No landlord jumps into the rental business looking for terrible tenants. A quiet tenant that pays rent on time, alerts you if there are maintenance issues, and doesn't bother their neighbors is a dream come true. There's no way to be 100% positive as to how a tenant will behave after they sign that lease (some will do a complete 180 on you and you'll hardly feel like they're the same person), but there are good, preventative measures that you should follow every time to avoid the truly terrible tenants.
The first is to list your property on multiple listing sites. By doing this you'll reach out to more people and have a bigger pool of applicants to pick from. Yes, this may be more work up front as those applications start to pour in and you have start to work through them, but won't it be worth it to have a great tenant locked into a twelve-month lease?
The next step is one you should never budge on: tenant screening. Credit checks help you to understand the applicant's priorities. Do they overextend themselves every month? Compare their income to what their minimum payments are for loans and credit card bills. On top of that, it's a fairly regular practice to require the applicant to make three times the amount that the rent will be. That way you have a better chance of having someone that can pay all of their bills. Check the credit score, check the tradelines within the credit report, see if they have any collections, and generally do a thorough read over of their entire report. Never bypass the criminal history and eviction checks are always a good idea. Follow up with professional references, personal references, and prior landlords.
Once you narrow it down to the applicant you believe is the best fit for your property, sit down with them and go over the rules. A new tenant packet is a great practice to help provide everything in an easy-to-read format. Leases are often very tightly compact with a lot of information and its easy to miss certain things when your tenant is thinking about if the movers are going to be there on time. Making sure everyone is on the same page is key, and it will help keep the lines of communication open between you both.
Now that you have those awesome tenants, you'll want to keep them. If finding them was a dream come true, keeping them on year after year is even better. Take a look here for tips on how to hold onto amazing tenants.