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Louise Benson: How to vet and on-board a first-time renter

Tuesday, August 04, 2020



Most of us have been tenants at some stage in our lives, but there was always that first time. As property managers, working with first-timers requires flexibility and sometimes, creativity.

When an application has been received by someone completely new to renting this can prove challenging. We may only have the applicant’s parents or a disgruntled ex-partner as property references which are unlikely to provide an unbiased report of how they keep a home and whether rent payments were timely - information that is vital for moving forward with an application.

We all like to think we can sum people up and rely on our gut instinct, but we also need to assure our owners that the selected tenants will look after their investment and pay their rent on time. In this scenario employment and character references play a more important role. I would suggest a phone call to the employer with tailored questions, focussing on reliability, organisational skills, maturity, tidiness and presentation. Ask open questions that don’t allow for a 'yes' or 'no' answer. For example, “how would you describe her character”, “how reliable is she, has she had many days off” or “have you visited her house recently, how would you describe its condition”. These are quite invasive questions, but necessary given the restrictions we are working under. Lastly, a google search and scrolling through social media can also reveal a lot about your applicant.

From here the TPS or Tinz background checks covering police and credit history can be undertaken. If these checks reveal anything of concern, call the tenant and ask them to explain the details to you. The decision to continue or not is then up to you.

When you and the owner have settled on an applicant the tenant needs to be completely prepared for what is expected of them. A certain amount of information will be covered in the property advertisement with regards to rent and what is and is not included, however, the tenant obligations relative to that property are detailed in the tenancy agreement itself. The presenting and signing of the tenancy agreement must be done in person as this provides you the opportunity to go over each and every section. It is vital they understand their obligations pertaining to water, maintenance, lawns and damages. It is a good idea to use examples of situations e.g. keeping windows open for ventilation, using heat protection on benchtops, running through what can be put down waste disposals. Included in their take home information should be copies of the tenancy agreement, bond form and examples of watercare bills and invoices. Explaining how the watercare bill works is important, but allowing for retention of all this information and accepting they may forget as soon as they leave your office - it is recommended that you accompany the first watercare invoice with an email re-explaining how it should be paid. During this process an important discussion to be had is where the onus and responsibility lies with regards to maintenance. Convey that general maintenance will be on the owner but always recommend that they contact you immediately something breaks or is broken - the conversation should go something like this “please call me as soon as you can when something is broken, that way we can work together to resolve it and determine who will responsible for its repair”.

On move in day I would recommend you meet the first time tenant at the property. This way you can explain any peculiarities of the property i.e. where the water meter is located, how to set the alarm, how the appliances work etc. Together, take a walk through the property with the entry inspection report and point out issues of note that may be anything from wall damage, a stain on the carpet to a missing lightbulb. The tenant will be reassured that they will not be held responsible for these issues but also fully aware of the condition of the property and how it should be kept during the tenancy and when they vacate. You will have already discussed the 3 monthly inspections at sign up, but this is a good opportunity to reiterate what you will be hoping to see during the visits.

Happy, informed tenants will generally make our job a lot easier. When we prepare our tenants thoroughly, it helps rule out discord and confusion and can minimise disputes.

For more information please contact Louise Benson from Barfoot and Thompson Milford at l.benson@barfoot.co.nz.



Louise Benson

Louise is a property manager from Barfoot & Thompson Milford. 






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