question about renting out to a married couple

Hi everyone, this is my first rental property and there is a married couple applying to my house. The wife has enough income to pay for the rent (over 100k income), while the husband is unemployed at the moment. Do I need both of them to sign two rental application since they are both over 18 and will be the occupants in my house. Or do I only need to focus on renting out the property to the wife since she’s going to be the one that pass credit check? Or I still need all occupants fill on the rental application ? How should it work out? thanks a lot!!

Everybody, 18 and over, living in the house, gets to bend over for a background check, and sign the lease agreement. After Jr. turns 18, he gets added to the lease agreement, too. However, a background check on Jr. is unnecessary, except you MUST have his social security number on file.

You should not be managing this property yourself. You should put this to professional, third-party management, and manage the managers. Otherwise, you’re asking such basic questions here that makes me believe you’re on a glide path straight to the ground. Just saying.

If you have this little experience, you should not be doing this on your own.

thanks for your input, that is what I had in mind but I just want to confirm it with the professionals.
Yes I’m very new to this , but everyone has their first time right? If I always find someone to manage property for me I will never learn it and be able to do it myself.

I disagree. And I’m an expert at this. Our family managed all our own properties, because we simply had no cash flow to pay 3rd party management in the first few years of operation. Why? Because we were speculators, and investing in an expensive market where cash flow was never the objective.

Once we got to 200 properties, it became critical that we approach our real estate management as professionally as you would find anywhere. So, we formed our own PM company, and then manaaged our managers.

When we first started, we did everything wrong. Our learning curve lasted about five years, or so, which included every amateur mistake. If we had simply hired a management company to baby sit our first couple of properties, we would have learned what to expect, if not had the opportunity to look over the shoulder of the management company. This can be annoying to the management company, but too bad, it’s our nest egg, not theirs, and nobody cares more than we do.

Then, after we caught on, we could have seamlessly incorporated every new property into our management portfolio, and then managed a manager. It would have kept us from having personal contact with the renters, too. Why is that important, you ask.

It’s too easy to become emotionally involved with your clients, for starters. Keeping your distance, provides freedom to adjust the rents, maintain and enforce the contract terms, and simply say ‘no’ to extraordinary requests for new carpet, paint, remodeling, etc, etc.

A good manager will be a great buffer to protect you from day-to-day operations. A good manager will act as the “good cop” in the “good cop, bad cop” scenario where we need to maintain a line on a dispute of any kind. [Which means we get to be the ‘bad cop,’ but without the drama and trauma of face-to-face negotiations.]

I could go on here, but you need to learn by watching, not doing. Just saying. Later, you can expand to watching your “own” manager, rather than a 3rd party management company. Nonetheless, you’re still not embedding yourself in day-to-day operations when you have a manager between you and your customer.

P.S. about PM’ing yourself… Your personal management involvement, with one house, is likely to be “all” or “nothing,” in a given period of time once you figure out what you’re doing. And the “all” part will be when you have a vacancy. The nothing part will be between lease-ups. This is a generality, of course.

If you never get a call; your rent is too low, and/or your renter is tearing up the place (and the rent is still too low).

If you get one, or two, calls in a six month period, your rent is probably where it needs to be (and is a good gauge of retail rents, if you’re paying attention).

If you get more calls than this, “something” is wrong with your management approach.

Finally, some investors deliberately keep their rents below market, so they have as little contact with their renters as possible. This is dangerous in my opinion. Renters, left to their own devices will make “your” house “theirs” and you’ll eventually discover all sorts of surprises when it’s time to re-rent your house.

Or you’ll find that what should have been a simple maintenance item has morphed itself into a potential remodeling project.

Remind me to tell you about the renter who tore a 4x3’ hole in the wall of my living room to install a see-through fish tank. If that wasn’t bad enough, another renter took it upon herself to remove about $3,000 worth of mature landscaping. Why?

Because my rents were too low; I wasn’t getting any calls; I got lazy; and my renter decided she “owned” the place …ostensibly since I never came around.

