What is the Best Way to Find a Tenant?

Michael Pollick

One of the greatest challenges a landlord faces is finding responsible tenants to occupy his or her rental property. Background credit checks may provide some clues about an applicant's level of fiscal responsibility, but they won't necessarily reveal anything about his or her housekeeping habits. A personal letter of recommendation could vouch for an applicant's personal character, but say little about his or her ability to pay the rent on time. So what would be the best way for a landlord to find a tenant? There are several tried-and-true methods, but each has its pros and cons to consider.

Local newspapers offer classified sections to help find tenants.
Local newspapers offer classified sections to help find tenants.

Some landlords find a tenant by taking a scattershot approach. This means broadcasting the rental property's availability to as many potential applicants as possible. Placing an advertisement in a local newspapers classified section could generate a number of leads. Posting a flyer at local gathering spots such as laundromats, student centers, grocery stores and public libraries may also prompt calls from interested parties. Placing a "For Rent" sign on the property itself could also let potential renters know of its availability.

For rent ads can be placed in the real estate portion of a newspaper's classified ads section.
For rent ads can be placed in the real estate portion of a newspaper's classified ads section.

The problem with a scattershot approach, however, is that it does cast a very large net. The landlord's phone may ring constantly for the duration of the advertising campaign. The quality of the applicants will most likely be variable, and many of them will disqualify themselves after learning about the location or rent price or other conditions outside the landlord's control. A landlord should be able to find a tenant through this process, but he or she should also be prepared for an onslaught of applicants.

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Another way to find a tenant is to use targeted advertising or a referral service. Some landlords place specific needs on a website such as Craigslist, hoping that the responses are geographically and economically suitable. Because the replies are handled electronically, the landlord can sift through applicants without the inconvenience of phone calls or personal visits.

Some cities have real estate agencies which also handle rental properties. A professional tenant referral service can provide landlords with applicants who have already been screened for suitability. This type of focused search can help busy landlords find a tenant without having to conduct their own interviews or run their own credit or reference checks. The referral service can also work in reverse, connecting potential tenants with a vetted list of local landlords.

Perhaps the best way to find a tenant is by word-of-mouth. A person with available rental property could approach co-workers, church members, relatives and friends to let them know of a tenant search. Rather than use a scattershot approach with unpredictable results, a word-of-mouth approach would generate a smaller list of applicants who would already have reliable personal references.

Landlords should always remember that every applicant has the right to be considered, regardless of race, creed, age, religion, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation or gender. This is a very important thing to keep in mind when narrowing down a large list of applicants. Whatever method a landlord chooses to find a tenant, it must not be discriminatory in any form or fashion.

A laundromat might offer a bulletin board for posting tenant flyers.
A laundromat might offer a bulletin board for posting tenant flyers.

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Discussion Comments


Whatever you do when you have rentals, make sure to interview your potential tenants and have them fill out a detailed application. Also, when you think you have found the tenant you want, check out his or her references. If you get a bad report from a former landlord, believe it and move on to another tenant. I have rental property, and I learned this the hard way! I gave a tenant the benefit of the doubt after getting a bad reference, and I never got the rent checks on time.

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