Choosing the right tenant is a scary commitment and the process can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t know what you’re doing. To help, I’ve put together these nine actionable and easy to apply steps with resources.
Once you’re done going through them, you’ll be a lot closer to finding that perfect tenant than you’ve ever been.
Quickly, before diving into the tips you’ll need the documents below from the tenant. If you haven’t done so already try to get as many as possible, or book mark this website so you don’t lose your place as you move back and forth.
- Certified copy of their South African I.D
- Proof of income. Generally, 3 months of bank statements will work.
- Written agreement to have you do a credit check on them.
- Written agreement to have you contact any references. Such as employer and previous landlords.
- Written references that include contact details of previous landlords.
- Proof of employment with company contact details. Such as a payslip etc.
- Details of how many people and pets will be living on the property.
*How to use these documents will become more evident as you read the steps laid out below.
Let’s dive right in!
01. Find a Tenant From a Verified Source
If you already have a tenant you’re looking at then think about how you came into contact with the tenant. Where your tenant came from could give you a good indication into if they’ll be great, or terrible.
Here’s where you should be looking for your tenants:
- (#1 BEST WAY) Through family, friends, or word of mouth. The easiest way to find a tenant you can trust is to get someone you know, or someone that you know knows. If you trust the person that recommends a tenant, then there’s a high chance that you’ll have the right candidate on your hands. This method may save you a TON of time. However, that said, try not to rent to friends or family, because you don’t want to ruin your relationship if you do have to evict them.
- Use a letting agent. Letting agents will give you high-quality tenants to choose from; however, it will be at a cost. They usually charge around X in commission; however, the time and the future headaches of being stuck with a bad tenant is well worth the price, in my opinion.
- Classified ads. As a last resort, use classified ads such as Gumtree. This method is free; however, it will take a lot more of your time. Classified ads are generally where desperate tenants look for a place to stay, so you’ll probably get flooded with a bunch of low-quality applications. If you do decide to go down this route, then make sure you do as much research into your potential tenant as possible before making a final decision.
02. Verify Tenant’s South African I.D
First and foremost, verify that the potential is actually who they say they are. If you don’t have their true identity, a tenant would be able to pack up and leave without a trace.
How to run verify tenants ID document in South Africa:
You have two online options that I know of that you can use to verify a South Africa I.D number. To use these services, all you’ll need is the applicants South African I.D number, then you’re good to go.
01. Checkid.co.za – Free to use however only provides the persons gender, age and citizenship. This might be enough information to spot any discrepancies, however, I recommend using the paid option below for a more detailed identity check
02. Windeed.co.za home affairs I.D verification – This verification process costs around R12 however it’s well worth the money. You’ll get a lot more details when compared to the free to use tool above. Such as deceased status, gender, date of birth, citizenship and age. This should be more than enough information to verify someone’s I.D. View a sample here.
RED FLAG: If there are ANY irregularities with regards to their identity, then look for another tenant. It’s simply not worth the risk.
IMPORTANT NOTE: Will you be running a credit check on the tenant? If yes then skip this step and use the credit check information to verify the I.D instead. The credit check provides more than enough information to verify the applicants I.D.
03. Contact Tenant’s Current Landlord
There is NO BETTER WAY to verify a tenant than merely contacting a previous landlord. They will have a solid idea if you pay on time if you respected the property and if you’ve been respectful to the neighbors. So I highly recommend this as your first verification step.
How to run contact tenants current landlord:
When your tenant applied they should have provided a written reference of their previous landlord. If not then make sure you get this document.
Once you have it, call them up and simply ask:
- What the candidate was like while they were staying on the property?
- How long they lived on the property
- Why they are leaving their current propery?
- Were there any hiccups during their stay?
RED FLAG: If they aren’t willing to share current landlord details would be a no to me. Another red flag would be if the tenant said they were staying with family, and they can only give you their details. And finally, look out for tenants that move a lot. If the landlord mentioned they only stayed on the property for a few months then this would also be a red flag.
04. Contact Tenant’s Past Employers
It’s important that you treat this whole process the same as you would when hiring an employee, because well, you’re stuck with them for the next year or two.
That said, contact your tenant’s employer, not just to verify their employment, but also to find out what kind of person your potential tenant is.
How to contact tenants past employer:
When your potential tenant applied to live at your home, they should have provided proof of employment documents such as a payslip with the company details.
Simply call up the company and try to get in touch with your potential tenants’ boss or manager, and ask them:
- How long they’ve been with the company?
- Is it a long term position and are they secure in their place of work for the long term?
- What are they like as an employee?
