Written for Property Poser
This week the Property Poser expert gives a reader food for thought when it comes to selecting the right tenant for her rental property.
The reader recently placed a tenant in her property without the assistance of an agent. She feels that she handled the process satisfactorily but asks what she should be on the lookout for when next deciding on the appropriate candidate.
While previous tenants have appeared to be perfect on paper – with salary, rental period and the like all seemingly a good match with her requirements – some have proved to be problematic over time, she says.
Sometimes, a little work in the selection of a tenant could prevent potentially costly situations as the period of tenancy progresses, says Sean Radue of Radue Attorneys in Port Elizabeth.
“Prospective tenants, as with people in general, range from the less than desirable to great tenants.”
One should ideally start with a list of prospective tenants drawn from the group of applicants who responded to the advertisement, says Radue.
“Use criteria relevant to the property without transgressing the Rental Property Housing Act, which prevents discrimination on the grounds listed in section four.”
He says the criteria should be consistently and fairly applied to the various applicants.
“It’s quite useful for a landlord to compile a questionnaire of sorts for the tenants to complete – including their personal information, rental history, references and the like.”
The tenant’s rental history can be particularly useful as it provides a landlord with an idea as to whether the tenant is inclined to rent for shorter periods and move often, despite perhaps stating that he or she wants to rent for an extended period, says Radue.
“Asking for the salary of a prospective tenant can be prickly as not all tenants are prepared to provide such ostensibly sensitive information.”
He says one could try to make the applicant feel more comfortable by listing various salary brackets and having him or her indicate the appropriate bracket.
Of particular help to a landlord in the selection process is shortlisting a few applicants for credit checks, says Radue.
“Bear in mind that one should have written consent from the applicant for such a check to be conducted.”
He says the party rendering such a service to the landlord would usually request confirmation that such consent has been granted.
“It is often at this stage that one can evaluate the applicant’s provided information in light of any negative aspects on the credit check.”
Abbreviated stays in previous rentals may prove to have been the result of poor payment, breach of contract or evictions and one or more judgments could be a strong indicator of such behaviour, says Radue.
“Bear in mind that recent years have been financially difficult for many people and judgments may not give a true or entire picture as to the nature of an applicant.”
Seemingly negative items may not be the fault, directly or indirectly, of the applicant, he says.
“It’s quite possible, even if the applicant was at fault, that his or her circumstances have changed or improved to such a degree that the possibility of breach is remote.”
Radue says the landlord should consider each of the applicants on their own merits.
“Barring any evidence of negative tendencies of a destructive or illegal nature, and if agreement can be reached on satisfactory financial arrangements regarding the deposit and regular rental payments, the applicant could prove to be a solid choice over time.”
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