Pacific Heights


Dear Dharma,

I’m new to the whole landlord business and of course I’m looking for the very best tenants. My condo is beautiful and I lived in it for over 5 years so I have a healthy pride in it.

It’s a one bedroom plus den for a total of 600 square feet. My current tenant is moving out after only 4 months (my bad; I allowed them to sign a month-to-month contract since they were ‘sure’ they would stay for 2 years).

I had a showing on the weekend and have 4 applicants to choose from. One applicant is a single student in college, two of the applicants are couples, and the other applicants have a young child. The applicants with the child are in a tough place right now and I’d really like to help them out by choosing them, but is that silly?

How do I go about choosing the right tenant?



Dear Slumlord,

Have you ever seen the movie Pacific Heights?  Early 90’s, so not quite current, but man oh man.  Watch that and you’ll never rent your place out!

But hey, it’s just a movie, so don’t worry about it.

I consulted an expert in the industry and here are a few tips I was given to pass along.

You need to think about this as a business investment, since… well, that’s exactly what it is, right?  Real estate isn’t cheap, so you need to protect yourself and your property for the long run.

The goal is to keep a good tenant for as long as possible, so assess each situation.

The single student in college is in a transient time of their lives, so you might find yourself looking for another tenant at the end of the semester.

A couple with a young child might find a condo a touch more than stifling after a few months – yikes – a toddler in 600 square feet?

You don’t mention the employment status of any of the couples, but I’m assuming you’d want someone in there who’s holding down a job, so that would be my advice – one of the couples.

The exact words from our industry expert: “Only solid prospects with good jobs and references.”

Although Michael Keaton had both of those and look how that turned out.

Anyway, good luck with that!  I’m sure it will be fine.



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  • anon1 says:

    It kind of sounds like you’r saying don’t rent to students or people with kids?

    • Dharma says:

      No, not at all! I’m just suggesting that the LW consider all the factors when looking for a solid tenant that will stay for a reasonable amount of time…

      Thanks for your comment!

  • gemma471 says:

    both ppl being emplyed is important. that way if 1 person loses their job, the other 1 can cover the rent as needed.

  • irene says:

    Never easy when the heart is sweet and the wallet is needy.
    Check out and have the applicants fill it out.
    When we had a rental and asked an applicant to fill it out they said they changed their minds and were staying where they were living.

  • Anonymous says:

    If you have any doubts that someone would not be able to pay their rent, then I say you have every right not to choose them. And as for the student, your likely going to be going through this same process at the end of their studies. If your okay with that, then y not? It also would depend on the amout of time they would most likely stay for, are they only going to be there for a semester or two? If they’re doing a 4 year diploma, they might be more inclined to stay in one place.

    Like Dharma said, this must be treated like a business. Otherwise you might as well just count on paying the mortgage on this place and where ever you are now.

    • Dharma says:

      Good point on the diploma program being 4 years… not all students would be gone after one or two semesters.

      Thanks very much for sharing your point of view!

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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