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Dave Says: How to Pick a Tenant

Dave Ramsey - September 03, 2013

If you're looking to lease out some of your property, make sure you know who you're renting to. Getting to know someone was never so important!

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Dear Dave,

I have a townhouse I’m preparing to rent. Do you have any advice for evaluating potential tenants?

Chris

Dear Chris,

The first thing I’d do is pull a credit bureau report. I’m not really worried about their credit score; I just want to see if they have a history of late or missed payments. Talk to some local property management firms and see who they use to pull these reports. I’d also recommend doing a background check on the potential renters. Talk to the owner of the last place they rented as well as the one before. I advise this because there are some dishonest landlords out there who will tell you that a bad tenant is wonderful just to get them out of their property.

A lot of things, though, are simply common sense measures. Have them fill out an application, which includes their income and a list of their debts. If they make $2,000 a month and have $2,500 a month in debt payments, you don’t want them as tenants. In this scenario, a smile and “I promise I can pay it” won’t work.

Spend some time just talking with them too. Really listen to what they say and how they say it. Get a feel for what kind of people they are, and, if they have children, pay special attention to the kids. Are they well behaved, or do they run around and act like a bunch of wild animals? If it’s the latter, then they’re going to tear up your house. And guess what? If the parents can’t discipline their kids, there’s a good chance they can’t discipline themselves either. You don’t want to get mixed up with that. People who let kids run the household don’t make good tenants.

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Finally, remember to trust your gut instincts. If you get a weird vibe from someone, or if things just feel strange, don’t rent to them. Chances are, there’s a reason you have those feelings.

—Dave

* Dave Ramsey is America’s trusted voice on money and business. He’s authored four New York Times best-selling books: Financial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover and EntreLeadership. The Dave Ramsey Show is heard by more than 6 million listeners each week on more than 500 radio stations. Follow Dave on Twitter at @DaveRamsey and on the web at daveramsey.com.

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