Tip #45

Consider an Applicant’s Soft Skills

Written on November 11, 2014 by , updated on September 30, 2016

Soft Skills

Responsive, Available, Teachable

To evaluate an applicant’s character, I look for these three main “soft skills”.

During the screening process, I always ask myself: “Is this applicant Responsive, Available, and Teachable?”

More Than Numbers

When screening tenants, a landlord should consider other attributes besides income and credit.

In The Landlord’s Guide to Tenant Screening, I point out that there is really only one “must-have” requirement when screening applicants:

Is the applicant able and willing to pay rent?

But income isn’t everything!

Though an applicant might make $200K a year, they may also have a problem with authority, or lack respect for their fellow humans.

In an extreme case, the applicant might refuse to follow rules or even refuse to pay rent in order to satisfy some sort of passive-aggressive power trip (yes, it’s happened).

Character Matters

Determining if the person is able to pay rent is only half the equation. The applicant must also be willing to pay rent.

So how exactly should you determine if the applicant is Responsive, Available, and Teachable?

What does a perfect applicant look like?

Are They Responsive?

  • They show up on time and call prior to confirm.
  • They respond to my emails in a timely fashion.
  • They answer or return my calls promptly.

Applicants who are self-centered will waste my time. They will show up for an appointment at their convenience, and fail to apologize.

In my experience, applicants who are not responsive are much more likely to want to abandon the lease as soon as it’s not convenient for them, and won’t even consider giving proper notice.

If you have a tenant who is parking on the grass, I would bet you $100 that they were also late to the initial property showing or lease signing.

Are They Available?

  • They are available to meet for a showing.
  • They are available to sign a lease.
  • They are available to move in when I need them to.

Whenever I list a property, I usually have at least one inquiry that says, “I’m super interested in the place! But I’m going out-of-town for two weeks. Can you hold it for me?”

My answer is always, “Sure, if you want to drop off a security deposit.

Applicants who are “too busy” will often forget to pay rent, or won’t have the time or attention span to clean their unit or notify me of repair issues.

Are They Teachable?

  • They are excited about the unit.
  • They are willing to follow my lease rules – even if it’s “not what they are used to.”
  • They seem to have a healthy respect for authority – often times displayed by their ability to keep a job.

Applicants who seem like they are “settling” for my apartment will continually find issues with it, and will often ask me to replace their light bulbs (ha!).

They will never be happy with the unit and will always view the landlord as someone who “talked them into it.”

I Want You to Want… the Unit.

In 1979, Cheap Trick wrote the song I Want You to Want Me. As a landlord, I want my tenants to want to live in the property.

Finding an applicant who is responsive, available and teachable is just as important as finding someone who qualifies financially. Personally, I think they make the best tenants.


photo credit: Mike Kniec via cc
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