How To Be A Great Tenant

The market for rental housing is more competitive than ever.  Landlords will go to great lengths to find that perfect tenant.  With increasing technology and the ease at which information can be passed on, landlords have resources they didn’t necessarily have in the past to check your credit and background history.  

This means that your current actions matter.  Not just now, but also in the future. If you want to improve your chances once you have submitted an application for a new apartment, here are the things you need to have not only to be approved, but to lower your monthly payment, and be able to easily transition to a new place once your lease is up. 

13 Most Important Things You Can Do To Improve Your Chances of Landing That Apartment


Money.  Of course, this is the number one feature of any tenant.  Having the ability to pay for the apartment. The landlord is going to want to know if you are going to be able to make your monthly payment and make it on time.  

Having unstable income, or the inability to pay the first month’s rent or the security deposit is going to be a red flag to managers and landlords.  If they see that the applicant is on the edge with their income and expenses and maybe overextending themselves with renting a new apartment, they may pass on the applicant.  

Be sure you have not only stable income but income enough to give a safety margin for both you and the apartment complex.  Many apartment complexes require you to earn 40x the monthly rent of your apartment each year.

This means if your apartment costs $1,000 per month, they aren’t going to rent it out to you unless you can prove you make at least $40,000 per year. 

Be aware of the income requirements the apartment complex you are applying for has so you can provide the proper documentation when asked. 

Credit Score

A good credit score is right up there with the importance of a steady income.  Your credit score tells the story of your past history with debt and creditors.  If you have a high score, this means you are a good credit risk and someone that the landlord would more than likely be willing to rent to because it denotes responsibility and stability.

If you have a low credit score, this means you probably have outstanding debts, possibly liens or judgments against you, or haven’t pay your bills or debts. 

These are all warning signs for a landlord. It is more of a risk for them to rent to someone with a low credit score than to someone with a high credit score. 

Simply for the sake of your future rental history, make sure to pay your bills on time and clean up your credit score over time by being a conscientious payer. 

I recommend using Credit Karma to keep track of where you stand on your credit score, it’s free and simple to stay on top of it without all the hassle of paying for something to monitor it.

Background Check

A good background check means that nothing comes back from your background check at all.  The last thing a landlord wants to see is you have legal problems or had legal problems in the relatively recent past.  

The background check will also cover any pending charges against an individual as well, not just ones that have been convicted.  It will also let the landlord know if you are on the sex offenders list.   

Having something on your record is not necessarily a deal-breaker.  If the case in point was something that was done in your teenage years or something that happened many years back, it will depend on the instance, but many times if you are honest with the landlord, minor instances can be overlooked. 

However, the best thing you can do for yourself is to keep anything and everything off being found on a background check. 

Rental History

Having an excellent rental history can be big as well.  Many apartment complexes will require that you provide the name and phone number of the last complex you stayed at and they will call the manager or landlord to ask about how you were as a tenant when you stayed there. 

If the manager has good things to say about you, that is going to go a long way in getting your application approved.  If however, the landlord says that they had to evict you for some reason, or that you destroyed the apartment and cost them thousands of dollars to clean and repair it, you are going to be denied 99 out of 100 times.  

Especially when information can flow so freely in today’s world, your past experiences with rental and housing will absolutely follow you around. 

Be a good tenant, leave your former place on good terms, and if possible, ask the manager for a referral letter to give to any future landlords. 


Part of being a good tenant is keeping your apartment clean.  This doesn’t mean that you necessarily need to be an obsessive-compulsive cleaner who is a minimalist, it just means keeping your apartment tidy and free of grime and mold. 

Managers often stop by to replace furnace filters and smoke detector batteries.  If they see that your apartment is filthy and becoming a health hazard, this is going to count against you for both extending your lease and the probability that you will get a good reference from the landlord on the way out. 

Realize that you are inhabiting someone else’s property and that it is just respectful to treat it as you would your own. 

Having a clean apartment from start to finish is not only a good way to improve your rental history, but also the primary way to get your deposit back.

Respect For Neighbors

This comes down to a respect thing.  Not having people loudly coming and going at all times of the night and respecting the rules for quiet hours are about the only things you need to do to have good neighbors. 

You don’t even have to get along with them or become best buddies, just be respectful. 

If you are getting complaints from neighbors that you are playing music at all hours of the night and having loud get-togethers when other people are trying to sleep, those noise complaints are going to pile up in your file. 

And this is something that will travel along with you to your next rental.  

Have a great time in your apartment and use it to the fullest extent of the lease agreement, just be courteous and kind to your neighbors.  Not only will it help you down the road, it will just make living in the complex that much better. 