What’s worse, I KNEW better.

Don’t manage your own properties. Instead, manage your manager(s).


javipa is correct. Everybody needs to be checked out. The application is not just to see if they can pay it is also to see if yo uhave criinals in the house. You don’t want the house to turn into a crack house.

javipa is not correct. Everybody 18 and above needs to be background checked. You do not want criminals (violent crimes or drug crimes) in your house.

Javapa is incorrect at this. There is nothing managing this property you can’t do yourself. You do need some information but a property manager is not warranted unless you are far away or have more than 15 properties.

I guess it’s still a matter of opinion.

We don’t do background checks on tenant’s children once they reach 18. If their kids are a wreck, we’ll know it by the time they turn 18. Then it’s a matter of weighing our options, whether we want the family to continue renting from us, or not.

But over the decades we haven’t ever bothered to run a background check on emerging lease holders. We have insisted our managers get SS#'s, in order to include them on the lease. We’ve never been reluctant to ask. However, this expectation needs to be made clear at the outset.

If we’re going to ask a tenant to have his kid sign a lease, after the lease has been in force for a while; insist on a background check on a person who’s been living in the house for a couple of years already, and this wasn’t an expectation from the beginning, it becomes an insult, rather than a business practice.

We don’t make this an expectation from the beginning. As a result, we also don’t upset the relationship we have with the tenants, by making this demand.

Even when we’ve had a chance to observe the child for a couple of years, and he’s turned out to be a dud, we don’t run credit and background checks on them. If the kid is going to be ‘bad’, he’s already been ‘bad,’ and we’ve already determined if we want to continue with the lease, or not. It doesn’t make sense, nor is it worth our time, to confirm the obvious …and it doesn’t take a credit and background check to make this determination.

I guess we’re still back at a matter of opinion. We always recommend that a newbie put their houses under professional, 3rd party management asap.

Managing one’s manager is far more efficient, professional, if not profitable use of our time, talents, and treasures, than the DIY approach.

Frankly, the purchase price and terms have to be good enough to where professional management is actually possible. If it’s good enough for the big league players to do, it’s good enough for the little league guys, too.

That said, some people enjoy the donation of their time to the cause, and would never consider delegating their management responsibilities to a professional. That’s OK. But then it becomes less an investment and more of a pet project.

Pet projects tend to eat up more personal time, because they ‘are’ pet projects, and ‘not’ investments, in the strictest sense of the term.

The temptation to ‘helicopter’ the house and spend too much time “managing” is usually more than a newbie can resist. Part of the hovering is due to abject incompetence.

The question we continue to ask is, “What’s our time worth?” For us, personally managing even one property ourselves takes too much time from what’s profitable in our business. Management is a LIABILITY, and we try to reduce that liability by NOT doing it.

Just like we don’t put the roofers out of business by re-roofing our own homes, we don’t put our PM’s out of business by doing their jobs for them.

But, we’re not dying on any swords here. To each his own.

Great post.

great info.

maybe the key is finding the best manager or management company. For $97 per month i would gladly hand over all my maintenance responsibilities, but if they charge $300/mo. for a single rental and do a poor job then I would manage myself. Finding best manager and have a great contract in place would be an entire lesson by itself, which I fully expect Javipa to post here for free.

Or at least it would be included in the book that he is working on.

They will charge about 6% of the rent.

You are correct. I don’t run background on anybody that is already in the house. But I have had 40-50 year old applicatnts move in with 20-25 year old kids that are going to live there with their parents. I run background on them.

I don’t remember saying not to do background checks on 25-year olds.

Meantime, I don’t consider 25-year old adults to be “children,” per se, but as roommates of whomever else is wanting to move into my house. In that case, again, I check out the whole gang for problems, and then hope they have some, so I can justify higher rents, higher deposits, longer terms, and perhaps a co-signer, just to frost the cake.

But that’s just me.

That’s pretty good. What services are typically included with that amount?

