"It’s imperative you have an understanding of why the applicants are moving out of the current property."
A step-by-step guide to securing tenants for your investment property: Leah Calnan
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All your marketing has been a hit and you have received applications from prospective tenants. Depending on your personality this can be the fun part of property management, if you are a “people person”, or it can bring a great deal of angst as you try to select tenants you feel 100% certain will do the right thing throughout their tenancy.
My approach is to keep it simple but always be thorough.
Nowadays teenancy applications come through in one of the following formats. They are either on the agency’s tenancy application form or submitted electronically via a 1Form application.
1Form allows for tenants never to have to complete a paper tenancy application form again as it stores the tenant’s personal information, including proof of identification, for a small fee. This is a small step towards a property manager working in a paperless office (well, I can dream, can’t I?).
If you are employing the services of a property manager or agency, they will process the tenancy applications and check all the references and come to you with a shortlist of suitable applicants.
You need not be involved until it’s time to approve the tenant applications.
However, it’s important to have an understanding of this process.
The first thing you need to do is review the application forms and ensure that they have been 100% completed. Time and time again I see applications submitted for properties that are not complete. They are missing vital parts of the applicant’s personal or employment information or the identification paperwork has been forgotten.
Before you can start on anything you need to ensure the applicants have signed a privacy statement. Tenants should be aware that they have a right to their private information being kept confidential, and should expect to be asked to sign a privacy statement.
Proceeding with tenancy applications
The key to processing any tenancy application form is to find out what the story is. You need to confirm current employment and previous employment (if the current employment is less than two to three years). This includes confirming not only the salary package for your applicant, but the length of their employment and the terms of employment, i.e. are they employed on a full-time, part-time or casual basis? Are they currently on a probationary period because they have just commenced with that company? If so, how long is that period? How would the person providing the reference describe them? And finally, who is providing the reference? Employment should only be confirmed by a direct manager, HR department or team leader (not a workmate). You may be surprised to read that sometimes people are not totally honest on their application forms, so it’s up to you to piece together the story. Yes, it may take a little longer than you like, however it could save you time, expense and heartache in the long run.
The applicant’s current tenancy history and previous tenancy history must also be confirmed. It’s not sufficient to simply receive a copy of the tenant’s recent payment ledger. Nor is it enough to make a call to the agency and have the person answering the telephone say, “yeah they are great tenants, you won’t have a problem.” Again you need to have a thorough understanding of the applicant’s story.
Character references, while they generally only say nice things about a person, are useful in building all parts of your story. I would always ask a character referee, “If you had a rental property would you rent your property to the person?” If there is a pause or stumble, then maybe this applicant isn’t the most suitable tenant for your property.
It’s imperative you have an understanding of why the applicants are moving out of the current property.
In Western Australia, at the time of submitting the application form, some owners/property managers will ask a prospective tenant to pay an option fee. This shows that the tenant’s intentions are genuine. On the application form it will detail if all or part of the fee can be kept if the tenants decide not to go ahead with the tenancy. If the owner decides not to proceed with the tenancy, then they must return the fee to the tenant in full. If the tenant takes up the tenancy, then the fee is usually credited towards the first month’s rental payment.