There are a lot of things you can do to get a better tenant. This answer relates specifically for Sydney Australia.
Regarding the Application Form:
- Name & contact details
- Employment details including length of work, name & contact details of HR manager
- Current and previous addresses and rents paid, and lengths of time at these addresses
- Landlord/Real estate details for each place listed on form
- whether they smoke
- any pets (indoor or outdoor)
- Emergency contact detail (in case of emergency)
- Get them to sign the bottom of the form below a statement which authorises you to ask questions about them (this can be used if you need to talk to their real estate agent or their employer about them - sometimes they will not talk to you unless you have the applicant's consent).
Regarding Information for the applicant to provide you:
- Rental history - at least 6 months Rental Ledger from real estate agent or copy of their bank statement if they rent privately and pay rent by direct debit (I usually do not accept rental receipts from a private landlord as anyone can buy a a receipt book and fill it out).
- Last 3 pay slips as a minimum, or proof of regular income if they are self employed.
- 100 point ID check
- If renting through a private landlord - copy of water rates or council rates to confirm details of landlord (they could just pretend a friend of theirs is the landlord).
- copy of any welfare payments they might receive.
- any references (mainly from previous real estate agents or landlords). Note this is a much lower priority than their rental history.
Regarding Selection Criteria:
The 3 top priorities are:
- Rental history - look for someone always paying on time (this is my number one criteria) - someone who has missed payments or paid late in the past is more likely to do it in the future.
- Cleanliness of the tenant - this can be quite hard to check since they have not lived in your place yet, so what I do is tell them that if we short list them then we go to their current home to see how they live and how clean they are. They don't have to accept, but if they don't then they may be hiding something. We find most good tenants have no problems letting us in. We have usually checked everything else by this stage so if we are happy we usually sign the lease whilst at their place.
- Current employment, stability of employment and income level.
Other things you can check:
Always confirm with the real estate or landlord regarding the rental history they have given you. We have had someone in the past who had forged their rental ledger, we were about to go with them, but a last check with their real estate agent confirmed that the ledger they gave us was not provided by the agent. They faxed us the correct ledger which was very different. This one check saved us a potential big problem.
We usually also screen people when they ring up to see if they have the required information. If they don't then we do not accept an application from them and save our time having to show bad tenants the property. Instead of having 20 to 30 people during a showing we might have 2 or 3. This gives us time to talk with each applicant and get to know them a bit. You can learn a lot about a person just by talking to them. But you always do your checks to confirm everything.
Also, be wary of people with no rental history; we usually do not accept them, including home owners who are selling their home. If you're asking, surly if they are home owners they should take care of your property. Not always the case. If someone has never rented before they may be renting for the short term before they buy again. If they are in a house they think is temporary, do you think they will treat it the same as a house they treat as their own? Usually not. There are exceptions, but do you want to take the risk. That is why we have the policy of not accepting an application if they have no rental history - again this is the number one priority - a good rental history, as in this case history will usually repeat itself.
It is your asset and you need to do everything in your power to protect it. A good tenant is the difference between a great asset that can provide for you now into your future and a head-ache you want to get rid of.
Also, one thing I forgot to include is that we allow outdoor pets (dogs and cats) only, and if they do have pets there is usually an additional $10 per week added onto the rent (we include this in our advertising). Small fish in a fish tank is an exception. We charge the extra $10 per week in rent because the pets can add to the wear and tear on the property.