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Tenancy Application - 5 things to look for

Posted on 2 March 2016

Your property manager will be your eyes on the ground as a landlord, and will in many instances have met the applicants in person, so it's worth taking their feedback on board. Remember, you're working as a team to determine who is the most quality tenant that suits your property.

It can be difficult to choose your ideal tenant from a collection of applicants, however there are some tell-tale signs of desirable renters that you should be on the lookout for. In addition to the information from your agent, below are five items that are indicative of a strong application from a good renter.

Do not discount a potentially excellent tenant without allowing them to explain any minor issues sometimes there are simple explanations for why they have not managed to maintain a perfect record. A poor explanation is, however, a red flag.

1. A consistent rental history

  • For most tenants, this will not be the first rental they have applied for. Your most critical clue as to whether the tenant will be right for you is to look for is a consistent and positive rental history.
  • There are many reasons a tenant may not have solidly been renting for periods of time in the private market. They may have moved in with someone else temporarily, such as a partner or a parent, or they may have moved on and off the home ownership ladder. Most tenants will be more than willing to tell you their previous living arrangements.
  • You will want to account for their past addresses and obtain information around whether they got their bond back, the condition of the home when they left and whether they paid rent on time. Much of this will be available by contacting the past property managers for these homes. History often repeats itself, so learn from other landlords' mistakes and don't bring in a tenant who has a record of mistreating their rental homes.

2. Evidence they can pay the rent

  • Tenants need to be able to afford their rent, otherwise you're putting your property at risk of arrears. One way to determine whether they can afford to rent your property is to ask for employment records and payslips that can help you get a sense of their income. Some tenants will even offer savings history and other financial details.
  • You can double check their employment claims by calling their place of business. Renters who are self-employed should be able to provide tax returns and other information that allows you to determine how rigorous their income is.
  • Your property manager will be able to alert you to whether a tenant's income is too low to satisfy the criteria that they can afford the rent.

3. Quality references

  • Personal references from colleagues, bosses and other figures of authority in a tenant's life allow you to ask probing questions to determine their character, reliability and quality. Usually, references are given with a degree of positivity, even when not warranted, so make sure you ask the hard questions. These references are particularly critical if you are considering a tenant without a rental history such as a younger person.
  • For those tenants with a rental history, previous landlords and property managers will be the crucial referees to call. Make sure to check that what the tenant has provided matches what you are told. It is perfectly acceptable to ask the following questions:
  • Would you rent a property to this tenant again? Why/why not?
  • What was the best thing about this tenant?
  • What was the worst thing?
  • How happy were you with how they left the rental when they vacated?
  • How easy was the tenant to get along with?
  • These questions will help you build a clear idea of who the tenant is.

4. Detailed and professional responses

  • When a tenant is applying for a property, it is in their best interest to present themselves in a good way. This should extend throughout their application. A good tenant will take care to be thorough, clear and concise throughout their application. They will include detail and no unexplained, relevant sections will be left incomplete.
  • Rushed applications indicate a tenant that may be considering other properties, for whom your rental is not the top priority. A tenant who takes the time to make a competitive application is clearly interested in achieving the lease.

5. Honesty

  • Most importantly, tenants should be honest. Discrepancies between what they claim in their application and what their referees told you should be taken seriously. For minor differences, it's worth clarifying with an otherwise competitive tenant, however larger falsehoods are a big red flag. You or your agent may find that tenants who have been dishonest become very defensive when gently called out on what they have said.
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