As a property owner, one of your hardest and most important business endeavors is finding the perfect resident for your rental. The background checks, meetings, and sheer quantity of applications can be an overwhelming process, not to mention exhausting. While it’s impossible to guarantee a successful relationship with any resident, experienced property management companies in San Diego can save you time and energy, and help recognize the traits that make someone the ideal candidate for your rental property.

1. Financial Stability

While this seems like a given, finding a financially reliable renter should cover their present, past, and projected future. Start by looking at their current situation – does this person have an income that comfortably exceeds their monthly rent? The general rule of thumb is 30% of income is dedicated to housing, so aim for someone who generates about three times the monthly rent. This increases the chances that they can confidently pay their bills on time. This saves you the stress of numerous bounced checks and phone calls.

Second, consider their financial past. Do they have a history of paying rent and bills on time? Have they held one job consistently, or do they tend to change employers on a regular basis? Checking previous references and carefully going through credit scores can help you gain a sense of this person’s financial responsibility, and ensure you gain a resident who can always pay on time.

Finally, you should have a sense of your potential resident’s future prospects. Talk to them about their career intentions – if they intend to stay with their current employer and feel that their opportunities there are good, chances are they’ll continue to have a reliable income for years to come. Just remember that whatever you ask one applicant, you must ask another. This is the only way to stay compliant with Fair Housing laws.

2. Responsible Habits

You care about the property you’re renting, so look for a resident who will care about it just as much. When they eventually leave, the ideal scenario is that the property is in the same condition as when they moved in. While general wear and tear is a part of life, having a renter with good housekeeping habits can make a world of difference.

Choosing the right tenant can take time, but it’s always safer to leave a unit vacant slightly longer than to risk renting to someone who causes you stress and financial risk. Especially if the unit you’re leasing is already furnished, look for someone who will keep your property cared for and clean.

3. Honesty and Transparency

Like any business relationship, working with renters is easiest when discussions can be open and honest. Providing strong references and clear credit reports is a great indicator that your renter is willing to be upfront when dealing with you in the future. Ideally, this extends to all aspects of their lifestyle – avoid potential residents with a criminal history that could resurface on your property. While a general disregard for rules suggests this person may not respect your management, the potential for illegal activity conducted on your property presents further liability to you as a landowner.

However, it’s not just their relationship with illegal activity, it’s their attitude as well. Someone with a history of drug or alcohol abuse but is openly working to address their problem is different from someone with a record of dealing illegal substances. While the latter provides legal grounds to refuse to rent, the former may qualify as a medical issue and rejection could violate California’s fair housing laws. Always look for someone who is clear about their past, and able to support their claims with a good reference. While the initial background check can be tedious, it’s worth it to have a resident who will respect you and your property.

4. Long-Term Potential

Consider the future you want for your property. Finding new residents is a difficult process, and presents different risks with each new person. The less you have to go through this experience, the easier your job as a landowner – so look for residents whose goals for the future align with your own. If you’d prefer to stick with a few long-term renters, those with career prospects and a desire to remain in the area are the perfect candidates. If they turn out to be responsible residents, it can be the start of a long-term relationship that benefits you both.

There’s no easy way to go about it – finding the perfect renter can be time-consuming, difficult, and no matter what you do, it’s never a guarantee. San Diego property management companies can offer a lot of experience when it comes to seeking out ideal candidates and recognizing the traits that make them a good fit. While nobody’s perfect, there are a lot of wonderful renters out there – and with a little help, you can have a stress-free property relationship for years to come.