RED FLAG: If the candidate refuses to let you contact their current employer, then it’s a big NO. Another red flag would be if they’ve only been employed with the company for a short period of time. Employees that jump around from job to job generally move around a lot too.
05. Verify Tenant’s Income
Income won’t be shown on a credit report so with their permission, you’ll have to verify this on your own.
How to run verify tenants income:
There are two ways you can do this;
- Request three to six months bank statements.
- Contact the tenants past employers.
RED FLAG: If their income is not regular then this could be a potential red flag. Your perfect tenant should have a steady stream of income.
06. Run a Credit Check
If you’re going to run an I.D check then I recommend you do the credit check instead. With a credit check you’ll get enough information to verify their I.D as well, so you could kill two birds with one stone to save a bit of money.
How to run a credit check on your tenant in South Africa:
There are a lot of different options and they’re all really easy and quick to use. All you’ll need from your potential tenant is a surname, and a valid I.D number.
Just keep in mind you’ll have to pay for this service no matter who you try to use. That said, for a small fee of around R37, this information can be a big potential lifesaver. So I highly recommend you run the credit check.
BONUS CONTENT: View my guide here that will walk you through step-by-step how to do a credit check on anyone in South Africa.
01. Windeed Consumer Profile – This service costs R37.35c and is powered by one of South Africa’s leading credit bureaus, Experian. Click here to view a sample of the information you’ll get with each purchase.
02. TPN Credit Check – TPN is another one of South Africa’s four main credit bureaus, so you can trust their data. If you use this service I recommend buying the seven in one credit check
With most credit check services, you’ll get access to the applicant’s:
- Full credit history.
- Any judgments, evictions, or bankruptcies against the tenant.
- Any inquiries. Which will include the names of people that have submitted a credit report on the tenant in the past 12 months.
- The credit check will also confirm their current and past addresses.
- All past employee information.
RED FLAG: If they refuse to permit you to run a credit check on them, then it could be a sign that they have something to hide. Another red flag is if they have a bad credit record. Look out for any judgement, notices, and defaults. These reveal how responsible the applicant is with payments.
07. Run a Criminal Record Check
A criminal record check is extremely important if you want to be certain that the tenant you’re staying with doesn’t have a bad history that might be following them around.
That said, don’t be too harsh. We have all done things were not proud of, however your’e looking for serious, frequent and recent crimes in here.
How to run a criminal record check in South Africa:
This online criminal record checker is free, however it’s not 100% accurate. To get an accurate criminal record check you’ll need to get the applicant to give finger prints at an SAPS location, which is obviously out of the question. That said, this free tool should give you enough information to make an educated decision on your tenant.
It should give you enough criminal history data to work with.
RED FLAG: If the tenant has a committed either a serious, recent, or a series of crimes, then this would be a red flag for me.
08. Take Notice Of The Condition Of The Tenant’s Car
This is a bit of a sneaky one, but it can be extremely effective. The condition of someone’s car gives a very good indication of how well they look after things in other areas of their lives.
How they look after their car is exactly the same way they’re going to look after your property, so make sure you do your due diligence.
How to look at someone’s car without offending them?’
I’m in no way suggesting that you spy on their car, and please don’t blatantly ask them if you can inspect their car either. You’ll come off as being really weird and you might put off a potential great tenant.
One way you can do this is, once they’ve had a look at your property simply walk them to their car and just causally take notice of it. There’s really not much to it apart from a quick glimpse.
Things to look for:
- Does it look like the exterior hasn’t been washed in years?
- Is there a heap of trash in the interior of the car?
IMPORTANT NOTE: Focus on how well they look after the car and not on how old the car is. What car they decide to buy is their own business, all you should be concerned about is if they’re taking care of what they have.
RED FLAG: If the exterior doesn’t look like it’s been washed in years, and the interior looks like a bin for their trash, then this would definitely be a warning sign for me.
09. Did Your Catch Your Tenant In a Lie?
If you catch a potential tenant lying to you, then there’s a good chance that they are hiding something.
How to catch your tenant out in a lie?
The best way to do it is to look for any discrepancies in the what they’ve told you verbally, any documentation provided, and credit, identity and criminal checks that you’ve done on the applicant.
If something doesn’t match up or sit well with you, then chances are that they’re lying about something.
For me, this would be an automatic disqualification. There’s more than enough tenants out there looking for a good home that are honest and sincere.
These are the good tenants, and it’s the quality you should be searching for if you want your journey as a landlord to be as stress free as possible.
Do you have any tips you can share on how to find that dream tenant that doesn’t give you any issue? Or do you feel like I missed something? Let us know in the comments below so we can start learning from each other!