Insider’s experts choose the best products and services to help you make informed decisions with your money (here’s how). In some cases, we receive a commission from our partners, however, our opinions are our own. Terms apply to offers listed on this page.

  • I had a great tenant for the past few years but that was almost not the case.
  • I had strict criteria in place for applicants, but I almost rented from someone who was not up to scratch because I liked them personally.
  • Removing my emotions from the decision made all the difference.

The night I listed my first rental for prospective tenants, I went to bed with a nervous buzz. I had posted the house on Craigslist and Facebook, and was excited to see if I had any interest the next morning.

I was stunned when I woke up to dozens of messages and emails. I immediately knew that I had to be judicious in the choice of tenants. I sent everyone who contacted me the link to a Google Form, with basic questions about their income, criminal history, and pets. From there, I selected a few people for the screenings.

A potential tenant has stood out. She was very interested, but she had an inconsistent job and a pet that didn’t meet my criteria. Still, she seemed genuine and I connected personally, so I was leaning towards her signing a lease.

Then, at the last minute, I got another candidate: someone who was fully qualified and met all of my criteria – stable, verifiable employment, no dogs, and no major convictions. He asked me if I would keep the apartment for a day or two until he could come for a visit. I did and ended up renting from this person. He has now been a tenant to me for over three years and has been an ideal tenant the entire time. And I learned a bit about being selective as an owner.

I had to take my emotions out of the decision

When my husband and I considered renting our house, everyone told us horror stories. The neighbor’s uncle rented out light fixtures to swinging college kids, and our postman’s cousin had to evict tenants who didn’t pay for months.

The stories were extreme and had to be at least partially fictional, but they underscored an important message: my tenants were going to make or break this landlord experience.

Good tenants – who respected the property and paid on time – would increase my profits. Bad tenants – those who consistently caused damage, asked to pay late, or broke their lease – would cost us money and cause stress.

In that spirit, I said to the first applicant no. She seemed nice, but nice wasn’t going to pay the rent or the insurance increases of having a dog on the property. Instead, I chose the candidate who ticked all the boxes. It was a business transaction, and I had to vent my emotions.

Clearly defining my rental criteria was essential to make an intelligent and fair choice

Since then, I’ve become a prowler in owners’ social media groups and listened to podcasts for owners. It turns out that selecting tenants is complex.

Fair housing laws protect people based on their race, color, national origin, religion, gender, marital status and disability. This means, for example, that you cannot choose not to rent to a family with children simply because children increase the risk of damage.

For this reason, it’s so important to have clearly defined rental criteria in your listings, including things like a verifiable minimum income and photo ID. From there, it is best to take the first qualified candidate, to avoid intentional or unintentional discrimination.

I was lucky that in my case, the options were clear: I could change my criteria for a candidate or select the person who met all the criteria. I’ll never know how it would have gone with the first candidate, but my current tenant has been a joy and has made my foray into renting a success.