That’s a good rule of thumb, but the combined overhead of both supervision AND maintenance will bring the costs to about 10-20% of the gross.

Otherwise, you can be sure the property is not being maintained properly, or the rents aren’t being maintained at market value.

We assume 10% for managerial costs alone. Of course it depends on the rental price point. An expensive home with rents in the $5,000/mo range are not going to run 10%, or $500/mo. However, a cheap house, with rents at $500/mo, are not going to be managed well for 10%/mo. either.

The minimum we expect to pay is $150/mo, and that doesn’t include bonuses for lease-ups and lease renewals, or maintenance supervision. We have our own crew, but we expect a 3rd party PM to charge cost, plus 10%. However, we know what the cost should be for a given item, and would question extraordinary fees.

Beware of low-end quotes for management. The PM is probably up-charging the ying-yang out of you for “trips” to the property, extra phone call handling, collections, cost-plus repairs, and all with zero effort to contain costs …and any other surcharging opportunity they can “get away with.”

I was quoted 3% of the gross as a PM fee about seven years ago on a property owned by my church. The next thing we discovered was a giant list of “extras” that we would have to pay for. Well, if the guy was managing a storage unit, we could see how the 3% was ‘really’ a bargain. But such was not the case. I recommended paying more, but without the gimmicks.

BTW, PM’ing is not a high-end business. And it’s enormously competitive. So, just like any business they’re going to streamline as much as possible, at your expense, and like any business, will look for opportunities to bill you for ‘extras.’ There’s no free lunch.

Very interesting post from you larger landlords on unfurnished rental unit background checks.

We still have never done a background check or credit check. Still have never had an eviction. Our skipped rent rate is so low that I don’t think it is warranted. Not doing those checks has saved a lot of time.

We operate more like a hotel in that we like credit cards on file in lieu of a deposit. We like dealing with professional companies and agencies who then place their tenant in our unit. And we like traveling workers. Current tenants include US Treasury Dept., IRS, USPS, medical, cheese factory, and Salvation Army officer.

For past unfurnished rentals we did manage them ourselves and they worked out okay. I just couldn’t see giving away 10% of gross rents for forwarding on the rent check. But with 200 units (!) a professional management company makes all the sense in the world.

There are many ways to do profitable land-lording. I learn every time I am on this site.


Just by virtue of the way you run your business and who you cater to - I don’t think you have as much of a need to run background checks as someone like me does. You’re dealing with people who actually have credit cards, jobs, etc. You can put any charges on the person’s own CC or charge their employer if there is damage or missing items,etc.
There’s not too many of out tenants that I think would even have CC’s. Most of them don’t even have checking accts as we are normally paid by money order or the occasional cash picked up on site. Most of them think credit is what you get from Rent-A-Center for their TV or furniture. If I don’t check them out, I’m asking for problems from someone with a record of misbehavior or evictions. We collect the app fee and it only takes a few minutes for the Sheriff’s dept to return the background check. Time and money well spent IMO. There’s a reason we collect emergency contact phone numbers/addresses, vehicle license plates, etc. It’s part of our line of defense.
We don’t have 200 units yet, but I also don’t have any plans on paying anyone else to manage our properties.
If we had a business like yours where people were more transient and we could charge CC’s, I’d run it the same way as you do. I think the differences between our businesses justify the means of each.

Yes, I agree. We do try to get cash up front rental deposits if the prospective tenant does not have a credit card. They are rare. We have never been stiffed by an agency or corporate employer yet. The solitary nurse or worker who is not good at managing money are usually the ones who become late. We try to slam a 3-day notice as fast as possible if the excuses don’t turn into rent.


This is a neat idea. I enjoy handling the management, but only have 16 units. I might consider trying out a management company on one of the more difficult or further away ones to see what I can glean from them.

Thanks for the enlightenment! My dream is to have a commercial complex for rent. I’m still on my 3rd year having my townhouse being rented out… I don’t have a team who manages it, I have to learn everything from past experience, research etc. Someday I’d opt for one, depending on how big my property would be. Good luck to all!