It Makes Me Nervous When You Say That

Today, I showed a one bedroom apartment to some potential tenants.  On the phone I had gotten the idea that there were some bumps in their past, but I always give people the benefit of the doubt and meet with them in person (unless they are a registered sex offender or some have some other major issue that does not meet my background screening criteria).  They called the day before to confirm the appointment, which was good, but then called in the morning to reschedule for two hours later.  It wasn’t a big deal to make the change, so I just went with it.

I asked them to bring their dog, a pit bull, so I could meet it.  The dog seemed friendly enough, but was constantly straining on the leash and seemed barely under the man’s control. Although they assured me that their little nieces can stick their hands in his mouth. Moving on, the dog goes back in the car and we go up to look at the apartment.

I always let people look around first to make sure the unit meets their needs and then I start to ask questions and go over the process.  The female in the couple starts to tell me that she “got in trouble” in the past.  A long time ago, when she was 18 and she is 23 now. (I think of a long time as 20 years, but that’s just me.)  She was in some kind of high speed car chase with a police officer, so my follow-up question was “Any drug charges?” Well, yes, and yes it was meth.  But lots of people will tell me that she is doing really well now, trying to turn her life around.

Rental History: They had lived in their current place for about a year and it was too expensive.  Also, her boyfriend has to do UA’s (urinalysis for drug testing) right down the street, so it would be really convenient for them to live here. His drug of choice-meth.

We moved on to source of income and she says she has worked for a few months at a bar owned by her friends.  And he keeps telling me he is on academic probation at the community college (but he says it like it is a good thing).  We talk about their credit and from their vagueness, I have a sense that there were probably a lot more issues there then they realize.

So all of this should make me nervous, and it does, but the thing that scares me the most is that he keeps saying “We will be really good tenants.”  Like about five or six times.  As his girlfriend is saying how he just got out of treatment, he is saying “We will be really great tenants for you.”  When I ask him about his criminal history, he says “We’ll be good tenants.”  He says it so many times that I finally say to him “It makes me nervous when you say that.”

I have rented to people with felonies and with other significant barriers and the ones who seem to do best are the ones who don’t beg for a chance.  The say what they did and what is different now and leave it at that.  I felt like this guy was trying to do some not-so-subliminal mind control hoping that the only thing that would stick in my brain would be “But they will be great tenants!” Needless to say, it didn’t work.

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Rental Showing Packets

Create a simple packet for showing vacant units. It will make your life a lot easier because you won’t have to remember what to say every time.  And most potential tenants will be impressed by your organizational skills and appreciate having all the details about your property in writing.

The packet should have three parts:

  1. An attractive cover sheet that has all the vital details about the unit, security deposits, application fees, and your contact information,
  2. A one page sheet outlining your uniform background screening criteria,
  3. And the Rental Application and Release of Information Form. I use a separate release form so that I can fax that to employers/previous landlords without disclosing sensitive personal information about the potential tenant.

Here’s an example of the cover sheet I use at one of my apartment buildings:

Rental Packet Cover Sheet for Blog

Showing units can be a hassle, so I try to make it as easy for myself as possible. I just print out four or five packets, put them in a folder, and keep them in the bag that is always with me.  That way I am always ready for those unexpected appointments that seem to pop up.

Drama Detector

I have found that how a person behaves in the process of looking for an apartment usually mirrors how they will behave as a tenant. Sure, we all have bad days when we get stuck in traffic or get lost on the way to somewhere new.  I am not talking about those types of issues (besides, the good potential tenants will call you and let you know what is going on!).  I am referring to the person who calls to set up an appointment and then cancels and then calls again and then cancels.  Or when two members of the same couple call and don’t realize the other person has already talked to me.  Or my personal favorite is when some spends ten minutes on the phone with me asking me every conceivable question about the unit and then announces that their income is $700/month and the rent is $650.

Don’t ever work harder than a perspective tenant. Once I do a thorough job showing an apartment and explaining the application process, the ball is in the tenant’s court.  I never call a potential tenant back at that point.  It is their job to show up with a completed application and the screening fee.  If they don’t, I just move on to the next person. I have had people call and explain how they will need a letter from me or a form filled out so they can access a down payment assistance program and I say “I will be happy to do that for you once your application is accepted.”

I have had several occasions when someone shows up to look at an apartment and they spend a long time with me and seem very interested and then they even come back and look again with friends.  And they call me every twenty minutes asking a new question each time.  Then they text me and tell me they are going to bring their application in tomorrow.  And then I never hear from them again.

Filling a vacancy is all about non-attachment.  Do your job.  Be professional, courteous and friendly. Ask the potential tenant lots of relevant questions.  Explain how your business works.  And then let it go.  I know you need to fill that unit as soon as possible, but the harder you push; the more likely you are going to end up with a problem tenant on your hands.

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