Characteristics of the Ideal Tenant

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Are you a prospective tenant scouring the internet for a rental property? Are you a landlord or property manager screening tenant applications on the hunt for the “ideal” tenant? If you answered “Yes” to either question, it’s imperative to examine the characteristics of the picture-perfect candidate. Today, we will look at this from the landlord’s perspective to give prospective tenants a window into their property manager’s mindset when accepting or rejecting lease applications.

Top Factors for the Ideal Tenant


At the very top of the list, a landlord looks for tenants with steady employment. After all, most people need a job to generate income and pay rent regularly. Unless a family member pays a tenant’s rent (in which case it’s necessary to verify the family member’s employment status), you need proof of steady employment or documented government assistance to qualify as a tenant to rent the property.

Income Level:

A tenant’s actual income level could mean the difference between paying rent on time each month or the need to work through late payments and secondary payment arrangements – not a desirable situation for either the tenant or landlord. Many property managers use a rule of thumb that says rent should not exceed 30% of a tenant’s income level.

Willingness to Pay Rent On Time:

When a tenant signs the lease, they agree to lease language that states the amount of rent, and the date payment is due each month. A tenant’s credit report is a good indicator of their payment habits. If the prospective tenant pays their consumer credit obligations consistently and timely, and those payment amounts are not high enough to make paying rent a burden, you can safely assume the tenant will pay their rent.

Clean Criminal Background Check:

If a criminal background check reveals that a prospective tenant has past criminal convictions, what is to keep them from breaking a lease? Depending on the assessment of the person and the circumstances, a landlord may want to take the time to search for a tenant with a clean background. A lease is, first and foremost, a document of mutual respect. The landlord commits to keep the property in a safe, functional, and habitable condition, while the tenant agrees to do their part to keep it that way, pay rent and live a law-abiding lifestyle. Any background information that indicates a different pattern in the past is a huge red flag and deterrent.

Honesty & Transparency:

When interviewing a tenant, a landlord can take this opportunity to verify references and rental history. Trustworthy tenants are those who value honesty in all forms of communication. If they are honest about past rental situations – even those that didn’t go so well – and if they work where they say they work and offered you references that answered the phone, this should prove they’re honest.

Finding good tenants is one of the essential parts of a landlord or property manager’s job. A bad tenant can be a drain on all resources including time, money, patience, and even the goodwill and longevity of other tenants if you’re renting a multi-unit property. A good tenant can be a breeze to work with, and the cash flow will keep coming in as long as they are happy. When you are thorough and patient and take the time to find a suitable tenant, the effort should pay off with a smooth operation and long-term tenancy that works well for everyone involved.

Lease Compliance:

If a tenant has been evicted for violating a lease once, this could be a red flag that their lifestyle and behavior might lead to a need to evict again. Of course, people can change their habits and successfully follow legally binding agreements. However, if they’ve violated lease terms once, it’s reasonable to be concerned that they might do it again. Talking with the tenant about this issue and past circumstances can help a landlord decide if their transgression is a deal-breaker.

Casting a wider net in search of a tenant with a clean background, someone more likely to honor a lease might be worth the time and additional expense rather than incurring hefty legal fees to evict a problem tenant.


A screening question to ask tenants when they apply is: “How did you handle repair issues or concerns about a rental property in the past?” If the tenant is open and communicates proactively describing the steps they took when there was an issue, you know they will call you with problems. This willingness to communicate is a favorable quality.

Of course, there will be some tenants who take this communication to an extreme, calling weekly about concerns outside of a landlord’s control or responsibility. This, too, is a red flag. You’ll want to find out about both a tenant’s communication style and the type of issues that concern them before you rent to them. If they care for the property like their own and communicate with the landlord when they see a potential problem, that is ideal for both parties.

However, if a tenant is clearly high-maintenance – let’s say the hardwood floors creak a bit in the living room and they want you to replace the flooring in that room altogether – you could be setting up a nightmare situation where the tenant’s expectations are not realistic, and you are always on call. Ask plenty of questions during the screening process to understand a prospective tenant’s priorities and communication style.

Cleanliness & Respect for the Property:

When a landlord calls a tenant’s references and speaks with their previous landlord, be sure to ask about whether the tenant kept the property clean based on reasonable standards. When a tenant shows a healthy respect for a rental and treats it like it’s their property, you have the signs of a good tenant. As a landlord, you have kept the property safe and clean for a tenant to live there. It’s fair to expect the same consideration from tenants.

If the previous landlord comes back with a good report about tenant cleanliness, you have a suitable applicant. On the other hand, if a tenant left the property with stained carpets, dirty walls, and an array of trash for the landlord to remove, it shows a lack of respect, for both the property and the landlord. A report about a dirty rental unit is a red flag and should be considered heavily in the decision-making process.

There is no such thing as a “perfect” tenant and as much as a landlord may search for the unicorn candidate, the hunt may not be fruitful. The factors above are a general guideline to assess potential tenants against. There is no hard fast rule when it comes to tenants and it’s prudent to use your best judgement before embarking on the landlord-tenant journey.

I built my law practice on the premise of being a life raft in a sea of sharks. I want to be an advocate for those that have been wronged and are too intimidated to seek help. My firm is here to explore your options, guide you through your legal journey, and give you that safe space to ask questions! There’s no such thing as a stupid question…Only the ones you don’t ask. So, my question to my clients is not “do you have any questions?” But rather “what questions do you have?”

As always, the Kazi Law Firm is standing by to help you in your time of need. Don’t hesitate to contact us today. We specialize in real estate law, landlord-tenant disputes, immigration, and wills & estate planning. Family is at the core of our practice. Just as we treat our family with respect and understanding, we treat yours. Come join the Kazi Law Firm family today!

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