Work Stability

Having work and income is great.  But having stable work is even better.  If your work history shows that you have had 5 jobs in the last year, that is not going to show much stability in your life.   Landlords are looking for stability.

They are running a business and want to make the best decisions possible. Stability in their own income is something they, just like you, strive for.

If your work history shows you popping around to job after job, it is going to raise a red flag with the landlord on your ability to be able to hold down a job consistent enough to pay the rent consistently.  

Be able to show the landlord or manager your work history and emphasize the stability of your current work. 

Referrals And References

When you can get another person to give written or verbal affirmation about you as a person and as a renter, it says a lot about you.  That person is putting his or her own reputation on the line to help you secure a place to live. 

Many times, on the apartment application itself, the landlord is going to ask you for the name of the last place you stayed.  Being able to confidently provide that information so they can talk to them says a lot.

What that means, even more, is if you can provide the landlord with a reference letter from the last landlord you rented along with other personal and professional references. 

Having other people put their own reputation on the line to vouch for your character means a lot to a landlord. 

On-Time Payments

On-Time Payments are a great tell of someone’s character as having income and stability.  It is maintaining the responsibility to submit your monthly payment on-time.  

Even if your payment is a few days late, this still costs time and money for the apartment complex they don’t wish to have.  They are forced to deal with the late payment, write up a notice, and then potentially take time out to pester you for the obligation.  This all costs time and money. 

Paying on time is something that a manager and landlord absolutely notice!  Do not underestimate the goodwill and referral potential you can gain by simply paying your rent on time.  

Respect For The Property

Always remember that when you are renting an apartment, you are living and residing on someone else’s property. 

If you throw trash and cigarette butts all over the place, don’t take care of your apartment well, or are destructive to the common areas of the apartment complex in general, you are not going to be viewed as a good tenant. 

Be respectful to the physical aspects of the property as well.  Treat the grill, pool, playground, or any other recreational areas the apartments have with care and respect, just like it was your own.  

Failing to do so will result in a poor report on your file and can be detrimental for future rentals. 

Low Maintenance Tenant

Being a great tenant means being as low impact as possible.  This means a low impact on the management and staff as well. If there are certain small things that happen during your time at the apartment that you can easily take care of… take care of it. 

Calling the maintenance guy every time a lightbulb goes out or you can’t get your lamp to turn on wears on the staff very quickly. 

Small things happen as a part of life, but that doesn’t mean that the maintenance guy should have to come over every time you put something down your sink you shouldn’t have. 

If there is something that is truly bothersome, then, by all means, tell your landlord about it.  But calling several times a week for months on end is going to end up causing your landlord to ask you to move out for that reason alone.

Be a smart, conscientious tenant.  Try to remedy those things you can on your own and reserve calls to the maintenance guy or the landlord for situations that absolutely warrant it. 

Renter’s Insurance

This is something that every tenant should have.  Bad things can happen at any time to anyone. Renter’s insurance is designed to protect the tenant if something unfortunate happens while they are living in the apartment.  

Not only does it cover all your possessions, but it also covers you in case, someone, you invited over, or yourself does damage to the apartment complex that costs more money than you have to cover it.  

Some, but not all, apartment complexes require that you have renter’s insurance before you move in, but letting your landlord know you have it during the application process is going to help move your application up the line.

Get renters insurance quick and easily online with with, then everything becomes simple and transparent. They take a flat fee, pay claims super fast, and they give back what’s left to causes you care about.


In the end, just be honest.  Nobody has a perfect life. If there are things on the list that you may not have the most stellar record of, just be upfront and talk to your landlord about it.  More times than not, your honesty is going to show your character a lot more than an electronic record.  

Let your landlord know of any concerns you have and anything they should be aware of before you move in.  This goes a long way in securing the trust you need to have with your landlord, not only to be approved by them but to have a good rental experience as well.   

In the end, being a great tenant is not only an important aspect of getting approved for your rental, but it is crucial for being approved at the next place you want to rent at.   Your behavior and actions will follow you around from one complex to the next. 

Having honesty and fulfilling the terms of your lease in a timely fashion are going to be of massive benefit to you as you go through life.  People are going to be much more willing to vouch for your character and it will also potentially help you lower the monthly price on your rent. 

Remember landlords, are looking for stability, not necessarily the highest price they can possibly get.   Show them that you are the great tenant they are looking for and negotiate the price with them on your unit.  If you are a great tenant, both parties will benefit.

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John Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and investing world.

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