charity and Business.
I do not tolerate late payers. The many reasons given are immaterial. Divorce, job loss, disorganized, deadbeat, medical bills, death in the family, long-term tenant is a little short this month… I DON’T CARE. Actually, I DO care…I’m not heartless, but neither am I a fool. I realize that “life happens” to people all the time. The difference to me is how does the person react. Do they approach it as a challenge they can help overcome, or do they throw up their hands in despair and expect someone else to take over and fix their problem?
We could probably argue all day about doing the moral thing vs. the business thing, but I believe that the business thing IS the moral thing to do. The business relationship–while not perfect–is the best we’ve got. When people follow the agreements they make, we reach the optimal outcome for the most people. I am willing to alter agreements when it is reasonable to do so and we both come up with something agreeable. What I am NOT willing to do is allow tenants to unilaterally decide to stop paying me rent while they remain in my houses.
I have allowed folks to move out, in a few occasional forgiving around 50% of what they owed, because of the way they handled the decision, notified me, and were prompt in following the altered agreement we reached. This is an act of Mercy on my part, and it is understood that I don’t owe it to anyone. I choose to do is because I know it will be best for all involved.
When a tenant tries to force me into being a charity to them, that’s when all heck breaks loose and I go into full-on “kick ’em out” mode. There is a sharp difference in attitude between someone requesting an act of mercy vs. someone copping an attitude, being passive-aggressive and stealing from me.
We as landlords get what we tolerate. Anyone who allows tenants to run the show sets up a false expectation in the tenants’ mind of what the next landlord will do and what he should tolerate. This is bad for the industry and bad for the tenant who might get a no-nonsense landlord next time.
I am not strict. But I do draw the line at the lease. If you can’t pay: move out. If you don’t move out after 7 days of picking my pocket, I evict you. Period. If you don’t plan on living up to this agreement, then don’t live in my house. Go live with a friend, a relative, or apply for Government housing.”


If residents cannot pay, I point them to resources, if they don’t feel their situation is legitimate enough to ask for help, that means they are spending their money elsewhere and it’s not a legitimate need such as temporary job loss. I usually send them a list of resources they can reach out to like Salvation Army, churches etc.

One tenant recently had a severe burn and has not been working for the last month and I gave him this list, he was able to get assistance for 2 months of rent from Salvation Army. They do not pay his late fees, so I will still apply his rent to late fees first when his rent payment in August from him (not Salavation Army) is due…

This was a legitimate need in that case and it was great that he was able to get the assistance needed. This only helps if they contact you ahead of being late otherwise this delays things quite far out while waiting for their approvals etc. He was still late and I still sent him all of the notices for eviction if he does not pay etc so that in the event he is not approved we don’t delay the eviction process further (if his case was not legitimate). You can find and create your own list of resources (for your own local area) that a late tenant can contact by searching agencies on the following website –


A landlord asked: How long do you typically agree to hold a property for an approved rental applicant who is willing to give a deposit or fee for you to hold the property and take it off the market? This is with the understanding that during the holding period, you, the landlord, will not get rent. Actual Rent will not start until the resident moves in.

One seasoned landlord gave the following recommended formula:

“The time I will hold a unit off the market waiting for someone to pay rent is a function of my market. I take it as a function of the local vacancy rate. Here it’s around 4% which translates to about two weeks (think 2/52 is 0.038 or 3.8% which round to 4%). If I hold a unit longer than 2 weeks at the current local vacancy rate I am a sub par performer. I won’t do that. Now if local vacancy rates are 12% (6 weeks) then I would easily be willing to hold for a month. If the unit is highly desirable then I would lessen the time and correspondingly if it’s hard to rent I would increase the time.”

A recent discussion on about entering a rental property to do maintenance (with permission but without the resident present) reminded me of two online videos.

1. Resident had called with a stopped drain. Repair tech entered, checked the drain, needed a plumbing snake so he called his helper. While he waited he got a drink of water, used the toilet, checked the plumbing behind the washer, then thumbed thru the resident’s magazine on the counter.

