Smart Ways to Fill Rental Vacancies

by | Feb 29, 2016 | Tenant Screening

Filling vacancies is a fact of life for landlords. The focus always is to find a new renter as soon as possible, but it is equally important to find the right tenant. Holding a rental property on the market a couple more days is much cheaper than evicting a bad tenant.

The Best Ways to Find New Tenants


tenant screeningWhen advertising a vacancy, a landlord typically casts a wide net, and then must sift through the catch in order to ferret out the best prospects. Obviously, it’s tedious work. That’s why the very best way to find a new tenant is to entice your existing tenants to make referrals.

If you have good tenants, chances are their friends also will make good tenants.

While some landlords offer incentives to tenants for referrals, this strategy can be accomplished simply by doing your job well. Providing good property management service is its own advertisement. Word will get out, and you will have tenants clamouring for an upcoming vacancy. Nothing shores up profits like a waiting list of qualified tenants.

Another added benefit of this strategy is improved tenant retention. Tenants who have referred their friends have a stronger sense of community and will want to stay.

Just be sure to run tenant background checks on the new recruits to make sure an applicant is as good as your tenant says.

“For Rent” Signs

It may seem a little old-fashioned in this day and age, but the simple “For Rent” sign in front of a property achieves something that online advertising can’t: it appeals directly to applicants who want to live in that specific location.

An applicant who has a preference for the area is more likely to want to stay. That’s the type of tenant who is most likely to abide by the rules.

But a word of caution: a  “for rent” sign in the yard encourages unscheduled visits.  Be careful if you are working at the property and a prospect simply drops by asking to see inside.

Follow a system where you prequalify a tenant first, preferably away from the property, and ask to see a photo ID before taking next steps.

One option is to state “By Appointment Only” on the sign.

Online Advertising

The most common way to fill vacancies is with online rental ads. This strategy can be a huge success, or an epic failure.


The greatest advantage of online advertising is the ability to reach the vast majority of rental applicants.  A growing number of rental applicants search online, often on their phones.

These online rental ad platforms have done all the hard work of search engine optimization so your ads will be seen.

The formats are user-friendly and specifically designed to allow landlords to show off the property’s best features.

A landlord has flexibility to modify or delete the ad in real time, and thus control the number of responses.


A major problem with online classifieds is that attracting more applicants doesn’t translate into more qualified renters. A landlord may get bogged down in paperwork trying to find the right tenant.

Another major landmine is that going online allows a level of anonymity that makes it easy for scammers to target landlords.

Many online classified services have branched out into offering ancillary products, like online applications or even access to lease agreements. Not only can this compound the problem with anonymity, but the forms may be too generic for your purposes.

Because Internet ads are viewed 24/7, landlords may receive calls at all hours.

Occasionally, an online rental ad will get pirated by scammers.  One common scam is to modify a genuine ad by lowering the rent to a “can’t pass it up” figure, and then asking would-be renters for money upfront.

Best Strategies for Internet Rental Ads

Personal communication with rental applicants is a must. Rather than using email, list a phone number. A phone call to discuss the rental unit provides the opportunity to prequalify applicants and to begin the tenant screening process.

Meet the applicant in person at a safe location before showing the property. Ask for a photo ID. Make sure the person answers basic questions the same way each time.

Ask for a completed rental application. Insist on using your own form — don’t default to a standard form provided by the online classified service. Meet the applicant and prequalify the person before sending the rental application. This gives you more information to cross-reference.

Run your own tenant background check on the finalist. That should include a tenant credit report and a discussion with the applicant’s previous landlords.

Sign the tenancy agreement in person. This gives you the opportunity to go over the rules and a little pomp and circumstance surrounding the formal lease signing adds weight to the transaction so tenants will take it seriously.

When running online classifieds, use an alert system that will send a bulletin if the address or other keywords are used on the Internet. That provides a way to flag a scammer who has pirated the ad. Also, watermark photos to tip off renters that the stolen ad is a fraud.

This post is provided by Tenant Verification Service, Inc., helping landlords reduce the risks of renting with fraud prevention tools that include Tenant Screening, Tenant Background Checks, (U.S. and Canada), as well as Criminal Background Checks, and Eviction Reports (U.S. only).

Click Here to Receive Landlord Credit Reports.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this post in not intended to be construed as legal advice, nor should it be considered a substitute for obtaining individual legal counsel or consulting your local, state, federal or provincial tenancy laws.

Property management software for Canadian Condos.

Property Boss

Property management software for single family, multifamily, and student housing.


Screening services for property managers and landlords. Select a market below.