The Best (and Worst) Ways to Find New Tenants

by Chris on July 16, 2018

In a tight rental market, landlords might not be thinking about how best to fill vacancies. After all, there are applicants standing in line. But that’s the problem: too many applicants makes it more difficult to weed out the unqualified ones, and a tight market means landlords are more likely to encounter problem tenants.

These adverting methods are likely to yield the best results:

Tenant Referrals

Soliciting referrals from current tenants provides many benefits. The prospect already has seen the property. They are eager to move in, and have a reference — your last great tenant. The current tenant will be more flexible in allowing a tour and will sell their prospect on the property.

Tenant referrals avoid the time and expense of advertising, and reduce the risk of getting scammed by a professional tenant who finds the property on a free classified ad. The process can take place without the need for a sign which flags a vacancy. That’s a plus for the existing tenant who doesn’t have to field questions from some random stranger, it’s less disruptive for the neighbours, and deters crime.

What landlords want to avoid, however, is an incentive scheme where tenants stand to make a lot of money for a referral. That can encourage a tenant to collude with a friend who may not be qualified. Incentive programs also can backfire if the landlord routinely excludes vulnerable populations, like minorities or families with kids. Providing great service likely will be enough to encourage a referral, but it doesn’t hurt to offer modest incentives like a small rent discount or gift certificate.

Although it is likely the tenant has referred a great prospect, don’t take their word for it. Require a rental application and conduct a thorough tenant background check as you would with an unknown rental applicant.

Yard Sign

The traditional for-rent sign posted out front remains one of the best strategies for finding the right tenants. The advantages include the fact that the person responding was in the neighbourhood and already has seen the property location. Tenants who have a connection to the area, especially work, school, friends and family, are more likely to want to stay and more likely to care for the property.

The sign also gives neighbours notice of the vacancy and the opportunity to make their own referrals.

Yard signs have a few downsides: passersby might knock on the current tenant’s door for more information, or it might alert criminals that the property is vacant. It’s a good idea to check on the property — and the sign — regularly.

Insist that prospects phone for more information, but provide enough details on the sign so that unqualified prospects can move on.

Website Presentation

Online ads are extremely popular with apartment seekers. Landlords or property managers who already have a website can advertise online effectively by linking out to the property page where the viewer can find a professional advertisement complete with photos or a video tour. For those who do not enjoy a website — or superior SEO — the best solution is to use a rental classified website that has done the work already.

However, some of these websites pose problems for landlords. Photos can be hijacked and dropped into fake ads where scammers swindle deposits from unsuspecting victims. Some of the sites support the communications between the landlord and tenant which can cause delays and encourages scams by making it easier for applicants to remain anonymous or to fake their identities or qualifications. Using the company’s online rental application or tenancy agreement creates risks for landlords who need to stick with forms that have been vetted by local attorneys.

Overcome these obstacles by watermarking photos, omitting the specific address, advising prospects that no fees will be collected before the property tour, and using only the landlord’s approved leasing forms.

Pay attention to the overall presentation of the ad from an objective viewpoint. Less professional ads attract less qualified tenants.

The major downside of online advertising is the potential avalanche of responses. Avoid unqualified applicants by listing the qualifications and requirements. Another complication that arises with online advertising is the online review process. Chances are the website hosting the ad will allow applicants, tenants and the public to make comments about the property or the landlord. If that’s the case, check these sites often or set alerts so negative comments can be countered.

Advertising Methods to Avoid

Despite the popularity of social media, this may not be the best way to find a new tenant. Facebook has been accused of fostering discrimination by allowing landlords to select the specific groups that will see the ad — and those who will be shut out. Responding on social media may lead the landlord to the rental applicant’s personal profile. The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada recently warned that screening tenants on social media may violate privacy laws. The posting on social media may reveal more about the landlord than is professional, and social media content and communications can be less reliable that direct communication. This method also can be ineffective: a landlord doesn’t benefit by limiting the renter pool to tenants with the same interests.

Another popular method of advertising is placing notices on bulletin boards around the neighbourhood. This can be highly effective, but landlords need to be mindful of the potential risk of Human Rights violations. Notices should be placed in businesses that cater to the public — employers, schools and grocery stores, for instance, and avoid posting at private locations like a local church or membership association. Be sure to track where the notices are posted so they can be collected once the vacancy is filled.

When using a combination of advertising methods, develop a system of tracking the success of each in netting qualified applicants.

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 is 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.The Best (and Worst) Ways to Find New Tenants

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Adrienne August 12, 2018 at 12:58 am

I used to charge $450 dollars a month for a bedroom and kitchen priviliges. I been letting a lawyer who fell on hard times be here for free. I am near broke! The last landlord and herself used to stand outside and be yelling a 1/2 block from me. I felt sorry for that person. I said I will not charge until you get a salary. We they got the salary and NO RENT WAS OFFERED.

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