Tech did not know he was being videoed the entire time by the resident’s motion activated camera. Think Nanny Cam.

The resident was FURIOUS and posted this online. Got TONS of comments about how lousy that apartment complex was, etc.

2. A local landlord was “outed” on a local Facebook gossip site with a video of his short outburst toward a tenant. To his credit he shouted then walked away. But his shouting was posted online.

Remember, the world has EYES and can post it for the world and history.

Another experienced property manager added: “I have long held that this will happen…I ALWAYS caution rental prospects and owners who go into occupied homes to also NOT discuss furniture, personal items, housekeeping, etc…wait until we are outside and on the curb…. While in rentals, occupied or not, do-it-yourself landlords should always believe someone can record every thing they say and do. To think otherwise, is putting yourself at risk.


Just wanted to remind landlords to check on employment status by calling to verify (if possible), not just by seeing a pay stub. Got an application back two  weeks ago, we ask for copies of pay stubs and copy of license to be turned in with it. Two pay stubs were there, no ID copy. The pay stubs were from Jan & March. She didn’t fill out employment section on application (red flag).

I called employer expecting to get no info and having to fax in authorization, etc, but no need, she was no longer employed there since April. Emailed her stating this, she said,  “Oops must of given you the wrong ones.” I said fine, get me April and  May pay stubs and photo ID and we’ll see. Never heard back. The funny thing is, we got an email from her today (mistakenly to us), applying for a job posted on craigslist. Too funny. Check their references!


Are you keeping up with the times? The vast majority of young adult renters use text messages as their primary method of communication. Do not miss out on potentially good prospective residents or not stay in communication with good current residents by avoiding or ignoring texts.  As suggested by one professional property manager; “I routinely respond to voicemail messages with a text and have my website in my text signature….Texting is the NEW BLACK!”


If residents don’t change the filters, stop trying to prove to residents that it is their responsibility to change the filter. As one landlord advises, “That dirty filter is ruining YOUR A/C system. If you, or your resident, do not change it, this will cause a premature and very costly failure that can end up costing far more than the tenant will/can pay.

This is a question that is often asked by real estate investors, especially those who started with single family rentals, and want to know what they are missing.  One landlord who owns both single family and multi-units gave the following assessment based at a half dozen or so different factors.
“I own both Single Family Homes (SFHs) and multi units or “plexes”.  There are pluses and minuses to each type of property. Here are the few I’ve experienced:

1) SFH – the one tenant doesn’t compare rents to what the other renters are paying.

2) SFH  – no one should expect you to do anything about “the noisy or problem neighbors” unlike a plex where the neighbors are also your tenants.

3) SFH – easier to schedule work on since you only have to coordinate with ONE set of tenants vs. two. Can’t go into unit A of a PLEX at 6 AM Saturday morning to swing a hammer if tenant in unit B sleeps until 9 AM unless you work it out.

4) SFH – tenant usually responsible for their own utilities, lawn care and is not as quick to look to the landlord for a lot of the minor upkeep.

5) PLEX – you often have some shared utilities, especially in the older style buildings. Landlord is often responsible for paying those utilities.  Be sure to calculate in cost to split water/sewer, etc., if practical.

6) PLEX – usually cheaper to insure PER UNIT. Example, I have two 2-bed houses that cost about $350 a year each. I have a duplex with two 2-bed units, cost is $500 per year for the same $$$ coverage and liability. $200 savings.

7) PLEX – costs to buy is cheaper per unit. Closing costs for 2 houses are more than for 1 duplex. Two houses have two sets of closing fees, recording fees, title search and insurance, etc.

8) PLEX – if you upgrade one side, they will talk to the other side. Other side may now demand the same upgrade.

9 PLEX – usually cheaper to maintain because of economies of scale. For example, only one roof for multiple units. And when sending over someone for maintenance calls, can respond to several service requests all at the same time, all in one location for a lower per unit cost.  General rule of thumb: Operating cost per unit decreases as number of unit increases.