How to find and keep great tenants

When it comes to filling rental vacancies, landlords know how tricky the tenant search can be. In this article, we'll walk landlords through how to find great tenants and minimize turnover at the same time.

January 9, 2024

6 min read


Renting out your property involves more than just collecting rent. It’s about knowing how to find good tenants and keep them. Good tenants not only ensure steady rental income but also offer landlords and property managers peace of mind. In this blog post, we’ll walk you through how to attract quality tenants and provide you with key strategies to make sure they stick around. 

Finding an ideal tenant

While there's no foolproof method to guarantee a perfect tenant match, using these strategies can certainly increase the odds of finding someone you can trust with your property. 

Market your property

The first step is to create a compelling rental listing that highlights your property's unique features, amenities, and neighborhood. Write a catchy title and use high-quality photos, and describe the property's condition in as much detail as possible. Painting an honest and accurate picture of your rental listings will attract dependable, long-term prospects for your rental property.

Once you finalize your listing, diversify your marketing channels to broaden the reach of your rental listings. Platforms like multiple listing services, social media, local publications, and real estate agencies offer varying degrees of exposure to attract potential tenants. Understanding which channels resonate most with your target demographic can significantly impact your ability to reach prospective tenants.

Set qualifying criteria for tenants

While you can afford to be picky when choosing a tenant, it’s important to remember you must stay compliant with the Fair Housing Act. You can set tenant standards but cannot discriminate against protected classes which include race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex, and familial status. It is legal however, to set the following criteria for applicants:

  • A credit score of 650+
  • Monthly income that is 2-3x rent
  • No eviction history
  • No felonies
  • Positive landlord references

Defining criteria in advance saves time and effort by enabling you to focus on applicants who meet the predetermined qualifications. Keep in mind, setting your criteria too high might make filling vacancies take longer. 

Conduct a thorough tenant screening process

Once you identify quality tenants, conduct a comprehensive tenant screening process that includes running a credit report, background check, and assessing each applicant’s rental history. Collectively, these components paint a clear picture of the potential tenant's reliability and trustworthiness. 

If an applicant has a credit score of 650 or higher and a history of paying bills on time, they’re likely to pay rent on time too. Likewise, if a background check reveals no criminal record or eviction history, you can be confident that they’ll likely be a responsible tenant. Similarly, a good rental history suggests the applicant gets along with their landlord and  respects the property and other tenants. 

Verify income and employment status

In addition to a credit report and background check, verify the applicant’s income and employment status to confirm that they can cover rent and other expenses. Request employment verification letters, recent pay stubs, and tax returns. A good rule of thumb is to require the tenant’s monthly income to be at least three times the monthly rent.

Review the tenant’s rental application

Thoroughly check the applicant’s rental application to make sure you have a good understanding of their preferences, requirements, and what they might be like as a tenant. Take note of their reasons for moving, any special requests, and their desired lease term. With this information in hand, you can ensure their requirements align with your property's guidelines and that you can cater to their needs appropriately. If you can’t, they might not be the most ideal fit for your rental property. 

Check landlord references

Landlords can provide insights beyond what comprehensive tenant screening reports offer. For example, you can gain a firsthand account of the applicant's past rental behavior that might not be evident through standard background checks or credit reports. When you reach out to a reference, come with a list of questions to ask like:

  • How long did the tenant live at the property?
  • Were there any complaints from neighbors?
  • Does the tenant have pets?
  • Would you rent to them again? If not, why?

Consider interviewing the applicant

A face-to-face interview can help you assess an applicant’s general compatibility so you can make an informed decision. Personally meeting the applicant can help confirm they are who they say they are and gives you an opportunity to ask any questions that weren’t addressed in the application. For example: if there was a gap in the applicant’s tenancy, you can clarify why. An in-person interview is a good way to give you the extra assurance you may need to determine if the applicant will be a suitable tenant or not. 

Always trust your gut

While factual information obtained during the tenant screening process is reliable, so is your intuition. If something about an applicant doesn’t sit right with you, go with your instincts and move on to the next applicant. 

How to keep tenants

Once you find a great tenant, consider the following best practices to ensure they keep renting from you for years to come. 

Nurture tenant relationships

Cultivate a good tenant-landlord relationship by getting to know your tenants beyond the rental transaction. The more you get to know your tenants on a personal level, the more comfortable they will feel with you. Showing you truly care about your tenants will make the decision to renew their lease with you even easier. 

Maintain open lines of communication

Responsive communication with tenants is one of the simplest, yet overlooked strategies to help keep your tenants around longer. Make sure your tenants know how to contact you if they have a question or need to report a problem. When you communicate with your tenants, being transparent and honest not only improves tenant satisfaction but can encourage long-term commitment and loyalty, leading to higher retention rates.

Be consistent and fair with rental rate increases

Overly aggressive rental rates and increases can prompt tenants to look for other rentals instead of encouraging them to stay. To be fair, research local comps and make sure your rates do not outpace similar rentals. Consider only requesting smaller increases and keeping the rent just under market rates if you can afford to do so. Offering a fair, consistent price can help motivate tenants to extend their current lease terms and save you money in the long run. 

Prioritize maintenance

Addressing and resolving standard maintenance tasks should always be a priority. Beyond routinely keeping the property up to par, when a tenant has a maintenance issue, be sure to promptly address it. Your tenant will recognize your commitment to keeping them happy and as a result, you’ll benefit from a better tenant-landlord relationship which will influence their decision to renew their lease.  

Offer incentives

Offering incentives like rent discounts or property upgrades for lease renewals not only reduces turnover rates but can help ensure a stable rental income for you. You may also want to consider partnering with cafes or local gyms who can give tenants special promotions or deals as an additional perk for renting your property.

Be flexible

Sometimes even the most reliable tenants may face unexpected financial challenges that might make it hard for them to pay rent on time. In cases like these, demonstrating flexibility and empathy can go a long way in strengthening your landlord-tenant relationship. If your tenant is struggling to make rent this month, consider giving them extra time to make a payment interest free or forgiving late payments. If you can afford to, you might even offer to discount their rent for one month so they can get back on track.

Make it easy for tenants to pay rent

For a lot of renters, having a digital rent payment option is a must-have when considering a place to live. In today’s digital age, renters have become accustomed to doing everything online, and paying rent is no exception. If you want your tenants to stay happy, make it convenient for them to pay rent

Consider hiring a property management company

Working with a property management company can help you increase tenant retention and ensure top-notch customer service for your tenants. From managing tenant relationships to scheduling maintenance requests, a property management company can make a tenant’s experience a more pleasant one. 

The key to tenant retention

Making sure you find the most compatible match for your rental property is key to long-term landlord success. With the right tenant screening solution and rental tools, you can make sure you select and retain the best tenants every time. 

RentSpree’s easy-to-use tenant screening provides you with a TransUnion credit report, rental history report, and a tenant background check. And if you’re a landlord or property manager—it’s free for you. Once you’ve approved your applicants, RentSpree offers your tenants a convenient way to pay rent, making their rental experience even easier. 

Curious to see it in action? Send a tenant screening request now.


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