Verify, verify, verify - Verify everything. Employment history, rental history, credit and criminal records. Do that for every person over the age of 18 that will occupy the house. I also charge an application fee for this purpose. It is $45.00 per applicant (that is everyone over 18). Experian has a pay per plan just for Landlords for $29.95 that will give you the credit and criminal history.
Still there are no guarantees.
Well, if you are close to post, then list it on post with the housing office.
I have 8 small apartments and our own home rented. With our home, we lucked out and rented to a teacher friend. We rented below the market rate, but enough to cover our expenses. I was clear with her that if she kept the place nice and did some of the up keep on it, then the rent would stay the same. I have only had a hand full of calls in 3 years. (furnace and carpenter ants)
As for those little apartment, it simply boils down to asking a whole lot of questions about a person. I have had my share of craziness, but for the most part, I get good folks when I spend some time cultivating a relationship with them up front. I make them tell me about themselves and I follow up with previous landlords. It is harder for people to do you or your property "wrong" when you have a relationship with them. I call every few months to make sure everything is ok...an opportunity almost always presents itself. (smoke detector checks, filter changes, or other small issues) That way they know I care.
I also do a background check, which the tenant pays for. I find that the good tenants don't mind shelling out the extra money for the background check.
Call Karen Klein with Joyce Klein realtors. Karen has handled my rental home for the past 6 years. Karen does everything, handles finding renters, does background and credit checks, I have never had my house empty longer than 30 days. I don't have to take any phone calls, home issues or collect rent. I would highly recommend her, very efficient and trustworthy. I even reccommened her to my neighbors who were transferred out of the country.
Know your Tentand landlord law and be fair.
Get a good lawyer.
Don't love the place, just treat it like a business.
If you are not willing to evict your sister, then you should not be in the landlord business.
Lastly thank your lucky stars if you get a great tenant. They are truely a blessing....