Tenant Screening Guide for Landlords

If you are moving out to a new city or state, and do not want to sell your house, you can always rent it. Or, if you simply want to rent your property the tenant screening process is very important. Renting always comes with a certain doubt whether your property will be well taken cared of, and will the bills and rent be paid on time every month. When you know everything that you should check with your future tenant, and what to expect when renting a property, you will avoid any possible issues. This will save you from stressful situations and make renting a pleasant thing.

Landlord Giving a Key to the Tenant

Create a great ad first

Before you start receiving tenant applications and screening your tenants, it is important to write a good ad first. You can always spread the word to your friends and family members, but you can also write an ad in newspapers. Make sure to include the things that are most important to you in it. For example, if the apartment is not pet-friendly, you should state that in the ad. Information regarding the smoking policy, location, monthly rent, the security deposit should also be included in the advertisement.

Proceed to do a phone screening of your tenants

Although you have stated your preferences in the ad already, some people who do not meet your expectations may still apply. For example, if you want your tenant to earn a three times higher salary than the monthly rent, you should ask it anyway during the phone screening. Call each applicant and spend some time asking them the most important questions. As the process goes further, you will want to know the following:

What is the reason for moving?You are not invading anyone`s privacy by asking this question, don`t worry. Your future tenant should be able to explain why are they moving out from their previous apartment.

What is your monthly income?As we mentioned already, the best situation is when your tenant has a three times higher salary than the monthly rent. You certainly don`t want to have a tenant who is currently in between jobs, as this will certainly affect their ability to pay for rent.

Is giving the security deposit an issue?If your tenant starts asking you to lower the amount of the security deposit, perhaps their financial situation is not the best one. Don`t hesitate to raise this question yourself as well as you will get a feel for your tenant`s financial situation in this way.

When do you plan on moving in?Is the person you are talking to eager to move in as soon as possible? While this is can be considered a sign of a healthy desire to move in, it can also mean something more. If your possible tenant was evicted from the previous apartment, you should check all the information before you rent them your property.

Do you agree that we run a credit and criminal background check?In order to be completely secure that your tenant will be able to pay rent on time and not demolish your property, you should run a credit and criminal background check. But, bear in mind that you need their written consent. If they refuse, you can certainly take them off the list of possible tenants.

Landlord Tenant Law

Always ask for references

Your tenant screening process should include references from previous landlords, employers, etc. Although those references may be all sweet and not very realistic, it is important that you call and verify the information.

Run a credit background check

For a credit background check, you will need to use the services of an agency. It typically costs $15 to run a credit check. You may charge this fee to your possible tenant. The credit background check will show you whether they are paying their bills on time/ Also, it will show how much debt do they have if any, bankruptcies, evictions, etc. It is important to notice whether they have too much debt to repay monthly and whether that can affect the paying of the rent.

Besides the formal background check, we recommend that you call their employers and check their salary, employment length, and attendance record. If a person is typically late for work and for paying bills, they will definitely be late for paying rent.

Run a criminal background check

Although some states don`t allow discrimination based on the criminal record, usually you want to perform this kind of your tenant`s history. In order to do this, you will need your tenant`s full name and date of birth. If they have a criminal history, they might want to provide you with false information. In order to avoid this, you should ask them for a copy of their ID, or driving license.

Don`t discriminate

The Fair Housing Act prevents you from discriminating against your possible tenants. Everyone should be treated equally, so you must not discriminate while screening your tenants. Discrimination based on the following things is not allowed:

  • Color 
  • Race 
  • Gender
  • Familial status
  • Religion
  • Disability

Always check specific laws for the state you live in, in order not to mistakenly break them.

Speak to the previous landlord

A former landlord should be honest about the previous tenant. Ask them all that you want to know. For example, the duration of their rent. If a person changes houses too quickly, they may not be the best tenants for your property. Was the property left in the same condition it was in when the tenant first rented it? It is important that you ask them as many questions as you can remember. Finding a good tenant is not easy but it is worth the effort.

Don`t stop looking

Until you have signed a contract with the new tenant the screening is not over. You may find out something last minute, or you may just change your mind. So, don`t cancel on other applicants, and don`t stop looking for a new perfect tenant until everything is finished. Good luck!